I’d be a millionaire if I had a quarter for every time a ranch-gal or cowboy (or waitress, or father of the bride) asked me, “What’s the best camera for ranch life?”
Before we get to that, the number one thing to understand here is that neither the type of camera or it’s price tag will have anything to do with your ability to take “better pictures.”
No one says to the cook, “This is delish! What pan and oven did you use?” The final product has little to do with the tools used and everything to do with a persons skill and ability to blend a perfect combination of key ingredients.
Ranch life photography (or any photography) is a lot less about “tools” and a whole lot of understanding the “ingredients” of available lighting, emotional connection, creative composition and knowing what in-camera-exposures you need to translate your vision into a “better picture.” (Someday soon I’ll blog about how to achieve that. When I do, I’ll link it here.)
That being said, should you need, want or desire to upgrade from your cellphone-camera for capturing your day-to-day ranch life, are a dabbling hobbyist who loves equine photography or are interested in going pro, here’s a few you might consider.
(Side note: While there are 4 million options on the market, I’m talking about Canon camera’s because they are what I know and love!)
#1 Everyday Camera
Canon M50 Mirrorless & Kit Lenses – A really nice step above the cellphone camera (I HAVE ONE!)
The Canon Mirrorless M50, is the camera for you if you are looking for a “step above” your cellphone that is going to be as easy as a point-and-shoot camera to start with, while still having the “grow” with you as you learn more skills and techniques to take more manual control in creating better photos.
I have one! Don’t get me wrong I love and use my “big boys” all the time but they are 1) heavy 2) heavy 3) bulky. Just not a great “throw in the diaper bag for everyday use” kinda setup. I love it so much I wrote a whole blog about it and how I use it called Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless for Western Lifestyle Photography
This M50 camera is going have a size and durability that is a little more purse or saddle bag friendly thanks to it being mirrorless (less fragile moving parts), while STILL having interchangeable lenses, intelligent “Auto” modes, full manual abilities and RAW capabilities. Also, the video/focus feature is terrific…in case you ever wanted to become a vlogger.
Wifi: YES and amen! It’s 2018 people, and the direct wifi option allows you to send pictures instantly to your phone! It’s a fantastic feature I use every day on my big cameras. Awesome pictures of my kids no longer have to sit on memory cards until I have spare time to download/post! I can “drop” everything over and be posting to Instagram that fast! Of course, I wrote about it: Transfer, Edit & Print Everday Photos
Lenses: A camera is only as good as the lens you put on it. The kit lenses available for the mirrorless Canon camera’s are so affordable I wouldn’t think twice about throwing into my purse. And while I wouldn’t want to be stuck photographing in a room with no windows with them, they also make a Canon EOS M Mount Adapter, meaning I could stick any of my pro lenses on this baby and SLAY that windowless-room situation.
#2 Hobbyist or Aspiring Photographers
Canon EOS Rebel T6 DSLR & Kit Lenses – For dabbling hobbyists and aspiring pros
The Canon Rebel Series have been little workhorses for years and years. I’m pretty sure 99% of ranch-gals who like taking ranch life photography have one of these. They were the “first camera” many professional photographers had when they started pursuing photography. I never owned one because I decided to jump right past them and get a big boy (see next section). However, if you are someone who is an aspiring photographer on a tiny budget (but anxious to get your hands SOMETHING) or a dabbling-hobbyist wishing to learn more about photography and can afford to upgrade lenses, this is a great place to start.
Again. This is going to be a great camera with interchangeable lenses, intelligent “Auto” modes, full manual abilities and RAW capabilities. When you want hands-on learning but maybe can’t quite afford a full frame professional setup, this is a great place to start. In fact, many beginning photographers who’ve newly started their business keep a Rebel as their emergency backup when they can only afford one pro DSLR body. (I’d hope that as soon as they could save their pennies they’d get a second pro body as well but hey, do what you gotta do.)
Wifi: Same as above, the wifi option on this newer Rebel allows you to send pictures instantly to your phone for quick posting! Here I share how.
Lenses: Same as with the Canon M50, the cheaper kit lenses for this camera (and what most people have) are not the best, and I REALLY wouldn’t want to shoot with them professionally. But you can put any professional lenses on the Rebel, no adaptor needed.
