Equipment GuideHere's a list of the gear I shoot with! As you've undoubtedly noticed, camera equipment is expensive - which is why I usually rent everything online. This gives me a chance to try it out and use it at a shoot, see if it's what I'm looking for, and have it picked back up - right from my house.
My favorite rental site: http://www.BorrowLenses.com or just click the 'Rent' link next to the gear
Also, if you are interested in buying any of the equipment I mention, it'd be a huge help if you used my Amazon Affiliate links below to get them!
Camera / Lenses
|EOS Canon 6D DSLR (Buy) / (Rent)
This is the camera I'm currently using and I love it. It's the cheapest full frame body that Canon has to offer, but coming from using a Canon T3i - it's exactly what I'm looking for. It has lower noise at high ISOs than the 5d Mark II, so shooting at shows isn't a cumbersome exercise in deciding whether to sacrifice exposure, DOF and low noise. It's also great for video - you can get away with using much more dramatic lighting because of the lack of noise and shape of the grain itself - which isn't offputting as with the Rebel series.
It also has a built in GPS and wifi tethering, which would have to be purchased separately with Canon's higher end cameras - so it's fantastic for location scouting and running around with. And with an iPhone you can actually remote control everything including focus - which makes solo work so much easier.
As an aside, if you are graduating from a crop sensor body like the T3i or 7D, you need to make sure that your lenses aren't EF-S mount only since using a non-EF lens will damage your camera. Also, because the crop sensor (APS-C) is smaller than the full frame, you'll find that the photos on the crop body are 1.6x tighter than on the 6D. So a 50mm on a full frame shoots like a 30mm on the crop body.
|Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 (Buy) / (Rent)
Just about every photographer has one of these, and for good reason - on a full frame body it has the approximate visible area of focus that the human eye has. This is a step up from the entry level 50mm f/1.8, but the metal housing, internal focus, 1/3 stop of extra brightness - and most importantly the really spectacular bokeh - make it worth the extra money.
|Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 II USM (Buy) / (Rent)
The 85mm f/1.2 is the 'definitive' portrait lens, and when you finally get to use one, you can see what all the fuss is about. At wide open, this lens has a depth of field of less than an inch - which is so shallow that you really can't manually focus without autofocusing first. It's actually kind of a pain in the ass to use. But it's seriously worth it when you see the kind of bokeh it has. Also, if you do use one - get a variable screw-on Neutral Density filter. At f/1.2, there's no such thing as 'dark'
|Canon EF 100mm f/2.0 (Buy) / (Rent)
This is one of my favorite lenses to bring to a live show, for two reasons - with a focal length longer than your typical 24-70mm f/2.8, as well as two stops brighter, you can catch some really tight, shallow DOF shots from a photo pit. It focuses as fast as the 50mm at the same aperture, and the fixed focal length makes you move around to get the shot you want - which I think always yields much nicer results.
|Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM II (Buy) / (Rent)
The 24-70mm f/2.8 is the catch all lens for just about all types of photography, and even if you aren't using a Canon series, you'll quickly see why. The flexibility of f/2.8 coupled with focal lengths that range from wide angle to telephoto means you can compose and shoot incredibly quickly. If I could only own one lens for the rest of my life, it'd be this one.
|Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 (Buy) / (Rent)
Since I don't do much nature photography, photojournalism or sports, this lens has only a few scenarios that I use it in - live show photos from angles that aren't close enough to the stage, and long headshots. But it's a killer at it.
Being able to frame a shot from a balcony above the stage, or from the front of house sound board is pretty amazing - especially when you don't have to sacrifice even a fraction of a stop of exposure. One of my favorite shots for piano players is to catch just their hands on the keys from side stage - which you simply can't do with anything wider.
As far as headshots go - and I'll cover this more in a blog sometime - longer focal lengths appear to compress the depth of a photo. This is much more flattering for a person's face, and keeps facial features from being bulbous. 85mm is the typical focal length for headshots, but I still notice the difference up to 135mm.
