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Am I shooting myself in the foot?

juicegoosejuicegoose Member
edited December 2012 in general photography
First of all what a great place to learn a great technique. I am somewhat new to photography and the work Neil does is exactly the unicorn I've been chasing. I'm always being asked to take photo's of family members but have yet to be able to get results I'm proud of. I've started reading Neils books and also have read through about 10 pages of his blogs, Great stuff indeed.

My question is this. I am fully aware of the term it's not the camera it's the shooter but I still have to ask.
My current gear is a
Nikon d90 body
F1.8 35mm Nikon prime
18-105 kit lense 3.5-5.6 vr
70-300 f4.5-5.6 vr
SB600 light

Am I shooting myself in the foot to think I will able to get anything close to what neil produces? Should I sell off my slower lenses and get something faster is my flash up to snuff? I know I know it's a newbie question so i come to masters.



  • ZenonZenon Member
    edited December 2012
    Camera gear certainly helps but it is all about technique. I don't see why you can't achieve good results if you are shooting with flash on camera and so is Neil. He does not get special magic light from his flash. Besides are you making a living with your gear? Can you justify spending money for family photos? Maybe you have lots of cash - well then new toys are always fun.

    What are you not happy about?
  • Thanks for the reply. I'm sure I could achieve similar results with the 35mm F1.8 but when attempting to use the other glass, zooming in limits me to F5.6. I of course have to increase iso and decrease shutter speed to compensate. Now with all that being said I'm sure my technique needs work. I was going to take some test shots and post them up to gain some help.
  • One of the main reasons Neil's photos are so great is his understanding of, and use of, light, both ambient and introduced light. Of course his top level cameras and lenses add to the beauty and quality of his photos but it's really about the light. So I'd focus your time on learning how to use and control light. Does the SB600 have a 360-degree swivel head? If not that's the first thing I'd do -- upgrade to a flash that has a head that goes all the way around -- for bouncing. Then get a reflector or two to work on fill as well as a second flash. (Be sure it's compatible with the SB600 re remote firing. And, how is the SB600 when used off-camera? You might want to invest in two new flashes.) Sounds like you have a nice inventory of lenses for now and should be able to get great pix with them. And having a variety is important rather than just one. I'd suggest you get the 70-200 f2.8 (Neil uses a lot) but even if you sold off all of your lenses I don't think it would make a big dent in the $2,400 price of that lens. (I don't know what your budget is). Another goal for lenses might be the Nikon 24-120 f4 ($1,300). Neil uses that a lot too I think.
  • The SB600 does have a swivel head( i can shoot it back over my head/shoulder) the remote firing of the SB600 is controlled my the built in Nikon commander mode. From my understanding the flash can not be a master for other flashes. For it to fire remotely the pop up flash fires first and it fires the sb600 at the same time.
  • Your gear is capable of giving you what you want. You should master the relationship between flash, aperture, and ISO to the point where you can make images you are happy with. Once you can do that, you'll understand where, if at all, your equipment could improve. Without that understanding you are just throwing cash offerings to the Canikon God.
  • Mgarber
    Your reply was kinda what I wanted to hear. My initial question was more aimed at was it even going to be possible with the current setup. It's it will be.
    Now should I be practicing with the 35mm f1.8 more then the other lenses?
    I very rarely use the 70-300 that I have. The crop factor makes it's not to pleasant to use indoors(tight quarters).
  • Hello juicegoose,

    RE: "Am I shooting myself in the foot to think I will able to get anything close to what neil produces? " IMO the answer is it depends. first of all which kind of photos that Neil takes r u refereeing to? is it the outdoor engagement session and portrait photos? or the indoor reception and dancing and group photos? i will attempt to address them one by one as they r a bit different in the technique and gear used. Note i am addressing your question of "is your current gear capable of producing results like Neils" from a purly technical standpoint, as we all know pleasing photos have as much to do with the photographer as his gear.

