Cameras and lenses for different types of photography

Saying you’re into “photography” is about as generic as saying you’re into “sports” — there’s a lot of room between squash and football. When you’re starting out, a basic camera and kit lens will cover you. But, as you try different types of photography, you may want to start looking for gear specialized for your use. Let’s explore some of the more popular types of photography you may specialize in:

Portrait Photography

A surefire way to get paid with photography is to charge for studio photography, where your photo is centered on a person (or a small group of people). There are many subcategories here: graduation, prom, engagement, class, vanity, professional headshot, and more. The technical skill of the photographer needs to be complemented by his ability to work with people. If the photographer makes his subject uncomfortable, the photos will reflect that. A good portrait photographer is friendly and easy going, similar to a doctor’s bedside manner.

Model portrait photography

As for gear, a 50mm f/1.8 (or f/1.4 or f/1.2) lens is a great starting point. The wider the aperture, the more you pay, but, in return, you get much better performance in low-light environments. When you decide to add another lens, a 24-70mm f/2.8 is a natural supplement, giving you a range of the most versatile focal lengths, all in one lens. The f/2.8 aperture will ensure good performance in low light. Your full-frame camera probably doesn’t have a built-in flash either, a must-have for indoor portrait photography.

Wedding Photography

For some people, this is the only professional photography they ever hire for in their life! Unlike portrait photography, the wedding photographer is supposed to get good shots in imperfect conditions, without interfering with the wedding. You probably want two cameras, because the time spent on a lens switch can be too long of a delay — and too much of a risk.

Happy bridge and groom
Happy bridge and groom

For this type of photography, you need a zoom lens that can frame the shot from further away than a portrait session. A 70-200mm f/2.8 is your best friend for shooting at a wedding. For low-light shots at the reception, bust out a 50mm f/1.2 for some of the most fun shots of the night. If you have a spectacular venue that you want to incorporate more into the shots, consider a 16-35mm f/2.8 that is wide enough to capture entire scenes (and great for indoor, tight situations). A flash is also a must-have.

Landscape Photography

Wanting to capture the beauty of nature is the reason many photographers get into the business at all. Inspired by greats like Ansel Adams, these are the photographers who wake up at 3am to catch the first rays of the morning sun from a precarious perch in the wilderness. This type of photography has been used extensively to convey the need for better protection of the environment and to draw attention to current problems.

Point Reyes coast, California
Point Reyes coast, California

Whether for vacation or photojournalism, you’re going to want a wider angle lens to capture as much of nature’s massive scale as you can. Popular choices include the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 or Canon 20mm f/2.8. A 16-35mm f/2.8 is also useful for a variety of different wider angles. It may surprise you, but a 70-200mm f/2.8 is also useful for landscape photography: capturing small portions of a distant, vast landscape to emphasize one aspect of it.

 Food Photography

What starts as innocent Pinteresting and Instangramming can quickly lead to a full-on food photography hobby. Capture the best dishes at your favorite restaurants, or the wonderful creations that come out of your own kitchen.


At a restaurant, you may not want the attention that a flash draws to you (the staff may not appreciate it, either). This is one type of photography where a good macro lens really pays off. The key feature is the ability to focus on subjects at very short distances — one foot and less. You’ll get that great depth-of-field effect that blurs out the background, and be able to frame a small shot around the most interesting parts of the scene. Macro lenses generally come in 100mm and 50mm prime (fixed) at f/2.8 and wider.

If you want to be even more discrete, you might want to consider a mirror-less SLR micro 4/3 camera, such as the Olympus EM-10.


No matter which type of photography you lean toward, the right lens can help you achieve the shot you’re looking for. With some of the pricier lenses running north of two thousand dollars, why not try peer-to-peer camera rental starting at $20-30/day? These are the lenses that many photographers already have, and are lending out on CameraLends.

Rent local cameras & lenses »

Leave a Reply