Which Fuji Lens Should I Buy First?

In this post, I’m going to compare 5 Fuji lenses, each with a different focal length. If you’re new to the Fuji X system or photography in general, I want to help you find the focal length that is right for you.

While I've shot with almost every Fuji X mount lens currently available on the market, there's just no way for me to review all of those lenses at once. In this post, I want to start with the basics. For our discussion today, I’m going to talk about Fuji's F2 line of lenses as a starting point. At the end of the article, I’ll give you my recommendation of which lens or lenses to buy first.

Right up front, you'll need to decide which sort of photography you'll be doing and which focal length will best help you produce your desired outcome. Since I don’t currently own all the lenses I want to talk about, Fuji Pro Lenses has kindly let me borrow a few lenses to help me fill in the gaps. Renting can help you determine if you like a specific lens and its focal length before making a big purchase. Fuji Pro Rentals lets you rent Fuji X system lenses as well as bodies. Check them out.

When it comes to buying your first lens, there’s one question I’ve heard a lot, both from our YouTube audience as well as past students: “Should I buy a zoom lens or a prime lens first?” First of all, it’s important to know the difference between these two types of lenses. While zoom lenses allow you to change your focal length manually, prime lenses do not. With a prime lens, you're stuck at a specific focal length. That means if you want to make a subject bigger in frame, you're going to have to walk towards your subject. I call this “zooming with your feet”.

In almost every situation, I would recommend buying a prime lens before a zoom lens. Why? Many people choose a prime lens over a zoom lens because of the increased image quality and the better low light performance that most prime lenses will give you. Those are great reasons, but there’s a more pressing issue at hand: zoom lenses tend to make lazy photographers.

Yes, there are exceptions. For some types of photography, you really do need a nice, flexible, zoom lens. But, while a zoom lens will give you a lot more flexibility when it comes to focal length, using a prime lens will force you to consider your relationship to your subject to a greater degree. If you're just learning composition or wanting to get better at it, nothing will help you improve more than sticking to a specific focal length with a prime lens.

Now that I’ve shared that polarizing opinion, let's talk about lenses. Today I want to discuss five Fuji lenses, any of which could be an entry point into the Fuji X system. For this comparison, we chose the 90 mm F2, 50 mm F2, 35 mm F2, 23 mm F2, and 18 mm F2 lenses.

The Lineup

The Lineup

These lenses all have one thing in common: an F2 maximum aperture. With a maximum aperture of F2, Fuji has balanced low light performance with a very small lens size. During a week’s time, we took this set of lenses along on several different photo-shoots and used every lens at each shoot. In the following descriptions you’ll be able to compare differences between these different focal lengths, and begin to see what each focal length can do in different environments.

90 millimeter F2


This lens has a strong reputation among Fuji X photographers as a great portrait lens. Of all the focal lengths we'll be talking about today, this one does the best job of isolating a subject. This means that only part of the photo is going to be in focus and sharp; everything else will fall off into beautiful obscurity. The 90 mm gives you a shot that is sharp as a tack. When shooting wide open at the F2 aperture, this lens has just the right amount of depth of field to capture the most important part of the face, while at the same time isolating it from the background with some creamy, out-of-focus bokeh. This is a dream lens for head shot photographers.

The other thing you'll notice with this lens is it's compression. This means that objects in the background look much larger in comparison to the subject than your eye is used to seeing. In this shot, the lamppost looks much larger than if you were simply looking at it with you naked eye. You can use this side-effect to your advantage if, for instance, you'd like a landmark to take on more significance behind a subject.


Of course, the downside of this lens is its restrictiveness. If you're out with your children and want to be able to capture some of the action, you'll need to walk a long distance away from them to be able to capture any of the background at all. This is definitely not the lens I would choose to sit on my camera for a family excursion. Also, if you’re in a lifestyle shoot environment or in a small studio where you're restricted by the room’s size, you may get stuck photographing faces and nothing else. For instance, in this shot, there’s no way to tell that this guy is in a barbershop and not a pool hall. You’re unable to capture the context.


With all the focal length in this lens, there’s also a big price tag. This lens dwarfs the others in both cost and size. While it’s an incredible lens, it's probably more of a specialty lens for fashion or head shot portraits. It can also serve you well if you're on the sidelines photographing your children's ball games. It's probably not the lens I would recommend for a beginner photographer, or for an entry point into the Fuji X system.

50 millimeter F2


With a 75 mm equivalent focal length, this lens brings a lot more flexibility into a portrait shoot. Notice that in this shot, a bit more of the background is visible while enough is still out-of-focus to provide some great subject separation. I'd be slightly more comfortable heading out to a family event with this focal length, realizing that I'm still going to have to back up a bit to capture any of the environment behind a family member.


