Archivi categoria: thoughts

This is Why Ultra High ISO is a Big Deal in Photography

Ultra high ISO with lots of noise… There’s a lot of buzz going around about the new Pentax KP with it’s maximum ISO of 819200. Every comment I read says ‘what’s the point’?

Well, here are two benefits: late night framing and focus.

I love taking landscape shots late at night, but that kind of photography comes with difficulties. It’s extremely hard to focus (your autofocus won’t work) and sometimes you can’t even see what’s in the frame.

My solution to this is to use ultra high ISO to check framing and focus before taking the ‘real’ shot. Here’s an example:

I was shooting a Gannet colony in New Zealand at a place called Muriwai. To capture these nesting birds in this light I needed a 60 second exposure at f/3.5, followed by a 60 second cool down time while my camera performed long shutter noise reduction. That meant 2 minutes for every image!… I’m patient, but I don’t want to wait 2 minutes to find out that I don’t like the composition or I’m out of focus. So I took 2 shots:

The first, at my Panasonic GX8′s maximum ISO of 25600 at 5 seconds just to check that I liked what was in the frame and that the lens was in focus.

Once I was happy with that I took the second image at a much more reasonable ISO 1800 for 60 seconds.

This has had some distortion correction and is ready to publish!


About the author: Charles Brooks is a photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand, who is internationally renowned for his commercial, portrait, and landscape photos. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the photographer. You can find more of his work and connect with him on his website, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. This article was also published here.

The Problem of Fake Photos in Fake News

The New York Times just reported an incredible story of how a 23-year old recent college graduate created a fake news story about fraudulent Clinton votes in Ohio and netted $22,000 on a fake news website from ads.

Desperate for cash to pay for living expenses, Cameron Harris concocted the piece, which was quickly picked up by pro-Trump websites:

Embedded within Harris’ story was an image he stole (“With a quick Google image search for ‘ballot boxes’”) that allegedly showed “Randall Prince, a Columbus-area electrical worker,” who had discovered the fake ballots. The image was actually from the Birmingham Mail, a UK-based news site and showed a worker delivering ballot boxes to a district community center in Sheldon.

The original, undoctored image. Photo by Birmingham Mail

According to Snopes, Harris flipped the image and blacked out some of the lettering on the boxes in “an apparent attempt to make it difficult to find the original image.”

History is littered with allegations of staged photography in news settings, but the decentralization of the news media and the rise of hyper-partisan sites has led to something else: image theft and fraudulent captions.

And with the potential for virality, individuals are using social media as springboards for fraudulent imagery like this image from circa 2013 that was promoted by @YoungDems4Trump as evidence of a mass of bikers making their way to Trump’s inauguration.

I’m a Photographer (Who Happens to Shoot Weddings)

My name is Duy Ho, and I’ve been photographing weddings since 2011. I established my style by embracing my personal interests and influences: an architecture and design background, my love of cinematography and film, a respect for classic and renaissance art, and a quirky obsession with the chiaroscuro style of painting.

To further refine my style, I rely heavily on my continuing effort to become a better photographer in a variety of fields outside of weddings.

I don’t believe mastery of any single genre or art involves solely focusing on doing that one thing over and over. Exploring outside of the wedding industry bubble allowed me to make connections and reach solutions that I might not have otherwise considered. I feel like it’s stating the obvious, but the wider the breadth of photography I pursued, the better I could abstractly pull into my wedding work. Just as my architecture affected my understanding of photography, my studio exercises changed the way I use and think about lighting for weddings. The compositional eye I developed in landscape photographs affects how I take on a scenic ceremony. My street photography improves my anticipation and reaction time for candid moments, and so on.

I truly believe that as I study one branch of photography, I am strengthening my capacity in others. Implementing the thinking and technique of multiple genres is like keys on a piano: one note at a time can deliver a melody, but the richness of chords and harmonies can make for something far more impactful.

