Posts in Category: Advice

Rent or Buy

Some of us photographers don’t have the “capital” to be able to purchase all the gear that we want.  We have our one camera body, several lenses, and some other equipment – a few flashes, stands, and a handful of memory cards.  But to get professional shots at specific events, such as a wedding, you need professional weapons and know how to use them.  Am I ready to purchase a Nikon D7000 ($1,200 MSRP), a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II ($2,400), and a Nikon 85mm f/1.4 ($1,700)?  No way – especially since I don’t do enough paid photography to get a good ROI (return on investment) from said purchases.  I’m at that point where I could only justify improving the gear I own if I were to start marketing myself in order to book more shoots.  So instead of buying the gear I need, here’s a little secret.  Okay, it’s not really a secret, but websites such as,, and come in really handy in these situations.  You can rent pretty much anything you need from them, use it for the allotted time, and then ship it back when your rental period is up.  Last time I rented, I used LensRentals, but this time I chose to use BorrowLenses since their prices are cheaper.  I’ll get to use all three of the items above ($5,300 MSRP) for 4 days.  Total cost including shipping was right around $200.

The point of this post is this: renting gear can be a good option.  Even if you don’t have an event to shoot; if you simply want to give a camera body a test run; if you’ve always wanted to create a really cool fisheye image; or if you’re not a photographer yet and you want to shoot with a friend who is – try renting some gear!

Also, as a bonus, I wanted to post an image for your viewing pleasure that has nothing to do with this post: the Tower of London in (moderate) HDR.  Processed with Photomatix Pro and Lightroom.  Thanks for reading!


New Software!

Thanks to a new friend from church, I just got Lightroom 3!  I had been using Adobe Lightroom 2 to produce most of the fine images you’ve seen on this blog over the last couple months, but I’m excited to have version 3.  There are several updates that you can see here and if you’re completely unfamiliar with the capabilities of Lightroom in general, check out this link – Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3.

Some of you may be shocked.  “What?! He doesn’t use Photoshop?”

Well… If you clicked on the links above, you’ll realize that Lightroom and Photoshop are two very different programs for editing digital photographs.  Lightroom is designed to handle large batches of photographs, which it organizes into “catalogs.”  Multiple photos can be imported and then edited quickly, due to the photo strip interface along the bottom of the program, and the same effects easily applied to multiple images (which you can do in Photoshop as well, but not as quickly/painlessly).  This is great when you’re trying to organize/edit/produce approximately 1500 photos from a wedding.

One of my favorite features of Lightroom are the presets – some of which come preloaded; others can be found online for free downloading.  I’ll post some before and after pictures at some point.  If you have specific pictures that you’d like to see the before and after, please LET ME KNOW!  Just to let YOU know, I still use Photoshop.  But mainly for additional touch-ups once I’ve done editing in Lightroom or for other things like adding text or crazy effects.  I’m by NO means a Photoshop expert, but I get by.

“Oh man, should I try using Lightroom?”  Definitely try it out – especially if you take a lot of photos and want software to simply keep the photos organized.  Adobe offers a free trial on their website (see above links).

Q: Fisheye & Zoom

Due to the fact that I have a photography blog, and my friends know that I like talking about cameras and the like, I tend to get related questions every once in a while. I’ll always answer them directly, and sometimes ask if it’s okay if I post their question and the associated answer on my blog.  The following two questions were posed by my two friends Taleah and Nick regarding the next lens purchase they should make.

[Question 1]
Taleah’s gear: Nikon D40 body, 18-55mm lens, and a 55-200mm lens.

Taleah’s question: “What if i got this lense? [sp]”  After this basic question that everyone asks at some point, she posted a link to the following lens on Amazon (click picture).

Answer: Taleah, why do you want a fisheye?

I needed to answer her question with a question.  Similar to the analysis of a crime, i had to determine the motive behind Taleah’s interest in a fisheye lens.  As I suspected, Taleah was enchanted by the impressive shots that one can capture with a fisheye.

Due to the shape of their glass components, fisheye lenses “bend” the light that enters the lens and capture a much wider perspective than other types of lenses.  You’ll get a better idea from the pictures below.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am a fan of (well-done) fisheye photography for its artistic quality, the fact that you can capture a lot of shot in one click of the shutter, and its distorted/unique viewpoint.  But keep reading…

Buzzing Like Neon
Autumn at Graceland Cemetary

While these images create a “wow” factor, this style of photography has little use in every day picture-taking, which is what I explained to Taleah.  They are “one-trick-pony” lenses.  Many people see these photographs and think, “I need a fisheye lens because it’s so cool!”  Just like many people see HDR photography and think, “I need to learn how to do that!” (I may or may not have gotten reeled into that second example.)  At some point, if you really want to take these types of pictures, then by all means, buy a fisheye lens.  But for the money, you’re better off buying a more versatile lens, especially at the beginning of your collection.

In the end, I suggested that Taleah buy a prime lens with a small “f-stop” value instead of a fisheye.  Specifically, i suggested purchasing the Nikon 35mm f/1.8, which is a lens that I own.  It is a sharp, fast lens that produces great low-light images in the same price range as that fisheye.  In my opinion, well composed photographs with good depth of field are worth more than a “cool” fisheye lens.

[Question 2]
Nick’s (girlfriend’s) gear: Nikon D40, 18-55mm lens

Nick’s question: “I need your opinion on what would be a good zoom lens… Something that’s in the range of $200 to $300, [or] any lens that would be useful for her.”

Answer: Everyone needs a zoom lens.  Everyone.  If you’re just starting out, like Nick’s girlfriend, that can be an entry level Nikon 55-200mm VR lens – the best zoom lens for the money (between $180-$220).  Plus, you look really cool holding it.  Anyways, this lens comes with the added (awesome) bonus of image stabilization or “Vibration Reduction” as Nikon has titled it.  I also own this lens and it has served me well for over two years, so I’m speaking from experience (in case any of you were doubting me).

Side note: at the wedding I photographed this summer, I rented a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II lens for the weekend.  It is a great lens.  I want one.  Unfortunately, it costs over $2,000; otherwise, I would definitely recommend that lens to everyone.

That’s all for this Q & A.  Hopefully, it was helpful.  SEND ME YOUR QUESTIONS.  I’d love to provide some advice/opinions.