Photography Gear: What We Use, Love, and Recommend!

ABM Photography Gear Favorites (click through for links)Today I'm here to talk about photography gear. We haven't written a post like this in two years, and a few things have changed in that time (although not as much as you would think—we're still using a LOT of the same equipment). We enjoy having a simple photography gear set up, and we use most of what we own every single day! 

Our goals are simple! We aim to capture clean, clear, bright images for ABM. In this post you'll see all the tools we use to take our photographs. 

A Beautiful Mess photographyIn the interest of organization, I'm going to break these items down into three categories—cameras, lenses, and useful accessories. 

Cameras

Through the years we've used the full range of Canon cameras, and I can honestly say that they are all great. When shopping for your first camera (or an upgrade even), I recommend choosing whichever is the best model you can afford at the time, then investing in lenses as you go. DSLRs are not lifetime purchases. We upgrade every 3-5 years (depending on how much our cameras get used). So don't stress out too much about which model you buy. Any of these cameras are light years better than what people had access to in the past, so count yourself very lucky! 

I have used all of these cameras personally and seen my blogger friends use them to take incredible photos! 

1. Canon EOS 5D Mark III Two years ago we upgraded to our first full frame camera, the 5d Mark III. It's significantly more expensive at around 3k for the camera body. I'll be honest, that price was what kept us from upgrading in the past. I just didn't think that a full frame camera could be three times better than what we were already using, and I assumed that the upgrades were more useful for different types of photographers, but might not be necessary for our purposes, which were mainly blog photos. After we upgraded, I became a true convert, and now this model is what most of us use at ABM. The thing that really converted me was the difference that a full frame camera made for interior photos. In the past I had to use a wide angle lens to photograph rooms, which created a warped perspective. The full frame makes it much easier to fit most rooms into my frame with just a 35mm lens. That sold me, since we photograph rooms often. It's also especially good in low light situations and can handle a higher ISO very well. 

2. Canon EOS 70D This is the category that we've owned the most of. My first camera was a 20d, then I upgraded a few years later to a 40d and then a 60d (that's what we currently have). The newest model is a 70d. I highly recommend this camera for bloggers. It's what we used to write our first book with as well! This model is around 1k for the body. It's a great camera! 

3. Canon Rebel A Rebel is the lowest priced SLR you can get (with models starting in the 300s). It is a little bit smaller and lighter than some of the other bodies. It can take amazing photos and makes a great first camera. If you are new to photography, or on a tight budget, we recommend the Rebel as your first camera. 

Again, all these models are awesome! We have owned and loved them all. We recommend choosing whichever is most comfortable for your budget. Remember that you'll probably end up upgrading in a few years, so it's not that big of a deal! 

Lenses

Lenses are super important and can completely change your camera's abilities to capture light, close ups, and far away shots. Lenses are a big factor in what makes quality photographs! There are infinite choices, but we like to keep things pretty simple around here. Here are the lenses that we use and love! 

4. Canon 35mm f/2 This is our everyday lens. I rarely take it off my camera because it's useful for so many different situations. When traveling, this is the only lens I take with me. So it goes without saying, but this is the lens I would recommend buying first if you only want to invest in one lens. We use this for most DIY photos, food photos, and room tour photos. We use two 35mm lenses at ABM, and this is the one with a friendlier price. :) 

Food photography

5. Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L This lens is incredible for taking portraits. It's nice and crisp, and the quality is unbeatable.

Sister style6. There are two great choices when it comes to a 50mm lens—

50mm f/1.8  This lens is what we call the Nifty Fifty! It's crazy how good this lens is for how affordable it is.

50mm f/1.4 Another 50mm lens that's a little bit more, but the quality is incredible! This is the 50mm lens that we all use around the studio for pretty much everything.

Useful Accessories + Programs

7. Wacom Intuos Pen and Touch Small Tablet If handwriting or hand-drawing is your look, then we highly recommend getting a Wacom tablet! There are a bunch of great ones out there for less than $100, such as this one that we use.

8.  Reflector Set We definitely recommend having a reflector around, especially if you're shooting a lot of portraits or working in harsh light or shadows. This 5-in-1 reflector is just one of many different kinds, and they allow you to really up your photo game for around $20.

9. Canon RC-6 Wireless Remote Controller All SLR cameras come with a self-timer function, but this remote makes it even quicker and easier to capture tons of "selfies" without running back and forth to trigger the self-timer. We use ours often. 

