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. 


Chesapeake Arboretum gazebo family photography

Sturgeon Family - Chesapeake Arboretum

How the Sturgeon Family Rocked their Family Photography Session at the Chesapeake Arboretum!

What a great time of year to explore the beauty of the Chesapeake Arboretum!  If you’re looking for the best place to go for your family photography session in Chesapeake, look no further!  I couldn’t get enough of those sun flares, radiant flowers and all the shades of green a photographer (and a gardener) could ask for! I definitely do not have a green thumb at home, which is one of the reasons why I love working at the arboretum! There is a lot of versatility on the grounds for different backgrounds,  making sessions we have here all the more enjoyable. 🌱

I was just born this cute!” - Ellie Sturgeon 🌸 This girl seriously knows what she is doing when the camera is turned her way.  She loves posing and it shows!

Let me just tell you: the Sturgeons showed up knowing exactly how to not only make me smile, but everyone around them too! Between Ellie declaring confidently she has always been the cutest, to the boys showing off their theatrical skills and then the whole family joining in to sing ‘So long, Farewell,’ from The Sound of Music, I was in photography heaven! The kids got along so well and clearly have so much love for one another, and it shows in every photo I took.

The giggles, the jokes, the silliness, including the “Sturgeon scatter” all lead up to fun, natural moments I could freeze in time for this family. Moments that they can cherish forever.

 

Oh my gosh, would you just look at these two!  Thirteen years of marriage and still in love. 💑 The way the Sturgeons gaze into each other’s eyes or whisper sweet nothings to one another… it’s priceless! These light-hearted moments, walking through the Chesapeake Arboretum, and learning more about this Navy family is one of the reasons I love what I do! Some families are just intuitive in front of the lens of a camera, and this family is one of them!  📷

I want you to enjoy your time with me; I want to help capture moments and memories, not just faces in time. It’s important for me to help you relax and feel as natural as possible, because those make the best results.

The Arboretum was an amazing setting for the children to explore. Grant and Nolan climbed trees, while Ellie came across a small garden snake! 🐍 These sessions should be fun, and I, as your photographer, value the time we have together, making a split-second of joy a piece of art you can cherish forever.

Learn more about the Chesapeake Arboretum by visiting their Facebook Page here! 

I encourage my clients to come dressed in what shows their personalities, as individuals or as a family, but at the same time it’s essential to be comfortable! Cathy Sturgeon did a idealistic job of dressing to impress for this day outdoors! The colors were simple and contrasting with the greenery, the clothes were seasonally appropriate (super important that no one was sweating through their shirts!) but there is one thing I would like to note as we move into the hotter days.

If you read nothing else in this post, read this!

There is one last thing I want to touch on as spring is quickly turning into summer, and it’s super important.   Keep in mind the mosquitoes and the gnats are coming out in full force towards the end of each day.  When the sun is setting and its radiance is at its peak, so are those pesky bugs.  As you plan and prepare for your session, I highly suggest bringing 🦟 Bug spray as well as sunscreen and water for those hotter evenings! 🌞

Our spring/summer calendar is filling up really quickly!  If you're interested in booking a family photography session in Chesapeake or the surrounding areas,  visit the contact page by clicking here and let's get started! 


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Family Photos in Suffolk

Family Photos in Suffolk, VA

I love my job.  Especially when it comes to all of the different people I get to meet and the new places I get to see.   I recently took Joanna’s family photos in Suffolk.  Joanna and I hit it off on the phone right away.  As soon as I heard her British accent, I have to admit, I got a bit homesick for England.  I may have only lived there for a few years, but it became home to us very quickly.  She and I talked for nearly an hour about where we lived, what we loved and missed, and living here.  Not to mention photography of course!  We straight away clicked on the importance of having pictures printed out and to be able to actually see them on the walls and in frames.  I could have chatted with her for hours!

