Hi! My name is Dustin Baker. I’m a full-time wedding and portrait photographer based on the Gulf Coast of Texas. It is such an amazing honor to be featured here among many of the world’s best photographers. Seriously. Someone must have made a mistake. How am I here? Ha!
My journey into photography is an interesting one. I was one of those kids that never knew what he wanted to be while growing up. While many of my peers had dreams of being doctors or firemen, I literally had no idea. Music was a big passion for me and a huge part of my life through my school years and into college. In my early 20’s, I wanted to be a songwriter – but the only record deal I ever got from songwriting was my wife saying yes to the love song proposal I wrote and sang for her!
Fast forward to age 30. I had never owned a camera other than Kodak disposables and a cheap point and shoot that went with us on a family trip to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I took so many photos on that trip, determined to get one to use as my computer wallpaper! I had so much fun with it that upon returning home from the trip, I begged my wife to let me get a “real camera”. Those were my words. Because to this newb, a “real,” $800 entry level DSLR was going to get me infinitely better photos. Well, I eventually wore her down and she let me spend the money on a Nikon D5100. That was the worst/best mistake of her life. In the months and year that followed, I ate, slept, drank, and consumed everything about photography that I could put my hands, eyes, and ears on. I was hooked.
Somewhere along the way, I received a random phone call from a bride that told me she wanted me to photograph her wedding. I thought for sure that she had the wrong number. I hadn’t even ever attended a wedding before, at least not as an adult. I had no idea why she would want me to be her photographer, but something in me told me to do it. I did it, and I had the time of my life. I left that wedding that night on an enormous high and I finally knew what I wanted to be when I grew up! So I did wedding photography as a side-gig for the next 5 years and in January 2017, I left my day-job in the soul-sucking health insurance business to chase my dream of being a full-time photographer, and here I am! It’s such an amazing blessing to get to do this for a living. I have to pinch myself all the time just to make sure I’m not dreaming!
I am a self-admitted gear nut. I LOVE camera gear and I admit to being a major GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) sufferer. Name a camera, I have probably owned it, shot it, or rented it). I have always been on a never-ending quest to build the perfect kit. I’ve shot Nikon, Canon, Nikon again, Canon again, Fujifilm, Sony, Leica, and more. And I’ve owned many of the “best” cameras and lenses available.
I am a big fan of mirrorless and it seems that manufacturers are finally getting their mirrorless systems into the big leagues for professionals. With that said, I hated every Sony mirrorless camera ever made until the a9. The a9 fixed all the issues I had with previous Sony bodies – much improved battery life, dual SD card slots, and an AF joystick. These things carried over into the a7R III and the newly released a7 III. With the release of the new a7III, I decided that the a9 was overkill for weddings, as I’m never going to use 20 frames per second. So I recently sold my a9 and have picked up an a7 III, which has rounded out my kit for the time being. Here’s a snapshot of what my bag looks like at the moment – granted, there could be some changes in the near future, knowing my track record! Ha!
My Current Kit:
Sony a7R III
This camera is pretty amazing. Previous Sony cameras just didn’t do it for me for a variety of reasons, among them color science. I absolutely hated the Sony colors before. This camera has unreal color depth and the resolution is insane – and yes, completely overboard for my needs. Which is why I have also purchased a…
Sony a7 III
24 megapixels is just right for me. Plus, the same autofocus system as the Sony a9 (which is easily the best AF system I have ever used – and trust me, I’ve tried everything, including the amazing Nikon D5. This AF system beats it. Add in Eye Autofocus, which is wizardry, and you have a brilliant camera. This very well may be the best all-around wedding photography camera ever.
Canon 5D Mark IV
When I made the move to the Sony a9 / a7R III combo in January 2018, I sold off most of my Canon system, which was hard to do because I did love the Mark IV. I kept one body and a few lenses that I just couldn’t bring myself to part with. I have since added a couple more lenses for the Canon system and I am really enjoying shooting with the Sony and Canon bodies, side-by-side. The Mark IV is just so reliable in any conditions and I love the dual pixel AF in Live View, which I use all the time when working with couples, either during engagement sessions or couple’s portraits on the wedding day. Shooting in live view gives me a chance to connect more with the couple. I can look them in the eyes when I’m shooting and speaking to them, rather than talking while my face is hidden behind the camera while shooting through the viewfinder.
Sony/Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon – this lens is pretty damn good. I replaced my Canon 35mm f/1.4L II with this when I made the move to shooting more Sony. While I don’t think it is as optically amazing as the 35L II is, it definitely has character and the AF is great on the Sony bodies. I considered keeping the Canon 35 and using it with an adapter but after trying this native Sony/Zeiss lens, it just worked better than an adapted lens would. It’s very sharp and has that typical Zeiss “pop”. This is on one of my Sony bodies for 80% of the wedding day. Just a great storytelling focal length.
