PHLEARN MagazineJohn Wilhelm Shares His Favorite Gear for Creating Hilarious Family Portraits

John Wilhelm Shares His Favorite Gear for Creating Hilarious Family Portraits

Capturing the comical and sometimes surreal aspects of childhood and family life are something of a specialty for John Wilhelm. Going miles beyond the average family photoshoot, his portraits capture a variety of emotions spanning from tenderness to downright hilarity.

But the mood he is so good at conveying doesn’t happen on its own. Often lacing several shots together to create one dreamlike scene, John’s work requires a detail-oriented vision and precise execution. Here, he tells us what gear he uses to create his incredible composites with 3D elements.


Sony a7R III

42MP Full-Frame Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor, 399-Point AF System, Built-In Wi-Fi/Bluetooth, Dual SD Slots

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According to my Lightroom database, I have owned 89 Cameras and 112 lenses. The Sony a7r III is the first camera I love everything about. Handling, quality, weight, speed… just everything!


Sony 24-70 2.8 GM lens

Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/22, Direct Drive Super Sonic Wave AF Motor, Focus Hold Button; Internal Focus

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Venus Optics Laowa 15mm f/4 Macro

Aperture Range: f/4 to f/32, Manual Focus and Aperture

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Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 Lens

Aperture Range: f/1.8 to f/22, One Extra-Low Dispersion Element, Double Linear AF Motor

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The Sony 24-70 G Master build and image quality are just superior! It’s a lot of glass, but a D800 with the Nikon 24-70 is much heavier. Another lens I love is the Laowa Wide Angle Macro 15mm because it’s just so unique. For portraits I also love the Sony 85mm 1.8. I have also worked with the 1.4, but in my honest opinion it is not worth the money.


Elinchrom ELB 500 TTL

ELB 500 Flash Head, ELB 500 TTL Pack with Battery

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Of course, I use Elinchrom. The ease of use and quality are absolutely perfect. I just bought an ELB 500 TTL and if you’re looking for something portable you have to check it out. Hi-Sync, TTL, everything is there in one little machine.


I own an older Boblbee. It feels like I could be run over by a tank and nothing would happen to my gear with this pack. Boblbee is absolutely great and I don’t get why everybody isn’t walking around with one.


A Wacom Cintiq is absolutely essential.

Tell us how you go about deciding which gear is essential to your work.

I’m pretty quick in ordering new stuff. If it fits or enhances my workflow I keep it, if not I sell it immediately.

To see more of John’s unique and humorous work and to get a look behind the scenes, check out his website. There, you can view timelapse videos of his workflow, see before and after shots, and shop for prints. You can also follow him on Instagram, Facebook, or Flickr.

Maggie King

Maggie King is a freelance photo editor, illustrator, and writer in Memphis, Tennessee. She loves exploring with her camera and working on her pet project, The Kinglets, a comic series based on the antics of her three lovable and exhausting children.


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