What’s in the bag

Photography, What's In The Bag www.jonathanthompsonphotography.com

Taking a look at the photography equipment and what’s in the bag

A question that gets asked very often. Which camera or lens should I use? I asked the same question. To be absolutely honest, there’s no answer to that question unless you add some parameters to it. What do you shoot? What’s your budget? Do you already have some equipment? Where and what kind of environment will you be shooting in? All these things can affect your choice of photographic gear. Here’s a little insight as to what’s in my camera bag and how I use it. There will be some Amazon links added to here, so if you happen to want to buy anything, Amazon will share a few pennies with me.

Camera Bodies

Canon EOS 1Ds Mk3

This is a beast of a camera. Solid, reliable, but not so good in low light or for fast action. If all else fails I know exactly what I will get from this baby. There’s something about the images taken with a 1 series body, something a little different about them. A good different. On top of that, the shutter makes a great sound. It’s like a little guillotine drops inside the camera, every time you hit the shutter button. This model has been superseded by the Canon 1Dx and now the new 1Dx MK2

Canon EOS 6D

What's In The Bag- Canon EOS 6D

The current Canon 6d MkII is the current equivalent available

A surprising choice some may say, but it performs really well. Has great low light capability. It’s full frame and lightweight. The build quality isn’t even close to the 1 series, but it’s a fraction of the cost. At this time the Canon 6D is the entry level full frame camera body. I use it most of the time as can switch to a higher ISO without the images dropping in quality. I also use it with a battery grip, this adds a bit to the weight and gives the appearance of a more bulky camera, closer to the 1 series look. Here’s one of the articles I wrote about the Canon 6d MkII.


Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8L ii IS USM

What's In The Bag- Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8L ii IS USM

There is now a new version of this lens. The Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8L iii IS USM

This is what many photographers think of as their workhorse lens. I’ve used it mostly when I shoot portraits. I don’t often use it when shooting food photography. It’s a brilliant lens, focuses fast and is beautifully sharp. With the 2.8 max aperture, you can achieve really nice shallow depth of field from a distance.

Canon EF24-70mm f4L IS USM

What's In The Bag- Canon EF24-70mm f4L IS USM

My main lens for food photography at the moment. It has a nice focal length range and is lovely and sharp rendering really nice colour. It’s not the f2.8 bigger brother, but I don’t often need that kind of aperture for my food photography. My close proximity to the subject has a much greater effect on the depth of field. It also has an amazing image stabilisation allowing me to shoot a slower shutter speeds handheld. Just to top it off, there is a macro ability which I use more often than I would have thought. You can read a bit more about this lens and my choice in “The best lens for food photography” post.

My 6D came with a 24-105 f4 IS USM lens as a kit lens. I wasn’t going to get it but I’m glad I did. To be fair, it’s a bit of an old beast. She’s been around for years. It’s not the sharpest lens in the bag, but the extra focal length from 70-105 certainly comes in handy when I’m shooting in commercial kitchens and I need to get that little bit closer to the action. If you get it as part of a kit you won’t be disappointed. Many photographers absolutely love having it in their kit.

As an update, I no longer have this lens, I sold it and purchased another lens. The newer version of the Canon 24-105 f4L IS USM is a lot sharper and much more desirable.

Canon EF 50mm f1.8 ii STM

What's In The Bag- Canon EF 50mm f1.8 ii STM

My old Nifty Fifty. The oldest lens in my bag. I had it back in the film days. Super cheap. Super light and does a great job. I don’t find it particularly sharp wider than f8, but if you know that, you can work with it. Many of my earlier shots were taken with this little guy. If you’re shooting an above shot, on a tripod, set it at f8,  she’ll give you sharp images all day long. Well worth the purchase. The bokeh (the out of focus parts of a photo) isn’t as nice as it’s more expensive siblings, but learn where it works best and you’ll get lovely photos time after time.

UPDATE: I’ve linked to the newer EF 50mm f1.8 STM lens, which is an improvement on the older version which I still have and use. The STM motor is also very smooth for video work so I may update to this one.

