Best photography purchases of 2016
The lists of best photography purchases from the past two years – 2014 | 2015 – received a lot of interest and comments. The somewhat amusing thing looking back at those lists, is that I have since sold some of the equipment – I either upgraded, side-graded … or changed direction. Such is the fluid nature of photography technology, and also running a photography business. Things change. Similarly, this year, there were several pieces of photo gear that I bought that I hope will make a difference. Well, better than just “hope”, I plan on them making a difference.
This past year, I was more careful about what I bought – there were far fewer frivolous items. A useful measure is to weigh whether a piece of photo gear will at least bring its own value in new business, or alternately, make your life and work that much easier. There has to be a benefit that is tangible.
For example, in the photo above you can see the massive boom arm in the left-hand side of the frame. This mighty boom arm by Redwing (affiliate) is one of those things which make it easier to adjust the height of the light with one hand while shooting. When I first put it up in the studio, it seemed so huge that I thought this might have been a bad idea – it takes a lot of space! But when I started using it, I realized that it actually makes my life easier. Will it directly earn me more money? Nope. But it will make working in the studio that much easier. And it looks impressive!
Here then is my list of my best photography purchases of 2016, along with the reasons why I think they were good decisions. I also add a few items that I found to be underwhelming. That said, there weren’t anything that I bought that was a bad purchase. One grows wiser over time.
Add yours to the list of Best / Worst Photo related purchases, by posting in the comments section. What photo gear did you acquire which you believe will make a difference to your photography and your business in the upcoming years?
Let’s hear from you:
Let us know what photo-related goodies you bought this year which you loved, and those you didn’t love as much. Which of them do you think will make a difference to your photography and your business.
To make it interesting, there were two books available as prizes. (Or could be swapped out out for my book, On-Camera Flash (revised edition). Winners were chosen by random number generator, and announced here. (comment #52)
Even though the contest is closed by now, you are more than welcome to still add your comments.
Photographing Headshots, by Gary Hughes. Headshot photography is surprisingly nuanced, and the author carefully steps you through the lighting techniques that you would need, whether on location or in the studio.
Much of what would elevate your headshot photography, is in how to pose your subject. The author covers topics such as shoulder alignment and tilt. Posing the hands. But he goes further than just lighting and posing techniques. Post-processing is also covered in topics such as Retouching the eyes, and retouching specular highlights.
Boudoir Photography Cookbook: In 60 easily digestible sections, (aka the recipes), Jen Rozenbaum presents essential skills that will help you with boudoir photography. Of course I am a little biased when it comes to this book – Anelisa is on the cover.
While Jennifer covers lighting, wardrobe, and other aspects of boudoir photography, the core of those book focuses on posing. The book has a targeted look at various posing strategies that will really enhance your subject.
My best photography purchases for 2016
I skipped the Nikon D4s, having decided to keep my D4 bodies as my workhorses for a few more years. It’s that ROI thing that makes expensive cameras … well, expensive. Then the Nikon D5 (B&H / Amazon) was released earlier in 2016, and there were sufficiently big enough improvements over the D4 to make the D5 worth closer attention. The auto-focusing is magical – fast and accurate. Unreal.
Then, the Nikon D5 high ISO noise performance is also a big step up from the D4 (which was already a great camera when it came to high-ISO noise. Many small improvements that add up to make the D5 a really impressive camera. Now, if only I could justify the cost of a 2nd body.
Two articles on Tangents which specifically feature the abilities of the Nikon D5
- Romantic wedding portraits with incandescent light – I’m now even more confidently shooting portraits in low light at high ISO settings, knowing that digital noise isn’t an issue even with enlargement.
- Tips on concert photography – The D5 easily handling focusing when the light constantly changes from low light to contrasty light.
Regardless of that, the SB-5000 is a superb flash. By now, the overheating problem that plagued the SB-900, is not an issue anymore. The SB-5000 vents heat efficiently, allowing you to fire up to 100 consecutive full power flashes without a problem.
The controls for changing FEC in TTL, or power level in manual, is easier and more intuitive than the SB-900 / SB-910, by having this accessible with the rocker switch instead of a separate button.
With the WR-R10 Wireless Remote Controller, you can control and fire the flash remotely from the camera, without needing a second SB-5000 on the camera. I really like this flash, but wish there had been backwards compatibility though.
Two Litepanels Astra EP 1×1 Bi-Color LED Panels (B&H / Amazon) where the continuous lights that I decided on. Being able to change the WB of these Litepanels Astra LED lights, made them more versatile than the Westcott Spiderlites, which have now been relegated to just studio use. The Spiderlites are also much more bulky in comparison.
For more about how I use these lights during shoots:
Where previously I felt like I was just moving crud around on the sensor with the swab, this device – the Eyelead SCK-1 sensor gel stick (Amazon) – picked up every single spot that I could see with the magnifying loupe. This single device helped restore my confidence in the footage I was shooting.
- More info on cleaning your camera sensor.
I wanted / needed a portable rig to shoot cinematic time-lapse sequences. When the camera moves during the exposures, you get a more dynamic video as the end result, as the camera sweeps along.
The Dynamic Perception Stage One Dolly Motion Controller (affiliate), breaks down into 20″ segments – short enough to fit into a backpack … or an airplane flight. This is as portable as a full system gets, making it a very flexible option to shoot cinematic time-lapse clips anywhere.
There is a smartphone holder to turn your phone into a WiFi-connected on-board monitor to check your video output while you shoot. The Wi-Fi features a range of up to 85′, so you can operate the camera and gimbal remotely as well.
Photo related stuff that left me indifferent, or under-whelmed
I bought a bunch of 6Tb hard drives so I could increase the capacity on my Drobo. A necessary expense, but not an exciting one.
I bought a Fuji X-E2 to have it converted for infra-red B&W photography. One problem, the lens I had for this, the Fuji 18mm, generated a bad hot-spot in the middle. There are lists of lenses which are problematic in this regard – causing a central hot-spot in images, because of internal reflections in the lens. Unfortunately, the Fuji 18mm lens wasn’t listed as a problem lens for infra-red photography. I had to replace it with the Fuji 14mm f/2.8 lens, which turned out just fine. No hot-spot. Still, it was a detour to get there.
Let us know what photo-related goodies you bought this year which you loved, and those you didn’t.
- Best photography purchases of 2014
- Best photography purchases of 2015
- Gear list – Starting out with off-camera flash