My name is Joao Carlos. I was born and raised in New York and I’m currently based in Lisbon, Portugal. I also spend a lot of time traveling the world working for advertising agencies, fashion brands, and magazines.
Every day has been a new adventure while working as a visual storyteller in both stills and video for almost two decades. It doesn’t seem that long to me, but I guess it has been – especially considering how gear has changed! During this whole time, my kit bag has gone through a series of evolutionary changes to where it is now.
As a young photographer in the 90’s with no money, I started small. Sold my guitar, a Fender Stratocaster, to pick up my first SLR which was a NIKON F65. I had it for maybe six months and quickly discovered that I wanted something better. By selling this camera and the two kit lenses, I picked up a second-hand Canon EOS 5. I saved up for a couple more months and picked up a 50mm f/1.8 lens.
I worked at some local newspapers while I got my degree at ARCO Center for Art and Communication in Lisbon, then I spent about five years assisting a number of commercial and fashion photographers. At the same time, I opened my first studio MILKMAN back in 2001.
I have always been a firm believer that, you need the proper tools to get the job done and for every job, those tools may be very different. As my career grew and kit bags got larger, I moved up to medium format, a Pentacon Six. It was an old Eastern European camera brand, basically a cheap 6×6. What I really wanted was a Hasselblad. Soon I sold all my gear again, the Petacon Six kit, 4 lenses and a couple of bodies at this point, to get a Hasselblad 503cw. About three months later I bought the lenses second hand from a photographer I had assisted.
It has always been a process of upgrading my gear. During this time I used primarily Elinchrom lights in the studio. I had a kit of three compact strobes and two 3000w packs that I would rent a generator for if I needed to shoot on location with light.
The next big evolution of my kit happened with the switch to digital SLR. My first digital camera was the D30, and at this point, I had made some bad investments, got into a lot of debt and had to sell almost everything. I then moved to New York City and picked up my first Canon 5D Mark II on craigslist, which was about in 2008.
One of the highlights of my photography career came in 2010 when I won the Hasselblad Masters Award. This was awesome because Hasselblad loaned me an H4-D40 for what was supposed to be six months, but I had it for a year and then gave it back, unfortunately.
Three years ago I purchased my first FUJIFILM Camera, the X-T1, and after a week of shooting on a job for a travel magazine, I was hooked. I had really fallen in love with FUJIFILM cameras due to the amazing quality, ease of use and compact form factor, plus they are constantly updating their software. All of this made it very easy for me to fall so hard and so fast. So much so that I sold all of my Canon and Hasselblad gear and now shoot both stills and video entirely on FUJI X and G systems.
Another huge step forward for me was when I purchased the Profoto B1 and B2 kits. Just the ability to have that type of great quality of light and portability make for awesome additions to my kit.
The Fujifilm GFX 50S is my current system for high-quality files. The extreme dynamic range and amazing color definition make for the perfect workhorse. My favorite lens and the one I use the most is the 120mm GF f/4 macro. It’s a beautiful macro lens and to keep my kit small and compact, I have opted for a zoom lens, the GF 32-64mm f/4. To give the camera a more robust feeling, I use the vertical grip VG-GFX1 that extends the battery life, giving me an extra two hours of work with the camera. If you haven’t realized by now I’m a bit of a camera geek so I find certain accessories help me do a better job in certain aspects and one of my favorite accessories for the GFX is the viewfinder tilt adapter. I keep this kit in a Think Tank Naked Shape Shifter Bag.
My next bag is my Think Tank Perception Pro, basically is my FujiFilm X series kit. Currently, I have X-H1 and X-T2 bodies. I love the small cameras for shooting videos. Their compact design and the quality of the 4K footage make them fantastic. The lens quality of Fuji is also amazing! I don’t own a lot of lenses because I like to keep my kit, again, small and compact, I mean this is one of the major reasons why I switched to Fuji. I chose to use prime lenses because their image quality is superior, and because of the style of photography that I do.
