I am often asked at my events about the equipment I currently prefer? My answer is always the same, that while I am not trying to sell delegates anything, I am happy to discuss what works for me. And of course, happy to offer an opinion on their needs going forward, even if they are different to mine.

So to give some idea of the items I currently use a lot as a photographer, I thought this small section may be a light, but informative read.

Initially listed here were half dozen parts of my ‘major accessory’ kit, that I use extensively. That was too narrow a field, so it has now been rounded up to a dozen or thereabouts. So much for the ‘light’ read.

Some of this may not change much, but some certainly will from time to time, so I will update this when relevant. And in a couple of instances, whilst listed here are items I use most often, they are not always my ‘favorite’ choice, just those that get reached for most frequently.

My Approach
Like most, I am always on the look out for better equipment. What I mean by that is something that produces a higher quality, better reliability, superior handling, or provides an easier and quicker aspect to my workflow by making my task simpler. However, I do not just because something is new, use it simply to be seen with it. And if an item has served me well, and done a good job one day, it simply does not become a bad item because it is superseded the next.  So some items may be on this list for a very long time.

These items are not necessarily used to the exclusion of similar alternatives either, sometimes it may be a case of as well as or instead of.

My Twelve Most Used Main Accessories (January 2013).

Image © Nikon Corporation
Image © Nikon Corporation

Lens:  24mm-70mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Nikkor: When I look back over the last couple of years shooting, I think (slightly surprisingly to me), that this mid range pro zoom is the one I have used the most (professionally shooting). And in truth, it is not only a very good all round lens for many types of photography, but is I feel, exactly what Nikon said at it’s launch… The best mid range zoom they have yet made.

Computer: My business has been exclusively Apple based when it comes to computers since 1994. One of the best decisions I ever made. My current computer is filled up with Ram (16GB) – an important point for anyone now dealing with large files, lots of applications at once – let alone video.

Post Capture Software: I use Nikon Capture NX II, for the quality of Raw file conversion and post/pre capture synergy with Nikon cameras. Nikon call it the ‘Total Imaging System’ and it works very well when you get your head around it. Sadly though, I think many have missed some of the benefits. Subsequent updates have improved it in so many ways. To me it performs very well. But the recent acquisition of Nik Software (Nikon had a major holding in this software company who designed Capture NX) to Google, does make you wonder what its future development will be.

Alongside to enable me to utalise my Raw files captured with other brands of camera, plus my plug-ins for any images, Apple’s Aperture 3 has been on my system since it’s launch. Really like it, but it has hardly been used in last couple of years as my Capture NX workflow is refined. But occasionally I dip into it still from time and keep it updated. 

But it is with Adobe Photoshop that I have made the most recent adjustment to my post capture workflow. Photoshop always has had some unique tools that I have still need or prefer to use from time to time. But I had stopped at Adobe Photoshop CS 3. Still a fine option, but as things have moved on not just the obvious things but sometimes just incremental general improvements. So this has now been replaced to Adobe Photoshop CS 6. In part it is also preparation for future needs.

For the record, I like Adobe’s Lightroom and keep a copy not for my own work, but for various seminars and workshops as most delegates seem to use it.  As I have said before though, you can get post capture options very wrong, simply with too many that rarely get mastered as a consequence. Let alone with lots of plug-ins.

So a further example I would recommend anyone look at is Capture One from Phase One. This is a program I often think I should have another good look at. Many of my pro peers use it and seem very happy.

In fact for me, I am currently on the cusp, and I will drop one of the above three I have been using from my own workflow completely, just to keep that as smooth as possible. But as I write this I have not made a decision yet as a fine tuning and assessment process is taking place.

Software Plug-Ins: Nik Software plug-ins are also used and can still be purchased for a variety of popular and major software programs. These include Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, Apple’s Aperture and Nikon Capture NX (limited).