I love that this lens is so forgiving to even a beginner photographer. You don't have to be brilliant with composition to be able to capture pleasing photographs with this lens. Let's say that I goofed and stuck something in my background I really didn’t want to see. With the 50 mm lens, it's not as bad because of how much blur is introduced in the background when I'm shooting at the F2 aperture. In a portrait situation, photographing a couple for instance, that F2 aperture can really help to keep both faces fairly sharp. (As a beginner portrait photographer using a faster aperture lens with a full frame camera, the temptation of shooting wide open can often lead to some ruined couples portraits.)


35 millimeter F2
I’m not even going to try to hide my personal bias with this lens. This 35 mm F2 is what I consider to be the perfect all-purpose lens and is the only F2 lens of these five that I still personally own. With a 50 mm equivalent focal length, this lens is great for a family outing or even a professional shoot where you want to be able to get wide scenes with a lot of context, while still capturing beautiful portraits with good subject isolation.

Another great aspect of the 50 mm equivalent focal length is that lenses with this focal length tend to be the most affordable, in general. The Fuji brand is no exception. While this isn’t a cheap lens, it’s the most inexpensive of my F2 lineup and it's image quality is brilliant.

23 millimeter F2
This lens, which has a 35 mm full-frame equivalent, is just able to be classified as a wide-angle lens. Many photographers consider this focal length to be ideal for street photography. When shooting at a 35 mm focal length, you’ll start to see a lot more context even in tight places. This allows you to introduce more artistry and creativity into your compositions.


In my estimation, 35 mm equivalent lenses are where you start to see some separation between snapshots and artistry. In the hands of a photographer who understands how to compose an image, a 35 mm can turn out brilliant shots. Since the depth of field is much wider, (even at F2), you can't hide poorly composed subjects behind blurry background. Everyone will clearly see your compositional errors and poor decision making or, when done correctly, appreciate your ability to choose a solid figure-to-ground relationship.

18 millimeter F2
This final lens has a full-frame equivalent focal length of 27 mm which is decently wide without introducing a lot of distortion. Shooting this wide can be the perfect choice when you want to get the full environment in an enclosed location. Here, even though I'm backed up against the wall, I’m still able to capture everything important happening in the room.


While this lens is only a little wider than the 23 mm F2, it’s important to understand the difference this can cause when it comes to compositon. Shooting at this wide of an angle can introduce an overwhelming amount of objects in frame that need to be composed. For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend this lens to a beginner photographer. It’s better to start with a 35 mm or 23 mm lens, and slowly work toward handling larger framings of scenes.

35 mm lens

35 mm lens

When doing portraits with wider lenses, you need to be aware of the effects of compression on the subject’s face. Note the shape of the head in this portrait. The front of the face, the nose, the facial features - they're all a bit larger when compared to the fall-off areas, (the hair, ears, etc.). The wider the lens, the more you'll notice this effect. Facial features will appear larger while the head will often appear smaller.

90 mm lens

90 mm lens

When using the 90 mm lens, on the other hand, you'll see that more of the head shape is shown. The shape of the head appears more square and the fall-off areas, like the ears, get pushed forward. The head seems larger, in proportion to the facial features. Many will claim this is more flattering on a well balanced human face and will turn to longer focal lengths in beauty and fashion photography to enhance the beauty of the face. I disagree.

I feel like these types of shots usually make a face look unnaturally flat and large and I don’t enjoy the look. I much prefer shooting head shots with a 35 mm lens at the 50 mm equivalent focal length. I recognize I'm in the minority here, but this is how my eyes naturally see faces and I prefer to shoot portraits this way. If you're planning on getting into head shot or fashion photography, your clients are probably going to be happier if you have a longer lens in your arsenal. At least, that's what I've been told.

There's one other aspect of shooting with a wide angle that I want to mention. In describing the 90 mm lens, I mentioned its unique characteristic of making background elements appear large against the subject. Well, with the 27 mm equivalent focal length of a 18 mm lens, the opposite effect is achieved: background objects appear much smaller. This can be disappointing if you’re hoping to photograph your children or loved ones in front of some interesting monument. A shot that looked perfect in the moment can turn into a disappointment when viewed on your computer screen back home.

Now that you’ve gotten a summary of these 5 different focal lengths, which one should you purchase first? It really depends on whether you can afford to buy one, or two lenses. If your current budget only allows for one lens, I would highly recommend either the 23 mm F2 or the 35 mm F2. The 35 mm F2 would be preferable if you enjoy taking more portraits and tighter shots but still want to have some context of the scene around you. However, if you plan on photographing active children, pets, or you just want to catch more of the scene, the 23 millimeter F2 is probably going to be a better place to start. (You’ll still be able to take portraits; you’ll just have to scoot in closer.)

