I was having a discussion with some friends about professionals and the equipment they use. I absolutely believe that “it’s not the equipment it’s the photographer.” After all, I could drop a mint on professional cookware and stove and still it wouldn’t make my cooking on par with Mario Batalli. But, it certainly helps.
I shoot with a Nikon D700 camera body. I originally started off with a Canon camera and switched to Nikon and the D700 in January 2009. One of the things that is great about my camera is it’s ability in low light because of it’s ISO capabilities. This image was shot at ISO 2500. For reference, I usually shoot at about ISO 400. The higher the ISO the more light it can bring in, but it can also add in more digital noise, so it has it’s limits. There is very little noise in this image and I’m completely comfortable giving this to a client to use and print at will.
Contrary to what most people believe, lenses probably make the biggest difference in your images and NOT the camera body itself. Lenses last and last and the Nikon lenses from the 1950s are still able to be used on Nikon camera bodies today. Lenses typically hold their value pretty well, too. But, a camera body from 15 years ago is worth very little. Here are some examples of images and the lenses I used to shoot them and why I chose them.
First up is my Nikon 24-70 f/2.8. This is the minivan of lenses. It’s not super sporty, but dang is it practical! The images from it aren’t quite as sharp as my prime (fixed focal) length lenses, but it gives me wide angle to normal focal length. I don’t shoot a lot of wide angle photography, but do need the wider angle for some set ups in my studio. I also use this lens a lot when I am capturing relationship images like mother and child. You have to be careful with wide angles and faces though because it can cause distortion and that is NOT flattering to the subject.
Next is probably my most used lens. The Nikon 50mm f/1.4G. The 50mm focal length is what is referred to as “normal length”. Meaning this is very close to how the eye sees things. Normal lengths are between 50 and 70mm. I use this for the majority of my studio work and newborn sessions. It only comes off my camera at a newborn session for macro (close up) images. This lens allows for a lot of light to come in with a wide aperture of up to f/1.4. I typically shoot newborns between f/1.8 and f/3.5 depending on the image. I’ve owned all 3 of the Nikon 50mm lenses. I started with the f/1.8 (because the other was out of stock). Then I upgrade to the f/1.4D and then the G. The G is fast and sharp. Both of these images were taken with the 50mm f/1.4G
I have the Nikon 60mm f/2.8 Macro. I use this for the super up close images during newborn sessions. I also use it as a “regular” lens from time to time. It’s not as fast to focus as the 50mm, but for newborns, that’s ok. It’s crazy sharp. I do usually manually focus this lens for macros as the auto focus is hard when you are that close to your subject. Here’s an assortment of macro images.
Then there is the 85mm f/1.8. Until I got the 70-200 I used this one most often outdoors. It really is a great little lens. It’s a great focal length for faces and produces some smooth beautiful bokeh.
Next is my absolute favorite lens. The Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 lens. I adore this lens. It’s fast, it’s sharp and it produces bokeh that is as smooth as butter. If I’m outside, there’s a 90% chance this lens is on my camera. One of the things I love about this lens is for shooting young kids. I love to get wild and crazy and sing silly songs to get great natural expressions, but when you first meet someone that can be intimidating. The beauty of this lens is I can back way up, zoom all the way in, be loud and crazy, and kids laugh at me because I’m funny, but I’m not invading their personal space. This lens is a beast though. It’s big and heavy. But it’s worth the hand cramps!
This little girl was a prime example. I was told she takes a bit to warm up to people. Well, that time got cut way down when I can give her plenty of space and zoom in on her.
Look at that smooth creamy background! LOVE!
And paired with a little light coming in through the trees, the perfect round sparkly bokeh just makes my heart sing when paired with a beautiful little girl!
When we’re talking equipment, my computer and it’s software gets way more “hands on” time than my camera gear. I edit on an imac computer and I calibrate my screen with the xrite i1 software. It’s super important that my images render correct color. I have my computer monitor calibrated so that when I print from my professional labs, the results are as similar as possible. The eye can see the most detail, the computer can display slightly less, and the printer can print even less. I need to align those 3 things as best as possible.
I edit my images with Adobe Photoshop CS6. In general, I have a pretty standard workflow and my images don’t need “fixing” in photoshop. Just enhancing a bit. Here’s an image I posted to facebook not long ago showing a before and after of an image.
I also use photoshop to do a bit more than just enhance images. I use it for newborn safety as well. Here is an image I recently took of my new baby girl (I’ll be blogging more about her soon!). This image was taken with my grandmother’s high chair from the 1930s. I had my husband’s uncle (who is a woodworker) do some work on it to make sure it was secure. I shot this image by myself, so I didn’t have an assistant to spot Delaney for her safety, so I did a bit of photoshop “magic”. I took an image of her on the same blanket that was on the high chair, but at a much safer height, against the same wall, with the same lighting. Then I took her from one image and placed her on the highchair in photoshop. Here are the 2 starting images and the resulting image.
Last but NOT least is THE absolute most important thing in my work… light. Photography is ALL about light. My preferred light is natural light and if I’m at my studio I love the afternoon light there. If I’m outdoors the light at the golden hour is simply scrumptious. But, occasionally natural light isn’t gonna work. If it’s super dark and rainy, I could shoot at VERY high ISOs (and possibly compromise image quality) or I can shoot with my studio light. I worked quite a bit to try and make my studio lit images look as close as possible to my natural light images so that my clients all receive the same quality from me. For studio lights I use Alien Bees 400 light paired with a Westcott softbox and those are on a heavy duty light stand.
If you have any questions feel free to email me (just click the “contact” button below) or post them in the comments!