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The Urban Photographer’s Starter Kit

I’ve been asked several times by new photographers about the gear that they might need to start shooting video vixens.  Lights, photoshop, cameras and things of that nature. I am always willing to give words of advice. So instead of writing a bunch of individual emails as I have been doing in the past, I felt that posting one that covers everything here  would be a way to go…

THE CAMERA

As a Canon man, I could be biased and tell you all that the only brand of camera anyone thinking of becoming a photographer should get would be a Canon, but I would be misleading you in telling you that. The truth is that there are many great cameras, from brands such as Nikon, Olympus, Sony and a few others.  The main thing you need to know is your needs and options for the type of photography that you wish to engage in.

Price is almost always the number one consideration when thinking of starting out in photography (or anything else). When I was first starting out, I purchased a Canon Rebel XT from a local Target on clearance for about $300. It wasnt exactly a “pro” camera but it did the job relatively well. There are some amazing shooters using “consumer” level cameras like the Rebel today. Starting out I would recommend a camera like this if money is indeed an issue. Most times they can be found in stores like Best Buy, WalMart, Target, etc, but do your homework and find out all the specifications on the cameras you are considering.

If you want more for your money you may also want to look at used cameras. Places like craigslist and ebay have hidden gems weekly showing up. Be patient and wait out the good deals.

But, if you are lucky enough to have no limit to the amount you spend, do yourself a favor and do your research & homework. There are lots of great new models of cameras on the market today. Ask other photographers what they use, especially photographers in your area. I found that having others in my area who also shoot Canon enables me to get tips and borrow things like lenses in a pinch. I couldnt do that if I bought a brand that no one in my area had. Also renting equipment for Canon or Nikon in my area is easily done. Had I bought a Sony I might have some issues. So take things like these into account.

LENSES

The holy grail of photography is not the camera that you have but the GLASS!  Camera bodies will wear down, become obsolete, etc etc., but the Lenses will hold their value over many years. I know photographers who have cheap consumer level bodies with lenses that cost more than 4 times the price of their camera. Why? Because the optics on a professional lens will make that consumer grade cameras images look amazing! But dont worry. Their are many great lenses that wont break the bank and will give similar results.

First you have to know what camera you own or will purchase. Certain lenses are best suited for certain bodies. For instance, if you have a Full Frame sensored camera, a 50mm will give you images that look different than they would on a 1.6 crop sensor camera. So you have to know your camera.

Once you have that knowledge decide on your needs. Will you be shooting in low light situations or using just strobes? Will you be in a small studio or outside on location? Many questions need to be answered when looking into lenses.

With a 1.6 crop sensor camera I would recommend starting off with at least one prime lens. Probably a 50mm. They are cheap and they do well in low light. They will also get you some sharp images! Prime lenses do not zoom so if you have to get closer to your subject in terms of framing, that means you will physically have to move closer.

A pro level zoom is also a recommendation. A 70-200mm 2.8 is the go to lens that many photographers believe can handle most situations adequately. But there are several other options if you dont have pro lens money. Again you will need to do some research.

LIGHTING

Lighting isnt something that you absolutely need, but I do recommend having some form of lighting if you want to shoot video vixens. The reason is that the Urban Eye Candy market is into selling fantasies. Using natural light is a wonderful thing when done properly and can give you some beautiful images. That being said, sometimes you lose a bit of color when you shoot with only natural light. Strobes or flashes enable those camera sensors to really capture all of the colors that natural light can sometimes miss. Of course this isnt true in all cases, but for the most part, if you want colors to have that”pop”, invest in some strobes.

Hot lights (or continuous lights) are okay for some things but they normally don’t deliver as much light as strobes. Again, that “pop” in color comes when your models are exposed to a lot of light.

There are several different types of strobes out on the market. Most of them will need some sort of trigger that will sit on the hot shoe of your camera and remotely tell the lights when to flash. So a trigger will be needed for your camera and a receiver will either be built into your strobe or will need to plug in to it. There are multiple systems that allow you to get the needed results. I have used cheap ebay cactus triggers as well as the mid level Paul C. Buff Cybersyncs(in my kit now) & top of the line Pocket Wizards.

Again do your research and find a system that fits your budget and needs. One light is enough for many situations and there are many tutorials online that will show you how to make amazing images with just one, but if you have money for more go right ahead.

MISCELLANEOUS

There are always small tools that you can use when shooting to make things go more smoothly. Simple things like a microfiber lens cloth help to wipe dust away from your lens. A handheld dust blower also works well for ridding your lens of small particles. On sunny days a hoodman loupe helps you see your screen, and a light meter can help you get the proper exposure when shooting. A nice foldable reflector can help you when you need light.


No matter what your decision will be when purchasing your new starter kit, be sure learn as much as possible prior to putting your hard earned money on the line. Know what you are buying. Ask around if you’re not sure to avoid spending thousands on something that wont work for you.

Hope this helped

~ Cyclopedia