Looking back over 2014 and all I can think is “WOW”! It was an awesome year. I was busy and met several new clients that I can’t wait to work with again. Now busy for me may not be what busy means for you. Photography for me is part-time. Homeschooling and raising 3 kids who are in a lot of activities means I am full time Mom first and foremost. But this photography gig was a great bonus to my already fabulous life… yoga pants and all.
I read an article from a New York photographer who talked about his best and worst of 2014 so I started reflecting over my last year and decided to do the same. I bought a lot of great gear this year and thought it might be helpful to some out there to hear what my experience has been. Wait… you didn’t think I was going to talk about the best and worst pictures I took this year, did ya? No way! Can you imagine me putting a picture up of some sweet client and deeming it my worst work? Nah, I wouldn’t dare do that!
What I will do is give you a list of the equipment I bought and loved, the stuff I was so-so about and the stuff I regret buying and would love to get rid of.
I’ll start out with my favorite purchase of all of 2014. This little 35mm 1.4 Lens. I decided to go with the Sigma brand rather than keeping with a Nikon lens. Why? 2 reasons. It was half the price and it got better reviews. Good enough for me! And when I got it home it performed better than my 50mm 1.4 Nikon lens. I was thrilled! It’s on my camera a lot and is my go to camera now for all of my NILMDTS sessions.
Another great purchase for me at the very beginning of the year was studio lighting. Oh yeah! Now if only I had a real studio! I did a lot of reading and there are so many good options. I landed on an AlienBee 800 with a portable battery called the Vagabond Mini. This is a great little battery to power your lighting… or even your computer or curling iron or whatever you need to plug into it! It’s light weight and even attaches to your lightstand. (yeah, I didn’t know that until I saw my friend Nancy do it during our own photoshoot.)
Another big decision I made this year was to upgrade my 70-200 2.8 lens. Many refer to it as “my baby”. This is my go to portrait lens but I had the VRI and it just wasn’t top notch. So I sold it to a photographer who planned to use it at football games. Perfect for that! I hope she is still loving it. I told myself I was going to wait a bit before getting the VRII but that lasted about 24 hours. So I walked into the local Overland Photo Supply and handed over a very large chunk of change. Gulp! But oh I am so glad I did! It is and will now always be my baby.
I’m still not done. It was a big year for upgrades. Next I decided to sell my speed light, the SB600. It’s a great flash in many regards but I wanted more flexibility and more power. The SB600 can not plug anything into it but the SB910 can. So I sold my SB600 and upgraded to the SB910. It didn’t solve world peace but it was definitely a purchase I am glad I made. And I also got it at the local Overland Photo Supply store. Always try to buy local if there is no price difference!
Another fun purchase was the MagMod Grip, Grid and Gel Pack. This new company crafted an ingenious way to use a grid and gels on your flash. Keep an eye on them. They are making some really great stuff all at a reasonable price. I know I plan to buy another of their products as soon as they get it out on the market. And lighting is becoming something I plan to use a lot more of! Now where is that dream studio with vaulted ceilings, big windows, hardwood floors and lots of white walls?
Ok, there were a few more purchases that I am glad I have but I’ll spare you the minor details. There were 2 things I purchased this year that I sort of regret but are still really great products. First is the HUGE softbox I bought from Paul C Buff to go along with my AlienBee. I got the 30×40 to start out with. It’s really a lovely softball but it’s just too big for this lady. I have to transport mine rather than have it in my dream studio and it usually is too big for normal ceilings. It’s produced some great portraits for me, especially at the Baby Dedication Ceremony at Legacy Christian Church and to shoot head shots for some pretty ladies who headed up the Women’s Retreat early last year. It was perfect! But I wish I had gotten a smaller size, like the 32×40. This is the one I want to get next.
With the purchase of an AlienBee I now needed a trigger so that it would actually work when I clicked my camera. I did lots of research and wound up buying the Phottix Odin trigger and 2 receivers. Although this is a fabulous piece of equipment, it left me unable to attach my speed light to my camera. This is where the SB910 would come in handy since I could have plugged it in to the side. However, with the large trigger it would have just been awkward. I still have this but am interested in selling it. I think I have used it about 3 times so it’s practically new. With the help of another local photography, Sharaya, I did decide to buy this simple trigger, the Yongnuo trigger, and it does just what I need. I”m sure if I had my dream studio, it would not quite be enough. But for how I use triggers, it’s perfect.
Whew! That’s a lot of stuff! So there’s really only one purchase that I just wish I hadn’t wasted my money on. The Gary Fong collapsible snoot. Sorry Gary, this thing is awful. It’s confusing and awkward and just isn’t something I like at all. Thankfully, after all those purchases, $60 isn’t bad for being my only regret. Maybe I’ll meet someone who loves this thing and I can sell it to them. Until then, it sits in my storage room on the back shelf.
And as for my favorite image of 2014, sadly I don’t have permission to share it. It’s of a family and it has so much emotion packed into it. Thankfully it’s hanging as a 30×40 canvas on their fireplace, as it should.
I hope 2014 has been good to you and here’s to a wonderful 2015 filled with many of God’s blessings!