A Beautiful Mess Camera Gear List

A Beautiful Mess Camera ListIt's been a few years since I shared my favorite camera gear. Emma and I get a lot of e-mails asking for advice about camera and lens purchases. We keep a pretty simple lineup of gear around here. We don't have a ton of fancy equipment, and we use everything we own almost every day. So without further ado, here's what we use and why we love it!Emma of A Beautiful Mess1. Canon EOS 60D I've been using my Canon 60D for the past year. Emma recently upgraded to the same camera and is loving it. I love this camera, because it's high quality but isn't crazy expensive. We actually used this camera to shoot our entire photography book earlier this year. I always travel with it. In my opinion it's a good mix of practical and professional. I would highly recommend this camera to anyone shopping for a solid digital SLR.Instax photo wall2. Canon EOS 5D Mark III I had toyed with the idea of upgrading to a full frame camera for the past few years. I finally decided to take the plunge, because I felt we needed a full frame camera for indoor photos. When you are dealing with smallish rooms and limited space, the extra frame space is needed. I am in love with this camera. I've only been using it for about a month (mostly indoors), and it has made a world of difference in my home photos. I love that both our cameras can share lenses, but they capture such different images. If I would have known how helpful a full frame camera would be, I probably would have invested in one years ago.Dapple dachshund in a bathtub!3. Canon EF 35mm f/2 I use this lens most often. If you only want to invest in one lens, I would recommend this one. It's versatile and works great for indoor and outdoor photography. Sometimes it stays on my camera for weeks at a time. It's a staple!Painted Yellow Chairs4. Canon 40mm EF f/2.8 The 40mm is my newest lens. It was an impluse buy. I think it's great, especially for the price (which is awesome). I don't have as much to say about this lens, because I've only been using it for a few months. If you have notes feel free to add them in the comments. πŸ™‚Painting a windowPenny5. Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 We love our 50mm lens for portraits, usually outdoor. It produces the most beautiful bokeh and flattering blurred backgrounds. It's also really nice for low lit photos. 

*I also own (and love) this wide angle lens Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5. Before I owned a full frame camera, this lens was my only way to capture full room photos inside our home. It is also helpful for arm's length self portraits, although I usually crop out a lot of the distorted edges! 

6. Camera Remote When we don't have someone available to take photos for us, we use a camera remote. It's great for self portraits or group photos when you want to include everyone in the frame. Of course, there is always the self-timer too, but the camera remote really speeds things up! 

7. Wacom Bamboo Tablet Alright, now I am branching out from actual photography gear to other items that make our images possible. I have blogged about the tablet in the past (here + here). I use my tablet daily to edit photos, add handwriting and make collages.  

Other stuff we use and love: The iPhone. Honestly, I LOVE iPhone photos. If anyone ever asks me which point & shoot camera I recommend I always tell them to just buy an iPod touch (or iPhone). The photo quality is great and the editing options that apps can offer are truly amazing! Photoshop CS (we use CS5 and CS6). We sometimes use actions. We like Totally Rad Actions! as well as Formula Actions. These are mostly used to quickly tweak color in our images. My favorite toy cameras are the Fujifilm INSTAX Wide , the Fujifilm Instax MINI and the Golden Half Camera.

Let me know if you have any other photography related questions, and I will answer you in the comments section! xo. Elsie 

Dslr basicsAnd if you're looking to improve your photography skills check out our latest e-course

  • This is a great list and very helpful, thank you! Can you please give me a brief description on the difference between a full frame camera as opposed to the 60D? Thank you.

  • What camera remote do you use? I’m looking to get one but have NO IDEA which ones are good/bad! πŸ˜›

  • Thanks for sharing! I also have the EOS 60D and absolutely love it. It’s an amazing camera. I was trying to decided btw the 60D and one of the Rebel models and went with the 60D because I really feel like I won’t grow out of it. It is an investment but totally worth it. My next purchase is the EF 50mm f/1.4 to use for photos for my blog! : )

  • Hugely insightful post! I’m saving up for a nice camera (currently using a gifted & used but new-to-me, point & shoot) and it’s really good to know what some of my favorite bloggers use for their beautiful photos!

    Also! Got a Bamboo tablet for Christmas and your posts gave me great tips for improving my own blog posts, obsessed!


  • I’ve been on the hunt for a good SLR after putting it off for 2 years now and I’ve had my eye on the 60D. Knowing that both of you use this camera and love it, I definitely want to get it!

