Top Starter Equipment for Monochrome Photography and Portrait Photography

The photography equipment you invest in at the early stages of your photography journey will have a huge impact on how fast you will understand the principles of photography. You should not invest in equipment with the mindset that they will miraculously turn you into a professional photographer. They will not. The quality of your photographs is a reflection of your understanding of the principles of photography. You should invest in equipment to practice composition and light, and how to manipulate these principles of photography. It is when you have a deeper understanding of the art of photography that the quality of your photographs will improve.

In the article “A Beginner´s Guide to Monochrome Photography and Portrait Photography”, there is a brief introduction to a set of photography equipment. The set of equipment is considered to be somewhat essential to invest in at the beginning of your photography journey. This article is a further exploration of some of these photography tools, and the technology behind them. I recommended reading “A Beginner´s Guide to Monochrome Photography and Portrait Photography” first, as it will explain the reasons as to why these tools are considered essential to invest in. This article aims to create a deeper understanding of these tools and present you with options to invest in.

Photography Is Just Light Remembering Itself

Understanding how light bounces and spreads are an essential part of understanding the lighting principles of photography. Some objects absorb light, others bounce it back in another direction. The purpose of a reflector is to direct light towards a given subject or scene. A reflector can not produce any light, it merely reflects the light from another light source. The quality of the light that is being reflected matches the quality of the light at the scene. A reflector can not produce a brighter light than the light that is being reflected.

“Photography is just light remembering itself.”

Jerry Uelsmann

Reflectors are made in different colours, shapes and sizes, all of which will impact the outcome of the reflected light. A small reflector tends to create a stronger more direct light, with harsher shadows. While a larger reflector creates a softer light with less intense shadows, larger light sources create a softer less directed light.

Without Black, No Color Has Any Depth

Reflectors are often produced in five different colour variations, with each colour having specific qualities to it.

Silver

The silver panel is the most useful colour panel. It is great for beginners, as it creates a clear and direct light, that is easily visible to less trained eyes. The silver panel reflects the most amount of light and can easily be used in low light situations. The colour of the white balance is not changed while using the silver panel, which makes it perfect for indoor and outdoor portraits.

Gold

The gold panel works well for outdoor portrait photography. The light reflected matches the warm colour tones of sunlight. However, the gold panel can turn normal skin tones overly yellow, and it is not recommended this panel is used in the studio or with a flash. The gold panel is more tricky to work with compared to the silver panel since it can cast an uneven colour tone on the subject.

White

The white panel reflects soft and clean light. Just as the silver panel, the white panel does not change the colour of the light and the white balance. However, a white panel reflects a softer light with less shadows compared to the silver panel. A white panel does not work well in a low-light situation, there is not enough light to work with.

Black

The black panel can be described as the anti-reflector. Black absorbs light and cuts down on the reflection from reflective and shiny surfaces. The black panel allows you to create shadows.

Translucent

The translucent panel is not a reflector, it is commonly used as a diffuser panel. It can be used as a diffuser for flash and location lighting, and a diffuser panel between you and your subject.

 

The 5-1 Reflector

 The 5-1 Reflector is one of the most versatile lighting tools on the market. The reflector set includes the five colour panels – silver, gold, white, black and translucent. A 5-1 reflector is inexpensive, and pretty straight forward to use, a must-have in every photographer’s arsenal. Below you find two of the top-rated 5-1 reflectors on the market. One is budget-friendly, and the other one is a bit pricier, however, none of them will dig a deep hole in your pockets.

     CowboyStudio, 5-1 Portable Grip Reflector With Handles, 82 cm     CowboyStudio, 5-1 Portable Grip Reflector With Handles

      – product features – 

  • Gold, silver, white, black and translucent reflective panels
  • Handles for easy use
  • Reversible
  • Folds easily to fit in the case
  • Heavy-duty carrying bag       

     

      Phottix, 5-1 Premium Reflector With Handles, 109 cmPhottix, 5-1 Premium Reflector With Handles

      – product features – 

  • Gold, silver, white and black reflective panels
  • Translucent white disc
  • Handles for easy use
  • Reversible
  • Folds down to a third of its opening size
  • Carrying bag

Stabilized Scenes Of Shake Reduction

In photography, a tripod is used to stabilize and elevate a camera, a flash unit, or any other photographic equipment in need of support. Photographic tripods have a mounting head on top to couple with a camera, and three legs. It is the signature three legs of the tripod that has given it its name, the word tripod comes from the Greek meaning “three-footed”. A tripod allows you to compose and frame a photograph exactly how you like it. The tripod´s job is to eliminate any shaking or movements, which allows you to photograph with long exposures and heavy lenses. Tripods are great for photographing in available light and low-light scenes without a flash. A tripod allows your pictures to become sharper, you can use a smaller aperture and a slower shutter speed without ending up with shaky photographs. Shake reduction has become a standard feature in most cameras and lenses. The shake reduction features have their benefits, but with a tripod, you have the original shake reduction tool, which still is the most reliable way to eliminate shaky shots.

