Nikon equipment for Portrait shooting

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by india_edwards, Jan 14, 2013.

  1. Hi everyone! So I am a beginner photographer and I am looking for some information on the type of Nikon camera equipment I should
    buy to shoot portrait pictures of babies, families, weddings, parties, etc. Some reccomendations on lighting, cameras, lenses, flashes,
    bags, etc. would be great. I currently own the Nikon D3000, but I am looking to upgrade to better equipment. Thanks so much!
  2. Well, there are a lot of possibilities. How much do you want to spend?
  3. The Nikon D3000 needs AF-S lenses to autofocus which I think is quite important for you. Have a look at the 50mm f/1.8 AF-S lens and the 85mm too. I bought the AF-D lenses before AF-S came, they were also cheaper but my entry level camera back in the day didn't need AF-S. And a external flash. Upgrading to a D90 is the minimum I think if you want to use the older focusing lenses, probably better to just get AF-S lenses for your D3000.
    I've seen some really nice photo's from a camera club colleague who now also does a bit of children/adult portrait photography on a part time basis. She started out with a Tamron 17-50/2.8 and a Nikon 85 f/1.8D. She doesn't even now hav a wide angle or a telephoto zoom. She upgraded to a D700 a few yrs ago but only added a 24-70mm.
  4. Weddings and bigger parties can be very demanding on equipment. If you're serious about those you should get into FX
    equipment like a pair of new D600s or D600 and D800 and about four lenses. Maybe Tamron 24-70 f2.8, 70-200 f2.8,
    and two others like a large aperture fixed Nikkor and fixed Sigma to fit your style. Two flashes like SB700-900, good cards
    and extra batteries and chargers. Then backup drives or other storage, something portable for on location. Tripod and an
    AC mono-flash with slave and umbrella or soft box. Insurance and an accountant.

    I don't get involved in weddings any more so I use DX format and rent or borrow bigger stuff.

    I use Tamrac bags, they'll likely last longer than me.

    Let me just tell you that my friend who still shoots big jobs uses a D800, D300s, a pair of D300, four SB800 and a SB900 and about 8 fast lenses from 10-300mm
  5. I think OP states he/she is a beginner, not sure if she wants to do this on a pro level (paid or not) or just take photo's of family/friends at a wedding. Like Andy, says you could easily spend $10k or more ......
  6. Though FX is nice, I don't think it's necessary for portraiture, parties and weddings. I would buy 2 bodies, 2-4 lenses and a couple flashes as the minimum.
    • 2 sb700
    • 2 d5100, d5200 or d7000
    • 17-50mm f2.8,
    • 50-150mm f2.8,
    • 35mm f1.8g
    • 85mm f1.8g (or 60mm f2)
    and IS/VR/OS lenses are a big plus...
    *The above is for paid jobs* if not, I'd just go with a flash, 35mm 1.8 and the kit lens...
  7. Well, if that's the case then what I recommended is over-kill ;-)))))
  8. You need a camera lens that you can get a pic that is focused on the eyes.
    I use a manual focus lens, and wait for my grandaughter to move into the correct spot, they always move! (105mm f1.8)
    This pic the SB-600 flash is bounced off the ceiling.
    This pic is the same speedlight is in a softbox, camera left.
    A little background, maybe a reflector, I would have had decent pics. LOL
    I am sure I could duplicate these pics with your D3000 and a SB-600 (or SB-700) flash.
    Take some pics, and show us you need anything other than what you already have.
    Oh, yea, I took these pics with a D7000
  9. Weddings and bigger parties can be very demanding on equipment.​
    ...and also on the photographer. Wedding photography is the top job, and you want to invest in one or two good lenses first and practice. The 50 mm is a good idea, as is the 85 mm (which is quite costly, though.)
    Just my 2.