    However, I am curious to hear your thoughts on the video function, if you use it. Just the general quality and functions, really. Thanks in advance! πŸ™‚

  • I loved this!! IΒ΄m actually more of a Nikon girl, but I love the honest feel this post gives. Also I always admire your photography πŸ™‚

  • If and when you do self portraits/group shots, do you use a tripod? If so, which one? Thanks in advance.

  • Here is a photog question but not an actual hardware question. I need to learn product photography and the “clean up” (photoshop, etc) actions that go along with it. Any ideas where I can begin my search to find resources to learn?

    I would like to get in depth with all aspects of it. lighting, placement, photo light boxes, editing, etc.

  • I’ve heard so many good things about the Canon EOS 60D – I might have to start saving pennies. Ever since I started blogging I find myself taking more pictures. My current DSLR is a Nikon P90, which isn’t much more than a larger point-and-shoot – you can’t switch out lens or anything. Not really what I wanted when I asked for a DSLR but oh well.

    And I totally want a camera remote! My blog, http://crazylovelyme.com, is relatively new, and I’d like to start doing some more self-portrait type of shots for fashion posts. I may have to go buy one of those!

  • Yay, this is great! No questions here…I’m getting a Canon 5D Mark II in the next couple of weeks, and I can’t WAIT! I wanted the Mark III…but $$$. That 40mm looks intriguing…

  • I’m looking for what camera I want to upgrade too. This is very helpful for that since I have no idea what I should get.

  • Nice line-up, but I’ll admit it, I’m a Nikon girl. I have been looking at one of those tablets for a while now though πŸ™‚

  • Q: Can you please give me a brief description on the difference between a full frame camera as opposed to the 60D?
    A: Hi Jane! A full frame captures a wider area in each shot. When I put that same lens on my camera that is not full frame the image appears closer or cropped in. So, in the past I used a wide angle lens to get more in my frame (for inside the home shots mostly) and there was really bad distortion on the outer edges of the photo. A full frame kinda solves that problem, capturing more in each image without the distortion. Hope that helps! πŸ™‚

    Q: What camera remote do you use?
    A: Hi Katie! I looked on Amazon and I can’t find the exact one that we have (we’ve had it a while). This one looks pretty similar- http://www.amazon.com/Pixel-Digital-Wireless-Powershot-replaces/dp/B0049HKKPK/ref=sr_1_15?ie=UTF8&qid=1359432994&sr=8-15&keywords=camera+remote You’ll love it!

    Q: I am curious to hear your thoughts on the video function, if you use it. Just the general quality and functions, really.
    A: Hi Celina! Yes- we have had good experiences with ours so far! Very pleased with the video. Now we just have to practice- haha πŸ™‚

    Q: If and when you do self portraits/group shots, do you use a tripod? If so, which one?
    A: Hi Jean! Yes- we have a very basic tripod that we bought locally. We don’t use it very often, but it’s good to have and useful for video too.

    Q: I need to learn product photography and the “clean up” (photoshop, etc) actions that go along with it. Any ideas where I can begin my search to find resources to learn?
    A: Hi Tina! My wedding photographer, Sarah, wrote an amazing course about lighting- http://www.arrowandapple.com/about-the-course/ I would definitely look into that. I also learned a lot from this site when I was first learning photoshop. πŸ™‚ http://photoshopgirl.com/

    Q: How do you feel about the Canon Rebels? I feel like they get so much hype, but I don’t know how they measure up to the ones you have.
    A: Hi Lena! I have never owned a Rebel but I have a lot of friends who use them. I think they are great, especially for a first camera! πŸ™‚

  • YOU WOULD BE SUCH A LIFE SAVER IF YOU WOULD ANSWER THIS QUESTION: how did you get those photos to stick on the wall? when i was in college i put up hundreds of photos on my wall but they always fell. i tried everything and they would peel off in the middle of the night. what did you use?!

  • i have a nikon d5000 for my dSLR. I Love it. As for travelling, I bring my Canon G12… It has some features of a dSLR without the heavy weight of a dSLR camera πŸ™‚ Both produce great pictures.

    I recently purchase a Canon AE-1. Going old school. I can’t wait to play with it!!!

  • I’ve been wanting to get a DSLR for years, but because I didn’t really know what to look for in a DSLR, I kept on putting it off. This year, I just couldn’t pass up the boxing day sale and got the Canon 60D. Wasn’t 100% sure I made the ultimately perfect choice for me and my photography needs, but judging from your wonderful photography, it seems I did!

    Thanks for sharing this πŸ™‚

  • Thanks for the camera tips! I’m looking out to buy a nifty fifty lens for my camera, and maybe a remote control too.