#3 Professional Cameras
Canon 6D Mii DSLR– Professional Camera (WHAT I HAVE)
I have a few of these I use and love love love. If you dream of being a photographer on any professional level and the challenge of bettering your photography skills lights a fire in your soul…this is what you want. Skip the other two.
Unlike the other two, this camera is a full frame sensor (see this article about full frame vs cropped) with everything you need to capture any genre of photography. It’s perfect for all things ranch life photography: running horses, far off wildlife, muddy kiddos in the bathtub, broad daylight or low light…it’s fast and dependable.
If you are a beginner, it still has all the smart auto features, but don’t buy this camera, turn it on to auto and expect a Lyndsey Garber photo to appear. At the price point, you’ll want to be a dedicated individual willing to research, practice and learn. If it sounds like too much work, go back up to the M50 and call it good.
Wifi: I use the wifi option every single day for wirelessly sending my kiddo photos to my phone and getting them actually printed!
Disclaimer: This body does not have dual card slots (see more below).
Lenses: Remember, your camera is only as good as the “glass” (lenses) you put on it. If you are going to invest in this body, you’ll want to invest in quality lenses. If you can’t afford to do both, consider the older, still amazing Canon 6d classic and buy the better lens for it. Rock that until you can afford to upgrade the body.
Canon 5D Miv – Professional Camera
I know I said 3 camera’s not 4. That’s because if you are just looking for a professional ranch life photography camera and you don’t care about the prestige of a price-tag or model make status symbol…you do not need this camera.
If you hope to get into weddings on a professional level and have never owned or worked with the wonderful speed of the 6D series bodies and you have thousands and thousands to spend on a body PLUS still have money for lenses, you might as well get the Canon 5Div. It’s a fantastic camera! There’s a handful of differences between this and the 6D Mii, but one of the big things is it has dual card slots.
Dual card slots can be great because it means your camera can write the images you take onto two separate cards, and you have an instant backup. Fantastic!
Why doesn’t Lyndsey have these then?
Dual Card Slots: Some people look at me like I’m an idiot when I say this, but because I used the Canon 6D classics for so long when I switched to the Canon 5d Miii and tried the Canon 5d Miv, I spent the entire sessions cussing the cameras. I work with horses, dogs, cattle and first kisses…sometimes all at once. I have a FRACTION of a second to nail an image on an exact foot-fall or capture that “you may now kiss the bride” moment. After working with the 6D’s, the dual card slot write speed of the 5D’s is just a slight difference, but enough that I was losing my mind. Even after spending hundreds and hundreds on the fasted memory cards in the market, I still found myself jerking out the backup cards trying to get the cameras to shoot faster for me. A lot of fellow wedding photographers think I’m totally crazy about this topic, but they typically have never owned any of the 6D series and are fully accustomed to the speeds of the 5D’s. They made me feel like I was losing my mind, but I finally found a few other equine and ranch lifestyle photographers who agreed with me 100% and choose the 6D series as well for this exact reason.
If you have a couple of extra thousand to spring for this one. If you’ve never worked with a 6D you’ll not know what I’m talking about and be able to learn the “feel” of this one without the hangups I have!
You can try before you buy!
Still not sure what you need? Much buying a camera is how it works/feels in YOUR hands. I utilize a company called Borrow Lenses to test drive newer equipment or compare competing brands (I’ll write about lenses and Canon vs. Sigma soon). Get $30 off your first Borrow Lenses rental if you use this Borrow Lenses Referral Link
If you aren’t sick of listening to me ramble yet, and you missed the three not-so-subtle hints above, I also have a blog called Transfer, Edit & Print Everday Photos. Cause that’s step two!
Top 3 Camera’s for Ranch Life Photography // Copyright Lyndsey Garber Photography
*Disclosure: Keeping it real around here. Sometimes (not always) the links in my posts are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. (Like a whopping $0.13 you all.) You will never get charged extra through affiliate links…and sometimes you’ll even get a discount! BUT you can always trust that I link these products or companies only because I BOUGHT them with real money and USE them in real life…and not because of any commission I may or may not receive from your purchases. Whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.