what to pack for...

Another hypothetical, but what would I pack if I were going on a portrait specific shoot?

This is a favourite kit. It is my “core” both philosophically and technically. I do not get to do as much portrait work as I would like, but when I get the chance to actually share time and get to know someone, something great may come of it. Much of my favourite portrait work is of a client sensitive nature, but I have a few samples at hand, even if they are technically street images.

The Pen F and 45mm are the sweetest combination. I find it compelling enough to allow for clear decision making. It is perfect or something else is clearly better.

After the Pen and 45 comes the 17 for environmental and interactive compositions, the 25 if space is limited with the 45 and the 75, for those images that need pronounced separation or compression.

Apart from differing focal lengths, each lens has very different character and I believe the Olympus engineers have made each specifically to their role.

The 17 is natural, a little gritty and quite three dimensional. It is a story telling lens.


The 25 is literal, lush, smooth and brilliant. It has better Bokeh than the 45mm, but is a little unforgiving of focus errors.

The characteristic richness of the 25mm (and 12-40). This gave me a life line to my much missed Canon colour in the early days of the EM5.

The characteristic richness of the 25mm (and 12-40). This gave me a life line to my much missed Canon colour in the early days of the EM5.

The 45mm has a perfect balance between hard and soft sharp, with it’s widest aperture settings changing it’s look dramatically. At f1.8-2 it has a gentle sharpness that does not fight the DOF drop off. At f2.2-2.8 it becomes sharper and a little harder. At f4 it could hardly be sharper. This character is generally more appealing to me than a near perfect, predictable lens through the range.


The 75 is that perfect and predictable lens. It has a strong flattening effect that compliments it’s sharpness wide open. It is a bit of a one look lens, but that look is technically strong. It also shines as a candid portrait lens.


A spare EM5 is thrown in and a battery. The bag is the Filson Field Camera bag, but I have many other options for this clean little kit (Domke F802 if rare flash gear is needed, Filson regular field bag).

The little flash is used for the lightest fill, usually with a cheap little diffuser sock. There is a bigger diffuser/reflector in the background also. I really try to avoid artificial light, but will add to it gently if the effect is beneficial and try to make it as invisible as possible.

If not Olympus? Panasonic (G? 15, 25, 42.5 Leica’s.) or any other brand with equivalent glass, including the big three independents. This is the area I am most comfortable with M43 gear as I know it intimately, but it is also the most enticing area to shop as portrait lenses must be the best serviced type in photography. there is no brand, including Sony who are a little thin on options that does not do portrait glass well.