I’m really not shooting that many events so I don’t own any zoom lenses. My lenses of choice currently are the 14, 27, 35 and 56mm lenses. I’d like to eventually add the 80mm macro lens and the 55-140mm f/2.8 to this kit, both of which probably be my ideal zoom lens. On the creative side of things, I also use a Lensbaby trio 28 which is a great little 3-in-1 lens that is used in some personal projects and even some commercial film projects. It always brings a new creative touch to the overall feel.
Other elements that are fundamental in my kit are my BlackRapid straps, lots of batteries, and my SanDisk memory cards. My Fuji X cameras have two slots so I’m always running usually 128GB Sandisk extreme pro 300MB/s cards. I also use something called a GNARBOX with tons of memory storage, as at the moment, I use G technology.
[Related: GNARBOX 2.0 Review]
All of my camera bags are always stuffed with stuff to give to clients or possible new ones. That said, I have Moo visit cards which is a great way to feature my work and it’s always a conversation builder. I also bring mini books from Koylab, which are a little bit larger and a little bit more expensive but triple the wow factor.
For my everyday travel on the go photography, I have a Think Tank Retrospective shoulder bag with which I carry my FUJIFILM X100F. It’s an awesome little camera with a fixed 35mm lens. I also have my Fuji Instax printer so when I’m taking street portraits, I can give prints directly to the people that I’m taking pictures of. I use a BlackRapid Street Breathe strap. I also always carry a 14” Wescott Reflector and again, Koylab mini books, moo cards, my mobile device, sunglasses of course and my JBL wireless headphones because I like to have my music on the go.
On my commercial shoots, I always have my portable digital workstation which is in an SKB iSeries Waterproof Case. I carry a 13-inch MacBook Pro with two SanDisk SSDs 480GB inside, plus all of the other hard drives and back up devices. I have a 3LeggedThing tripod to keep my case secure and above the ground. If I’m shooting tethered, I bring my Tether Tools cables and again, lots of memory cards from SanDisk.
Another page of the evolution of my kit was when portable off-camera strobes became feasible at an operating cost so at the moment I currently own a Profoto B1 kit which has two heads and four batteries and a series of accessories such as barn doors, honeycombs, and gels. This backpack is great because it contains a lot of power and it is a fairly portable unit.
The Pelican 1510 Case is my on-location lighting case, because of its sturdiness and ability to take a beating. It’s so sturdy in fact that I’m able to stand on it and gain a few inches without fearing for my lighting kit. My off-camera flash system of choice at the moment is the Profoto B2. This system is perfect for me because it’s lightweight and portable, which is crucial for me, since 70% of my work is done on location. The Profoto B2 is great because one battery allows me to shoot around 215 flashes at full power and the battery’s recharge time is super-fast. This system also has great compatibility with light modifiers from Profoto and Westcott using the super simple to use speed ring.
The Westcott Ice Light case is used to, obviously, carry my Ice Light lighting Kit. The case is a standard one but instead of carrying one Ice Light it carries two, along with other essential pieces of gear like the barn doors, tungsten gels and extra batteries.
The Ice Lights are amazing. They’re small and very portable, and they produce a beautiful light, which is daylight color balanced. They also run for about 2.5 hours on a single battery which is great and if that’s not enough then you can attach an extra battery through the Ice Light two-way connector which gives about 1 to 1.5 hours of extra battery time. I use them whenever I need a reliable, daylight-balanced continuous light source, either for photography or video.
My second Ice Pack carries not so obviously my Westcott Flex Kit. The Flex is an amazingly versatile tool that I use not only for photography, but for video as well. With its flexible and compact design I can illuminate a subject in many different angles using one light only.
The ThinkTank Airport TakeOff is the perfect camera bag for the photographer or videographer on the go. I say it’s perfect because of its size (35.5x53x22cm), which will fit either in the overhead or under the seat in most commercial, domestic and international flights. Unlike the Pelican 1510 for example, who won’t fit on board most low-cost flights (like Raynair and EasyJet). The bag also has shoulder straps that convert it from a roller bag to a backpack, which is very handy when the terrain is bumpy. The bag has a front pocket that fits a 15 inch laptop or even some 17 inch laptops. It also has a bottom handle that allows it to be carried like a crate. Once carrying my Canon Kit, I have adapted this bag for my SMDV Bright 360 strobes. The accessories for these heads are kept in a Think Tank Citywalker 30 bag.
