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Gear & Apps

What’s Inside White House Photographer Pete Souza’s Gear Bag?

By Hanssie on July 2nd 2016

Arguably one of the most important photography clients today, at least in a historical context, is the President of the United States. Over the past 8 years, Chief Official White House Photographer, Pete Souza, has had unprecedented access to the President, and even further back to when Obama was sworn in as Senator. Working for the Chicago Tribune in 2004, Souza was assigned on a project to document the then U.S. Senator in his first year. In January 2009, Souza photographed Obama’s official Presidential portrait, taken with a digital camera for the first time in history.



Canon 5D Mark III, EF 24-70mm | 1/160th, f/2.8, ISO1600 at 63mm

Now, after spending the last 8 years next to the President, documenting important meetings, events and the every day life of the Commander in Chief, Souza is finishing up his last few months in the White House with the Obama administration. Having given us nearly two million images, Popular Science looked into Souza’s camera bag and gave us a peek of what gear Souza uses to document history.

It’s surprisingly lean for someone who’s responsible to record history through images seen by millions of people, and will be seen by many in years to come, but it’s a very capable kit suitable for the countless variety of situations Souza finds himself in.

Canon 5D Mark III, EF24-70mm | 1/250, ISO 200, f14 at 24mm

Canon 5D Mark III, EF24-70mm | 1/250, ISO 200, f14 at 24mm

2 Canon 5D Mark III‘s


A favorite among wedding photographers, travel photographers, photojournalists, and even National Geographic photographers, the Canon 5D Mark III is a great choice for many photographers for its versatility in a variety of conditions. It’s no wonder Souza makes this his choice camera.

*The 5D MK III is on sale today for $200 off list price. Get it here.

Canon 135mm f/2.0 L

With gorgeous bokeh and sharp, crisp images, the 135mm f/2 is a nice lens in the short to medium telephoto range, ideal for portraits, indoor action shots, White House happenings.

Canon 5D Mark III, EF16-35mm f/2.8L II | 1/200, ISO1600, f/4.5 at 21mm

Canon 5D Mark III, EF16-35mm f/2.8L II | 1/200, ISO1600, f/4.5 at 21mm

Canon 35mm f/1.4 L

One of the most popular focal lengths and the closest to what the human eye sees, the 35mm is small, compact and versatile, giving the viewer a realistic vantage point of the scene and close ups of the President at work.

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L II

This focal length is the workhorse in practically every photographer’s bag. The focal lengths are perfect for a variety of photography genres and covers a nice range. According to PetaPixel who went through the White House Flickr Exif data, this is the lens Souza uses most often.

Fujifilm X100T and More (Currently on sale)


Souza also uses the Fuji X100T “in his downtime,” has used the Sony a7R II for a short period of time and has been known to occasionally shoot with his iPhone. Other less used lenses include a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 (used in the feature image at the top of this article), Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II, Canon 24mm f/1.4L II, Canon 50mm f/1.2L and an 85mm f/1.2L.

*The Fuji X100T is $200 off right now, but deal ending soon. Get it here.

See more images from Souza on the White House Flickr photostream here and his personal website here.

[Via PopSci/PetaPixel]

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Leah Hewitt

    I’ve always been fascinated by white house photography. Nice to see the layers peeled back a bit.

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  2. Dave Lyons

    if you read the original article (and I remember correctly) the only reason he chose that gear was because it had the quietest shutter. Still strange though that he just doesn’t use his sony or fuji to get a quieter shutter since its not like the pictures are “great” by any means, not that they need to be.. just an observation

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  3. Alexander Wong

    Pete does the great job! EOS 5D III is a great DSLR camera but I think it’s time to be updated now.

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  4. Paul Wynn

    Thank you for the peek inside Pete’s camera bag. Surprised that a 50mm prime did not make it, but guess the 35mm makes more sense for interiors.

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