I have been shooting for over 30 years at this point, have tried countless cameras, gadgets and tools, and have amassed quite a collection of photography-related “stuff”. Many of the items I don’t even use any more, but I have a hard time parting with them, so my home is slowly turning into a museum of photography.
Photography has changed quite a bit over the years, and some adjustments have been easy, others not so much. I was very hesitant to switch from film to digital, and go from the darkroom to a computer, but once I did, I was hooked. I still have a fridge door full of film “just in case” (which might produce fun results once I find the time to play with it because it’s all expired), but these days, I shoot mainly digital.
These are the products and tools I use today, and they are all things I highly recommend. I will keep adding to this list as I add to my equipment and find new useful tools and gadgets.
Canon EOS 7D
I am a “Canon person” and currently use a 7D, which I love. I upgraded from a 20D a few years ago, and what a difference! It’s quick, sharp, accurate, and not too heavy to carry around when traveling (the body weighs 1.8 lb.)
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS1
I also have a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS1 for when I don’t want to bring the big camera, like to a friend’s wedding or birthday party or out to dinner or something. I know most people would use their phone in these situations, but I still use (and like) an old flip phone. The Lumix is the best snapshot camera I have ever owned (and I have had many!). The zoom is great, the photos are super crisp and it comes with a bunch of useful settings (I use the “food” setting most of the time, not just for food but for pretty much everything). My model is not available anymore, but if I were to buy a new snapshot camera today, I would get the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
I love this prime lens! It is small and light and very sharp, and what I use for all my studio photography (food, products, pet portraits). If you want a lens that gives you the option of a really shallow depth of field and very crisp details, this is it!
Read my longer review of it here
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM
The “L” lenses are Canon’s pro line, and this lens is not cheap, but to me, it was worth the money. I use it for studio or location shots where I need the zoom function, but it’s not a lens I personally bring to the beach or carry around on trips, partly because it’s expensive and I don’t want to get salt and sand and dust in it, and partly because it’s a bit heavier than my other lenses at 1.47 lb. (670 g)
Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM
This lens came with my 7D and it’s a good lens, really versatile, a good “walk around” lens. At 1.19 lb. (540 g), it’s not the lightest lens I’ve ever used, but it’s not prohibitively heavy either, so easy to bring along when traveling, and I have been very happy with the picture quality.
Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III USM
I bring this telephoto zoom lens whenever I know I will be shooting things I won’t be able to get close to, like wildlife, or animals in a zoo, and it is great in those situations. I would not have been able to get the shots below with any of my other lenses. It’s not too heavy to carry around for a day (1.39 lb. (630 g) and really affordable.
This was an impulse buy at a Photoshop User conference, and while I like it and think it produces some interesting effects, I don’t use it as much as I thought I would, mainly due to lack of time to experiment with and really learn how to work with it. I think it works better with certain subjects and situations and less so with other. It’s a really fun lens though, and I’d still recommend it to anyone who wants to create dreamy, select focus effects in the camera (rather than “fake it” during post processing). The model I have is not available anymore, but the new versions are easier to work with, so that’s a good thing!
Canon 250D Close-up Lens
I bought this many years ago and wasn’t sure how much use I would get out of it, but just “had to have it”. I have never regretted that purchase: it’s a great, low cost alternative to a macro lens, and has probably been my most used gadget to date. It’s small and lightweight (although surprisingly heavy for its size), so very easy to take along anywhere, and you can use it on any lens. I have a few lenses with different diameters, and for those, I use it with a step up / down ring, which works great. These close-up lenses now come in a 500D as well.
Hoya Close-up Filter Set
I had a set similar to this maybe 20 years ago which I loved, but I somehow managed to lose it during a move at some point. A few years ago, I got this set for Christmas, and I like it just as much as the old one. It has three different magnification filters (+1,+2,+4), and you can use each filter separately, or stack two or all of them at once. It produces great close-ups with soft edges (I like that, personally) and is a lot of fun to play with.
Neutral Density Filter
These filters add a layer of “darkness” so that less light gets through to your camera and are great, and sometimes necessary, when you want to do long exposures, for example to make water have that soft and “flowy” look. Or when it’s just too bright for your camera. This is less of an issue with digital cameras and their vast array of settings, but I used it a lot on my film cameras for sunny shots on the beach, with snow, and really bright days on the ocean.
The main feature of polarizing filters is that they remove haze, glare and reflections, just like your Maui Jim’s, so they are great when shooting through windows, water, anything with lots of reflections. They also make certain colors more saturated.
Lowel – Ego Digital Imaging Fluorescent Light
I don’t like to shoot in anything but natural light, but sometimes, you have to get a shot at 5 pm in late December, so what do you do? This light can stand in as a “fake window”, is inexpensive and fairly easy to set up (once you figure it out). I wouldn’t use it for portraits but for food and product shots, it works great.
