The goal with my portrait sessions is to create the best portraits that a family has ever seen because the images we create are a family treasure and will outlive us. That’s a lot of responsibility and therefore I only want to bring the tools that allow me to realize that vision and create those lasting and powerful images for my clients.
What is in my bag for portraits has been evolving as Sony has been upgrading their line up in both lenses and camera bodies at an astonishing rate. I find that a hugely impressive feat because the gear they are coming out with makes me want to have it because it makes my work even stronger and stand out from the crowd.
Sony α7R II
I carry both the α7R II and the α6300 so that, with the lenses I select, I have coverage from 24mm to 300mm in a relatively small kit. I use the full frame α7R II for the large file size and the α6300 to capture spontaneous portraits of kids as they play in the park or the beach. The files blend seamlessly in the edit in post production and if you’re worried about how big you can go with an APS-C sensor, have no fear. I have printed a 30” x 45” portrait for a client from the α6000 (the precursor to the α6300) and it looked wonderful. The α6300 is even better in terms of the files.
Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM
Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM
Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM
My lenses of choice are the three Sony G Master lenses: The 24-70mm f2.8 G Master, the 85mm f1.4 G Master and the 70-200mm f2.8 G Master. They are all superb and are the finest that I have ever seen in their respective ranges. Sony has designed these lenses from the ground up to optimize for the current and future Sony sensors.
I travel with a Think Tank Speed Freak v2. It’s large enough to hold the 70-200mm f/2.8 GM upright (with the hood reversed) and also has a shoulder strap and waist straps. In the past I might have used a messenger style bag, but with the combined weight of my kit, (and all the years before carrying gear in a shoulder bag) I feel it and the distribution of weight between hips and shoulder make it far easier on my body.
Lighting is the key to taking the capabilities of the α7R II, the α6300 and my lenses and making them shine even more.
I bring three, 43” triangular, 5 in 1 reflectors that I bought on Amazon by a company called Neewer. I have one for diffusion, one for white and one for silver. That way my assistant (and I bring an assistant with me on my portrait sessions) can quickly go from one to the next as the light changes (and it often changes very quickly at a beach session at sunset).
In addition to the reflectors, I currently bring along a 400 watt second Dyna-lite Baja B4 battery powered strobe. This flash gives me a wonderful quality of light and allows me the power I need to drive light through a small octagonal soft box from Michael Mowbray and his company MoLights. The 36” Octabox works very well and is a good compromise for portability and quality of light. I just added a 33” Cheetah light portable Beauty Dish (white interior) that I am anxious to use on weddings as well as portraits. It should be me a bit more pop though I think the quality of light will still be wonderful.
While you certainly could use a hot shoe flash or even a hot shoe flash off camera, I find that they aren’t powerful enough to create an image I want. To get the shutter and aperture combination I require would mean that the flash would be direct and that tends to be harsh and not flattering. In the past I’ve tried combining two or three speed lights into one light source and while it’s okay, I actually find it faster and easier to go with a bigger and more powerful flash for the portraits.
There’s nothing like the look of an Octabox which is optimized to illuminate the face and these boxes I’m using are perfect for the work. Since I’ve gotten the MoLight I haven’t used my rectangular soft boxes that I used for years previously, I like them that much.