What’s in my camera bag?

Meredith Hodge Photography Chesapeake Family Photographer, Chesapeake Maternity Photographer

As a photographer, I often have clients or other photographers ask what kind of kit do I keep in my camera bag.  I’ve finally decided to open up the bag and give you a look inside!

What You Will Find In My Camera Bag


There Are Usually Two Cameras

I’ve owned several DSLR cameras between brands and recently I’ve fallen in love with older antique cameras when my dad gifted my his fathers camera (see the story here, it’s such a good one!!!).  Currently, I use a Nikon D750.  It’s a full frame body.  For those of you that don’t know what the difference is between a full frame and a crop sensor, basically speaking it is the size of the cameras sensor.  One utilizes the full sensor and the crop only uses 2/3 of it. The D750 has served me so well since I bought it. However –  it will soon become the backup body.

Right now, I am looking to upgrade to a mirrorless body. I currently own a D7200 that is in need of an upgrade 😉.  I’m still deciding what I want to get. Many people in my industry and jumping from Nikon and Canon to the Sony family.  I’m still deciding on which way I want to go. Maybe when I finally pull the trigger and purchase it, I’ll write on all of the decision points when it came to picking it out! (Or maybe I will procrastinate and put it at the bottom of my list of things to do)

The Lenses in My Camera bag 

I have tried many different lenses over the years.  When I started to learn photography, I had was a Nikon D3200, with the 18-55mm kit lens.  The first lens I invested in was what we call the nifty 50mm.  I still use today from time to time.  From there I was so caught up in thinking I needed a different lens to get better shots.  I bought a 70-300 f4, which at the time I LOVED! That is, until a taxi driver in Paris broke it.  Now it’s just a paper weight.

I eventually bought a 35mm because I heard it was better than a 50mm for portraits.  Over the next few years, I researched everything I could about lenses to find what’s best for me.  I was convinced that a prime lens is better than zoom.   I’m not 100% sure they are these days provided you invest in quality glass. (a prime lens has only one focal length. It doesn’t zoom in or out.  You have to move to get the shot you want).   I bought a 105mm, and a 135mm f2DC.  After using them for a while, I knew they weren’t exactly what I wanted.

When I Came To My Senses

I was truly excited when I ordered the 105mm.  Same with the 135mm.  I couldn’t wait to go out and shoot with them.  For a while they were ok, decent and fast lenses, I shouldn’t have had a complaint.  But there were some things about them I wasn’t thrilled about.  I won’t go into specifics as I know plenty of people that use and love them.  They just weren’t right for me.  It would have been smarter to rent them first before spending money on them. So, right then and there I decided to make these work. I wouldn’t allow myself  to buy a new lens, unless I would use for years to come.

Enter My Dream Team

Eventually,  I found my dream team and I sold the prime 105mm and 135mm.  Months were spent agonizing over it.   I was like Wayne drooling over the Fender Stratocastor in Wayne’s World.  The Tamron 24-70mm G2 and as well as the Tamron 70-200mm G2. I finally decided to live in the now.  I still have and use the 35 and the 50, but I now have a full range of focal lengths to go with.  

 

Out of the two, my hands down favorite is the 70-200.  She’s a workhorse.

 

And I can’t live without it.  

To Recap the Lenses I Use:

  • Nikon 35mm fx 1.8 prime lens
  • Nikon 50mm dx 1.4 prime
  • Tamron  24-70mm g2
  • Tamron 70-200mm g2

Flash

While I carry flashes with me, I schedule my clients so I don’t have to use it unless I want or need to.  I own two Godox V860II Speedlights.  They are an optical flash system meaning they don’t need additional triggers.  I have a multitude of flash stands and several soft boxes and light reflectors as well.

Other Gear In My Camera Bag

Along with the standard kit, I carry lots of other things in my camera bag.  A grey card to ensure proper white balance. Extra batteries for both my cameras and flashes is a must. I also carry extra SD cards as well. You can also find lens cleaners and cloths, a blower for sand, and anything else I think I may need for the day. I carry alongside it a mefoto bluetooth tripod.  Top it all off with my favorite thing ever – my spider holster.  Carrying around that much weight is terrible for your neck.  A few years ago for Christmas, my husband surprised me with one, and I now carry my camera on my hip.

