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. πŸ™‚


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!

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COMMENTS

[…] all of them during the holidays. You can find my answers to questions about photography equipment HERE. Today I’ll answer questions about […]

Wow you have some camera bodies. Great to have backup equipment.

You all post are too good… i always like to read your articles/tips/advice….
Your Camera equipment advice is really helpful for New York Photographers

You all post are too good… i always like to read your articles/tips/advice….
Your Camera equipment advice is really helpful for New York Photographers

My two cents here. To see if your sensor needs cleaning, Set it to high aperture setting (f16 or higher), and take a way overexposed long exposure of a white surface. I move the camera around while I do this to ensure that nothing outside the camera is in focus. Two or three images like this can be helpful, just in case. Then take the resulting all white image to your editing software, turn the contrast way up and look for anything not white. Anything in the image can’t be from outside the camera, so it has to be a spot on your lens or sensor.

My two cents here. To see if your sensor needs cleaning, Set it to high aperture setting (f16 or higher), and take a way overexposed long exposure of a white surface. I move the camera around while I do this to ensure that nothing outside the camera is in focus. Two or three images like this can be helpful, just in case. Then take the resulting all white image to your editing software, turn the contrast way up and look for anything not white. Anything in the image can’t be from outside the camera, so it has to be a spot on your lens or sensor.

wow you could open a store with all that equipment! haha

you are awesome! I’m excited to learn more!

I have a Canon SD 110 elph and it’s and awesome little pocket camera and it’s under 200. The lag time is not bad at all – that was one of the reasons I bought my dSLR. Anyway, I hear Canon pointnshoots are the best when it comes to that. I’m happy!

amy

thanks for the q&a!! i think it’s awesome that you’re doing this!

i have a couple…

do you have any sort of timeline that you like to keep throughout the day?

what is your take on first looks? yay, nay? a must?

how many photos do you normally show to a couple? i know it can depend upon the wedding, but just an average?

thanks in advance!!

thanks for the q&a!! i think it’s awesome that you’re doing this!

i have a couple…

do you have any sort of timeline that you like to keep throughout the day?

what is your take on first looks? yay, nay? a must?

how many photos do you normally show to a couple? i know it can depend upon the wedding, but just an average?

thanks in advance!!

VisibleDust is brilliant for cleaning sensors. Get the loupe, which comes with lighting that gets right into the sensor space so you can see if you’ve got specks. If they are big enough to pick up with an Arctic Butterfly, so much the better, but I often use the solution with the wipe. Two swipes and let it dry and the sensor is back to kicking ass.

The 40D has a self-cleaning sensor too, but I nonetheless check with a loupe anyway.

Hey Charlotte, thanks for the great summary… I like the Shootsac idea… if I can find a vendor in the LA/OKC/KCMO area over Christmas/NY when I’m there, so much the better…

I hear ya on the natural light. I hate flash, probably because I’m useless at shooting with it, and because often it looks totally unnatural.

Time to upgrade my camera to the 5DMkII or 7D then… I’ve been shooting with the 20D/40D for nearly 5 years because those bodies just work, work, work…

thanks again πŸ™‚ and that link is great! im finding so many photographers!

thanks again πŸ™‚ and that link is great! im finding so many photographers!

Haha! I like you! The cleaning is funny to me, I’m surprised but happy about it too.

I too haven’t gotten into anything manual yet. I’ll looking to buy this mans dvd guide on how to do it, but that will be when I have time to do it too. (and I don’t even have finals I’m just unpacking, cleaning, and organizing house here.)

I post a lot of picture on my camera, so if you want, I hope that you don’t mind I’ll add you. I’d love to see yours too, and that way we can learn together?

ROFL. I love how you leave the tripod things on the bottom of a few of them. I do that too.

Haha! I like you! The cleaning is funny to me, I’m surprised but happy about it too.

I too haven’t gotten into anything manual yet. I’ll looking to buy this mans dvd guide on how to do it, but that will be when I have time to do it too. (and I don’t even have finals I’m just unpacking, cleaning, and organizing house here.)

I post a lot of picture on my camera, so if you want, I hope that you don’t mind I’ll add you. I’d love to see yours too, and that way we can learn together?

Hi, I’ve been watching your work for quite some time and I really admire all the beautiful things you’ve been able to capture. I was wondering what kind of post-processing (if any) you do, and if so, what programs do you use? And what’s your general method for post-processing (do you edit colors first, sharpen last, etc.)? Thanks!

Hi, I’ve been watching your work for quite some time and I really admire all the beautiful things you’ve been able to capture. I was wondering what kind of post-processing (if any) you do, and if so, what programs do you use? And what’s your general method for post-processing (do you edit colors first, sharpen last, etc.)? Thanks!

