image:captured - tools of the trade

Clients and the general public often ask me questions regarding the equipment I use.  Common questions relate to my type of camera in particular which lenses I use and why.  With this in mind I have written an article all about my camera set up.  The world of photography is a minefield of brands, cameras and accessories and can therefore be difficult to navigate to the right equipment for an individual's needs.  

This article describes the choices I have made and the reasons why I have made them.

Name your brand!

In the world of professional photography, generally, you are either a Canon or you are a Nikon user.  I do not recall meeting another professional photographer not using one of these two brands.

My choice is Canon.  This was the brand of my first ever point and shoot camera.  I was fortunate to be mentored in my early years by a professional photographer who used Canon and the brand has felt relevant to me ever since.

The history of Canon started with the enterprising spirit to make the world's best camera.  In 1933, a small laboratory dedicated to making high-quality cameras was set up in a simple apartment room in the Roppongi area of Tokyo.  After a lot of hard work a prototype was produced which was named Kwanon after the Buddhist goddess of mercy. The following year, in 1935, Japan's first-ever 35mm focal-planeshutter camera, the Hansa Canon, was born, along with the Canon brand.  Canon is now a global, multi billion dollar brand and leads the way through innovation within photography.

Canon L Lens series

Image quality is very important to me therefore I use only the best glass available.  For this reason,  my choice is the Canon L Lens series.  L series lenses are instantly recognisable by the bright red ring around the top of the lens.

The L Lens series is Canon's professional line and the lenses are top quality pieces throughout the line.  The image quality of the Canon L lenses is as good as it gets. Contrast, sharpness, colour, bokeh (background/foreground blur quality), flare, CA (Chromatic Aberration) ... all are outstanding.

Canon L-series optics represent the very best in lens design and construction. Superior image quality, combined with superlative
handling and construction, results in optics that are trusted by
professionals the world over.

In short, what you can get when you use Canon L lenses (if you do your part right) are amazing pictures. In fact, the quality is so good it is impossible to go back once you have one!


(The above image of the Canon 5D MK111 is a stock image and is not the work of image:captured.  For referance only).

The Canon EOS 5D MK111 announcement was perhaps the most anticipated camera launch in history... ever!

The original Canon EOS 5D was Canon's first non-1-Series full frame body. The 5D was affordable, was relatively small and light and delivered image quality that rivaled or surpassed many current  DSLR models at that time. It was a huge success in the industry.  In fact, the original 5D is still a good camera today and there are good bargains to be found on-line. 

The Canon EOS 5D was superseded by the incredible Canon 5D MK11 with it's 21.1MP sensor this camera was a great success and used by professionals the world over.   The Canon 5D MK11 continues to sell well today and similar to the original Canon 5D, there are many to found on line.

This was  my previous camera body before upgrading to the Canon 5D MK111

The Canon 5D MK111 boasts so many awesome features it would be impossible for me to detail them on this article without losing my readers!  In short, I upgraded from the Canon 5D MK11 to Canon 5D MK111 for two reasons.  (1) is the jaw dropping 61 point AF system which is the most sophisticated DSLR AF system Canon have ever released.  The AF system in the 5D MK11 was the achilles hell of that model in my opinion and (2) is the control I can have over my Canon 600 EX-RT speedlites from the camera.  This means I no longer have to walk over an manually adjust my speedlites when working in the studio.

Finally, the 22.3Mp full frame CMOS sensor, the DIGIC 5+ processor and the 6FPS shooting speed to name a very small few made the choice to upgrade to this superb camera body and easy choice.

Canon 24-70mm USM 2.8L

The Canon 24-70mm USM 2.8L was my first L series lens and is my preferred choice of lens for 70% of the work I do.

The Canon EF 24-70mm USM  2.8L lens is an impressively high performing zoom lens. I regard it as one of the best general purpose lenses available and for the same reasons, it is one of the most-professionally-used Canon lenses. This lens is as good as it gets in this focal length range.

This lens is a cracking all rounder.  It is  is the 'bread and butter' wedding and portrait lens for many professional photographers. The 24-70mm focal length range allows a large group shot or a close-up picture without a lens change. With a fixed maximum f/2.8 aperture across the entire focal length range, this lens is easy to use and is as fast (wide aperture) as any Canon zoom lens made. Available light shots are possible indoors (though a high ISO setting will usually be required). Wide open camera settings do not change with the focal length - this means I can focus on getting the job done.