In my studio I have two Profoto ComPact heads, as they don’t use batteries, they are a solid choice for this job, plus I own a lot of modifiers with the Profoto mount. I don’t have a cable to synch them so I use them with slave.
I own a big variety of Westcott Softboxes with Profoto mounts. Starting with the 5-foot octabox, two strips one of which is asymmetrical, and two small ones one of which has a masters brush modifier. My newest addition to my kit are the two rapid boxes, one is the collapsible beauty dish and the other the rapid octa XL. It is kinda sad that Westcott don’t make asymmetrical strips and masters brushes anymore as they are one of my favorites. I also have two Westcott Halo softboxes which are great to take outside and a variety of Westcott 7feet umbrellas. I have a Westcott Eyelighter, which is an awesome tool to fill in some light ,and a standard triflector that adds additional lighting options along with the Eylighter. Also, there are some medium and large Westcott Scrim Jims that are great to take outdoors or mount inside. The Westcott Fast Flags are also a great and important tool that I use either outside or in the studio. And last but not least, my compact background system that offers a fast and reliable backdrop mount anywhere.
Reflectors are an essential part of the kit of every photographer. I have a good variety of them, The Westcott 6-in-1 Kits are really useful and this is why I have 3 various sizes of them in 30”, 42” and 52”. I have a tiny 14” 2-in-1 Westcott reflector that is really compact and I love carrying it with me. The Westcott Omega Reflector is probably my favorite because of the ability to shoot through it. The Profoto Silver/White L is great as well because of its handles on its sides.
My Elinchrom 750 micro is my oldest studio lights kit that I currently have in my studio. They have been with me for a long long time and I can say they haven’t betrayed me ever since. Sadly, the remote control doesn’t work anymore, so I have to use them with slave. Nowadays, I use them mostly as background lights. I have some nice modifiers for them like reflectors, deep reflectors, barn doors, honeycombs, a square beauty dish with a honeycomb grid, and my favorite and the reason i still keep them, the S35 Fresnel.
The Dedolights are very dimmable, high-quality consistent lights that I mostly use for product photography. The kit comes with many accessories that are perfect for my needs.
I have many tripods in my studio. They always come in handy as supporting studio heads, backdrops, reflectors, you never know for what they will be used for. I have bigger Westcott ones and really small Manfrotto tripods. Also, I have some huge old tripods that add a really stable fill to the whole kit.
As for camera tripods, 3LeggedThing is my choice. It is a brand that I have been using over the years and I really enjoy. Their tripods are versatile, light, sturdy, and some of them even have a leg that transforms into a monopod. The tripods I have are Eddie, Eric, Keith, and Albert. I also use 3LeggedThing ball heads and release plates.
Last but not least, the camera sliders. I use the ProMediaGear VS24 PMG-DUO 24-Inch Video Slider, Aviator Gear Slider Kit and Aviator Gear Travel Jib. These two are great tools when I’m filming, making some time lapses or just shooting some behind the scenes.