  10. If you are a beginner the best way is to start gradually. My advice is to buy a lens like Tamron 28-75/2.8 (make sure to be one with AF motor), a flash i.e. SB700 and a chord. Start practicing with portraiture and learn to use well the flash on camera and off camera. This Tamron lens is perfect for portraits on your camera, offering the whole range you may need. Get experienced with flash techniques, bouncing, fill, the use of modifiers, FEC, etc. After you get experienced with this you can add a better camera to your kit, at least another flash and some other (fast) lenses. It's better that the new camera to have commander capabilities for flashes (Nikon CLS system), so D7000 is the minimum I'll recommend.
  11. I feel sorry for the OP. But he did ask!
  12. India, if you tell us whether you're planning to use the kit for professional or strictly amateur use, we can give more sensible recommendations, but IMHO a raw beginner shouldn't even be contemplating shooting weddings and events for cash. If that's your plan you need to get some experience as an assistant to an established events/social photographer first.
    The only recommendation I can give on the information given, is to buy the most powerful flash you can afford. The likes of an SB-600 won't cut it for large groups and large venues. The most powerful Nikon-compatible hotshoe flash you can buy at the moment is Nissin's Di866, which is marginally more powerful than Nikon's own SB-900/910. There's only a whisker more power in the Nissin, but it is about half the price of Nikon's top-of-the-range speedlight.
  13. I've been shooting weddings for pay the past 9 months or so, and I'm "cheap." I have some thoughts. Here's a list of things I would consider to be the MINIMUM to be successful with the average wedding: The cheapest camera I'd suggest is the Nikon D7000. You will need TWO of them--you MUST have a back up camera. Have a total of four batteries. If you have a second shooter you will need six batteries. For lenses, the minimum is something like a 17-55mm f2.8 zoom (I have the Nikon) and a 70-200mm f2.8 zoom with image stabilization. You MUST have lenses at least f2.8. Also have a backup lens of 18-55mm, and having a Sigma 50mm f1.4 might save you in very low light. You should bring at least 64 gigs worth of memory cards. Remember that the D7000 has dual slots--you want to set the camera to duplicate all shots on both cards as you shoot. Download the cards as often as you can to back them up. Lighting. Lighting is THE most crucial thing of all. You need at least one SB-900 and a modifier such as a Gary Fong or a Lumiquest pro softbox on the flash. The SB-900 is the minimum flash that will do a wedding, the SB-700 doesn't have enough power. You will also need some lighting for group portraits. I suggest two Alien Bees B1600 monolights with large softboxes, 13 ft. air cushioned stands, and sandbags for the stands. In a pinch you can get by with two SB-900 class flash on 13 ft. stands with large umbrellas, but you will miss the modeling lights (which will cause problems if you aren't very careful.) You will need a robust computer to handle pro quality software such as CS6, and there are some nice portrait oriented softwares out there too that you should have if you are full time. Finally, a graphics quality monitor--these cost around $800 at a minimum.
    The Sb-900 flash is the one to have. It has enough power to blast through a modifier, and can be used off camera. The lights you put on a stand do not have to be iTTL controlled, simply use a hand held light meter to get exposures. I do that with my monolights. I would also bring some CTO gels for use with the flash--you never know.
    The key thing to remember is you must have BACK UPS for everything--you MUST have two cameras (at least,) fast lenses (f2.8 or faster,) capable software and computer, and the most important thing for portraits is pro quality lighting and knowledge of how to use it effectively. Buy some books. Bottom line is if you are taking money to photo something as important as a wedding, you MUST have the equipment to do that, and the skill. If you screw up you can't go back and do it over. Don't go cheap on lenses or lights!
    Optimal gear list for weddings: TWO Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, Sigma 50mm f1.4, Sigma 85mm f1.4, Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VR-2, two Nikon SB-910 flash plus modifiers, three Profoto monolights with large lightboxes and Century lightstands, Eizo graphics monitor, CS6, assorted software for portraits.