Architecture and Landscape

I consider landscape and architecture photography to be related. Both deal in a sense of place, as well as finding the right time of day to get the right light on the scene. Without a specific human story to tell, my goal is to convey how this scene speaks to me. Internalize questions to divine a photographic answer. Is it alive and chaotic? Or serene and peaceful? What’s important? How do I show that? This has the benefit of allowing me to take my time and think more about what I’m doing, while at the same time, re-training myself to be less reliant on instinct and reflexes.

My studies in architecture and my interest in photographing cities and structures greatly influence the way I see geometry in a scene. This has become a significant part of how I construct a composition.

As a wedding photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area, I often work in Napa, Sonoma, somewhere in the mountains, or along the coast. Being able to capture these vivid landscapes in the context of a client’s wedding day or portraits enhances the story telling and gives greater context to the event.

Models in Natural Light

Working with great models can be incredibly helpful in developing an eye for what angles work well, how to look at subtleties of body language, and taking out the equation of posing so that the only focus in on light and composition.

Models in Controlled Light

As I felt more comfortable with natural light, I started working more with strobes/flashes. Going back and forth between natural light and studio light made me more keenly aware of how I wanted to position people relative to the sun and, conversely, where I wanted to place light relative to the subjects. These studies came with the added benefit of allowing me to become more comfortable and quick with wedding lighting set-up.

Models and Fitness

Fitness photography has the added benefit of potentially incorporating movement in a straight forward and comprehensible way. Exploring this genre also brought timing back into the fold, along with consideration of light and composition.

Fashion and model photography has strong parallels with my job as a wedding photographer. The knowledge gained here allows greater ease while working with couples. For example, once I began recognizing the subtle differences in body language between a “stiff” look and a “natural” pose, I could effectively check for any unflattering or distracting body language with my clients during more posed sessions. By playing with both natural and artificial light, I garnered a greater understanding of how to “see” good light and utilize any number of lighting conditions. This knowledge enables me to not only find the light I want, but additionally, allows me to confidently create it in situations where it doesn’t exist, such as a reception.

Street and Travel

Street and documentary photography puts us into the realm of the slightly unpredictable. It focuses more on a smaller subset of the scene and is intended to share a narrative. As such, moment has a significant role here. As wedding photographer, I’m subject to the forces of chance. While street photography does not allow me to control what light the moment happens in, I can still control the composition. I’m forced to rely a bit more on anticipation, timing, and a little luck.

Friends and Family

Working with models can only take me so far, obviously, so I try to bring my camera whenever I go visit friends and family. Documenting my experiences with friends and family can be fun and helps me prepare for spontaneity.

Both street photography and subjecting my nephews to my camera have helped improve my timing and composition for candid moments.

Know Your Tools

Lastly, I want the value of my constant pursuit of fully understanding my cameras, lights, lenses, and software.

I’ll be the first to admit that my obsession with photography very much began with a fascination of the gear. The feel of a bigger camera in my hands, the look of an image shot at f/1.2, the sounds of the shutter, all contribute to a visceral experience for me. I don’t believe that buying better stuff will make me a better photographer, but it does make me want to go out and shoot more — and that truly does make me better. Even if I don’t come back with an image I’m happy with, the process of assessing the scene, dialing in exposure, messing around with processing all contribute to making me more efficient at the act of generating work.

Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of my tools can help me in decision-making: how far to push an image or finding a new angle. Knowing my camera like the back of my hand helps me make adjustments on the fly without having to think about it or look down at the dials.

Photographing weddings since 2011 has given me a tremendous amount of experience learning the nuances of managing my time and my clients’ experiences. I have been highly influenced by the work of some of the top photographers in the field in their ingenuity and vision like Chrisman Studios, Two Mann, Todd Laffler, Hoffer Photography, Citlalli Rico, and Apertura. Moreover, I respect their love for the craft. I know that my work today would not be what it would be if I had not thrust myself in several different genres and explored. My goal isn’t to become the best wedding photographer I can be. It’s simply to be the best photographer I can be.

