In The Bag: The Best Camera Gear for Family Photography

We’ve been paying attention to the analytics for Life + Lens Blog and watching the comments on our Instagram feed and we’ve noticed a trend — Many of our readers are searching for “the best lens to use for a cake smash session” or asking “What’s the best lens for a family photo session?” We’ve also noticed (and LOVE) that often you will be admiring a featured photo on our Instagram and will ask the photographer what lens she used. So for today’s Resourceful Wednesday post, we’ve looked back at the cameras and lenses used by the photographers featured on Life + Lens in their featured sessions and have compiled a list of the most popular camera gear used for family photography.  We’re also sharing the camera gear that is in our own bags and some of our favorite “extras” as well.  We will update this post as needed and hope that it will become an easy reference for you when planning your session and as you’re growing your collection of camera gear (one of our favorite things to do!)

What’s in Your Bag:

Most Popular Camera Body:

The most popular camera used for family photography was a tie between the Canon 5d Mark II, Canon 5d Mark III and the Canon 6D. Nikon users, don’t fret – we had a LOT of submissions from Nikon users as well, but there was a wider variety of Nikon cameras used and therefore one particular Nikon did not stand out as the most used. Of the Nikon cameras reportedly used by photographers submitting to the blog,  the most frequent was the Nikon D700.

The Best Camera Gear for Family PhotographyBest Camera Gear For Family Photography


Most Used Lens:

The most used lens OVERALL  appears to be a 50mm. Our featured photographers seem to be using mostly the Canon 50mm 1.2 or 1.4 or the Nikon 50mm 1.2 or 1.4.

Close runners-up for most used lens for family photography: 24-70 (Canon 24-70 f2.8, Nikon 24-70 f2.8) 35mm (Sigma Art Lens, Canon 35 f1.4, Nikon 35 f1.4) A 70-200 (Canon’sNikon’s) was also a common lens choice.


The Best Photography Gear for Family PhotographyThe Best Photography Gear for Family Photography

Most Used Camera Lenses by TYPE of Photography Session:

Most Used Lens for a Cake Smash Session:

The camera lens used most often for a cake smash session is the 35mm f1.4 (examples include: Sigma Art 35mm 1.4, Nikon 35mm 1.4, Canon 35mm 1.4)

The Best Camera Gear for Family Photography

Most Used Lens for a Family Photo Session:

Again, the 50mm wins out here, with a 70-200 as the runner up… But what we really want to point out and what we LOVE seeing is that many of you are using more than one lens to photograph your family photo sessions. We often see a combination of a fixed focal length and a zoom lens. Occasionally we see you using a variety of fixed focal length lenses. Popular combos of lenses used for family photo sessions include: 50mm + 70-200; 5omm + 24-70; 85mm + 24-70


Most Used Lens for a Maternity Photo Session: 

Surprise! The 50mm wins here too. And again, we see a lot of combos used: 50 + 70-200, 50+ 24-70.  We also see a 35mm lens used a lot in your maternity photo shoots and when capturing nursery details.

What’s in Our Bag? 

Now that we’ve seen what’s in your camera bag, we wanted to share with you some of our favorite photography gear and what we like to bring on our shoots.


Lisa primarily photographs children and families, lifestyle photography, couples, weddings and boudoir. Here’s a peek into her camera bag:

Canon 5d mark ii

Canon 24-70 f2.8L

Canon 70-200 f2.8L

Canon 50mm f1.4


Canon 600-ex flash

Gary Fong diffuser

Rechargeable batteries

5 in 1 light reflector

Step stool

Lexar 16GB compact flash cards


Extra Canon battery

Lens cleaning cloth

Baggie with oil obsorbing sheets, tampons, chapstick, tums, contact lenses, hair ties, bobby pins, and jolly ranchers for kids.


Rachel primarily photographs fine art, family and lifestyle photography and special event photography and of course loves to document her own family and growing boys. Here’s a peek into her camera bag:

Nikon D700

Nikon 24-70 f2.8

Nikon 50mm f1.8

Nikon 85mm f1.4

Nikkor 70-200 f4

(Currently Coveting: Sigma 35 1.4)

Nikon Speedlight SB-910

Nikon Multi-Power Battery Pack/Grip

Manfrotto Tripod

eneloop rechargable batteries

5 in 1 light reflector

Step stool

SanDisk 16GB Memory Cards


extra Nikon batteries

Pixel Pocket Rocket to hold memory cards (also holds a few business cards)

SpiderPro Hand Strap

Spring Clamps w/ rubber tips (these are multi-purpose – they come in handy if I don’t have an assistant to hold a reflector/diffuser or to clamp a too loose piece of clothing in place)

Baby wipes -these come in handy for EVERYthing -spills on clothing, “schmutz” on kids’ faces, makeup mishaps . . .

I keep a similar baggie as Lisa described above but my candy of choice for the kiddos is dum-dum lollipops

. . .

We hope this list of the most popular camera gear for family photography has been helpful for you as you plan your next photo session or photography-related purchase.  We couldn’t complete this post though without a shout-out to one of our favorite photography resources, If you’re not sure if a certain lens is right for you, or you only need to use a specific lens or extra camera body occasionally and don’t want to spend the money to own the equipment, we HIGHLY recommend renting. We both use Borrowlenses to test out new lenses before we buy or to rent a specific lens or  an extra camera body (for a wedding or styled shoot, for example.) We highly recommend this great service to our readers; check out the link below for more info and their current promo.

Let us know in the comments how this post has helped you and please share this post  with your fellow family photography-lovin’ friends!

We are always accepting submissions for possible features on the blog. Please see our Submission information for further directions. We are looking to showcase family photo sessions as well as milestone celebrations (birthday parties, baby showers, cake smash, religious celebrations) and style inspiration for both home (nursery, kids’ rooms.. ) and family photography sessions (what to wear, packaging, etc.)

Looking for tips on how to get your photography featured on Life + Lens or any other of your favorite photography blogs? Click here for our top 10 tips.

What would you like to see featured on Life + Lens Blog? We’d love to hear from you!

Life, Lens + Love,

Lisa + Rachel

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