Lens Advice

Light_catcherLight_catcher Bluffton scPosts: 6Registered Users Big grins
I'm working towards starting a photography business as a portrait photographer. I will mostly be working in natural light doing beach portraits. I currently own a Nikon D3300 with a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8g lens, and I am looking to invest in a zoom lens to cover a wider range of focal lengths. I'm currently looking at the Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art lens. It seems to be a nice complimentary lens that covers a wide focal length, and is in my price range. I figured I can use my 50mm when a faster lens is required during low light situations. I understand that I will also need a backup camera body, as I plan to upgrade to a D7100.
Does this sound like a good starting point? Can anyone make a better recommendation?

Comments

  • David_S85David_S85 Spotter of Dgrin Spam and Oddities ChicagolandPosts: 12,233Administrators moderator
    edited July 19, 2017

    I don't have any specific lenses to advise you with, but a general starting place with portrait lenses hovers around 85mm focal length (through a little higher... 100mm?) and can also offer great low light performance. I would look for something with a wide aperture that can go below f/4. A sweet spot might be f/1.8 or 2.0 and can offer a great out of focus background -- in other words, very silky smooth bokeh.

    My Smugmug
    "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" - Wayne Gretzky
  • Light_catcherLight_catcher Bluffton scPosts: 6Registered Users Big grins
    So I would be better off getting another prime? The 85mm would have an equivalent of 127mm on my DX so that certainly gives me the distance.
  • David_S85David_S85 Spotter of Dgrin Spam and Oddities ChicagolandPosts: 12,233Administrators moderator

    Oh, sorry, I didn't catch that you had a crop sensor (I'm a Canon shooter). Yes the equivalent of 85 to roughly 100 is probably what you might be looking for. Most portrait shooters prefer primes for portraiture work in that focal length which (generally) offer better, smoother out of focus bokeh. Some lower quality zooms can make backgrounds messy. Not a hard and fast rule though. Best to look at real life photo examples from each lens on your shopping list -- not just specs.

    My Smugmug
    "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" - Wayne Gretzky
  • Light_catcherLight_catcher Bluffton scPosts: 6Registered Users Big grins
    Yes thank you, that really makes sense to me now. I received some not so great advice from someone else recommending the zoom lens, which was why I was feeling so conflicted about it considering I wouldn't really be using the shorter the focal lengths! 85mm just makes so much more sense considering all of the factors you mentioned. Thanks again
  • David_S85David_S85 Spotter of Dgrin Spam and Oddities ChicagolandPosts: 12,233Administrators moderator
    edited July 19, 2017

    No problem. Remember, I'm not saying that a zoom couldn't do what you need it to do. Lots of shooters have been successfully using a 70-200 zoom for portraiture, or something like it. Zooms can be real money savers, even the expensive ones, in the long run for their multiple uses. Just keep in mind the pros and cons of lens IQ (read: picture quality) when considering a do-all zoom - because many of those can't really do all, at least really well.

    I had an old Tamron mid range zoom, now since sold off, that had really good, but not great, bokeh for backgrounds. It also sucked for true wide or tele, but it was relatively cheap and sharp. While I'd love to always push Dgrin for threads that answer questions like these, I'd also look into POTN (Photography On The Net) for specific Nikon lens examples. Those threads are very long and offer hundreds of example photos from forum members. There are many more Canon shooters there than Nikonians, but going through the many threads could very well steer you towards a better purchase decision. Look at background bokeh specifically, and do a shooting post mortem in your head of the subject, how far away they were, the EXIF info and f-stop used, the background image quality, and all aspects of how they're shooting their subjects.

    There's a thread here that asks members to post their bokeh or soft backgrounds... https://dgrin.com/discussion/257956/post-your-bokeh-or-soft-backgrounds/p1
    I don't want to pick on any individuals, but some of the "soft backgrounds" are just horrible. If a portrait was taken with whatever they're shooting with, I wouldn't at all be pleased with the results if a photographer was handing me those if I was a paying client. Others are just beautiful. You'll see the differences fairly immediately just going through there.

    My Smugmug
    "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" - Wayne Gretzky
  • ziggy53ziggy53 Still learnin'still lovin Posts: 20,744Super Moderators moderator

    While there are opportunities for beach portraiture, limiting yourself to "... natural light doing beach portraits" is going to be extremely limited opportunity indeed. Finding that perfect compliment of site plus background and a suitable available light is just not going to converge on a regular basis.

    Most of the time you will either have strong but contrasty lighting when the sun is out, or dull and lifeless lighting when the sun is hidden behind clouds. Reflected fill can work with the strong-contrasty light, but then you would also need a skilled assistant to help with the reflectors and you'll get more partially closed eyes. And light that works for the background of the scene may not be suitable for the subject matter.

    Small, external "speedlights", are tremendously useful outdoors for both conditions of strong, contrasty ambient light, where they are useful as fill light, as well as overcast days where speedlights can be used for both key and fill light. In a backlit scenario, with a setting sun behind the subject for instance, speedlights can again provide both key and fill for the subject.

    Getting back to lenses, I use different lens focal lengths for different portrait needs.

