I get a lot of gear questions, especially within in the last year since I have joined Twitter. I admit, I love cameras and gear and wrote a previous post called It's Ok To Like Cameras. I wrote that post because there seems to be a culture developing in the social media media world where photographers state that they hate cameras, cameras don't matter and a bunch of similar statements as a knee jerk reaction to other photographers' obsession with gear to the point that gear above else matters to the latter.
As with most views, neither extreme view is accurate. Gear does matter. Style does matter. Passion does matter. Vision does matter. Who we are as human beings even before artists matters most. A photographer, Jack Hollingsworth wrote a great post about the balance between the tangibles and intangibles of photography.
But despite my love for gear, some gear questions I get becomes tiring. Some photographers think it's the gear that makes the picture. Worse, some photographers are insulted when you don't use extremely expensive gear and think you are less pro because of it. (I admit, even I got caught up in the gear pricing thing for a second and was re-awoken by a powerful conversation and later a powerful post by photographer Don Giannatti.) Even worse, some photographers wonder if they own the same things as another photographer, why don't their pictures look the same?
In relation to gear, I can't think of anything more bothersome than to create work that I enjoy, that my viewers who are non-photographers feel is beautiful, yet many of the photographers who view it only want to know what lens, what camera, what strobe. For the most part, photographers know what gear exists and what doesn't. For example, I know of every single piece of Canon dSLR-related equipment on the market. So knowing what lens a photographer used for a portrait does nothing for me. Now, I may ask them do they enjoy using a particular lens (is it heavy for travel, is chromatic aberration a problem etc.) if I am considering purchasing it, but there is no way I will review a photographer's portfolio only to ask them which lens was used in each image. I view work to feel, think, smile, laugh, be inspired...believe.
So, to clear things up for everyone, below, I list exactly what I use and do gear-wise.
I currently shoot with a Canon EOS 40D. I bought it in 2008 and have used ever it since. Prior to that, I used a Canon 400D. Prior to that I had an Olympus Evolt E-500. The latter was my first dSLR. Prior that, I used film SLRs. I do like the Canon 5D MK II, but it is not an affordable expense at the moment. I don't know when I am going to purchase one. I do not own a second dSLR body, (only other film cameras, which are currently in storage) If I need one, I rent/borrow it. I'm emotionally attached to my camera and I call her Black Betty.
I prefer L glass and use the 24-105 f/4L most of the time. It's seen about 18K miles of travel and many sessions. This lens is what I call mama's puddin' when its on my camera. I've never owned any f/2.8 glass, L or non L. I like the 70-200 f/4L IS zoom (I had the f/4L non IS version before) and the 50 f/1.2L. I sold the latter because I want the 85 version of the 1.2L and I wasn't using it as much. It's too expensive of a lens to have around only to not use it a lot. Once I get the 85, perhaps this year, I may get a replacement 50, but a cheaper version like the 1.4 non-L version. I've only owned about 12 or so dSLR lenses in my lifetime, never owning more than 4 at a time. My favorite lens that I regret selling is ironically the 17-40 f/4L. It was really cool but I never gave it a full chance.
For lighting, I use God's strobe...the sun. When I am shooting indoors, I use my 430ex. I bought it in 2007. I like it a lot. I pair and balance that with room lighting (or any available light) when shooting indoors. That is how my Tru Expression Portraiture™ is created. I will use any light source anywhere to get the look that I want. However, I have never owned or used a studio strobe of any kind or even photographed in a studio before. I use the world as my studio. Perhaps one day owning a studio will be a goal. It currently isn't on my life passions list though. I am always thrilled for photographers when they get their first studio; it is an accomplishment for them if that is one of their passions. However, I currently do not own one. I am interested in learning even more about lighting so I may take a workshop by a very skilled photographer; he knows who he is. ;)
For editing I use Photoshop. I learned Photoshop in 2005, actually by using Photoshop Elements. I switched to the full version in 2007. I currently use Photoshop CS3. I am not sure if I will upgrade to CS5 yet but I hear wonderful things about it and I viewed the video about the content aware feature. Since this year, I organize, do quick edits and create multimedia work in Aperture 3, which was a gift. Most intense editing and typography related work is currently done in CS3.
I use a 20" iMac that I bought in 2008. I love it and it has been like 98% reliable. Prior to that, I used a PowerBook that I bought in 2005, which was my first Apple computer. It died though. I back photographs up on my Apple Time Capsule and have since 2008. Prior to that, I backed up photographs on CDs. I know that is very old school. I even joked about that on my 365 Project blog.
I use a Gary Fong knock-off as my diffuser. I hope Gary doesn't get mad at me. I bought it on eBay in 2007 before I even knew what a Gary Fong diffuser was. If I forget my diffuser at home, I use paper towel. It works! I use Hoya filters. I use regular store batteries, some disposable, some rechargeable in my flash. I don't use an external flash battery. My tripod is a regular tripod that gets the job done. It was very inexpensive, under $100. I usually shoot with my 430ex flash on camera...on camera! I know, this makes me less pro according to some photographers. When I shoot with it off camera, I use a wireless trigger loaned to me by a photography comrade. I use Sandisk, Lexar and PNY memory cards. The PNY ones have started behaving strangely. Sandisk has never failed on me to date.
How I Shoot
1) I charge camera batteries the day before and change batteries in my flash, in case I use it.
2) I photograph the client/subject/place etc. Lately I've been shooting a lot less frames, usually only 20% over what is required for the shoot.
3) I upload the images to my computer in a folder I labeled Canon EOS 40D. I do not upload directly into Aperture 3.
4) I edit the photographs old school by mass opening the files in Photoshop CS3. Unless the edits are quick (under 10 seconds per photo) , I use Photoshop CS3 instead of Aperture 3. Editing each photo takes an average of 30 seconds - 10 minutes depending on the photograph. If I retouch them, that takes longer per photograph. (I retouch my Tru Expression Portraiture™ more and differently than my 1-on-1 Portraiture, as part of the reason why they are priced differently.) I have a variety of Photoshop actions and Aperture 3 presets that I have downloaded or bought. I also have created several of my own Photoshop actions. I have not made any Aperture 3 presets yet.
5) I save all edits. I do not keep original unedited photographs in most instances. This is why I am picky and selective about the edits that I do. I don't edit something unless I know I want the image to look that way for good. Sometimes I keep unedited photographs, but only if I want them the way they were in camera to be the final image.
6) I create a new Project in Aperture 3 for the final images to rest. I also move them around if I am going to use them in a multimedia project that I turn into a video. Prior to Aperture 3, I used iPhoto and Adobe Bridge for organization.
7) I use a Photoshop action to resize and copyright the images for sharing via blogs, Facebook, Flickr etc. These are the ones in the original upload folder, so the full versions in Aperture 3 are not touched once imported.
8) After sharing the images, I store the small copyrighted versions in two folders, one is a Blog folder named by month and date, a subfolder of a folder called Tru Shots Photography. This way, I can easily see what I posted to my blog. The second folder is under a Facebook folder where the subfolders are named by title of the album on Facebook, not by month and date as the Blog folder. These are outside of the Aperture 3 database.
9) I create discs and/or order prints and email the client their photographs. I usually email the client teasers before any of the images are even shared. They love that. This of course is applicable for client shoots; for personal shoots this step wouldn't exist.
10) I do administrative duties, not specifically related to the actual photographs themselves, but the entire process.
11) Rinse and repeat.
So that's what I do. Now with this out of the way, when someone views my work, they can either dislike it or like it, but at least we can really discuss the photographs themselves. Let's chat about photographs....really chat about photographs.