What You Should Know When Looking to Upgrade

“Wow, your camera takes great pictures!” and “You have a really nice camera. No wonder your pictures look so  good!” are two phrases I commonly hear, whether it’s from clients or newer photographers. I usually laugh a little and agree, because I do love my camera. It IS really is a nice one.  In addition to my camera, it comes down to all the learning I’ve done in my career.  I can confidently tell you a few things if you are thinking about upgrading your gear.

My Most Commonly Used Phrase With New Photographers:

Don't Spend Money if You Don't Have To!

Learn What You Have

When you’re starting out, you’re going to think you will NEED to get a better lens or you need to get a better camera to take better pictures.  I’m going to tell you now, your mind is playing tricks on you.  Look in your camera bag.  What is most important is learning how to use what you have now properly.  Learn how to get your pictures right in the camera before upgrading to a new piece of equipment.

Do Your Research

Do your research and find what your dream camera/lens combo will be.  Then rent it to get a good feel before actually buying. Most importantly if you can’t afford to buy your dream lens now, don’t go out and buy something cheaper just because.  Save up a few months first.  Live your photography journey buy the phrase “buy cheap, buy twice”.   It will save you so much money  in the future when it comes to other business/hobby expenses.

Learn Your Craft

Lastly, it’s not the camera that makes a good photographer.  It’s the amount of learning and training and understanding of what it takes to get and compose the types of pictures I want to deliver to my clients. Yes, I have invested in quality equipment for my business. I’ve also invested in training my eyes for the right shot.  A good photographer will be able to get beautiful pictures in any type of location. 


Discovering History in an 80 Year Old Camera

My own personal photographic treasure hunt

In my mom's home office, there has been a really old camera sitting on her bookshelf since I can remember. No one ever touched it. I don't remember a time where it has ever moved. When we moved back to the states this past summer, we stayed with my parents for a week or so. I have no idea what i was doing but one morning it caught my eye. When I ask my mom if I could have it (cheeky, I know) and she told me it was dad's. So, off to look for dad I go!

Now he's in his usual spot and when I asked him he immediately said no. My balloon may have been a little deflated but it really wasn't a huge let down. Especially when my mother told me that it belonged to my dad's father. It made a lot more sense. We don't have a lot of pictures of him hanging around the house. He passed away when my father was really young, so it's not someone we really heard much about growing up. But I found it cool that for all these years we had kept a little piece of him, in the form of a camera sitting on the shelf. My dad gave me that camera right before we left for our new home.

Fast forward a few months and I was skyping with my fabulous friend Andy, who owns Andy Dane Photography, back in England. We were chatting about old cameras and I pulled my little Kodak off the shelf to show him. I want to treat the leather and fix the bellows on it so it will close again. As I was turning it for the camera, I said to him "I don't even know how to open this thing", and right then, found the slide release and the back popped open and oh my WHAT!? There's film in there!!! and immediately close it back as fast as I could. Right then and there I started my hunt for a studio with a darkroom in it.

It didn't take me too much time to discover a photography studio that had a darkroom. It is a bit of a drive from me, but I figure this is well worth it! I went to PRINT Wednesday and met with owners John and Kyoto. It's a charming shop in a part of Newport News called Hilton Village, a historic village modeled after a British village (so right up my aisle). John and I spent the better part of 4 hours in the darkroom with the film that has been in my Kodak SIX-16 camera for who knows how long.
We spent some time trying to get the film out of the camera, in the pitch black, as some how part of it got caught up in the bellows (the accordion). Then trying to find a spool that the film would fit on, trying to figure out the appropriate developing time and so on and so forth and we came out with this.