The 24-70mm 2.8 L is a very good landscape lens on a full frame body such as the Canon 5D MKII.  Shooting at true 24mm means that I can capture all the foreground and background interest.

This lens is my first choice lens for Newborns, Portrait and Product Photography.  Image quality is beyond superb.

Sample images I have taken with the Canon 24-70mm USM 2.8L:-

Rock Snake - Portwinkle Beach Cornwall AL7

Canon 70 - 200mm USM 2.8L

As with the Canon 24-70mm USM 2.8L, this lens is equally impressive.  Top notch image quality with build quality to match.  This is my newest addition to the line up and I have been staggered by it's performance.  The Canon 70-200mm USM 2.8L delivers the goods as expected from Canon's L series of professional lenses.

There are four options to choose from within the focal range of this lens:-

Canon 70 - 200mm USM F4L

Canon 20 - 200mm USM F4L IS

Canon 70 - 200mm USM 2.8L (featured left)

Canon 70 - 200mm USM 2.8L IS mark II

'IS' stands for image stabilisation.  IS is there to combat camera shake.

Camera shake is the thief of sharpness. If you are hand-holding a camera and lens, they will move as you press the shutter release. Movement during exposure blurs the image.

Much of the time, you will not notice the effects of camera shake. If you are shooting with a fast shutter speed or a wide-angle lens, the blurring may not be significant− but it will still be there and might appear if you have a big enlargement made from the image.

The only way to overcome camera shake is to eliminate the movement of the camera and lens during the exposure. The obvious way to do this is by taking the camera out of your hands and fixing it to something that will not move, such as a photographic tripod. However a tripod is only effective if it is sturdy, which usually means heavy.  Or, a tripod may not be to hand at the moment of truth.  Fortunately, Canon offers another method of reducing, if not eliminating, the effects of camera shake.  Image stabilisation lenses, first seen in 1995, approach the problem laterally. Rather than trying to stop the movement of a hand-held camera, they seek to introduce an opposing movement within the lens. The aim is to keep the image static on the sensor or film, despite the movement of the camera.

IS is a great feature.  However, the version of the Canon 70-200mm USM 2.8L which has IS costs twice as much as the version I have purchased without it.  Initially, I was worried that I would have compromised my image quality by not investing into the IS.  However, I found this not to be the case.  When shooting, I ensure my shutter speed is no less than the focal range that I am shooting at and this combats the problem.  For example, if I am shooting at 160mm I make sure that my shutter speed is no less than 1/160 secs.  This is achieved by either ramping up the ISO and/or shooting with wider apertures.

I purchased the Canon 70-200mm USM 2.8L for events.  The focal range of 200mm means I can get really close to the action when shooting from a distance.  I have also found the lens to be perfect for portraits when I need to work away from the subject.

Examples of images I have taken with the Canon 70-200mm USM 2.8L:-

Canon 100mm 2.8L IS USM Macro

The Canon 100mm 2.8L IS USM Macro lens is all about the fun!  Initially, I purchased this lens for shooting images for my gallery of insects and the tiny world under our feet.

Being a member of the 'L Lens Series' image quality is once again superb.  Colour, contrast, detail, build quality, CA and sharpness are all excellent.

This lens boasts Canon's IS (Image stabilisation) described in the section above. When Canon launched this lens back in 2009 there was healthy debate in the photography world regarding the introduction of IS onto this lens and of course, the additional costs associated with it.  The reason for this was because macro photographers know that when shooting marco the only way to get a sharp image is to lock the camera off on a tripod.  The tiny and unaviodable hand movements made when holding a camera are exaggerated ten fold when shooting tiny objects.

From my personal experience, nine times out of ten I will use a tripod when shooting macro with this lens.  However, there have been times when a photograph opportunity has presented itself when my tripod has not been to hand.  On these occasions, the IS has been a god send and the potential image would have lost without it. (The Bee shot below right was taken handheld and would have been impossible without the IS feature).

The Canon 100mm 2.8L IS USM lens is an essential tool for any serious photographer.

Examples of images I have taken with the Canon 100mm 2.8L IS USM lens:-

A Snails Pace All in a days work
Canon 300mm F4L IS USM
Canon 300mm F4L IS USMCanon 300mm F4L IS USM

The Canon 300mm F4L IS USM is another excellent lens from the Canon 'L' series.  This lens is regarded as one of the best Canon lenses within this focal range second only to it's big brother the 2.8L.  However, the only major difference between the two is the price tag... the 2.8L costs four times the F4L!!!  Many professional photographers claim they can not indentify the difference in image quality between the lenses.

