How to buy the right camera and lenses
Professional-grade kit isn’t just about high megapixel counts: build quality is just as crucial. After all, the chances are you’ll be using this kit day in and day out, so it will need to stand up to the knocks and bumps of professional use. Let’s take a look at the various essentials that should feature in every professional’s kitbag.
Most professional photographers use DSLR (opens in new tab) bodies equipped with full-frame sensors, although full-frame mirrorless cameras (opens in new tab) are also fast becoming popular with enthusiasts and professionals alike.
These physically larger sensors tend to offer a higher megapixel count than their alternatives, so images contain more detail and can be used at larger sizes – essential if you’re looking to create poster-size prints.
Today’s full-frame sensor cameras offer up to 50MP. Most also offer dual memory card slots so you can instantly back up images or extend the amount of time before you have to switch media while out in the field.
- Recommended cameras: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Nikon D850, Sony A7 III
When it comes to optics, professional photographers crave wide-aperture lenses.
These not only enable faster shutter speeds – a godsend in low-light conditions – but the shallow depth of field these large-aperture lenses create opens the door to more creative options. A workhorse zoom lens like a 24-70mm f/2.8 is capable of covering most situations.
- Recommended lenses: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR, Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master (opens in new tab)
Most professionals use the industry-standard Adobe programs, Photoshop and Lightroom, which together cover all your image management and post-processing needs.
The good news is that Adobe’s Creative Cloud service allows you to pay for these programs on a monthly basis, rather than compelling you to shell out a large payment up front.
Of course, there are other alternatives from the likes of Skylum, Serif, DxO and Corel – it's really a matter of personal preference.
- Recommended software: Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan (Photoshop and Lightroom) (opens in new tab), Skylum Luminar 2018 (opens in new tab), Affinity Pro (opens in new tab)
If you work in a studio, there are plenty of kits to choose from, including packages from Profoto, Elinchrom and Bowens. If you shoot on location, you could decide to use a portable kit. Again, Profoto and Elinchrom have this covered for you.
- Recommended kits: Elinchrom ELB 400 Action To Go Set (opens in new tab)
Once you’ve bought some pro kit, you’ll want a heavy-duty bag (opens in new tab) or case to protect your investment. Both Peli and Vanguard offer a range of virtually indestructible hard cases, while Lowepro and Think Tank offer rucksacks for demanding professional use.
Read more: The best backpacks for photographers (opens in new tab)
Along with filters and tripods, one of the most important items of kit is a back-up system. Your images are your currency, so they need to be protected.
Read more: 37 of the best accessories for photographers right now (opens in new tab)