I've been in the family photography business for over 10 years and I've learned a lot about what Canon camera works best for different levels of photography from beginner to advanced. There are a lot of things to consider when selecting the right camera for your business: price, performance, photo quality, etc. so I'm going to break it down for you here. I'm also going to talk about my experience with each specific camera I'm recommending, or a friend's experience with it if I haven't used it. Only real-life examples, here! I hope this helps you decide what is the best camera to get for your family photography business!
Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links, but only for products that I would recommend. If you buy through them, I'll earn some cash for coffee (or tea). But don't worry, I'll use that energy to create more helpful content for you!
Why Canon over Nikon, Sony, etc?
I'm a Canon girl through and through and that is mainly because of the colors. There is just something special about Canon's colors that can't be found with other brands. I've always used Canon for my family photography business so this is what I am used to seeing. A couple of years ago, I thought it would be a great idea to try out Sony, so I bought a mirrorless Sony camera and used it for a couple of weeks. I absolutely hated it. Lol. It felt boxy and weird in my hands unlike the smooth, curved lines of a Canon. The colors were so desaturated and wonky, nothing like what I was used to. I tried everything to make the colors look right to me, but it just wasn't the same. So I sent it back and stuck with Canon! Maybe if I had never used a camera before, I would be fine with other brands, but once you go Canon, you most likely won't like anything else.
Crop Sensor vs Full Frame Camera
You have an important decision to make: Should you get a crop sensor or a full frame camera? A crop sensor is less expensive, but it's definitely not going to perform as well. It will crop in the edges of your photo, so if you put a 35mm lens on your crop sensor camera, it will look closer to a 50mm lens. Which means that if you were looking for a focal length of closer to 35mm (which I personally love for family photography), you'd need to get a 24mm lens.
A full frame camera also has a greater depth of field, so you will get a more blurred background. A crop sensor it's not going to do as well in low-light situations, so you will need to raise your ISO to let in more light, which will result in a more noisy photo. A full frame can handle higher ISOs much better, and also lets in more light than a crop sensor.
Another thing to think about is the dynamic range, which is the range of the darkest and brightest parts of an image. A crop sensor has a smaller dynamic range, so if you want to try and save the detail in the sky, while still keeping your subjects properly exposed, that will be harder to do. With a full frame, you have more room to save the lights and the darks if you overexpose or underexpose an image.
If you are just starting out in the family photography world, you may be considering a crop sensor camera because they are cheaper, which you can definitely do. Just know that you will probably want to upgrade as soon as possible. Any lenses that you buy that are specifically for a crop sensor (APS-C) will not work on a full frame, but full frame lenses will work on your crop sensor (so stick with full frame lenses if you plan to upgrade).
DSLR vs Mirrorless
Another choice you have when looking for the best camera for a family photographer is whether to get a DSLR camera or go mirrorless. I'll start by saying that mirrorless cameras are amazing for many reasons and if you can afford one, I would highly recommend it. It's where all the companies are putting their energy, so all the new technology is going this way. But if you aren't quite ready to take the plunge into the mirrorless world, there are still some really great DSLR choices out there.
DSLR cameras are a great option if you are looking to save money because you can usually find great deals. They also have a longer battery life than mirrorless cameras.
Mirrorless cameras are typically smaller and more lightweight, which is great for a family photographer who is chasing around little kids!
Mirrorless cameras will also show you an exposure preview when you look through the viewfinder, so it's easier to be sure you have your settings right. With a DSLR, you are seeing exactly what you see with the naked eye when you look through the viewfinder, so the only way to know if your exposure is looking right is to look at the LCD screen. Mirrorless cameras are also great if you shoot into the sun a lot! When you're looking through a mirrorless camera's digital viewfinder, it is totally safe for your eyes, but when you're looking through a DSLR's viewfinder, you can still damage your eyes if you look at the sun.
Mirrorless cameras typically have much more advanced autofocus, with some cameras detecting the eyes of your subject automatically. I've found this especially useful when photographing energetic families. They also usually have more focus points for a more accurate focus.
If you decide to get a mirrorless camera, you can still use lenses that were made for DSLR cameras (EF mount) on a mirrorless camera (RF mount) with an adapter. And in my experience (and many other family photographers), those lenses surprisingly perform better with an adapter on a mirrorless camera than on a DSLR!
What camera is best for a family photography business?
Time to get into my recommendations for the best cameras for family photographers! All of the cameras I talk about will be Canon because that is what I use and love. I'll talk about the cameras I have personally used and then a couple of others that some of my family photography friends have recommended and said good things about.
Canon EOS R5 Mirrorless Camera - My Favorite Camera for Advanced Family Photographers
I recently upgraded to this camera and it is amazing! Yes, it's expensive and definitely not needed if you are just starting your photography business but if you're a more seasoned photographer looking to upgrade your camera then you may want to consider this. The biggest reason why I love it so much is because the autofocus is SO GOOD. I could shoot from my hip if I wanted to and it would figure out where to focus. I also do family videos, and this camera has great video quality with options to shoot in 8K (not that I ever need it!).