  • I loved this list! I’ve been thinking about getting a 50mm lens since I’ve heard it’s the best first lens purchase you should get but I’ll definitely have to do some more research into the 35 and 40mm ones, too! Thanks for sharing! It’s always cool to hear what talented photographers use. πŸ™‚

  • I just upgraded to a Canon 60D last year and I’m in LOVE. I have a 50mm, but I’m still learning the best ways to use it (since it can be tricky with framing!), but I love how it makes me take a step back and really focus on what i want in the shot. I definitely need to try out your other lenses though – especially the 35mm! πŸ™‚ Thanks for the tips.

  • Thanks for the tips! I’m thinking of getting into photography πŸ™‚ A lot of my friends dabble in photography, and a few of them even have these adorable plush camera lens from Plushtography! I think that’s dedication.

  • Maybe this is stupid but could you explain a bit about the difference between a full frame camera and not? I’m assuming the full frame just shows more… but wouldn’t a wide lens do that too? What’s the benefit of not using full frame? Maybe a picture of the same space comparing the two?
    Thanks a lot!


  • Savedddd!!! This is so helpful. My father wants me to invest in another lens, and I haven’t been able to tell him which one I should upgrade to. Gracias.

  • Thank you for this! I always look around on the net for a good camera, but can’t decipher one type to another! And since I love your photography, I was super happy to see this!

    Would you mind giving us ballpark prices for each of these items? I know the price will vary depending on where one purchases them, but I’d love to start saving up for gear like this!

    Thank you =))

  • thanks for this information! i’m in serious need of a new camera, and your opinions are great to have.


  • Thank you for a very useful listing and explanination. I don’t have tha much money and I’m always looking for advise and tips on the next purchase. This will be very helpful in deciding the next. Only just bought a zoom lens (Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM) for my action photography.

  • thanks for this list, it’s really helpful! i have a couple of lenses but still learning my way around them before investing in others!

    Katie x

  • This is not related to the camera stuff but I just love the photo of the little Doxie in the tub!! I love doxies!!

  • great gear indeed. I want to upgrade my canon 1000D to the canon 60D too, as it’s not very heavy as a very-professional one. I also have the 50mm 1.8 and I love it, it’s a great set of lenses and very versatile.
    My favourite idea is the bamboo pad that you use to add handwritten text into your photos, have to try something like that too

  • I love your photography posts!!

    I have a Canon 550D (or Rebel) but I use my dads old SLR Nikon lenses from the 80’s – I got a lens adapter to make them connect and the results are beautiful! Plus SLR lenses are much cheaper! : )

    Please post more photography tips, I learn so much from you! I especially loved those photoshop tutorials you did : )


  • I loved reading this post! I think you should write down a kind of ‘tutorial’ post on how to start off with photography! I just recently upgraded to a DSLR and I’m stunned with the amount of things I have to learn (aperture, ISO,…), I’d love you to give some tips about it! πŸ™‚

  • Your shots are always so great and it’s nice to know what’s used behind the scenes πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing and keep up your wonderful and inspiring posts!

  • Beautiful! For now I have only one digital camera semireflex (FUJIFILM FINEXPIX S3200) in Uruguay are expensive cameras but certainly when I upgraded I will follow the advice and buy Canon. kisses! I really like your picture!

  • This post is perfect timing for me! I am planning to invest in a DSLR camera this spring… and I don’t know much about it so this is very helpful! Thank you very much!

    Do you think Amazon is the best place to purchase one?

  • can’t wait for your photography book!! thanks for sharing your equipment– it inspires me to save up for a full frame camera!

  • Great post!! Thanks for your insightful and honest approach. I have been using the canon vixia hfs10 for video for the past year, and some photos as well- its an incredible and lightweight auto focusing camera best for video, of course! This year I am getting a DSLR! YES! I have been comparing the two models that you have and definitely prefer the 5D markiii, but I really wonder how much difference there is between the mark ii and the mark iii – besides the price and a few upgrades. Should I save and get the newer model or save and get the older one?!

  • Thank you so much for this post, who would’ve thought a remote control for a camera! Here I’ve been struggling to do the whole self timer thing, duh! I NEED one of these. Thank you for inspiring me everyday.

  • One of my Gonna do for 2013 is learning how to use my semireflex… it is not a very good camera but i know i am not getting the best of it

  • This is such a helpful post! I have a Nikon D3200 and I been going back and forth on trading it in for a Canon, what do you prefer?

  • I would love for you guys to create a DSLR for new users e-course….or maybe this is what your photo book will be about?

