Thursday, May 22, 2014

paint with stars photography faq: part 1

Today, I just wanted to take some time to answer some of the questions I receive most often about photography! I hope you'll find the answers interesting and helpful to you.

What camera and lenses do you use? 
I currently use a Canon 5D Mark III with Canon 50mm f1.2, 85mm f1.8, and 35mm f2 IS. I don't use any extra equipment, lighting, reflectors, etc. I have done a few studio-type shoots with artificial lighting, but so far I haven't fallen in love with that style. I love the challenge of shooting with natural, available light using only prime lenses, and this also fits most with my style.

A few notes on camera body:
I started off with the Canon 450D, which was just amazing and blew my mind in terms of quality improvement over my old digital camera. Honestly, the Rebel/Kiss series itself can take really amazing photos. I then upgraded to the Canon 600D for a while, and later went full frame with the Canon 5D Mark II. Last year for my birthday, I exchanged it for the Canon 5D Mark III, and it is officially my favorite camera ever. To be honest, I don't think there is a huge difference between Mark II and Mark III, depending on your style. If you use a lot of lighting equipment or shoot only in daylight with most stationary subjects, it won't really be a big difference. For me, it was a significant difference because I shoot in low lighting a lot, sometimes in complete darkness, and the Mark III is just a great improvement in terms of low light focusing. I also shoot subjects in motion quite often, as I like models to move around and show action and freedom in photos. For shots with a lot of movement, the Mark III is a dream - it nails many more useable shots for me over the Mark II. But in the end, I honestly believe it depends on the skills and passion of the photographer, not on the camera. A great photographer can make beautiful photos with any camera. What matters is that you start creating and keep creating.

On lenses that I use:
I use the 50mm f1.2 for many portrait shoots, when I want flexibility between full body shots and close up headshots. This is also my favorite lens for low lighting, such as during night shoots.

The 85mm is my choice when I really want to isolate the subject from the background, and it's extremely sharp for details such as eyes and hair. It's also probably my fastest focusing lens.

The 35mm is my most recent addition, and I bought it a while ago to replace the Sigma 35mm f1.4, which I LOVED but the weight was just too tiring for my hands. The 35mm f2 doesn't do quite as well in low lighting as the 50mm, and it's not super sharp with details, but it's beautiful with capturing a wider angle, such as in group shots or landscape shots. When I want to take in the full scene, or if I'm backed up in a small space, I bring out this lens.

In order to allow as much freedom of movement as possible for the longest time, with my small and not very muscled hands/arms, I tend to keep my gear as simple and light as possible. On most shoots, I bring only my camera and one or two lenses.

In the photo above, I also included the camera bag I use right now, by LeftoverStudio. Check out my more detailed review of the bag here.

How do you edit your photos?
I adjust colors, contrast, brightness etc with Photoshop, and lightly retouch skin if necessary. I usually retouch as little as possible for most of my shoots, but depending on the image or theme of the photo, I may sometimes add extra colors or effects.

How long have you been a photographer?
I fell in love with taking photos in 2006, when I was in high school and carried my little Canon digital camera around everywhere. It wasn't until I moved to Japan after college that I saved up and bought my first DSLR, a Canon EOS 450D (the Rebel/Kiss series). After that, I still didn't fully know how to use a DSLR, and the camera ended up sitting around mostly for a few years...until I finally rediscovered my passion for taking photos and started doing many photoshoots. I began to really want to do photography for a living and make that dream a reality.

What camera and lens do you recommend for me?
I may be biased, but I have used Canon cameras for many years and love them. If you're just starting out with DSLR photography, I recommend anything by Canon that fits your budget and needs. For a first time DSLR lens, I recommend the Canon 50mm f1.8, which is affordable and was my first lens (I almost never used the kit lens for some reason). It really depends on your needs and the type of photos you want to take, but for portrait photography, 50mm and 85mm work very well. If you're on a budget, I also recommend considering buying equipment secondhand. Especially in Tokyo, there are reputable camera shops with very high quality secondhand camera equipment, which can save you a great deal - especially if you're considering upgrading and exchanging different lenses in the future.

Thank you for reading, and if you have more questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below or contact me! I may make more photography FAQ posts in the future answering your questions :)