my camera bag


*updated 01.27.11
Below is a lineup of my favorites in digital photography equipment --and many of these are in my camera bag. If buying an expensive camera and lens isn't in your budget, I recommend getting a lower line digital camera body, like the Rebel, and buy an amazing overall lens, like the 24-105mm f/4 or, buying a prime lens like the 85mm f1.8. Before upgrading any camera, invest in great lenses --they make ALL the difference in your images.
I buy all my equipment from B&H Photo where prices are cheapest and customer service is amazing.. Those guys know EVERYTHING. Hope this helps!

: Canon EOS Rebel Digital SLR-- whatever version is latest, camera body only

Canon EOS 7D Digital SLR, camera body only

Canon EOS 5D Mark II, camera body only

Best Overall Lens: 24-105mm f/4 lens
(i use this baby on every wedding and vacation.)

Also an Awesome Lens
: 24-70mm f/2.8 lens
(nice for kid photography.)

Good for Portraits & Still Life
: 85mm f/1.8
(most my portfolio was shot with this)

Best for Portraits
& Still Life: 85mm f/1.2
(seriously though, it's not necessary... buy the one above.)

Awesome Cheap "Kid" Lens:
50mm f/1.8
(slight slight slight distortion here --not to be used on brides. that's why i call it the "kid" lens.. should only be used on kids, still life and documentary-type shooting)

Must Haves: 32" Translucent Reflector

Must Haves: 32" Soft Gold/White Reflector

and.... of course, my
tripod and head

Lighting: Tota-light One-Light Kit
(Ok. Impossible for me to tell you what lighting kit to use because there are so many factors... but this is a nice little light for tabletop photography if you shoot at night. Watch out though, it's hot!)

add to sk*rt


Kaela Cusack said...

when given the choice-do you choose auto or manual focus? sometimes you have to choose...don't you?

please sir said...

Great post - thanks for giving us an inside look! Do you use any kind of filters on your lenses? I've been trying to get a dreamy quality in my photos and just can't seem to get the results I'm looking for. I was wondering if a filter would help? If they even make any for the look I'm trying to achieve?


Ashley Rose Photography said...

Awesome :) thanks for sharing what is in your bag of tricks! your work is gorgeous :)

nicole hill gerulat said...

please sir:

I don't use filters --unless the occasional polarizer.


Ksenia said...

What about indoor lighting? What do you most often use? And what lens would you say you most frequently use in portraiture?

nicole hill gerulat said...

Hi Ksenia..

My lighting packs are Profoto. The 85mm is my favorite, but the 24-105 is my "choose-one-lens" favorite.


Kari said...

What specifically do you use each of the lenses for? And if you had to recommend an all purpose lens for a very amateur, what would you recommend?

ps I am enjoying your tales of SF. (hopefully no more craziness) Two of my little ones were born there and I will always have a soft spot for it!

nicole hill gerulat said...

hi kari,

i use all lenses for different things, but my favorite overall lens is the 24-105mm f/4.


Lillie said...

I love that you answer everyone's questions! I might be way too late to deserve that... seeing as I've jumped around through the links on your blog and ended up here a couple months late... but a friend of mine took your class in SF and told me how you swear by the 24-105. Since it's wide and probably usually used outside, do you feel like you don't miss the f-stops of say the 24-70 f/2.8? I've got a 5d and that 24-105 on backorder from Amazon and really want to feel confirmed in that BIG purchase!

Also-- I noticed you don't have the 50mm that I see recommended so often. I've had the 30 f/1.4 on my Nikon D40, but am converting and UPgrading, like I said, so if I already wanted something closer than my 30mm and now I'll have a full frame, do you think the 85mm could fill most of my portrait needs? Or are you still pretty darn close-up, even on the full frame? And if you're not, is the 135 a must to do those close-close baby bits and pieces?

I know that was a lot of questions in a long comment. I'll just see if I get lucky. What a lovely world you've got over here. Beautiful photos. Can we be friends even though I've got music on my blog? ;)

The Wife of an Artist said...

First off, thanks so much for your Photography class through Art Weekend! I can't wait to take the Photo 101 class in the future.

