Building a System

One of the things I want to share with you the readers is how to build your photography system or what to bring with you when you go out to shoot.

The first, and easiest thing to choose is your camera body, once you decide what brand to go with, Canon, Nikon or another, then it’s a matter of getting the right lenses. Do you want to shoot crop or full frame and what can you afford on your budget, don’t spend yourself into debt buying a camera body. I shoot Canon and a lot of Canon shooters run right out and buy the latest full frame, whether it’s the 6D, 5D Mark III or 5D R or 5D SR, or maybe even the 1D X. Most of these cameras are very expensive, anywhere from $2,500 to $6,500 for the 1D X.

I generally recommend buyer earlier models, especially if you are on a budget and want to get the most ‘bang’ for your buck. You can go on Craigslist or eBay and buy a great condition Canon 5D Classic for a few hundred dollars and most Canon shooters will tell you that the 5D Classic is still an awesome camera and between the various 5D models, still shoots landscapes better than the newer models do. I personally own 2 5D Classic and love them both, they might not have all the ‘bells and whistles’ of the Mark II or Mark III but they do what they are designed to do, take awesome images. I usually also recommend buy good condition used camera bodies as you can not only save money but you can also afford to carry a backup or second camera.

As I mentioned, I have 2 of the 5D Classics and spent only around $400 for each one and then earlier this year, I did buy a new Canon 6D full frame body as well. I got my 6D from for $1,200 (considerably cheaper than $1,700 from Amazon or, plus I got the $300 rebate from Canon that they were offering at the beginning of the year. Now, instead of spending $2,500 for a brand new 5D Mark III and having one camera, I spent $1,700 and have three camera bodies, all of which are full frame!

Next, when it comes to lenses, you don’t want to cover every millimeter of focal length. First, it will cost you a lot of money, second it’s more gear to carry and more time wasted changing lenses rather than making images. Most of your pros, including famous ones like Ansel Adams never carried more than three lenses when they are out shooting. If you have three bodies like I do, I carry all three when I am out shooting for a day and I equip each one with a specific type of lens. I shot this first image with my Canon EOS 6D with the Canon EF 17-40mm F/4 L USM.


I put my trusty Canon EF 17-40mm F/4 L USM on one body so I can capture fantastic landscapes. I equip the second body with my 85mm F/1.8 USM portrait lens so I can shoot people or street photography. My third body I equip with my Tamron SP 150-600mm super telephoto lens incase I need something with more reach to capture a shot of a red-tail hawk I spot sitting on a power line or in a tree. I know you are thinking ‘that’s a lot of gear and weight to carry around’, but I am used to it and I use the kind of camera carry systems that make carrying all this gear easy. I have the Spider Pro belt that I mount one body on my hip like a six shooter, I have the Camera Carry Pro clip system that I can also attach to my belt or a small backpack that carries the second body and then for my super telephoto lens/body combo, I use my Manfrotto monopod, which can double as a walking stick. This second image I shot with the EOS 5D Classic and a Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD.


If I am out shooting mostly landscapes for my Forgotten Pieces of Georgia, then the body with the Canon EF 17-40mm F/4 L USM is the one in my hand at the ready and the other two are standing by for shots of opportunity. By employing this strategy I am always ready for any shooting opportunity that presents itself and never have to change lenses in the field and don’t have to worry about sensor dust.

As I mentioned earlier, you do not need to cover every millimeter of focal length, do like the pros do and move closer or farther away and you can more than make up for not having every millimeter covered in lenses. You can even cut it down to two bodies and lenses and say carry a 17-40mm and then a 70-200mm, as the 70-200mm can be used for both portrait and zoom work, since it covers the two most popular portrait focal lengths of 85mm and 135mm.

Now that I have shared more on how to build your system, feel free to leave a comment or post a question, and get out there and make some great images!