Canon EF  85mm f1.2L ii USM

One of the earlier lenses I bought. In hindsight, I’d probably have bought the f1.8 version as pictured above. Not because I don’t love this lens, because I do. But the cost of the f1.2 lens compared to the cheaper version is quite considerable. Once again I use this for portraits of which it does a really lovely job. The bokeh is beautifully smooth and the colours are delicious. She’s a bit on the heavy side and slow to focus, but I don’t need fast focus for portraits, I need accurate and pin sharp. I also used this for food photography closeups, as a macro lens in conjunction with my macro extension tubes. She doesn’t like to focus close to the subject so the extension tubes help her get over her shyness.

Canon EF 100mm Macro f2.8L ii IS USM

This really was a bit of an indulgence. I know many, many food photographers use theirs all the time. Never being one to care what others do, I wasn’t that bothered. I added it to my order last of all. Really glad I did. I have a nickname for it, can’t say what, but the first time I used it on a food shoot, I exclaimed something that’s stuck. FB is all I’m willing to say. Beautifully sharp and being a macro lens, can get in nice and close to capture some very interesting viewpoints. Unlike using extension tubes with a standard lens, I can switch from really close up to a stunning portrait lens, in seconds. The image stabilisation is the same as on the 24-70 f4 and is brilliant. Really sharp and almost never fails to produce a great shot. On any food shoots, she’s waiting on the side, ready to give me the beautiful shot I know is there.

Macro Extension Tubes for Canon Lenses

What's In The Bag- Macro Extension Tubes for Canon Lenses

I used these for quite a long time. They basically turn your regular lens into one with macro capability. You can read how I used macro extension tubes for my food photography. It’s a great alternative to buying a new lens for those close and intimate shots of food. Cheap as chips, definitely worth a purchase, always in my bag in case I need a backup.


Apple MacBook Pro

What's In The Bag- Apple MacBook Pro

Yes, this does fit in my bag. If I’m working on location sometimes I’m away for the day or a few days, I bring my Mac with me so I can work through images and shoot tethered. Clients looooooove seeing the shots coming up on the computer screen. I’ve only ever had a Mac for a personal computer, having said that this is only my second computer. The iMac I bought in 2007, it was rocking it until I replaced it with my MBP in 2015. They’re worth the cost in my opinion. They’re not about being a better computer, it’s the using of Apple products, and how they make you feel that you’re paying for. I have the 15inch version and I bought it through the Apple refurb store. It’s a late 2013 machine and I love it. I use Photoshop, Lightroom, In Design and Premiere Pro with no issues. When I’m in the office I plug in an external screen, various external drives and whatnot. It’s my only working machine that does it all.


Canon 580 EXii

What's In The Bag- Canon 600EX RT

The picture and link above are for the newer Canon 600EX RT Flash, as they don’t make the 580 EXii any more. I have 4 speedlites in total, usually, there’s only 2 of them in my bag but there are times they all come out to play. I use both the built-in optical triggers for my flash and also some basic radio triggers, depending on what I’m doing and the environment I’m shooting in.

Yongnuo 602 Radio Triggers

What's In The Bag- Yongnuo 602 Radio Triggers

These are my simple, “fire now”, radio triggers for my Canon speedlites. I set my flash power manually and the triggers simply tell the flash when to fire. They have two parts, the transmitter which sits in the hot-shoe of the camera, and the receiver which the Speedlite sits in the hot-shoe of the receiver. All settings for the flash has to be entered manually, which, if the light doesn’t need to change much, isn’t a problem once you have it set up.

Lastolite Ezybox Hotshoe

What's In The Bag- Lastolite Ezybox Hotshoe

One of these babies has been with me for about four years now. I have the 76cm x 76cm version and recently I have acquired the new version. An additional extra, that I have, is the grid for this softbox. Makes it easier to control the light. The sides of the softbox have a good sized lip. This also helps to control the light and feathering is more effective. The older version folds down much smaller than the new version. Because of this, the older version is more likely to come on location with me when space is a premium. It produces a really nice light for its size and takes just one Speedlite.

