Some time ago, I wrote an article about the worst photography purchases I ever made. These were some specific things, as well as some categories of items. In this article, I will talk about some of the best purchases I was fortunate enough to make. Again, specific items.
This is the season to be talking about purchases. As 2022 ends and the holiday season nears, you may very well be looking to spend some money on new gear. One release I am personally excited about is the rumored 16-inch M2 MacBook Pro. No clue if it will come out this or next year, but I will be keeping an eye out for when it does come out. In the meantime, here are some of my favorite bits of kit and software that I ever bought.
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8
This is the lens that lives on my camera. If I had to own only one lens, this would be it. Despite being old, used, and partially broken, it is still holding up strong, outliving camera bodies, and producing great imagery for me. Being a zoom lens, it offers me a fairly wide range of options: from 24mm for wide shots to 70mm for tighter and isolated images. Sure enough, it won't be anything exciting when you put it on your camera, as it doesn’t do a magical bokeh or ultrawide, but it will be used way more for work than any other lens.
Being a zoom lens from Canon 5D Classic times, it is not the sharpest or best on the market. Yet, for the price, it is hard to beat. It is also decently sharp, accurate, and consistent. Frankly, unless you absolutely need the optical performance of a newer lens, just go for this and save money. As a working photographer, I never felt like my lens was a reason for not getting work. Poor marketing, a bad portfolio, and wrong strategies were much larger factors in me not getting work than a lens.
Canon 5D Mark IV
The last of a generation. This is the end-of-the-line DSLR in Canon’s lineup. I bought it back in 2020, right after a big job and right before COVID. At this point, this camera is six years old, and I don’t feel the age. It creates wonderful stills and decent video. I filmed commercials in 2022 on this camera, and there were no complaints.
The reason I praise this camera so much is that it delivers great performance, again, for a good price. The autofocus is accurate, and it is good enough even in low light, let alone studio work. As for the resolution, it is not the highest, but for the good low-light performance of that camera, it is pretty awesome.
Avenger D650 Boom Arm
It took me way too long to find a good boom arm that I could use in the studio with the heaviest of lights, but also take outside shout I need to. This heavy-duty arm is the perfect combination of size, price, and durability. Essentially, it is a telescopic boom arm that you can extend when you need it. If you’re working in a small studio, or want better control over where you put your lights, this boom arm is perfect. Sure enough, you will need to learn to balance it properly, but that should come as second nature after a few times.
This may be the best bang-for-buck light you can get from Profoto. As of 2022, they are hard to come by new, but there are hundreds on the used market. They go for half the price of a new D1 and offer the same performance. In essence, the D1 is a perfect companion in equipping a studio or making the next step in your photography setup. It is not the best of Profoto, and the D2 is a better light. The differences between the D1 and D2 are the price, flash duration, TTL, and recycle time. If you shoot primarily in the studio, don’t freeze fast-moving motion with flash, and don’t mind waiting an extra 0.5 seconds, the D1 is the flash you should get. It is Profoto, but for the price of a cheaper alternative.
Light: Science and Magic
A book that is the bible of lighting. It covers the fundamentals, as well as dives into more complex aspects of lighting for stills photography. Lighting setups can only take you so far. As soon as you face a more complex scenario, you will inevitably have to solve the problem. Lighting offers many answers, as it controls what the viewer sees and what they don’t. More importantly, it controls how we see a particular surface. For example, a white skirt on a white surface can be lit in a way so that it doesn’t blend with the background. The same applies to a black-on-black setting.
Get this book if you ever wanted to learn to create lighting, instead of copying a setup from a YouTube video.
Lastly, let’s talk about editing software. I had to stop using Lightroom for day-to-day work as soon as I saw how bad the tethering functionality is. Later on, having compared how they process raw files, especially skin tones, I noticed that Capture One is way better suited for fashion and portrait work. Another added benefit of using Capture One over Lightroom if you had to pick one, is the fact that you can buy a one-off license for the software. For photographers who shoot portraits, products, fashion, beauty, or anything where tethering can play a big part, Capture One is the best pick. Lastly, Capture One has a free mobile app, Capture Pilot, which you can use to share the images you are shooting with everyone on the same network in real-time. A use case in a commercial world would be the following: shooting tethered to a digital workflow station, then using an iPad for the photographer, another for the client, and so on. This way, even the largest of teams can collaborate, rate, and tag images, all without having to gather around a single computer and watch over the digi’s head. Capture Pilot also lets you purchase an add-on to control your camera remotely from your phone via a network.
So, here we have it. These are the five of the best photography purchases that I made. The trusty 5D Mark IV paired with a 24-70 f/2.8 will make a perfect camera+lens combo for years to come, while the Avenger D650 boom arm may be the best studio grip kit. As for Light: Science and Magic, it is the one-book solution to knowing how to light, and Capture One is an irreplaceable piece of software in most photographers' workflows.
What are some of the purchases you were most happy with? We’d love to know in the comments!