If you can afford two lenses, the question is a little harder to answer. How extreme do you want to be? When we launched our portrait photography business, we started with two and only two lenses. Almost exclusively, we shot with the 85 millimeter and the 35 millimeter focal lengths. The 85 millimeter focal length allowed us to get really tight, beautiful portraits, and even family shots if we really backed up. Then we could grab our 35 millimeter lens to capture wider shots where we wanted more of an environmental portrait or a group shot. Those two vocal lengths served us well for about two years. If this type of setup excites you, I'd suggest buying the 23 mm F2 lens and the 50 millimeter F2 lens.

If you want to purchase two lenses but are really wanting to snap some sports shots, consider starting off with the 23 mm F2 and the 90 mm F2. You’ll still be able to shoot some quality environmental portraits with your all-purpose 23 mm lens, but then you can bust out that 90 mm when you're on the sideline, to snap some high-quality action shots.

There’s my take on focal lengths. I hope this post will help you as you decide which lens to buy first. Until next time, do good with your camera. We'll talk to you again real soon.

Black & White Photography - Fuji vs. Leica

Last month, with the help of our friends at KEH.com, we conducted a blind comparison test of color photography with Leica and Fuji cameras. It was a blast. During that comparison, I asked if anyone would be interested in a monochrome comparison of the two brands. We received quite a bit of positive feedback and requests for another comparison. Fortunately, the folks at KEH.com were watching and decided to send us some gear to make this dream a reality. 

In this blog post, we’ll look at the results from our blind test comparison of the monochrome output from five different cameras/lens combinations. While each camera is unique in the way it renders black & white photos, I initiated this experiment primarily to test the output of Fuji and Leica cameras. Here’s why:

Theoretically, shooting black & white with a Leica Monocrhome sensor will give you more detail and resolution than shooting with a typical CMOS sensor. Added to this is the fact that we’re comparing a full-frame sensor in the Leica camera with a cropped, APS-C Fuji sensor. While the difference in results might be substantial, is that difference worth the price differential? In the end can you even tell the difference?

Here’s the camera lineup I chose for the test:

Fuji X-T3

Many photographers love the monochrome output of the Fuji X-T3, while some prefer the ACROS film profile. For each shot, I tested both the monochrome setting and the ACROS setting, so you’ll be able to compare the results side-by-side. I used the Fuji 23mm 1.4 lens for each shot.

Leica Monochrom Classic

This camera utilizes a much older monochromatic CCD sensor. When using CCD, each and every photosite on a monochrome sensor is utilized to gather brightness. So, theoretically, you’ll get a lot more detail and resolution out of a Leica Monocrhom sensor than you would from a typical CMOS sensor.

Leica Monochrom Type 246

This later version of the Leica Monochrom is equipped with a newer monochromatic CMOS sensor. Not everyone agrees however that newer equals better.

Leica M3 Film Camera

Lastly, just for fun, I wanted to throw some black & white film into the lineup. I chose a Leica M3 and shot with some Ilford Delta 100 film which was professionally scanned for the photo comparison. For this test, all three Leica cameras were outfitted with a Leica 35mm F/2.4 Summarit-M Silver lens and shot in standard mode.

In the following test shots, you’ll see the JPEG outputs from each different camera/lens combination. While each shot is associated with its own letter, (A,B,C,D, or E), I won’t tell you which shot came from which camera until after you’ve had the chance to compare and pick your favorite shots. Here are the photos.

1st Test Shot

2nd Test Shot

3rd Test Shot

4th Test Shot

5th Test Shot

6th Test Shot

Final Test Shot

Now that you’ve looked these shots over thoroughly and critiqued them to death, it’s time to figure out which shot belongs to which camera. Here are the different camera/lens combinations with their corresponding letters:

The Big Reveal

The Big Reveal

A. Fuji X-T3, 23mm 1.4, - Monochrome Profile

B. Fuji X-T3, 23mm 1.4, - ACROS Profile

C. Leica Monocrhom Typ 246, 35mm Summarit

D. Leica Monochrom Classic, 35mm Summarit

E. Leica M3, Delta 100 (1:50), 35mm Summarit

While I didn’t have a clear favorite as far as tonality was concerned, it’s obvious from these test shots that using the Leica Classic or Leica Type 246 will give you higher resolution, better image quality, and better sharpness. The image produced by the original monochrome output is beautiful and tempts me to buy one of these cameras for myself.

Unfortunately, the age, clunkiness, and cost of a Leica camera makes it difficult for me to invest in one. Due to the slow buffer speeds in the monochrome output, it was actually faster for me to shoot with the film version than with the newer Leica cameras. While I appreciate the quality, black & white shots these cameras produce, I think I’ll be sticking with my Fuji for now.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the outcome of this monochrome output comparison. I really appreciate hearing from all of you when I conduct blind tests like these. I feel like your analysis is more thorough and instructive than what I can provide.

Until next time, do good with your camera. We’ll talk to you again real soon.

