Does using pro photo gear really matter?

The amazing Profoto B4 Battery generator and Pro B head kit for rent from High Output Charleston

The amazing Profoto B4 Battery generator and Pro B head kit for rent from High Output Charleston

I admit it; I’m a gear horse. I love having and using the best possible tools to create my photographic images so I get asked frequently if have top line gear matters, and in a nutshell, yes it does. But just because you can’t afford the latest gear doesn’t mean you still can’t use it. There are rental houses across the globe that can get any photographer loaded for bear with just about anything you can think of. I’m very fortunate to have two of them here in Charleston SC; Shoot Rentals (www.shootrentals.com) and High Output Charleston (www.HighOutputCharleston.com) and today I’ll highlight High Output.

Most who know me can agree that I’m a disciple of light, whether using speedlites, studio strobes, LED panels or good old-fashioned worklights with compact fluorescent bulbs. I wish I had the budget to purchase the top-line Profoto lighting gear, but it’s not in the cards at the moment. So I do the next best thing; rent. You may be asking yourself “If you have all the other gear including professional mono-lights, why Profoto?”, It comes down to performance and consistency of the light. If I am shooting product and have the luxury of waiting a few seconds for the lights to recycle, my Calumet / Bowens lights are awesome. Working with a subject that changes expression or moves may be a different story. Have you ever taken a photograph only to notice an even better expression a split second later? You take the shot and realize that the light didn’t fire. The moment is gone. Or maybe the next shot the lights haven’t fully recycled but still fired without as much gusto, leaving your next image underexposed. Maybe not so much of an issue if this is your hobby, but a major problem if you do photography for a living!

I don’t know too many people that have an extra eight to sixteen-grand lying around to pick up a new Profoto B4 Air 1000 or two, and I certainly don’t. And I think even if I did, does this make good financial sense even if I did have the cash? For $145 I can rent almost $9k in top-line Profoto gear for the day. If I have the right client and want to use a $4500 Broncolor Para 177 modifier to get the exact look they are after, I can rent that too (and keep $4250 in my pocket for other expenses).

Does this mean I use this gear on every shoot? Nope, my gear including Speedlites, Quantum Q-Flashes and my trusty old Calumet Travelites can handle the every day stuff. But it is sure nice to know I can lay my hands on the best gear at a moments notice without the expense to own & maintain day in and day out!

(Special thanks to Liz Bruer for the loan of her daughter Penny for the test!)

Consistent output & color out of the Profoto B4 Air 1000 kit, shot with the Canon 1Dx, 24-70 2.8L at almost 12 frames per second without missing a beat!

Consistent output & color out of the Profoto B4 Air 1000 kit, shot with the Canon 1Dx, 24-70 2.8L at almost 12 frames per second without missing a beat!

Consistent output & color out of the Profoto B4 Air 1000 kit, shot with the Canon 1Dx, 24-70 2.8L at almost 12 frames per second without missing a beat! Don't forget, this is a battery powered flash!

Consistent output & color out of the Profoto B4 Air 1000 kit, shot with the Canon 1Dx, 24-70 2.8L at almost 12 frames per second without missing a beat! Don’t forget, this is a battery powered flash!

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2015 – The year of CunningFox Photo Education

Contrary to popular belief, I have not been trapped by a large piece of office furniture or kidnapped since the end of December!

As some of you may know, I have been very fortunate to partner up with other wonderful photographers over the past four decades and last year brought together three of us on a new project. It all started from a desire to create something bigger than each of us was capable of by ourselves, and to be able to “give back” through speaking engagements, workshops and mentoring. The culmination of several months of meeting and brainstorming resulted in CunningFox Photo Education, with partners Douglas Carr Cunningham and Iveta Butler.

We began in earnest with a free monthly speaking series hosted through the City of North Charleston, featuring photographic topics for all levels of photographers. Douglas was able to bring ThinkTank camera bags on board as our first corporate sponsor, allowing us to give away some of the best bags in the industry to our participants!

At the same time, we’ve been working hard to finish The Charleston Darkroom, the premier black and white darkroom in the region, along with a workshop / classroom for lighting, posing, product and presentations. To say all of this has been a labor of love for us is quite the understatement and we are so looking forward to sharing this with the photographic community. Best of all, we get to have a blast doing this together.

For now, I leave you with a few images to show what we’ve been up to. Normal service to resume soon!

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Sharing Knowledge, Pt. 2; The ProActive Photographer & capturing motion

2004 ALMS Petit LeMans at Road Atlanta

Pushing hard to the finish at a national race in Rome GA.

Pushing hard to the finish at a national race in Rome GA.

Repsol Honda MotoGP racer Max Biaggi Neil Hodgson saves it! Georgia - Alabama AG DayOne of the questions I get asked most often, is how do I capture motion in my photographs. Usually this is followed up immediately with the second question / statement of “You must use a fast shutter speed and continuous burst, huh?”

I’ll give you a hint. Follow-through, not really, and no.

Even back when I finally had enough money to purchase my first motor-drive for my Nikon F2a in the 1970’s, I never used it on continuous. For me, the whole purpose of “auto advance” was to not take the camera away from my eye to wind the film crank, so I was (almost) always ready. Fast forward to today, where even some consumer level cameras are capable of up to eight frames per second captures, and pro gear gets into the stratosphere with 12-14 fps. Wow, that’s a lot of images! Which means even more time spent at the computer…

I guess I have always preferred, as Henri Cartier-Bresson stated, look for the decisive moment. My reason was a more selfish one. I hate to sit and edit out images. Why take a dozen shots and hope that one nails it? Isn’t your time valuable?

When I photograph Motorsports and aircraft, and desire to show motion, I slow down the shutter speed, sometimes even down to ¼ of a second. The way I keep things looking good is by follow-through. Imagine what would happen if you went to take a golf swing and stopped once you made contact with the ball? It wouldn’t be very pretty, would it?

Whether you are trying to capture a racecar at speed or a smiling four year-old running through the lawn sprinkler, follow or pan your camera in the same motion they are going. Important; don’t stop once you’ve pressed the shutter! Always remember the follow-through! With propeller-driven aircraft, a slow shutter speed is a must if you are to keep the propeller rotating. Nothing looks worse on an airplane or helicopter in flight than having stationary prop blades!

Oh, and if you plan on adding a flash, see if you can set your camera’s flash sync to “second curtain”. This will make sure that the motion is behind the subject, and not in front of it!

I hope this helps! Next time, ProActive lighting!

Until then, Ciao!