10. Tripod Sarah recommended this tripod and has used for it for 10+ years! It's an incredible quality, and it has a middle-of-the-road price point that is well worth it for the durability. 

11. Adobe Creative Cloud (subscription). We use Photoshop almost everyday. It's such a useful tool for blogging, small business, and personal photography as well. The cloud subscription is amazing and super affordable ranging from $10-$50 and it can give you access to many Adobe programs (Photoshop included). 

12. Photoshop and Lightroom Actions We use actions every day to speed up our editing process and produce consistent images. We highly recommend finding a set of actions you love to invest in! 

Actions by A Beautiful Mess

12. If you're interested in learning to use your DSLR or Photoshop program, I suggest looking into the e-courses we have available! 

DSLR BasicsDSLR Basics / Photoshop for Bloggers / Discounted rate for both courses

I hope this has been helpful! I am here to answer any questions you may have in the comments. Investing in photography gear can be intimidating, but they're some of the best purchases I have ever made. We're here to help! xx- Elsie 

  • Great read, thank you! Real briefly, can you tell me the biggest difference in the two 35mm to account for the $1K price difference? Thank you 🙂

  • I’ve had DSLRs for years and years, but I just haven’t felt able to invest $500+ into a single lens! It’s such a costly investment… Still, it’s really great to know what I should think about getting in the future. So helpful, thanks, guys!

    Cat
    http://oddlylovely.com

  • Great blog! I want to upgrade my lens and am leaning toward a 50mm vs. a 35mm. I would love to see a comparison between the two! Maybe a post showing the differences between the two lenses? Love the photography posts.
    Lisa

  • Awesome! I have been waiting to you all to do this post for a while, so thank you SO much for sharing!! 😀

    xo,
    -Charlotte
    boyerfamilysingers.blogspot.com

  • Thanks! I shoot with a rebel now, but I’m saving up for an upgrade. Question: would you suggest buying lenses or a camera first? Right now I use a nifty fifty. My next lens is going to be the 35mm f/2. Would it be more use to me to wait on the lenses until I get my 70d, or to buy the 35 use it with my rebel and shoot with it until I save enough to get the 70d… Eventually I’ll have both along with other gear that I buy whenever my budget allows. It’s not a question of either or, it’s a question of what order to get them in. Does that makes sense? Love you guys! x

  • I owned every bit of the above mentioned eqip and loved it. I just sold it back this month and switched to a mirrorless camera. Canon is great but the 5DMKIII is a very expensive option/not practical or easy to use for a reader stumbling across this post. It took me a long while to feel comfortable with its weight etc but I do love Canon.

  • Great post! I have been using Nikon, but have been wondering about the differences between nikon and canon. What made you choose canon in the beginning? Thanks 🙂

  • I have been wanting to learn photoshop, is your course good for someone who isn’t really into blogging, but just wants cute photos to print, or use for home projects? I currently know NOTHING about photoshop, never used it. THanks.

  • This was a really awesome post. I’ve already added the reflectors to my Amazon cart and will be going back here after the holidays with my rewards points to grab them!

  • Great post!
    Is there a reflector that you use more than the others? Or one that you never use because you don’t like the results? For instance, I’ve heard a lot of photographer’s that prefer the neutral white bounce instead of the gold or silver ones.

  • I love your post! The tips are useful and the equipment you show us is great, too. Maybe I can buy some new stuff when I`ll get a little bit more money as a present for Christmas!

    Have a nice day!

    mtrjschk.blogspot.de

  • Great post! I’m not a blogger or a serious photographer but as I roam the web on blogs, Etsy and Pinterest I see a lot of poor photo’s. Knowing what to use and how to use it can make such a big difference for readers/buyers. I’m even thinking about taking one of your e-courses to see if I can improve my skills or feel I could justify getting a better camera for better home pictures! Thanks!

  • Great tips! Don’t count out the Canon 6D as a beautiful little full frame camera (for almost half the cost!). It’s more bare bones but some tests shows it out-performs the mark iii in low-light. It’s a great option if you want to go full frame for that better indoor capabilities but aren’t quite ready to jump to the mark. I love mine and highly recommend it! <3

  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts on camera’s. I just started saving up for a 70D and you convinced me that’s the one I want. It will improve my photo’s a lot 🙂

    I already have a 50mm lens and used that for a great photo project this year… 3×50. Fifty photographers shot a photo a week for 50 weeks using a 50mm http://www.3×50.nl. I already enlisted for next years edition because it was such a great experience.