I was wondering if you also use a lens hood when shooting outside. Fortunately, with SF being cloudy so much bright light hasn't really been an issue for me yet, but I was just curious what your take was on them.


nicole hill gerulat said...

ooh you're welcome!

I always use my lens hood --lots of times you don't notice haze or flare

Rob said...

Hi Nicole -

Thanks for sharing what's in your bag. It's always an interesting topic.

I have a question for you about portrait lenses.

I currently have the 70-200 F4 L and the 100 2.8 Macro. Do you think these lenses are good enough for portrait work, or would you still recommend going with an 85mm or 135mm fast prime? This is primarily for taking pictures of my kids -- I don't make money through photography -- so I obviously don't need the best. I'm just curious to hear your thoughts on these lenses, as I've read that they do pretty well in this role.

Also, I'm curious about your take on the 24-105 f4 vs 24-70 f2.8 discussion. I've been contemplating this specific choice for over a year in anticipation of finally being able to purchase one of them. Personally, I'm addicted to minute depth of field and smooth bokeh (as a point of reference, I haven't taken the 50 1.8 off of my 5D Mk2 since I got it), so I lean towards the 2.8. However, the IS is compelling (I take lots of pictures of kids in low light), and the extra range never hurts. Also, I'm starting to experiment with the video capabilities of the 5D Mk2, and IS can make a huge difference here.

Anyway, I'm curious why you lean so heavily towards the 24-105. They are both great lenses and there's definitely an element of personal preference and shooting style involved, so I'd love to hear what you have to say in more detail.

I recently heard that Canon is about to release a new IS version of the 24-70 2.8, so if that's true it might settle the matter for me. Have you heard anything about this new lens? 5-stop IS on a 2.8 L lens would be fun. ;)


nicole hill gerulat said...

HI Rob,

I think your 100mm is a great lens --do you love it? 85mm give you a little more wiggle room for composition, but it's so close to that 100mm -if you like shooting with it, I'd stay with what you have.

I have both the 24-105mm and the 24-70mm --while i have been grabbing the 24-70mm more lately, i still prefer the 24-105mm for more range --i also don't love shooting to low like f2.8 if I can avoid it because having sharp eyes are most important to me... but if the IS version of 24-70 is true, you might want to go that route since you tend to shoot with such shallow depth of field. For me, i like the 70-105mm that that lens doesn't have and I find them more flattering for portraits as it does a better job of compressing the bkgd.

Hope that helps!

nicole hill gerulat said...

Hi Lillie,

I do own the 135mm, but i never use it. I don't care much for the 50mm because I find the 85mm to be more flattering --if you're not dealing with a full-frame camera then a 50mm is closer to a 70mm which is pretty close. The 50mm is great kid lens!


bbb said...

HI Nicole,

Just found your site today and loving it! Love looking at your pictures and I am no photographer to say the least.
I hope you can help with my question however late it is. My little sister has been taking photojournalism classes at her university for a couple semesters now. She is fully enjoying it and recently bought a Canon (I don't know models or anything). She mentions all the different lenses and accessories cost so much and she has NOTHING yet (beside the camera and bag). I'd like to get her a first lens or accessory, but stay in the $200 or less range. Can you suggest an item that's a MUST for this beginner?
Thanks, and I love the site (will be forwarding her the link for sure)!

Happy Holidays,

nicole hill gerulat said...

HI Vivian,

This is a great, affordable lens to start with that is in your range!


kaysi fox said...

hi nicole,

i found your amazing blog through your sisters{i went on a church history trip with them last year} they are the cutest girls ever!

anyways, i am just wondering what lenses you would recommend to me. i am getting the canon 5d mark 2 and i want a lense that will get me beautiful images. what are two lenses that are the best for outdoor and indoor shooting? any help or suggestions would be amazing. thanks so much!! :)


bbb said...

Thanks Nicole for your quick and speedy response. Apparently I was incorrect and her camera came with a basic lens, she said is like the one you suggested.
Hate to bother you for any other suggestion, but would be thankful if you feel so inclined.


Allison said...

