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Author Topic: Essential Gear for a Pro Photographer?  (Read 10922 times)

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« on: September 30, 2010, 09:10 »
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I realize this is a broad question, and it will depend in part on the type of photography you're specializing in. With that said, let's say you decide you want to make a full-time living as a pro photographer. What would be some of the first items you would purchase - your Top 10 pieces of essential gear that could be used in different shooting situations, including stock photography?


« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2010, 09:23 »
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... let's say you decide you want to make a full-time living as a pro photographer. What would be some of the first items you would purchase ...

Camera. Is there a prize?

« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2010, 09:27 »
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Lens.

rubyroo

« Reply #3 on: September 30, 2010, 09:30 »
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Camera. Is there a prize?

 :D :D :D

Camera, lights, action... errr I mean softbox/brollies, reflectors, tripod, remote triggers/receivers, wellie boots, waterproof jacket, sun hat,
and the most critical bit.... a good eye!  (Just one will do).

I'm sure I've forgotten something....

« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2010, 09:39 »
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A camera & a lens...no really??  :o  Care to elaborate?

« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2010, 09:45 »
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A camera & a lens...no really??  :o  Care to elaborate?

A used Rebel 300D.  I've got one.  It's yours for $500.

« Reply #6 on: September 30, 2010, 09:50 »
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rashguard, bugspray, sunscreen, lunch, rum.  :)

« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2010, 10:26 »
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I was just thinking about doing a blog post on this.

A reflector, a color calibration tool, tripod, release cable perhaps...  All cheap and useful things

« Reply #8 on: September 30, 2010, 11:12 »
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Thanks for your replies. My reason for asking - I have a bunch of money to blow...about $1,300. I have a nice long list of stuff I'd like to purchase. I have a Nikon D80, Nikkor 18-200mm lens, Nikkor 50mm/1.8 lens, Nikon SB-600 flash, Gary Fong diffuser, Canon monopod, camera bag and a cheap-o tripod. Also Photoshop CS4, Mac G5 and a Lacie external hard drive. So here's my wish list, and I can't afford all of it:

Manfrotto carbon-fiber tripod
Manfrotto ballhead
A better monopod + accessories (a la Yuri-style)
5-in-1 Reflector (Lastolite probably)
Reflector stand
Handheld 33" diffuser
Adobe Lightroom software
Sekonic light meter
More Compact Flash cards
Pocketwizard II (x2)
Alien Bee 800s
Chimera large softbox
Polarizing & Gradient filters

As much as I'd like to make a f/t living from stock, I realize I'll probably have to do that on the side for awhile, start assisting first (I work in marketing, not photography), & get more experience under my belt before pursuing photography as a freelancer. So I want to spend my $1,300 wisely. I'm thinking the tripod/ballhead, reflectors and Lightroom will all be worthwhile purchases that can be used no matter the specialty.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2010, 11:14 by garrinh »

rubyroo

« Reply #9 on: September 30, 2010, 11:17 »
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Lightroom and Photoshop... those are things I forgot to add (I was thinking more 'in the field', as it were).

Yes, Lightroom is great.  Heartily recommended  :)

« Reply #10 on: September 30, 2010, 11:32 »
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You're doing it wrong IMHO. You don't need to approach photography as if it were a 'recipe' in which you need to assemble all the ingredients before you can make a start.

I've been earning a living for 4 years from this and I haven't got half the stuff on your list. As it happens half the stuff I do have, lenses in particular, I almost never use. That's because I've worked out my own area in which to specialise and so I buy gear/props specifically for that. Your own specialist area will develop according to your own interests, the market you intend to serve and what you can do economically better than most others.

If you want to earn a living from photography the first lesson you need to learn is not to buy stuff unless you know you have a need for it and that, if you do buy it, it will bring in more money than it cost within a reasonable time-scale. That's just basic business.

Keep as much of your $1300 in your back-bin as you can. There will come a time when you really do need something.

« Reply #11 on: September 30, 2010, 11:34 »
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It's NOT the equipment !!!  It's how U use it !!!!!!  ;)

LR is essential !!  and PS too, of course ;)

« Reply #12 on: September 30, 2010, 11:36 »
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LR is essential !!

Not to me it's not __ I don't even know what it looks like.

traveler1116

« Reply #13 on: September 30, 2010, 11:38 »
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A camera & a lens...no really??  :o  Care to elaborate?

A used Rebel 300D.  I've got one.  It's yours for $500.

He better wait in line I'm getting that little piece of history.  The camera that started it all.

« Reply #14 on: September 30, 2010, 11:40 »
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LR is essential !!

Not to me it's not __ I don't even know what it looks like.