The file sizes with this camera are huge, so it takes up a ton of storage on your computer, which is a bit of a disadvantage and the reason I held out for so long. But the cool thing about that is if you do need to crop your photo, it's not really a big deal. The photo will still be plenty large enough to print.
This camera has dual card slots, so if you plan to photograph weddings or events, you will be covered if one of your cards gets corrupted. There are two different card slots on this camera, one is a standard SD card slot, and the other is CF Express (type B). CF Express cards are much more expensive than SD cards, but you can get away with just owning one (or maybe two) and formatting often (This is what I do, write to both cards and save all the photos on the SD cards until I deliver them to the client).
Canon EOS R6 Mirrorless Camera - Great Overall Camera For Family Photography
A lot of family photographers who don't want to shell out the big bucks for the R5 will get the R6 instead. They are very similar cameras but the R6 has a much smaller file size. Some might say too small. The RAW photos are 8192×5464 on the R5 and 5472×3648 on the R6. My worry with this is if the photos needed to be cropped, it would make the file size smaller and not able to print as large. With the R6 files, you can expect to print up to 27x18 at 300 dpi. You could get away with printing a little larger but you will start to lose quality. I personally have photography clients who want to make large prints for their walls, and I'm afraid the file size won't be big enough so that is the main reason why I didn't buy this camera.
I have also heard lots of photographers say that the battery life on this camera is pretty bad. They typically can't get through an entire session without changing the battery. If you get this camera, you will need to have multiple batteries charged and on-hand.
The R6 has the same focus system as the R5, so you can expect to have amazing autofocus capabilities. This camera also has two memory card slots, and both are SD. I have lots of photographer friends who use this camera and love it so if you aren't worried about making large prints, then this would be a great camera for your family photography business.
Canon EOS R Mirrorless Camera - The Middle-Ground Camera
This is the first mirrorless camera that I bought and still use for family photography today! I currently use two cameras, the other being the R5. The reason why I decided to buy this camera over the other two above was mainly to do with the price and file size. The R's file size is between both of the other cameras, with the photo dimensions being 6720 x 4480. The price was also between the other two cameras, as well.
Disadvantages: the R doesn't have the updated focus system like the other two cameras do, so it misses focus more often when using the autofocus feature. It also only has one memory card slot (SD), so if a card fails on you, you're out of luck. I don't photograph events so I decided to take the chance. It also doesn't have as high of a dynamic range as the other two cameras above have but I have still found it to be great, and much better than any canon DSLR I've ever owned (and a big upgrade from the 6DM2 that I was using before I got this camera).
Canon 6D Mark II DSLR Camera (6DM2) - Smartest Choice for Beginner to Intermediate Family Photographers Not Ready For Mirrorless
If you are looking for a less expensive camera than a mirrorless but still would like a full frame, this would be my recommendation to you. The 6DM2 is a great camera for a beginner or intermediate family photographer, as I used this one before I upgraded to mirrorless and it served me well. It does pretty well in low light and can handle higher ISOs than a cropped sensor can without introducing too much grain (although a mirrorless camera is obviously better). The 6DM2 has 45 autofocus points, which is much better than the original 6D that only had 11 (which is why I'm not recommending that camera here, but I did own it long ago and it was good enough for a beginner photographer).
Yes, there is an entire 5D line but considering prices and specs, you may as well go mirrorless or stick to the 6DM2. I found the 6DM2 to perform better in low light than the 5D mark iii, and if you were going to spend the money on a 5D mark iv, you should get a mirrorless camera instead.
Canon EOS RebelT7 - Crop Sensor Option for Beginner Family Photographers
This is my crop sensor camera recommendation if you need to save money but still have a good camera to get you started with your family photography business. I would only recommend going this route if you plan to only photograph families outside. Indoor photography definitely requires a camera that can work with low light situations and a crop sensor just isn't going to cut it (unless you plan to use a flash). If you plan to take video, I also would go with a better camera, but this one is great for basic photography. I would suggest buying it without the kit lens that it comes with because you will want to spend your money on a better lens than that. The next step above this camera would be the Rebel T8i, but for just a little more you could get the 6DM2 I mentioned above so that is why I'm not recommending the T8i.
I hope this helps you decide on the best Canon camera for your family photography business, whether you're a beginner or an expert! If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below and I'll answer them as best as I can. Thanks for reading and happy shopping! 😍
*Note: The list goes on, but these are some of the best cameras for family photography businesses, in my opinion.
You may also be interested in my article about The Best Canon Lenses for Family Photographers
More articles for family photographers:
Mistakes to avoid when starting a family photography business
Starting a Family Photography Business Checklist: Everything You Need to Know
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