Hi, I just have to tell you that i love your blog and your beautiful pictures! I wanted to ask if there was a difference between canon and nikon it just personal preference? Just wanted your opinion! Thanks!!

nicole hill gerulat said...


her camera lens that came in her kit was not the 50mm --and the 50mm has more depth of field range,

but if she'd like something much more different, i'd look into the 85mm.

hi kaysi,

depends on your budget -my favorite overall is listed above, the 24-105mm

hi allison,

thank you! i like canon because i find it more user friendly, but most of all, i like their range of lenses.

Jeannie said...

I hope you can help me quickly :-) Just learned that my sweet hubby and kids went to buy me a macro lens for Christmas but they're sold out. This gives me a chance to ask you to tell me which one to get. I am a beginning photographer. Canon Rebel XSi. Two kit lenses - the basic wider angle, and a zoom to 250mm. Bought an inexpensive prime lens w/ 1.8 aperture. all are good to have. now, which macro lens? i want to be able to "take it with me" if i ever upgrade to a better Canon body. Please help a girl out! I had no idea they were willing to do this and I am so has to be the right one!

If I order it from B & H, would that be okay? I like to have a brick and mortar store to "go to" if i need them. But i need to make the right choice.

Help me, please!! And thank you in advance...

Kailey Monet said...

Hello! I Just discovered your blog, & boy do I love your photos! I just love how everything looks so pure and elegant! My question is, how do you get things to look so pure against white? I have been trying to figure it out, but I don't know what to I am relatively new to photography! Thank you.

-Kailey Monet

nicole hill gerulat said...

Hi Jeannie,

I would recommend renting the two macro lenses: 80mm and 100mm --but do you really need a macro? they are really only needed for jewelry and small things --some like it for food.

I don't even own one... but will rent one maybe once a year for specific projects because it's cheaper in the long run.


Kathryn said...

Hi Nicole. Do you have a bag that you love to take with you on shoots? Do you use a Shoot Sac? I'm looking for something comfortable that doesn't look ridiculous (to carry my 24-70mm, 70-200mm & prime lenses).

nicole hill gerulat said...

i have an emerabag for easy traveling, otherwise, i have roller case when i'm taking everything.

Em said...

I've just started my photography business and mostly worked with families and only outdoor photography. My first wedding is coming up and I'm nervous because it is indoors and I'm embarrassed to admit I'm only using a Rebel XTi. Because of this I'm worried about it's capabilities in low light and grainy images. The 5D is just a little too much for my budget right now but I'm interested in the 7D. Have you used one at all or heard any reviews from colleagues on it (good or bad)? For someone who is planning to pursue photography for years to come and needs an upgrade within the Canon family, what would you recommend? Take the leap to to 5D?

Also, any books you recommend for wedding photography and the rules of wedding photography (how close is too close? when to be out of the way, etc.)?

So excited your class is coming to Houston!

nicole hill gerulat said...

Hi Em,

A camera with a high ISO is very helpful for indoor weddings without a flash.

BUT---the good news is you can RENT lenses and cameras for weddings... and it's definitely worth it -i'm sure you have a place in Houston that rents photo equipment.


Daniel and Jennifer said...

Hi, thanks for creating such a great site! I'm looking into digital SLR (finally transitioning from film). Is the Canon XSi worth investing in, or should I hold out until I can afford a better body? I'm amatuer and take mostly kid shots for me and my friends, plus some engagements and fam pics--just for fun, not as a business.

nicole hill gerulat said...

stick with the rebel and invest in better lenses.

Bridget said...

this whole comment thread is the besssssssst. you rock.

now, to add one more question! what gives!

i read the whole thread and have taken notes on it all! i know that the 24-105 is your favorite, but that the 50 is great too. i dont know enough about how each lens suits your purpose though.

i have a canon rebel xs. would love to get the 5d mark ii one day but dont have the money. so in the meantime, if i want to do some portrait stuff/ some close-ups of people, what would the best lens be for that?

also, what really is the most important feature in photography? or can it even be narrowed down? camera, lens, or post-picture editing? some pictures just look so dreamy and i know a lot of that is due to photoshop so i'm trying to figure out where to get the most bang for my buck. until i hit the lottery and just get it all that is.

thanks nicole :)

nicole hill gerulat said...

hi bridget,

BEST portrait lens is that 85mm 1.8 listed above because it is good bang for your buck in terms of a great, sharp lens. Most my portfolio was shot with this lens.

