A Look in Our Bag | What Gear to Buy When

We see a lot of questions floating around about gear. Because there are so many options. So when it comes time to grab a new lens or camera body… so many struggle with which to get when. And though we know that we all have different journeys, and that what worked for us won’t work for everyone, we wanted to take a second to share what worked for us since we get this question so often.

Now, we know this email is jam packed with material, but we wanted to open up our hearts to you all and be completely transparent about what we did, how we funded it, and what worked for us. So as we head into 2019 we want to see you succeed!

(Disclosure: This is mostly in relation to wedding photographers, since that is what we solely photograph but could be booked to anyone curious about what to invest in next!)

Always invest in the best glass.

Now, when it comes to gear, we always recommend investing in the best equipment out there. This is a rule that Shauna follows often when shopping for anything. Sometimes we might come across something that is a cheaper version of what we really want, but before we buy it, we ask ourselves, “If I buy this cheaper knockoff of (inset whatever it is we really want), will I still want to get the better version later on?” If the answer is yes, then we put it back and wait until we can get the more expensive version.

 Because if we buy the cheaper item, and the more expensive one later on, then we spent even more than we needed to just because we couldn’t wait. (Now this of course doesn’t fully apply if it is something that you can sell back. But if you tell yourself you’ll sell the cheaper option once you get the better, more expensive option, then you have to be sure to keep that promise to yourself. Also be sure to research resell value. Will you be taking a financial hit by buying the cheaper option and then the more expensive one later on due to depreciation? Be sure to do your homework here!)

Because once that is done, you can question if it is user error or gear error.

Choosing your camera.

When it comes down to camera bodies, we first began our business with a Canon 5D Mark ii. It was used, it was affordable, and we personally preferred to have a used full frame than a brand new crop.

From there, we bought a Canon 5D Mark iii, and Jordon took over the Mark ii. After we had a few of the lenses we needed to run our business, we purchased another 5D Mark iii.

(Note: We also had an older crop frame as a backup from back when Shauna first began loving photography as well, but never used it since launching the business).

For us, we wanted to invest in new bodies only once we felt that we were completely limited by the bodies that we were using. So whenever you feel like that is where you’re at, then it might be time to upgrade.

How to Fund your Gear

We were very strategic in our marketing and had a super fast growing business (that we teach all about how to do in our Cooney Classroom), so we were thankfully able to invest in all of these lenses and bodies in a matter of months.

Because if you don’t have the gear you want yet, and you’re paying yourself from your business… stop doing that! Right this minute! And instead, use your profits from your business to buy all the gear you want. Only pay yourself once your business is fully funded!

Not making enough in your business to fund the gear you need? Try to find outside sources to fund your business.

When we first began photography, we were working a total of ten jobs combined (simply because we weren’t making enough as teachers to make ends meet).

Jordon was a full time teacher, a coach for every sport at his school, an athletic director, a trivia host, a basketball official, and a basketball coach for a competitive high school basketball team.

Shauna was a teacher, a tutor for two students (a total of 10 hours of extra tutoring on top of teaching each week), a track and field coach, and launching this photography business.

So trust us when we say there is no room for excuses if it is important enough to you.

If you need to make something happen for your future, just do it!

New Lens or New Camera Body?

Totally unsure if it’s time to invest in a new body or a new lens?

Rent a body you’re considering buying and a lens you’re considering. Try the new body with a current lens. Then try the old body with a new lens. Which provides better images?

The real trick, in our opinion, is when to buy what lenses. So we wanted to also share that with you today!

What Lenses to Buy and in What Order:

The order we would recommend buying lenses would be in relation to what they are used for:

1. Portraits: 50 1.2 (you can also use this for getting ready, ceremony, and reception, so it’s a great lens to have).
2. Ceremony: Either the 70-200 OR you really could do the 85 1.4 (but I feel that in the beginning of your business the 70-200 is more versatile, so possibly the wiser buy).
3. Getting Ready: Either the 24-70 or the 35 mm (again, the 24-70 is more versatile and what I recommend there).
4. Details: The 100 mm 2.8 Macro (But in the meantime you can totally get a macro attachment to make your 50 mm get those details if you need to for a while, but I won’t lie and pretend that the 100 mm isn’t magic… because it is! Here is a link to what those look like.

If you prefer prime, you can make them work, but we definitely recommend at least one from each of those categories in that order.

We first bought the 50 1.4 (which we actually recommend the 1.8 since there isn’t a major difference in the two lenses and the 1.8 is much cheaper) and then sold it once we got the 1.2. After that point, we only invested solely in Canon L series glass because we had something to get us by while we saved up. (We first started with the 50 1.4, the 70-200 and the 24-70, and then upgraded to the 50 1.2 which all happened in the matter of about two months).

The reason for only purchasing Canon L Series lenses is because we didn’t want to have any questions on the quality that we were getting.

Our Biggest Secret when Buying Gear

We’re gonna get really real here, a huge tip for buying lenses is to look at buying used. When purchasing used, be sure to buy through reputable sources and weigh the pro’s and cons. Always make wise purchasing choices, but when done correctly, it can save you money, which is a trick that has worked for us!

We have quite a few lenses that were bought brand new, and some that were purchased used. You would never know which is which by looking at our gear, or more importantly, when looking at our work.

So if we’re being honest here…

You can absolutely make it without the 85 mm 1.4 II with IS (or the older 1.2 version) and without the 35 mm 1.4 if you have the L Series zoom lenses (the 24-70 and the 70-200).

With the zoom lenses being so versatile, they are our first recommendations for investing in (after a prime lens for portraits) since you can use them in a wider variety of locations such as getting ready rooms and receptions (we personally lived without the 85 forever and still don’t have the 35 yet because it hasn’t been a necessity!).

Our Personal Game Plan

So… to give perspective, we personally invested in this order: 50 mm 1.4, 70-200 mm 2.8 II with IS, 24-70 mm 2.8, 100 mm 2.8 Macro with IS, 50 mm 1.2 (all purchased in about 2 months with out marketing strategies). Then after almost 2 years of having a super successful business we treated ourselves to the 85 mm for portraits. Because it truly isn’t a necessity. Instead, it was a fun lens to add to our bag for portraits- we also use it for ceremonies and receptions on occasion. 😉

Our Next Lens

We will probably add the 35 mm later on as well just because 1. We would love to have a low aperture for getting ready in tight spaces (and the lower aperture with help with low light as well) and 2. We currently only have the 50 mm 1.2 and the 24-70 for tight spaces- so when we dual shoot, we really could use another wide lens so we know we have options when both rooms are tight (because sometimes the 50 mm is just too tight for some of those hotel rooms).

WHEW! We know that was a lot of information, but y’all, we really hope that helps!

And if you know anyone who you think would benefit form this information, send them over to our email list here so they can get free education from us as well! Our teacher hearts always loves helping and serving others!

Until next time!

Hugs and lots of love,

Shauna and Jordon

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