Why Fuji? - A Review of the New, Fuji X-Pro 3

Over the years, we have shot with cameras and products from many different companies. After all our experiences, we’ve chosen Fuji as the primary camera brand for our photography work. It’s not due to some sense of loyalty or obligation. (I would quickly switch to another brand that started supplying better products for my style of shooting.) Why have we chosen Fuji over brands like Nikon, Canon, Lumix, or specifically, Sony? Why do some artists love using Fuji’s products while others only buy Sony’s gear? It comes down to the question of maximum flexibility vs. creative constraint and which you prefer as a photographer.

In this post, I want to lay out some of the differences in philosophy between Sony and Fuji that I have noticed. (This is a simplified overview, but it should help you see why each company designs their cameras the way they do.) Later on, I’ll let you know my thoughts on Fuji’s new release, the X-Pro 3.

Here are some major differences between Sony and Fuji:


- Sony’s products look good on paper. They provide lots of specs and capabilities with their cameras, and for many photographers, this is the biggest selling point.

- Sony is adept at social media marketing. They offer some really nice perks for affiliate marketers. (like extravagant parties, trips to Honolulu, early access to products, etc.) This helps them promote their products to a huge audience.

- Sony likes to deliver features that satisfy popular demand from their on-line audience. If there’s a new camera feature that’s in demand, you’re almost guaranteed to get access to it when you purchase the next Sony model that comes out. And you won’t have long to wait either.


- Fuji delivers a great shooting experience. While their cameras may not have an overwhelmingly impressive spec sheet, I love the way they handle during a shoot.

- Fuji doesn’t engage in extravagant marketing techniques. While this is somewhat frustrating, it paints a clear picture of their priorities when it comes to product development - which leads me to my next point.

- Fuji doesn’t deliver new features based on popular consumer demand. If they did, I think they would have long since started manufacturing full-frame cameras with IBIS, a flip screen, and larger- capacity batteries. Instead, they tend to value the opinions of Fuji X photographers and other professionals when it comes to product development.

(Example: When Fuji came out with the X-T2, a lot of video “prosumers” were impressed with its video capabilities and responded with good reviews and lots of purchases. Fuji wasn’t used to that kind of attention but they decided to run with it. They expanded their video camera features in the X-T3 model, which led to even more sales. Though Fuji ended up creating a camera that rivals the the Sony A-7 lineup, I don’t think it was ever their goal.)

- Fuji has a history of poor, build quality. This is something that has always troubled me about Fuji. Our Fuji X-T2, (which I love), has had major issues that have cost us the price of the camera in repairs. In addition, my experience with Fuji’s repair services wasn’t a pleasant one. We have also used a Fuji X-T3 which has performed better under nearly constant use. While both cameras are still in use, I’m doubtful that either of these Fuji cameras will last long-term.

The Fuji X-pro 3

When Fuji announced the arrival of their new, titanium X-Pro 3, I literally felt giddy. This model is different - it’s exactly what Fuji needs to keep producing as their flagship, Pro camera. In order to appeal to professionals and true photography craftsmen, their top-of-the-line cameras need to be able to survive a war zone. (Please, no more cheap plastic flaps and magnesium alloy surfaces.)

(Image credit: Fujifilm)

(Image credit: Fujifilm)

As an event photographer, and a wannabe, street and documentary photographer, I also love having the option of a flip-down screen. With the X-pro 3, I’ll be able to easily flip that LCD screen down for a low shot or when I’m shooting from the hip. The rest of the time, it’s tucked away and protected. This feature is perfect for me since I don’t review photos again until I’m home at a computer. 

The Fuji X- Pro 3 checks all the boxes for me and I will definitely be investing in one.

Is the Fuji X-Pro 3 Right for You?

Many “prosumers” are driven by a fear of missing-out on something that will give someone else an edge. When you buy exclusively from Sony, you have the assurance that whatever innovation occurs, you’re going to be able to access it quickly. This is a comforting thought if you’re looking for every possible advantage to get a leg up in your craft.

With the Fuji X-Pro 3, you won’t have many new innovations to enjoy. Many consumers are going to be scratching their heads over this model and asking questions like: “Covering the LCD - are you insane?” “An optical viewfinder that doesn’t give you access to all those feature readouts?” “ Who would want to define their film profiles before post production?“ “Why would anyone want to limit themselves to only a few types of color philosophies?”

Some photographers want to figure it all out after the shoot in a vacuum of dials and absolute, maximum dynamic range. This is the crowd that will most likely love Sony and all the features they provide. Using a Sony is going to give them maximum flexibility.

The “other” crowd has long understood that imposing constraints when it comes to tooling, frees your mind to focus on artistry. The Fuji X-Pro 3 is going to appeal to photographers who go into a project with specific intent. These artists work to capture in-camera what they envisioned beforehand. This approach gives the photographer creative constraint but artistic freedom.

A Late-Night Review

A Late-Night Review

So, there is my rundown of the Fuji X-Pro 3, as well as my take on the different viewpoints that photographers have. Neither viewpoint is better than the other. Hopefully, I’ve described both ends of this spectrum and helped us see why the divide can seem so wide, at times.