I just happen to enjoy weddings.


About the author: Duy Ho is a full-time wedding photographer in San Francisco. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. He graduated from the Harvard Graduate School of Design with a Masters in Architecture. You can find more of his work on his website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Don’t Fetishize This Image

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Burhan Ozbilici’s stunning photo of a gunman moments after assassinating the Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov spread like wildfire over social media. While many within the photojournalism community quickly declared the image as the “photo of the year,” and worth of top prizes, one voice offered dissent.

Matt Slaby is a photographer and founding member of Luceo Images, a creative visual agency that originally started as a collective of top photojournalists.

On a public Facebook thread, Slaby wrote:

slaby

Media folks, is it too much to suggest that imagery of human beings being killed be spared the awkward, bro-ish fist-pumping whereby we extol the quality of the image in ‘best-of’ terms? There’s nothing amazing, heroic, or powerful about the things we are seeing today. The commentary that’s filling my feed right now is pure discord and belies a kind of disconnected entertainment we get out of horror movies. Except this is real life. Maybe I’m alone in this sentiment, but I think its good to remember that. Always.

I reached out to Slaby via e-mail to get more of his thoughts on the matter.

Social commentary aside, what was your initial reaction to the photo?

Matt Slaby: I don’t think there is any doubt that the picture is a strong news photograph. The image is cinematic. You could have pulled this still from a Guy Ritchie or Quentin Tarantino movie. Which is something that, I suspect, we are all seeing in the image. There is a sense of life imitating art in the dress, posture, expression, and raw violence on the backdrop of an otherwise sterile photography opening.

Photo by Burhan Ozbilici/AP
Photo by Burhan Ozbilici/AP
Film still from Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs
Film still from Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs

How does the image compare to Napalm Girl, Jack Ruby, and Asanuma?

Matt Slaby: The differences are actually easier for me to point out. For starters, it’s contemporary. It’s shot in color. It’s impeccably clear in its focus and resolution and, relative to the photographs you are talking about, hyper-realistic. Like I’ve said, we’ve seen this image before. It just happens to be in the movies. The second difference that is obvious is that the focus of this image is on the assailant and not the victim. The three images you talked about are compelling in their own right because we see the expression of the victim and connect with the horrors those images present in an empathic way. This image is different. We are seeing the anti-hero, David over the slain Goliath. All social commentary aside, it is a much different image than the historical images you’ve referenced.

You raised objections to the fetishization of the image. Can you elaborate?

Matt Slaby: My objections were voiced in a Facebook post I made reacting to a string of commentary that I was seeing on the day the image was made. Most of the commentary was from people who are in the photo business. These posts, boiled down, essentially bypassed any reaction to the very human tragedy that the image presented, opting instead to extol the virtues of the images in ‘best-of’ terms. I believe that language and context matters immensely when it comes to how we view imagery. In an era that creates more pictures each day than were created in the first 100 years of photographic technology, I think it matters even more. Essentially, we are rapidly approaching a time when all things can be visible at all times. If we’re viewing those things with this binary good/bad, thumbs-up/thumbs-down framework, I believe we’re really missing the point. Giving a thumbs-up to an image that depicts a human being killing another human being is deeply discordant and troubling. I’m afraid that human nature is to resolve that discord in a manner that objectifies and dehumanizes the content therein. My thoughts on this aren’t new, it’s just something that I felt compelled to point out as it happened because it was a moment in time when we could actually witness the black chemistry that works to transform a human being into an object for consumption and that was happening right before our eyes.

In your opinion, what is the appropriate way to acknowledge a strong image while respecting the subjects?

