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Equipment Breakdown

Lesson 3 from: The Automotive Photography Workshop

Aaron Brimhall

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Lesson Info

3. Equipment Breakdown

Aaron breaks down the equipment he uses in the field. His camera, lens, and filters + tripods.
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Lesson Info

Equipment Breakdown

All right, so, I'm here to tell you a little bit about the gear I use. First thing, I have used this 1D X Canon for about 3 1/2, four years. I think it's like three times past its lifetime. But Canon is so good, and with their durability, that it still holds up. This thing has just been a champ. So I think right now, like the 1D X, just because the megapixel difference and the information it gives off compared to, you know, the Canon R5 or like a Nikon D850, is I use this for smaller gigs that, it still gets the job done. You can still print and do anything digital or web with the 1D X at full raw. Before the Canon R5 was out, I was renting a Nikon D850. But now that the R5 is out, we got 45 megapixels. And you can go in at 100, and all the information is there and beyond. It's pretty cool, really cool camera and mirrorless, which I never thought I was gonna get into, but kinda changed the game for me. And everything just looks so cool. The color profile on it is amazing just standard.

I think for my go-to lens, for either/or is a 70-200. All the, just 'cause I've used it so much, all the screws and everything have come out, but I've fixed it quite a bit. So why it's my favorite lens is depth of field. Anything really, on my images, I think what really speaks loudly is like the depth of field I use. And this shooting at a 2.8 usually, a lot brings out that depth, and it's really nice. Yeah, from 70 to 200, it's a full range of everything, which I love. And I think when shooting cars or anything automotive, you're gonna want like a zoom. So you can capture it going off into the distance, or you can be far away if something's spraying you. And you're not getting right into the mix of things and getting your body dirty or whatever it is. So 70-200's great for basically everything, and my second favorite lens would be 16 to 35. And both of these lenses are Canon's EF mounts. And I do not have right now the RF 70-200 lens for the Canon R5, but that should be in the quiver soon. Why I love the 16 to 35, one, is because obviously I like the depth of field, but getting a full range of just a big picture kinda tells more of a story, you know, the environment, what you're shooting, gets the whole subject in focus. And I like to get really close to my subjects whether that's when I'm shooting at a low angle, aggressive, front 3/4, and I can get something walking in the foreground. And, you know, you get kind of everything in that one picture or as if like a motorcycle or a car is going by and you're getting the smoke and the dust or kinda whatever those particles are in. You can have that in the edge of the picture. And it just like, a big, wide lens, to me, has always just been like a really cool feeling, just kinda getting everything in one photo. I am fairly new to the R5, but the new RF glass is just insane. The 24 to 70 2.8 is beyond good, and the one thing that compares to the 16 to 35 right now is the 15 to 35, which is this. And it's, I think it's two times better than the 16 to 35 EF mount. But the glass here is just insane, 50. I don't really use prime lenses too much just because I tend to be out in the field with a lot of moving parts, and I need that range of millimeter to capture everything and more of what I want. So I tend to use more of a zoom-type lens than anything. That's why I only have one, one prime lens. Last, I don't use this much, but it's the 100 to 400 F4. So it's not as fast as the 2.8 obviously, but this is nice when you're wanting to shoot something really far in the distance and, yeah, just kinda mess around and play with a different feel. So that is my camera gear for you guys. Oddly enough, I started out with a Nikon camera, and I believe it was the D70, is what I first had. But somehow in the mix of everything, I switched over to Canon, and I had, you know, I think I switched to the Canon 5D Mark II, was my first Canon body. But what really stuck out with me with Canon was I think their durability. This thing has plummeted into the water quite a bit, and it's still rolling perfect. I've only had to send it in to Canon a few times. And everything, yeah, everything works good. Buttons are missing. Body's kinda hammered. But the durability, like I said, is just kind of insane. So, and I'm not biased between either/or, not married to one. Like I said, I was still, up until this came out, renting the D850 Nikon. 