My Current Photography Setup

Could also be filed under “from my sent messages.”

Assumed audience: People interested in photography, photography gear, and/or web workflows for publishing photography.

A friend recently messaged me:

Hi Chris! Your photos are amazing. Please tell me how you do it. Your cameras. Your lens. Your editing software. Your blogs.

Myself, I know just how many photos I delete and how many more even of those I keep I don’t share, but I don’t mind sharing what I am using and the relatively little expertise I have in the space!

Before diving into the answers I wrote up, the big and all-important qualifier: gear and workflows do not good photography make. There are photographers out there who can pull of shots with an iPhone 12 camera that I cannot pull off with gear that costs many times as much. Gear is fun, and it definitely helps. But good photography is far more the product of a good photographer, and becoming a good photographer is all about practice.

My blog is a super-technical terrible-for-anyone-but-me setup that no one but me (and maybe not even me1) should use. There are great setups on WordPress, Ghost, and SquareSpace for that are way better. Also: Adobe provides hosted portfolio sites if you subscribe to any photo-oriented tier of Creative Cloud. Here is my friend Tim’s portfolio hosted that way, for example.

Which leads me to editing software: I’m just using Lightroom CC — I spend the $10/month on it because it’s very good and very easy to use, including on iPad, which is where I actually do most of my editing. iPad Pro + Apple Pencil is a phenomenal editing experience. I occasionally do editing on my computer but… mostly just on my iPad. (Note that to make that work you need one with a lot of storage: I have the 512GB model and that does just fine.)

Camera: my normal camera is the Sony α7R IV. It is a phenomenal camera body with two features that are both upsides and downsides:

  • It is large: which makes it a great fit for my (fairly large) hands, and well-balanced with big lenses, but also makes it heavy and bulky.

  • It has an incredibly high-megapixel sensor: which means I can often get a usable photo even after cropping out , but (a) takes up a ridiculous amount of storage space per-picture — shooting RAW I end up taking about 1GB of storage from 10 pictures 🤯 and (b) means it can end up having more noise in low-light conditions.

That is not the camera that [prompted this writeup, the person in question having seen me with said different camera]. For our little family trip to Dinosaur National Monument this weekend, I am renting the Sony α7C as well as a telephoto lens.2 It is a really nice little camera, which is very, very different from the α7R IV. It weighs about as much with the (not tiny!) lens I was shooting with in that goofy picture as the α7R IV does with no lens attached. 😅 It’s way friendlier for smaller hands than mine. It also has a much lower-resolution sensor, which means it isn’t quite as amazing for cropping as mine is, but it performs way better in low light.

(That said, if I were recommending a camera in that range, I would recommend the α7 III — not the α7R III – which is basically the same as the α7C, but in a somewhat larger body, but not as large the α7R IV. [Or, possibly, if you can hold out that long, wait for the α7 IV, most recently rumored to be coming in September — ed.])

Lenses! I have lots. My most-used lens is the Sony FE 35mm 𝑓/1.8, which is the lens I took that picture with. It is a phenomenal all-around lens, and if I had to get rid of all my lenses but one, that’s the one I would keep.

I also have three others:

For our trip, I’m renting Sony’s FE 100 – 400mm 𝑓/4.5 – 5.6 GM lens plus the Sony FE 1.4× Teleconverter which makes it effectively a 140 – 560mm, and I think I may end up buying that combo later this year because it’s so useful.

The last thing I’ll say [ed: in my note to my friend; see below for more in this post!] is that renting lenses and cameras is a really great way of figuring out what you like/want/etc. I have been using LensRentals for a couple years now and their rental (and purchase!3) prices are really reasonable, and their customer service is PHENOMENAL.4 That link = $25 off (for both of us!) if you try them.

Two additional things my friend didn’t ask about but I’ll cover anyway:

For a camera bag, I use the Everyday Messenger by Peak Design — the original, not their v2 revision, which is still good but doesn’t come in the 15L size. That matters to me not just for camera gear but because I also use it as my bag for laptops, notebooks and pens, etc. on a day-to-day basis, and I need the extra size for my work-supplied 15″ MacBook Pro. Also, to be perfectly honest, I just don’t like the design of the new one quite as well! You can’t get the original new from Peak Design, but you can still find it a few other places online.

For a tripod, I use the Peak Design Travel Tripod, specifically the carbon fiber variant. It is delightfully small and light — I carried it around for hours today (along with a lot of other stuff) and it was totally fine. It’s the only tripod I have contemporary experience with (and the only other tripod I had any experience with was a $20 piece of cheap and heavy nonsense from a decade ago), so I can’t compare it to anything else… but so far I also haven’t had cause to, because it’s fantastic.

Now, you might wonder whether this is what I would recommend. The answer there is a bit more complicated. On the one hand, I definitely don’t not recommend the gear I’ve chosen. I’m quite happy with all of it. On the other hand, it is a very pricey setup, which I have been able to afford through a combination of saving well and being paid a Silicon Valley salary. And as I noted at the outset: gear won’t make your photography great. For a good starting-out setup, I would recommend the Sony α7 III for the body — which has frequently been described as one of the best value for money camera bodies ever made, and which you can often find for a few hundred dollars less than its list price; and the Sony FE 35mm 𝑓/1.8 lens — which as noted above a great all-around lens which I’ve used happily for everything from portraits to landscapes.

at Dinosaur National Monument today… yes, with two cameras


  1. 11ty is still fine, and it’ll probably never make sense for me to finish my own static site generator, even as a home-cooked-meal-style app, but wow do I ever want to. ↩︎

  2. Expect to see a bunch of photos from this trip in the next week, and perhaps even the first one today or tomorrow, along with some thoughts on the α7C. ↩︎

  3. That’s where I got the 24 – 70mm I use. ↩︎

  4. I don’t normally do all caps but they deserve it. ↩︎