Monday, January 08, 2007

Maybe You Don't Need What You Think You Need

In the comments section of my previous update, Wolfgang writes,
"Another thing that seperates the pros from the rest? You see beautful images - like the ones in this article - and just finally discover that you just need a 10D, 550EX, Softbox and a board. How cool is that?

And I wanted to buy some studio equipment ... perhaps I should go out and see what I can do with my 20D/580EX and a softbox."

I'm not bringing your attention to this because I've gotten a big head over Wolfgang's kind words. (Thanks dude! My ego is always open for business.) Mostly, I'm mentioning it because I have no idea how many of you go back and read the comments and, more importantly, because Wolfgang makes a great point regarding anyone's ability to snap some cool images without the latest and greatest in gear.

Here's the deal: If you think a better camera or better lighting gear is going to automatically make you a better shooter, you've been misled by the marketing and advertising guys who make their livings hyping all that stuff.

I'm not saying high-end gear doesn't produce high-end images. It does. But mostly, it does so in the hands of those who know how to make best use of that gear's capabilities.

If the gear in your bag is a 10D or a 30D or another camera of that ilk, along with a kit lens and a single strobe, you already have most of what you need to capture quality images. Add a cheap softbox, the ability to fire the strobe remotely, and something to bounce light with and you're well on your way to those killer shots of killer babes.

You see, all you really need--way more than an expensive inventory of cameras, glass, lights, etc.--is some basic gear, knowledge, imagination, a few artistic sensibilities, and ingenuity. Oh yeah, a smokin' hot model helps too.

I've pimped the Strobist's site before and I guess I'm about to do it again. There's so much free, easily-digested, useful information there for anyone hoping to capture quality stuff with only a camera, a lens, and a strobe, you'd be passing on a great opportunity if you don't regularly spend some quality time with that dude's updates and buried in his archives.

There's also plenty of other sites that offer great ideas and information to help you develop and hone your skills. One thing I've noticed: I can't ever remember seeing, on any of these sites, advice along the lines of, "Go buy a better, more expensive, camera."

The images posted are of Roxanne. They were captured 3 or 4 years ago with a 10D, a 28-135 zoom, and a gold reflector. Granted, I had a bit of help from a short period of quality, California "golden hour" sunlight.

4 comments:

Wolfgang said...

Hi Jimmy, great that you took my thougts and thanks for putting things into the right perspective again, at least for me. I know that it is not about the gear, but sometimes you have to just see that it can be done. Because marketing strategists surely won't.

Regards,
Wolfgang

James said...

This is one of those topics were I agree and disagree at the same time. Yes you can take some awesome pictures with crappy gear, I know, I've done it. At the same time some things are impossible without the right gear. You just can't take a picture at 200mm F2.8 without an expensive 200mm lens capable of F2.8. I've cheated for a while and achieved similar subject background seperation with a 135mm F2.8 but I want the flexibility of the 70-200mm/2.8L though realisticly I'll settle for a used 80-200mm/2.8L. Also you can't take a ringlight picture without a ringlight or a specialized reflector.

And while I'm thinking about it, a 580ex is no slouch strobe either, it costs more than some monolights!
-James

jimmyd said...

I agree with you, James-- You can't snap the kid of image you're decribing (200mm w/wide aperture/short depth) without the right glass to accomplish it. And to do it right, the right glass ain't cheap. But you can snap an almost infinite variety of quality images, i.e., other than the kind of images you're decribing and many more we both could describe, without expensive gear. Simply put, that is my point... and Wolfgang's too. It is the basic, boiled-down, message contained in my post and I'm sure that's the part you agree with.

James said...

I hear ya Jimmy, and like I said, that's what I did for a while. I started shooting weddings with a Canon A-1 (in 2003!) and some of the pics I got out of that thing were astounding. Ran me less than $100 too. But then I scored a big gig and broght my wife along to asist. At least she could spray and pray. But she needed an auto focus, enter an EOS and a lens. That's when I got the dreaded Canon 35-135mm/4-5.6 USM. This is a bunk lens. It seemed like it was always soft. When I used it, when she used it, didn't matter. It seems like you're always using wide open in wedding work and and that's where this lens sucked the most. Plus being that slow means you sit there and wait while it focus hunts in dark reception halls. I got used to working with it, added a video light to help with the focus problem, turned up the strobe to stop it down, etc. Then, at the urging of a collegue, I got a Tamron 28-75mm/2.8 and the pictures I took improved because of it. Tack sharp, better at focussing, close focussing, light, more background and foreground seperation possibilities, did I say sharp? It was like a breath of fresh air.

I did take some great pics with the 35-135mm lens, but it was not a versitile tool and some of my shots were not as much as they could have been because of it. Now I believe more in the "right tool for the right job" philosophy. That doesn't mean you have to have the newest, bestest tool, heck manual focus L lenses are dirt cheap (comparitively, prolly cause they don't fit on EOS bodies) but still take a great picture. I did believed the "you can do it all with consumer gear" mantra for years and I feel sort of burnt by it.

Like I said, I agree and disagree with it. I still shot with my Digital Rebel (first one) sometimes and it does alright. Still use a non dedicate Sunpak 120j, more powerful and half the price of a 580ex. It really depends on the tool and what I'm using if for. Sometimes a holga is perfect. :)