Every photographer needs a pack full of the right gear. If you are just getting into portrait photography, use this guide to help you find the right equipment.
Find the Right Camera
Before you even begin your foray into the photography world, you will need to drop a couple hundred if not a few thousand dollars into your equipment. Your first and obviously most important purchase will be your camera. There are a number of good entry-level dSLR cameras on the market that should be sufficient to start out, but you must purchase a prosumer camera to really take your photography to the next level. These more high-end dSLR cameras cost in the $2000 to $3000 range and will give photographers the resolution and quality that is expected and necessary for professionals.
Professional photographers most often use Canon and Nikon cameras. These two companies produce a number of prosumer and professional cameras to fit just about any budget. Sony, Pentax, and Olympus also make viable camera options, but you must keep in mind that these companies do not have a full library of high-end cameras. If and when you upgrade, you may have to purchase a Canon or Nikon camera.
Resolution, shutter burst speed, and performance in low light are three important features for most professional photographers. Obviously, the higher your resolution is, the larger you can print your photos. You may also want to purchase a camera that has a full-frame sensor, which will help produce even better photographs.
Most portrait photographers do not need the ability to shoot many frames per second, but many high-end cameras have the ability to shoot more than three or four frames per second. If you do not need to shoot quickly, your dollar might be more cost effective in a different camera.
Performance in low light is especially important for wedding photographers. When shooting indoors at a reception, there is often little to no natural light. To compensate for this, you will need to increase your camera’s ISO, which will sometimes make your photos very grainy. Some cameras produce more or less grain than others so be aware and do your research.
Serious Photographers must purchase a serious
camera like the Canon 5D Mark II shown here.
Things to Keep in Mind:
- You can start with an entry-level dSLR, but you will want to purchase a better camera quickly.
- Canon and Nikon are the two most popular camera brands for professional photographers, and this is with good reason.
- Look out especially for camera resolution, shutter burst speed, and performance in low-light.
Memory Cards, Batteries, and Camera Bags
Your next essential purchase should be a compact flash card. Depending on your type of photography and the resolution of your camera, multiple memory cards may need to be purchased. To help you find the right memory card be sure to read this compact flash guide for portrait photographers.
If you use your camera over extended periods of time as in wedding photography, an extra battery for your camera is essential. If you just take short photo sessions, an extra battery may not be necessary—just be sure that your lone battery is always charged.
Quite often, portrait photographers need to be very mobile thus making a good camera bag essential. Look for a bag that can easily carry all of your equipment and any other equipment that you plan to purchase in the future. The best camera bags can be worn as a backpack and as a sling bag.
Things to Keep in Mind:
- Stock up on memory cards if you plan to take a lot of photos.
- An extra battery is essential if you shoot weddings although it is highly recommended that all photographers carry an extra.
- A camera bag is essential for any professional. It is important to load and unload your equipment at a moment’s notice.
Your New Best Friend: The Attachable Flash
Whether you are shooting indoors or outdoors, an attachable flash is absolutely necessary for any professional photographer. Oftentimes, the flash on cameras produce a very flat light on people’s faces, but most attached flashes have heads that rotate and swivel, which allows photographers to bounce light from other surfaces. This creates a larger light source that will better illuminate your subjects and will also create more depth of light to your photograph.
Better flashes will produce stronger light and will have more shooting modes and options. If you have it in your budget, get the best flash compatible with your camera—it is worth every penny. You will be able to “grow into” your flash as a photographer, and you may be able to use it with your future cameras.
Things to Keep in Mind:
- A flash is a must for shooting both indoors and outdoors.
- Do not scrimp on your flash—you will get what you pay for.
More Accessories for the Serious Photographers
As you develop as a photographer, you will probably want to expand your personal selection of lenses. Hopefully you start out with a versatile lens with a range around 24mm to 70mm as a good, all-around portrait lens. Next, look at telephoto lenses that range from 70mm to 200mm. This is a great lens that allows you to take a few steps back but lets you zoom right back into the action. And finally, you may want to invest in a macro lens that will allow you to take great pictures of wedding rings.
Pocket Wizard or Flash Trigger
The best photographers know how to control lighting whether it be natural or from a flash. A pocket wizard or other flash trigger lets photographers to take their attachable flash off of their camera. This will give photographers the flexibility and full control of their flash to create the best lighting possible.
A flash chord is the poor man’s pocket wizard. It is simply a chord, usually about three feet long, that fits on the hot shoe on your camera and attaches to your flash. Even moving a flash a few feet off of the camera will produce better lighting.
Some Essential Software
To fully harness the art of digital photography, every professional photographer needs a good piece of photo editing software. The most popular, yet very pricey, software for photographers is Adobe Photoshop. Adobe also makes a program called Lightroom that is a much less expensive piece of software that was made specifically for photographers.
Essential Gear for the Professional:
- A Prosumer Camera
- Compact Flash Cards
- A Camera Bag
- Extra Battery
- Attachable Flash