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What to get with a $1000 budget
Old 09-18-2007, 09:24 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Hi fellow photographers,

I'd like to get into portrait/fashion/glamour photography. I've purchased Rolando's excellent book as well as other titles on the subject and I'm learning a lot.

I currently own a Canon 30D and a 50mm 1.8 lens. I also have a cheap but decent tripod and a flash (420EX). I'd like to get serious about photography in my spare time and I'm contemplating the idea of making some cash by dedicating my efforts towards stock photography as well (not micro-stock).

I currently have a $1000 budget and feel that this could buy a few much needed things to help me achieve my goals. While I know a lot about the technical details of the equipment, I feel that I need some advice from real people with real experience to tell me what's really essential and what can wait.

I thought that the first thing that I could invest in is a good lens. For both indoor and outdoor shooting, I'm divided between the Canon 70-200 f/4 L and the Canon EF 70-300/4-5.6 IS USM.

But then there is part of me that says, "dude, you are spending that money on a lens, when you should get some serious lighting and improvise some kind of studio".

Extra money is likely to come in about every 3 months, but we're not talking about mountains of dough here either. Just a bit that could be put solely towards photography.

What would you do in regards to selecting the best items to help take my photography to the next level?

BTW, This is my first post in this forum and I'd really appreciate your help.

Thanks,
GTA
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Re: What to get with a $1000 budget
Old 09-18-2007, 11:38 AM   #2 (permalink)
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First of all, welcome to G1!

I started somewhat similar to where you are now, so this comes from my experiences.

I'm now, more than ever, a firm believer in the fact that it's the person behind the camera, and the glass on the front, that make the images. Lighting can be done with a window and very cheap home-made reflectors. With a single 430EX, while limited, if you get the flash off camera, and work to perfect your technique with that, you can learn the basics of lighting.

Next, add a 580EX (with your next block of cash) or 2, or a 580 and another 430, and you have a wireless 2 or 3 light system with full control on the camera. Now you can work on more versatile lighting, and improve still further. Then, once you have a solid grasp of using the gear you have, move into building a studio lighting set. You'll already have a small indoor system, and a highly flexible location set that carries easilly.

I went the other way, and started buying studio lights, but am finding that they are clumsy to move to locations, and require more power than I have at my disposal. So I am now adding the 580 and a second 430, and look forward to working with 3 portable strobes on location.

In short, go for the 70-200 F4L for sure over the 70-300. From the reviews I've seen it's a killer lens! Or, get the one I have, the Sigma 70-200 f2.8 EX DG. I use it on 20D and 30D bodies and have some excellent results. A little slower to focus, which is not an issue for portraiture.

These shots were with a single 430EX off camera with a set of cheap eBay wireless flash triggers shot into an umbrella. The whole wireless, stand and umbrella came from various eBay stores and cost me around $100 US shipped to Canada.





Good luck, and I hope this has been of some help!

Cheers
njw
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Re: What to get with a $1000 budget
Old 09-18-2007, 11:51 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bc_shutterbug View Post
In short, go for the 70-200 F4L for sure over the 70-300. From the reviews I've seen it's a killer lens! Or, get the one I have, the Sigma 70-200 f2.8 EX DG. I use it on 20D and 30D bodies and have some excellent results. A little slower to focus, which is not an issue for portraiture.
Thank you very much njw. What you are saying makes a lot of sense. Just one small point: I own a 420EX not a 430EX. The 420EX is all automatic, not manual, so I guess I will have to sell it and purchase a 580EX or 430EX instead. I really appreciate your comment, it was extremely helpful and probably the best advice I've received in a long time.

If I understand this correctly, you are using a third party replacement for the ST-2 on your body, and trigger wirelessly the other flashes attached to umbrellas/softboxes?

Thanks,
GTA

PS: your pictures look gorgeous.
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Re: What to get with a $1000 budget
Old 09-18-2007, 01:33 PM   #4 (permalink)
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You're quite welcome... and thanks for the compliment. I'm still learning, but with practice, and the right model and location, it's not too hard to get some good shots.

I've been using the 430EX in Manual mode on a cheap radio trigger set from eBay. I've ordered a 580EX and 430EX to build a more versatile system, with the ability to use ETTL and FEC to set the lighting ratios I want, and look forward to playing with the system. As for your 420, as I understand it, while you don't have full manual control, the 580 will let you setup light ratios, and you can use FEC to increase or decrease the output of the 420, giving you pseudo-manual control over the 420. Otherwise, for full manual control, you will need to get the 430EX.

The radio slave I am using is nothing like the ST-E2, as it is just a simple radio trigger with no control whatsoever. I set the 430EX on Manual, and dial in the settings I want. Then the trigger does just that - fires the strobe for fill.

Cheers
njw
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Re: What to get with a $1000 budget
Old 09-18-2007, 05:00 PM   #5 (permalink)
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If you are shooting in a small studio, then you are going to find that the 70-200 or 70-300 is going to make it difficult to shoot full length shots. Keep in mind that these lens behave as 112 on the short end so that will be a limiting factor. I personally often use the Sigma 18-125 for studio work just because it gives me the ability to shoot from full lengths to head shots with one lens from one position.

Here is an example shot with the Sigma lens:

Click for larger version
Re: What to get with a 00 budget 


As for lighting, I would not recommend making a large investment in multiple shoe mount type strobes. The 420 ex is adequate for portable work such as weddings and events. I have shot many weddings with the 420EX and it worked well. Keep in mind that when shooting the formal wedding shots that you're much better off with studio lighting (I use 4 Novatron heads in large umbrellas for the posed wedding shots and I've used the same setup for 30 years now). Now days you can get some real bargains with kits from Alien Bee for example.

Here's a poster type shot made with an Alien Bee setup:

Click for larger version
Re: What to get with a 00 budget 


Cheers,
rfs
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