Prioritizing Gear Purchases | Photography

It’s asked often enough via email, mentoring and workshops to need to have it’s own little home on the blog now ūüôā When you’re starting out with your photography business, what do you need to invest in first? What comes next? How MUCH do you invest in per lens, per camera body? And lighting…don’t even get started because then we’re gonna be overwhelmed because this is just soooo much to take in. Or…wait, can’t we just break this down a little more simply?

There’s only one thing I can do today and that’s share¬†how I prioritized based on my own photography business’s needs. I can’t give you the right or wrong answer (it’s too relative, no one can do that!) but I can¬†explain to you why I bought what I did, and even share the exact order I built in! ūüôā

What I started the journey with:
Canon Rebel T1i ($600 at the time?)
Kit lens (my least favorite thing ever, but hey, it came with it!)
50 1.4 (around $350)

So here I am. This almost married girl, in love with a boy who makes me wanna take a picture of EVERYthing. I am seeing something interesting now looking back….I became a pro at¬†forgetting. I had gone through some hard times in the past few years before dating him, and then even further back than that so I didn’t want to take pictures. There was no desire to hold memories for anything at all. But with Mike? INSPIRED. I wanted to document every pitcher of beer, pizza slice and museum date we went on (before Instagram was invented lol!) – I just wanted a better camera to do that with and that was the PERFECT starter kit!

When the business started to grow:
¬†I wanted to start shooting better, and I was outgrowing my camera. I figured out how to shoot so well on the Rebel (which I believe, in my HEART, is SO necessary! It’s the true reason I was able to rock out the next camera body when I got it!) – I needed to upgrade.

But how I feel about this next part is just an opinion, to each their own, but I really believe in this.

I do notice some people “crawl up the camera body ladder” – meaning they start with Rebel ($600 camera) and then buy a $1200 model, then a $1700 model, then a $2500 model.

Honestly, just JUMP! I’m not saying you HAVE to get the $3500 model that just came out but I will tell you that I can’t imagine shooting weddings with less than the¬†Mark II¬†that I upgraded to after the Rebel. I feel like you lose money when you slowly crawl up the investment ladder when you could just wait a little longer and then go big! Also, there is no problem with using a verified, trustworthy source to purchase a refurbished camera from. We preferred buying new but if the shutter and all parts are in well working condition, I would go for it!

So, a Mark II and a battery grip to last weddings and there I am guys, FIRST year in weddings with:

Mark II
Rebel for a backup
Kit lens I never used
50 1.4 which almost never left my camera
Used 24-105 4.0 (which is also a kit lens for the Mark II) that I bought from someone online
430ex Flash

And that’s it. Yes…that was TRULY all I had! Nowadays I look back like oh no sister you did NOT shoot ceremonies with that 24-105 4.0 haha! But, I did. I was brand new and working with everything I had, which wasn’t much!

Here’s an important thought:¬†
Because I stayed “small” investment wise and didn’t splurge on frivolous things (yes, when you still need more lenses but are paying $300-400 on a camera bag or gear to make you feel more official that doesn’t have anything to do with the actual images and results, that is not a wise investment, friends!) – I was able to push SUPER hard into investing that¬†second year. You may not believe this but here’s how I upgraded the second year when any payments came in, they went toward it and you better believe this family was NOT shopping, going out to eat or vacationing luxuries locations at all haha!

Mark II
Mark II (yes, a FULL backup! Important!)
50 1.2 (UPGRADED from 1.4!)
100 2.8 (Macro for ring and detail shots!)
70-200 2.8 II (for those ceremony shots!)
35 1.4 (finally good wide lens for getting ready, group shots and all encompassing angles!)
85 1.2 II (I’ve told everyone who’s¬†asked for years that I definitely do NOT need this lens…it’s a “luxury lens” because it’s not necessary but BOY is it awesome!)
24-105 4.0
580 flashes (x2)

That was year TWO! I will say I don’t love those flashes at all and don’t recommend them but I LOVE the ones I have now…want to see our CURRENT list? This is what we’re working with as of today:

Mark III
Mark III

50 1.2
85 1.2 II 
35 1.4
70-200 2.8 II
100 2.8 
24-105 4.0 (it’s still in our bag! Hardly used but is great for big, wide, grand reception shots on occasion!)
600ex (x 4) – we love using using several of these off camera to create that GLOW effect we adore!

We break down a into a little more detail why we love certain lenses for weddings in THIS post!

The order we purchased in (camera body and lenses only):
Rebel with kit lens
50 1.4
24-105 4.0
Mark II

Backup Mark II
50 1.2 
The reason I jumped to this lens even though I had the 50 1.4 instead of getting something different was because I KNOW that this lens is my favorite, I do so well with it and something I use that frequently I want to have the best of! I use it 90% of every wedding and shoot. It had to be priority!

70-200 2.8 II I knew I needed something SHARPER for ceremonies, such an important part of the wedding day!

100 2.8 I wanted better ring and detail shots, this was important to me personally and it was the only lens under $1000 making me feel pretty stoked to order it haha!

35 1.4 I definitely got to the point where I needed a WIDER, sharp lens for getting ready for the bride, family formals and wide angle reception shots. This was a big game changer for those tighter situations, too!

85 1.2 II¬†Because I wanted one lens I DIDN’T need but would blow me away on portraits. It’s definitely a treat but it’s sooooo fun to have!

Mark III came out and we picked up one right away! Used the Mark II for backup for a year but noticed it was too different on white balance, so the following year, we picked up another Mark III.

What about flashes?
I would NOT recommend crawling up on the flash spectrum either! If you are interested in doing weddings, I love the 600’s because I don’t need to plug in ONE thing to have them communicate and fire together because of the glorious built-in radios! I started with 430 (which was actually a great flash, totally fine if you won’t be doing weddings heavily and just occasionally need to light a room!) and then really did NOT like the 580’s at all. I wish I would have just jumped straight to those awesome 600’s! You don’t need four like we have to start, you could have one and then one as a backup or use BOTH to communicate and get a light stand for the other and place it across the room to create that glow!


We really can’t tell you what’s best for you, but we do love the way we did it for the most part and it worked SO well for our family! Remember how important it is to consider investing gear before all of the other things that seem so attractive and shiny like expensive straps and bags and things that don’t technically improve your images first. Getting to know that camera and how to shoot well in all kinds of light is so, so hard but so worth it and has to come first to GROW! We love you taking the time to be here with us today to read this and wish you the BEST on your journey!!!! ūüôā

Other helpful posts:
Three Quick Tips for Beginners
Starter Camera

Want a free download about the systems that help our business and family THRIVE? Click HERE to find it, enjoy! ūüôā



Want to keep up with an Outer Banks mama of three sweet (and oh so wild!) little girls shooting weddings & small business photography¬†while making time for the things that matter most? Click on the links below and let‚Äôs connect!ūüôā

One Comment Add yours

  1. JP2R says:

    Thank YOU! Thank you SO much for this Amanda …
    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wondered where to go to next … I went from the Rebel T1i to the 6D and have been working with it for a good bit. I don’t have all those lenses yet .. I still have the kit lenses .. but I’m not full time in what I do .. so there is that .. also the 600 flash .. other than the 6D all the other stuff I have is used …

    Thanks for all you do .. love your down-to-earth and absolutely real and honest insights that you share

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