Before we start… Something a lot of photographers seem to get fixated on is gear. What lens was used, what camera, what lights? While having the gear is fantastic, it means nothing if you don’t take the time to learn how to use it! So with that in mind, here’s a sneak peek into the gear I take with me on a typical session.
This is my camera bag – the Jo Totes “Missy” in Chocolate. I love this bag to pieces! It is the perfect design for pet photography, with easy access to all my gear without having to set it down and rearrange everything, and carries a lot. I can fit up to two camera bodies, two or three big lenses (including the 70-200 2.8) as well as a 15″ Apple Macbook Pro with some careful planning. The front pockets make handy treat holders, and I love it for travelling too as it is nice enough to double as a regular oversized handbag for around town.
Here’s my main camera – the Canon 5D MkIII. I bought this at the end of last year, and is one of the best purchases I have ever made! I use it with a Meike battery grip which holds an extra battery and makes shooting portrait-oriented shots a lot easier.
And here’s my back up – my first camera, the Canon 60D. This is the camera that taught me everything I know, and has helped me win a few awards along the way. It’s nothing fancy and has taken far more images than its expected lifespan, but it is a fantastic camera and capable of more than most people expect!
My two most-used lenses.
On the left is the Canon 70-200 2.8 II IS. This was the first L series lens I ever purchased, and is on my camera 90% of the time. I use this for all of my action work, agility shows, and for most of my portrait work. Fast, sharp and the perfect focal range for pet photography.
On the right is the Canon 24-70 2.8 II. I bought this lens to cover the wider angles, and it is super. Super sharp, nice and fast and gives beautiful bokeh. It is pretty light too, which is nice at the end of a long day shooting with the heavier 70-200.
My other lenses that I use occasionally on shoots – I bought these when I purchased the 60D.
On the left is the Canon 50mm 1.8, or the “nifty fifty”. Cheap, light, very sharp and it creates beautiful bokeh. This retails for about $150-$199 in NZ depending on where you shop, and is about the cheapest lens you can buy. This is always the first one I recommend to people wanting to buy their first camera and lenses – a great focal length for pet portraits and a great start with wide-aperture photography.
The lens on the right is the Canon 100mm 2.8 Macro lens. When I was first learning about photography I was obsessed with macro, even with a point and shoot. I’d go out in the evenings with a little spray bottle of water to use on dandelions and whatever else I could find, then photograph the droplets at all different angles – it taught me a lot about how to use light, and get sharp images even at the shallowest depth of field. I still use this lens for close up work with pets, such as nose and paw detail shots. It makes a nice all-round portrait lens too!
And of course, what self-respecting pet photographer would be without a squeaky toy? This one is just a cheapy from Animates, but it makes a fantastic dying animal noise which gets the head tilt every time.
I shoot with Sandisk Extreme SD and CF cards, then edit images on a 15″ Macbook Pro using Adobe Photoshop CC and Lightroom 5. I use Smackos dog treats, peanut butter, biscuits in a container, whatever toys an owner brings or my own ridiculous assortment of animal noises to get the dogs attention on location. I have a basic studio backdrop set up, a speedlight and a reflector, but with pets I find that the less gear I use, the less time I’m mucking around changing lenses and adjusting settings and the happier and more focused the pets are.