– Fujifilm GFX 50S with Vertical Battery Grip VG-GFX1
– Fujifilm X-H1 with Vertical Battery Grip VPB-XH1
– Fujifilm X-T2 with Vertical Power Boost Grip VPB-XT2
– Fujifilm X100F
– FUJINON LENS GF120mm f/4 R LM OIS WR Macro
– FUJINON LENS GF32-64mm f/4 R LM WR
– FUJINON LENS XF 56mm f/1.2 R
– FUJINON LENS XF 35mm f/1.4 R
– FUJINON LENS XF 27mm f/2.8
– FUJINON LENS XF 14mm f/2.8 R
– Lensbaby Trio 28
– 4x NP-T125 Batteries
– BC-T125 Battery Charger
– EVF Tilt Adapter
– 10x NP-W126S Battery
– BC-W126 Battery Charger
– Instax SHARE SP-3
– BlackRapid Street Breathe
– BlackRapid Curve Breathe
– BlackRapid Cross Shot
– TetherPro USB 3.0 to Micro B
– 2 x Ptofoto B1 Off-Camera Flashes
– 2 x Profoto B2 Off-Camera Flash Heads
– 2 x Westcott Ice Light
– 1 x Flex 1’x1′ Bi-Color LED Mat
– 3 x SMDV BriHT-360
– Profoto ComPact 600R
– Profoto ComPact 1200
– 3 x Elinchrom 750 Micro
– Dedolight KAC24 – 150 W Kit
– Westcott 5′ Octabank
– Westcott Assymetrical Stripbox 1×4
– Westcott Masters Brush
– Westcott Stripbank 1×6
– Westcott Rapid Octa XL
– Westcott Rapidbox Beauty Dish
– Westcott Halo Softbox
– Westcott 7′ Umbrellas
– Westcott Eyelighter
– Westcott ScrimJim
– Westcott Fast Flags
– Westcott Omega 360
– 4 x Westcott Illuminator Collapsible 6in1 Reflector Kit
– Westcott Illuminator Collapsible 2-in-1 Reflector
– Profoto Silver/White L Reflector
– 10 Degree Profoto OCF Honeycomb Grid
– 20 Degree Profoto OCF Honeycomb Grid
– 30 Degree Profoto OCF Honeycomb Grid
– 2 x Profoto Gel Kit
– Profoto OCF Barndoors
– Profoto OCF Snoot
– 2 x Westcott Ice Light Tungsten Gel
– 2 x Westcott Barn Doors for Ice Light
– Flex Cine Frame Diffuser
– SMDV BR-40 Snoot with grid adapter
– SMDV BR-170 Tele/reflector
– SMDV BR-300 Beauty dish with grid adapter
– SMDV Speedbox-70
– 3x Standard Reflector SMDV BR-120
– 2x Elinchrom Standard Reflectors
– 2x High Performance Reflector 48°
– 2x Elinchrom 44/35cm Barndoors
– Elinchrom Rectangular Honeycomb grid
– Elinchrom Square Beauty dish with Honeycomb grid
– Elinchrom Fresnel S35
Tripods and Sliders
– 3LeggedThing Albert
– 3LeggedThing Eric
– 3LeggedThing Keith
– 3LeggedThing Eddie
– 3LeggedThing AirHed 360
– 3LeggedThing AirHed Switch
– 3LeggedThing QR4
– 3LeggedThing QR7
– 3LeggedThing QR11-LG
– 3LeggedThing QR11-FBC
– ProMediaGear VS24 PMG-DUO 24 Inch Video Slider
– Aviator Gear Travel Jib
– Aviator Gear Slider Kit
Memory Storage Devices
– 10 x 128GB SANDISK EXTREME PRO SD UHS-II CARD
– 10 x 64GB SANDISK EXTREME PRO SD UHS-II CARD
– SANDISK EXTREME 510 PORTABLE SSD
– SANDISK Connect Wireless Stick 64GB
– SANDISK EXTREME 900 PORTABLE SSD 960GB
– 2 x G-DRIVE ev ATC with Thunderbolt 1TB
– 4 x G-Drive Mobile USB-C
– GnarBox 1.0 256GB
– Think Tank NAKED SHAPE SHIFTER® 17 V2.0
– Think Tank Perception Pro
– Think Tank Retrospective
– ThinkTank Airport TakeOff
– ThinkTank Citywalker 30
– ThinkTank Mirrorless Mover
– 10Think Tank DSLR BATTERY HOLDER 4\
– Think Tank PRO SPEED BELT™ V2.0
– Think Tank Lens changer 50 V 2.0
– Think Tank Lens changer 75 V 2.0
– Think Tank Speed Changer 50 V 2.0
– ThinkTank Pixel Pocket Rocket
– SKB iSeries Waterproof Laptop Case
– Profoto BackPack M
– Pelican 1510 case
– Eastpak Backpack
– KoyLab MiniBooks
– Moo Business Cards
– Domke Protective Wrap
– JBL Headphones
– iPhone 8