I think the most important thing in photography is what YOU bring to the photograph with creativity, etc.. but technically? I think owning one great lens is the best you can do first.


Jeannie said...

hi nicole.

so enjoying reading the discussion on lenses as I do want to acquire better ones. as it turns out, i did NOT receive the macro lens for Christmas (they gave me golf clubs instead?!) but my b-day's coming and now I insist on a lens :-) I am hoping to ratchet my photography up a notch here and produce some prints that'll be good enough to sell. I adore macro photography, I just can't help it! I find myself using my kit 18-55mm most often; have the 50 mm 1.8 prime lens which is great but you have to get so CLOSE to the that why you prefer the 85 mm 1.8? It allows for good portrait shots without getting in people's faces?

i won't be upgrading my body anytime soon; i'd prefer to invest in good lenses and I will be staying with Canon so I'll want them to come along with me when I do upgrade in the future.

I will be taking pics of nature/people/at events and just natural photography - you like the 25 - 105 for overall, everything, then?

I need some tips for taking 'macro' or 'close up' photos without an actual macro lens!

thanks! love your blog and if you come here, I'll enroll in your course. of course :-)

Krystle said...

Hi Nicole! I am loving your blog, but I love your work even more! I have just gotten into photography this past year, and bought myself a Canon 50d, and then got the Canon EF 55-200mm f/4.5-5.6 II USM lens from a very kind friend for a very good price. This has been great for learning portraiture, but I really want to take architectural shots of the city! Also because I'm a beginner, and not ready to spend a lot on multiple lenses, I'm looking for a good overall lens like the 24-104mm you've recommended. Because my camera is not full frame though, I'm wondering if I need to get a wider lens? Also, because I'm a beginner, yet am serious about learning more and becoming more advanced, I wonder if it is too soon to spend that much on a lens? Anyway, wondering if you had any recommendations?

Also, wondering when you will be teaching your full course in Photo 101 in SF again? :)



The Adams Family said...

i would love to take one of your classes! where can i get info on what you offer and when?

nicole hill gerulat said...

Hi Jeannie,

I love the 24-105mm for overall photography --i use it at weddings, mostly... but the 85mm is a beautiful portrait lens ---though not ideal for macro!

you can make your own macro. ;)

Hi Krystle,

I probably would't invest in a more wide angle lens to accommodate the camera --I think the 24-105 will still get wide enough! If you're concerned, try renting a few lenses to play around with for the weekend. If expense is tricky, you can always buy a cheaper lens in that same focal length range --it will just be a variable aperture lens... which is like the one you already have.

I don't think I'll be teaching another full course, but we might do a crash course in June!

Hi Adams Family,

All our updated course listings are at

Jeannie said...


thanks so much for answering our questions. i am truly enjoying this thread and your answers are giving me a lot to think about. i've bookmarked the 'make a macro lens tutorial'! awesome fun.

i need to really carefully consider what i will need from a new lens, with what i'm doing creatively in my work the moment. i want BOTH the lenses you mentioned, and also a real macro. Right!

Thanks, really.


Erin said...

Hi Nicole!
First, Congrats on your growing family!
Second, I'm coming on the French retreat in a month & can't wait!!
I'm trading in my Nikon D40 b/c of the issue with lenses (it was a gift) and because I have a Canon Rebel EOS K2 from back when I took a black & white film course in undergrad.
I live close to New York City and will go to B&H. Can you please recommend a Canon camera base and lens or 2 that I should get? I'm such a newbie and don't want to purchase the wrong items. What is a nice lens for outdoor/landscape shots?

Thanks for all your sage advice!

Flourishing Networks said...

thanks for sharing your knowledge... love the combination of equipment.

Kim said...

Loved your site and all the wonderfull images as well. I also enjoyed looking at all the links. It seems taht you suround yourself with other dynamic talented artists such as yourself. What fun! my question is what do you do to get such perfect whit balance in all your phots (esp. the studio ones with white background). Do you use custom settings are take readings from a white card? I seem to be having problems getting it spot on. Thanks for any info you can share

nicole hill gerulat said...