    Kent in SD
  14. India,
    Its nice that all these people, who obviously have NAS (Nikon Acquisition Syndrome) are spending all your hard earned money. As you said you are a beginner photographer the best investment is books. Read, Read and read some more. The more you read the more you will understand that it is not the equipment that makes the picture its the photographer. has tons of great books on Photography.
    Professional photographers don't run out and buy the latest equipment every time there is a new camera body released. They use their trusty stead that they know intimately. They will upgrade every couple of generations of bodies.
    Read your manual for your D3000 over and over again until you know where ever button is and what they do from memory. As you run into limitations with your current equipment start to upgrade.
    Some cheap things to pick up are a couple 5in1 reflectors. You can do some wonderful things with natural light and bouncing it back in as fill light. Maybe a diffuser dome for your pop up flash to help soften the light.
  15. Wow...a lot of opinions on buying equipment. I know a photographer who started shooting weddings with a D7000 kit (body and an 18-105mm VR lens), a 35mm f/1.8, and an SB-900. Her secret was that she started shooting smaller weddings for couples a limited budget, not the couples that have $5-15K to spend on a wedding photographer. She slowly built her portfolio and focused on getting quality shots with the equipment she had, and that's the key. She rented lenses to get an idea of of what other lenses could offer her style of shooting in every respect (weddings, but kid's portraits and food photography as well). She then invested in a used 70-200 f/2.8. Eventually she bought a used D3000 body and hired a photography student as a second shooter. Two years after she started, she bought a D800 (last month when they were on sale), a 35mm f/1.4, an SB-910, and sold the D3000.
    The point here is that while there are opinions on what the "best equipment" is, the best equipment for taking a shot at any given moment the equipment is what you have at that time, be it an iPhone or a Phase One 645. Many people here (myself included) are often obsessed with having the right tools for getting the shot as opposed to getting the shot itself. Don't feed into the notion that you need a ton of gear to do what you want. Take what you have and go slow.
  16. Advices all over the place. The real question is to the OP: do you want to do this as a paid photographer, or as a hobbyist? A paid photographer must deliver quality - and in that sense Kent is right, you need backup for each piece of gear - because you must get the photos. It's what the customer is paying for. If you mean all this as a hobbyist, it changes a lot.

    So let's begin with the sensible question first: how much money can you spend at this moment? Which lenses do you already have? In which way does your current gear hold you back?
    Without knowing the answers to such questions, you will get all kind of advice. As demonstrated. If you want good advice for your specific situation, give us a bit more information to work with, please.
  17. There is more to shooting a wedding than some of you here seem to realize. Since they are a one time only deal and you can't reshoot, you MUST get it right the first time. It's not like shooting portraits where you can try again if you screw up. You MUST have a back up camera. What if your only camera quits working? Or a kid spills juice on it? Or one of the guests steal it? Or you drop it and it no longer works? There are a hundred bad things that can happen to a camera that can put you out of action. Do you tell the person who hired you, "Sorry, I dropped my camera. No wedding photos." That won't cut it! The AF on a D3000 is not up to the task of tracking a bride coming down the aisle in a dim church, especially with a slow consumer zoom. Sure, if you have a lot of experience and know what you're doing you might make really cheap gear work, sort of. More likely you are going to screw up and not get the "money shots" though. At one time the Rolleiflex was the main camera for weddings with ISO 100 film. I've tried using one for a few shots, but they just can't keep up with the action. Expectations of those paying a wedding photographer have changed! I typically shoot 2,000+ shots at each wedding, and a real pro will shoot twice that. You HAVE to get the shots--no excuses, no do-overs. If you are shooting somethng as important as a wedding for someone, you owe it to them to have equipment that can do the job. Weddings are NOT like other kinds of photography. There is a ton of pressure, everything is chaotic, it's easy to get distracted and screw up the camera settings, and when you blow it big time it's a major deal. Most people who think doing a formal wedding isn't any different from shooting family snapshots etc. have likely never done one.