For those of you on the maximum flexibility side, I hope this has helped you understand why the X-Pro 3 appeals to many. And for those of you on the creative constraint end, you’re not a better person just because you have things figured out ahead of time.

Remember, kindness before cameras. We’ll talk to you again real soon.

Photography Composition & Design - A Book Review

During a business trip to San Francisco, I thought I would take advantage of some free time and practice some street photography. I was also curious to try out some new information I’d recently learned from a photography book. In this blog post, I’ll show you the results of my experimentation as well as provide a brief, book review.

The book I’d been reading through is titled Photography Composition & Design - A Fun Approach for Serious Artists. The author, Tavis Glover, is an incredibly smart guy who I’ve followed on YouTube for awhile. Tavis knows his art history and applies that knowledge to his photography seamlessly. When I heard that he was coming out with a new book, I got really excited. I wanted to read this book so badly, I asked Tavis if he would give me a copy in exchange for a book review. He was gracious enough to take me up on my offer. So, while I will mention some of the major points covered in his book, I’d encourage you to get a copy for yourself.

Reviewing the Book

Reviewing the Book

  The book stresses the importance of investing in knowledge. “Gearing is second to knowledge” Tavis says, and that's something I wholeheartedly agree with. Learning the skill of great photography is more vital than having top-notch equipment.

Tavis is an artist who knows his own style. He focuses on his own, unique brand of street photography and sticks with it. After reading just a few pages of this book, you’ll already have a good grasp of what defines his personal style.

When demonstrating the principles of Gestalt Psychology in composition, many authors will site examples from differing styles and genres. This can confuse the reader though, by making the difference in techniques less-easy to identify. With Tavis’s book, the differences in techniques is obvious and much easier to grasp since he uses only his own work as examples. Although subtle, I feel that this difference sets Tavis’s composition book apart from other similar books. It’s a more effective way to teach art and is one of the aspects I appreciate most about this book.



One of the main topics covered in this book is the use of dynamic symmetry as a rule of composition. Understanding this idea has helped me immensely. For a season, I relied too heavily on the rule of thirds in my photo composition. As a result, I really plateaued in my work as a photographer. Understanding how to capture dynamic symmetry in my shots really helped me pull out of a composition rut.

In the book, Tavis demonstrates how to lock-in your frame along the lines of dynamic symmetry. (For time’s sake, I’m not going to tackle the definition of dynamic symmetry in this post.) These lines are complicated and not easy to master. I was pretty inexperienced in this area, so I decided to get some practice while I was on the streets of San Francisco.

To show you what this looked like in practice, I’ve taken a sampling of my street photography and overlaid the images with some lines of dynamic symmetry. While shooting, I moved my frames around almost constantly to try to lock -in those lines of dynamic symmetry. Though they're not classic street photography, these shots were a lot of fun to capture and I gained some much-needed experience in the process. Here are some of my results.

Screenshot from 2019-09-27 07-42-27.jpg
Screenshot from 2019-09-27 07-44-32.png
Screenshot from 2019-09-27 07-44-21.png


So many photographers, including myself, can become trapped by only using the rule of thirds in their photo composition. Using dynamic symmetry, along with the other principles of Gestalt psychology, can help us break out of that box.

Screenshot from 2019-09-27 07-42-50.jpg

I appreciated this book as it opened my eyes to a new, applicable perspective on photography. One of my favorite things about this book is the way Tavis breaks down the principles of composition into bite-sized chunks. Within just a few pages of text and photos, you’ll get a brief synopsis of an idea that will immediately help you as a photographer. Still, I feel like it's one of those books that will take a couple of reads to fully grasp and apply.

Though I enjoyed reading straight through this book, it can also function like a reference manual. (It’s chock full of practical examples and Tavis’s high-quality photography.) This book will give you some great tools to improve your photography, especially If you’re stuck in a “rule of thirds rut”. I hope you’ll check out Photography Composition & Design, as well as the many other resources Tavis has made available.

Do good with your camera. We’ll talk to you again real soon.

Outdoor Portrait Lighting 101

Each week, I have the opportunity to teach photography basics to a class of high school students. It’s been a blast. This article compiles some of the topics covered in these classes, specifically: outdoor shoots, directional lighting, and shooting in direct sunlight. If you’re new to photography, here are some practical tips for improving your outdoor photos.

  When you’re going outdoors to shoot, sunlight is your biggest factor. If you can schedule your shoot during the early morning or late evening, you’ll be able to limit the harsh effects of the sun and have a more controlled environment. Unfortunately, shooting during the “golden hours” isn’t always possible. Sometimes you have to start snapping photos during the middle of the day when the sun is brightest. 

