This list goes over all of the gear that I used in the Fstoppers tutorial The Cinematic Headshot. As I am always shooting headshots on location, it is important to me to always travel as lightly as possible. Below is a list of the gear I use, as well as a few other alternatives that may be more affordable for you.
What I Use
I use the Nikon D700 however it has been discontinued at B&H so here is a link to the D750
There are obviously benefits to having a full frame body. A shallower depth of field, more focus points, and you don't have to keep doing math to figure out what actual focal length you're at. Math was never my strongest subject. Don't let the camera body control you. Use what you have, and go from there. It is easy to get caught up in wanting gear, because somewhere in all of us photographers is a bit of tech nerd. I started with a Nikon D80, so I'm sure many of you are already ahead of me on that. Upgrade when the time is right for you and when it makes the most sense financially. The saying is also true that it is much more important to invest in quality lenses than camera bodies.
This is Nikon's current cheapest full frame camera. You do not have to start here. Feel free to start with a used cropped sensor camera.
This is Canon's cheapest full frame camera currently available.
What I Use
I like the flexibility the 70-200mm provides, if you are on a tighter budget however, check out the other lens options below. I do like the 85mm, however there are affordable options in the 100mm to 180mm focal lengths as well that will provide more compression of the background to subject and get more into the cinematic feel, while allowing a nice comfotable working distance with your client.
Nikon's 80-200mm is a solid lens with great reviews, and the best part is that it's at least $1300 cheaper than the 70-200mm. The 80-200mm is the closest competitor to the 70-200, in terms of getting similar results, while allowing the flexibilty of a zoom. Keep in mind there is no vibration reduction on this lens, which could prove challenging at dusk with slower shutter speeds, but in high speed sync you should be just fine.
Most people refer to the 85mm focal length as the ultimate "portrait" lens. Don't get me wrong, I like the 85mm focal length, and it is certainly good to have in your kit, but for headshots, 100mm and beyond is what I suggest. You get more compression of the background to the subject, and it has a much more cinematic feel. It also allows for a bit more working distance between you and your model. I like the 85mm focal length for 3/4 shots or full length.
The 105mm focal length has also been in some raging competition with the 85mm for best portrait focal length. It keeps you at a good working distance, and allows for nice bokeh and background compression, which gets you more into that cinematic feel. The DC in this lens stands for "Defocus Control" which allows you to mess with the appearance of the bokeh itself - for more info on this you can Google it, and check out the FStoppers article on the 135mm below, as the two lenses are essentially brothers. For headshots I would reccomend this over the 85mm any day of the week.
I've almost bought this lens a half dozen times. It has the same Defocus Control Feature found on the 105mm, and it will obviously have more compression than it's little brother as well. It is sharp, and fast. FStoppers has a great article about it you which can read here. You can apply this article equally to the 105mm above also. Both lenses are relatively affordable considering bang for buck. You will want to stop them down a little to at least f/2.8.
This lens is certainly going to have more compression and probably creamier bokeh than the other 3 lenses above. Fast, and reasonably affordable as well. Keep in mind that none of the lenses above have vibration reduction of any kind, but if you are in High Speed Sync, with high shutter speeds you will be good, however shooting headshots at dusk may prove more challenging.
People rave about this as much as Nikon's equivalent. As I'm not a Canon shooter I can't speak much for thier glass, but I do know that it's good. The Canon vs. Nikon debate has always made me laugh, both have pluses, both have minuses, and they both make great camera's and lenses. Do what works best for you.
I decided to include this lens, as it's about $1000 cheaper than the f/2.8 version above it. It has image stabilzation which is nice. It is a constant f/4 which puts you 1 stop away from the f/2.8 version, and only 2/3rd's of a stop away from f/3.2, which is where I typically let my aperture live. Nice bang for the buck, you get the flexibilty of the zoom, and the compression of 200mm. You will also get some really nice bokeh as well, might be good for you if you want a budget zoom.
This is Canon's equivalent to Nikon's and I have the same reccommendation. Good for full length and 3/4 shot, for headshots go longer.
Canon has a bit more selection in the telephoto range than Nikon. Check out the options available at this page. As mentioned above, I reccommend anything longer than 100mm. Many of these are Nikon equivalents, and I have narrowed them all down for you on the link above.
What I Use
This little sucker has got some good punch and features for it's size, and you could easily use it as a key light. For the backlight I typically have the head zoomed to 85mm. I've also dropped it a few times and it's still kicking. Worth every penny as far as I'm concerned.
The SB-910 is a beast of a light. I have the earlier cousin, and they can take a beating. I use this as my key light with the flash head usually zoomed to 85mm, but it goes to 200mm. When you need serious punch, this has it.
This would be the Canon equivalent to the SB-910.
This would be the Canon equivalent to the SB-700
There are some other speedlights out there that also do High Speed Sync that may be more affordable than Nikon or Cannon equivelants. Make sure you do reasearch to confirm support for High Speed Sync and your camera make and model. As I have not personally used these, I cannot speak to their performance, although reviewers seem to like them.
Yongnuo YN568 EX II for Nikon (This flash will work with Yongnuo triggers listed below)
Yongnuo YN568 EX II for Cannon (This flash will work with Yongnuo triggers listed below)
I own 2 of the lower end models of Yongnuo flashes which I use mainly for my hotel and architectural work and the ones I have don't have nearly the capabilites these have. I can say the construction is good, they are easy to use and get the job done. Both models above can work in High Speed Sync, and are probably good affordable alternatives, but as always, do your research.
