Photography gear can be all at once exciting and depressing, as we learn about what’s possible and what it takes to achieve it. However, we do not want you to get hung up on the gear aspect of this, or any shoot. This is the very reason we created Photography 101 and Lighting 101, to show you how to take amazing images using entry level or basic gear. We show you how to get these stellar shots using a Costco $500 DSLR, standard kit lenses, and inexpensive primes. We also show you how to use on-camera flash to achieve off-camera effects, and all with the intention of highlighting that you needn’t have incredible gear to make incredible images.
With all the gear you’ll see in the Boudoir Tutorial and listed here, know that the inexpensive versions of all this stuff will yield nearly the same result. So if you see us shooting with a 5D Mark III, don’t worry if you don’t have one because in reality you won’t need one. So let’s talk about what we are using for this atmospheric shoot, and why.
Canon 5D Mark III: Once again, if you don’t have one, any DSLR will be fine in its place, and from any brand. As long as you have a hotshoe mount for your off camera flash control, you’re fine.
For this shoot, we are using a mixture of Sigma and Canon prime lenses, and it warrants saying that Sigma’s Art line of lenses are on par or better in all measures of quality than most key brands like Canon and Nikon, and easily half the price. If you’re looking for lenses today, it’s the first place to look.
As we are shooting primarily portraits and up close, we won’t be shooting any wider than a 50mm, and that’s on a full frame sensor, and only using it for wider shots such as shooting a model in a bathtub from above. When we are photographing the face or in a more portrait style, you’ll want to be shooting at least at 85mm or even tighter to minimize distortion.
*In this particular course we are dealing with content covered in lighting 201, and 301, so if you need more info on lighting and setups and so forth, check out the foundational courses, as here we assume that you have a solid enough foundation to carry you through.
To control our off camera flashes, we are using the Phottix Odin transceiver on top of the hotshoe mount, and for off camera flashes themselves, we are using the Phottix Mitros+. We have mentioned again and again how much we favor the Phottix Mitros+ as our flash of choice, as it delivers the quality and consistency and reliability needed for a professional shoot at just $400. They come with built-in radio transmitters which means you have no need for Pocket Wizzards or other third party triggering mechanisms. It’s essentially like a Canon 600EX RT for $100 less.
However, if that’s not in your budget right now, great entry level and less expensive options exists from Yongnuo or Neewer that you can pick up for $70-$120 a piece. They are a quarter of the price of even the Phottix and also have radios built in. They aren’t as reliable as the Phottix, so we tend to recommend having a back-up if you’re on a professional shoot.
For modification in this shoot, we are using the Westcott Apollo Series Strips & Orbs. They are wonderful modifiers and not terribly expensive. They also store like an umbrella, making them incredibly portable and then fold out into a softbox on demand. You can also get grids for them, they come with diffusers and are great for on-the-go.
We also are using foam core to shape and manipulate the light how we want it. Foam core can be found at pretty much any camera store and is typically either fully white or black, or white on one side and black on the other. Often used for making V-Flats, they are inexpensive and are great for using for fill light or dampening it. They are also easy to cut to make flags that are easily transportable, and allow you to do what the V-Flats do on a smaller scale.
To hold and host these modifiers, you’ll need a stand, and we use two different types typically:
The Manfrotto Nano: Coming in at around $50-70 a piece, you can buy cheaper stands but you’ll likely have to replace them often. These are about the smallest, lightest, and very durable stands that can take a lot of abuse. On the top, we mounted an umbrella cold-shoe bracket that you can pick up for about $10.
Matthews C-Stand: C-Stands are a studio staple, and you can get lots of different types of C-Stands. We prefer these for the ergonomics and general build quality. They are easy to adjust and about $130. This is what you’ll want when you need to place items up high, or when you need to boom them into certain angles, and you need to be able to support more weight.
The grid system we used on this shoot is from Gary Fong, but our favorite overall is the MagMod system because it’s elegantly designed, comes with your gels, fits with anything, and just makes for really clean and easy use.
The other item we are using in this shoot is the a Roscoe Mini-V fog machine. The ‘fog’ opens up the background and helps to create some depth and ambiance in the setting. It also helps to create a nice fill light and helps to produce and show off light-lines you’ll see coming through windows. It just really ups the production value of the shoot, and the Roscoe Mini-V is all the fog machine you’ll likely ever need, as Roscoe is a quality and dependable manufacturer. It comes in at less than you might think, at about $450, and the liter bottles of fog fluid cost around $10. Those should last you around 50 small shoots like this one. You can always rent the device if you don’t use them often or if it isn’t in your budget.
We’ll be using a combination of Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop, and suggest you have a decently powerful computer since we know LR can be a resource hog a lot of the times. We also highly recommend using a high-resolution mouse if you’re working primarily within Lightroom. We use a Logitech G500, technically a gaming mouse, but it’s weighted and makes for smooth motions; as close as you’ll get to a pen tablet.
For Photoshop, there’s just no getting around the fact that you should be using a Wacom tablet. We use these tablets because if you need to make natural lines or detailed Photoshop work, the pen offers the movement and sensitivity you just can’t get with a mouse. We have the Wacom Intuos Pro Medium here, but it has a large footprint and for most retouching work you’ll not need it. You can go with an Intuos Pro Small, or even the regular Intuos line which has just been updated and comes in under $100. We do, however, suggest sticking with Wacom as a brand, as their software is without equal, and they have set the bar.
*TIP: Lastly, we should mention that when you’re dealing with colors and all sorts of monitors and especially printing, and you need to get correct color, you should really have a color calibrator and a wide gamut monitor. We prefer the X-Rite i1 Pro as it works a little better, but have used the Spyder Elites with much success.
That’s’ it for our gear. Just keep in mind that you can use more budget-friendly versions of what you see in the video and get nearly the exact same effect.