Choosing A Location for your Family Photos

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When deciding on a location for your family portraits, take into consideration your own family style.  Does your family like the woods or the beach?  Would you prefer a field with blowing grasses, or perhaps the beautiful blue water of a nearby lake?  How would those locations fit into the style of how you decorate your home?  Joanna ended up choosing Sleepyhole Park for her family photos in Suffolk.  I had never been there before but it was an absolute stunning backdrop.  There was a long fishing pier overlooking the Nansemond River where I met them.  The sun was gorgeous as it came over the treeline and reflected down onto the water.  We were able to use the trees for some gorgeous dappled lighting as well. It is an ideal location for for family photos in Suffolk!

Digital Files are Great, But...

Why spend money on a photographer if all you will do is buy the digital files?  You see, a lot of people will post the pictures from their professional session on their social media accounts and never get around to printing them out! Then a month goes by, and they have since changed their profile picture a few times and those photos that they cherished for the week or two are starting to become just a memory.

They get that reminder, you know the one I’m talking about. The “On This Day” reminder.  They will put them as their profile picture for a few weeks only to change it again when the next thing comes along. We are all guilty of it!  Where would you be if you never printed out the pictures from your session?  Bigger picture, how would you know what your great grandparents looked like if all they owned were digital files?

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How do I choose the right photographer for my family photos?

Choosing a photographer for your family photos can be hard!  With all of the talented photographers out there to choose from, you also have to be sure that you don’t hire someone who claims to be a professional and turns out not to be.  Now a days when anyone and everyone has a camera, how are you to be sure you can trust who you are working with?

I advise anyone I talk to, whether or not I fit the description of the photographer they want to hire to ask if the company has a business license as well as how long they have been in business.  As a business owner, I frequently encounter people who have been burned by a so called photographer in the past.    I think my biggest piece of advise would be to look at their website, and have a phone conversation with anyone you are considering hiring.  Sometimes it’s easier to build trust in someone when you have an actual voice on the other end of the phone.     Don’t know what to ask about?  Well, don’t worry.  I’ll help you.

What kind of questions should I ask a photographer before hiring them?

I think it is really important to get to know a photographer before you hire one.  I want you to know what you are getting when you hire me.  The experience of hiring a family photographer should be one you enjoy.  I’ve put together a list of questions to help you narrow down your search when looking for someone to update your family photos.

  1.  How long have you been in business, and do you have a business license?
  2.  Do you treat your photography a business or is this something you do in your spare time?
  3. Do you have any testimonials from past clients?
  4. What is your process for a client?
  5. Is anything included in the session fee?
  6. What is the ordering session like?
  7. Do you offer digitals and prints?
  8. How long does it take to get my pictures back?
  9. What makes you different?

These are just generic questions, by no means do you have to stick to a script.  By the end of the phone call you should have a good feel of the way their business is run.

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Last but not least!

Beware the cheapie photographer.  The one that offers you 75 images for $50.  This should scream run to you.  You probably already know when someone is offering you a deal that’s too good to be true, it usually is.   I’ve written about this a time or two before.  You can read all about it here


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So you want a cheap photographer...

Before going with a "cheap" photographer take a minute to read this!

I see it all the time, people are in search of a cheap photographer.

Now, I’ll be the first to say I’m cheap. In terms of how I spend my money.  I’m always looking for the best deal when it comes to spending money.  Did you ever hear the term, “You get what you pay for?” how about the one “Buy cheap, buy twice”? Before I started my own business, I never understood why a photographer charges so much money.

It’s taken me a few years to really understand it fully. Not why a photographer charges so much.  Why it’s hard for any small business to remain in business. It’s extremely difficult to build profitable business, AND pay a living wage. Most small business owners I know work job to job, just chipping away at the money they spent in trying to get their business off the ground! While I have a good grip on my finances, I still try to be relatively inexpensive and provide a quality service to my clients. It hurts me to see so many cheap photographers out there offering their services for so much less than they are worth.  

How much actually goes into running a business? Why should someone spend anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars on services when you can get someone to do it cheaper.  This is close to my heart.  I work hard for my business.  I want my friends and clients to understand the amount of work that is put in.  It is important that people to know what they are getting when they work with me.  So I would just like to explain the difference between a legitimate photographer and a cheap one.  

