I’m amazed at how much of photography talk, on blogs, in podcasts and in general is about gear. I understand we’re all geeks at some level, but it seems to take up too much mind share.
I got an email from an apprentice doing the mini-course and he was wondering about what gear he needed for an up coming model shoot. It made me think a little about what is the absolute minimum you need. Here’s what I told him:
As long as you have the ability to control the aperture of your camera you’re fine.
Control the Aperture
That is seriously minimal, but it is also true. When I and my partners teach at our studio we require a SLR, preferably digital. We do this mostly because we are always using studio strobes and we need to insure they have a hotshoe to attach a pocket wizard to.
But I know photographers who have shot models well with a Fuji S9000, which looks like a full DSLR, but doesn’t have a detachable lens. It does have manual control over the aperture.
Why must you have aperture control to do model photography? Because you need to be able to control your Depth of Field. To control what is and what isn’t in focus. This is what separates point and shoots from real cameras, selective focus.
Why don’t I care about shutter control? Because you aren’t trying to stop action in model photography. You want the model in a particular position, you just pose her in it. Also, your strobes are probably going to dictate shutter anyway.
Off Camera Flash
While that is the minimum you need to do good work, it assumes you’ve got good natural light. This isn’t always the case and then you are going to need artificial light. Once you need artificial light you need a way to get the flash off your camera. This is normally accomplished with a hot shoe and a wireless trigger.
You can do off camera flash with studio strobes or small speedlights. But in either case you will need a way to trigger them. When I’m using a speedlight I don’t actually use a wireless trigger, I use a hot shoot extension cable. It has a hot shoe attactement at each end and a curled cord in between. Normally I hold the camera in one hand and the flash at arms length while I shoot, or I have my assistant hold it.
When I’m in the studio I use Pocket Wizards to trigger our studio strobes.
I could never give an indepth lighting course in one post, so I’m going to stop here. But the first place I recommend people go to learn lighting is Strobist.
What’s in My Camera Bag
I’m not a big fan of gear lists, but I’ll do one here for the express purpose of showing you just how little I have. 90% of the images I post are shot with 1 lens, and the other 10% is with a lens I love and rent occasionally.
That’s all that is in my camera bag. Well actuallly the Tamron is in the shop right now. I forgot to close the camera pass thru on my bag and when I picked it up the camera fell out, breaking the Tamron case. And that is why I own the 50mm, because I realized I had no backup lens.
I bought the S3 a couple of years ago because Fuji has incredible sensors. I also love that it uses regular AA batteries. It has a Nikon mount so you can use those lenses.
The lens I rent sometimes, and just love, is the Nikon 70-200 2.8 VR. I’d really like to own it, but haven’t been able to afford it yet.
That’s it. I’ll let you judge if my photography suffers from having so little gear. I don’t think it does.