Are you freaking out right now? Because I sure am! Very clearly plain as day you can make out a shirt and bowtie. and there is a man. We have a man! Looking a little more closer there looks to be a set of stairs or a building! I am completely nerding out. Could this be a picture of my grandfather that my family has never seen?? Looking closer at the film, we can see on a separate shot there is another face, and a hand on another, and where the film is a bit torn, we make out a picket fence, a building and what looks to be a nun! (Who may just be my 82 year old cousin!)

Now admittedly I get easily excited. So when John and I put the negatives under the light to expose the film onto paper my little excite-o-meter skyrocketed! The fact that this film - this picture - is possibly 50, 60 maybe even 70 years old is incredible. Add on that I ACTUALLY OPENED the back of the camera with the film still in it blows my mind.

We focus of the picture of the young boy. When we develop the first shot, I was moved, almost to a point of tears when the picture appears on the paper. We tried a few more times to get a better shot. We did a little split toning with high and low contrast lenses, and we adjusted our exposure time a bit. In the end, we came out with a beautiful image of a young man who bears a similar resemblance to a young Elvis. It could be my grandfather - or maybe one of his brothers, but I really don't know. I could have spent several more hours just playing around with the images, but the day is getting long and I need to get back to my home. I thank John and get my things together to make the trip back across the tunnel. Before I pull out of the lot, I send I picture to my dad to ask him about it!

I can't contain my excitement. So I call right away and Dad gets the picture while Im on the phone with him, and I ask him - who is that? Is that your dad? Or his brothers? *Remember, I don't have a lot of visual images of my grandfather so I don't have the best visual of what he looks like. Dad laughs and says you know what that is??? Thats not my dad, that Jackie Garry - he lived above us. Enter confusion..."Why would you have a picture of the boy who lived above you - in a tux?" To which he replied - "He took Ann to her prom!" Ann is his sister, my aunt.

So now I know who this mystery man is. It's not my grandfather, which is somewhat disappointing...but he is somebody's grandfather, and maybe with some help we unite this picture with his family. I'm sure that will be a long road, but it will be worth having a go at it!

This week I plan to go to Norfolk to a studio that scans negatives from film and is able to get more detail of the images from the scan. I am hoping to see if I can get a picture of the woman, as well as the nun! I will post an update as soon as it happens!

I couldn't be more grateful to John and Kyoto at Print for allowing me to intrude on their shop and spend their afternoon on this little adventure with me. Did I tell you that he has film that works with my camera! I have to seal a light leak, but I'm excited to use it and see if and how well it works! I am excited to visit Print again in the future! If you are into film photography - they have workshops fairly often and are so helpful!

If you didn't see my original posting about my camera have a quick read here! Take a quick second to like my page to follow along on the adventure! https://www.facebook.com/meredithhodgephotography/photos/a.184472771947839/710798339315277/?type=3&theater)


Camera, photographer, chesapeake family photographer, cheap photographer

Get a New Camera for Christmas?

Did your partner do a really great job and get you a fancy new camera for Christmas? You certainly have a good one ;). Christmas is the most popular time of the year for one to get a new camera.  I love to hear when someone gets a new camera for Christmas and how excited they are about it.  You are probably really excited to get some new pictures of your children and I don't blame you. Your kids are only little for a short time. You should want to have some nice pictures of them growing!

I have a few tips to get you started with your new camera. I really hope that it inspires you to learn more about your new toy. To start, your camera probably already came with a kit lens, and hopefully a memory card, but most people have them lying around the house if yours didn't. That's all you need to get started! If you're thinking about getting a new lens to go with your kit, I recommend you learn the basics with what you've got first. Realistically speaking, you can drop hundreds of dollars upgrading your gear. However, you won't get those professional quality photos until you know how to use your gear.

1. Fully charge your battery before using it for the first time. Then go through all of your menu settings and properly set up your date and time/along with what file size you want your camera snapping pictures.

Yes, I know it sounds a bit simple minded, but it's important to fully charge the battery before using it for the first time. Camera batteries are not necessarily expensive, but they aren't too cheap either. I wouldn't want you to diminish the life of your camera just because of a battery.

