On Choosing Your Photo Gear

Umbrella. Photo by Alina Oswald.

On Choosing Your Photo and Lighting Gear, and More

When it comes to photo gear, there are plenty of choices out there. Sky is the limit, as they say…or maybe the limit is how much you can afford or is reasonable for you to spend based on your immediate and near-future photographic needs. I say ‘near future’ because your photo interests–and hence the need for a specific kind of gear–might change over time.

So, when choosing photo gear, here are a few brief ideas:

Have a plan, a goal, a target. Ask yourself the following:

What kind of photography do you want to pursue?

What gear would you need to pursue it?

What else do you need, besides photo gear, to reach that goal? (lighting gear, photo editing software, others)

What is your budget? Is that budget enough for your photo needs? How would you spend that money? (make a list with must-have gear and wish-to-have gear and decide what you can live (or not) without)

What’s the best gear for your needs? Best prices? Best vendors?

Let’s take the above ideas one at a time:

In particular, if you find yourself at the beginning of your journey through photography, decide, first, what kind of photography you want to pursue–what category or categories of photography you want to specialize in. Based on that, as well as on your budget, do your research and figure out what is the best gear for you to buy. Best gear that you can afford to buy, to use for your photo needs–wedding photography, landscape photography, architectural photography, or macro photography, to mention only a few.

If you’re not yet sure, and maybe you want to try your hand, first, at photographing everything and anything that catches your eye, that’s fine, too. Then you might want to consider buying photo gear to use on a regular, everyday basis. Start simple. Go from there.

Most of us are on a pretty tight budget. That said, it’s wise to invest in good quality gear. It will last you longer and you will end up saving money in the long run. While camera bodies, lenses, and photo editing software programs change every few months, you can invest in light modifiers, tripods, and even photo paper cutters and use them for years to come.

I mentioned vendors. My two cents: Buy gear, at the best price possible, but also from reliable vendors. If not, most certainly you will live to regret it.

In general, do not buy gear (or anything else for that matter) only because you’ve heard is the next greatest thing on the market. If you don’t need it or if you’re not ready for that kind of gear at that time, you will end up not using it. It will collect dust somewhere in your home.

Over the years, you’ll end up updating, upgrading and replacing your gear. That’s perfectly normal. Gear gets old, outdated or you’ve outgrown it. Sometimes you change direction in your photography work because you want to try your hand at other categories of photography or are interested in images best made using a certain kind of gear.

HIV Warriors - behind the scenes at the photo shoot
Behind-the-scenes shots during the HIV Warriors photo shoot. Photo by Alina Oswald. Here’s my Nikon D300 with Profoto remote.

Years ago, I wanted to specialize in photographing weddings.  And so, my gear included Nikon camera bodies, speedlights, and a variety of lenses–50mm f/1.8, 17-55mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8–with UV filters, and even a circular polarizing filter. I also had an Elinchrom two-light kit with soft boxes and whatever the latest version of Adobe CS/Photoshop CS was available then and a few other things. By the way, in particular when shooting weddings and events, but not only, it’s good to have two of each–two camera bodies, two speed lights, a variety of lenses, light modifiers, stands and tripods, and so on.

I was also shooting portraits in studio (still do), but I didn’t quite have a backdrop, hence I bought different fabrics by the yard, and created my own backdrops. Then, I tried out seamless paper backdrops. They really simplified my life. While I can’t buy them in too many colors–nowhere to store that many rolls–I opted for Fashion Grey seamless paper backdrops and have used gels to change the backdrop color, just for variety.

Here are a few examples:

I’ve changed my photo and lighting gear over the years. I’ve always been a Nikon shooter. At the moment, I’m in the process of reorganizing my gear, or at least that’s what I call it. I’m adding a few lenses, while letting go of others.

Also, several years ago I discovered Profoto when shooting the HIV Warriors campaign. Needless to say, I was hooked.

Umbrella on a Stand. Studio Lighting Gear. Photo by Alina Oswald.
Lighting the Scene. Umbrella and Lighting Gear. Photo by Alina Oswald.

So, when choosing your gear, choose wisely. You won’t regret it.

And as always, thanks for stopping by.

Alina Oswald

NOTE: When photographing in the studio, it’s a good idea to have a variety (if possible) of seamless paper backdrops, like the one below. Click on it for more options:

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