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Do You Really Need Another Lens?

Many of us have our particular predilections. I have a good friend who’s addicted to a certain brand of ladies handbags. She collects handbags like other women collect shoes. (Yeah I know, that’s sexist, I photographed a senior guy once who had different shoes for every outfit.) My father-in-law collects tools; he never misses the chance to buy a new tape measure he’ll never use. 

Photographers collect camera equipment. Unfortunately, camera equipment is cool stuff. All black and shiny with lots of buttons and dials. Who doesn’t think they look cool(er) with a camera hanging around their neck. It’s like a fashion statement. It can also be our downfall. I sometimes think we should have a support group; “Hello my name is Dave and I have too many lenses.”

Do we need camera equipment to create our images? Of course. Do we (really) need all the camera equipment we think we need? Probably not.

 

Will That New Piece of Equipment Add to the Bottom Line?

Years ago when I was setting up my studio I met with a member of the local SCORE group. (Service Corps of Retired Executives). On my long list of equipment I had to have, was a smoke machine – like they use on a theatre stage or for a band.

The SCORE representative (obviously uninformed;-) questioned the need to spend $250 for something I’d use on the rare occasion. I ordered it, and just to prove him wrong, I used the shit out of that smoke machine. We lit everything on fire, from footballs and basketballs to laptops and ballet slippers and we used the smoke machine for added effect.

Starting stuff on fire – with smoke from the smoke machine in the background – was one of the things that put our studio on the map – we were cool (hot?) and different. So while I can say the smoke machine was a good investment, I can’t say the same about the Bogen Autopole background system. Bought it, used it for less than a year and then made a better system myself.

 

Why Buy New When Slightly Used Will Do?

Dick Enrico owned a chain of used exercise equipment stores here in our area; Second Wind. His T.V. commercials had a used-car-salesman feel to them and his tagline was always; “Why buy new when slightly used will do?” To that, I would add, “Why buy top of the line if a cheaper version will do the same job?”

My son builds very high-end hot rods (think multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars) – and he has some Tool Shop (Menard’s brand) tools in his toolbox. His opinion, Snap-on tools are nice – but does a $75 Snap-on screwdriver really work that much better than a $3.00 Tool Shop version.

Enough palaver. Following you’ll find links and descriptions to the camera equipment I currently use or have used. (Please remember, many of these are affiliate links. If you click on a link and buy something I’ll earn a small commission – at no extra cost to you.) Where possible I’ll show you a less expensive alternative that would enable you to accomplish the same result.

I’m always here if you have questions.

Studio Lights and Strobe Units

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Nikon SB-24, 26 and 28

[This is an affiliate link. If you click on this link and buy the product I may earn a small commission – at no additional cost to you.]

If you’ve used Canon equipment then you’re probably familiar with the Canon dedicated flashes from the film days. I was always a Nikon guy – hence this link.

These are powerful little flash units and you can usually get them used on EBay for $50 to $100. When I shot 35mm film I used the dedicated TTL features of these units. Now I simply use them in manual mode.

The great thing about these strobes is, as I’ve already said, they’re powerful but also infinitely adjustable. The Strobist website picked the Nikon flashes as their top choice for manual flash units.

I fire these with my Cowboy radio slaves. I use them in umbrellas or with a velcro bounce card as a kicker light. 

Comparing these to the LumoPro flash units I’d say the build quality is better and the Nikon units are adjustable in smaller increments. Plus, if you can find them – they’re much cheaper. That said, the LumoPro units do have the benefit of the built-in slave. But even buying a $20 Cowboy trigger for each flash your total outlay won’t be as much as the LumoPro. 

These Nikon flashes are a prime example of “why buy new when slightly used will do?”

Search for these on EBay now. 

LumoPro LP180 Manual Flash

[This is an affiliate link. If you click on this link and buy this product I may earn a small commission – at no additional cost to you.]

I have three of these flash units and I really love them. They’re inexpensive and dependable.

Each flash comes with;

  • 1- LP180 Quad-Sync Manual Flash
  • 1- 3.5mm Miniphone to 3.5mm Miniphone (Short) Sync Cord
  • 1- LP180 Softcase
  • 1- Set of Rosco Color Correction Gels (cut specially for the LP180)
  • 1- Set of Rosco Color Effects Gels (cut specially for the LP180)
  • 1- Small Flash Foot Stand
  • 1- Instruction Manual

I’ve only recently discovered the advantage of the flash foot stand. I’d never used these little stands as I always had the flash on a light stand. Recently however, I was photographing a car and I wanted some extra rim light on the tires. I set one of these units on the floor near the tire and it worked great.

In a portrait situation I fire these flash units with a Cowboy radio slave. But you don’t have to because each flash has a built-in optical slave trigger, as well as the ability to use a miniphone plug or the standard sync cord and of course the normal hot shoe.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to get into portable studio-style lighting the LumoPro flash units are a great option and I recommend them.

As always, email me if you have questions.

 

Photogenic 1250DR PL2 Series Powerlight

[This is an affiliate link. If you click on this link and buy this product I may earn a small commission – at no additional cost to you.]

