I’m occasionally asked what equipment I use for stock photography, so here is a summary of what I have, what I use, and why.
My main camera is the Canon 5D Mk ii – the full frame 21M DSLR. Why? Because I like the low noise from the large sensor, I can crop well into the image and still get a usable stock photo, and when I am using most of the frame, I can downsize to around 4600 pixels on the long edge to minimize and image problems and still have an image that is in the XXL scale on iStock. Many buyers seem to buy the larger image sizes (perhaps to do their own crops. Although the Mk 3 is now out, I don’t see any benefits for my type of imagery and so I will stick with the Mk 2.
I invested in the L series of Canon lenses, and have the 24-105mm, 70-200mm F4, and 17-40mm F4 – these go everywhere in my camera bag together with the 1.4x extender for the telephoto zoom. I don’t tend to use the wide angle as much as the others, but it is not a redundant lens – it is useful for interiors and sometimes wide angle landscapes. I thought about the 70-200 F2.8, but the weight and size put me off, and it is not that often I want to use the lens wide open. I tend to carry my tripod (a Gitzo GT2541) and so long exposures are not much of an issue. Also in my bag is a Canon 50mm F1.4 – a nice lightweight lens that I sometimes just stick on the camera to look less like a professional photographer! It is interesting to see what images you take when your feet are the zoom ring! I have the Canon 100mm F2.8 macro, which is normally at home – a great macro and portrait lens that I have reviewed before.
Completing my bag is the X-Rite Color Checker Passport. I don’t use it every shoot, but when I am somewhere new or in some unusual light I will take a shot of the color panel. In my pack of smaller items, I have a cheap wireless remote shutter control, a polarizing filter and the Singh-Ray variable neutral density filter – great for waterfall and water shots in general to get a silky smooth effect. That completes my bag, which is a Crumpler Whickey and Cox – great build, not too camera-y and with opening on the side against your back, you can lay it down in wet grass to get your camera and then just put it back on your back.
Back at the home studio, I use Canon flash guns for interior lighting. I bought the 550 EX. A powerful and flexible flash, but now obsolete and replaced by the 580ex. I bought those deliberately as they are about half the price of the 580EX on eBay, and I managed to get three bought for around $200 each. I bought a fourth, but the seller sent a 580 in its place, which was more than acceptable! I use the Canon ST-E2 infra-red controller to trigger them, having experimented with various cheaper optical devices. It always works fine indoors, and if it is visible to the flash gun, it works well outdoors as well. For flash modifiers, I use two white umbrellas (one which has a black outer cover to be used as a reflector as well as a shoot through). The Rogue Flashbender flash bounce cards are a great help as well for closer work – these were a good buy – well made and flexible. Recently I bought the RayFlash ring flash unit that attaches to the Canon 580 EX. I reviewed this one recently as well, and it is great for shadowless lighting close to, and to certain types of portrait shot.
What else – some flash stands, sand bags to weight them down, a white cloth and frame to provide a white background to large isolation shots. I’ve been experimenting with a white translucent reflector (the Lastolite Professional) laying on a glass table and lit by flash from underneath, with a plexiglass sheet about 6 inches above it. I put the product on the glass sheet and I can get the background nicely turned to white without any detail from the surface of the background. I tried to get translucent plexiglass but no luck so far. I do have the Velbon Macro bracket that allows you to smoothly move the camera backwards and forwards, which is great for focus stacking of macro images.
Well, I think that is all. I dread to think how much it all cost, but when the money is rolling in from stock sales, it is just a cost of business!!