Lastolite Trigip 75cm 8 in 1 Deluxe Kit

I’ve had this around four years now. Really great bit of kit. You can hold the trigrip with one hand and operate the camera with the other when needed. The Trigrip itself is basically the diffuser version with two sleeves you can put on like a little sweater. One has black one side and gold the other. The second sleeve has silver on one side and soft silver on the other.  The kit also comes with a light stand, trigrip holder, speedlite bracket and a double ball head. You can see how this setup works on the Lastolite website.


Tripods and other accessories

Gitzo Series 2 Levelling Tripod GT2531LVL

What's In The Bag- Gitzo Series 2 Levelling Tripod GT2531LVL

Tripods aren’t something you buy very often. Get yourself a good tripod and it’ll give you many years of service. This one is a carbon fibre tripod. It’s really light and strong so it comes with me on location. It’s not cheap though, far from it. I don’t tend to use a tripod very often, I don’t like the restrictions they bring. But if it wasn’t so nice to use and light weight, I’d never use it at all. It has a levelling centre column and really quick to use twist locks on the legs. Really nice bit of kit that’ll be around for many, many different camera upgrades.

Arca Swiss Monoball Z Tripod Head

On top of my Gitzo tripod I have this ball head. Many more expensive tripods don’t have a ball head as part of their design. Some manufacturers do sell them as one but they are often two separate items. This manly to cater for all the many, many different uses the tripod may be put to. It’s a beautifully engineered piece of kit. I have a quick release plate with mine. The plate attaches to the camera body and then you slide or clip the plate into the tripod head, depending on the style you go for.

Manfrotto 055 kit. Aluminium, 3 section horizontal column tripod with 3 way head

What's In The Bag- Manfrotto 055 kit. Aluminium, 3 section horizontal column tripod with 3 way head What's In The Bag- Manfrotto 190 kit. Aluminium, 3 section horizontal column tripod with 3 way head

This is the studio tripod. Really sturdy and a bit on the heavy side. You can get a carbon fibre version to make it lighter. It’s another brilliant bit of equipment and a cheaper option without compromise. The horizontal centre column feature is a really nice touch for food photography. I can go from a front shot to over head in no time at all. The 3 way head is also a great choice for the package. It’s going to be really helpful as I move into shooting more video. There is a lighter weight version of this called the 190, it’s manly the legs that are less heavy duty and therefore it’s not so solid. At the same time the 190 isn’t flimsy by any stretch and would be a fine alternative to the 055.

Flash Zebra long TTL Cord for Canon

This is pretty much as it sounds. A long cable that slots into the hot shoe of your camera and you put the other end onto the flash mount on a light stand located away from the camera. The speedlite goes in the hot shoe, now on the light stand, giving you full control of your flash as if it was on the hot shoe of your camera. It’s an inexpensive way of getting your flash way off camera and still maintaining full control of the speedlite flash settings.

Sekonic L-308S Light Meter

What's In The Bag- Sekonic L-308S Light Meter

I don’t have a fancy pants light meter. This is pretty much an entry level, but very handy dandy, little fella. Using a light meter can greatly speed up your work and give you a greater accuracy for lighting.

So that’s all the main kit that’s at my disposal. There’s lots of extra cables, add ons for speedlites and other light modifiers which I’ll add to another post for those who’d like to know. This is far more than you need to get shooting food photography. As a commercial photographer I have assignments which need me to be more creative on the fly so the extra kit sure helps, but I tell you, it’s really not required.

I’ll finish with a reminder that most of these listed are Amazon affiliate links and if you use them I will share a few pennies of Amazon’s profits. This’ll help me keep sharing content that I really hope is helpful to you. If there’s any questions pop them in the comments and I’ll answer them or find the answer, and if you’d like to know something that’s not found here, please let me know. I love to share.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *