We were circled around the table, meals half eaten, already taking our picks for dessert. I was amongst a group of girls that I admire, excited to be invited to their dinner in hopes of spurring friendships and talking shop. And then, she asked it. The dreaded question most photographers don't want to hear: "What lens is your absolute favorite?"
I took a bite of my cheescake crumble, acting as if it were even more mind blowing than the Yelp reviews I had searched an hour earlier made it out to be.
"The 35mm. I loveeeee that one."
I don't need to tell her I don't actually own the 35mm, do I?
Truth was although I was saving up for it, I was currently only renting the 35mm. And up until that point I hadn't thought twice about it but in the moment with a group of photographers who had their gaze set on me I wanted nothing more than to seem legit, and at that time owning a slew of gear, even if you didn't know how it worked, meant that to me.
I was gear shamed. But THEY weren't the ones gear shaming me--I WAS! Early on in my career I had always hoped and prayed no couple turned to me during a meeting and ask "So, what gear do you use?" or I'd get nervous when Videographers came stalking out the photographer, eyes set wide on the little logo embedded on your camera body. But you know what? That ish doesn't matter. It's not the gear, it's what you do with it. Somewhere down the line of becoming comfortable and thoroughly knowledgeable about my gear and turning increasingly confident in my work (and renting a LOT of lenses that I am thankful I never bought), I am more than proud to share the tools that I use on the reg because they do just the trick. More importantly I now have tried and true reasons as to why I use these cameras and lenses, (not just because it's new, or Camera World Annual ranked this the number one lens that Wedding Photographers need) and am no longer hounded by the ongoing lie that is marketing that "I need bigger and better gear" (although Marsissa's mind may still be twirling in confused circles since I told her I will not be investing in the new markiii before I purchased my Contax). If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Okay--maybe I should say I am not hating on that camera by any means, it's a great camera, I just used it several times and felt the photos looked a little too---I don't know--perfect? I love a little softness or warmth and the Markiii is sharp and picks up some true light like nobody's business for sure (hence why I would love it for receptions) but I need some soft pretty and bright color. Don't come at me with your pitchforks, Canon!
As the small amount of gear (but ironically not so small in price!) that I have certainly doesn't define me I have chosen to currently stick with what I've got because it's a part of how I shoot my images and it fits. It continues to give me the look I want with minimal editing (hallelujah!), and that style is closer to the look and feel of film than any other gear can come close to (well, other than film, of course!). Not to mention, I learned the hard way early on and listened to other's opinions and now have a pretty shelf loaded with lenses I never, ever use. 28-105, anyone? Anyone? Com'monnnn, you know you don't know how you'd use it, but it's a new lens, right? ;)
Camera Body: Canon 7D. It shoots warmer than both the Canon Markii (great camera--wayyyy too cool of images) and the Markiii (also fab camera, but way too 'digital' looking for me. Hard to explain, but, they are. Great for a reception though, so that's the reason I will consider it in the future, but for now, it isn't a fit.) It is also a crop sensor, which you can argue I am "not getting all the room out of my prime lenses" and blah blah blah but majority of my images are intimate, I rarely shoot super wide (and when I do use full-frame I'm not crazy about it unless it's for travel) so right now, it does just the trick. Best part is mixed with a hint of overexposure in camera, I barely have to edit my images to get the feel I am aiming for. It blends seemlessly with the warm whites and softness that is film--what I gravitate towards. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what it's all about!
Lens: Canon 35mm 1.4 and Canon 85mm 1.2. I have shot countless weddings with just these 2 lenses on and I am in heaven. The 35 for getting ready, portraits and the reception, the 85mm for the ceremony and cocktail hour. I stick to primes lenses and even when I rent more gear to bring along I always find myself grabbing for these and wandering around the crowds. They work like a charm. Sometimes I will have a 70-200 on hand, but to me that lens is listed on my 'worst case scenario' lens. When I am done holding that thing I want to cry, so I avoid it at all costs. For weddings, I do either rent or borrow a 100mm macro--it's golden (and next on my list). One day I may snag up a 135mm but that depends, it does what my 85mm can do if I just moved my feet in a wee bit more.
Film: The reason I am sticking to all of my gear. Film photography is the look that I love, and way back when I decided "why try to edit photos to look like film if I can just shoot it?" (Okay, really no matter how many actions I bought or tactics I created, I simply couldn't replicate the look of some dreamy portra or fuji). My love for film photography is a big driving force in my work and I am so happy to say I am the new proud owner of a Contax 645 which I plan to start thoroughly incorporating into my wedding work (hooray!). I could have invested in a similar yet third of the price Mamiya, but again as my "try it before you buy it" rule still holds up, I knew that the Contax (with the Carl Zeis lens!) creates a smooth, pastely image that can be similar to a Contax but to my eye can't be duplicated. Therefore I invested and am so thrilled that I did.
It's not the most expensive, flashiest gear on the market. It's certainly not the latest and greatest. But it gets the job done, and for me produces some seriously beautiful results.
Know what you love and rock what ya got!
I just sent off bukoos of film to my favoritest guys ever, Indie Film Lab, so I am excited to see what turns out! Until then, a digital shot.