2. Learn the basics! I cannot stress this enough. Your DSLR has so much power and control behind it. There is a lot to take in and learn, so go at your own pace, but the best thing I ever did was learn to take my camera out of Automatic and learn how to use the different functions.

Most DSLR cameras have these basic settings. Automatic, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, and Program Modes. Automatic is great for those point an shoot moments, but if you want to get better pictures, the first step would be to get out of Auto and into Aperture Priority to start.

3. Understand the "Exposure Triangle" The three factors that affect your camera's exposure are ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed. Adjusting one of these settings will require the other settings to be counter adjusted to maintain a proper exposure for your photos.

  • ISO is the cameras sensitivity to light. You want a low ISO if you are outside on a bright sunny day, and you want a higher ISO as the days grow long and you may need to keep a higher shutter speed to keep your subject from being blurry.
  • Aperture is amount of light the cameras lens lets through to the sensor. This is the first step to learning how to take great pictures. (In my most humble opinion, of course.). A lower aperture number with a close subject will give you more of a blurred background, while a higher number will put more of your frame in focus.
  • Shutter Speed is just that. It is how fast or slow your shutter opens and closes letting light into the sensor. A faster shutter speed will freeze motion and a slower shutter speed will open the cameras shutter for longer. So for example if you are taking pictures of kids, you will want a faster shutter speed. (As kids typically move around a lot) and if you are takin pictures of the stars, you will want an extremely slow shutter.
Understanding Exposure
Understanding your new camera settings

4.  Practice, Practice, Practice! I tell my children all the time.  It takes time and work to develop a talent.  Start out with something easy.  Take an object and start shooting with different apertures.  Adjust one stop and take a picture.  Adjust again, and again until you get the desired result.  Practicing with the different settings in real time  will give you a better understanding of how it all works together.

If you are looking to buy a lens to go along with your new camera, I suggest you invest in the ever so popular "nifty fifty".  It is a relatively inexpensive lens that gives you a much lower aperture than you will get with a kit lens.  That in turn helps when looking to get a nice blurred background in your photos.

I also offer 1-2-1 as well as group training on how to use your new camera.   Click here to find out more!

Hope you had a Merry Christmas! Happy Shooting!

 


Tips for taking pictures - with your phone!

After a debacle with some unnamed gentleman taking a group photo recently, I decided to try and pull some tips together for people who want to take better pictures with their phones! I am a selfie queen, I can almost always get everyone into one shot. However, I wanted to give you something better than "angle the phone up high and angle it to get everyone in", so I got in touch with my dear friend Nicky Maxey of Maxey Images and asked her what she would tell someone looking to get better phone pictures. Nicky takes incredible pictures with her phone, and had some great tips to share with you. Follow Nicky on Facebook and Instagram here!

https://facebook.com/maxeyimages/
https://www.instagram.com/maxey_images/

Nicky tells us:

The first thing I would tell someone would be to just snap away, if you like what you see, then take a picture. Just like with any camera, if you don't take it you won't ever know how it could turn out.

Don't over do the zoom - the camera on your phone doesn't zoom too well. Your photos will come out pixelated and won't look right. Get closer if you can, or just take it wide. The quality will be much better.

Find a good editing App and find your own style with it. Play around with your photo. Adjust the brightness or the vibrance. Try the radial filters or go black and white! Most good App's will still leave you with the original photo, so even if you hate your edit you can have another go!

If you want to turn your life of taking pictures into a small business then become active on social media. Instagram is brilliant for photography, follow the big Hubs, hashtags are important, more people will see your work. If you # a big Hub like @explore_britain , @photosofbritain etc if they like your work they can re-feature your work and you will get more followers, put a link to a Facebook page, a Facebook page for your photos. There are quite a few hubs that arrange Instagram meets check out @igersbristol @igersbath @igersoxford, they arrange meet ups for people to get together and take photos, normally with a lunch somewhere lovely. A chance to make new friends and explore new areas. Ive made some really good friends through Instagram.

The most important thing is take the photo..... don't miss the world around you!