Then u should give it  a look ;)  ur missing out !!!!!!!  :)

helix7

« Reply #15 on: September 30, 2010, 11:48 »
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It's NOT the equipment !!!  It's how U use it !!!!!!  ;)

LR is essential !!  and PS too, of course ;)

I'm sorry... I just have to point out that you're saying equipment is non-essential, and then saying that a piece of software is essential. Kinda funny.

:)

« Reply #16 on: September 30, 2010, 12:24 »
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What style of shooting?  Location?  Studio?

If you are working indoors you can't go wrong with AB's.  But then you need light stands and modifiers.  (and you will need to order an additional cable to hook into your new PocketWizard)

The SB600 has no synch for PocketWizards, so you either need a different speedlight, or to add something like a safesynch that the flash can sit in and plug the PW into that.   Or take PW's off your list and spend the $400 on a SB900 (I think a 700 was announced this week?).  You can work in TTL, however you will likely want PW's down the road as TTL is limiting in many ways.

I use my light meter all the time.  When I'm working.  i.e. no time to chimp when I have a lineup of kids waiting for their soccer photo.  When I am shooting for pleasure I find myself chimping a lot.

I rarely use a tripod, monopod myself - but I have them, and I do use them when required.  Smart initial investment, that will last throughout several new setups. 

« Reply #17 on: September 30, 2010, 12:27 »
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It's NOT the equipment !!!  It's how U use it !!!!!!  ;)

LR is essential !!  and PS too, of course ;)

I'm sorry... I just have to point out that you're saying equipment is non-essential, and then saying that a piece of software is essential. Kinda funny.

:)

Depends if u count post-processing as picture taking equipment !!??  I don't ! ;)


It won't help u take a good pic !  but it can help u make a sale from it !!  ;)  

Figured it yet !!???
« Last Edit: September 30, 2010, 12:29 by Stu49 »

« Reply #18 on: September 30, 2010, 13:11 »
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@Stu49 -- of course it's not the equipment. But there are those in the profession (ie: Scott Kelby and certain top-selling stock photographers) who consider things like tripods and light meters essential pieces of pro photography gear. And Lightroom came up over and over again in the newly released book, "Taking Stock" (excellent by the way, by Rob Sylvan, istock inspector). I would add that if "it's not the equipment", then by that logic you could make a f/t living as a photographer with a point-and-shoot. No? I agree that it's the photographer mostly, but I think the gear/software is certainly a significant factor.

@PixArt -- appreciate the suggestion. Didn't realize that about the SB-600...I do need to learn how to use it better  :P As of now, I'm thinking it would be easier to get started doing location work than studio work...no studio rent, can rely more on natural light, etc. Style of shooting - haven't figured that out yet. I realize this would influence what to buy, but, I'm looking for the most essential equipment - gear and software that can be used no matter the specialty.

@gostwyck - thanks for your input, excellent advice. I have a full-time job that pays a decent wage, although saving is something I'm not very good at! Maybe it's time to learn...How have you been earning a living as a photographer out of curiosity?

 
« Last Edit: September 30, 2010, 13:58 by garrinh »

« Reply #19 on: September 30, 2010, 14:48 »
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Re Location work - I will talk about shooting outdoors...

If you plan for a time of day when the sun is not high in the sky, you can use the sun as your back/hair/rim light.  Add some fill in the front. 

Things I consistently use for outdoor shoots
- 1-4 speedlights  (Main, fill and sometimes on hair and background) 
- Light meter if working with clients
- Pocketwizards
- Lightweight portable light stands (I really like the Nikon portable's, they might look pricey at first glance but each stand comes with an umbrella, the hot shoe adaptor that tilts and swivels and a carrying bag.)
- small softboxes designed for strobes, attach with velcro

Things I use frequently for outdoor shoots
- circular polarizer
- ND filter or graduated ND filtre

Things I rarely use outdoors - umbrellas and reflectors.  Why?  Wind.  Unless you use heavy stands, (or sandbags) you will need an assistant to hold the stands. 

Reflectors are cheap and are really a fabulous tool - but again, hard to work with outside.  Aside from the obvious, you can remove the outer shell on most of the reflectors and the inner white layer is transluscent and you can use it like a scrim.  If you are shooting under harsh light - or where a tree mottles the light pattern, you can have an assistant hold the "scrim" to diffuse/even the light.  I've also used this inner layer as a softbox in a pinch (without the box!).

Problems shooting outdoors are:
- Can't control the weather (light)
- White balance can change frequently
- Wind gusts can wreck hair and knock over equipment
- One nasty little mosquito can almost wreck a great shot
- Sunlight is often too bright to open wide without help of a filter.
- If you are using Nikon TTL metering system with strobes, bright sun is more powerful than the sensor, and you can expect to miss many fires of the strobes

Light meter - I should mention that if you are purchasing a Seconic you will need to purchase an additional module to trigger the PocketWizards. 

