My camera and gear. . .

I have had lots of questions lately about the camera and gear I use.  Currently, I shoot with the Canon 5D Mark II.  It has taken me five years of serious shooting to work up to the 5D though.  I started out with the Canon 20D (which is no longer produced).  It was a step above the Canon Rebels (which are great DSLR’s to start out with).  When I first bought my 20D I shot on AUTO for about a year.  I was very unhappy with my photos.  I knew I needed to learn more about my camera so that I could take it off AUTO.  My husband kept telling me to read the manual- which I did, repeatedly but it never seemed to help.  Finally I discovered Tara Whitney’s photos.  I loved (and still love) her style of shooting- especially her shots with shallow depth of field.  I decided to figure it out, which led me to take this photo . . . which also happens to be the first photo ever posted on frecklephoto.  I also bought a 50mm prime lens (because that’s what Tara used).  A prime lens has a fixed focal length- it does not zoom in and out.  Prime lens are sharper than zoom lenses.  Most of the lenses I own are primes.  If I could only own one lens it wouild be the 50mm.  It sees the world closest to what the human eye sees.  If you are interested in taking your camera off automatic mode, I highly recommend investing in the 50mm.  It is a very affordable prime lens too. 

Here is a full listing of my gear . . .

Cameras:  Canon 5D Mark II,  Canon Powershot SD1870IS

Lenses:  50mm 1.4, 35mm 1.4 (right now this is the lens that I use most- I tend to go in cycles with lenses), 24-70 2.4, 85mm 1.8, 15mm 2.8 Fisheye, Lensbaby Composer (which I have used once)

Misc.:  Underwater housing for my PowerShot

I should also mention that I shoot ONLY with natural light.  I own a flash, but I confess that I do not know how to use it (and I really don’t feel the need to learn).  I love the look of natural light and I learn more everyday about how to seek out beautiful light.

I hope that answers most of the questions.  If not, feel free to ask anything you would like.  Oh, and I had to add a photo to this post.  This is a photo of Elle taken over Christmas at my mom’s house.  Clearly I have a bit of a drama queen on my hands :).

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January 9, 2011 - 4:23 pm

Tere - thank you!

January 9, 2011 - 9:30 pm

Kathy - fantastic in the moment tantrum.

January 9, 2011 - 11:04 pm

Dayna - Fabulous picture! I too have a little drama queen, so I can really appreciate this picture. Thanks for sharing your camera info. My hubby bought me my first DSLR for Christmas. After researching lens, I was torn between the 50mm and 35mm, but you helped me make my decision….I’m going to go with the 50mm. Take care!

January 10, 2011 - 1:47 am

Alice P - Your fisheye pictures are great. I’ve got the itch to try one out. I’ve got a Canon Rebel. How do the photos from the Rebel differ from the 5D Mark II?


January 10, 2011 - 9:56 am

Melissa - Alice- The primary difference between a Canon Rebel and the Mark II is sensor size. It gets a little technical, but basically the Rebel shoots with a cropped sensor and the Mark II shoots full frame. That is why the Rebels (as well as the 7D)use different lenses (EF-S). You can use EF lenses on Rebels, but they are not full frame (1.6x crop). Check out this video . . . My 50mm lens would act like a 70mm lens on your Rebel (but the lens would still work great on the Rebel). Hope that makes sense!

January 10, 2011 - 10:28 am

Elliottsurf - Melissa,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on camera gear and what you use most.It really helps those of us who are working to improve our photography. I know that many photographers preach the usefulness of the 50mm lens. I know how awesome it is for portraits, but do you also use it for group shots?

Thanks for all the inspiration.


January 10, 2011 - 12:07 pm

Melissa - Elliottsurf- Yes, you can use it for group portraits. I wider angle may be a little easier in tight spaces, but I have used the 50mm for outdoor group shots. Reguardless of the lens focal length you want to use a high aperature (4.0+) when shooting groups of people.

