I get a lot of questions about my photography, so I thought I would create a resource where those questions could be answered.
What camera gear do you use?
A lot of people ask this question, but before I list my gear, I want to share with you this thought: good photos have a great deal more to do with who is behind the gear than the gear itself. The gear is a means to an end and while I do believe in using the best possible equipment, spending a lot of money does not mean you will take great photos just like having expensive cookware doesn’t mean you will cook a tasty meal. It takes years of practice, learning, and even blood, sweat and tears to become a great photographer.
2 Canon 5D mk3 Cameras
Canon 70-200 2.8 L II IS
Canon 135mm 2.0 L
Canon 100mm Macro 2.8 L IS
Canon 85mm 1.2 L
Canon 50mm 1.2 L
Canon 35mm 1.4 L
Canon 17-40 4.0 L
Canon 580EX II Flash
Canon 550EX Flash
Why Canon? Why not Nikon?
I started with Canon and have a lot invested in gear. Both brands are great, and like I wrote above, it is more about the photographer than the gear.
Why do you shoot RAW and not JPEG?
RAW gives me more flexibility when processing my files.
Custom White Balance or Auto?
I use a mix. I mostly use shade or cloudy white balance settings when shooting outside during the day or with window light.
Center Weighted, but when shooting manual, it only serves as a starting point.
What shooting mode do you use?
Most of the time I shoot in Manual because it puts me in control of my exposure. When shooting horses in motion, I do sometimes switch to Av (aperture value) because the light is often changing more quickly than I can adjust my camera. Changing to shooting in manual is one of the biggest things I ever did to improve my photography.
How Can I take better horse photos?
Read my article called “5 Steps to Better Horse Photos.”
How do you get such crisp, sharp photos?
- A great deal of sharpness comes from the lens you choose to use. Cheap lenses will not give you sharp images, so invest a little more in your lenses if you want sharp images. When considering a lens purchase, read reviews and pay special attention to comments about sharpness. Prime lenses (that don’t zoom) are generally sharper than zoom lenses. Zoom lenses that have a constant aperture setting tend to be sharper than those with variable aperture settings.
- I rarely use a lens “wide open” aka at it’s lowest aperture number. That’s usually where it is the least sharp. For instance, with a 50mm 1.4 lens, you want to try and stay around 1.8 unless you need the light. So then why buy a 1.4 lens instead of a 1.8 lens? Because the overall image quality is better.
- I generally use the center focus point on my camera body. I focus on my subject – the eyes if my subject has eyes (most do!) – and then recompose the image the way I want it to look. If I am working close up or at a very shallow depth of field, I will use other focus points. I only use cross-type focus points, as they are the most accurate.
- I’m careful to keep my shutter speed above 1/focal length. So for a 200mm lens, that would be 1/200th. However, if you know that you are a person who moves a lot while shooting, you might find that’s not enough and then you want to bump it up a bit if you want to be assured of a sharp photo. Using lenses with image stabilization (vibration reduction, for you Nikoners) changes the rules a bit. I will go as low as 1/60 with an image stabilized lens if my subject is not moving. Images stabilized lenses will cost you more, but they really help with sharpness.
How do you process your photos?
I sort the keepers from the tossers in Photo Mechanic, then color/density correct, crop, and convert from RAW to JPEG in Lightroom. Tweak in Photoshop if necessary. I use a few Photoshop actions, but I mostly use actions and Lightroom presets I developed to fit my style of shooting and processing. I am not big on commercial photo actions and heavy image processing. I prefer rather to let the photograph itself take center stage, not the processing. For more on my workflow, check out my eBook “The Lazy Photographer’s Guide to Workflow“.
Can I see your camera settings for the photos you post?
I leave my camera settings in the files I post, so you can use one of these methods to see my settings for each photo:
- Firefox: Download and install the Exif Viewer Plugin. Restart Firefox and then right click on the image. You will see a new option in your contextual menu titled “View Image EXIF Data”.
- Chrome: Download and install the EXIF Viewer extension. When you roll over my photos, you will see the camera settings.
- Facebook: I share settings and my reason behind them on my Facebook Page.