What's in my camera bag?
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The Evolution of Tara Lesher's Camera Bag.

Hello, my fellow visual artists!

The question I've often been asked in my career as a photographer, mentor, and educator…

What gear do you use/store in your camera bag that you find essential on shoots?"

The answer to this question has changed over the years.

My gear has evolved along with the experience and skills I've gained through my artistic and professional journey.

Before we look at my current gear, let's start from the beginning and peek at what was in my bag when I started and found my way as an artist.

Camera Body

My very first DSLR camera purchase was the Nikon D3200.

When I started exploring and finding my way into digital photography, I sought an entry-level, budget-friendly camera that would suit a beginner. After much research, I landed on the Nikon D3100. It served me well for about the first 3-5 of my career.

Cameras and lenses are not cheap, but if you save up & invest in one good entry-level piece, you can kick off your skill-building, education & photography career. Worry about upgrading later!


At this time, I was also shooting with the kit lens that came with my camera, which was a 55-200 f4-5.6. After about a year or so, I was ready to upgrade my lens and chose a relatively inexpensive prime lens option. This was when I purchased my first lens: a 50mm 1.8, aka the "nifty fifty."

This was an excellent purchase, as it allowed me to explore and experiment with the depth of field, bokeh, and shooting in lower-light situations. I still highly recommend this lens to beginners looking for their first upgrade.

After the D3200, I decided to upgrade to the D7000 and then the D750.

While there was a bit of a learning curve between these two upgrades, I was excited to shoot with a full-frame body finally!

My Next Lens Upgrades

85mm 1.8- This lens took my indoor shoots to the next level, and it's also such a lightweight and versatile lens to keep in your bag for those low-light/tight-space shoots. ~Still one of my favorites!

70-200 2.8-  This was one of the most exciting gear purchases ever! I had long awaited this lens, which was everything I had hoped for. ~Still one of my favorites!

It was also one of the most expensive, but well worth it! I've chosen this lens as a giveaway item for my followers several times over the years, as I know how amazing and game-changing it is from personal experience!

What I Carry in 2023

My last upgrade and the current camera body is the Nikon D850.

I carry the D850 as my primary body and the D750 as my backup.

I had the most significant learning curve with the upgrade difference between the Nikon D750 and the D850. It is a fantastic body to work with, and I'm very impressed with its capabilities, but there are quite a few differences between the two that take some getting used to.

As for the lenses I currently carry,…the Nikon 200 f2 takes up more than its fair share of room and leaves just enough space for the 85 1.8! These two lenses cover just about any scene or situation that I find myself shooting in.

~Indoor, I'll use the 85 and the 50. 

~Outdoor, I'll switch between the 200 and the 85

And honestly, if I do not feel like I want to carry the weight of the 200 that day (it's HEAVY!) I'll bring the 70-200 instead

The Nikon D850 was unveiled to the world in August 2017, leading some to imagine it might be gathering dust by now. However, that couldn't be further from the truth. Standing tall amidst the ever-evolving technological landscape, the D850 continues to hold its own, even in 2023, often outperforming or matching the newest mirrorless camera offerings.

The exceptional quality and features of the D850 remained unrivaled in Nikon's product lineup for nearly five years, only eventually being outdone by the brand's Nikon Z9 mirrorless camera. This powerhouse comes with a hefty $5500 price tag. Thus, the D850 continues to be a potent force in photography, proving that it is far from obsolete.


Extras & Essentials

The ALL-important memory card! I use SanDisk 256GB Extreme PRO 170MB

Ensure you have enough room on your card before you shoot, and permanently save your photos on an external hard drive when you come back from shooting to avoid losing any precious work.

-Extra camera battery

You can't leave home without a few items if you're going out on a photoshoot. First, I recommend bringing a backup camera battery, even two extra batteries. The last thing you want to do is cut a photo session short because your camera battery ran out of power!

-Lens Wipes

You never want to blow on your lens to clean it (think tiny spit bubbles!) or wipe it with a cloth that isn't lens specific. Lenses are your camera's eyeballs; you must treat them as such, so only use lens wipes to clean them.

-Lens hood 

On the same note, because your lenses are so sensitive, protect them with a lens hood when they are not in use.

~Camera Bag

I'm a massive fan of ONA camera bags. They're super durable and have plenty of pockets for storage. The classic aesthetic that a good leather bag can offer is a big bonus! This one is called the Leather Brixton.

I also use a matching leather camera strap which is padded and much more comfy around my neck than the ones that come standard with DSLR cameras. 

This is important to me as I now shoot with very heavy lenses, and after an hour or so on location, I appreciate that I no longer get a sore neck and shoulders!

~Miscellaneous must-haves: 

-Small toys with lights and sounds 

Small toys with engaging lights or sounds come in handy if you shoot photos of little ones who need their attention. This is especially true when you have a specific idea for your composite and need the baby or toddler to look in one direction.

-Tissues / Baby wipes 

When working with children, runny noses and drool come standard, so baby wipes and tissues are perfect for wiping up little messes on faces, hands, and legs. 

-Business cards 

As a photographer, having business cards on hand allows you to engage in marketing or network with anyone who may approach you while you're shooting. 

I also tend to keep little things like bobby pins, safety pins, and band-aids, just in case!

What is the Right Gear for You?

The type of camera you own is not as significant as you might think. Some individuals are devout Canon enthusiasts, whereas others are steadfastly committed to Nikon. What genuinely makes a difference is your skill in employing lighting and composition techniques to create an impactful image and your in-depth comprehension of how to maximize your equipment's potential. You'll realize you've surpassed your current gear's capabilities when you've expertly honed your use and feel prepared to elevate to more advanced equipment.

Well, Friends... There you have it —a sneak peek into my journey through the gear evolution. Now, I challenge you to take your craft to the next level.

I invite you to join our All-Access Membership. Within this community, you won't only be unlocking an extensive resource library filled with tutorials, backgrounds, brushes, and actions. You will also gain access to a supportive community of like-minded photographers eager to share their insights and experiences.

Imagine having the power to transform your artistic passion into a career, to bring your wildest photography dreams into reality, and to continue growing and evolving in your craft, just like the gear in your camera bag. It is all possible with the All-Access Membership.

Click here to start your All-Access Membership journey today. Embrace the journey, learn from the experiences, and never stop capturing the world in its raw and beautiful state. Let's shoot for the stars together. Join us now, and let's get started on this exciting journey.

Happy Shooting!


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