« Reply #20 on: September 30, 2010, 15:37 »
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At least one eye and a dslr with some sort of a lens. Maybe even an iphone is enough if you know how to use it:
http://fstoppers.com/iphone/

« Reply #21 on: September 30, 2010, 15:41 »
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A couple of peli cases. Virtually indestructible, and great to stand on. Plus, it holds and protects stuff.

« Reply #22 on: September 30, 2010, 16:03 »
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Those of us that have been fortunate enough to meet and work with some of our fellow microstock photographers are always struck by the same observation __ "they work completely differently to me".

It really is quite weird how, although we're all basically doing the same thing with access to similar equipment, we have independently developed our own entirely unique work-flows. When we started doing microstock there weren't any books or training courses. As a result we've self-taught ourselves through trial and error and seeing what works with whatever we had available or could afford at the time (when we were earning very little from it).

You can't buy an off-the-shelf 'professional photographer kit'. You need to develop your own subject-matter and work-flow. The kit you'll need will be dictated by the particular job you are trying to do. You can't be an expert at all types of photography either __ you couldn't afford all the kit nor have the time to use it. Microstock photography is all about niches and success is largely dependent upon you becoming one of the very best in your chosen niches.

« Reply #23 on: September 30, 2010, 16:12 »
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Manfrotto carbon-fiber tripod
Manfrotto ballhead
A better monopod + accessories (a la Yuri-style)
5-in-1 Reflector (Lastolite probably)
Reflector stand
Handheld 33" diffuser
Adobe Lightroom software
Sekonic light meter
More Compact Flash cards
Pocketwizard II (x2)
Alien Bee 800s
Chimera large softbox
Polarizing & Gradient filters

One needs all of these?  No wonder I am not a pro.   ;D

« Reply #24 on: September 30, 2010, 16:19 »
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Manfrotto carbon-fiber tripod
99% of the time you will not need one. I specialize in portraiture and mine isn't even at the studio. It's in my basement at home somewhere.
Manfrotto ballhead
same thing here
A better monopod + accessories (a la Yuri-style)
You mean a la entourage photographer that looks cool in a video to impress other photographers but holds little weight when working with real people on a day to day basis. It's not practical and you don't need it.
5-in-1 Reflector (Lastolite probably)
Here you go and make them big. I actually find a White/Gold more useful than a 5/1. I always carry two a 42" and a 4'x6'. The 4'x6' gets used more than anything. Perfect for reflecting and blocking in outdoor portraits. Who cares what the brand is. I buy what's cheap or on sale because I know it's going to be shoved into tree branches, blown over rocks into the water and basically abused until I need to replace it. They all work the same.
Reflector stand
I don't use them. A person with two hands works much better.
Handheld 33" diffuser
Just buy the two mentioned above.
Adobe Lightroom software
Don't use it. Don't need it but would advise it for people who can't afford photoshop.
Sekonic light meter
For shooting on a daily basis you honestly don't need one in the studio. You can find uses for one but you dont need one. Spend the afternoon going through and tweeking your setups, write them down, memorize them. If you're new to artificial lighting then yeah buy a cheap one.
More Compact Flash cards
Think before you shoot .. shoot it right .. and you don't need much. I honestly would have to go look in my bag to tell you what's in there .. it's either two 8GBs or 16GBs
Pocketwizard II (x2)
I use the trigger system that was included with my lights. Never needed to shop for another brand.
Alien Bee 800s
Everybody always talks about needing 800, 1600 lights. It's basically guys sitting around talking about how big their watts are. In our studio you'll find 300 watt lights powered WAY WAY down. The only reason I use the 300s is because the brand I use doesn't make anything lower with variable knobs. You don't want strobes with full/half switches. An exception would be when you have a client scheduled for mid-day outdoors using non-shaded locations and no clouds overhead. Even then all you need is their back to the sun and a 300 with a softbox on it .. 42" octagon is a good size. Btw, this is also a want not a need. Personally I don't use Alien Bees. I've used so many brands over the last couple decades .. lights are lights just don't buy cheap ebays from China.
Chimera large softbox
Brand is not important but I use 6' Octagon in the studio .. plus some 3'x4' ones .. and a snoot
Polarizing & Gradient filters
Got em ... never end up using them.


The tools that get the most use from me on a daily basis are .. 4'x6' reflector and an expodisc .. Those two things get used on every single session and in a lot of cases that's all I need to get the job done right and efficiently.


 

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