Steve's Gear

In 'Steve's Gear' I'm going to show you what I've been using in my portrait work. Keep in mind that I have a very narrow business focus, with 90% of my work being portraits. Whenever you are considering buying equipment, the first questions you should ask yourself as a professional are:

1: What kind of of photos am I going to use this for? 2: Will buying this equipment increase my income? 3: Will this piece of equipment allow me to do work I'm not currently doing?

By asking yourself the above questions, you'll save yourself from impulse buying and buying gear you'll use once and then it sits in the drawer for years.

With that said, for my small portrait studio, here are my main pieces of equipment. First, I use a Nikon D200 for my main camera.

It's a pretty basic camera but suits my needs well. I recently had LustreColor make a 30x40 inch family portrait for me and I was amazed at the print quality. Of course, to get a good print that size you need to have a good file to start with. I took that particular image using 'cloudy' white balance, perfect exposure using a hand held meter, and a tripod. I used the highest quality JPEG setting on my camera, I rarely shoot 'RAW', but that's a subject for a different column.

Of course you need good 'glass'. Most of my portraits are done using one of two lenses, either a Sigma 50-150 f/2.8 lens,

or a

Both of these lenses are superb performers. I have other lenses including wide angle and macro but these 2 handle 90% of my portrait needs. I use the longer Sigma lens when possible to give me the narrowest angle of view I can get. For shallow depth of field, I typically use f/2.8 to f/4 for individual outdoor portraits.

Why no Nikon lenses? Some of my other lenses are Nikon, including a 50mm f/1.8 that I use when the light gets low. Nikon makes great stuff, I happened to test these lenses for Shutterbug magazine and really liked them. Note too that the 50-150mm focal length on a 2/3rds chip camera like the D200 is about the same as a 70-200mm lens on a full frame camera, except it's much smaller and lighter! It also goes for about $650 versus $1000 for the bigger lens. Good deal!

The Tamron is also very small, light, and has exceptional optics. For about $300, it's untouchable. Both these lenses are optimized for digital cameras, which is 'must have' nowadays. I take 90% of my images using these three items, I may show you some more gear later!