I have been a freelance photographer for a few years now, and over this time have developed my skills, understanding and my plethora of equipment for many different photography uses. After I spent time with Canon at London Fashion Weekend, I decided it would be a good idea to explain what equipment I use and how you can achieve the same results with your photos.
Although I have learnt so much over the years and now get paid for my work as a photographer, I by no means started out like that. My interest in photography started while I was at school, through watching a friend purchase a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera and seeing the beautiful photographs she produced with it. I went on to study a pre-foundation diploma, foundation diploma and then a degree in fashion photograhy and styling before going fully freelance.
I mainly shoot fashion (people) and landscape photography, with my commercial photography crossing over into these categories, so I do not need any specialised equipment for it. I am going to simply go through my digital and film equipment so you can see what they are and what I use them for. As I use a large amount of equipment for different things, I have decided to split this post up into a few parts, so I can talk about all of my digital, film and general equipment needed for my jobs.
I have owned a Canon 1000D DSLR for the past 5 years, and it has served me spectacularly well. When I purchased it, it came with an 18-55mm lens which allows you take a good range of portrait and landscape orientated photos, and doesn’t require a huge amount of skill in manual focusing and composition. The 1000D DSLR is a mid-range digital camera from Canon that uses interchangeable lenses, and allows you to use a range of preset options (full, auto, portrait, landscape, sports etc.) as well as to shoot in the more advanced manual (M) mode when we need to change the ISO, aperture and shutter speed.
Manual mode allows me to set up the camera using the tiniest detail to achieve the perfect light setting for my photos. The camera also comes with a built-in flash on the top, which is too harsh for most subjects, but is good for general compositions that just need a bit more light thrown into them – I am currently shopping for a flashgun to allow me to get better at flash photography, as it is a much softer light.
For my portrait work (photographing faces, whether in a fashion or commercial setting), I use a Canon 50mm lens, which has a fixed focal length. This lens is affordable and perfect for shooting effective portraits, with a good depth of field, without entering the range where flaring and ghosting occurs – bluring and darkening/lightening at the egde of the photograph due to large depths of field. Using a lens with a fixed focal length, means you have to move to bring the subject into focus, but each lens will provide a different depth of field depending on the focal length, and is perfect for concentrating on people in the foreground and bluring the background – exactly what you want for portrait photography.
Landscape work requires a wide-angle lens that allows you to switch from close-up to far-away in an instant. As I travel a lot and like to take professional photographs on the move, I wanted a general purpose, mid-priced lens that would allow to not have to switch lens while out in the freezing snow, windy sand or battering rain. The 18-200mm lens is great solution to all of these needs, as it has a wide focal range, is weather sealed and can be adapted with a lens hood, and a range of filters for all weather conditions.
For a bit of fun, I bought a fisheye lens a few years ago, to experiment with in my work, but mainly to play when shooting casually. The fisheye lens allows you to warp the image into what would be how a fish sees, literally. This particular lens, also allows me to shoot macro photography (close up) which is great when photographing small details in clothing or nature. To use the lens, I attach it to my 18-55mm lens via a screw attachment, which means it is more versatile and cheaper than buying a fully fisheye lens – so think of it more as an adapter than a full DSLR lens.
Filters are only really needed when shooting outside, unless you are shooting with particularly awful lights in the studio. The filters I use allow me to reduce the affects of the sun on my photographs, by neutralising the strength of the sun (polariser) and reducing the glare and whitness the sun creates against white subjects (neutral density filter). All the filters I use fit onto my landscape (18-200mm) lens so I can get the most of my time without having to shoot a huge amount of images or worry about composition too much and carrying lights – landscape photography requires lightweight equipment with easy mobility so you can trek and shoot without stopping, and also capture those once in a lifetime animal shots where stealth is paramount.
The more work I do as a photographer, the more technical I get, and the more precise I need my camera to be to produce the finer details in my work. What’s good about a DSLR camera, is that because the lenses are interchangeable, and as long as they are compatible with your make of camera (i.e. you do not decide to change from Canon to Nikon all of sudden), then any future upgrades will not render your lenses unusable. In the next year or so, I wll be upgrading my Canon body to something that allows me to control the even finer details of my photography, and I cannot wait to embark on this journey and find the best and most fitting camera for my style of work.
My digital equipment is what I use on a daily basis for my work, and is the most substantial part of my collection. In my next post, I will talk about my analogue (film) equipment that I use for my artistic and more sentimental work, as well as to experiment with techniques. Using analogue cameras makes you a better photographer in my opinion, as it makes me go back to the fundamentals of photography, and think about the actual process at hand, and set up each shot perfectly, so as not to waste film.