Thanks, Kim! I use the preset white balance settings in the camera and then make minor adjustments (if needed) in Camera RAW. Thanks!

nicole hill gerulat said...

Thanks, Kim! I use the preset white balance settings in the camera and then make minor adjustments (if needed) in Camera RAW. Thanks!

Olivia said...

Hi Nicole,

I love that you have this ? and answer forum. I am shooting with a Nikon D90. I really like the camera and have a great 50mm f/1.4. I was wondering if I did take your photography online class in Sept., are the classes specific with the Canon..or just photography in general. I feel fairly comfortable with my settings and know some of the basics....I really am interested in getting better at this hobby I have made into a profession and have been looking for a mentor.

Thank you!


Olivia said...

Hi Nicole,

I love that you have this ? and answer forum. I am shooting with a Nikon D90. I really like the camera and have a great 50mm f/1.4. I was wondering if I did take your photography online class in Sept., are the classes specific with the Canon..or just photography in general. I feel fairly comfortable with my settings and know some of the basics....I really am interested in getting better at this hobby I have made into a profession and have been looking for a mentor.

Thank you!


tara said...

i love that you put what you like them for. that makes it SO helpful. most people just put what lenses they use all that really does is make me jealous instead of helping me out. hah. thank you so much though. this is perfect. i love you blog and your work. so inspiring. keep it up for all of us out here in the blogger world.

ray-ray says said...

This is perfect! Goes right along with the questions I asked earlier tonight in the Group Chat. ;)

Bianca said...

Thank you so, so very much for this Nicole! Your work is absolutely inspiring.

christine said...

Are the lenses you have interchangeable between all three cameras?

I am considering initially buying a Canon 550d/Rebel and a lens but I'm nervous that if I eventually upgrade to a Canon 5d that that lens will then be useless on the new camera.

Jeannie said...

hi @christine,

of course i'm not nicole and i know she'll reply (i just re-read this entire thread - great Q & A ) but I do believe that Canon lenses can go along with you on your ride to the 'better body'. Let me add to the question that you ask: will the two 'kit lenses' that came with my Canon Rebel attach to the better body when I upgrade? Will the 18-55mm kit lens give a truly wider range when put onto a full-frame body?

I've purchased two additional lenses since buying the Rebel per Nicole's advice: buy better glass and use the Rebel body until you get to the point where you need/want/are good enough/can afford the upgrade. I use that Rebel for a lot of my web work and it's just fine. I figure by the time I am able to upgrade, the technology will change a bit as it always does so I am content with my camera bag for the moment.

In my perfect world, I'd have a full frame body with higher ISO. The 1600 ISO on the Rebel has been limiting but using a tripod helps :-). Since my work is web-based, I can get away with it.

Amy said...

Hi Nicole! Thanks for this information...very useful! Quick question- do you have an 'on camera' flash? If so, which one do you use? And how often and in what type of situation do you use it?

Thanks again!

kamila said...

portrait lens is my dream!

nicole hill gerulat said...

Christine: Yes the lenses are interchangeable.

Amy: I only use an on-camera flash for indoor event-type photography. i have the canon 550 EX II

onehm said...

Thank you for sharing all your favorites here.
I'm wanting to get a wireless remote for my Canon 5d. Wondering if you have used any that you might recommend?
Thank you!

Jeannie said...

hi nicole,

I am getting so much useful information from this thread; thank you.

when you answer @onehm's question, would you indicate whether that wireless remote is compatible with my humble Canon Rebel too?

Many thanks!


k a t y said...


I shoot with a Nikon D90 but am making the switch to Canon. The only thing I'm certain about is a good macro lens. I do love my Nikon macro lens and wondered if you had a recommendation for that?

Mucho Gracias!

Tiffany said...

I have a small in-home studio that is only natural light as of right now. I prefer for it to only be natural light however I am in need of a small lighting set-up for the days that it is dark and cloudy out or later in the afternoon. Would that lighting kit you listed above work for that or would you suggest something else?

Thanks for this, you are awesome,

Heather said...

Hi Nicole,

I see that you've added the 50mm/1.8 lens to your line-up and I'm wondering if you've had much experience with its more expensive competitor, the 50mm/1.4. Obviously the 1.8 wins for price, but would you consider the 1.4 to be better all-around as a less "disposable" option. I've heard some rumors that it has even more distortion than the 1.8. I've found this post to be sooooo helpful!



nicole hill gerulat said...

