Photography Tips: Camera Gear & Lenses

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As a professional photographer one of the questions I am most often asked is what type of camera to buy. So I was excited to have the opportunity to address this common question with the Holl & Lane community. I have been a professional photographer for six years, but it wasn’t until later in life, (and walking past a digital photography school for a year), that I went for it and pursued one of my passions. I started my career in the sports/fitness industry, with Reebok being one of my biggest clients, but after becoming a mom I knew my unique style of photography would be a new voice in the family and children photography world.

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One thing you should also know about me is that I am a Canon shooter and have been shooting with Canon from the start of my professional career. I am not paid or sponsored by Canon or any of the companies I recommend in this post. There are several great camera manufacturers, including Nikon and Sony offering similar products and my below recommendations are just that, recommendations. I also advocate testing out cameras before you buy. It’s a good idea to see which brand/model feels good in your hand. A great way to test cameras and lenses is through online professional rental companies. I have used www.borrowlenses.com and www.lensrental.com several times and consider them both to be top-notch photography rental services.

GEAR

The first step in your creative adventure is gear. We all enjoy our camera phones for their convenience, cool filters and compact size, but there is just something about a pro DSLR camera that brings images to another amazing level.

Camera Selection

Things to think about when purchasing your first high quality camera:

What is your focus?What subject will you be photographing? (ex: children/family, food, landscape etc.)Is your subject fast moving or still life?Will you need lenses to support fast moving objects or not?Will you be traveling with the camera or keeping it close to home base?

If you have ever read camera specs, they can be confusing so my goal is to simply break it down to the basics you should know. One note of caution when purchasing cameras; stick with my recommended companies, major chains, or your local camera shop as there are a lot of grey market and counterfeits out there. Remember, if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Entry Level DSLR

The entry level DSLR’s are not lacking in performance, which is why it’s a great time to jump into the pro camera community. Technology today has created some high quality and cost effective choices for consumers. I consider the Canon Rebel series a perfect starting point for DSLR cameras. The Rebel Series will range in cost from $450 - $1200. The higher end models have higher megapixels, better low light performance and the Wi-Fi feature. The Wi-Fi feature is relatively new to DSLR market and it allows you to download images wireless, which many individuals find convenient for updating social media accounts quickly.

Mid Level DSLR (Pro Level)

There are a number of choices to consider in the mid-level range. If you currently own an older entry-level camera and are looking to upgrade then this is a great place considering the jump in technology. These models contain better low light performance and image quality than the entry level lines and will cost between $1000-$1800 typically for the camera body only.

High Level DSLR (Pro Level)

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The Canon high end line of cameras consists of the 1DX and the 5D models. These camera models were designed for specific photographers in mind. The Canon 1D X is designed for the sports photographer. This model can handle low light conditions well and shoot up to 12 frames per second, which is ideal for photographing fast moving subjects. At approximately $4,600, this camera is an investment. The 5D series is Canon’s flagship line designed with portrait, landscape and media photographers in mind. Canon recently released the 5DS and the 5DSR. They come in around the $3400-$3600 range.

Lens Selection

Camera lenses are either described as zoom or prime. A zoom lens is exactly what the name suggests; you can turn the ring on the lens to zoom in and out. A prime lens has a set focal distance. I’m often asked why someone would buy a prime since zoom lenses have so much more range. While that is true, prime lenses have their own advantages. Because they often have wider apertures, they can handle low light situations better. The wider aperture also helps with a shallow depth of field, which helps to achieve that dreamy background you often see in photos, which is referred to as “bokeh”. Aperture is the opening of the lens through which light passes but we will discuss aperture and how to use it in photography in November.

The main point I want to get across is when selecting lenses consider your subject matter. I’m typically photographing moving subjects, like children, so I prefer zoom lenses that have an aperture of at least 2.8 and can cover a decent focal range. Even with that, I have several prime lenses that I often use for portrait and detail work. Many entry-level SLR purchases will come with a “kit” lens that will start you off.

As you gain more experience and want to play with your photography skills that is when you start adding more lenses to your kit. Photography gear is an investment and lenses can add up fast, so I recommend understanding your gear, chose a topic of interest and add lenses as needed.

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Lens Purchase Tip

Invest in good quality lens filters. Filters are glass covers that screw onto the front of your lenses. If you are purchasing a lens for over $1000 you want to protect it. It’s easier to buy a new filter than a new lens.

In my bag

As a family and children photographer I have an extensive gear kit based on the type of photo shoot. For this post I wanted to show you my basic go-to kit.

Camera: Canon 5D Mark iii with battery grip Lenses: (Canon) 24-70 f/2.8L II, 70-200 f2.8L IS II, 100 f/2.8L Macro IS Flash: Canon 580 EXII with PocketWizard Flex TT5 and Mini TT1 Accessory: 6in1 reflectors, flexible gray card

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I realize that we covered quite a bit with this short post. My goal was to give a very broad overview of some of the gear I use and recommend without getting tech heavy in the descriptions. If you have any specific questions, leave a comment and I will do my best to answer.

Photography is not only a creative adventure but it comes with a major financial investment. So consider some of the great resources available, like the camera rental options to test the waters before deciding on which camera and lens is best for you. I always tell people who are new to DSLR’s to “Just keep shooting”. You will only improve by practicing your craft. Have fun!