The Rig: Bert Stephani

Who are you and what’s your profession

My name is Bert Stephani and I’m a professional photographer from Belgium. That’s a tiny country in the middle of Europe famous for it’s beer, chocolate and for inventing fries. The French stole the fries from us, but it should actually be “Belgian fries“. As a photographer I specialize in not being specialized. But I’m always interested in people, so most of my work is centered around portraiture and reportage/documentary. I’m a story teller and feel equally at home telling the stories of private, commercial, editorial or corporate clients. I also get a lot of satisfaction out of sharing my knowledge with other photographers through blogging, workshops and lectures.

My family is my biggest joy and inspiration. My lovely wife Stacy keeps my feet firmly on the ground and I deeply respect her ability to live with someone with a chaotic creative brain. My three kids Kobe (10), Maya (9) and Noa (6) mean the world to me and teach me valuable lessons every day on how to stay amazed.

Most of my spare time is spent with my family. I enjoy being out in nature, travel, read and sharing a great meal with friends.

What’s your rig?

Since I year I’m pretty much all Fuji. I have an X-Pro1, X-M1 and an X100s and I’m currently trying to decide if I will replace the X-Pro1 with the X-E2 or wait for the X-Pro2. The X-Pro1 is my main portrait camera and the X100s is my main reportage camera. The X-M1 doesn’t see much action and is mostly a backup although the tilting screen can come in handy some times.

The 35mm 1.4 is my favorite lens, closely followed by the 14mm 2.8. I prefer prime lenses but sometimes the job requires being fast and flexible. In those cases the 18-55 sees a lot of use too. I also have the 55-200 but since I prefer shorter lenses these days, it doesn’t see much action. And then there’s the pre-release 23mm 1.4 that I keep forgetting to return to Fujifilm after testing it ūüėČ

For 90% of my assignments I’m forcing myself to only bring a small Thinktank Retrospective 7 bag. It fits two cameras, a couple of lenses and some bits and pieces like spare batteries (a lot), a small flash, cards, gaffer tape … The rest of my camera gear goes into another small bag but generally stays in my car. I found out I make much better pictures if I don’t have too many gear options.

I also carry a Standbagger bag that contains two small lightstands (Manfrotto Nano), two Lumopro LP180 flashes, three good old Pocketwizards Plus II, spare AA batteries, two shoot through umbrellas, a gorillapod and a showercurtain (great light diffuser). I also keep some California Sunbounce reflectors in my car and an Elinchrom Quadra in case I need more flash power on location.

In the studio, which I don’t really use enough, I have a nice Elinchrom setup with 5 monoblocs, Chimera softboxes, reflectors, Sunbounce reflectors, …

What hardware do you use?

I’m using a three year old 27″ iMac. I should probably add some more RAM though. I also have a four year old Macbook Pro but that doesn’t see much action since I have an iPad 3. I’m stubbornly holding on to my iPhone 4 but I’ll probably have to upgrade sometime soon. I have a Wacom Intuos 3 for editing. For backup and archiving I use a Synology NAS with four drives. I also have an Epson R3880 printer mainly because I just love a nice print.

What software do you use?

Lightroom 5 is my my main editing application and in 98% of all my pictures also the only software I use. I often use one of my own presets as a starting point and tweak from there. I have the Adobe Creative Cloud suite because sometimes I just need Photoshop or Indesign. For educational videos etc. I’m using Adobe Premiere CC.

Some other software I use:

  • Crashplan for online backups of my computers and NAS
  • Mail … for mail
  • Keynote for my lectures and workshops
  • I would be lost without iCal (my wife uses it too so we can share our agendas)
  • Dropbox
  • Freshbooks for invoicing
  • Evernote
  • Wunderlist for my todo-lists
  • WordPress for my websites
  • 500px although I don’t have much time for it
  • Photoshelter, these days it’s largely replaced by Dropbox but I keep it mainly because I admire how the people at Photoshelter educate photographers.

I’m pretty addicted to my iPhone/iPad and I’m always ttrying to transfer as much of my administration and social media things to my iDevices. That way I can take care of those things while I’m stuck in traffic or waiting for a client. I’m a big fan of cloud based solutions that easily sync between my computers, iPhone and iPad. Some of my favorite apps/services:¬†Facebook,¬†Twitter,¬†Evernote,¬†Dropbox,¬†Facetime,¬†Instagram,¬†Wunderlist,¬†Snapseed,¬†Navigon, Kindle, iBooks, Flipboard, Scoop.it, Keynote, NBA Game Time, Geocaching, …

What would be your dream rig?

Once the Fujinon 56mm 1.2 is available, my dream rig is pretty much complete. A weather sealed, dual SD slot, faster X-Pro2 would be nice too. I also wish someone could make an affordable underwater housing for the X-Pro2 to replace the Olympus E-PL1 underwater kit that I sometimes use. Some continuous lighting for the studio would be nice too.

If money was not an issue, I’d like to have a nice Phase One medium format kit to use occasionally.

What’s your favorite photography quote?

I once had a chat on Facebook with a young professional musician and she said something that I found incredibly beautiful:

In photography shadows are like silence in music

more about me and my work:
check out our new educational website:

12 thoughts on “The Rig: Bert Stephani

  1. “In photography shadows are like silence in music”. I like the concept, but as a professional guitarist, I have always felt the silence/break in music was more akin to “white space” in good graphic design, allowing things to “breathe” (think Led Zeppelin). I will add that it was a very astute observation on behalf of the young muso, something, I suspect, that the vast majority of people don’t perceive.

    Cheers.

  2. The more I read of you and from you, the more I appreciate what a good guy you must be. Always good to see there are those like you out there. Cheers! And thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights.

  3. 100% eens met alles wat je schrijft. Na heel wat overweging, ook terug DSLR (ik heb destijds een paar posts gedaan), is ook de X-Pro2 voor mij het volgende target. Net als die 56mm, het zou wel eens van de beste portretlenzen op de markt kunnen worden, beter dan die Nikon 58mm of Zeiss Otis.

    Als ik eerlijk ben, ik heb nog nooit aan camera’s zoveel plezier beleeft als eerst de X100, daarna de X-Pro1 en elke camera heeft per slot van rekening zijn probleempjes. Het loont volgens mij de moeite om die paar maanden te wachten, anders loop je toch weer √©√©n of andere teleurstelling op.

    Wat ik wel nog wou aangeven, ik vind Lightroom niet de beste keuze voor Fuji X. Apple Aperture levert met de RAW’s echt betere resultaten op, scherper, minder artifacts, iets meer gesatureerde kleuren. Heb verschillende keren vergelijkingen uitgevoerd, ook met andere pakketen en ik geef Aperture echt voor geen enkel ander pakket op, zelfs niet Iridient, waar ook met heel veel lof over geschreven is.

    1. Thanks for chiming in Dirk, I took the liberty to “translate” via Google Translate your comment.

      100% agree with everything you write. After some consideration, even back DSLR (I have done then a few posts), is also the X-Pro2 for me the next target. Like the 56mm, it just might be the best portrait lenses on the market can be better than that of Nikon 58mm Zeiss Otis.

      If I’m honest, I’ve never had so much fun with cameras like the X100 first, then the X-Pro1 and every camera has, after all his problems. It pays to me bother to wait those few months, otherwise you still walk back any disappointment.

      What I have tried to indicate, I do not think Lightroom is the best choice for Fuji X. Apple Aperture delivers the RAW’s really better results, sharper, less artifacts, slightly more saturated colors. Do comparisons performed several times, with other packages and I give Aperture really no other package, even Iridient, which also written with a lot of praise.

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