Hi Heather,

I don't actually use this lens. I recommend the cheapo one for people with really limited budgets... but there are so many photogs who only shoot with a 50 and if you're one of them, I'd probably upgrade to the f1.4


silly6 said...

I just adore your blog! I need to buy a new purse camera (i.e. point & shoot) I remember you posting what you used, but I can't find it anywhere. Can you recommend something that might work well? Thanks so much!

Melissa @ A Simple Nest said...

I started learning photography a few months ago. In comparing reviews and prices of the entry level DSLR's I went with the Pentax K-x. It seems to be a good camera, but my problem is no one uses a Pentax, so it is hard for me to get any help...even online...I haven't found any post like yours. Also is this not a very professional brand? I don't have any photographer friends, but I have not noticed any professionals (or ametures) I have met at classes or followed on the web use a pentax? (the only place I find any is pentax forums) Do you think it would be better to switch to canon if I want to take photography more seriously?

Paige Hanna said...

Hi Nicole! Is the 5D Mark II the best camera anyone would ever need, or would it be worth investing in the EOS 1D Mark IV?

LainaLove said...

Hi Nicole! Love your blog! I just had a question about the Canon 7d. Have you heard of anyone having problems with the focussing system on this camera? I've been having difficulties with it. It's kind of discouraging. Could it be the kit lens I'm using?

nicole hill gerulat said...

Paige: It's my camera of choice! :)
Laina: Thanks! I'm not a pro with camera models, but usually quick focusing is a lens issue and the focus mode you select and kit lenses aren't the greatest.

Anna said...

Nicole -- I have the 50mm 1.8 (love it, but find it limiting at times) and the kit lens that came with my rebel(which I don't love, but it's sufficient when the 50mm won't do). I feel frustrated taking pics in low light with the kit lens, but the 50mm isn't really appropriate, as you've noted, when shooting adults because of the distortion. What would you recommend upgrading to next? I don't have the budget for a $1000-1500 lens, but I'm willing to spend a couple hundred. Ideas?

the janice said...

Hi Nicole, I looked up the 50mm on B&H and found there's also a 50mm 1.4 USM and was wondering what the difference is besides fixed focal length? And is it much better than the 50 1.8? Thanks!

Emily@Little Forever Family said...

So I am buying my first SLR camera. I have an $800-$1000 budget. Costco this rebel for $849.00. What do you think?

This is what is included:
Canon EOS Rebel T2i Body
Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens
Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS Lens
Canon Rebel Gadget Bag
4GB SD Card
Mini HDMI Cable
Wide Strap
USB Interface Cable
AV Cable
Battery Pack
Battery Charger
EOS Digital Solution Disc
"Great Photography is Easy" Booklet and "Do More with Macro" Booklet

Ella said...

I am giving my husband my camera wishlist for my birthday coming up. And I can't find the flash you recommended on the B&H website. Do they not make it anymore? Is there another one you would recommend? Thanks.

Emily said...

Hey Nicole,

It's been a long time since I took your class. I loved everything I learned from it, so thank you again. I'm wondering if/what changes you would make to this list two years later. I'm looking at getting new equipment for Christmas and trying to decide. Any help would be so appreciated!

Emily Aldrich

Kim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephanie said...

Hi Nicole. I've taken a few of your classes and just recently ordered the Canon 5D Mark II. While waiting for it to come, I've been reading more about it and have read a lot about its focus problems. You recommend this camera as the best overall, so I was just wondering if you've had similar problems with it. Your images all seem to be great. Has it ever been a problem for you?

ashley canavan said...

Hi Nicole, I have just finished you photo 101 class and looking forward to the 102. I bought the 24-105mm f4 lens and a 50mm 1.4. I have found the 50mm to be amazing but just can't see why the expensive 24-105mm lens is any good. To my eye the photos it takes are pretty average and and the focus seems not very sharp. Am I doing something wrong as I expected to be wowed by this lens. Thinking of replacing it with an 85mm.

Ramesh chauhan said...

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The Geeks said...

Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
thank you :)

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