Reflectors are essential pieces of equipment for natural light portraits, product and food photography. They help fill in the shadow area of a photo and can also double as backdrops. The ones I use are:
Photoflex LiteDisc Circular Reflector, White Opaque/Silver, 12″ (30.5cm)
Small and foldable, fits in any bag, I take it with me everywhere.
Westcott – 5-in-1 Reflector Disc – 40.5″ (1 m)
The same thing essentially, but larger and with more color options (white, black, gold, silver and translucent). I use it in the studio with a stand.
Light Stand and Reflector Holder
Easy to use multitasking stand that can hold both small lights and reflectors.
While I sometimes miss the smell of stop bath (strange, I know!) and the peace and quiet of working in a darkroom, not to mention the “magic” when an image starts to appear, digital post processing IS easier, and better for your health. And as the software has gotten more and more advanced, you can do things digitally that would have been impossible in the darkroom.
I always begin my post processing in Lightroom, sorting out the good photos from the bad, putting images in collections, and selecting the ones I want to work on. I also do basic developing and cropping here, adjusting angles, exposure, and color tone. Once I’m done with all that, I export the photos and move on to Photoshop.
I use Photoshop to fine tune the photos: remove dust spots, adjust colors and exposure, and anything else that needs fixing. I also sometimes play with effects to see what I think. And sometimes I’m done with the image after that, but sometimes, I want to take things a step further, and for that I use onOne.
Photoshop / Lightroom Creative Cloud
These days, Adobe has changed into a subscription service, so instead of buying the programs on disk and installing on your computer, you pay a monthly fee and use them through Adobe. The Photoshop / Lightroom package is $9.99 per month.
Epson Stylus Photo R2400
I have had my Epson for many years now and for the most part, I have loved it. It has been very reliable, the print quality is great and the cartridges are not horrifyingly expensive. But there are a few things (which thankfully have been changed in later models)… I wish you could keep both the matte black and the photo black in at the same time rather than having to change them when switching paper type. I wish it would pull the paper correctly every single time (unless I push it down, it usually jams, which I know is from the rubber rollers having dried out over time and can be fixed, but…). And I wish the ink pads never got to the point of being too full and overflowing on my desk (which can also be fixed with a simple hack). So while I love my printer, and fix the issues when they arise, when it breaks beyond repair, I am definitely getting the Epson Stylus Pro 3880. It prints up to 17 x 22″, has both black ink cartridges fitted all the time (yay!) and the paper loading is much improved.
Epson Perfection V600 Photo Scanner
With digital, you obviously don’t really need a scanner (although you can use them for fun art projects), but I have thousands of old slides and film strips (both my own and my Dad’s and Grandfather’s) so I scan quite a bit. My goal is to get them all scanned, but that is a HUGE project, and I am not even halfway there yet. I have always had, and like, Epson scanners; they are very reliable, you get great results, and they are affordable. My current model is not available anymore, but I hear great things about the Epson Perfection V600 Photo Scanner.
Digital Storage: External Hard Drives
I learned the importance of having EVERYTHING on SEVERAL external hard drives the hard way. I used to work on an old and slow desktop and had all my photos on two external hard drives – one for personal stuff, one for business stuff (art photos, stock images, etc.). One day, I was working away on my business photos, and the drive started making a strange sound. Next thing I knew, it was dead. I took it to several places but nobody was able to fix it nor recover anything on it. As you can imagine, it was a nightmare. I had some of the images on disks as well, but some are lost forever. So ever since, I back everything up on at least 4 drives, 2 of which are kept in other locations (in case the house burns down). As you can imagine, I have a great number of drives by now, and with a steady addition of new photos and file sizes getting larger and larger, my “HD collection” keeps growing. It can be a bit of a logistic challenge to keep track of what is where, but it beats losing everything to a crash…
Fantom Green Drive – I use this as the Time Machine for my Mac
WD My Passport 2TB Drives – These are small portable ones I use for offsite storage
Toshiba Canvio – I have a whole bunch of these in varying capacities and they have (so far) been great. They are tiny, quick to hook up, and very easy to take along.
What was the drive that crashed? An old Western Digital. But don’t shy away from WD just because of that. It can happen to any brand, and as you can see, I still use, and like, WD drives.
I love my paper trimmers and use them almost every day. They’re great for craft projects, trimming photos, cutting shipping labels, product labels, etc. I currently use two different ones:
Dahle 12″ Rolling Trimmer
My “everyday” trimmer. It can handle almost anything, the blade is self-sharpening, and unlike some cheaper trimmers I have owned, it cuts straight every time.
Rotatrim Professional M Series 20″
My “fancy” trimmer that I use for art prints exclusively. It can cut sheets up to 20” long, and it’s big and heavy, but it does a beautiful job. It cuts through even really thick stock like nothing and the cut is clean and gorgeous.
Print and Slide Storage
Lineco Museum Quality Drop-Front Storage Boxes
I love the boxes from Lineco and have lots of them! They are nice and sturdy and the drop front makes it easy to remove prints without damaging them.