'Cause everything Canon and Nikon, they're all backwards. So you mess with Canon, and you go to Nikon. Nikon's completely backwards. It's just a matter of using it, you know, and getting used to one. So I'm just used to Canon now. So that is why I use Canon. You know, you need to know the camera like it's the back of your hand. So you don't want to keep switching body types or manufacturers often just because you're used to it. You know, it becomes part of your own body. And that's why I've stuck with Canon. Shooting a lot of dirt and car stuff and motorcycle stuff, I tend to break lenses more than anything. So right now I have like a limited amount of lenses. These RF lenses, however, are rented, but they're like my main go-to lenses. And the reason I rent most of the time on jobs is because I budget in gear rental. And that's another big thing when you're, you know, pre-production. You go in, and the first thing I do is put a number for gear rental. And that's not coming out of my paycheck. That's coming out of the full production. So you're not losing any money, and you're still getting to try new lenses that you haven't even used before or just, you know, the lenses that you love using all the time. And you're not losing any money. But after that job, obviously you can take that money and go buy yourself a new sweet lens. You getting that job and buying a lens, that's gonna come around full circle, and it's literally buying itself. What is not pictured on the table is my Mavic 2 Pro drone. I don't use it a whole lot. But when I'm like thinking of like a photo set or giving images to clients, I like to have more of like a diverse look or, you know, just like some fillers. So I usually have like top-down images, and I think those are really neat and in a different perspective that a lot of people don't, I feel, like really utilize in their mind before going into like a shoot. And so I think giving like the client, like, you know, top, I mean, overhead shots and getting like closer or higher or whatever, the drone really comes in handy for some things. And it's kind of like a cherry on top for the client. But, yeah, they get pretty stoked on that stuff. And drone, I don't use drone too much, but it does come in handy. I feel like another topic that really isn't talked about too much is filters. To me, I like to shoot a lot at, you know, dusk or dawn or anything dark with the car lighting up with the headlights or the rear lights or a motorcycle's headlights or whatever, anything really vibrant. I feel like that sticks out in a lot of my images. For me, a big part of that is a Pro Mist filter. And what the Pro Mist filter does is it allows that glare of whatever you're shooting kinda more vibrant, and it like expands the glare, which is really cool. And I think that's just like a, kind of like a, I'm not gonna say like a thing that I started, but I really just started utilizing it in all my images. And if you go look at any of my work, you'll see like, whether that's like the sun or that's the lights of the car, all those are like enhanced and vibrant. And that would be the Pro Mist filter that I use from PolarPro, which is really cool. And it has two to five stops, and so you can use that during harsh light, midday hours, too, if like it's really bright. You can dumb it down, and you're still getting that vibrant glow of whatever you're shooting, which is really nice. The ND has kinda been like a magic filter for me. One of the reasons why is because I always just thought companies like shooting dawn and dusk, and I didn't realize most companies don't do that, especially like car companies. That was what I realized. And so, (laughs) the first big job I was on, we didn't shoot anything sunrise or sunset related. It was just all midday, harsh, but luckily I had my filters. And you kinda just have to adapt to those things and learn how to shoot midday or harsh light. ND filters really will kinda conquer those harsh moments in lighting wise. Trying to adapt and be like versatile in shooting at all, like throughout the entire day, if you can, is a huge key and a big lesson I've learned, that you have to shoot in midday light. And as much as you don't like it, you have to do it. But now I think, me personally, I'd almost rather shoot midday just to get all the information of whatever subject you're using. And, yeah, I feel like in post-processing, you can play around with the shadows and highlights even more. If you can be as versatile as possible and shoot throughout the entire day, you're gonna become a better photographer. Going back on all the lenses I've broken, I learned the hard way obviously. So there's no really manufacturer that makes like a covering besides like a clear filter, you know, for a lens. But I've broken so many. And out in the field, you don't want just one clear filter, and they're not cheap. So what I did is and what I've learned from some other photographers, I've built like a PVC lens hood with plexiglass or just regular glass. But why I like the plexiglass is 'cause when you're shooting in backlit, you get these like weird textures from the glass, and it kinda looks cool. And so that kinda goes both ways. You can get up close and personal when you're shooting in dirt or gravel or whatever it is. And you're, you know, you're protecting your lens and body, or you're getting cool abstract, you know, flares or glares in the photos. So I think you can go a few different ways about it. You can get different, weird shapes of glass to go in front of your lens or just clear glass to protect it. But that's kinda normally what I'll do, and I'll show you guys that out in the field tomorrow, try to get as close and as dirty as I can. So normally on jobs, backing images up obviously is like (laughs) your, it's