When I’m in the studio the two lenses I utilize most often are the Canon RF 24-105mm 4.0 and the Canon RF 70-200mm 2.8. I love these lenses because of the versatility they give me. I can shoot full length shots all the way to beautiful headshots with the 24-105 focal length. Then, if I want some tighter headshots or beauty images I can switch over to the 70-200mm for some more compression and tighter crops.
While these are the two lenses I grab most often, they are not the only lenses I use in the studio. Sometimes I need the Canon RF 100mm macro for some really tight beauty shots or details just of the lips/eyes. Other instances I’ll grab the Canon RF 85mm 1.2 if I have a concept that requires a really narrow depth of field.
I have a lot of lenses but I don’t really consider that fundamental to my photographic success. It truly depends on your style and the method you shoot. In other words, I have a lot of gear that I have collected over the years, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to! Find what works for you and stick with it until you find that truly your gear is restricting rather than assisting you!
When shooting on location I generally choose to have lenses that are a bit faster / with wider apertures. I prefer these narrow depth of fields if I need to simplify a background or perhaps shoot in a lower light situation.
For my wide to mid-length lens I opt for the Canon RF 24-70mm 2.8 for versatility. When I need to get closer crops or more compression I then grab the Canon RF 85mm 1.2 because of its stunning bokeh and gorgeous narrow depth of field.
Are these the only two lenses I use on location? Certainly not. I actually will vary my kit based upon how much gear I want to carry. If we are working out of a single location and I can leave my gear in one place, I’d likely take more with me. I’ll grab the RF 50mm 1.2, a 35mm, my RF RF 70-200mm 2.8 and more. If I’m carrying all the gear myself and need to move around all day, perhaps just the RF 50mm 1.2 and RF 85mm 1.2 will give me a lighter weight option.
My recommendation would be to have a lens that will give you a bit wider focal length coverage (for me either a 50mm, 35mm or 24-70mm) and something with longer focal length coverage (for me an 85mm or 70-200mm). Find what works for you… and work it!
I personally would buy a 24-105mm lens because of its versatility. I can get wide shots, medium shots and pretty close shots all with a single lens!
The objection that people usually have to the 24-105mm is that it is a 4.0 lens. In other words, it doesn’t shoot at very wide apertures with narrow depths of field (like a 1.2 lens would give you). Basically you are trading off versatility for extremely narrow depth of field.
Why don’t I care about this? With my style I tend to shoot things that are clean, bold and graphic. I am not shooting at 1.2 with most of my images, and so this is a feature that I do not require. If, however, I shot a lot of location portraits with really soft backgrounds, I may make a different choice.
There are a couple of ways to do this. If you are asking this question I definitely recommend you check out my in-depth class Master Studio Lighting that takes you through everything you need to know to truly understand studio lighting and all of the amazing tools for control at your fingertips.
The quick answer to your question is that you have two main approaches. (1) You can use a light meter to help you determine how to adjust your light/camera for the ideal exposure. (2) You can guess and then either adjust your camera’s settings or the light’s power to get the exposure right. It may take awhile but if your eyes are trained to understand correct exposure, you can get pretty close.
That is an impossible question! I truly love light so much that I just don’t know what to answer here. I love the light from a beauty dish. I also get so inspired by crisp bare bulb light. I drool over the creativity I get out of the Optical Spot. I adore the gorgeously soft light I get out of a scrim. Don’t make me choose!
Each photographer will be different in their visual preferences for a portrait. That being said, I think a 3ft octabox is a great place for most portrait photographers to start. It is relatively small but produces beautifully soft light with a lot of control. Of course there are a million other choices, but in my experience most portrait photographers find this a useful place to start.
No way!! Well, mostly no.
I truly believe you can create stunning images with pretty much any gear – it is all about what you have in front of your camera and your skill level. The reason to invest in high quality gear – which generally winds up being expensive – is if you find your gear is hindering you rather than helping you. Maybe the camera is focusing too slowly and you are missing a lot of shots. Or maybe your strobes don’t have fast enough recycle times. These are instances when more expensive gear will make your life easier and help you be more consistent (and therefore professional).
