Any photographer with a reasonable amount of experience will almost always tell you the gear doesn’t matter, and it’s true. Mostly: artistic vision, seeing the shot, creative talent are all more important than the exact kit you use. Sure if you’re a sports shooter, you really do need a fast telephoto, and a fast body. Mostly though, better gear makes things easier, technically “better” (sharper, less noisy perhaps and so on, and in some cases – possible). I’m not about to tell you you can get any shot you like with your shiny new auto-only compact. Of course, for some creative shots, especially in the studio, you do often need something, to do a specific job, such as continuous lights, fast flash, sound or light triggers, gobos etc. A lot of this you can make, or improvise.
There’s an old adage in Photography circles that better cameras will not improve your photos and you should invest in lenses instead. This is rubbish. It may have been true in the days of film, however if I look at images I shot using the same lens, but with a 5 year old body and sensor, there’s a world of difference in the technical quality. The camera makes a much bigger difference to your shots than the lens. You can put the newest, best ever lens on an old digital camera, but it will be blown into the weeds by an old kit lens on a new camera with the latest sensor. Invest in your sensor. Of course, better lighting trumps both of those – so invest in your lights first, then camera and then lenses.
That said, here’s what I’m currently using – it’s just a list of some gear and can give you an idea of what’s involved, however for each thing I use, there are probably ten to a hundred alternatives that will work just as well :-
- D5200 – mainly for BTS video
- SJCAM SJ4000 action cam (wide BTS video)
- iPhone 6 (slow motion)
- Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8
- Nikon 18-35mm
- Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8
- Nikon 70-300 f/4.5-f/5.6 VR
- Nikon 28-300mm VR
- Nikon 20mm AIS f/2.8
- Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF/D
- Nikon 85mm f/1.8 AF/D
- Nikon 180mm f/2.8 AF/D
- Nikon 70-200mm f/4 VR
- Sigma 105mm f/2.8 macro
- Zeiss Flektogon 50mm f/4 (Pentacon 6 med. format lens on tilt adapter)
- Samyang 800mm f/8 mirror
- 4 x Nikon SB-900
- 4 x Yongnuo 460-II
- 1 x Yongnuo YN-565EX
- Yongnuo YN622N receivers and YN622N-TX flash controller
- Induro CLT303 tripod with BHL3S superheavy duty, low profile ball head
- Kirk ARCA L-bracket
- Dual Axis macro rail
- Giottos travel tripod with Benro ball head.
- Lowe-Pro Nature trekker AW
- Lowe-Pro Sling-shot 200 AW
- Lowe-Pro Vertex 400 AW
- Lowe-Pro Flip-side 400 AW
- Nikon shoulder bag for filters.
- Fold Dry-bags – XXXL
- Lee 100mm filter pouch – with belt loop
- Lee 150mm holder (SW-150) for 14-24mm lens only
- 150mm 0.9 ND hard grad
- 150mm 0.6 ND hard grad
- Lee 100mm holder
- 0.3, 0.6, 0.9 ND hard grads
- 0.6 ND soft grad
- 0.9 ND
- 3.0 (10 stop “big stopper”) ND
- 1.8 (6 stop “little stopper”) ND
- B&W 105mm Circular Polariser
Studio equipment (ie mine – I also rent studio time however I almost always take my own lights – the Lencarta SF600’s are much faster than most regular studio flashes).
- 3 x Lencarta SuperFast 600’s
- 1 x Lencarta Safari II
- 3 x 650Watt tungsten theatre lights with Fresnel lens, barn doors and in-line dimmers. They produce a nice focused beam for 1930’s Hollywood style lighting or any shot that needs a controllable continuous light source.
- Godox LP-800 portable mains power.
- 3 x Viewfinder Coreflash D300 mono-blocks – 300 joule lights – very slow lights, useful for tail sync outside
- 2 x 1.2m Octaboxes +grids
- 2 x strip boxes + grids
- 45cm beauty dish with grid
- Godox collapsible beauty dish – white.
- 7ft shoot-through umbrella
- 7ft silver reflector umbrella
- More grids for standard reflectors etc
- Snoots, barn doors, gels – usual studio stuff
- Grey vinyl background (can be made white, or black)
- 2 x 900watt fog machine
- Lencarta WaveSync triggers
- Heavy duty boom stand
- Heavyweight light stands
- Lightweight stands for speed-lights with boom arms and reflector holders
- Floor stand for getting the lights down low
- Shooting tables
- 2 x Portable speed-light softboxes – 60cm and 80cm
- Lumiquest LTP softbox for speedlights
- Small (7″) collapsible softbox for speedlights
- Various snoots, flags, cards and grids for speed-lights
- Justin clamps
- Pole clamps
- C-74 clamps (reversed wooden clothes pegs! – thanks Mike Kubeisy)
- Sekonic L-308S light meter
- Antique light bulbs/holders/cords
- Travor MTL-900 light stick (looks like an IceLight but is a 5th of the price and twice as bright).
- Lots of LED based homebrew and commercial light sticks
- Clarke 300CFM floor dryer (nice steady volume of air for blowing hair, dresses etc)
- Direct attached SATA-300 disks – 8TB Western Digital Red’s
- Backup – more 8TB SATA disks loaded into a desktop USB3 holder (also pending replacement)
- Backup software – Robocopy
- No NAS or Internet backup – it’s all too slow, and risky. I keep 1 of the 8TB disks off-site at all times and rotate them.
- Adobe Lightroom CC
- Adobe Photoshop CC
- Nik (Google) “Efex” suite
- Topaz clarity
- Corel Particle-Shop
- CombineZP focus stacker
- Optimum-CS pro iPhone app (calculates focus point for landscape shots)
- Reikan FocalPro AF calibration
- Triggertrap iPhone trigger app
- Google Earth
- SunSeeker iOS app for calculating sun angles.
- Tides Planner iOS app for calculating tides.
- Sandisk Ultra 8GB & 4GB CF cards
- Sandisk Extreme Pro 32GB SD cards
- BOSCH PL-25 laser rangefinder
- Lens skirt (eliminates reflections when shooting through windows)
- Yongnuo radio trigger for camera
- Various cabled remote triggers
- Gaffer tape
- Spyder-3 calibration for monitors and iPads.
- Eye-Fi card for transmitting basic jpegs to PC for display on studio big screen
- Extension tubes for macro work with connection pass-through
- Diopter adjusters (magnifying lenses) for macro work