What I Use
The PocketWizard FlexTT5's are where the magic begins. These will clip onto the hotshoe of your Nikon or Canon flash, and will enable remote control of the flash, and allow for high speed sync with the camera's shutter. They come backed by a great company with great tech support and a bunch of information. What I love is that both models are ready for High Speed Sync straight out of the box. I set mine both to C1 and my key light to group A and my back light to group C. Make sure you power on your flash first, and then the FlexTT5. The Flex TT5's from Pocketwizard are only compatable with Nikon, Canon, Metz, and Nissin speedlights. Please check compatability before you buy.
The MiniTT1 is what will trigger the FlexTT5's, set to C1 power the MiniTT1 on first and then your camera.
PocketWizard AC3 Zone Controller (Nikon and Canon)
If you are going the PocketWizard route just buy this, it will save your life. It clips on top of the MiniTT1 and allows you to control the flash power levels remotely, so you don't have to walk to the light. It has groups A,B,C. Set the top to M for all channels, this will prevent the camera from metering the scene and guessing the flash output for you. When working outside, conditions can change quickly, especially if you are doing a full session and you don't want the camera trying to figure out flash power for you. This way no matter what's in the back ground or how bright it is, it will always give you the same flash output on your model.
This is great to have so that you aren't worried about your batteries dying. It plugs into Nikon's 10 pin port and into the MiniTT but make sure you check your camera body's compatability, as some Nikon Bodies don't have a 10 pin port.
(Compatible with Nikon Digital Cameras and Flashes, Phottix Mitros TTL Flash for Nikon. Compatible with the following Nikon flash: SB-400, SB-600, SB-700, SB-800, SB-900, SB-910, Phottix Mitros TTL Flash for Nikon.
Please note cameras: D70 and D70s not compatible.)
(Compatible Canon EOS digital cameras; 100D, 300D, 350D, 400D, 450D(Kiss X2), 500D(Kiss X3), 550D, 600D, 650D, 700D, 1000D, 1100D, 10D, 20D, 30D, 40D, 50D, 60D, 60Da, 70D, 5D Mark II, 5D Mark III, 5D, 6D, 7D, 1D Mark II, 1D Mark III, 1D Mark IIN, 1D Mark IV, 1DS Mark II, 1DS Mark II, 1DX, G12, G1X, EOS M.
Compatible with the following Canon flash: 270EX, 270EXII, 320EX, 380EX, 420EX, 430EX, 430EXII, 550EX, 580EX, 580EXII, 600EX; Phottix Mitros and Mitros+ TTL flash.)
Both are compatible with the Yongnuo flashes listed above
We have found that HSS capable triggers tend to be flash specific, MAKE SURE you check your flashes compatability with all products.
There are other more affordable options for wireless flash triggers capable of High Speed Sync out there as well. Again, as I have not personally used them I cannot speak to their performance but the Phottix Odin or Yongnuo lines seem to be a good place to start.
What I Use
I use this ALL the time, a good simple reflector is a must for any photographer. They have bigger ones as well - the bigger it is the more light it will catch, just remember that you want to keep it close to your model so don't go crazy!
This is a beautiful light source. A bit of a pain to set up, but once you get the hang of it it's not too bad. I like Octa's as they offer a little more flexibility than softboxes if your model moves their face. The light is soft, and easier to feather when you want to sculpt a face. It also folds down to a nice compact size. Octa's also produce a pleasing, more natural feeling catchlight in the eyes which I really like.
Lastolight also has newer models which I mentioned in the video that are listed below. I have used the 40in model and it is also a beautiful light and a little easier to setup than the Lastolite 36in Hotrod Octa above.
The reason I like a softbox for my back light is it's more focusable than say an umbrella and more controllable. You can also put grids on it for even more precision and in a headshot frame you don't necessarily need a striplight. Folds down compact, and pops open, very easy to set up. This was actually what I started using as my key light, before I switched to the bigger softer Octa.
When you can - buy one. It will also save you and your models life.
You need to have something to put all these lights on. These are affordable and solid, and I'm also not afraid to bang them around.
You will want to have a few of these as well, simply because most of the modifiers don't come with them, and if you don't get them you won't be able to angle your light at all.
I just bought 3 of the brackets at the link below as I have Elinchrom softboxes and Octa's that I wanted to be able to use with my speedlights with as well. For those of you that may already have Elinchrom modifiers check these out. Build quality is pretty good, and I have used them several times now with no issues.
There is a lot of debate about what the best rechargeable batteries are. I can tell you from years of shooting, PowerEx makes some of the best. Recycle times in High Speed Sync even with flashes at full power and no external battery packs are plenty fast enough for me. I highly reccommend them.
I really dig this strap, I like the extra clip under the arm, and the extra stopper so you can "lock" the camera by your side so it isn't swinging all over the place. I use this with every session.
Color accuracy is important to me, and it should be to you as well. This is good to have in the kit, however a white piece of paper, or a grey card work as well. Read about the color checker as it offers some great options like creating custom color profiles for your camera and some other goodies, along with just your basic white balance checker in post production.
To learn more about my photography tutorial on portraits and headshots visit this link. You can watch the promo video below.