Studio Lighting: I choose to use Profoto for much of what I do professionally with studio lighting. Just like my decision to shoot ‘Nikon’ it gives me a true system to select from and a reliability that is legendary. Since I started using Profoto I have began to lead workshops for them as well. But I have used most brands over the decades (Bowens when I started out), Elincrom (lots) and we still use various makes regularly when provided for our events by training partners, or specific studios keep them

 

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Image © Nikon Corporation
Image © Nikon Corporation

Portable Flash Nikon SB-910: Simply the best interface on any modern Nikon flash, so it gets used for that reason, and as it has a little more power than my SB-800’s, it has become my ‘main’ gun these days. Of course it gets used incessantly for its wireless flash capability.

Lighting Accessories: I use extensively numerous Lastolite items for my work with portable flash, although I also have a number of other products from different stables. Of these Rogue’s Flashbender products are increasingly used.

Image © Lastolite

But Lastolite’s ‘Ezybox’ range of softboxes, simply changed the way many were able to work a few years ago, enabling the pace of set-up and strip down to become photographer friendly. They work well for example with Canon Speedlites and Nikon Speedlights to allow a ‘mini’ and portable studio set-up. So all three sizes of Ezybox are utalised all of the time.

Gadget Bag: Don’t get me started on gadget bags or similar items. Like any established pro, I probably have a similar story of a fruitless search for the perfect product. Once you have a variety of work that requires different kit for different days, one size simply will not fit all. So with now over thirty different bags, ruck sacks and cases tried off the top of my head over the years, I no longer hold out much hope. The Lowe Pro Pro Roller X300 was added during mid 2012, followed in early 2013 by the Lowe Pro Pro Runner 350 AW. They are now the products I reach for most, and so far I am pleased with what they give me.

Tripod: Over the years just like gadget bags, but not quite as often, we have accumulated a few tripod options. The Manfrotto 055B, not the current version, as mine must be eighteen years old now, is the one I still tend to use the most.

Light Meter: You do not always need one and there are many fine choices available today, but I use a Sekonic L758 meter. It is capable of being used with ambient lighting or flash, or both together. It also enables both ‘incident’ or reflective readings.

Image © Sekonic
Image © Sekonic

Printer: While I still outsource to pro labs, I do use an Epson R2400 Ink Jet Printer in house. For a while we had an A2 printer again from Epson, but the R2400 is a better choice for my current needs, and outputs up to A3+ if required.

Storage: I have a variety of drives, the most recent addition was a Certon Data Rock portable drive.
(Click Here).

Mobile Phone: How did we ever function without one of these? We did, but boy would we miss them now. Not just as a voice communication tool, but diary, e-mail, web browser, note pad and oh… yes for some a camera. Not forgetting on appropriate models, a convenient way to show a portfolio. I am still using an Apple iPhone 4, which fits my business workflow. Not too enamored with the ergonomics of the phones camera though, but I usually can rustle up a proper camera in some form:).

End.

My Twelve Most Used Main Accessories (January 2011)

Lens: 105 mm f/2.8G AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor.

Image © Nikon Corporation

From people too product photography, it has justified itself countless times. I have always liked this focal length for various types of people shots. While for real close-up and macro work, it provides a practical working distance between lens and subject.
I can then for example use flash, either off camera, or with SB-R200 Speedlights from the R1C1 kit attached to the front of the lens, with enough working room to light the subject.
This would not be so practical with for example the otherwise quality performer the 60 mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Micro-Nikkor. And for some types of shot, the VR (Vibration Reduction) capability of the 105 mm f/2.8G AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor is very useful.

Computer: My business has been exclusively Apple based when it comes to computers since 1994. One of the best decisions I ever made. My 15-inch MacBook Pro, not the current version, but a few years old now, has been quite amazing in the workload hours it has taken on, and the pitfalls in the real world it has had to endure. These range from being dropped (more than once), to having coffee spilt over it, being used in hot conditions through very cold ones, and still it serves me well. Although it is no longer pristine, as you may have guessed.

