Earlier today I invited everyone to ask me questions about anything that I might be able to help with. I got some great requests! I’ll be answering everyone’s questions soon, in a series of posts. Since the largest number of questions related to equipment, I’ll start with that topic. Ironically, it’s probably the topic I know least about! I know a lot about the gear that I use myself, but not much about any of the other products out there. I’ll help as best as I can. 🙂
Sarahrah asked about my favorite, most versatile equipment.
Camera bodies: I shoot with Canon 5D cameras. My favorite camera is the Canon 5DMkII, which works beautifully at high ISO. I’m often faced with low-light situations, such as dark churches or sunset portraits.
Lenses: I shoot with many lenses; I constantly change lenses throughout each shoot. My lenses are all Canon, ranging in focal length from 15mm-200mm. My favorite lens is the Canon 135mm f2L, and the Canon 16-35mm f2L is in second place. I love to shoot wide angle and telephoto.
My favorite lenses actually aren’t my most versatile. My versatile lens is the 24-70mm f2.8L, which offers a safe, multi-purpose range of focal lengths and a fast enough aperture for most situations. I use this lens often for group portraits, wedding processions, and other situations where I need a safe shot. I don’t like to use it for situations where I want to be creative, because I prefer to use more extreme focal lengths (either wide or long) whenever I can.
Holly Coffel is looking for a point-and-shoot camera under $200 that doesn’t have much of a shutter lag between the time she pushes the button and it actually takes the picture.
I feel your pain, Holly! I get so frustrated with point-and-shoots for this very reason. They are great for posed pictures or landscapes, but really tough for moving objects. Children are especially tough to capture when there’s shutter lag.I use a Canon G10 as my purse camera, but it’s an expensive option. I’m not personally familiar with other cameras, but I found a site that compares cameras’ shutter lags: http://www.cameras.co.uk/html/shutter-lag-comparisons.cfm
Oh_so_luscious wants opinions on the Canon Rebel XSI.
Unfortunately I haven’t tried this camera myself, but I think the Canon Rebel series is a great choice for people looking for a more affordable SRL. My first SLR was a Rebel (a film one back in 1990), and it was a great way for me to learn the different manual features gradually. I highly recommend that Rebel owners experiment with shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, rather than keeping it in fully automatic mode.For most people, the Rebel is plenty sufficient. As a professional, I wouldn’t use one. I prefer the vibrant, low-noise sensor of more professional cameras, such as the 50D or the 5D. Image quality is superior with those cameras.
It’s important to note, though, that the lens has a huge impact on the quality of a photograph. When in doubt, invest your money in the best lenses you can afford.
I_za asked about the lighting systems I use, and whether I use additional light only when there’s not enough natural light available.
I use additional light sources not when there isn’t *enough* available light, but when I don’t like the *quality* of the available light. I pay constant attention to the quality of the light around me, whether it’s sunlight or room lights. I examine the direction of the light, the intensity of the shadows, the color temperature, and the general aesthetics of the light. If I like what I see, I shoot without any flash or other additional light sources.I’d estimate that 90% of my family/engagement portraits are shot with natural light only. At weddings, the conditions vary so much that I can’t really estimate — maybe 40% natural light on average.
If I choose to add light to a scene, I have a variety of techniques that I use, depending on the situation. I often bounce flash off walls (to the side) or the ceiling (behind me at an angle). I use off-camera flashes in rooms where there are no good surfaces for bouncing. I occasionally use direct fill flash outdoors, dialed down in intensity and balanced with the ambient light so that there is no deer-in-the-headlights flash look. I also love reflectors and video lights on occasion.
In summary, I’m not a purist of any lighting technique. I consider it my job as a professional to be able to handle any situation and use the light that is most appropriate at the time.
I_za asked if I always have an assistant to help with lighting.
I usually bring an assistant and/or second shooter to weddings, but I shoot almost all my portrait sessions solo. At weddings, my assistant assembles off-camera lighting and holds reflectors or video lights, among other duties. During portrait sessions, I have much more control over the location and timing of each shoot, so I don’t usually need lighting assistance. I choose locations and compositions that have nice natural light.
I_za asked how I carry my equipment while shooting.
I use a Shootsac lens bag while shooting. It stores three lenses, as well as my CF cards, batteries, car keys, business cards, and lip gloss. I keep my backup equipment locked in my car trunk. I_za, if you can’t buy a Shootsac where you’re from, you should check into Boda bags and see if you can order those. Some of my colleagues use the Boda and love it.
Thekerriproject is worried about chromatic aberration (purple fringe) in her pictures, and how to reduce it.
I sympathize, Kerri! I get this problem occasionally, too, because I like to shoot with my lens wide open. The problem is that the different colors aren’t focusing on the same plane, so if you have a smaller aperture and more depth of field, the colors will all focus better.I reduce it in Lightroom, using the chromatic aberration sliders. It doesn’t always work as well as I’d like, so I’ve been known to open JPEGs in Photoshop and edit each pixel carefully. Ugh.
Inthespaces wants video lights for the holidays, and asks what I use.
Great present choice! I use Sunpak video lights that I got from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/SunPak-55-RL-Sunpak-Video-Light/dp/B000816CH6. Buy two of them if you can.
Inthespaces also asked for a recommendation for a shutter release for the Canon 30D.
Unfortunately I don’t have any experience with that, sorry! Does anyone reading this have a recommendation?
Desert_sparrow asked whether I clean my own sensor.
Before every shoot, I clean my sensors manually with a Rocket blower. Once a year, I send my cameras to Canon to be professionally cleaned. My Canon 5DMkII has a self-cleaning sensor that cleans itself whenever I turn off the camera, so that is a great help.
I hope this has been helpful! I will respond to everyone as soon as I can. Please don’t hesitate to ask more questions if you’d like!