 I’m going to take you through a series of lighting situations arranged from worst to best, in my opinion. (These photos of Hadley were taken during summer, using aperture priority setting, ISO 100, f/2.0.) I’ll show you what not to do with lighting, and what you can do to capture the best shot possible. 

Cross Lit

Cross Lit

In this first situation, sunlight is only shining on half of Hadley’s face. This type of lighting, commonly titled cross lit, is probably the worst possible choice for a photo. The dark shadows under the eyes and harsh lighting on the right side of her face produce too much contrast. This lighting is not very flattering. 

Straight On

Straight On

In this next example, poor Hadley had to face the sun directly. This is straight on lighting and is only a slightly better option. While there is less shadowing under the eyes, (raccoon eyes), the big problem here is the squinting. It’s hard for anyone to look there best when they’re forced to face the sun. 


Back Lit

Back Lit

 If you have to shoot in full sunlight, putting the sun behind your subject is usually your best choice. When Hadley is back lit, the deep shadows and harsh contrast are eliminated. Still, for my preference, there’s not enough dimension to her face. The other issue that arises is blown-out highlights. These are areas of the photo that are pure white and can’t be recovered during post-processing. 

Full Shadow

Full Shadow

Now, let’s take a look at shooting in the shade. When I am forced to photograph in broad daylight, I prefer to shoot in full shadow. This allows me to have more influence over lighting; when the sun is high in the sky, it tends to run away with your photos. While Hadley’s face looks similar to when it was back lit, the blown-out highlights have been eliminated. I prefer this lighting situation to the previous three.

Silver Reflector

Silver Reflector

 This next shot is taken in full shadow but with added light from a silver reflector. Using a 5-in-1 is one of the best and cheapest ways to add directional lighting during a shoot. This extra light adds a bit of dimension to Hadley’s face but might be a little too strong. (If this lighting makes my subjects squint, I have them keep their eyes closed and only open them long enough for me to snap a few pictures.)

White Reflector

White Reflector

To soften the lighting, I like to flip my 5-in-1 around and use a white reflector.  All you need here is a kiss of light to bring out some dimension to the face. I made sure to hold the reflector close to Hadley’s face since the white light is fairly weak. I usually choose this option for portraits. 

Continuous Lighting

Continuous Lighting

Another way to add light in a full shadow situation is by using continuous lighting. I like this option because I can continue to shoot with my camera in the aperture priority setting. (I’m a big fan of capturing the bokeh effect in my portraits.) Even if my shutter speed is 1/1,000th of a second, I don’t need to worry as long as I have continuous lighting. I like using a LED Video Light to add a touch of steady light. 



The last lighting example is simply a flash. My preferred method is to use an Umbrella Light. This will give you plenty of light for a great shot, providing you keep your shutter speed below 1/200th of a second. For this shot, I also made sure to keep my aperture at about f/3.5 to compensate for the large amount of light generated by the flash. When shooting with a flash, make sure to keep your camera very steady.



I hope you were able to see the difference that each lighting situation created, as well as the improvement of the photo with each new lighting selection. While there are plenty of other lighting options to be considered, these are the ones I use frequently. They should give you a great place to start as you set-up for your next outdoor portrait session. 

 Do good with your camera. We’ll talk to you again real soon. 

Building a Photography Business on $500 (Part 1)

As I look back on my somewhat-short photography career, I’m shocked by the sheer amount of gear that I have purchased and used. In retrospect, I really didn’t need half of it. After adding up the numbers, I found that the money I’d spent on equipment and gadgets pretty much canceled out any profits I’d made so far. (Does anyone else have a hard time saying “No” to buying more photography gadgets?)

In this article, I want to show you that it’s actually possible to start a money-making photography business that does more than break even. To prove my point, we’re going to give ourselves an imaginary budget of just $500. Is it really possible to start a viable photography business with this amount?

Before you jump into starting a photography business, it's very important that you understand aperture, ISO, shutter speed, and the basics of composition. The best business plan can’t teach you this knowledge. You’ll want to make sure you know this stuff before you go looking for your first client.

Lifestyle Family Photography

Lifestyle Family Photography

If you have a good handle on the basics of photography, it’s time to ask yourself some probing questions: “What type of photography business am I wanting to start?” “What style of photography will I focus on?” “Do I want to earn a living with my photography business?” For my example today, I want my photography business to showcase natural light in lifestyle family settings. I’m also not trying to make this my family’s only source of income. Instead, I’ll focus on paying for my photography expenses and earning a little extra each month.

Once you’ve defined some goals for your business venture, it’s time to start thinking about equipment. If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent hours and hours watching YouTube videos on photography topics, binge-watching old episodes of DigitalRev TV, and scouring the internet for the latest and greatest product that will revolutionize your photography craft. It’s easy to become consumer-minded and get caught up in gear acquisition, but with a $500 budget, you’re going to have to get creative. (Half of a Fuji X-S1 just isn’t going to work.)

