amfoto1 wrote in post #11598164
Hi and welcome to POTN,
First of all, try not to get caught up in the endless cycle of buyng new equipment in hopes of improving your photography, without any clear idea what you need. That's an continuous loop and can get really frustrating.
In time you will probably want to add a specific lens or two, or make other equipment changes or additions to better meet your needs... However right now you probably can't really say what those needs are, what you really feel is lacking in the camera and lens you already have in hand. Both the 40D and the 28-135 lens you have should serve you quite well. (If you want to see a working professional's use of that lens, check out www.joefarace.com
and/or see his articles in Shutterbug magazine.)
Every lens and camera has strengths and weaknesses. Skilled and experienced photographers simply learn how to get the very best out of their equipment, whatever they may have to work with. The wise photographer doesn't go looking for an upgrade without a very clear idea of what they need and why they need it. If you can't say what's lacking in your work, you can't really address the "need" and just have a case of "upgrade-itis". Be careful of forums and blogs like this one, where people will be happy to tell you what they just bought and encourage you to buy more stuff, too, whether you really need to or not. We're always happy to help you spend your money!
Instead practice your skills, read books about photography, join a local photo club, go out shooting on your own, take a class. Gradually you will gain knowledge and skill and will have a better idea if the equipment you have is meeting your needs or not.
One book I'd highly recommend to start with is "Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson. Get it and read it thoroughly. It's a good read and provides useful information and tips for photographers at any level. I'd also suggest getting the Magic Lantern or similar guide book specific to 40D. These books pick up where the camera manual leaves off and can really help you get a good grasp on the controls and functions of your particular camera.
You specifically mention portraiture. There are many types of portraits and different tools for the purpose. In particular you mention Senior Portraits. Usually those are shot in a highly controlled studio situation. Perhaps a portable location studio, but still with highly controlled lighting, background and poses.
But there are many other types of portraits, such as available light, candid, environmental/journalistic, formal, wedding, pets, children, maternity, newborns, etc., etc. The equipment used in each case can vary to some degree. Again, there are very likely books you can buy and read that discuss the specific types of portraiture you like or want to do.
For example, besides the obvious additional lighting and background equipment you are likely to need for posed portraits, your camera and lens needs might be different, too. Because you have relatively powerful studio lighting and control over the background, you typically don't need so fast a lens for this type of portraiture (a "fast lens" has a larger aperture, for more blurred background). And since you are not trying to get candid shots, you don't need to worry about the subject noticing and responding to the camera... in fact that might be desirable.
In contrast, a candid portrait shooter, working by available light or perhaps by available lighwill not have control over the background, so might want a large aperture lens to reduce that background to a blur. The photographer might want to go unnoticed and not interrupt or intrude upon the subject, so may want smaller, more unobtrusive and quieter camera equipment.
An example that somewhere in between, at least part of the time might be a wedding photographer. Some of their shots might be more posed, but on location, possibly with more limited portable flash (on-camera) used as fill. They'll likely have to use the location they find as the background, even for more formal posed shots, so often might want to be able to reduce background detail to help the subject stand out. That calls for large aperture lenses, too.
Candid portrait shooters might want to work with smaller cameras and lenses, in order to be less intrusive. A big old zoom lens can be intimidating or distracting to the subject, making it hard to get the shot you want. In this case, smaller prime lenses (not zooms) might be the ticket. On your 40D, with it's sensor size, a 50/1.8 (cheap but capable), 50/1.4 (a little more capable/durable, but more expensive) or 50/1.2 (pricey, bigger, heavier, most durable, capable but slower focusing) is a short telephoto that falls within the "traditional" portraiture focal lengths. An 85/1.8, 85/1.4 or 85/1.2 is at the other end of the "traditional" portrait focal lengths. This is not to say you can't use lenses outside this range... you can. The traditional focal lengths just offer the least distortion or exaggeration of facial features, for portraiture. You might want a wider lens - say 24 or 28mm - for full length portraits, or small groups... but have to be careful not to use it too close or to position subjects too close to the edge, if you want to avoid distortions. You also can use a longer lens - 135 to 200mm - to stand further from your subject and be less intrusive. You do need more working space, of course, and there will be some more subtle distortions (flattening of features). This is a "look" sometimes used in fashion photography.