Sony 85mm f/1.4 G Master – I’m currently trying this lens out to see if it fits for me. I don’t shoot a lot of 85mm. Most of my portrait stuff is shot from 24-50mm. I’m not sure if this lens will stay in the bag long-term, but it is really good. It’s extremely sharp and really does perform beautifully, but in all honesty, $1800 for a lens that I won’t use very often makes me think that it will probably go bye-bye sooner than later. The Sony 85mm f/1.8 is probably all the 85 I’ll ever need.
Sony 28mm f/2 – this was the first native Sony lens that I bought. It’s so small and light! 28mm is a fun focal length and this little lens is very sharp and fast. It doesn’t get used all that much though, now that I have the…
Sigma 24mm f/1.4 Art (Canon Mount) – this was one of my all-time favorite lenses when I was a full-time DSLR shooter. I absolutely love 24mm. I love environmental portraits and this lens just is so good for that. It’s wicked sharp and the depth of field at f/1.4, even at a wide 24mm, is beautiful. I shoot this lens on both my 5D Mark IV and on my Sony bodies with the Sigma MC-11 adapter. It works great on both.
Canon 50mm f/1.2L – The best 50mm lens I’ve ever owned or used. It just oozes character. I love how easy it is to make this lens flare. Some might consider that a flaw, but not me. I love me some real lens flare, and this one does it so well! I also shoot this on the Sony bodies pretty regularly with the Sigma MC-11 adapter.
Canon 135mm f/2L – this is my favorite telephoto option. This thing is phenomenal. The separation at f/2 is just gorgeous. I use this lens during ceremonies when I want a little extra reach. I can get nice shots of the exchanging of rings. It’s also great for sniping shots of unaware wedding guests and for shooting a tight shot of the bride and groom during the first dance.
I tend to use all ambient light for most of the wedding day until the reception/dancing starts, and then I’ll switch over to flash. I use the Flashpoint Lithium Ion R2 speed light system. I don’t do much over-the-top creative off-camera lighting. I mostly use them for on-camera bounce flash and the occasional off camera stuff in a soft box or for lighting formal family/group portraits. These really are incredible, the lithium ion batteries last forever on a single charge. I can shoot two or three weddings and not have to charge them. That’s insane. I no longer have to charge tons of AA batteries for every wedding.
Litepanels Chroma – this is my favorite light. This bi-color LED panel is really more of a video light, but I absolutely love it and it’s how I light most of my night portraits, which I love to do. It works beautifully for painting soft light on a subject, and being able to dial in the color temp is a huge bonus. I often have to tell people that it’s not a big flask, and that it is indeed just a light. But since it does resemble a large flask, I nicknamed it “The Flasklight”. I don’t think they make this version anymore, but there is a Chroma 2, and it’s even more expensive than this one was. But believe me, it was worth the investment for me!
Westcott Icelight – I have the first version. This thing puts out beautiful daylight balanced light. It’s not as flexible as the Litepanels Chroma is for me though, since you can’t change the color temp, but when I have a groom that is getting ready in what I call a “dungeon room” – you know, that closet that the groom is always relegated to – it makes a great “do-it-yourself window light”. But honestly, it doesn’t get used all that much. Maybe once every 6 or 7 weddings. That’s kind of why I forgot to even put it in my gear photo. Whoops.
At weddings, I always use my Holdfast MoneyMaker in water buffalo burgundy. This thing might just be the best piece of kit I own. It is unbelievably comfortable and it just looks so dang sexy. I literally get compliments from wedding guests at every single wedding I shoot, and believe me, I need all the help I can get in the “looking good” department!
When doing session work or just shooting for myself (read: when I’m carrying one camera), I use the Peak Design Slide Summit Edition. It’s a great, versatile strap, and the connector system is fantastic.
For a few years, I used a Pelican 1560 padded roller case to transport all of my gear, but with the move to using some Sony gear, the physical size of my kit has shrunk, thus allowing me to downsize from the extremely heavy trunk. I now carry a Think Tank Streetwalker Harddrive V2.0 backpack to most weddings. It literally holds everything I need and I can put it on my back and take it anywhere. It even fits within carry-on guidelines when I fly – which is a huge plus. But when it is loaded down, it can be pretty heavy on my back. So, not always fun to lug it through airport terminals or long hikes with it carrying all of my gear.
For sessions, I typically will only take a few pieces of gear – 2 bodies and 2 lenses, so I carry this bag, which I picked up on the cheap from Amazon. It serves its purpose and I think it looks great too.
Inside Dustin’s camera bag:
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