Thankfully, professional photography isn’t primarily about the kind of gear you use - it’s about the way you use the gear. This provides a lot of freedom as you begin to select your core equipment. As long as you continue learning and improving your skill as a photographer, it doesn’t matter if you have the newest and greatest photography equipment. (Try Amazon, Ebay, Etsy, or KEH for quality used photography gear.)

Focus Peaking in Use

Focus Peaking in Use

In order to get some great lenses and a quality camera on my budget, I’m going to start hunting for a mirrorless camera and a couple of compatible lenses. To make this set up work well, I need to find a camera body with the ability to perform focus peaking. This feature allows you to see a highlighted region in the viewfinder that indicates when an object is in focus. You’ll need to master this skill if you are going to use vintage film lenses in your setup.

Before you purchase any mirrorless camera, make sure it has focus peaking capabilities. (Some early models of mirrorless cameras don’t contain this feature.) While learning to focus with this feature may be a challenge, it’s definitely doable, and should help you stay within your budget.

With my $500, here’s what I’ll try to buy to get my photography business started:

  • 1 Mirrorless Camera

  • 1 - 28 mm Lens

  • 1 - 50 mm Lens

  • 2 - Lens Adapters

  • 1 - 5-in-1 Reflector

  • 1 - 16 GB SD Card

My Mirrorless Camera

My Mirrorless Camera

After doing some research, I decided to start out by buying an Olympus OM-D E-M10. I was able to find a refurbished model for just $310. (Another great option is the Sony A-6000.) As a micro four-thirds model, this camera body is small and compact. If you’re worried about clients taking you and your tiny camera seriously, don’t. Your confidence is more important than the size of your camera.


Next, you’ll need to find what is probably the most important part of your business setup - lenses. I want to purchase two, well-built lenses that are in good shape, and have good speeds. Since I’ll be shooting with a micro four-thirds camera, my limited sensor is going to put me at a disadvantage in low light. For this reason, I need to find some fast lenses.

Checking-out my Lens

Checking-out my Lens

The first lens I’m going to grab is a Konica Hexanon AR 50 mm, F/1.4 This is a sturdy lens and quite affordable. ($49) There are also plenty on the market so you should be able to find a used one easily. In order to have some versatility in my startup kit, I also need to buy a second lens for taking closer, portrait shots. For this purpose, I’m choosing a Tokina 28 mm, F/2.8 lens. This one is a vintage, K-mount type lens that also costs $49. If I had room in my budget for a third lens, I would look for one with an even wider angle. For now, these two lenses should allow me to get my business up and running.

Before I get too carried away, I need to make sure my lenses are compatible with my camera. Since I’ll be putting both lenses on a micro 4/3 camera body, I’m also going to need to purchase two lens adapters. These are pretty inexpensive and, in my case, I was able to find the two I needed for just $24.

When attaching these lenses to a micro 4/3 camera body, the focal range is doubled. This means that my 50 mm lens effectively gives me a 100 mm range and my 28 mm lens gives me a 56 mm range. This effect is due to the sensor in the micro 4/3 camera being much smaller. As a result, I will need to allow for more distance between me and my subject in order to keep them entirely in the frame.

With $67 still remaining in my budget, I just have a couple more purchases to make. In order to have enough storage on my camera, I’m going to invest in a 16 GB SD card. ($10) Since my business is focusing on family settings with natural light, I’m also going to buy a tool to help me leverage natural light. A 5-in-1 reflector will allow me to add a little directional light especially during indoor shoots. I found one for $21. With a final $6 for shipping, my buying session is finished. (I already had some batteries on hand, so I’m not counting those in my budget.) Here’s what I ended up with:

  • 1 - Mirrorless Camera - $310

  • 1 - 28 mm Lens - $49

  • 1 - 50 mm Lens - $49

  • 2 - Lens Adapters - $24

  • 1 - 5-in-1 Reflector - $21

  • 1 - 16gb SD Card - $10

  • Shipping & Handling - $6

    Total: = $469

Now that I’ve compiled the gear for my photography business, I need to do some experimenting before my first shoot. One valuable piece of information you need to have as a photographer is how close you can get to your subject while keeping them entirely in the frame. This is especially important if you are shooting with a micro 4/3 camera and switching-out lenses.

Human Distance Test

Human Distance Test

To run this experiment, I’m going to set my tripod to a height of 6’. (This is roughly a person’s height when standing.) Then, using my new setup, I’ll see what my minimum distance is for each of my lenses. With the 50 mm lens I can get as close as 20’ while keeping my subject completely framed. With my 28 mm lens, the distance is about 10’. This is good information for me to know, especially if I’m shooting indoors with limited space.

The other part of my kit I need to test is my focus peaking feature. As I said, learning to use this feature can take some time. If you’re new to manual focusing, give yourself several practice sessions. You’ll want to be able to quickly and confidently bring your subject into focus before you land your first customer.