    For instance, on a DX body like the Nikon D3300 or D7100 that you mentioned, I suggest a telephoto lens of at least 50mm to as much as 200mm for a head shot or head-and-shoulders. (So a 75mm - 300mm, full-frame-135 format equivalence.)

    For a 3/4 length and full length portrait I suggest 28mm to 50mm actual focal length. (So from a standard/normal focal length to a short-telephoto.)

    For an environmental portrait, which includes a lot of the scenery or even much of the scenery as in a vista landscape portrait, a wide lens from 10mm to 24mm might be suitable.

    I use a combination of Nikon D7200 and D7100 as my Nikon DX bodies, and my choice of lenses for an outdoor portrait shoot (of what I currently own) would include:

    Sigma 50-150mm, f2.8II, APO HSM, for the tighter shots. This is suitable for both head shot or head-and-shoulders plus 3/4 length and full length portrait.
    Sigma DC 17-50mm, f2.8, EX OS HSM, suitable for 3/4 length and full length portrait plus some environmental portraits. Also works for small groups.
    Tokina SD 12-24mm, f4, IF DX AT-X Pro, suitable for the environmental portraits and larger group portraits.

    Note that of the above lenses only the first two lenses, the Sigma tele-zoom and the Sigma standard/normal zoom, are fully compatible with your existing D3300, because the Tokina super-wide zoom is a "D" type lens and requires an in-body AF motor like that in the D7000-series bodies.

    Yes, I also have prime lenses but I try not to change lenses too much outdoors to prevent dust/dirt/grit and pollen problems with the image sensors.

    Of the above lenses, the Sigma DC 17-50mm, f2.8, EX OS HSM is a truly professional joy to use, with wonderful sharpness and contrast, sharper than the Nikkor DX 17-55mm, f2.8 (IMO) and the optical image stabilization allows capture in lower light without a tripod. It is slightly faster to focus and focus accuracy also seems better on the D7200 vs the D7100, but still acceptable on the D7100.

    The Sigma 50-150mm, f2.8II, APO HSM has more difficulty acquiring focus, in my experience, leading to more OOF rejected images, but still usable. No longer available new, it still pops up in the used markets fairly frequently.

    I honestly haven't used the Tokina 12-24mm, f4 for people stuff as I normally use a Canon FF system for portraiture (although now fully retired so only family/friends.) Still, it seems perfectly capable if only a little slower than the Sigmas.

    ziggy53
    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
  • Cygnus StudiosCygnus Studios Commercial Photographer San Francisco's North BayPosts: 2,294Registered Users Major grins

    I agree with Ziggy on lens choices, but would also consider:

    Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G (possibly the best lens ever)
    Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 XR Di-II LD
    Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG

    For the 50-100 range, Sigma has a new 1.8 that would be worth considering.

    I would also highly recommend that you consider lighting equipment. As Ziggy mentioned relying on the sun/weather is going to be limiting.

    Steve

    Website
  • Light_catcherLight_catcher Bluffton scPosts: 6Registered Users Big grins
    edited July 19, 2017
    Thank you Ziggy and Cygnus, I am aware of the various lighting requirements (I was definitely not being specific enough in my original post about that). I was wondering if I could get by with my on camera flash at first until I generate enough income to invest in a speedlight, as I am able to adjust the light output in camera as well as use some "hacks" I've learned about to help diffuse the light - or is that just a bad idea? Otherwise, I'll just have to bite the bullet and use my credit card for that. I do have two reflectors, however no assistant.
    I was hoping to manage for the time being with using the 50mm and 85mm (one on each camera body so that I don't have to change lenses for the environmental reasons you pointed out). And I also have a polarizing and neutral density filters.
    Basically, I'm in a situation where I can only afford the bare bones necessities to get started until I can make some money to further invest.
  • Light_catcherLight_catcher Bluffton scPosts: 6Registered Users Big grins
    edited July 19, 2017
    I also plan to continue to practice different light situations (using my friends as subjects) until I feel confident enough to start charging clients. I certainly do not want to put myself out there until I'm certain I can meet expectations. I know I still have a lot to learn, and I have the passion and determination to get there - it's just so hard on a very tight budget!
  • Light_catcherLight_catcher Bluffton scPosts: 6Registered Users Big grins
    edited July 19, 2017
    Thank you again everyone for taking the time to give me some advice without being critical, as I'm sure it's obvious I'm still quite new with all of the technical aspects of photography!
  • Cygnus StudiosCygnus Studios Commercial Photographer San Francisco's North BayPosts: 2,294Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 19, 2017

    @Light_catcher said:
    I was wondering if I could get by with my on camera flash

    The short answer is no. Most of the time on camera flash is not the best idea, but the built in flash is the worst idea.

    If it were me, I would invest in lights before lenses. Good lighting/shadows is one of the more important aspects of an image, and slightly more important than good glass in my opinion. Eventually you'll want to have both good lights and good glass.

    I would also suggest that while learning more about photography, that you really put in some time learning the business side if you want to be successful. In the end you'll be spending far more time on the business aspects than taking pictures, so make sure you like it.

    Steve

    Website
Sign In or Register to comment.