This is a list of equipment and products that I either use regularly or at least am very familiar with.
This is a flash that I have used now for a few years and I find it invaluable for any outdoor situations or occasion when it just isn’t practical to use a studio flash set up. It has full TTL metering with manual override and can be used on camera or off via a cable or wireless connection. It’s also very easy to use with fast recycling, especially if you use Nimh rechargeable batteries. Nikon users should consider the Nikon SB-900 AF Speedlight.
Canon 50mm F1.8
This is oldest lens in my kit bag and it dates back to 1992. Despite its cheap plastic look it has never given me a moment of trouble and it is optically very sound. rather like the 85mm mentioned below Canon hasn’t changed the design in all those years, which suggests they are still happy with the performance. Many people underestimate the value of this lens that is an excellent choice for body images. In a nutshell it’s so cheap and light that it’s hard to think of a reason why you wouldn’t want this lens. I’ve used this lens over the years for all kinds of glamour and nude photography from my film days dating back to the Eos 100 right up to now on my 1DsII.
Canon 85mm F1.8
As hard as it may seem to believe I have been using one of these since 1993 and it still feels like a brand new lens. Optically it is extremely good and I just find it a very good all round lens for all kinds of glamour and nude photography.
The 85mm focal length is a very safe all round choice and while I often favour the 24-105L these days for its great convenience I really find this lens shines with its speed of focus, so it is particularly well adapted to following fast moving subjects. One point I would add is that like all lenses I would always recommend using the lens hood to protect against possible flare. That large front element is also better protected against any accidental knocks when the lens hood is added.
I first bought this lens about 18 months ago after being dissatisfied with the Tamron 28-75. I wanted something convenient that would cover a lot of situations and my original hope was that it would be fairly close in performance to my basic primes that I had been using on assignments for many years. After some testing it became clear that the 24-105L not only matched those lenses but often exceeded their performance.
I do find that the L series lenses produce slightly punchier and warmer images than the normal Canon lenses but it just seems to give the images more snap and sparkle. The focus is extremely precise and I find the image stabilisation motor extremely useful for low light hand held photography. I actually used this lens to shoot the image on the front cover of my book and I wouldn’t hesitate to use it for any commercial assignment. Basically if you could only have one lens this is just about the best choice you could possibly make.
The Sekonic 308S
I am a great believer in the use of hand held light meters and nothing in the digital age has made that them any less important in m view. Relying on the LCD histogram is just not a reliable means of obtaining the best out of your camera and hand held meters not only tell you the correct reading but also teach you how to understand light and manipulate it to your own advantage.
I actually have the older 308B that I bought in Milan about ten years ago but the only real difference is that the 308S has an improved display that is clearer to read. Over the years I have used meters from Minolta, Gossen as well and they were all good meters, so forget the best brand nonsense. The 308S is just a good meter at an extremely good price and is just as accurate as the many far more expensive meters I have used. Best of all it is very small, so you can always find a space in your pocket or camera bag and it takes normal AA sized batteries that you can find anywhere.
I’ve only had this meter for a short while but you only have to pick it up to know it’s a bit special. I had recently donated an old Minolta Flashmeter III to a local college and my old Gossen Sixtomat was daylight only, so that left me with just the 308B, which is great but I always like to carry two meters on paid jobs. I looked at the L-358 quite seriously but as soon as I saw the specs on the L-758DR and read some feedback on the Internet I knew it was the one I wanted.
In basic daylight or flash conditions this meter will give you exactly the same readings as the 308S above to a 1/10th stop accuracy. i.e they are both correct. In fact if you are looking for a meter that is small an unobtrusive the 308S may even be your preferred choice, so that begs the question why would you pay out the extra cash for the L-758DR? I’ll tell you below.
The L-758DR is hands down the best and most professional meter in use today. There are really too many points here to mention in full but I’ll list a few key points below.
- Fully weather proof body for shooting outdoors in all kinds of conditions.
- Spot metering with the ability to take several readings to find an average
- Dual ISO settings for easy calculation when using filters or different cameras
- The ability to calibrate the meter exactly to your camera’s individual sensor
- Incident metering with a retractable dome for metering flat subjects or reading a single light source
- The ability to meter flash and ambient light simultaneously with precise feedback on their respective outputs
- A full swivel head for
- Built in wireless connection for use with the pocket wizard
- Automatically zeros the exposure after each flash
- Can meter multiple flashes in a single exposure
- Takes continuous readings across the scene while holding the metering button
The list could go on and on but suffice it to say if you are working professionally and you are serious about obtaining the best possible exposures there is no better choice of meter and despite all the points mentioned above it’s actually very simple and intuitive to work with.
eBooks and training
I guess it would be a little surprising if I didn’t recommend the book I wrote myself, so here it is 8-) You can find out more at http://www.nudephotopro.com but I wrote this book to provide a remarkably complete guide to anybody wishing to participate in nude photography and wants to take their skills to the next level.
I’ve been a professional for over 20 years shooting on assignments around the world, so the information in this book will save you time and money, putting you on a fast track towards your professional goals. This started out as something that was going to take me a couple of weeks but as I wrote I realised there was so much more information I could include, so it ended up at over 325 pages crammed full of useful information.
The Art Of Boudoir Photography With Speedlights is an eBook in PDF format written by Michael Zelbel that focusses very specifically on how to shoot boudoir images in a bedroom using nothing but portable speed light flash units to photograph a model and the book covers styles that should be of interest to any photographer involved in boudoir, glamour or fine art nude photography.
The aim of this book is to show how it’s possible to create beautiful images using a bare minimum of equipment, while making the most of props that you would find easily in your home or a hotel. This is a practical no nonsense guide that is available for instant download.
For those who don’t know, the author of this book is called Jimmy D and he is a pretty cool guy who rides a Harley and has shot glamour photography professionally for many years. In this book Jimmy outlines his very direct approach to photography with some straight talking practical advice that is well worth reading as he guides you through his techniques and methods for shooting glamour images and getting the job done. You can read more and download the book here.
I was recently contacted by Phil Steele who many of you will know as one of the best resources on the internet for photographic training and in particular he has an online course detailing some clever techniques in the use of small portable flash units to create professional looking studio quality portraits. Personally I love working with flash and most of the time I work in the studio with my Elinchrom kit but sometimes I choose to work with small portable units like the 580EX mentioned above, either out of choice or necessity. Go check the Phil Steele training course on Speedlite Portraits if you want to learn some more.
Nude Modeling Facial Expressions is a book by Dan Hostettler where the title pretty much explains the purpose of the book. This guide is mainly visual but concentrates on what you must do as a photographer to tease out the right expressions from your model to avoid those horrible blank stares or awkward looks. There is a bonus section of 80 pages that moves away from nudes, so this would be suitable for all model photographers.