What equipment do commercial photographers use? | Fstoppers

Becoming a professional raises concerns about not having the right equipment. So what equipment do commercial photographers use? Being a commercial photographer is a job description as vague as that of administrative assistant.

It is with this in mind that I will mainly use my own experience as a commercial food photographer. I believe that the principles remain the same in most areas, but there are some very specific hidden things that I will certainly miss at 99.9% (let me know in the comments). The role of the commercial photographer is to reconcile the resolution of creative problems and a good return on investment. To do this, most of us need a huge amount of material, which does not end with cameras and lights. For the lucky few or those who have really made themselves known by their style, they have the joy of working with a single camera, a single lens and perhaps a light. For me, however, this is not a reality that is likely to recur.

The camera

For the work I do, I need resolution. The printing of 6 sheets is possible from most modern cameras, but asking the customer to choose a massive crop a week after filming can make this task difficult. For the average shoot, I use a Canon 5ds, which is the brand's high-resolution offering. Any other high resolution offer of 35mm camera brands will be just as good or slightly better. I have always used Canon. That's why I persevered, rather than spend another 10 years learning a new camera system, sensor and lens, the resolution is the key in the commercial world in which I live, I fought with pixels of 20 mega for a long time, and I have accumulated quite impressive rental fees. When I have very big jobs, I rent the Phase One system to make sure I have the best available IQ. Hasselblad makes excellent medium format cameras because I do not have access to a local rental system. Phase One is therefore the most economical and practical option. My UK renters are also great!

My work is done entirely with artificial light and almost always from a tripod. The resolution is the only determining factor for the choice of a camera in 2019. Then it is to define the color depth, to be sure I can get a color gradient as accurate as possible . ISO, autofocus and dual card slots are not requirements for me. In reality, I do not use any memory cards in the studio, I prefer to opt for an immediate backup on the drives and clouds when shooting.

Being able to manually focus a lens while using the capture of a live view is much more valuable than 100 AF points in my field of work. Although, if you are a lifestyle photographer, it would be very different and you would probably be more interested in double card slots and one of the sports cameras. Once you know what your niche will be, the choices that you have in terms of camera system that you can buy will probably only give you one option, or maybe a particular model for every brand that would work, but very little. other.


Most of the goals that I have to solve have to be solved very favorably because of the choice of the camera. Despite this, I'm not a photographer who looks for sharpness, but rather a nice aesthetic. That's why my current 50mm lens will soon be replaced. to something else that makes the pictures more accurately to what I have in my head when I take the picture. I have a series of lenses and other main components, but it is for these purposes that I opted. The lenses I use most for food photography are the Canon Tilt Shift TS-E 45mm F2.8 lens and Canon Tilt-Shift TS-E 90mm f / 2.8 lens. These lenses allow me to do crazy things with the focus, allowing me to take pictures at f / 5.6 while retaining all that I want which is important for my shot. They also give me the opportunity to create great composites with the Canon system to create very high resolution food images for big prints, etc. when the client's budget does not reach the average levels of the camera. Apart from that, I use primary primers of 35mm, 50mm and 100mm, which allows me to make large flat shots in tight spaces up to macro food photos. Now these choices are specific to my style of work. If you focus on commercial photographers, I'm sure you'd like a 85mm lens and if you're working with indoor photography, a 24mm tilt lens or even a bellowed system would be part of your 35mm camera kit. When I work with a medium format, I tend to use a macro lens of 45mm, 80mm and 120mm. This gives me a cover very similar to my 35mm camera system. Having something that works out really helps me compose my shots when I change my system every day.


Following my vague answers, the lighting is more varied than the options of the camera. For me personally, having lots of lights is the key. I have about 10 lamps of 500 watts and 3 lamps of 3200 watts. The most important thing I've noticed is that once I was shooting for creative directors, their demand for what the picture should look like would destroy light versus work for small, independent businesses. They want the reflections to disappear in the right corner of the frame, but remain in the foreground on the left. Polarizing gels and filters come out and a new 2000 watt light emerges. Then, the amount of modifiers and the types of modifiers have changed considerably. Most of my light modifiers are DIY jobs or purchases that I've subsequently modified for specific work. It turns out that stores do not sell as many problem-solving modifiers that work so that my customers want to see their images. Having a workbench in my studio to help me build, modify and adapt my equipment to do the work that I needed was as important as the purchase of the equipment in the first place. Then, for those who need speed, a good score at 0.1 is essential. This speed and high power puts you in big packs and heads that are very expensive. That's why the pros use a kit as expensive. For me, I do not need the speed, so I use Bowens heads which are thankfully very cheap and have only used vending machines. They are very robust (most of mine are almost 10 years old) and have the features I need, which are very basic. If I was splashing or people were jumping around, I would probably need Broncolor, Elinchrom or Profoto's flagship studio packs, which have a price that gives me a little nausea . Once you know what your requirements are, the choice is very quickly reduced. So, when you choose, be really honest about the problem you are trying to solve, there will be an exact light to solve it. Try not to buy in the hype and criticism of photographers who do not do exactly the same job as you. Make sure you buy something reliable, lights are as important as your camera and your lens.


If you are a commercial photographer, you will probably want a studio. It could be a spare part in your home where you can work so that your professional life does not pollute your personal life. Or it could be a huge space in which you could drive a truck. Just as for lighting, what you need will be so obvious that you will not think too much about it. Solve the problems you face and find the solution, then you can begin the arduous task of finding a property. For my part, I have an office and a storage space in which I modify and hide the larger bags, etc. the work has evolved, I am now taking a storage space to put all the garbage that I have collected over the years that I need from time to time. The biggest change to my studio in recent years has been the workshop, where I will do an article / video at some point. I end up having to edit so many devices and create wallpapers so often that it makes more sense to display them all the time. I probably use a power tool at least once a week. It is therefore perfectly logical to use everything.


For me, a hairdressing kit is the key. This will obviously be different for every kind of commercial photography. You may not need anything or need the complete kit to strip and redefine the brand of a bottle. In my particular genre, I work with culinary stylists who bring their own kit, but I still keep a kit in my studio and I take it with each work with me just in case of loss. It is very easy for the stylist to have the scissors pinched or to have left a bottle of magic potion at his previous job. I also have a few things mixed in the way I like them, rather than replacing the product of someone else with food that I might not be on board. As a photographer, you absolutely need to make sure that the shooting goes smoothly. Therefore, I like to make sure all the basics are covered.

What do you use in your commercial photography niche?

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