What’s in the bag, and why?

We started this blog as a way to share our photo sessions, but deep down, I want to be a teacher.  That being said, I will, from time to time, share some shooting and equipment tips.  Allie has posted some useful info as a basis, and I am going to get her to post those on this blog, but in the mean time, they can be found here.

I hope to build off those tips for novices a bit more.  I want to talk a little bit about equipment today.  I am going to briefly outline what we use, what we hope to use and why for both.  So, let’s just jump right into the bags.

First, Allie’s Bag:

Canon 60D
Sigma 30mm f/1.4
Canon 135mm f/2 L series
Canon 50mm f/2.8 Macro
Tokina 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 Fisheye
Canon Speedlite 430ex Mark i Flash
Gary Fong Light Sphere Diffuser

And now for my bag:

Nikon D7000
Sigma 30mm f/1.4
Nikon 50mm f/1.8D
Nikon 85mm f/1.8D
Sigma 70-200 f/2.8
Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 Macro
Gary Fong Puffer Diffuser
Sigma EF-530DG Super Flash

One reason I like to share what is in my bag is to give prospective (and current) photographers which lenses are useful and which lenses are not.  If you look at both bags, you will see that, minus one exception, all the lenses are “prime,” or have an f stop that the photographer can set, no matter what.  The only exception is on the fisheye lens.  This is because we like to have full control of our lenses to produce the same quality and style of photo each time.  On the lenses that say f/X.X-Y.Y, you can only use certain f stops depending on your focal length.  This prevents you from having full control of things like depth of field in the photo.

Another reason to point out the bag is to notice the lenses we have in common.  You can see Allie and I both have the 30mm f/1.4 lens, a fixed 50mm lens and a macro lens.  These are all lenses that I think are ideal for learning, as well as for doing fun things.  An interesting tidbit I recently learned is older 35mm film cameras came with a 50mm f/1.8 as the standard lens, so that should give you an idea of its usefulness.  These lenses that open so wide are the ones that give creamy, blurry backgrounds.  The chart above shots how small the openings are, thus showing how much light you are letting in.

This post is already getting long, so I will quickly talk about our wish lists:

Allie’s hopes and dreams bag:

Canon 5D Mark ii
Canon 70-200 f/2.8 L series
Canon 85mm f/1.2 L series
Canon Speedlite 580EX Mark ii Flash

and my hopeful bag:

Nikon D700
Nikon SB-900 AF Speedlight Flash
Gary Fong Light Sphere Diffuser
Sigma 50mm f/1.4

We both hope to upgrade our camera bodies, very soon in fact, to gain the benefits of being able to shoot without flash in low light situations, using higher ISOs without much grain.  Though both of our cameras already perform pretty well in low light and are a dramatic improvement over entry level and lower-end bodies, we can’t wait to get to the top of the line. In addition to a body upgrade, Allie wants lens with focal lengths that I already have, but not being able to share lenses (the biggest downfall of shooting different brands) means she wants her own copy as well.  The 70-200mm is great for taking photos unobtrusively from the back of ceremonies and events.  An 85mm will get you just close enough to be able to get some beautiful candid shots without having to be right in the moment, perfect for portrait sessions.  I am looking to replace my 50mm with a higher quality, and lower (larger) aperture lens.  Also, I need to replace my flash, and Allie is hoping to get another, more powerful, flash, in order to build our off camera lighting abilities.   Also, a need we will be filling soon is a diffuser for my flash, to produce soft light that looks more natural.

Here is why I want a 50mm that can open up to an even wider aperture, aiming for dramatically blurred backgrounds, like in this headshot I took at DU:

Thanks for taking the time to read this and I hope you find it useful.  I know I wish I would have learned a little more about lenses before investing in some, as I now own some lenses that will never see the light of day as long as they are part of my collection, which is sad for the lenses, and even sadder for my wallet.  Questions about gear investment or suggestions for more educational posts? Leave it in the comments and we’re happy to discuss! Until the next installment, happy snapping!

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