At 300mm, this lens has enough focal range to feel long however is relatively light in weight.  This is important because I purchased this for shooting wildlife when hiking on the hills.  Therefore I needed a great lens which would not weigh me down or be to bulky to carry.  As the Canon 300mm F4L IS USM boasts image stabilisation, this also means each shot can be captured hand held with out the need for a tripod.

Sample images below:-

Great TitGreat Tit
Canon 600EX-RT Speedlites

You are looking at one of the most popular DSLR accessories available - a shoe-mount flash (or Speedlite). I use a combination of three Canon 600EX-RT speedlites and one Canon 400 EXII for my strobist work. 

(The image on the left is the Canon 400EXII Speedlite which is a 'mid range' speedlite).

The Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT which is a professional level flash is engineered to provide a high level of performance and reliability for professional flash photography with today's most advanced DSLRs. With wireless two-way radio communication, the Speedlite 600 EX-RT allows photographers to expand their creativity using wireless speedlites with the reliability of radio triggering.

The use of Speedlites can not be beaten when shooting on location and 100% of my location commercial work is undertaken with Speedlights.  They are light and easy to transport, I can work in tighter spots and control the output of each light from my camera.  

Below are a sample of images I have crafted using speedlites.  


For instructions on how to download this image:-
Bowens Gemini Studio Lights (monolights)
Bowens Gemini 500W studio lightBowens Gemini 500W studio light

Bowens have been at the leading edge of studio and location lighting for over 50 years, developing  the world's first monolight and a wide range of flash lighting and light shaping accessories.

'Gemini' is the latest in a long line of monolight design.  The range offers four distinct classes designed to suit every type of photographer from aspiring amateurs through to demanding commercial photographers and everyone in between!

I use 2 x Bowens 400w and 1 x Bowens 500w (featured picture left).   For location and independent studio photographers such as myself these lights are ideal.  The 400w lights are ultra compact and feature the same solid, dependable, tough metal construction as found throughout the Gemini range.  Their compact design make for easy transportation between home visit and location shoots.  Both the 400w and the 500w lights have proportional modeling lights.  Modeling lights mimic the light pattern that the actual flash will produce when fired. Useful for prejudging where the shadows, highlights and reflections will be before I take the photograph.  Being proportional means that the intensity of the modeling light will rise and fade as I turn up or down the studio flash power.

Should you be considering purchasing studio lighting, my advice would be to invest in a set with no less than 400w of power per light.  400w is a sweet spot for working within a small studio or at home.  A lighting set up with less power than 400W per light such as a 200w may cost you valuable images.

Examples of images taken using the Bowens set up described above:-

Sheaffer PenSheaffer Pen Theakston Distillers CaskTheakston Distillers Cask
Light Modifiers and backgrounds

Light modifiers are used by photographers to shape and train light, essentially allowing the photographer to create the light required for a given scene. As a strobist, I use a light modifier for every single photograph I take .  I could write a novel on the use of light modifiers, their differences and individual impact on how they each shape impact and shape the light!

My first choice of light modifier brand is Broncolor.  The company produce (in my opinion) the finest light modifiers on the market today.  Their products are state of the art in terms of build quality, modern design and produce the finest light available.

My line up of Broncolor light modifiers are as follows:-

  • Beautybox 65 - perfect for Portraits
  • Octobox 75 - I use this soft box for all my food photography
  • Softbox 30x120 -I use this soft box generally for product photography

Other modifiers in my collection:-

  • Reflective umbrellas - Used for when I need to evenly light a large area
  • Snoot - used to create narrow beams of light
  • 22" Beauty dish - Ideal for high contrast fashion style portraits
  • 54"x72" soft box - perfect for photographing new born babies

The Portrait below was taken using the 22" Beauty Dish. Notice how the light shapes the subjects cheek bones... lovely.

Backgrounds are of course very important to a photographer and I have large and varied collection.  My personal choice is 'polypaper'.  These are produced from a synthetic material which feels like heavy paper however they are water resistant and will not tear.  Furthermore, they have matte finish which means they do not reflect light.

For more information on the printing products:-

A guide to purchasing printed products:-


your world : through a lens