What’s up, everybody?
My name is Aaron Anderson, and I’m a commercial photographer who’s traveling around the country with my family in an RV currently based in Texas!
I am super blessed to be called a Fujifilm X Photographer and Creator, plus an ambassador for some radical brands: Elinchrom, Tenba, Tamron, and Rosco.
My path to photography was not exactly conventional, and I’m what you’d call a late bloomer. I’ve done a lot of things; in fact, before I was a photographer, I was a Scuba Diving Instructor in Colorado. Yup, the landlocked one.
I found photography after I stole my wife’s camera, which was the birthday present I bought her, and started learning about how to take pictures, then I learned how to make pictures.
If I’m being honest, photography just happens to be the way I can meet new people and have experiences with them. Since I was young, that’s what I wanted my life to be like; an incredible experience lived with other humans.
I think that’s why it took me so long to find a career like photography, many jobs looked like the answer, but when it came down to it, they were mostly about money or success.
So, here I am, almost ten years of being a full-time freelance photographer who started out in retouching and dropped out of art school after dropping out of community college.
Some people would say I specialize in lighting, but I would say I specialize in telling human stories in a way that makes them look awesome using lighting to achieve the goal.
I knew when I started on this journey that I wanted to learn about lighting, and I spent most of my art school career learning lighting of every kind (sounds funny for a dropout to say) .
I think where we go astray with lighting is when it becomes the subject. So many times, we get caught up with how an image was lit that we forget the point is not the lighting.
Any time I’m behind the camera, I want to tell the story of the person I’m photographing in the most honoring and awesome way possible, so we build the lights to do that.
Sometimes we need a lot of lights, and sometimes we don’t. We need however many it takes to tell the story.
Before I dive into my kit of goodies, I did want to tell you something I was told by one of my professors a long time ago.
I’m going to put my own spin on this, but the basic thought is that “you should create images with what you have and not worry about what you don’t have or what other people have”.
Your voice is what makes you special, the way you see, the way you listen; no camera can make that. I’ve used many cameras and many lights, and I’ve been jealous of what others have. Know that this won’t make you a better photographer; it will just give you different tools for the job that you’ve been entrusted with.
I started my photography journey on a Nikon D40, and then I bought a used Nikon D70. Before school, I bought a D300s which was a hefty price tag to swallow at the time, and eventually, I made enough to purchase a Nikon D850.
I want you to know this not so you’ll know what to buy, but so you’ll know that I started with a big box-style camera kit, just like you might have, and it took YEARS to be where I am today.
These days I am rockin’ with some radical Fujifilm Systems!
Fujifilm GFX100 – It’s a workhorse, a powerhouse, and other exaggerated names that are totally true. I was looking to make the switch to medium format a few years ago, and once this behemoth landed in my hands, I was in love. You know, not actual love, but strong feelings.
Seriously though, if you haven’t heard of this camera, you might be a little behind the times of what’s coming; between the incredible (and very large) files, beautiful color, dynamic range, and durability, it’s an easy win for me.
Fujifilm GFX50S – I have this as my backup at the moment; it is a worthy and affordable way to get into medium-format bodies. If you’re a portrait photographer looking to up your game, then this is the way to go!
Fujifilm X-T3 – If you want to know how I actually fell in love with Fujifilm, it’s this camera and the 56mm f/1.2 lens. I had a magical experience with this camera after a period of burnout in my career.
I flew in to speak at a workshop near LA and immediately went to Venice Beach to eat tacos and take pictures. You could say it saved my career, or you could say it re-ignited my passion for photography.
It’s the perfect combination of small, powerful, and affordable.
Fujifilm X-H2S – This is what will be the new X-T3 in my kit, but I will always remember what the X-T3 did for me, which is why it sits above this camera.
Now, that being said, this camera is one of the newest from Fujifilm, and it is UNREAL!
If you are looking for a body that does it all, including video, this is the body for you.
In fact, in today’s world, if I had to recommend a camera for people starting out who also want to do motion, this would be the one.
Fujifilm X100V – I don’t think I realized how excited I am about Fujifilm cameras until I started to write these descriptions. This little guy was such a special addition to our family, our literal family; it is the way I tell everyday stories.
If we go out on a family outing that I want to document, you’ll find the X100V slung around my shoulder. The number one comment I get when I put this in other people’s hands is, “this camera makes me look like a good photographer”.
I also give this camera to my assistants to grab BTS while we’re shooting; it’s so simple to use and creates images that can easily be commercial quality.
I am not going to list all the lenses I have because that’s a lot, but I’ll tell you the ones I most often grab on a set.
Fujifilm GF80mm f/1.7 R WR – This thing could almost be glued to my Fujifilm GFX 100 and I’d be totally cool with that. You might ask, do you ever shoot a medium format camera on f/1.7, to which I would reply, hell yes!
I haven’t found anything that this lens isn’t good for, although I am not a landscape guy, so you can fight me on that.
Fujifilm GF 110mm f/2 R LM WR – A portrait photographer’s dream, it’s kind of ridiculous what this lens can do, and yes, I shoot it wide open as well. I tend to like the eighty-millimeter focal length a little more, so you’ll see me use this one less, but I do certainly like its vibe.