This from the Photogenic website: “The PL1250 has a 6 f-stop flash output range from 16 to 500Ws. The unit delivers repeatable power to the flash tube every flash, for consistent exposures. At full power it has a short 1/1300 sec. flash duration. An easy-to-use slider control allows for stepless adjustments of the flash output. Just like the flash, the bright 250W modeling lamp is also slider controlled to any output level you need—full, proportional, manual or off. The flash tube is user replaceable.”

So what does all that mean? When I opened my studio I spent hours trying to figure out what lights I should buy. I’d been to a few photography seminars and the portrait photographers all seemed to be using Photogenic lights. But I struggled to understand “watt-seconds – WS” and flash duration, digital and analog, monolights or power packs. It was confusing.

We’ll get into more detail and information about lighting on the blog. Here’s what you need to know about this light and about monolights in particular.

Monolights like these have the power supply built into each light. Consequently, the light itself is heavier than the light head that goes with a power pack. For that simple reason I would not recommend these lights if you’re a location only shooter. This type of light is better suited to a permanent studio location.

Photogenic makes a digitally adjustable version of this light as well. More money of course. I’m pretty anal so I liked the digital versions. But I had both. If convenience and accuracy are important to you go with the digital version. But this analog/slider style type of power adjustment works completely fine.

Send me an email if you have questions. 

 

Photogenic 2500DR PL2 Series Powerlight
Photogenic AA12 FlashMaster Head
Photogenic PG4001ML Monolight

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Light Modifiers

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Westcott 45-Inch White Satin with Removable Black Cover Umbrella
Westcott 2026 45-Inch Round Halo - Mono
Photogenic 4-piece Grid Kit With Mounting Frame
Photogenic Gel Filter Holder Rings

[This is an affiliate link. If you click on this link and buy this product I may earn a small commission – at no additional cost to you.]

Did you click on the link? Did you see how much they want for six metal circles to hold your gels. WTF!!! Do NOT buy these.

I don’t care how low you score on the “craftability” scale, these are easy to make on your own. The gizmo that goes on the end of your light – wherein you place these gels – has a slot for these holders. Simply measure the size of that slot and cut some circles out of shirt cardboard. Or tag board. Sandwich your gel between the circles of cardboard, staple around the edges and voila – you just saved $140!

These are the gels you’ll need;

CLICK HERE to see the gels here on Amazon.

Send me an email if you have questions. 

3" Shallow Veiled Background Reflector
Photogenic Speed Ring Adapter Plate Connects Soft Boxes to the Photogenic Quick-change Mounting System
Larson 4' x 6' Softbox

[This is NOT an affiliate link.]

 

CLICK HERE to see it on Sweet light.

 

Send me an email if you have questions. 

Larson 9" x 24" Strip Softbox

[This is NOT an affiliate link.]

CLICK HERE to see it one Sweet Light

 

Send me an email if you have questions. 

Light Stands and Brackets

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Backgrounds

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Denny Manufacturing White Vinyl

[This is NOT an affiliate link.]

CLICK HERE to see vinyl photo backgrounds at Denny Manufacturing.

 

Backgrounds by Maheu

[This is NOT an affiliate link.]

Check out David Maheu’s awesome painted backgrounds – CLICK HERE.

Send me an email if you have questions. 

Backdrop Outlet

[This is NOT an affiliate link.]

See everything the Backdrop Outlet has to offer – CLICK HERE.

 

 

 

Send me an email if you have questions. 

Other Equipment

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Sekonic L-478DR Light Meter

[This is an affiliate link. If you click on this link and buy this product I may earn a small commission – at no additional cost to you.]

Over the years I used a variety of light meters starting with a Gossen Luna Pro, then a Minolta and finally the Sekonic L-358. The L-358 has been replaced – at the time of this writing – by the L-478DR meter.

You may ask, “Is a light meter really necessary Dave? What about the meter in my camera?” 

If you’re never going to use off-camera flash, and you’re only ever going to photograph in natural light – no, you don’t need a light meter. The meter in your camera will do just fine – if you use it properly.;-)

Are there ways around using a light meter? Yep. Are they cumbersome and time-consuming? Yep. 

Why This Light Meter

For one single awesome reason. Flash percentage. 

When I’m shooting outside using fill flash, in most instances, I don’t want my images to look “flashed.” You know the look, like you held the flash unit right in front of the subject’s face – glaringly bright, blown out, flat light. Not sure about you, but I’m not a fan of that look.

Using the Sekonic 478, I place the meter under my subject’s chin with the dome pointed towards the camera, and then pop the flash. The meter will of course, give me the overall exposure reading. But it also gives me the percentage of that exposure, that’s coming from the flash. Typically I want about 20% of the exposure from flash.

If you’re going to make the leap and invest in a light meter I would highly recommend the Sekonic line of meters.

Send me an email if you have questions. 

Software and Web Services

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Adobe Lightroom

[This is an affiliate link. If you click on this link and buy this product I may earn a small commission – at no additional cost to you.]

 

As always, email me if you have questions.

Site Ground Web Hosting

[This is an affiliate link. If you click on this link and buy this product I may earn a small commission – at no additional cost to you.]

 

 

 

Send me an email if you have questions. 

Elegant Themes - WordPress Themes

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Send me an email if you have questions. 

ConvertKit

[This is an affiliate link. If you click on this link and buy this product I may earn a small commission – at no additional cost to you.]

 

 

 

Send me an email if you have questions. 

SmugMug Web Hosting

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Send me an email if you have questions. 

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