    Kent in SD
  18. India -- Portrait rig for a beginner. Easy. Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 G on your DX body. For groups, the 35mm f/1.8 G. These are two excellent, reasonably priced lenses.
    The lighting is the trickier part.
  19. As a beginner, you might want to look for good used equipment first.
  20. There is more to shooting a wedding than some of you here seem to realize.​
    I definitely understand what it takes to shoot a wedding, which is why I don't shoot them. But the OP (and anyone else) should understand that there is a big difference between shooting a wedding for free or for $500 versus shooting a wedding for $5K-10K. I would not (ever) shoot a wedding without a second body, but that's me. It doesn't mean it can't be done and that it hasn't been done. The key is starting slow...I would not recommend someone new to weddings to go out and shoot a $7000 wedding if they were able to procure such an arrangement. I know someone who got started by shooting small "cheap" weddings with a D7000 and three other pieces of fairly inexpensive gear and was successful (and maybe a little lucky). They gradually worked their way up until they got two camera bodies and a videographer to work with them, and now they shoot for the $5K nuptials. If anyone told me that someone could get started with a D7000, a kit lens, a cheap prime, and a flash I would have told them they were crazy, but they did it and did it well. Equipment is important, but it's not what defines the photog.
  21. It would be nice if the OP responses to the comments. I like the three 1.8 trinity (28mm, 50mm, 85mm). They cover most important focal lengths, they AF with D3000, and fast. D5100 (or the new D5200 hmmmm) is nice, although D7000 is better. Moreover, those lenses are FX lenses in case you want to upgrade to FX (D700 or D600) in the future. Buy flashes and books too. Have fun.
  22. India....some of us have taken 20 years to get to semi pro level. Some will give you the pro pack which will cost you $10k. Why don't you focus on one particular portraits. Don't upgrade your D3000 just yet. Get a good but not expensive lens. It will have to be AFS due to the D3000's limitation on lens choice. Read the portrait forum and learn. A good old 50/1.8 AFS for a couple of hundred $$ will do for the moment. When you have exceeded this lens's limitations then upgrade then. On DX it produces an effective focal length of 75mm on FX...the entry point for portrait with head and shoulders. To cover a wider aspect so you can cover full length shots, you could get the 35mm/1.8 AFS.
    The investment here of maybe $500 all up is all you really need until you become accomplished. Don't go out and buy a big zoom lens are optically inferior to a prime unless you spend $2000. These two primes I suggested are current technology lenses and will not drop much in value, so as you eventually might upgrade your camera you will have the correct lenses anyway.
    Have a look at for a good, safe purchase with a returns policy. I use them even down here in Oceania.
  23. For portraiture on DX, 35mm f/1.8 AF-S DX, 50/1.8 AF-S are excellent choices that give great image quality and are suitable for portraits. In addition, if we go into slightly more expensive lenses, the 60mm AF-S Micro will let you do close-ups, and 85/1.8 AF-S a bit longer range / tighter shots at some distance. I would choose one or two of these to start with. Your camera will do fine for the moment; if you plan to upgrade your body, I recommend the D7000 - it supports a wider range of lenses and is a more solid body that will not fight against you like the D3000 might. In addition to 1-2 f/1.8 primes, you may want a wide angle zoom for groups, environmental portraits and the like. I am not really familiar with current state of the art in wide angles for DX, so I let others comment on that. (There will be some that say you shouldn't use wide angle for portraits, but this is just a very narrow view of the subject. A portrait can be so much more than a head shot. )
    For lighting I think a good way to start is to get one flash that you can use to bounce around, e.g. the SB-700, place it on camera and learn to use it effectively. Read books, and Neil van Niekerk's blog to familiarize yourself with technique for single flash + ambient light portraiture. Study diffusing and directing light from a certain direction to get the right kind of effect into your images. For outdoors, where you can not bounce the light, an inexpensive single transparent white umbrella and stand (along with the SB-700) can be used to provide fill light for outdoor portraits with an inexpensive PC flash cord. Avoid full on direct sunlight as the single flash is not able to compete with that; go to the shade provided by trees, narrow streets etc. To practice multiple flash photography, if you want to get into that, try to find a rental studio where you can work on it. The controlled conditions of a studio are great for learning about lighting.