literally your life. So what I do normally is I'll bring two solid-state hard drives, and I'll give one to myself and client. And you want to back up as many times as you can. Normally, I'll do like a Dropbox back up too. So there will be like three different sets of whatever I shot just in case. You always want to play it safe. Not personally, this hasn't happened to me, but I've had instances where I've been on jobs, and someone will format the card or the card is just bad. Or there's like an error on something, and they'll lose all the images. And that is the worst feeling and the worst thing that can happen on a job. So you want to make sure you're dumping cards as much as you can into two to three different sources. So you're not losing anything, and you're playing it safe. Going back again on breaking gear, I've done it so many times, but what has been a lifesaver for me is my insurance. I insure everything. Whoever you're insuring your cars through, just go to them and be like, "Hey, I wanna insure all my gear." I'm a professional photographer, and I am using all this stuff every single day. And that way, you're protecting yourself, and you're never gonna lose money if you break it. 'Cause something always happens. I've had instances where I'm on a big job, and someone random from client or agency will pick my bag up, thinking it's zipped up. And it will be unzipped, and all my camera gear, I've broken this lens, this lens, and kind of a little bit of my camera when that, that's actually happened before. So anything can happen. Insure your gear, and you'll be, yeah, protected always, as a good point, though, insuring gear. Another gear piece that is not on this table is right behind me, is my truck. And that is probably something I use as much as my body almost. And just because I like getting anything in motion obviously. And so when I'm shooting in the desert or just on paved roads or whatever, I made an actual platform that sits on the back of my hitch, and I can get as like low as like two inches from the ground. And I can get those like lower angles that you could normally never do unless you have an arm, but arms are expensive. And so I had my cousin build me what we call a bird box, and it sits like really, really close to the ground. It's so secure and safe. I feel comfortable in it, and I can get kind of just different perspectives and different angles that a lot of people wouldn't see. I'm currently in the process of building one for the front of my car, so I can get following shots of cars in the rear. And that's kinda something I love shooting as well, is like rear shots of anything moving. Having a good truck with stabilization, that type of gear is like key for me. Another piece that goes onto the truck is an arm for video. And what we do is we put Speed-Rail in the bed of the truck, and we kind of like rig this whole, the back of my truck up. So video can be on the arm, and we can control it from the cab. It's another way to utilize running gun kinda stuff, so big piece of equipment that I use for most of my shoots. You guys know that three of these lenses are rented, and my quiver of gear is small. And I just want you to know that you don't need to have all the gear in the world to be a good photographer. If you just have three essential lenses or a 16 to 35, a 24 to 70, and a 70 to 200, you have it all. Literally, research any type of lens that you're wanting to do. Go rent it. Try it out. Yeah, get two, two to three lenses that fit your best style, and you should be happy and ready to roll. Like I said, it's not about how much gear you have. It's about how you use your gear. To me, I utilize my gear in as many ways as possible. Like I said, the 70-200 literally does everything for me. Anytime someone asks me what my go-to lens is, it's this guy right here. But it's literally about how you use it, what you're using it for. You literally can build your brand and your style with one lens, whether that's a 50 millimeter or a 70-200 or something wide. For me, it was something wide at first, and then I switched to more of a zoom, depth-of-field type lens. And, yeah, stick with one thing. And figure it out, and get really good at it. So, yeah, just, I don't know, for me, get out there, go get dirty, have fun, be yourself, don't take anything too serious, and create the best stuff you can. And you will not be happier.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Automotive Presets

Ratings and Reviews

Ben Waugh

Worth Every Cent! Keen For More! This was awesome, definitely keen to see more of these in the future! Keep them coming dude! Loved seeing your edit breakdown and workflow. Would love to see some more of the behind the scenes of planning a shoot too - @benwaugh

Allison Gregory

From Zero to Hero Awesome workshop to not only get my first taste of automotive shoots, but I am walking away with a shoot set-up and planned to create speck work and present brands with decks. I loved how Aaron really explained everything he was doing. He rocks.

Adrian Mirabal

Amazing and WORTH IT! I have followed Aaron Brimhall for a while now and when I saw he was releasing a workshop I knew I had to get it! If you are wanting to shoot anything in motion or automotive action this is the workshop for you!

Student Work