Image © Apple

Post Capture Software: Nikon Capture NX, mostly for the quality of Raw file conversion and post/pre capture synergy. Nikon call it the Total Imaging System and it works well when you get your head around it. Capture NX is though not perfect, so if needed, images then go into either Apple’s Aperture or Adobe Photoshop CS 3. The first also enables me to utalise my Raw files taken with other brands of camera, plus my plug-ins, while Photoshop has some unique tools that I still need or prefer to use from time to time. For the record, like Adobe’s Lightroom very much, and Capture One from Phase One as well. But you have to draw a line somewhere in a professional workflow. So I use these on appropriate training events only at the moment.

 

Image © Nik Software

Software Plug-In: Nik Software plug-ins are also used and can be purchased for a variety of popular and major software programs. These include Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, Apple’s Aperture and Nikon Capture NX. I like Silver Efex Pro. Viveza 2, Define 2 and HDR Efex Pro in particular.

Portable Flash Nikon SB-900: Simply the best interface on any modern Nikon flash, so it gets used for that reason, and as it has a little more power than my SB-800’s, it has become my ‘main’ gun these days. Of course it gets used incessantly for its wireless flash capability.

Lighting Accessory: I use extensively numerous Lastolite items for my work with portable flash, although I have a number of other products for this as well from different stables, including Rogue’s Flashbender products that are increasingly used.

Image © Lastolite

But Lastolite’s ‘Ezybox’ range of softboxes, simply changed the way many were able to work a few years ago, enabling the pace of set-up and strip down to become photographer friendly. They work well for example with Canon Speedlites and Nikon Speedlights to allow a ‘mini’ and portable studio set-up. So all three sizes of Ezybox are utalised all of the time.

Studio Lighting: Interesting one this, as hiring lighting is not difficult when you are mostly based around the capital or other major cities. I tend to do that more and more these days based on a jobs needs. While probably Elinchrom is the brand I have used most over the years (Bowens when I started out), and we still use those regularly when provided for our events by training partners, or specific studios keep them.

Image © John Clements

However I choose to use Profoto for much of what we do professionally. Just like my decision to shoot ‘Nikon’ it gives me true system to select from and a reliability that is legendary.

Gadget Bag: Dont get me started on gadget bags or similar items. Like any established pro, I probably have a similar story of a fruitless search for the perfect product. Once you have a variety of work that requires different kit for different days, one size simply will not fit all. So with now over thirty different bags, ruck sacks and cases off the top of my head, I no longer hold out much hope. The Lowe Pro Stealth Reporter 650 AW (not the current model, but one I have had for a decade I think) is my favorite, particularly if a ‘smart dress’ code is the order of the day.

Tripod: Over the years just like gadget bags, but not quite as often, we have accumulated a few tripod options. The Manfrotto 055B, not the current version, as mine must be sixteen years old now, is the one I still tend to use the most.

Printer: While I still outsource to pro labs, I do use an Epson R2400 Ink Jet Printer in house. For a while we had an A2 printer again from Epson, but the R2400 is a better choice for my current needs, and outputs up to A3+ if required.

Storage: Iomega 1TB hardrives have been used for about three or four years now. I will be looking at my needs going forward again soon.

Mobile Phone: How did we ever function without one of these? We did, but boy would we miss them now. Not just as a voice communication tool, but diary, e-mail, web browser, note pad and oh… yes for some a camera. Not forgetting on appropriate models, a convenient way to show a portfolio. Since my previous list I have changed my Nokia E90 Communicator for an Aple iPhone 4. Had no problems and it fits in with my workflow far better. Not too enamored with the ergonomics of the phones camera though, but I usually can rustle up a proper camera in some form:).

End.

My Twelve Most Used Main Accessories (July 2010).