    I would not consider shooting a wedding until you're thoroughly familiar with technique and skill with regards to portraits, and even then you should practice at other events and maybe weddings by not being the main shooter responsible for providing the pictures to the couple. By the time you know everything and are certain you can handle any situation fluently, you can consider doing weddings as the main shooter, if you still want to.
  24. India, it's great that you want to learn more about photography and upgrade your camera gear!
    Shooting portraits is a great learning experience and also needed if you want to do wedding or event photography so that is the best place to start.
    But if you are a beginner you could stick to your current camera and the lens that came with it a tad longer. You see for a lot of portraits the camera and lens doesn't make much difference and there are other things that need your time and devotion.
    For instance it's more important getting the subject to relax, having a good background, getting a good pose, having the camera at a the right height, composing a visually pleasing image, learning when to use what focal lengths to get the right perspective depending on how you want the image to look. Also knowing your camera inside out and be able to shoot in manual mode setting the aperture, shutter speed, iso manually and getting a good white balance and a good exposure is needed for quality results. There are good books and DVDs available to learn portraiture and also how the camera works in detail. Perhaps you can find a photography class teaching portraiture as well.
    Then you need to study lighting. If you work outside or close to a window the sun is free to use. Sometimes reflectors are used and you can buy one for $10 or make one from cardboard for nothing. It's called natural light or available light portraiture. There are also good books and DVDs for this.
    When you work inside and also outside small hotshoe flashes or studio strobes are often used. Take a class or pay a studio that's willing to teach you some basics and have a look at studio gear. This is when you need to start to spend some money depending on what you want.
    But start by learning and exhaust the possibilities of what you have before expanding. Shooting portraits you need to be able to focus on the people and the image so you need to strive for technical competence and familiarity so you know your equipment inside out and can operate it without thinking. That's why it's best to stay with equipment that you are familiar with for now.
    Good luck and remember to have a great time!
  25. I have a D5100 and really like it. It's small, and the swiveling LCD is useful. However, after using it for several weddings, I just can't recommend it for weddings. The problem is the AF focus-spot selector does not lock, and it seems to shift all over as you handle the small camera. This means that you think you are focusing on the bride, but you really just might be focusing on the wall 30 ft. behind her. I've lost several key shots using the D5100, but fortunately my second shooter caught them with here D7000. The D5100 would work for portraits since that's slower paced and you can shoot them over later if you screw up.
    Kent in SD
  26. Of course one thing that nobody has yet addressed is how you get a wedding gig in the first place. You must surely build a portfolio? I would suggest you buy a DX prime and start engaging with people, reading up and getting lots of practice photographing friends and colleagues. If there are some friendly bars or street markets, get down there and snap away. Don't even think about a wedding until you have at least 100 really nice shots printed at max size which you know can cut it. By then, you might have the experience to realise your limitations and what you need to work on, both technically and gear-wise. It's a wise man who understands what he is BAD at. It is entirely unrealistic to recommend so much complicated, expensive and heavy gear to a member who is obviously at the very start of his journey (as am I). It's as if someone has posted "Picked up a cheap strat, thinking of going to a rehearsal room. Any tips?" And been told he simply must buy a $10,000 Matchless amp and $5,000 worth of rack processors. Calm Down!
  27. In my opinion, having the correct equipment to shoot a wedding or portraits for money is vital. I don't think you need top of
    the line and everyone has to start somewhere, but I would be very hesitant to shoot a wedding with a Nikon d3000 and
    charge money for it. At the very least, keep it as a backup or just use it for portraiture. Weddings are very demanding on
    equipment. Perhaps a D7000or used D700 would be better along with a good midrange (24-70mm) and fast portrait
    prime (50 or 85mm).

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