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Headshot Photography Equipment and Settings; Do they matter?

BY HEADSHOT PHOTOGRAPHER MENTORING COACH, Vanie Poyey

One of the most frequently asked questions I get from other photographers is what camera I use and what my settings are. And every time, I’m a little stumped by the question.

Isn’t it like asking my Mom (who is incidentally the best cook ever) what oven she uses?

The camera is just a tool and a means to an end. What matters most is the skill of the person using the camera. Isn’t it?

When I got my first digital camera, the Canon 1D, it was soooo noisy (not to mention heavy) and yet I managed to have images taken for XM Radio enlarged and hung in Madison Square Garden.

The way I see it, I simply exposed my images properly and enlarged them with interpolation so that they looked great hanging on a building even with the amount of noise the early digital cameras produced in an image.

I’m currently on the mirror-less body, the Canon R6. Probably the only camera I’ve ever been geek-ed out over because I’m normally not an equipment junkie and my knowledge of the latest and greatest is limited to what my peers are talking about.

I’m more of a software junkie. That’s where where the fun is for me. But I digress…

And I’m going to say it🫣, but until I switched to my mirror-less, I really believed, with some truth in fact, that the camera you use doesn’t impact your ability to create stunning images.

Because up until this point camera upgrades have not made any significant life-changing improvements for us. However, I’ve noticed a HUGE shift in my ability to expand beyond what were known as traditional limitations and therefore produce sharper images and capture those candid moments faster. And if you know me, you know I love to shoot fast.

For years, I photographed subjects with a shallow depth of field with an f-stop of 3.5 and 1/250 of a second to avoid blur.

Now that I’m on a mirror-less, I prefer f-2.8 (for images with depth) because without a mirror and with image stabilization technology, my subjects are *always* sharp no matter what! It’s like the camera version of Photography for Dummies.

The lens I use for portraits… wait for it… is the R 24-70mm. Gasp right? As you probably know, portrait photographers generally use an 85mm lens because it has the least amount of distortion.

The 24-70 is a little on the “skinny” side of the distortion spectrum but the truth is, the reason I use it is to be able to shoot in small spaces. I picked it up years ago not because of an aesthetic choice, but because it was a necessary choice when I didn’t have a studio. Then it just stuck because I found my style on that lens. Isn’t that a crazy reason to use a specific lens?

PRO TIP: Wait to discover your needs and buy gear accordingly cuz at first, you gotta start with what yo mama gave ya!

I still believe that if you work within your budget, your space and in your comfort zone, you’ll create great images no matter what your gear is. However, if you want a dummy proof camera, I might just suggest you switch to a mirror-less… something I would never have done before.

So there you have it. Take it (or leave it) for what it is!

Share one piece of equipment that you’re glad you use and why.

Hi, I’m Vanie!

Pronounced like Bonnie… and I blame my parents for the misspelling of my name! I went from having $300 in the bank to building a six-figure headshot photography business doing what I love. I’m here to teach you how to do the same!

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