It Isn’t All About The Gear – only a little bit

It’s fair to say, I was never your typical “gear head” photographer. Back in the days of film I learned to respect whatever kit I had and got the most out of it, even if it wasn’t top-of-the-range.

My first professional kit consisted of a Nikon FE2 and a Kiron 28-70mm f/2.8 lens, which I bought secondhand and even that needed a repair before I could use it. I don’t think Kiron exist any more. Nikon? well I think they’re still around, but I use Canon…

To me, my cameras and lenses have always been just kit for the job. I don’t rush out and buy the latest equipment whenever a new camera comes out. There always has to be a good reason to do so, especially since the digital camera market “came of age” and digital SLR cameras got to a stage where there wasn’t really a bad one to be had, just different levels of ruggedness or fancier features at different price points.

Ok, I do get a little excited when I buy a new camera body, but mainly it has to prove itself to me and earn my trust and respect over the course of several assignments.

I’d say the Canon 5D MKIII body which I’ve had for well over a year has done that. I had the MKII before it and never liked it. It had too many short-comings for me to warm to it. I usually felt I was getting the shots in spite of the camera, not because of it. Perversely, the 10-year-old 5D original body is a classic and I still own one. I use it in spite of its age because in some circumstances it’s really helpful to use two cameras at once, and it’s always essential to have a backup camera should the main one fail.

In fact I used the MKI body alongside the MKIII on a job last week and it performed exactly as I required. And when I delivered the images, the client didn’t say, “We hate these, they were taken on a 10-year-old camera!” In fact they loved the pictures and will get lots of use from them.

The fact is, a camera built in the days of yore can, in certain circumstances, work better than some of the really high-resolution camera bodies available today. I think the MKIII has more than double the resolution of the MKI, and sometimes this can cause problems. It all comes down to knowing how a particular camera will perform with a particular lens under specific circumstances; something I’m not sure all photographers take note of.

For my assignment this afternoon I’ll probably stick to the MKIII because I know it’ll give me the best results for the circumstances I’m working in. Horses for courses, cameras for… um… well, you get the picture.

New Reviews News

It’s been a bit of a shame that lately I’ve been so busy taking pictures I’ve barely had time to blog, yet I have so few photos I can post here from these crazy times as I’m bound by client exclusivity. Hopefully there will be some interesting case studies I can post as the brochures, banners and web publications I’ve been shooting for come to be published.

One thing I can tell you about actually consists of three things, that is to say three other articles I’ve recently written over on my PhotoEspresso blog.

SanDisk memory card and Hähnel battery arrive from Clifton Cameras in Bristol for review

A memory card and a very orange camera battery were included in my review

The articles came about as a result of an approach from Clifton Cameras in Bristol asking if I’d be interested in reviewing their website in return for a couple of items I could purchase and have refunded, thereby gaining the user’s experience of the site. A sort of sponsored post if you like.

In the event I turned it into three posts because the items I received are worth reviewing and discussing on a photography help site and because it’s always useful to have fresh things to write about for that blog, which has a different purpose to my main one here.

Anyway, I ordered the items – a memory card and a camera battery, wrote a review for each and I’ve just published the Clifton Cameras website review. The whole exercise has been useful and enjoyable. It would be good to build up the paid blogging part of what I do, so if anyone out there knows anyone looking for someone to write honest reviews, critiques or general photography-related articles, send them my way!

In the meantime, I’ll keep an eye on which assignments I can feature here as they become available. Stay tuned!

Flash of Inspiration

It’s not often you’ll see me writing about kit because the main intention of this blog is to give an inside peek at my work, air issues surrounding the photographic industry and waffle on a bit about things which interest me. One thing this blog isn’t obsessed with is kit because I’m not obsessed with it.

If I invest in equipment it has to be for a particular, business-related reason. I choose kit carefully and with a sensible head because there is so much lovely gear out there I could squander my cash on with no real benefit either to my clients or myself.

Once in a while though I review what I have, and kit does eventually wear out naturally so I need to see what might need replacing or updating. I have no problem with using old kit provided it works and isn’t letting me down on assignments. Sometimes investment is required for a particular project and that’s another time I look to see if buying the kit will have benefits beyond the single project, or whether I can rent the kit I need without committing to buy.

A few months ago I was commissioned to shoot a couple of hundred portraits at various locations, and while I have portable studio lighting it is quite heavy and unwieldy to transport. At the same time I knew my Canon flashes were coming to the end of their natural lives, being several years old and a few models older than the current ones. I took the plunge and decided it was time to invest in new flashguns and, due to changes in the technology, adjust the way I worked.

What I hadn’t appreciated is just how much the investment would help when dealing with often very awkward situations. Such as having to shoot business portraits in a tiny hotel lounge, crowded with furniture and with limited scope for backdrops. Or helping me create more interesting light when covering a business studies workshop event where I was moving about a lot, in poor ambient light and didn’t want to use direct flash.

One reacent situation in which the new flash kit impressed a great deal was where I was in a very dark lecture theatre at a business seminar with not a lot of space to set up any kind of lighting and had to shoot both the lectern speakers and the audience. I had a single flash on a stand at the back of the auditorium to light the speakers, but it was also enough to bounce light off the projector screen and illuminate the audience (albeit with higher ISO). Taking photos of the audience at a talk where the house lights are turned right down generally results in images which are either grainy, weird colour balance or are downright unusable. I’ve included one here so you can see what my new setup got, and this is just one of several images I was pleased with.


Business people laughing in a lecture theatre setting

The flash is behind the audience, but the projector screen made a great reflector to light the faces.

business students working on a project

Catching unposed images can be difficult, and straight-on flash kills the atmosphere. I liked the “random light” look of this with the flash off to the side.

Portrait of a business man.

Adding softboxes to a flashgun setup allows me to work in much tighter spaces than before.