Thanks for all the info! I always like reading your posts. πŸ™‚

You’re welcome! Here are my answers:

1. To clean my sensor, I use the Rocket blower that I linked to in my post. I also use it to clean off my lenses, as well as a lens cleaning cloth to wipe away smudges.

2. It’s hard for me to recommend a lens to you, because lens choice depends on shooting style. When you’ve shot enough photographs to know your own style, it will probably be clear to you what you’ll need. Maybe you’ll want a larger aperture, or longer focal length — you’ll know it when you need it.

3. Try http://www.photographik.org/

πŸ™‚

I’m with you on not being a gear-head, Charlotte. One wedding someone asked me how many megapixels my cameras were and I didn’t know! Lol! By the way, your tripod looks like you got it at an army surplus store. πŸ˜‰

hey! yes i just got it in the mail today and i love love love it! i was reading all these online reviews about it saying how in raw the picture quality is on par if not better than the d40 professional, not that i need to be anywhere near that level ;p

from the few pictures ive taken today (its finals time for me πŸ™ ugh stressful and time consuming) the camera is absolutely amazing. ive only really used it on auto so far (looving the fact it has live view, i thought i would have to give that up) but its like its been able to understand what i wanted the picture to do without me telling it. i cant imagine that if i knew how to get in there and actually manually adjust things, it would turn out even better. im pretty excited to learn!! oh and so random but does the cleaning thing kind of freak you out? when i turn off the camera and cleaning flashes across the screen im like what? huh? before i remember what its doing. i wish everything would clean itself. could you imagine never having to dust or vacuum ever again?

hey! yes i just got it in the mail today and i love love love it! i was reading all these online reviews about it saying how in raw the picture quality is on par if not better than the d40 professional, not that i need to be anywhere near that level ;p

from the few pictures ive taken today (its finals time for me πŸ™ ugh stressful and time consuming) the camera is absolutely amazing. ive only really used it on auto so far (looving the fact it has live view, i thought i would have to give that up) but its like its been able to understand what i wanted the picture to do without me telling it. i cant imagine that if i knew how to get in there and actually manually adjust things, it would turn out even better. im pretty excited to learn!! oh and so random but does the cleaning thing kind of freak you out? when i turn off the camera and cleaning flashes across the screen im like what? huh? before i remember what its doing. i wish everything would clean itself. could you imagine never having to dust or vacuum ever again?

Thanks Charlotte! Very nice of you to share your information! πŸ™‚
Steve

Heya. While I can’t help you on the lens question (I’m still on that basic lens) I just wanted to say that I purchased a Rebel XSI and I wanted to tell you that I absolutely love it. It’s so good that even on automatic the pictures are stunning in quality and adjustments the camera makes. And on manual modes you can learn so much, so yes, looove it! You can’t go wrong with it as a first Digital SLR

thank you so much for answering my question! i do have a few more if you don’t mind πŸ˜€

1. i saw some other people asked about you cleaning your camera. my camera also has that self cleaning sensor thing you mentioned that cleans when you turn it off, but is that enough? are there other things i should be doing to keep it clean? this goes for the lenses as well.

2. which brings me to my second question. i have 1 lens for my camera, the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens. this is a very basic lens, and im wondering what type of lens you feel is the natural progression up from that. everyone’s telling me im going to grow out of that lens so fast, but i dont know what i should then be growing into, if that makes sense.

3. what is a good website to find quality photographers in specific areas around the country? i want to get some photos done (i live in pa or obviously id contact you) and im wondering if there is a place where i can find reputable photographers. i really love your style of photography and would be interested in something like that. i google and it just turns up a lot of overpriced photographers that are pretty subpar

Heya. While I can’t help you on the lens question (I’m still on that basic lens) I just wanted to say that I purchased a Rebel XSI and I wanted to tell you that I absolutely love it. It’s so good that even on automatic the pictures are stunning in quality and adjustments the camera makes. And on manual modes you can learn so much, so yes, looove it! You can’t go wrong with it as a first Digital SLR

thank you so much for answering my question! i do have a few more if you don’t mind πŸ˜€

1. i saw some other people asked about you cleaning your camera. my camera also has that self cleaning sensor thing you mentioned that cleans when you turn it off, but is that enough? are there other things i should be doing to keep it clean? this goes for the lenses as well.

2. which brings me to my second question. i have 1 lens for my camera, the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens. this is a very basic lens, and im wondering what type of lens you feel is the natural progression up from that. everyone’s telling me im going to grow out of that lens so fast, but i dont know what i should then be growing into, if that makes sense.

3. what is a good website to find quality photographers in specific areas around the country? i want to get some photos done (i live in pa or obviously id contact you) and im wondering if there is a place where i can find reputable photographers. i really love your style of photography and would be interested in something like that. i google and it just turns up a lot of overpriced photographers that are pretty subpar

Charlotte Geary

CHARLOTTE GEARY

I photograph fascinating people, and I teach other people how to do it, too.

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