So, I have been meaning to do a post like this for ages. Especially now that I've almost completely updated my gear I feel like it's a good time to finally do it. Every now and then I get questions about what gear I use, usually from people who are newbies to photography. I do actually have a link in my sidebar which says "Click here to find out what gear I use!". Despite of that fact, I will now dedicate this whole post to introducing to you the gear I use and how I use it.
1. Camera body - Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Previously I had been using the 7D as some of you may already know. I can honestly say after using it for about 5 years that it was a great camera (if you are curious to see how it delivers just scroll down about a month backwards, since almost all of my photos back then are taken with it). I wanted to update my camera in the first place because mine wasn't full-frame and because I knew plenty of fellow photographers who were using either the 5D Mark II or Mark III and were producing beautiful images. Long was I pondering which one of those two I would purchase. I ended up justifying buying the older Mark II, by a lack of improvement in the newer model and about a 1000 euros difference in prices. I bought it secondhand and saved me some money there as well (I did do some serious background research of it's condition before I bought it, though). I'm still very content with my decision and it's truly as good as new! I feel like it produces much more vivid colors and greater sharpness. And I do recommend it to anyone who is considering buying one. However, they don't manufacture new ones anymore so you'll have to buy a used one. When it comes to a good entirety, the body is of course a very important factor if you take photography seriously. But if it's just a hobby and you're not willing to spend too much money on it, then I suggest you to pay more attention to what lens/es you use. A good lens can make a huge difference!
2. Lenses - Canon EF 85mm f/1.8, Canon EF 50mm f/1.4, Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG, Canon EF 20mm f/2.8
Yes, all of my lenses are fixed. Why? Well, one reason for sure is that they don't weigh a ton like zoom lenses tend to. And as I am a very small person with nonexistent biceps and a self-indulgent mind, I wouldn't bother myself with those horrid things. Also, zoom lenses with high film speed (= sensitivity to light) cost a fortune compared to fixed ones. Besides I bet you won't even find zooms at f/1.4. But there are plenty of fixed ones with great film speed at affordable prices, e.g. my 50mm f/1.4 lens by Canon, which cost about 350 euros. In my opinion that's a lens everyone should own. And for the record, the smaller the f-number you photograph with (ergo the wider open the aperture), the shallower depth of field you will get (if that's the style you're going for). I actually almost never go above f/4, unless I'm shooting wide-angle. Now, when it comes to choosing your lens, different lenses are fit for different situations. Portrait time! I grab my 85mm. It's great in bringing all the attention to your model by blurring out everything else in the background softly and beautifully. When I head outside for a spontaneous photography trip I always carry with me my 50mm. I'm telling you that lens is good for nearly everything! When I don't have too much distance from my subject, like indoors for example, but want to fit as much as possible in the photo I use my 35mm. Last but not least I have my 20mm, which I don't use too often. It can be a powerful tool for exaggerating depth and relative size in a photo, so it's great to use when photographing buildings or landscapes. So knowing what you want your photo to look like and using the right lens in order to reach it is important.
3. Flash - Canon Speedlite 430 EX II
Since I'm not filthy rich I haven't afforded to buy proper studio lights (yet). But I've been doing just fine with my little Canon flash and of course all of the beautiful ambient light mother nature provides. Quite honestly I'm not too familiar with the world of flashes, even as I do to some extent know how to use mine. So I wouldn't really go around advising people on how to use one. And when it comes to the technique I'd say the same. It's very likely that you will by seeing a photo be able to tell whether the lighting in it is good or bad. It's a question of what pleases your eye. So by trying out different techniques and seeing what kind of lighting they produce you will slowly but surely learn. Of course a basic rule would be that you don't want to point the flash directly at the subject without any sort of filter to soften or split the light. A filter could be a translucent umbrella, a softbox or really anything that partly lets light pass through. Another option would be to point the flash at a surface that's able to reflect light and point that surface at the model. A reflector could be again in the umbrella shape or as improvised as aluminum foil or a white wall. A reflector could also be used as a fill light to reduce contrast. The bigger the filter/surface the softer the light. There are really surprisingly many ways to modify light - its' color, shape and strength - and it's a huge expansion of possibilities when you possess the knowledge and ability to control it. That's all I can say at this point as I am only at the beginning of that specific road.