Photography equipment guide: What to buy (and how much to spend)

As a professional photographer and Senior Evangelist here at eCatholic, I’ve shot photos in dozens of churches across the US. I’ve also purchased thousands of dollars of photography equipment over the years. From this experience, I’ve learned two things:

  1. The lighting in churches usually isn’t ideal for photography
  2. The equipment in your bag can make a big difference (especially in poor lighting conditions)

Here’s a photography equipment guide that will help you understand what to buy (and how much to spend) so you can start capturing beautiful photos for your Catholic organization.

Camera options to fit your needs

Disclaimer: I only recommend equipment I’ve actually owned and used. I personally use Canon products, but other manufacturers (like Nikon and Sony) have similar versions of these options that could work for you as well.


Cell phone camera

Performance in low-light conditions: Poor

You probably already have one…and it’s always with you. If your budget is limited, focus on taking great photos with your cell phone camera. While there are obvious limitations (e.g., small image sensor, poor zoom functionality), it is possible to use your phone to capture nice images, especially if you’re in an environment with lots of light. Take a look at this pic I shot using my iPhone 7:


Point-and-shoot camera

Performance in low-light conditions: OK

The Canon Powershot G9X Mark II is a small, easy-to-carry camera priced under $500. If you want a camera that’s easy to use and can also shoot 1080p HD video, the Powershot is a great place to start.


Crop sensor camera

Performance in low-light conditions: Good

Go with the Canon EOS M3 if you want more for your money. This camera offers a larger image sensor than a point-and-shoot, plus you can purchase interchangeable lenses for it. The M3 also has a budget-friendly price of only $70 more than the Powershot.

The M3 also has some helpful features for capturing video: It includes a microphone input jack and a LCD screen that tils and flips, which can make recording video by yourself quick and easy.

If this is the route you prefer, I’d suggest you also invest in this 22mm f/2 lens, which will help you take better group photos (especially in dark environments).


Full frame DSLR camera

Performance in low-light conditions: Great

The Canon 6D is a solid choice if you’re ready to make a big investment (the camera body alone is listed at $1,499) and want to stop wrestling with the limitations of your current equipment. The 6D is perfect for taking pictures in poorly lit churches because it features a full frame sensor. It also allows you the flexibility of interchangeable lenses, can shoot 1080p HD video, and includes a microphone input jack.

Another neat feature of the 6D is its wifi capability. This allows you to quickly and wirelessly transfer images to your phone or computer – the perfect way to post awesome images to social in real-time.

This camera opens up a whole new realm of photography: lenses. While the importance and benefits of different lenses is a topic for another day, the lenses I would recommend you purchase for the 6D (or any other full frame camera), are listed below.

Beginner lenses to fill your bag

If you have a camera that supports interchangeable lenses, here’s the glass you should purchase to get your kit off to a solid start.


24-70mm f/2.8

The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L lens is my go-to lens for everyday shooting. It has a nice wide angle for group shots and also has good zoom capability. The 2.8 aperture will let lots of light into the camera, which is perfect for shooting in dark churches.

Low-cost alternative: If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly alternative to Canon’s version of this lens, I love using Sigma’s Canon-compatible lenses. Try this Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 lens.


70-200mm f/2.8

The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L lens is my top choice for shooting Catholic Masses. It has telephoto zoom power that lets me get tightly framed pictures of what’s happening near the altar without having to position myself near the front pews. I can inconspicuously camp out near the back of most churches and use this lens to get lots of great images.

Low-cost alternative: Sigma also offers a cheaper alternative to Canon’s 70-200mm: Check out the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 lens.

My personal go-to camera is the Canon 1DX, which a top-of-the-line full frame camera for serious photographers.

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