Lastly, I want to test out my new kit and see what I can achieve. The goal here is to capture a couple of photos that demonstrate my particular style. This will become more important as we take a look at the next step in building your photography business in Part 2 of this series.


Since I don’t have any customers yet, these first couple of shots will have to be of family, friends, or other volunteers. The first shot I want to try is actually a composite shot. (For editing, use a free trial of Adobe Creative Cloud, or something similar.) In the foreground, I’ll focus on my two children playing a duet on the piano. In the background, my wife and I will be sitting on the couch watching our kids perform.

In order to pull off this effect, I’m going to stage two separate shots. In the first, I’ll photograph just my kids playing at the piano. For the second shot, I’ll need to go into my camera’s settings and turn on the “time lapse” feature. With the camera now balanced on a music stand, (or anything sturdy), I’m able to join my wife on the couch and let the camera run for a few frames. During editing, I’ll be able to combine the two photos and come up with an end result like the following photo.

Photo 1 (Composited in Photoshop)

Photo 1 (Composited in Photoshop)

For my second test shot, I want to catch my wife relaxing on the couch with my dog. This is a much easier shot, but still captures the lifestyle family setting that I want to portray in my future portfolio.

Photo 2 (Denae and the Dog)

Photo 2 (Denae and the Dog)

I’ve purchased my photography kit, (for less than $500) practiced using the different components, and taken two photos that represent my personal style. In Part 2 of this series, I’ll look at building a portfolio, launching a website, and establishing a branding style. I hope you’ll join me.

Do good with your camera. We’ll talk to you again real soon.


Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibeGGOD-wOc

The Perfect Gear for Pet Photography


When it comes to gearing-up for pet photography, you’re not going to win any style awards. That’s okay. This isn’t about you - it's about the pets. With a get-up like mine, you’ve got a great shot at taking some fabulous pet photos. In this post, I’ll give you a step-by-step tour of each item in my kit and show you why I look like such a goober.  

Knee pad.png

If you’re photographing pets the right way, you’re going to spend a lot of time on your knees. To give my knees a break, I like to use Lift knee pads. They may not look great, but they feel oh-so-good, especially on rocky ground.



Lens #1 .png


There are 3 lenses I always keep in my pet photography kit. The first lens I like to use is a Canon 8-15 mm f/4. This is my go-to lens for capturing those distorted, cute, lovable dog shots, (where the nose is huge and the body is small). This is a great lens.


Lens #3.png

My second lens is the Canon 35 mm 1.4. This is a prime lens for pet photography. I use this lens on almost every shoot where there are pets involved.

Lens #2.png

Lastly, I carry my super-zoom, telephoto lens: a Tamron 200-500 mm 5.6. There are definitely better zoom lenses out there, but I love using this one for action shots.


Dog treats.png

Next, are my dog treats of choice: Greenies Pill Pockets. These treats were designed for getting dogs to take their pills. (Not what I use them for). I like these treats because they’re easy to break apart, but not too greasy to handle. Most importantly, the dogs love them. So, these are my favorites.


Quick Flash.png

Just in case my continuous light fails, I like to carry a speed light. I prefer buying cheap speed lights because I go through them; I drop these things all the time. Another handy tool to have is a wireless trigger that sits in your hot shoe mount. I haven’t had one of these fail me yet, (except the one I dropped and smashed on the ground).




My hunter’s lanyard is probably the silliest but most important piece of my setup. I use it to carry all sorts of animal calls, kazoos, and whistles. It’s awesome for pet photography. The one time I forgot this at home, I really regretted it. It's been a lifesaver.

My favorite gadget is the chipmunk call. You don't blow in it to create the noise, you actually squeeze it, and let go. This is an awesome feature as it makes it easy to grab the pets attention while you have both hands on the camera.

I try to use each item no more than three or four times in a shoot; after that it just stops working. I make sure to use these very, very sparingly and right at key moments when I really need the dog to look my way. Once these toys lose their charm, I have to rely on my weird voice to get the pet’s attention.


Duffel Bag.png

Next up, is my all-important duffel bag. This sling-style bag is fantastic because you don’t have to put it on the ground to switch-out cameras or lenses. I used to use a backpack until once, when I set it down on the grass, the sprinklers went off. (Luckily, none of my gear was ruined.) With this bag, I can spin it around for easy access or even rest my elbows on it to stabilize my camera.


Tripod & Reflector.png


The last part of my pet photography kit is a small tripod with a Yongnuo YN600L LED light attached. This set-up is lightweight, easy to move around, and provides plenty of light for the shoot. Since I’m only photographing pets, the tripod doesn’t need to be very tall either. (I like to hang a bag of dog treats on the back of my tripod for quick access.)

Now you know why I look so goofy for pet photography. You have to look weird if you want your pet photos to look great. I hope these tools and tips will help you on your next pet photo shoot.

Do good with your camera. We’ll talk to you again real soon.