Lens: 105 mm f/2.8G AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor. Many know I use this lens a lot. From people too product photography, it has justified itself countless times. I have always liked this focal length for various types of people shots. While for real close-up and macro work, it provides a practical working distance between lens and subject. I can then for example use flash, either off camera, or with SB-R200 Speedlights from the R1C1 kit attached to the front of the lens.  There is then enough working room to light the subject. That would not be so practical with for example the otherwise quality performer the 60 mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Micro-Nikkor. And for some types of shot, the VR (Vibration Reduction) capability of the 105mm is very useful.

Image © Nikon Corporation

Computer: My business has been exclusively Apple based when it comes to computers since 1994. My 15-inch MacBook Pro, not the current version, but a few years old now, has been quite amazing in the workload hours it has taken on, and the pitfalls in the real world it has had to endure. These range from being dropped (more than once), to having coffee spilt over it, being used in hot conditions through very cold ones, and still it serves me well. Although it is no longer pristine as you may have guessed.

 

Image © Apple Inc

Post Capture Software: Apple Aperture 3. I am currently putting in the time for a long term test feature for one of the ‘Pro’ photo titles. So there is only one way to do that properly, and that is live with the program as much as is possible. If I like it I will stay with it, if not I will go back to my old workflow based around other software.

Software Plug-Ins:
Nik Software plug-ins are also used and can be purchased for a variety of popular and major software programs. These include Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, Apple’s Aperture and Nikon Capture NX.

Portable Flash: Nikon SB900 Speedlight. Simply the best interface on any modern Nikon flash, so it gets used for that reason, and as it has a little more power than my SB-800’s, it has become my ‘main’ gun these days. Of course it gets used incessantly for its wireless flash capability.

Image © Nikon Corporation

Studio Lighting: Interesting one this, as hiring lighting is not difficult when you are mostly based around the capital or other major cities. I tend to do that more and more these days based on a jobs needs. Elinchrom is the brand though I have used most, but I am currently using Profoto lights quite a lot.

 

Lighting Accessory: This one was easy to choose. As many know I use extensively numerous Lastolite items, mostly for my work with portable flash, although I have a number of other products for this as well from different stables. Lastolite’s ‘Ezybox’ range of softboxes simply changed the way many were able to work a few years ago. They enabled the pace of set-up and strip down to become photographer friendly. They work well for example with Canon Speedlites and Nikon Speedlights to allow a ‘mini’ and portable studio set-up. In fact, I use all three sizes of Ezybox all of the time.

Gadget Bag: Dont get me started on gadget bags or other holders. Like any established pro, I probably have a similar story of a fruitless search for the perfect product, that simply does it all, all of the time. Once you have a variety of work that requires different kit for different days, one size simply will not fit all. So with now over thirty different bags, ruck sacs and cases off the top of my head, I no longer hold out much hope.
Joking aside, the Tenba Messenger (large) is probably my most used at the moment, and is just over a year old, It gets the nod ahead of the excellent (as it has served me so well) Lowe Pro Stealth Reporter 650 AW. This is not the current model, but one I have had for a decade I think. The latter gets used when ‘smart dress’ is the order of the day.

Tripod: Over the years just like gadget bags, but not quite as often, we have accumulated a few tripod options. The Manfrotto 055B, not the current version, as mine must be sixteen years old now, is the one I tend to use the most at present. That said, it is a while since I last had a good look at the latest options, and that is something I intend to do soon just in case we can find a more ‘JC’ friendly product.

Printer: While I still outsource to pro labs, I do use an Epson R2400 Ink Jet Printer in house. For a while we had an A2 printer again from Epson, but the R2400 is a better choice for my current needs, and outputs up to A3+ if required.

Storage: Iomega 1TB hardrives have been used for about three or four years now.

Mobile Phone:How did we ever function without one of these? We did, but boy would we miss them now. Not just as a voice communication tool, but diary, e-mail, web browser, note pad and oh… yes for some a camera. Not forgetting on appropriate models, a convenient way to show a portfolio. For me the Nokia E90 Communicator has served me well for about two and a half years, but will be updated soon.

End.