March 4, 2011

Bonus - "What do you use?"

“What do you use?”

This is the one question I hear more often than all the others. It’s a bit of a tricky one. I started my photo life wanting to take better shots of my kids. I had a great little Canon Powershot that I outgrew after a couple of years.

After that, things got a liiiiiiiittle out of control.

Just about the worst combination is “Gadget Lover” + “Guy” + “Photographer.” It means my basement is filled with all sorts of professional equipment. I make part of my living with pro-grade DSLRs, reflectors and lighting stands.

But when it comes to a day out with my family, I learned (the hard way) that schlepping around a 60-pound bag of gear just isn’t practical – no matter how many wheels the bag has on it. In those instances when I want to capture the family or a great vacation shot, I have a far more compact kit – the kind of kit you could expect anyone with a camera to have.

Knowing all of that, here’s what I use on an everyday basis…

Everyday Camera – Canon G11
SLR photos from a point-and-shoot body. This camera is as effective for the first time photographer as it is for a pro. It’s a little bigger than a pocket cam and the autofocus is slow, but it’s in my man bag at all times. I’m never without it.

SD Card – Lexar Pro 8 gig
I don’t have any great attachment to one particular brand of card over another – although I’ve been playing with the Eye Fi card of late (pretty cool, just not fully ready to commit just yet). The Lexar’s plenty fast for taking multiple shots.

Processing Program – Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
Talked about this one at great length a few posts back. I use it in my pro life and in my personal life too – no need for me to learn two programs.

Computer – Macbook Air connected to 23" Viewsonic Monitor
My aging Macbook Pro bit the dust in January and I needed a replacement. I had been hoping to wait until the next generation with the new second generation Intel Core processors, but after spending 25 minutes getting my laptop to boot up on a photo job, I knew I had no choice. Still thinking about upgrading later this year.

There is one thing that this computer has that I’d recommend to anyone looking at a new system. Get one with a “SSD” hard drive. This is one of those new fangled hard drives that has no moving parts. It’s lightning fast and makes everything I do so, so, so, so much easier. You can get a SSD on just about any decent laptop or desktop system (all the Macbooks, or that sweet new Sony S Series laptop come to mind).

To give the Air a little more room, I use an external 23” monitor and an external 3-terrabyte drive (plus a 4-terrabyte backup). I’m showing the pro side of my life here. Most people don’t need this much hard drive space. Just make sure you get something with the latest connections – USB 3.0, SATA or (soon) Thunderbolt. Transfer times are a really big deal if you like your photos.

Backup – Time Machine +
Apple’s Time Machine is built right into the software and it’s easy to use – but I’m paranoid about losing data so I use an offsite solution too. has been pretty decent so far, but it takes months and months to do the first backup.

Store -- Everywhere
Where do I buy it all?  Depends. I like good service for stuff that needs good service – like the camera itself. That’s why I developed a decent relationship with the guys at my local Henry’s camera store. Canada Computers for specialty computer stuff. Future Shop and Best Buy when I need it right now. B+H and Midwest Photo when I need really specific pro photo gear.

Up next: the stuff you should pack in your camera bag

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