The Best Lighting Gear Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Let’s get this out of the way first: Equipment doesn’t make portraits, people do. To shoot a portrait, it’s obvious that you’ll need a camera and some kind of light source, even if it’s just two LED light bulbs, as was the case in the featured image. But you don’t need a $47,995 Hasselblad H6D-400c to make portraits. Any, and I mean any, camera that takes interchangeable lenses will let you create salable (a key word) portraits.

The portrait at left was made with a Canon EOS 60D that cost a little over $1000 when new and now can be found for around $899 used. Lens was the redoubtable EF 85mm f/1.8 USM, a consumer level lens that’s constructed with a plastic body and a metal mount that I paid $369 for when new. Exposure using two LED light bulbs from Home Depot along with Gary Fong’s Lightbulb Adapter Kit. Exposure was 1/50 sec at f/1.8 and ISO 800.

A while ago, I wrote a post for Mirrorless Photo Tips about a portrait shot I did with a camera and lens that together cost less than $400 and that was using a new camera. There are lots of bargains available in used or refurb cameras that you can purchase from camera stores, eBay or Craig’s List.

Recently I talked with an aspiring portrait photographer who’s using a Nikon DSLR that was new four years ago and he told me that when he went to photography meet-ups, people disparaged his use of “old” gear.

Don’t let other other people, especially other photographers, determine how you spend your money. Having too much money tied up in cameras and lights or worse, debt for all that gear will sink a new portrait photographer faster than anything else. You should sell your photographs based on the quality of your work and well as your own personality and business ethics. The truth is that if your clients like their photographs and you, they don’t care if you shoot with a Pentax K1000.

Model Pamela Simpson is featured on the cover of my book Posing for Portrait & Glamour Photography and you can see more of her and learn about my posing techniques in this book’s 159 pages. New books are available from for $18.70, as I write this. If you’re interested in learning how to shoot better portraits and want some hands-on training, check out my 1-on-1 workshops.