You show an example of a pet portrait, which is yet another type. With small children and pets, personally I'd be more inclined to use zoom lenses to keep up with their frequent and erratic movements. You already have a zoom lens with a good, useful range of focal lengths for this purpose. If you are photographing them in a studio, your lens will likely suffice very well. If you often work outdoors in parks or at pet shows, you might want a longer telephoto lens to capture them in action from a greater distance. Perhaps one of the "best" lenses for that sort of thing is a 70-200/2.8, although it's big and heavy. A 70-200/4 is a a smaller alternative, but with it's smaller max aperture you will be more limited how much you can blur out the background. In both cases, since you are likely shooting handheld with these longer telephotos I also recommend Image Stabilization. For now, though, your 28-135 should suffice... just work at getting a little closer to your subjects.
So think more about the specific type of portraiture you like to shoot, and other types you would like to shoot. You can likely do very well with what you have now, so don't be too quick to add equipment.
Most digital photographers would do well, too, to learn post production skills and practices. A color calibrated, graphics quality computer monitor is an important tool to be able to produce consistent, high quality results. When shooting volume work such as senior portraits you might need some specialized practices and certain softwares. Get and read "The DAM Book - Digital Asset Management for Photographers". You don't need to copy everything the author does (I don't convert all my images to DNG, I don't use Macs, I use different softwares, and I name my files differently), but it gives you a good idea of what is needed.
If you haven't already done so, start to learn imaging softwares. I use Lightroom 3, Photoshop CS 5, and Canon DPP mostly. However, someone new to these softwares might want to start out with Adobe Elements. There are numerous books about each of these that can help you get started and up to speed quickly. Photoshop is the "big Daddy" of imaging softwares, way complex and might require the equivalent of a 4 year college degree to learn it all. However most of us never use it all, we just learn and use the portions of the program that we really need. Elements actually is a good starting point, sort of a scaled down version that combines some features from both PS and LR, a lot easier when starting out... and possibly fully adequate for whatever you will ever want to do.
One other things.... If you are shooting for pay - you mention senior portraits - you also need to think in terms of careful archiving of your images with proper backup. And you might want to have backup camera equipment, too, so that if something fails you aren't out of business and leaving your customers hanging.
And there are many little things you can do, to get more out of what you've already got. For example, if you don't have a lens hood, get one and use it. Do you have an inexpensive filter on your lens "for protection"? Remove it. It can mess up image quality and even effect focus accuracy. Use only good quality, multi coated filters. No "protection" filter at all is another option. They really don't serve much purpose.
But there are useful filters too... For some types of portraits a softening filter might be good. I use a couple black mesh and black "splatter" filters. These reduce fine detail, such as skin imperfections, and because they are black do not add any tint or halos or ghosting to the image. However, sometimes it's best to use these with a larger aperture lens, set to a fairly big f-stop, so the filter is never seen. You might be able to get similar effects with software, during post production. Another very purposeful filter is a circular polarizer. These reduce reflections and in portraiture can be useful if your subject wears eyeglasses or if they have a shiny skin type. Darker complexions often show more shine and reflections. A circular polarizer does "cost" one f-stop of light or slightly more, so you have to weigh this against the benefits. And, again, get a good quality, multi-coated one so that it does it's job well, with little effect on image quality and doesn't add an unwanted tint. (Personally I mostly use B+W Kaesemann, but some Hoya, Heliopan, B+W MRC and others are also very good.) You would need 72mm filters for your particular lens.
If you don't already have one, you might want to get a vertical grip for your camera... a BG-E2N. This allows for an additional battery and twice as long shooting time, but for portraiture in particular it has another possibly more important benefit with its secondary, vertical controls. Often portraits are shot with the camera in the vertical orientation. This accessory simply gives you another grip and more controls that make that easier for long periods of shooting.