 

The “I take good pictures and I can make a little money on the side photographer”  AKA The “Cheap” photographer 

About Them: This person takes some good photos and figures they can pay for their camera by charging to take photos for friends. They’ve got a decent camera and the idea of making some money is really enticing. They don’t need to charge a lot since all they want is some extra cash.

Why they are great for you: Well hello, cheap photos! Photographers in this stage of their business are either charging cheaply to build up their portfolio or it’s a way to earn extra pocket money. 

Why this may not be great for you:  Photographers that fall into this category typically don’t know what they don’t know.  The money appeal is greater than actually being educated about their endeavor.  It’s unlikely do not have a business license, and are not paying taxes, insurance, etc. You may even end up paying for photos that, well…aren’t very good.  Their editing style is inconsistent.  Or worse – over edited!  They haven’t invested the time it takes in learning how to get the shot right in camera.

Why this may not be great for them: New photographers will end up spending so much time trying to learn how to run a business as they go, make mistakes along the way.  When you consider all the time put into one single client, they’re losing money on sessions with all of the expenses they should be paying out.  They are NOT earning a paycheck.  This photographers business model will have them out of business (and potentially thousands of dollars in the hole) within 2 years.  

cheap photographer

I'm going to shoot straight with you here.  Please do not use a service that cannot provide a business license or Tax ID number.  There are affordable legitimate business owners out there.  People operating their business without the proper licenses are operating illegally.  You pay your taxes, they should pay theirs too. Licensed professionals are supporting YOUR community with what they pay in taxes. That money goes to pay for first responders as well as funds public schools and parks.  The more the unlicensed traders are supported, the less money that goes back into our community.

The “Professional” photographer:

About them:  A professional photographer is one that charges in line with what it costs to run a business.  Not just any business, THEIR business.  They have done the math and knows the cost of running their company down to the penny.  How much it costs to provide clients with prints, the packaging of prints, and shipping costs.  Contracts are drawn up by lawyers to protect both their business and clients. The business is licensed in the city and state to operate as well as pays both federal and state taxes.  Professionals in any industry continuously train and hone their craft.  Some hire out website design and maintenance. There pay membership dues to professional organizations, own professional equipment, insurance, professional editing software, the list goes on and on.  After all of the overhead it costs to run a business, they still need to earn a living wage.

Why they are good for you:  These people ARE professional.  You are provided with a premium service as well as premium products.  Your photographer has done extensive research on quality of the professional print labs available.  (They won’t be getting your prints from Walgreens, or Costco.  I’ll save that post for another day.) Professionals have had an extensive amount of training and have a consistent style across all their photos.  They are skilled at editing. More importantly, they know what shots they want and how to get them right in the camera.  

Why they may not be good for you: They aren’t going to offer $50 mini-sessions.  If they do mini-sessions, it’s once a year and going to cost at least 150-200. That’s an industry standard for the LOW end.  That’s because this is what it actually costs if not more to run a mini session.  Many state run parks or privately owned places charge fees for permits. For example, Norfolk Botanical Gardens charges $150 for two hours.  Just to use the gardens for a session.  Design and set up and the props costs money.  Not to mention time spent marketing, and communicating with clients, as well as their time and expertise. They want to provide you with a quality experience.  They want you to get your moneys worth.  In order to do so they need to charge appropriately.   

Why hire a professional photographer

Don't ruin the memory of your special day by not knowing the value of your photographer.  Do your research.  Know their experience. Get what you pay for.

Meredith Hodge Photography Chesapeake Family Photographer, Chesapeake Maternity Photographer

Meredith Hodge Photography, LLC.  is an outdoor photography business fully licensed to operate and do business in the State of Virginia.  Currently based in Chesapeake, we serve the Hampton Roads Area to include Norfolk, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Suffolk and of course – Chesapeake! Please inquire about booking a session by clicking here

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