2017 Social Media Photographer's Kit
(UPDATED MARCH, 27th) - Things change. This article was live for no more than a few weeks and I dramatically changed my setup and workflow. So, let's do this. I'll leave this article up so you can see a snapshot of what I was doing at this particular point in time. However, If you want to see the most current gear and software that I'm using, head over to my Social Media Photographer's Gear page. I will update this page as needed, at least once a month.
While I shoot photos and videos for a living I am not your typical photographer. Specializing in social media photography, I must compromise between achieving high-quality results while maintaining a small footprint. If I were still shooting for broadcast or print, this would pose a serious dilemma. But since the content I shoot is targeted to the internet I have found the right products that fit my particular situation where I can carry several days' worth of gear with me in a single shoulder bag. I have updated my readers on my software and gear each year for the past several years. So, not wanting to disappoint, here is the 2017 edition of the Social Media Photographer's Gear.
In the past I have owned and maintained several computers (Mac Pro, Macbook Pros, iMacs, numerous DIY Windows servers and desktops) and storage systems (4 separate Drobo arrays!) because I thought the needs of the job required it. I also carried huge bags of Canon and Fujifilm equipment including four camera bodies, up to 9 lenses and all kinds of accessories and tripods. Add to that list hard-shell Pelican cases full of GoPro action cameras and a drone and you’re starting to get a picture of what I was putting myself through. Today I am thrilled that I can do my job, and do it well with a relatively small amount of very specialized gear. It has only taken me 20 years to figure it out!
After I abandoned Canon DSLRs in 2014, I switched to the Panasonic Lumix GH4 mirrorless with Rokinon Prime Cinema lenses as my preferred video camera for a short time. I loved this camera but with my never-ending quest to reduce the gear I travel with I also abandoned the GH4 and began shooting all my cinematic-themed projects with Fujifilm X-T1 cameras and (gasp!) my iPhones. I love the treatment of the video that is applied to the footage using Fuji's Classic Chrome LUT and found the iPhones more than adequate for shooting b-roll.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 was water resistant so I used it in the rain or when the conditions are otherwise hazardous for my iPhones. Once the iPhone 7, with its water resistance was released, I was able to switch to it and take the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 out of my camera bag for good.
For video podcasting, I started using the iPhone 6S with a ProPrompter/1st Generation iPad set up. This meant less cameras, chargers, and batteries to be packed and carried. The theme of 2016 was “doing more with less is good!” It was during this time period that I started shopping for a smaller replacement for my Scion xB. We'll talk about my decision to go with the Smart Fortwo as my daily vehicle in a later post.
In 2016, I shot much of my still photography with the Fujifilm X-T1. I primarily used two lenses on the X-T1: the Fujifilm 14mm prime & 50-140mm zoom but I also used the full LensBaby optics system. The Lensbaby lenses are very specialized so the Fuji glass was used for 90% of all my X-T1 still photography.
That was in 2016...
PHOTOGRAPHY & VIDEO
Since January 1, 2017, I have been shooting 100% of ALL my still photography and video with a set of iPhone 7's and 6s's. I am using the super wide, wide, tele, and macro lenses from Moment lenses along with the DXO One on the iPhones when appropriate.
For the 6s iPhones I am using the Helium Cine Core Pro cinema cage to attach mics, lights, stands, etc. As soon as Helium Cine releases the iPhone7 compatible cage, I'll use that for my iPhone 7's as well.
With the help of the BeastGrip Pro and DOF Adapter, I'm also using Canon FD mount manual focus prime 28mm, 35mm and 50mm lenses with the iPhones for video shoots. With the 7.21 crop factor of the iPhone 7's 1/3" sensor, these lenses will effectively provide a reach of 200mm, 250mm, & 360mm respectively as compared to a full-frame 35mm DSLR.
The iPhone 7 is now my go-to camera in all situations unless otherwise requested by the client and provided for in the project budget. Since mid 2015 I have produced hours of b-roll footage and thousands of stills on either the iPhone 6, 6S, 6SPlus, or 7 so I knew what I was getting into when I started this project. As a proof of concept for this current phase of my photo/video career, I started using the iPhone as my only video camera in the summer of 2016. I used Moment Lenses with the iPhones to increase their flexibility and the results have been amazing. Like with any working photo or video setup, I also use sliders, tripods, gimbals and jibs to get the best movement out of the devices.
Fast-forward to today. All of my Canon and Fujifilm cameras and lenses have been completely retired and sold. Yes, I know: SHOCK-HORROR. I know myself. It's best that I simply don't have access to the other gear at all if I'm going to be successful at this. I plan to see this project through and the easiest way to do that was to eliminate all access to my FujiFilm and Canon gear by getting rid of it altogether. I've been accused of being "Mr. Extreme" by those who claim to love me. You get a pass if you have the same impression of what I'm doing here.
And so it is done. 100% of ALL the work I produce in 2017 will be created using iPhones and perhaps a DJI Mavic every now and then.
HARDWARE & SOFTWARE TOOLS I AM CURRENTLY USING ON PROJECTS
Before we have a look at my actual gear list, you're going to notice something strange here. Along with getting rid of my DSLR/Mirrorless cameras, I am also no longer using a MacBook pro laptop - or any laptop at the moment. I tried the iPad Pro 12.9 for a few months, but in the end, the size of the tablet forced me to use larger bags than I wanted to use. I loved the huge screen, but I'd rather be able to run around with a small Domke shoulder bag than a standard-sized laptop bag or a backpack. So I gave up the larger iPad for the 9.7" Pro version. Essentially, most of the specs are the same, but with a smaller footprint.
While there are couple critical things I am still missing in my new mobile-based workflow, I have found that overall it is possible to do the majority of my day to day administrative and photography work now on iOS from shooting to post-production. I use the iMac video editing, audio/music production, media archiving, and mac-specific software development.
I use Dropbox Plus to access files for all devices in both my Apple and Microsoft ecosystems and to transfer and share files with clients. Of course, there is a messy smattering of random drive storage space from Google, Apple, and Microsoft floating around in the ether that I am always threatening to clean up...but I never find the time to get a handle on that.
While it's just been listed below - I am absolutely adding, but also considering replacing the 9.7" iPad with a 11" Macbook Air (11", 4GB, 1TB, 1.8 GHz) running Windows 10 Pro since I can do everything on the iPhone that I'm doing on the iPad.
This is not a change I want to make. After using the Mac for almost 30 years (exclusively for the last decade) and using Apple productivity apps for over 6 years, Windows feels clunky and over-complicated to me. But I'm tired of feeling like I believe more in the future of the macOS platform than Apple does. Their silence regarding the platform speaks volumes about its future and I have decided to make the transition to Windows on my own terms. While I'm still getting used to Windows again, I have already found several things easier to do on Windows than on macOS. I'm also finding the iMac is wonderful when paired with Windows 10. Maybe what I love about apple is their industrial design and I've just been putting up with the operating system...
Let's get to it already!
This is the current gear I use on a day-to-day basis. The items on this list have been tested in real-world situations on real jobs. This is the gear and the software I use to deliver award-winning results to my clients. If it's not obvious yet, everything on this list is highly recommended by me personally.