Matt Slaby: I’m not sure that this is the best starting point for discussion. By way of background, I worked in emergency services for seven years. I spent six years with a major metropolitan ambulance company. We ran about 17,000 calls each year between three ambulances. In short, we were busy. I’m no stranger to tragedy, death, and gallows humor. As I’ve grown from a young man into a man headed into middle age, my perspectives on some of this stuff have developed. I’m afraid that death and killing is something that inherently disrespects the subjects. I’m not sure that the photographer or the publisher of these images can undo that. There’s no real way around that. My concern for our industry is that we have an internal romance with violence that is a little prurient. It’s how we end up with war photographers being hired for fashion shoots. It’s reflective of this fetishization and the cross-over is predictable and a little bit weird.

I’m not arguing that the photograph shouldn’t be seen or have an audience, though I am sometimes challenged by the context in which those pictures appear. They don’t belong in year-end ‘best of’ galleries. I think they compel us to find some morality in our vision and have no placed next to words that contextualize the image in the same way that we talk about a great football play.

You said “populism has a way of eschewing nuance.” I agree in principle, but can you elaborate on the nuance of this photo?

Matt Slaby: The real nuance of this image is not in the image itself, but what it signifies geopolitically, and what it means for the balance of powers that are edging free from the fulcrum. I said it offhand and really meant it as a way to help us refocus on what the image means rather than the fist-pumping for the photographer.

In the Facebook thread, both you and another photographer referenced Daniel Berehulak’s reportage for the NYT. Are you raising objection to the photographer’s work or the industry’s response to the work (or both)?

Matt Slaby: I’m not raising objection to his work. It is in the vein of photojournalism that offers incredible insight and context to what we see in the pictures. [The other photographer] was pointing something out that I happen to agree with: when those pictures published, my social feeds were full of the same hyper-macho talk about the photographer rather than the work and what the work meant. It’s deeply troubling to me.

We can scrutinize the industry response to the image, but what about the public’s response? Many people said it “looks staged” without implying that is actually staged. How should the public respond to a powerful image (I’m also thinking of images like Omran Daqneesh)?

Matt Slaby: There is also an element of the public that believes that Sandy Hook was staged. We are living in a time when lies have as much credibility as truth. The most troubling thing about this is something that you alluded to in a previous question. Namely, our ability to explore the nuanced spectrum that falls between absolute truth and absolute lies has been eroded. I’m not sure how to approach this problem, but it suggests a layer of thinking that probably hasn’t been part of the editorial process before. I’m not sure that I entirely agree with where this goes logically, but the suggestion that people don’t actually believe the content of a picture certainly erodes its efficacy as a communication tool. Which begs the question: is a photograph effective and newsworthy if it is unbelievable? I don’t necessarily like the outcomes that that question suggests, but it certainly illustrates the weird times we are living in.


About the author: Allen Murabayashi is the Chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter, which regularly publishes resources for photographers. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Allen is a graduate of Yale University, and flosses daily. This article was also published here.

Yes, Photo Client, You Do Have ALL of Your Pictures!

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I covered an event some months ago over a period of a few days during which, as you can imagine, many hundreds of photos were taken. Due to the popularity of this event, (we’ve covered it over a number of years, thankfully) I knew the folks that were a part of it were really going to be anxious to see, share, print, etc.

After editing and uploading their photos to the online gallery, they ended up having a really great selection of photos that told the story of their event quite well. All images showed people having a good time, shaking hands, hugging, smiling, laughing, posing for group shots; basically enjoying their evening.

Any photographer that has been doing this for a while can judge the evening pretty well. Actually, more than that. We can judge the day, the event, the evening, the shoot, whatever it is, we can sum it up and pretty much determine how it’s all going to roll. Once in awhile curve balls are thrown, but if you do it long enough, nothing is really a surprise — and that is a good thing.

The evening was slow, not much was happening. You can only get so many photos of the same people doing various activities. While there are infinite poses and different combinations of people you can pose with, after a while you’ve gotten everything. Seriously… everything.

After sending the gallery to the clients, I get a text a few minutes later.