Aluminium or Carbon Fiber

Tripods come in various designs. The least expensive ones are generally made out of aluminium tubing and come with an attached head and rubber feet. The heads are often basic, and the movement of the head restricted. A common feature for the head is that it can be flipped sideways in 90 degrees to allow the camera to take pictures in portrait format rather than landscape format.

The more expensive tripods are stronger and sturdier and often comes with no integrated head. A separated head allows the photographer to customize the head combination to the photographer’s needs. Expensive tripods tend to be made out of carbon fibre, and include additional features, such as placing the head between the tripod’s legs to create a frog perspective. Comparing the features of the carbon fibre tripods and the aluminium tripods the differences are many more. The carbon fibre tripods are lighter, stiffer and more scratch/corrosion and weather-resistant, and in general stronger than aluminium. Aluminium ones are more stable, due to the increased weight of the material, and can cost less than half the price of an equivalent carbon fibre tripod.

Adopting a three-footed friend

Buying a tripod can be tricky, there are however a few things you can consider before deciding which three-footed friend to adopt.

  1. Is the tripod tall enough for you? You want your tripod to extend to the size that it reaches your eye-level. It is annoying and it will make you less focused if you have to lower down or stand on your tippy-toes to be able to look through the viewfinder. Practising portrait photography you want your camera´s viewfinder to be at your eye-level. While simultaneously, you will photograph most of your portraits with your camera at eye-level of your subject. The tripod has to be a minimum of 160 cm fully expanded, depending on your own height when you are standing up.
  2. Is the tripod easy to adjust? If you are practising monochrome photography och portrait photography outside on location, or with a moving subject it is beneficial if the tripod is easy to adjust.
  3. What is your budget? As we have discussed previously, you do not want to go bankrupt at the beginning of your photography journey In terms of portrait photography you will not be using longhand heavy lenses, a heavy-duty tripod is not needed. However, depending on what type of monochrome photography you are practising you might need heavier lenses and a sturdier tripod. For example, if you are photographing monochrome landscapes or microphotography.
  4. What tripod head will work the best for you? What type of tripod head you use will determine the adjustment speed and flexibility of your tripod.
  • Ball Head: The ball head is the most popular and versatile head. The head is lightweight and small, and one knob controls the movements in all three planes.
  • Pistol Grip: Easily adjustable, one grip.
  • Pan Tilt Swivel: Three knobs adjust the tilt swivel and rotate.

Below you find two of the top-rated tripods on the market. One is budget-friendly, and the other one is a bit pricier, neither, however, will break your bank statement. Both tripods work well for monochrome photography and portrait photography.

      Dolica AX620B100 Proline Tripod and Ball Head, 56-160 cm

Dolica AX620B100 Proline Tripod and Ball Head

       – product features –

  • Aluminium frame
  • Universal ball head design
  • Quick-release plate
  • Quick-release leg locking
  • 5 kilograms

       

      Neewer Carbon Fiber Tripod and Monopod, 58-168 cmNeewer Carbon Fiber Tripod and Monopod

      – product features –

  • High-density carbon fibre tube
  • Universal ball head design
  • 2-1 tripod, one leg can be used as a monopod
  • Quick-release leg locking
  • 12 kilograms

     

Learn more: Top 10 tripods…….


 

 

Past Memories Frozen In Time

It can seem like a daunting task selecting the best memory card for your camera. There are countless options available, all with a different format, compatibility, capacity and speed. The SD format is the most widely used format on the market, and it is often the included memory card in camera bundles. Other common memory card formats are Compact Flash, Micro SD and C Fast cards. However, in recent years many cameras have started to lean more heavily towards CFexpress and XQD card technology.

Memory cards worth investing in should offer a large capacity, for the storing of both photos and video files. They should also offer a quick transfer of data. Below are two of the best memory cards on the market, used by both professional and aspiring photographers.

      SanDisk Extreme Pro SDXC UHS-1, 64 GBSanDisk Extreme Pro SDXC UHS-1

      – product features –

  • Capacity: 64 GB
  • Read speed: up to 90 MB/s
  • Write speed: up to 170 MB/s
  • UHS speed: a class three rating (one of the best ratings there is)
  • Video capturing: 4k
  • Warranty: Lifetime warranty

       

       SanDisk Extreme Pro CompactFlash, 64 GBSanDisk Extreme Pro CompactFlash

       – product features –

  • Capacity: 64 GB
  • Read speed: up to 160 MB/s
  • Writing speed: up to 150 MB/s
  • Video: 4k filming
  • Warranty: Lifetime warranty

     

The Principles of Photography

 As an aspiring photographer, your most valuable lessons will take place behind the camera, and not in front of a screen or a book. You will only learn the principles of photography by practising them in real life. The photography equipment presented in the article will push you forward on your photography journey. Photography is an art form, and like any other art form, you learn by practising your craft. Your photography equipment is what paintbrushes are to a painter, an extension of your knowledge and expertise. Either the lines are straight or blurry.

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