  • You READ MY MIND! I was just going to tweet you to ask you what lens I should get next. I have a 50mm and a 35mm also so this was such a helpful blog post! Thank you so much! I am falling in love with photography and want to keep getting better! Such fun!

  • Hi! Today I’m starting a continuing ed digital photography class. I had always wanted to get into photography during college but it never quite fit into my schedule, though I am currently working as a graphic designer and always thought the two skills really compliment each other and ultimately go hand-in-hand.

    I have to say your photography on your site definitely inspired me to search for a class where I could focus on photography and learn — I love the look of your photography and I’m now inspired to discover my own style. Thank you for the inspiration!

  • great info! what kind of straps and camera bags do you use? i have an epiphanie bag, but am really wondering about some good straps and shooting bags.

  • thank you for this super informative post! I am always looking to improve on my photos and skills and I am in the search for a good lens. I think I have found the one now. saving this for later when I can afford things like the lens, self timer and photoshop! xx. gigi. food and beauty blogger @ http://www.gigikkitchen.blogspot.com

  • This is exactly what I was looking for! I’ve been looking for a camera to “beef up” the picture quality for my blog but was overwhelmed with all the details on the web. Thanks for making it easier to digest all this info. Love your blog!

  • I adore your blog. I think my favorite part is that it makes me contemplate my life. I read your blog and become inspired to try something new. Thank you for your time and dedication to making life beautiful.

  • I love coming to your site every day! Thanks so much for this info. I’d love to get one of those tablets. I don’t have Photoshop (yet) and just use iPhoto right now. Do you know if I could use the tablet to add handwriting to my photos using iPhoto? Or would you recommend any other free (or at least inexpensive) photo editing software? Thanks!

  • Thanks for the camera tips! My husband recently purchased the canon 6D… Love it so much but feel rather inexperienced for such a great camera. I’m hoping to learn more though to live up to the great camera! πŸ™‚

    Your photo wall is so great as well!


  • Great post! I own the 60D and my favorite go to lens is my 50mm. Next purchase will more than likely be the 5D mark III. I’ve been hesitant because I’ve bee. So happy with my 60D. After reading your take on having both. I feel much more confident in taking the leap. Thanks!

  • thank you so much for this post!i smashed my camera on the floor (by mistake) and i need to get a new asap!i have a nikon now but i may go for a canon now..thank you πŸ™‚

  • I so want the 5D MKII (yeah it will be years before I could afford the MKIII lol) but it’s out of my price range. I want to upgrade my T3 so bad so sometime this year I’m hopefully going to upgrade to the 60D.

    I was recently shopping for new lenses too and I saw the 40mm and I was really interested in it but I haven’t seen much of anything from the lens online so I opted for the 35mm f/2 instead as I already have the 50mm 1.8. I love, love, love my 35 though and it rarely comes off my camera now. I love it more than my 50 which is quite surprising lol. Such a great lens for tight spaces on a crop!

  • Funny and timely that you posted this! I have been considering getting a new camera, my first DSLR. What exactly is the difference between the 5D and 60D, besides full frame? Most of my photos are indoors (of friends and family) and outdoors (vacation pics/touristy shots). Would a 5D cover my needs? And are these two options significantly better than a canon rebel?


  • What a great great camera equipment list. I’m aiming for the 5D MarkIII for the next round, but I was able to get fairly good photos for my latest collection shots with my rebel t2i and the 50mm 1.4. Always learning and trying things out, so this was a helpful post for me. Thanks so much.

  • let’s talk about how beautiful emma is! these photos of her are outstanding. i was looking through a free people catalog from feb 2011, for outfit inspiration, last night. one of the model’s, had hair just like emma’s. the photo with her sunglasses looked like it could be her. so anyway, whenever you’re having an “i feel ugly day,” emma, remember you’re not. the end.

  • Thanks so much for sharing!? Have you ever had any experience with tilt shift lenses!? I have been so curious about them!! I really need to look in to the 35mm…I could use that thing over here!

  • Thanks for the great post! I always like seeing what sort of gear and tips bloggers use when taking photos. πŸ™‚

    I have a question that’s more for your readers than it is for you both (since you use iPhones): How many of my fellow Android users use their phone as a camera? And if so, which phone in particular do you use? Can you suggest any apps (other than Instagram and other filter apps) for taking/editing photos?

  • I wonder if my last comment was abrupt, I am looking to upgrade my canon and wouldn’t mind sending some business your way if it is the case!

  • The cheap-o 40mm lives on my 5DMIII since I got it last summer. My favorite combination and I use it for almost everything. No matter what I am shooting I always default to it. The more I use it, the more I love it. Here’s the most recent shoot (it was the only lens I used):

  • Emma, yes we do. Our Amazon links are affiliate links. That means that we get a small percentage for sales we send their way.