January 11, 2011 - 3:23 pm

Wendy - You brought up an interesting point for me. I have the Rebel xti and recently bought a 50mm lens after hearing how so many photographers recommend it. I’ve found it very difficult to get decent photos indoors as you really have to be back so far. Is this because of the cropping factor? If so is there a better lens you would recommend to those with the Rebel and trying to take great natural & low light photos indoors without missing too much of the action? For ex. birthday parties and Christmas. Not so much for portrait photos, but capturing family activity indoors. Thanks for your advice.

January 11, 2011 - 6:37 pm

Melissa - Wendy- Yes, it’s the crop factor that is making it tough to shoot indoors. My sister has my old 20D and just upgraded to the 7D (also a cropped sensor). She loved her 50mm lens, but also felt limited by it’s focal length. She recently bought a Canon EF 24mm 2.8 lens which acts more like a 38mm or so on her camera. It’s much wider than the 50mm. If you are shooting in natural light you also want to get a lens with a relatively low aperature so that you can shoot indoors without flash. The 2.8 aperature on my sisters lens is perfect. Her 7D also handles high ISO’s better than the Rebels. You will have to deal with a bit of grain when you crank up your ISO. If an image is super grainy I just convert it to b+w. In fact I really like a gritty grainy b+w! Don’t be afraid to crank up that ISO indoors. I would rather have a grainy shot than miss the action. HTH!

January 11, 2011 - 9:29 pm

Juanita - Thanks for the link Melissa. I found it very helpful. One question. If I were to go to a 20mm or 24mm lens for indoor shooting on my crop sensor camera, would there be facial distortion? I have been pondering what lens to buy. I have the 50mm 1.4, but also have that too close problem.

January 11, 2011 - 9:37 pm

Tere - Thanks for all these great questions. I love reading the responses, they really make me think. Another follow up, I LOVED your LOVE…. books you did with AE’s overlays. The colors seems so VIBRANT. Do you use a particular software for making your colors pop? And I’m on the hunt for an underwater house, who knew 🙂

January 12, 2011 - 5:24 pm

Wendy - Thanks Melissa for the lens help. I will look into the 24mm lens. My camera is less than a year old, as well as the 50mm lens, and I am already READY to upgrade, as I did crank up the ISO to 1600 & 3200 for Christmas photos and still found any movement so blurred. Unless it is a still shot, I haven’t been too impressed with any of my photos taken with this camera/lens indoors. Ugh!

January 12, 2011 - 5:26 pm

ericka - You should make a mural out of this shot of Elle… priceless and too stinkin’ cute!

January 13, 2011 - 11:33 am

Melissa - Juanita- I would not think that you would encounter any distortion with the 24mm on your camera. On a full frame sensor there would probably be some distortion around the edged. Even my fisheye handles distortion well if I place my subject near the center of the frame. I’ll ask my sister to be sure.
Tere- I edit most of my photos in Photoshop. I have been doing less editing with my family pics because of the time involved. I have SO many photos that have never made anywhere because I haven’t had time to edit them. My goal this year is to pic my favs and leave them SOOC (staight out of camera). If I have time to edit- I’ll come back and do it later. I strive to keep my photos as natural as possible. I feel like digital photos have a layer of gray film over them. Through my editing I like to “peel” it off. I know that is a weird analogy, but when I look back to my photos shot with my SLR film camera the colors are so much more vibrant. That’s what I want my DSLR pics to look like.
Wendy- Are you using your 50mm at the lowest aperature (or at least around 2.0)? Do you have the 1.8 or 1.4?
Erika- Thanks! I have considered putting this on canvas. I love it.

January 13, 2011 - 5:24 pm

Juanita - Thanks Melissa.

January 22, 2011 - 8:11 pm

Denise Tanaka - Thanks so much for sharing!! I’ve admired you’re style for awhile-and the ‘crisp’ness of your photography! funny, I’ve begun to read my manual as well. Amazing how it helps! Thanks again…

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