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Initial post: Mar 10, 2009, 8:11:14 PM PDT
Manthano says:
I am interested in portrait photography. I gather that a good strategy is to get a decent body and a range of interchangeable lenses. Anyone have any specifics? I can see large format photoprinter and lighting. Any suggestions anyone on this shopping list?

Posted on Mar 11, 2009, 9:43:29 AM PDT
In general, spend more money on lighting, background and printer than on the camera body. Resolution can be an issue in portraiture so consider that, as well as whether you need a full frame (35mm) sensor. The answer to these questions will determine whether $5,000.00 will get you where you want to go. A few decent lenses should be enough and needn't be expensive. Obviously, money spent on a tripod, multiple off-camera flash, cable release and monolights will be money well-spent. You are going to need a lot of stands and Justin clamps.

Before spending any money (really - seriously), buy Scott Kelby's "The Digital Photography Book: Volume 2." This is a concise and excellent book on, among other things, lighting and studio portraiture. It includes equipment suggestions and will be very helpful to you. Kelby writes well, understandably and entertainingly as well.

Backgrounds can be very expensive.

Posted on Mar 15, 2009, 11:33:40 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 15, 2009, 11:40:46 AM PDT
Agree with Phillip. Look into some Canon and Epson Semi-Pro Photoprinters, they are reletively inexpensive. Assuming you want to make money at this, you may want to consider oursourcing your printing for now (much cheaper) and when you get a feel for the income you will be making, then you sort of can budget your gear purchases around your profits. Although I agree with Phillip, a body is important or rather the "type" of body you get. If you don't mind film, there are a gazillian very inexpensive options that can give you much better results than a digital package. If you are looking to view your immages either on the back of your camera or on a monitor, and your resolution is not that critical, than a digital option is great. So you see, it really depends on your motivation or intent. The question is: Will you be doing this for a living or just a hobby? If you wish to make a good part of your income in portraiture...definately get some books and the one listed by Phillip is a great starting point. Also it would benifit you to try to link up with some photographers in your community and talk about the business side of portraiture such as contracts, office setup, advertising, etc. If you belong to a weekend photo club start there and ask questions to some locals in the club...most likely someone has or is doing portraiture and sells it. Finally...practice, practice, practice. Lighting can be VERY difficult and you NEED to know your equipment limitations. Start with available lighting and try different reflecting techniques...reflectors on the market or hell, even alluminum foil. The pic of my son in my Profile is used with available light from my kitchen window and a piece of alluminum foil. But to sum up what you want to get:

1. A book relating to portrait lighting (as suggested by Phillip)
2. Some basic lighting gear (Go cheap until you get a grip on it or rent it at first)
3. Practice, practice, practice...(family members work best...hahahah)
4. Some basic business skills (if you don't already have them)
5. Network in the community to find people with similar interest and find a mentor who don't mind the competition...haha.
6. Come back to posts like this and share your experiences, trials and tribulations, and solutions to problems so other newbies don't have to make the same mistakes. This goes along with suggestion #5 as you will find those sharing with you...(Share your wisdom).

I suspect the next post you make will be something like: "What kind of soft box is best for the money?" or "should I use continuous lighting or flash strobes?" etc..etc. Just giving you a head start brother.


In reply to an earlier post on Jul 11, 2009, 11:17:05 AM PDT
I never saw you state that you were interested in Studio photography. I personally love portrait photography but hate traditional studio pics....boring. I would invest in a nice camera body. If you are just starting out you don't have to buy the very top of the line. There are plenty of great digital cameras between $1000-$2,500 that will turn up professional photographs. We debated between film and digital when first starting out and I cannot recommend digital enough. You will save money on prints, film, and for a begginer it is very helpful to see your picture right away and see what went wrong then review your settings right there in your camera. This will help you learn faster. Traditionally (with film) you had to write down all your settings with each picture you took...get the film developed...Then decide what went wrong on a certain shoot by remembering which shot it was and what settings you were using. With digital you can see the pic immediately and see what settings were used. You also have the blessing of seeing if a shot worked before your photoshoot is over. Most agree it is more important to spend your money on nice lenses rather than blow all your money on the camera body. Try pics with less and more expensive versions of lenses and you can see for yourself. My Father in Law has a much less expensive camera than I and with a better lens...a better photograph. I would get some basic lighting but not spend alot upfront (if you are not doing studio work). Buy a couple of reliable flash units to begin with. A basic reflector diffuser is also handy when lighting isn't ideal. Good luck.

Posted on Jul 11, 2009, 11:19:13 AM PDT
I would also recommend when first getting started to outsource prints...they are inexpensive to get professionally done on a much more expensive printing lab than you could buy in your budget upfront. Do some research online for the best place professional photographers print from.

Posted on Jul 11, 2009, 9:05:21 PM PDT

Sort of a silly comment you made. Good portraiture IS in a 'studio' format. Otherwise it is 'model' work on site, but on site photographers use strobe lights, reflectors, and shades as well. How is that 'borring'? Sounds like you are limiting in your photography to natural lighting.


Posted on Sep 19, 2009, 3:49:57 AM PDT
Wilbert says:
Before buying anything, get hands-on teaching and advice on equipment by attending a good photography workshop. That will save you a lot of money and disappointment.

Posted on Sep 19, 2009, 11:34:46 AM PDT
Manthano says:
I am the original poster. I ended up looking at Scott Kelby's and Joe McNally's books, and buying: Nikon D300, 18-200 lens, 10-22 lens. I got 3 speedlights. A Epson 3800 printer and an Epson media storage device. Also Manfrotto tripod. ($650)
It's definitely a good rig, though I might consider another approach if I were doing it again from scratch. One criticism is how expensive it all was. Too expensive. Today I might just wait for a cheap "point-and-shoot" high-quality camera. Theyare not out there quite yet. Ideally here is what the cam would be: 24 mp cmos sensor (for digital zooming), single fixed lens just bigger than current lenses, computong power inside to do all the variants of HDR exposure, lens may or may not have some zoom. Very small form factor, as small as current consumer cameras. THen I would have a fast mac and photoshop. I have found that photoshop is sometimes much easier than using flashes, and more powerful. You wouldn't cover all the bases of current DSLR, but you could do some things that DSLR can't do in-camera currently.
Advantages of this approach:
It would be small and light. Good for candid photography. This is a BIG deal, as current rig is too bulky and heavy.
The built-in HDR would mean that a lot of the lighting would be much easier.
The camersa would be quiet, rather than noisy DSLR mirror.
THe camera would be CHEAP, as expensive glass and DSLR is gone.

I predict in a few years DSLR will be out-moded, and cams such as I have described will be the norm even for serious pros. He first company to do this will do well, IMO. Olympus has a few features of this.
John B

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 13, 2010, 11:58:28 AM PDT
Trevor Angel says:
You didn't say you wanted it cheap, you said you wanted to spend $5k. If you wanted to spend less it, could be done for less. Also you just said you were "interested" in portrait photography, not that you wanted to turn pro or anything. It would be possible to indulge your interest for a few hundred dollars -plenty of point-n-shoots will take a good portrait, just not up to pro standards.
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Initial post:  Mar 10, 2009
Latest post:  Jul 13, 2010

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Understanding exposure
Understanding exposure by Bryan Peterson (Hardcover - 1990)
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