    πŸ™‚ Elsie

  • Thanks for the tips. I’m thinking about a good camera and this one is still in the running πŸ™‚ But saving up first πŸ™‚

  • I’m still a beginning and learning as much as I can by googling every question that comes up (since I don’t really have a photography mentor in my life). I’ve had a Canon EOS T3 for almost two years now. It’s my first DSLR, and I’ve been really happy with it. However, I’ve been using the kit lens this whole time. I’m thinking about getting a 50mm f/1.8 for portraits (which is mostly what I take), and other shoots for my blog (DIYs, food, outfits) but I’m wondering if I wouldn’t be better off getting something more multi-purpose. I don’t want to be changing lenses all the time if the portrait lens won’t work well for other things. But I really very rarely take photos with a deep depth of field, and I don’t use my zoom all that much either. I’m also thinking I might need a wide-angle lens, but again I’m wondering if I’ll be constantly needing to change lenses. I don’t have a ton of money to spend at the moment, so I need to go slow and not buy every possible lens at once. Where would you recommend I start? And would the 50mm f/1.8 be something I could use for every day? Thanks a ton for any advice!

  • Thanks so much for this post! I love hearing about the technical background information that goes into making a blog, like the camera details. I’m starting to do research for my own DSLR camera, so this is especially helpful. The actual purchase will be a ways off (still have to finish paying off student debt!) but I am getting excited! πŸ™‚

  • Hey Elsie! First off thank you for sharing your favorite gear! I did have one question: what editing apps on iphone do you use? I’m in love with afterglow and psexpress (photoshop express) but am always on the lookout for new things!

    Thanks so much!
    Sarah (aka Dotti Dee)

  • I am experiencing serious camera and lens envy right now!! Lusting after the 5D MkIII and that 35mm.

    And it was one of your previous posts about adding handwriting to photographs that made me go out and get a Bamboo. Best. Thing. Ever!

  • Hey, I’ve always liked your food photography. The somewhat desaturated colors and shallow depth of field. Which lens do you use to take them, any actions to get that look?

    x Jacob

  • aahh! this post is making me want to switch over to a canon!! i’ve been using a nikon for the past 6 years. i wonder if i should make the switch or not!!


  • How did you guys learn photography? Did you get some professional training or are you self taught?

    Your pictures are one of my favourite things about your blog πŸ™‚

    Emily x – prettypleaseprettyplease.blogspot.com

  • My previous comment went to moderation, and never appeared here, so I’m trying this again. Love the list. I’m a Nikon girl, but really appreciate the lens and bamboo pad recommendations!
    Can you share your favorite camera straps and bags? I’d love to know which straps and bags you ladies use. I’m shopping for some and want some advice! πŸ™‚

  • Thanks for the reply and the link, Elsie! I have an Epiphanie bag, and I was looking for something to travel with – the Libby bag at Kelly Moore is perfect!!!


  • I’ve got a 50mm lens but I’ve been considering selling it, I don’t know what to use it for it seems pointless to me. I generally use my 18-200mm as it’s versatile. Should I keep it? :/ i just don’t know

  • My friend and I are just now starting out blogging and are wanting to buy a better camera. What would you suggest as a good starter camera (inexpensive) but still great quality. We’d be doing outfit posts, baking and cooking, DIYs, ect.

    Thanks so much!

  • Oh my gosh, those are some seriously beautiful photographs! I’m going to have a look at those lenses you recommended now πŸ™‚ I’m using a 550D, only a baby but I’m really happy with it for what I’m doing πŸ™‚

  • Question? Why separate lenses and not just something like an EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Standard Zoom Lens? Sorry…I’m lens illiterate…more of a point and shoot person looking for a better camera…and really intimidated by the “f” talk.

  • Love your pics πŸ™‚ Just got my 60D–love it! Also love my most recent lens purchase–Sigma 30mm 1.4 fixed. For the price it is FANTASTIC! In fact, the price for the lens just dropped significantly (by almost half!) so it’s an even better buy.

  • This is very helpful as I’ve been shopping around for a camera. Just wondering, do you have any recommendations for a mirrorless interchangeable camera? I like how they’re smaller than DSLR so it’s great for traveling. thanks!

  • Have you ever had problems with your Canon? I’ve just recently bought a Canon Rebel XS and its been giving me problems. I haven’t even had it for a year yet. The problem for mine is that it dies for no reason and wont turn back on. The battery is charged and everything is shut. If you know anything it would be great! Thank you!

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