But, I promise you that any great photographer can make incredible images with the crappiest gear out there. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either not a great photographer or just plain trying to sell you something. In fact, I often compare fancy gear to a fancy/luxury car. Does anyone need a luxury car? Of course not. But the luxury car may be faster, more reliable, more comfortable, and come with more bells and whistles. The “junker” car could still get you from point A to point B.
That being said, as a professional I do have high end gear because it is well-built, reliable and helps me to do my job to the level I require daily.
If you want to know about how to figure out which lighting gear is best when first starting out, be sure to watch my Master Studio Lighting course which has a dedicated section to questions you may have when buying your first lighting gear.
I definitely use filters, though more often for creativity than practicality. I use a 4 point star filter to create the starburst look on specular highlights. For a dreamy, cinematic effect I use a Black Pro Mist filter (usually ¼ stop). If I want to go really heavy with halation and glow, sometimes I’ll grab a white mist filter. For more practical purposes I do have a neutral density filter which is particularly useful to achieve narrow depths of field when shooting video.
I typically carry several other ‘random’ items with me besides the usual camera, lenses, memory cards, and batteries.
My camera bag usually includes a few Lensbaby Omni Filters for creative in-camera effects. I also carry an X-Rite passport color checker to use as a gray card / color reference chart. Next, I always have a TetherTools tether cable and TetherBlock so I can tether during a shoot (always my preference).
I almost always carry a small extra harddrive with me to back up files. My favorite compact/light-weight solution is the SanDisk Professional (previously G-tech) 2TB solid state drive.
I always carry a few business cards in case the opportunity arises to do some networking. Lastly, I do bring a small amount of makeup in case I need to look presentable really fast! I have some coverup for blemishes and some MAC cosmetics russian red lipstick for a quick transition to drama.
I typically think a neutral background is a great place to start. I find that I use neutral gray and beige the most. For a gray background I usually use the Savage Universal Fashion Gray seamless paper background because I can make it lighter (white), darker (black) or even gel it to be any color I want. For a more traditional or painterly look, I’ll use a medium or heavy texture Gravity Background gray canvas.
Yes! And no! Let me explain. A light meter is helpful in these main instances.
If you want to learn how to use a light meter, be sure to check out my class Master Studio Lighting for an in-depth explanation for how to use one (and how to get by without using one as well).
The Canon R5 is an extraordinary camera. I love its face and eye tracking, the electronic viewfinder, it’s fantastic video capabilities, the amazing RF lens quality, and much more. That being said, there are several cameras out there today that will do an excellent job for most photographers. There may even be other cameras with more features.
So why Canon? I have been shooting Canon for more than two decades. They have consistently had excellent quality, great customer service, and (most importantly for me) have always supported education. I remember at age 15 sitting and listening to the Canon Explorers of Light lecture (for free) all day long at PhotoPlus Expo. It was transformative for my young photographer self and I have always loved their support of the industry.
Today as an Explorer of Light myself, I hope to pass on that same passion and education to other budding artists and professionals.
Lastly, sometimes it’s just a matter of personal preference – you start with one type of camera and stick with it until you need to change.
I think that’s a hard question because it really is about how you use the tools available to you. You can get decent lights (enough output, fast enough recycle times) and modifiers that suit your style (beauty dish vs umbrellas vs. hard light etc) and create incredible images. Both elements are important, but great photographers can create great images with ‘crappy’ strobes or ‘crappy’ modifiers.
I think the important thing to remember is that whatever strobe system you purchase you are likely locking yourself into a mount for your modifiers. In other words, based upon your strobes you’ll need to get modifiers that work with Bowens mounts, Broncolor, Profoto, Elinchrom or Balcar. I personally prefer how quick and easy the Profoto mounts are because they save me time and aggravation, though I totally understand that budget may be more of a consideration for most.
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