–“What lens did you shoot that with?”
Frequently after giving a presentation about my work before a group, this is the first question that gets asked. It’s the one that grates the most! Not ‘what were you thinking’, ‘how did you approach that subject’, or ‘how did you handle the lighting’ but ‘what lens did you use?’
For a professional who does photography full-time, equipment is important, but it’s just equipment. Donald McCullin, a noted British war photographer, answered the question this way, when asked about his equipment: “I only use a camera like I use a toothbrush. It does the job.”
Having said all that, I currently use Canon cameras for most of my work. I’ve also spent years as a Nikon shooter. Both systems are excellent. Besides the mechanics of the camera bodies, what you’re paying for is the quality of the glass. Both Canon and Nikon make excellent lenses, and both have systems that you’ll never outgrow. If you’re serious about your photography, you can’t go wrong with either of these choices.
My Camera Bag
I carry two Canon EOS-1 D Mark IIn’s with me, along with a 16-35mm f2.8 zoom, 50mm 2.8 Macro, 70-200mm f2.8 zoom, 300mm f4, and a 1.4x teleconverter, and two 580EX Canon strobes. With this gear I can cover most of the situations I run into on a regular basis, regardless of the nature of the job. This is the basic gear that I tote around.
I use Norman 200C portable strobe lights which have their own battery power pack for small jobs, portraits, etc. These units are great when you want a studio-quality light for a portrait say, out in the middle of a football field. For larger jobs, I use Speedotron strobes and power packs, bullet proof equipment that I’ve had for years. They can light your studio, the inside of a building or even an aircraft hanger, if you have enough of them.
For video shooting, I use a Canon XH-A1 HD video camera with a Sennheiser ME66 shotgun microphone. I also carry and use when needed a set of Sennheiser Evolution wireless mics and a Shure SM58 handheld voice mic.
Odds & Ends
I carry two tripods: an old Leitz Tiltall for still shooting and a Libec H22 for video work. Cables. light stands, extension cords, power strips, gels and clamps make up the rest of the basic kit.
That’s about it. The most important piece of equipment that you have and use as a photographer, however, is between your ears! It’s your thought process, your intuition, how hard you’re willing to work, how hard you’re willing to learn to see the world around you.
Take one camera body and one lens, preferably something around a standard fixed, 50mm lens. Use this, and only this, to shoot photos for an entire day of personal photography. Don’t use anything else! Notice what this does to your shooting, and more importantly, your thinking, as you approach each situation. See what this teaches you about yourself and your shooting!