Pro photographer Justin Hession reveals the kit he uses for commercial shoots

(Image credit: Justin Hession)

Based out of Zurich, Switzerland, Justin Hession has taken his photography all around the world. Having starting photography in Australia in the Nineties, when film was still king, he moved to India to teach photography before working as a staff photographer at a major newspaper and then landing in Zurich, where he shoots commercial portraits. 

We recently sat down with Justin to find out how he got into photography, the types of portraits he likes to take and the essential camera kit that he couldn't live without. 

• Read more: Best cameras for portrait photography

"I picked up a camera for the first time in my 20s, when I went backpacking. After getting a taste for it, I decided to study photography when I got back to Australia. I was into sports and adventure photography, so to end up in portraiture 20 years later still surprises me. 

"I guess it was the challenge of working with people. I always liked having people in my images and the more I learned, the more I found satisfaction in needing to control and shape them.

Justin Hession shooting on location (Image credit: Justin Hession)

"I also like the versatility of shooting on location – on a typical shoot, I never know what I will find. I arrive early, scope out the surroundings, visualize the lighting and start the shoot nice and relaxed. Shoots vary wildly depending on whether they’re indoors or outdoors. My main portrait jobs are usually very quick as I only have 30 minutes to shoot, so arriving early, setting up and finding good locations is key to a smooth photo shoot.

"In my career, I have seen the transformation from film to digital and have been shooting with Canon for 30 years. These modern cameras totally blow my mind. The ISO, autofocus, lens sharpness, image stabilization… When people ask me what the best camera is, I always say, 'Anything with a screen on it.' 

"I have used the mirrorless Canon EOS R5 a few times on TV sets where silence is required during live broadcasts. The autofocus is amazing. With the way I currently shoot, I don’t see a need to upgrade yet. My photography is usually very slow and speed is not required."

01. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

(Image credit: Canon)

"The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is my go-to camera. It’s a robust workhorse, versatile and delivers almost everything I need. I’ve been shooting with Canon since the film days and have never been happier. The 30MP file size, ISO quality and the array of different functions combined with the reliability enable me to concentrate on the subject and not worry about the quality of my equipment."

02. Canon EOS 5DS R

Canon EOS 5DS R

(Image credit: Canon )

"For jobs I can’t do with my EOS 5D Mark IV, I turn to the EOS 5DS R for its larger 50MP sensor. The extra file size gives my clients the room to crop and enlarge to almost any size they wish. When ISO is not critical and I’m shooting off a tripod, I turn to the 5DS R. All pros should also have a spare camera body in case anything goes wrong on a shoot, so the 5DS R comes everywhere with me."

03. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

(Image credit: Canon)

"This is a great low-light fast lens and it’s incredibly versatile. I use it for portraiture, editorial and interior photography. For its price, it’s incredible value and worth the investment. The amazing sharpness and minimal distortion, even at 24mm, gives me confidence in using it for my portrait jobs."

04. Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM

(Image credit: Canon)

"This lens is a faultless piece of equipment and I couldn’t imagine doing a job without it. The combination of having a zoom and great image quality makes it a very practical optic. Carrying prime lenses has never been an option for my mobile work."

05. Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM

(Image credit: Canon)

"Although I don’t use it all the time, when I do it has absolutely saved me when I’ve needed an extreme wide-angle field of view – especially in those tight interiors with very limited room, such as bathrooms and small bedrooms. The ultra-wide angle is great for playing around with new perspectives and is also very useful for large group photos with little space."

06. Elinchrom Ranger Quadra


(Image credit: Justin Hession)

"I couldn’t imagine going to a job where I can’t control the lighting. The Quadra is a workhorse – I’ve been using it for over 10 years. It’s so reliable, lightweight and tough, and the lighting quality together with Elinchrom softboxes is fantastic. The wireless EL-Skyport pairs with Canon cameras, plus it’s a portable system that needs no power source."

To see more of Justin's awesome portraiture, check out his Instagram.

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