    For outdoor photos (portraits/engagment shoots): gear used, typically the 70-200 2.8, and 24-70, and somtimes the 24-120 f4. with off camera speedlight in a softbox Triggered via the Flex Pocket Wizard system. For u to most closely replicate his results with your gear you would most probably use your 70-300 at 5.6 and have ur sb600 off camera firing via cls from the popup flash remotely, do u have a shoot through umbrella? that would be a good investment u can pick one up in B&H for 15 bucks. some of your limitations may be:
    1)firing the flash, cls works with line of sight if the sb600 doesnt "see" ur popup flash signal it wont fire.
    2) f/5.6 on a dx camera will give u equivalent DOF of f/9 on an fx body, basically it is much harder to throw the background out of focus with a DX sensor.
    3) when "Slow" zooms r used "wide open" they tend to be a bit soft, which means that if u shoot at f5.6 even the in focus area wont be so sharp or contrasty. also the bokeh will not be as nice as a 2.8 zoom.
    4) u will have to stand quite far back with the 70-300

    For indoor photos (lowlight reception etc.) Gear used: mostly the 24-70 2.8, on camera Flash sb910 with bft. and high ISO. For u to most closely replicate his results with your gear you would most probably use your 35mm 1.8 on camera flash flagged with a bft.
    Some of your limitations may be:
    1) no zoom, u must use the 35 1.8 b/c of its wide aperture capability, u will be limited in your framing, sometimes u cant move back anymore, or move close enough.
    2) ISO/noise this is a big one, the d90 is at least 5 yrs old, its limit is about iso 800 maybe 1600 before noise starts to noticeably degrade image quality, Niel often uses iso 1600 and up indoors and has no qualms going to even 5000 ISO and still retaining amazing detail with no noticeable graininess.
    3) Flash Power. the sb600 is probably less than half as powerful as the sb910, if the room your shooting in is not small and does not have neutral surfaces relatively near the camera to bounce off of the flash wont be able to put out enough power to sufficiently illuminate the subject.

    Lastly, do u charge for your work? Like Skipperlange said if u sold all ur lenses and even your camera u probably wont make enough $$ to purchase a 2.8 zoom. dont take my reply to u the wrong way i did not intend to discourage u and tell u that b/c u dont own expensive state of art gear u cant create nice images that clients and friends will love and pay for, just that the level of quality possible cannot not be on par with Niels work. (im sure u charge less than neil as well ;) (again this is just from a technical standpoint i in am in no way inferring that shooting with big fx bodys, 2.8 zooms and high powered flashes makes your photos better without the having the knowledge and technique to know how to use them!)
  • juicegoosejuicegoose Member
    edited December 2012
    Thanks for the honest reply. It's exactly what I was needing to hear. I'll work on my technique more and this way when I do decide to upgrade I'll have a better base.
    Like u said obviously I can't swing a new full frame body. If I were to consider looking at updating something what would it be? Bigger flash, better lens?
  • Naftoli
    Your comment....
    2) f/5.6 on a dx camera will give u equivalent DOF of f/9 on an fx body, basically it is much harder to throw the background out of focus with a DX sensor.

    Is not correct. DX sensor affects 'field of view'. So 50mm is approx 75mm on DX.
  • What Naftoli meant is that it is harder to fit a human head and torso into the frame with a crop sensor, and still have a blurry background. That is why I like my Pentax 6x7 with 105mm f2.4 lens. I can take a picture of a whole person, head to toe, and still blur the background. Then I get bored and wish for depth fo field again...

    Here, play with this if you want to find bokeh, http://goo.gl/I8wdC
  • I agree for a given focal length it is "Harder to fit a human head and torso into the frame". This is a side affect of reduced field of view of the DX sensor.

    Your comment "and still have a blurry background" i.e reduced DOF is misguided. For any particular lens, for a given focal length/aperture DOF should be the same on DX sensor or FX.
  • Is an SB-900 that much more powerfull then the SB-600?
  • agreenwood when keeping the subject the same size in the viewfinder, f5.6 on apsc will give u the equivalent of f/9 on a full frame sensor body
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