Client: Are you sure that is everything? We just remember a lot more photos being taken…

Me: Hello! Yes, that is absolutely everything. What you didn’t get were any test shots, or shots where you or others were blinking, or were in between facial expressions.

Client: So out of 2 days, (4 hours each day), all we got was 600 photos?

Me: Yes ma’am. You got the absolute best photos from your event.

And that was it.

So why are clients surprised by the number of photos, and why is there so much emphasis over “THE NUMBER”? Why does there have to be a number? If you are covering the day perfectly, and not shooting your camera off like a machine gun, then why are the photos you deliver never enough (sometimes)? If you are shooting moments as they unfold, as well as moments that the clients have arranged, (as well as the band, the food, the room itself, the table settings, the event space, and every single guest in candid and posed positions), why is it that people think there should be thousands of photos to thumb through?

It all goes back to client education. I always let my clients know, whether it is a bride and groom, a CEO, or a model, the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, & WHY.

WHO: Who will be on the shoot that day (assistants, make up artists, etc.)

WHAT: What exactly we are shooting, what we are going to accomplish, what you should expect from us during the shoot, as well as what you can expect AFTER the shoot.

WHERE: Exact address(s) where coverage is needed

WHEN: Exact time and date of coverage

WHY: Depends on the event (wedding, event, etc.)

While I have worked with this company for a few years now, they know what to expect of me. However the girl that I had been corresponding with did not know what to expect from me — she was new — and no one there informed her of the way we usually work. Ultimately this was my responsibility to make sure she knew how I operated, and how we have handled images in the past. So… my bad!

We don’t cover anything — be it weddings, events, or commercial shoots — by standing around holding our shutter down, and pointing it in all directions firing just so that we can look busy and productive. We are keenly aware of our surroundings, and really try hard to anticipate what will happen next. If we see something special happening, or shots our clients have arranged, we will definitely take the photo.

At the end of the day, it all goes back to a number. What number are clients generally looking for? Over the years, the number can go either way. Some clients think 200 is way too much, others snicker at 200 and ask “Why not 2000?!”

In the day and age of instant gratification, and cell phone cameras, we forget that photography is really an art. We don’t hold our cameras up and record every single thing like a cell phone can. I’ve had clients’ First Looks go on Facebook before I can even take a second shot — it’s incredible!

Some clients ask me how many images they’ll get, and I tell them, “Honestly, I don’t have an answer. We average 75 images per hour, BUT it depends on what your wedding (or event) is like!” If you have planned 8 hours of coverage, but have only invited 50 people to your wedding, and you are not having a reception afterwards, you can probably expect significantly less photos than if your 8 hour wedding has 250 people, a DJ that is commanding a packed floor, and lots of food being catered.

If there is a lot going on that needs to be photographed, more photographic opportunities come out of that. If we are shooting a quiet gathering of friends who eat dinner for 2 out of the 4 hours that we are there, then you will probably not get many photos…

While we are shooting ANYTHING, we are not thinking about any certain number of images. We are thinking about the moment. What is happening NOW? Are we successfully telling the story of what is happening here today? If we put too much emphasis on a certain number of photographs that we must hit, then we are put into a situation where we are worried about JUST the number, and not the quality of the photos. We are so busy counting, we are no longer focused on what is happening in front of us.

Client education is key, and this was a good reminder for myself that even if I have been working with a client for several years, I must make sure that all “i”s are dotted, and all “t”s are crossed.

It’s extremely rare that a client asks me about the number of images they will receive. Not only have we talked about our process, but I’ve been extremely careful and diligent in making sure that they understand what they should expect. Clients are so pleased that we have told their story so well with our photos, a number is really the last thing they think about.

So please, make it your goal to educate your clients. No one wants a surprise!


About the author: Leia Smethurst is a wedding and commercial portrait photographer based in Oklahoma City. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of her work on her website, Instagram, and Facebook. This article was also published here.