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What’s In My Bag: How A Portrait Photographer Creates Her Signature Moody Style

Ashley Brehm (@ashleyinwanderland) captures her subjects’ emotions in a look that’s immediately recognizable. Brehm , who has only been working as a professional for a few years, has some 100,000 followers on Instagram and is a member of the Sony Alpha Imaging Collective. She works with a pair of Sony Alpha cameras and a bevy of fast Sony zoom and prime lenses (she was one of the first to use the new Sony 135mm f/1.8 G Master). We talked with Brehm to learn more about how she works and how she uses the gear to create her unique, moody portrait style.

Before owning the Sony 35mm f/1.4, I swore I would never own an f/1.4 lens because I was always afraid that I would miss my focus point, but using my Sony camera’s Eye AF, I never second guess if my subject is in focus or not.

As a portrait photographer, having the right cameras and lenses are a must. I can’t afford to be shooting a wedding and miss any important moments, and that’s where Sony comes in. With their incredibly fast cameras and insanely sharp lenses, I never have to worry. I use the Face Recognition as well as the Continuous Tracking Eye AF so I’ll never miss a beat with the people I’m photographing. When it comes to packing my bag for personal shoots or weddings, this is my go-to set up:

Cameras

Sony α7 III: This is one of my favorite cameras for taking portraits. There are some amazing features that make shooting portraits that much easier. Continuous Tracking Eye AF, Face Recognition and Continuous Autofocus help ensure that my subjects are always in focus.

Sony α7 III. Sony 24-70mm f/2.8. 1/250-sec., f/2.8, ISO 100. “The detail I was able to capture in this milk bath photo amazes me.”

Sony α9: The α9 is another one of my favorites for portraits. It’s incredibly fast, which is something I need when I’m shooting a moving subject or have dynamic backgrounds.

Sony α9. Sony 16-35mm f/2.8, 1/125-sec, f/2.8, ISO 1500.

Lenses

Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master: Since I started shooting weddings, this lens has been my life saver time and time again. Being able to shoot such a wide range of focal lengths is a must when I’m shooting portraits, especially during the ceremonies when I’m not able to be up close and personal. Plus, the built-in optical stabilization is necessary for me when I’m shooting at these focal lengths.

Sony α9. Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. 1/250-sec., f/2.8, ISO 500.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master: When it comes to shooting portraits in nature, this is my go-to lens. The wide angle allows me to get the entire landscape into one shot without any distortion. It’s much more compact and lightweight compared to other lenses I’ve used with this focal length. Something else I love about the 16-35mm G Master is the bokeh it has when I’m shooting at f/2.8. It really adds that extra bit to each photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master: This is a classic zoom lens for any photographer. The focal range can be used for any type of photography, and it was actually one of the first lenses that I ever owned. It’s perfect for portraits because it’s so versatile.

Sony FE 135mm f/1.8 G Master (Not Pictured): In February, Sony announced the 135mm f/1.8 G Master and I was lucky enough to be one of the first to get to use this incredible lens. A week prior to Sony asking me to test the lens, I was actually at Lake Tahoe shooting a wedding and I had told a fellow photographer how I wished that they would release a prime lens around 100-200mm with an f/1.8 aperture. Sony must have been listening to me! The lens is super sharp with beautiful bokeh.

Sony α9. Sony 135mm f/1.8. 1/800-sec, f/1.4, ISO 80

Sony Distagon T* FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA: I love this lens for portraits. The focal length is so easy for me to work with when I’m shooting indoors where I may not have a ton of room to move around and when the lighting might not be ideal. For me, there’s just something so amazing about prime lenses. Before owning this lens, I swore I would never own an f/1.4 lens because I was always afraid that I would miss my focus point, but using my Sony cameras’ Eye AF, I never have to second guess if my subject is in focus or not.

Sony α7 III. 1/2000-sec., f/1.4, ISO 100

Accessories

Memory cards: All of my memory cards are Sony. I highly recommend the Sony TOUGH SD cards. They’re dust and water resistant and extremely fast which is ideal for shooting RAW high-resolution images. I never have any lag when shooting with my Sony cards.

MacBook Pro: I always make sure to bring my MacBook with me so that I can work on the go. No matter where I am, I can’t wait to edit my photos! I’m a very quick editor and I can’t wait to see the images that I’ve created.

Hard Drives: I have a few different hard drives that I usually pack with me as well. I like to back up my work while I’m on the road because you never know what may happen.

IceLight Wand: I got this at Sony Kando Trip 2.0 in 2018, and it has saved my life multiple times. When shooting portraits, lighting is insanely important and with the IceLight, I never have to worry about it being too dark, or having shadows be an issue.

Journal: Whenever I travel I always bring a journal along with me. I love to document everything about my travels. That way when I’m old and can’t remember anything, I’ll always have my journals to look back on to remember my incredible journeys.

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