    Love,
    Annemarie from The Netherlands

  • Thanks Elsie,

    I find these posts really helpful. I wondered of you could write one on how and when to use each type of reflector and the diffuser? Especially when you’re taking selfies for the blog!

    Thanks. Zoe

  • I Love Love LOVE your site! It is an inspiration. I have just started a blog of my own and I am constantly referring to your blog for tips and advice! Thank you guys from the bottom of my heart.
    Kari H. – Lovesome Perspective

  • This post is so incredibly useful for me. I used to use my Little Lumix but have outgrown it and wasn’t sure which way to go. Now I think the Canon Rebel is for me. I also have an idea of what lenses and accessories I will need. Thank you so much for sharing 🙂

  • Thankyou so much for all the tips you guys are the best.
    I just can’t get enough of your blog posts.
    have a lovely day and happy holidays ~

  • Love this info! Where is the cheapest place to find Adobe Photoshop and what version do I get? I love photography and want to learn more edit.

  • I’ve been looking into a good lens that would be best for blogging so I’ll be looking into your suggestions! A wireless remote is on my Christmas list. I didn’t realize that reflectors were that cheap, so now I’ll definitely have to invest in some. Loved this post!

  • I have a 50mm and the depth of field is awesome, but you have to stand far away from your subject if you want a full body shot. I don’t recommend it if you want to take city or landscape shots, because you just won’t have the distance you need to capture the whole scene.

  • Thank you so much for a great post. I just got a DSLR for Christmas last year, and I’ve been wanting to improve my gear + skills. I have a question about that awesome-looking tripod: is there a way to mount the camera pointing straight down (e.g. to film a process video of hands working on a tabletop?) Thanks!

  • This was extremely helpful. I recently got a Canon Rebel T3i and I am still trying to figure out all the different settings. I also want to get a better lenses and this post helped me with that.

  • P.S. I just asked this question on the Amazon listing, and got a reply much more quickly than I expected! Indeed, this tripod does have a vertical adjustment angle that accommodates a camera being pointed straight down. Thanks, ABM, for an awesome recommendation! I think I just might splurge…. 😉

  • The information that you give is great! Is it necessary to purchase one of the lenses that you mention right away in order to have great photos? I am looking to purchase the 60D and wondering if the lens that comes with (18-135) is sufficient until I can save up to buy the best lens that would work best for me. Thanks!

  • A little off topic but where did you get your black clog heels? They look awesome!

  • Do you have any suggestions for nikon users for something comparable to the 35mm f/2?

    Thank You

  • Hey Cat! I totally understand. We’ve built up our collection over many years. These are definitely major purchases, but some of our most used investments as well! 🙂
    -Elsie

  • The 35mm will fit more into each frame, so if you’re doing room photos or looking for a great all-purpose lens I would get that. The 50mm is a better lens for portraits of people and beautiful close ups! 🙂
    -Elsie

  • I am a lifelong Canon user, so I haven’t compared the two since I’ve never owned a Nikon. I initially bought my first Canon because I was told that they were knows for better color and that’s very important to me. Now I’m so far in I could never switch! 🙂
    -Elsie

  • We use white foam board for food and DIY projects! The reflectors are better for people portraits, though, because you can use the different colors to control how warm you want their face to appear and they are just a much stronger reflection, which is better for flattering skin!
    -Elsie

  • Hey Dani!
    Any camera gear can produce great photos… even your iPhone! So don’t let anything hold you back. With that said, investing with lenses will improve your photos very much above what a kit lens can do… but it’s not necessary! :))
    -Elsie

  • The more expensive lens belongs the the professional grade lens family (l-series).
    The 35mm f2 lens will be heavier, optically and mechanically better. Canon uses their best optical technology on their L-series lenses. These L-series lenses are well built and very durable to withstand use from a professional photographer.. Every component in the L-series lens is better and the highest quality, including the glass. Think of it as the difference between a starter camera and a professional grade camera.
    -Janae

  • I would also include filter adapters. My 50mm and my 135mm are different sizes for the filters, so, adapters are necessary for me, because i don’t want to buy the same filters for each lens.

  • I have been eyeing the Cannon Rebel since I took the Bloglovin course, and think it is just about time to make the major LEAP! New Year, new camera, new baby on the way…time to capture all those beautiful moments! Thank you for explaining all of this in detail. I know I’m going to do the lens a little later (lots of check book squeezing to do before that) but at least I know when I do get there, the 35 is what I’ll aim for. Thanks!