On this page I will be placing reviews and suggestions of products that I use and recommend. Like most photographers I am looking for great gear or software that helps me create my photography and art and for the best possible price. Like many people I do not have a stash of cash that I can blow on expensive new stuff. So I have to find great stuff cheep. But I do not want it to be cheep in respect to the job it performs. So here is some things that I have found worthy of my recommendation.
White Balance / Gray Exposure Folding Card
One item that I keep in my camera bag all the time is this Lastolite LR1250 Ezybalance Card -Grey/White card. Then when ever I am on location under lighting conditions that is not sunlight I pull out this card and take a picture of the white side. Now I have a reference image I use in Lightroom for assuring that the color balance is perfect. Using this will surprise you how much better your images will look. This card is white on one side and gray on the other. The gray side is great for setting your exposure to assure the best possible exposure of your image. The cost for this is only $29.90 on Amazon. Just search for “Lastolite LL LR1250 12-Inch Ezybalance Card -Grey/White”
Translucent Diffuser Taking portraits outdoors during bright sunlight can be challenging. The light is hard and your subject usually is sequencing his or her eyes. The best and least expensive solution is to use a translucent diffuser. You could use something like a bed sheet but that would be difficult to hold. What I use is a Hand Held Translucent Diffuser Softbox 32-Inch by Fancierstudio. It is available on eBay for about $17.00 dollars.
Holding this between the subject and the sun produces a soft diffused light that washes over the subject. The item can be found at the following link. http://www.amazon.com/Diffuser-Translucent-Softbox-Fancierstudio-RE2014W/dp/B004HR4HUG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1401137199&sr=8-1&keywords=Hand+Held+Translucent+Diffuser+Softbox+32-Inch+by+Fancierstudio
CAMERA ACCESSORY This is a Hoodman Loop. The first time I seen this I was on a photo outing with my good friend Mike Hensley. I was having problems seeing my shot on the LED display on the back of my camera. When the shot is critical you want to make sure you have it just the way you want it before packing up. Mike pulled out this strange looking device and said here place this over the LED display and see if that helps. I was amazed. It was like looking at your image on a big screen TV. I could make out every deal. Mike said, “what do you thing?” My answer was, “Your not getting this back!” Actually I did give it back but purchased one for myself. It is now a necessity in my camera bag.
The cost is about $99.00 but you may be able to find them cheaper at your favorite camera store or camera web site. Here is the link to Hoodman Loop Website. http://www.hoodmanusa.com/prodinfo.asp?number=H-LPP3
Camera – Many of my prospective photography students want to know what camera I recommend. That is kind of a hard question to answer. A lot depends on factors such as your budget and where you wish to go on your photographic journey. But I have narrowed my selections down to one camera that I think is excellent as a general purpose high quality Digital Single Lens Reflex camera (DSRL). I will explain some of my reasoning first. Why Canon. Well I really think in the present market there are two major players in cameras. Nikon and Canon. I personally favor Canon mainly because Canon puts the Image stabilization technology in the camera body where Nikon puts it in the lens. This means the lenses are more expensive for Nikon than Canon. And if that was not enough to sway your decision toward Canon then I just feel you get a lot more features for the money with Canon. Now the question comes to which Canon. Canon makes 13 different DSLR models. The entry line or consumer grade consist of a crop frame or smaller sensor but that is not going to reflect the quality of images that most beginning photographers are looking to obtain. With 18 megapixel sensors you have plenty of pixels to work with. So my recommendation is the Canon EOS Rebel T3i and it comes in a kit with a 18-55mm lens. The big advantage of this camera is the tilt monitor on the back of the camera that when in live view allows you shoot easily at low or high angles. I love this feature for taking pictures of flowers where I do not need to get down behind the camera to compose the shot. This camera and lens is a bit of an investment with a price around $600.00 but it is loaded with features. Below is the link to the Canon Web Site so that you can review the features yourself. http://www.usa.canon.com/cusa/consumer/products/cameras/slr_cameras/eos_rebel_t3i_18_55mm_is_ii_lens_kit
Tripod. Shortly after a new photographer purchases his or her new camera in most cases the next step is to find a good tripod to support it. Tripods are an invaluable accessory and are absolutely required for photos made requiring multiple shots or slow shutter speeds. Finding a good tripod that is not only sturdy enough to support your camera, light weight enough to be easily carried, and flexible enough to meet your needs while not breaking the bank. Well that can seem a difficult task considering all the choices and the vast differences in price. This tripod seems to fit the bill and some of my photography friends that have purchased it seem very pleased with their decision. I have field tested the tripod and think it is a great value for the money and would be a good investment for any new photographer. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss/178-4211792-0750209?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Induro%20Adventure%20AKB2%20Tripod%20Kit%20
The Tripod I recommend is the following; Induro Adventure AKB2 Tripod Kit includes a sturdy magnesium alloy tripod that extends to 5’6″ and weighs only 4.2 lbs, a precision ballhead with a quick-release plate, and a carrying bag with a strap. The ballhead features single-action control that allows head rotation and camera position changes in a single motion. The center column is reversible for low-angle photography and the leg sections feature quick-lock action for swiftly raising and lowering the head. Adjustable leg angles with a locking mechanism provide stable support on uneven or rough surfaces. This is a full-featured tripod for a great price. Here is the link on Amazon. The cost at the time I posted this was $181.00.
Backup Software. If you do not have a backup plan then you have a plan to fail. And at some point your computer will turn a great day into a disaster. Believe me when I tell you it has happed to me. So lets just start with the backup software. You want some software that you can depend on making copies of your files on your computer to some external device. I also recommend that you do not turn on synchronize because if you erase a file on your computer the software will erase it on the backup. Exactly what you do not wish to happen. So I set my software to copy. It finds all the files that are missing or have been updated and copies them to my external backup storage drive. More about what drives I use later. But the software that I am using now is actually free and is doing very well. It is called SyncBackFree. And is available on http://www.2brightsparks.com/ The version I am running is V6.5.30 at the time I am posting this.