Fujifilm GF 32-64mm f/4 R LM WR – I like prime lenses a lot, and I don’t know if I could live without this lens. It’s got me out of some tight spots, and it never ceases to impress me.
It is also one of my most used lenses on a client set, the quality of the image and consistency of results is never in question. Environmental portraits love this lens; it gives you flexibility and minimal distortion.
Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 R APD – Where do I start with this lens? It changed the way that I see. I literally have moments now when I know the only way to capture what I see in my head is with this lens. It’s the bokeh, the sharpness, the focus, the flare. It’s just all good.
Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2 R WR – It’s a good one to have especially when I’m pretending to be a street photographer. It also gives quite a cool perspective for portraits.
Fujifilm XF 18mm f/2 R – This dude is TINY! I mean, you might need to check you have a lens on. I don’t use this one as much, but it’s been rad for motion work and creates a super cool perspective for working with people.
Tamron 17-70mm f/2.8 Di III-A VC RXD – I’ve been with Tamron since my Nikon days, and I love the glass they put out. I was beyond stoked when they started making lenses with Fujifilm mounts, and this new lens is becoming a welcome addition to my kit.
Elinchrom ELB 500 – These are my main lights, and they go where I go.
Elinchrom ELB 1200 – This guy is a beast. It can do some incredible things when I need a lot of juice on location or in the studio. I prefer the HS heads if I had to pick.
Elinchrom D-LITE RX 4 – If you want to get into lighting on a budget, then this is the light for you! All kinds of abilities with very little cost. I almost always have these with me on shoots.
Elinchrom ELC 500 – The more expensive and newer older brother of the D-lite, they are rad and very helpful, but I mostly use them in the studio. If you can swing it, then I would buy one of these for your studio.
Elinchrom One – At first, I wasn’t sold on this little guy, but now that I’ve hucked it all over and crammed it into a bunch of small spaces, I’m sold. If you need something small and easy to pack, this is great, but it lacks the power to be a true key light IMO.
Rosco DMG Dash – This is a new addition to the kit, and it’s like a secret weapon! It can be used in so many ways, and I’m finding new ways every day. It’s an LED that can change color and match all the gels that Rosco makes. It’s a real game-changer!
I own and use many different modifiers. The real key is understanding what they do so you can manipulate them to be what you want. This is definitely not everything, but I wanted to give you an idea of my favorites because I get this question a lot.
Rotalux 53” Octabox – This is not only my favorite but my most used; it is small enough to be travel friendly and large enough to make beautiful soft lighting.
Rotalux 39” Deep Octabox – This one brings some beautiful drama and can give you a little more control over the mood.
Litemotiv 75” Indirect Octabox – This one is also one of the most used in my kit, but it is also the most expensive. They make a Rotalux 69” indirect, which is a little cheaper, but it’s not as good. I use this one for fill, key, and background; you name it, it’s just a workhorse.
Rotalux Small Strip Box (with Grid) – I use this mostly for edge lighting of small fill light, but it can also make for a super contrasty key light. Add the grid for a ton of control and use it to light specific areas of the scene.
Rotalux 69” Octabox – This is not the indirect model, but it can put out some really beautiful light. I almost always double-diffuse this one and tend to use it more for fill than anything else.
I’ve been rolling with Tenba for some time now (pun intended), and they never cease to impress me when it comes to durability and innovation.
Tenba Transport Aire Case Attache (2520W and 3220W) – I travel everywhere with these cases for my lights. I stopped using the Pelican cases a long time ago; not only are these super tough, but they also don’t scream I’m holding super expensive equipment. Please steal me!
Tenba Roadie Roller 21 – Here’s where all the camera bodies that I listed above live, nice and cozy away from harm.
Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21 – This is where all my lenses live, providing a little added protection for all that glass.
Tenba Shootout 24L Backpack – If I need a lot of my cameras and lenses, and I need to carry them a long way, this is what I use.
Tenba DNA 16 DSLR Backpack – A few cameras and some clothes for a short trip. This is all I need.
Shimoda Explore 60 Backpack – Imagine a backpacker who also wanted to bring a load of camera gear then, this would be a good choice. I have used it countless times to haul tons of gear into the wilderness. I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t mention this bag.
I use Benro tripods, particularly carbon fiber and ball heads models, for my photographic work. I am not going to list all of what I have here, but my go-to kit would be the Mach 3 Long Series with the G3 Ball head.
I am definitely not going to bore you with a bunch of grip info, but I travel with Kupo Gear. They have a c-stand and turtle base with quick release that will change your photography.
One thing I wanted to mention about Kupo is that you can get arms with a hex head so your lights won’t slip; just genius!
And yes, the fedora. Okay, okay, this isn’t really a piece of equipment, but it’s become a thing for me ever since I started wearing Goorin in SF at the beginning of my career. I feel kind of naked without a fedora, so it’s making it on the kit list 😉
My favorite hat for shooting right now is my Dean the Butcher from Goorin Bros. The one I have is a special edition stained with coffee which makes good sense.
Alright, alright, alright…I’m not going to bore you with any more gear stuff!
Remember, it took me YEARS to get to this stage, and every time I have a gig, I try to get a piece of equipment that I’ve been wanting or needing. Don’t think you need to get everything at once, and never let it stop you from creating with what you already have.
If you have any questions or want to say hi, you know where to find me.
Enjoy the journey, and be awesome!