Flashes / Light Modifiers
|Paul C Buff / Alien Bees Flashhead (Buy) / (Rent)
When I first looked around at flashes, I had no idea what I was looking for, or what the differences between the flash heads were. Feel the same way? I'll help you out. Get an Alien Bees. These guys make monoheads (controls, flash and power in one place instead of separate) that are a fraction of the price of Elinchrom, Profoto and Bowen heads - but are absolute workhorses.
|Canon 430EX II Speedlite
(Buy) / (Rent)
I'm not an avid speedliter - and to be honest I wish I was. But it's cost prohibitive, and Canon's flash game is not up to par with Nikon's. I'd probably move up to the Canon 600EX-RT if I was going to buy another one, but since this is what I have available - with a 25ft hotshoe cable and a Manfrotto spring clamp, the 430EX can be a pretty viable single-light on-location solution.
|Fotodiox 48-inch Softbox w/ Alien Bees Speedring (Buy) / (Rent)
Softboxes. They're amazing. Soft light - its a beautiful thing. Throw a grid on the front, and its even directional. Throw a second baffle inside, and its even softer. Fotodiox is decent brand to start out with. The build quality (nor the weight) is not quite as good as the Paul C Buff ones or the high end brands - but for literally 1/10 the price, I'm totally ok with that.
|Photek 46-inch Softliter II (Buy)
I love these things, they're umbrellas with a diffusion baffle on the front. Again, super soft light is always awesome. And they collapse down to the size of an... umbrella.
|Impact 46" 5-in-1 Reflector
(Buy) / (Rent)
Everyone needs a good reflector, and this is the one I use. My favorite use is actually not when its reflecting at all, but rather as a shoot-through without the outer fabric on. Put it between the sun and your subject, and you suddenly have an enormous free, powerless soft light source.
|Manfrotto Boom Stand (Buy)
Getting your light source above and close to your subject is often times key (no pun intended), but occasionally impossible without getting the stand in the shot. You can always photoshop the stand out, but this makes life so much easier - especially if you're shooting against a seamless with a gradient.
|Black Rapid RS-5 Camera Strap (Buy)
I didn't realize how cumbersome the Canon camera straps were before I used this guy. It fastens to the bottom of your camera via the tripod screw mount, and lets the camera hang naturally at your side until you need to pick it up. That's when you realize that there's nothing inhibiting your motion, and it actually feels like your camera isn't fastened to anything at all. It also keeps you from having to keep your camera sitting at chest height or higher, which incidentally is where I've found that people like to keep their drinks at shows. Terrible combination. Aside from freeing up your range of motion, it also has card slots, and magnetic pockets to keep things that you need quick access to.
|PocketWizard Plus X Radio Trigger (Buy) / (Rent)
A remote trigger isn't totally necessary, but once you get the chance to use one you'll loath using cables ever again. It's exactly what it sounds like - a trigger that fits in your hotshoe, and another that attaches to your flash head.
|X-Rite Colormunki Display Calibrator (Buy) / (Rent)
I was skeptical about calibrators until I got one. "If everyone's monitors are different, why would it matter how calibrated my screen is? Everyone's idea of what professional looks like is subject to their monitor, right?" The answer: all professionals use a similar calibration, so even if your audience isn't seeing your photo exactly as it was edited, they can definitely see the difference in color between your photos and professional ones. Also, if you're using an IPS screen (more on that some other time), and you do calibrate your screen properly, you'll start developing your taste in color instead of guessing with each edit.
|Vanguard Up-rise 34 Camera Bag (Buy)
I like this bag. It has a quick access side flap so you can take the camera out without unzipping the whole thing, and since its a sling bag you can slide it down in front of you to reach everything. It also has a custom divisible orange interior, so in the dark you can see everything in there still. And it has enough space to keep all of the lenses above with the 24-70mm attached to the body, which is exactly what I did on tour. They do make a version that holds a laptop as well - but I prefer to keep then separate.
|Manfrotto Spring Clamp (Buy)
If you have a speedlite, this is a must have. Position the light anywhere, on anything you can clamp to. It also works great as a standard A-clamp in a pinch.
|SanDisk 32gb Class 10 95 MB/s SD Card (Buy)
This is my favorite class 10 SD card. On the 6d, I can get about 24 shots continuous before it has to finish writing - as opposed to only 14 on a class 6. It also copies insanely fast off the card, so when it's time to import you can just about halve your wait time.