The Basic News Photography Kit
By Gerry Chudleigh
In early 2007 a half dozen professional and semi-professional photographers gathered in the press room at the "Just Claim It" Youth Prayer Conference in Dallas, Texas. We were in the room to get photography assignments and to learn the procedures and deadlines for submitting the photos. But first we checked out each other's equipment and showed off our latest pieces of hardware.
Some had Canon cameras and lenses; some had Nikon. But all had approximately the same type cameras and lenses. One beginning communication director had a Nikon D200 but little else that would be useful for this event. So the group made a shopping list for him. In addition to being the conference communication director he was also the conference president, so he rushed to the nearest professional camera store. The next morning he was back with what might be called the event photographer's basic kit.
Before we look at the list, I should state the objective. This basic kit is designed to capture good photos in low light without using a flash. This works best, of course when the room is lit for video or just well lit. Of course, the equipment listed below will be great for outdoor photos and for flash photography, but if that is all you are going to do, you won't need to spend this much money.
- Camera -- DSLR (digital single lens reflex camera). May be Nikon or Canon. It is likely that the majority of photos we printed in church papers have been taken on digital point and shoot cameras, but those pictures are usually of stationary or posed subjects. A DSLR gives you instant response (no shutter lag), it accommodates the lenses you will need, and its controls are easy to find and use. Don't worry too much about the number of pixels. Anything over 2 megapixels is more than enough for the web, and anything over 5 is sufficient for church publications. You will probably buy something between 6 and 11 MP. Price: $450 to $1500.
- Flash -- Buy the best dedicated flash -- the one your camera manufacturer built for your camera. Your old one probably won't work, even if you are upgrading from a D100 to a D200. Price: $350.
- Extra battery -- One can be charging while the other is in use. Price: $45. The battery charger and one battery is usually included with the camera.
- Long Lens -- Both Canon and Nikon make a 70-200mm zoom lens with a fixed f2.8 aperture and image stabilization. Buy it. This will be your most important tool. Price: $1600. You could buy a similar lens with an aperture of f3.5-5.6 but then you would have to shoot at such slow speeds indoors that most of the pictures will be blurred. Or you would have to shoot with flash when non-flash pictures would look much better.
- Short Lens -- The long lens is wonderful for getting up close to speakers faces, but interesting pictures, ones that include context, are usually shot with a short lens. Again, you will need a fixed f2.8 aperture, or faster. The wide part of the zoom must be at least 17-18mm. A Nikon or Canon will cost you about $1200. I use a Tamron 17-50mm 2.8. Price $450. If you can afford it, the Canon or Nikon is a more durable lens.
- Standard Zoom -- You could get by with just the short lens and the long lens, but sometimes, especially outdoors in sunlight, the lens that came with the camera (perhaps a 24-120mm, f3.5-5.6) will be more convenient. Price: $400-500.
- Really fast lens. This is optional, but all news photographers seem to carry a fixed-length (prime) lens that is very fast -- something like a 50mm f1.4. Price: $250.
- Data card -- large, perhaps 4 gigabyte. Price: $100
- Bag -- large camera travel bag, on wheels, such as the Think Tank International ($315)
- Tripod -- You won't use this very often because with image stabilized lenses you can hold the camera steady enough under most circumstances. Your challenge is subject movement, not camera movement. Still, you will occasionally want a tripod and a monopod.
You now have all the equipment you need for great photos. Have fun shooting and learning.