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. 


Madison Senior Session

Grassfield High School 2019 – Madison C.

It’s that time of year! It’s time to finish up those finals and turn in those last few assignments… time to wrap up and submit those college applications and get excited for the next chapter of life! I love this time of year because I get to capture the faces of the future, the faces of those who are ready and driven, with a dream on the forefront of their minds as they come to graduation! So, let’s hear it for the classes of 2019! 👏

Calling all Chesapeake senior graduates! 🌸 Spring is the most photogenic season- colorful blooming flowers, fresh new leaves on the trees, and fresh sun rises/sets! There are unlimited possibilities for vibrant backdrops in the Hampton Roads area. Senior portraits are perfect this time of year.

Let's hear it for the class of 2019!

Not only was Madison a dream to work with, she has such a passionate heart. Whether it is caring for animals, big and small, to playing a powerful piece in orchestra, she puts her heart into her work.  Look at how that reflects on her senior photos! We photographed in the gorgeous golden light of sunset, just behind Grassfield High School in Chesapeake. It’s only natural to be a little nervous on the other end of the lens, but Madison warmed up quickly; good instruction and the confidence and joy that graduation brings students is key!

A graduation shoot in the heart of Hampton Roads is blast! Such a reward on my end to see these young adults’ hard work pay off, and to reflect that in their photos. Madison is looking forward to a future working with animals as a veterinarian, but for now she is putting her heart into working to save up for college and volunteering in her free time. Chesapeake is blessed to have such amazing young adults! 👩‍🎓👨‍🎓

It’s not too late to book your high school senior’s portraits.  Give us a call at 571-214-3295 or click here to schedule your session.


Chris and Jessica - Engaged!

Chris and Jessica - Engaged!

Little Island State Park – Engagement Session

I am so excited for Chris and Jessica’s wedding this weekend. We have had to spin rather quickly, but everything has come together beautifully! Jessica wanted a beach engagement session, and I couldn’t be any happier with how the photos came out!

"We met on a blind date a friend set up.  After a few dates we knew we were meant to be together"

Jessica

Chris and Jessica have been together for fifteen years!  Can you imagine?  When they first told me how long they’ve been with each other, I am pretty sure I couldn’t take the surprise off my face.  You rarely hear about long term dating let alone a long engagement. With that,  I firmly believe that if you take your time in getting to know your partner you have a better shot at the long run.  These two right here are proof.

We had a gorgeous day at the beach.  The sun would peek through the clouds and created an incredible picture for these two lovebirds 💕

The best relationships are ones based on friendship

These two were a dream to work with.  We had a lot of fun goofing around up and down the beach, and across the street at the nature preserve.  Chris found a lot of fun in scaring me, letting me know how many snakes were around in the nature preserve.  If there is one thing I can’t do – it’s keeping my cool when it comes to snakes.  No sir.  Needless to say we didn’t stay there very long.😂.

Chris and Jessica’s wedding will be held at Grand Affairs in Chesapeake.  They’ve been planning for this for a few years now.  With all of the hard work as well as the detail they’ve put into the wedding and reception it’s sure to be a perfect day.💖


Camera, photographer, chesapeake family photographer, cheap photographer

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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London Transport Museum

Looking for a fun day out with your kids in London?

Try the London Transport Museum.

It's a fun place for kids and adults alike to learn about the history of transportation in the UK.

It's a great place to entertain your kids on a rainy day, or even just a fun place for a meet up!

https://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/family-learning

 

The London Transport Museum is a great place to take your kids for a day out in London.  If your children are anything like mine then they love planes, trains and automobiles!   Located in Covent Garden, the Transport Museum gives a hands on “all aboard” view of the history of transportation in the UK.  The exhibits of the transport museum include everything from the old rail cars to the iconic double decker bus!

My boys absolutely love trains; and while my experience with girls is somewhat limited, I’m pretty sure most little girls love trains too! This place is full of trains and busses to climb in and out of! We had a great time bouncing on the seats of the antique train cars. There is quite a big difference in the amount of cushion from todays rail and tube cars to the trains of yesteryear!  You feel nostalgic sitting in those trains with the feel and intricacy that the wood trim and the musky smells.  Train cars were built for comfort and luxury as opposed to profit back then.

The kids received a ticket to stamp as they go through the museum to keep their interest piqued throughout. I personally loved the fact that there are interactive play areas throughout the museum to appeal to the little kids, while at the same time providing rich history that people like me enjoy learning about. Kids can pretend to be the train conductor, or a ticket operator in addition to drive the double decker buses!  There is a little cafe on the ground floor where the littles can push trains along on the wooden train table while parents can have a cup of tea all the while keeping a mindful eye.   There are also train simulators that let you learn to drive the train, which really appealed to the older kids.

All in all, you and your kids will most certainly enjoy your visit! Tickets to the Museum are £16 for adults (if you book in advance, I believe they are £17.50 at the door).   Good news is that children get FREE admission to the museum! Additionally, one more bonus is that your ticket is good for a year. If you decide you haven’t had enough you can save your ticket and come back another day!  Getting there is really easy too.  Just take the tube to the Covent Garden stop, from there walk down to the entrance of Covent Garden and go around to the left.  Follow it around the corner and you run right into it. However, you can also walk straight through and out of Covent Garden, the entrance will be to your left.  Here’s the address for you Google lovers, Covent Garden Piazza, London WC2E 7BB.

You can find more information on the London Transport Museum at their website  https://www.ltmuseum.co.uk

 

There are so many fantastic places for you to explore in London with your children.  I love finding new places that my kids will enjoy.  I would to hear what your favorite places are!  Drop a line with some of yours below!