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. 


Another Successful Beginners Course

Another Successful Beginners Course!

Last week we had another successful Introduction to Photography Beginners course!  This month’s we were at The Waters Edge in Ruislip. We held the course, had lunch and planned on practicing with a few little models around the Ruislip Lido.  We had an intimate group this month, which I tend to think is a better experience overall.  In the smaller groups, there is more attention to detail and the attendees can have a more personalized event.  I enjoy seeing how one question will spark another and another, until it becomes more of a conversation. When people are engaged in the conversation, asking questions as they come up, the information is understood.

The main reason I love these smaller groups is that I understand how easy it is to feel lost in bigger groups.   It’s easy to not ask the questions out of fear that you may look silly for not knowing. I understand what it is like to be that person.  I know that feeling of not wanting to ask a question out of fear that people will judge you.  In these smaller groups, I try to explain fully so that you have answers to all of your questions.  It is extremely important to me that anyone taking this course understands the fundamentals of photography by the end of the day.

However hard I try though, things don't always go as planned.

I am a planner by nature.  I like to know how things operate and I like to have a plan laid out from beginning to end.  However, there are things that are completely out of my control!  Mother Nature likes to remind me of that from time to time.  I was keeping an eye on the hourly weather report and the radar in the days leading up to course. (I wasn’t kidding, I really like to plan for everything) She teased me throughout the morning.  The forecast called for rain late in the afternoon.   I thought that we would be able to get through the day and dodge the rain but as we were finishing up the course the skies opened up and the rain came pouring down.  I’m not just talking about a little British sprinkle.  I’m talking a massive downpour that you wait for it to slow down before running though a parking lot to get to your car.

So what did we do?

Well, we couldn’t very well go outside with the way the weather was acting up.  So we all made a plan to get together on another day to have some one on one time where we could make real time adjustments and really dig in to everything we went over during the course.  We had a great time walking around the park and learning how to adjust your settings in real time.

 

I have one more one on one coming up this weekend and I cant wait to post those pictures as well!  I hope you enjoy these!


Photo of the super moon

Super Blue Blood Moon!

Tips for photographing the Super Blue Blood Moon!

On Wednesday, January 31st, there will be a rare Super Blood Moon!  Now sadly, it is unlikely that we will see it here in the UK.  However, for my friends in the US and Canada, you will get the opportunity to wake up early to see this incredible celestial event!

What is a Super Moon?

A super moon is when the moon is at the closest point in its orbit to the earth.  They call it the perigree.  As it is the closest to the earth, it also makes the dark side of the moon closest to the sun.  With its positioning and reflecting the suns light it appears 14% brighter than it would any other night.

A Blue Blood Moon too?

Did you know that the second full moon of the month is referred to as a Blue Moon?  This is where it gets really cool.  The super blue moon, will pass through the earths shadow giving us a total lunar eclipse! (Depending on where you are in the world).    The Blood Moon happens during a lunar eclipse – its the red tint that the Earth’s shadow casts on the moon.

Check out this video from NASA!

How can I get great pictures of the moon?

Since there are still a few days until it happens, you still have time to scout out a good location to shoot from.  Plan out your shot.  Do you want a picture of the moon by itself, or do you want something in the foreground to give a frame of reference.  If you take a shot with the moon on the horizon or with some buildings in the shot, your image will look a lot larger than it would by itself.

Photographing the moon is different that photographing the stars.   With the night sky you want to use a long exposure so the light from the stars can reach your cameras sensor.  However with the moon reflecting the light from the sun, if you were to use a slower shutter speed you will overexpose the shot and will lose the detail in the craters and shadows.

Stars
Long Exposure using my 50mm f1.4, 25sec, ISO 200

Some basics to get you started

Whether you have a DSLR camera, a point and shoot, or even if you are using your camera phone, you will want to use the widest focal length your camera or phone will allow.  In other words, you want to be as zoomed out as possible.  That will allow you to have a interesting foreground in the image.

You definitely want to use a tripod or something sturdy to mount the camera on.  The slightest shake of your hands will give you a blurry image, using a tripod and either a timed release or a remote shutter will give you the stability you need. If your camera has a Mirror Lock Up feature on it, enable it.  Even the internal mirror of your camera can blur a shot like this.

Start out by setting  your ISO to around 100 to start.  In Manual mode, set your f-stop somewhere around f-11 and your shutter speed to at least 1/250.   From here, it is trial and error.  Look at your photo on the display. Is your shot too bright or is it blurry? Try using a faster shutter speed.   Too dark?  Slow your shutter down or try bumping your ISO up a few notches and see how that affects your shot.

Last but not least, set your focus.   If you try to focus in auto focus, your camera will not be able to lock on. Set your camera to manual focus, and turn the barrel to infinity and adjust from there.  Another way would be to use the live view mode and zoom in and adjust your lens manually that way.

 

Photo of the super moon

My biggest disappointment about this post would be the fact that I won’t be able get shots of my own.  It will be daytime here in the UK, but I would love it if you would share your photographs with me!

Find out when the best time will be for you to get out by visiting NASAs website here.  https://www.nasa.gov/feature/super-blue-blood-moon-coming-jan-31

Would you like to learn more about how to use your camera?  Sign up for one of my beginner camera courses here!  Camera Basics Course

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To sign up for exclusive offers and access to VIP mini sessions click here!


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!