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One thing that you constantly hear about photography is how expensive it is. Once you have your basic camera body and lens, there is a never-ending quest for more and more gear that a lot of photographers go on and, to be totally honest, you can get carried away… massively!
Reading through Kent DuFault's guide to portrait photography was what got me thinking about it though.
Now don't get me wrong, I love gear as much as the next photographer. I am totally guilty of spending way too much on a bunch of gadgets that I will probably use once and forget about (lightning trigger, anyone?).
But it wasn't always like that. I was very happy with my first DSLR and the kit lens it came with (The mighty Nikon D70 with an 18-70mm 3.5-5.6 lens). It was a solid camera, but not what you would call extravagant.
Kent's book got me to thinking about shooting portraits with it. And here's the kicker.
In the beginning, I didn't spend an extra dime and I got very reasonable portraits.
Better Portraits Without Going Broke on Gear?
Basically, natural light and a reflector (Kent also goes over this tactic in his book with an example on page 38).
I extended out that 18-70mm lens to its full 70mm focal length. I got as close as I could to that subject while keeping the background a long way away. I used a piece of white styrofoam to reflect light onto them (though, if you want to be less ghetto, you can get a proper reflector off eBay for about $10).
And then I took the shot!
Look, my shots were not award-winners, but they were about 50x better than the ones I had been taking before I knew those basics.
Now that little tactic will get you portraits that are better than what 90% of your friends will get. But it's really only the beginning. The “baseline” for a solid photographer.
If you want to take things beyond this, then it's well worth taking a look at Kent's Book on portrait photography. There are a ton of gems like this one.