One of the ways Pinterest is useful for a photographer

Pinterest is young, but already seemingly omnipresent. It’s still growing and is becoming increasingly useful as a way of selling, amongst other things. It can also be fun. And there’s something else that I’ve found.

It’s a really useful way of defining your style. If you want to know what kind of photographer you are just start pinning images – all portraits, all fashion, all landscapes etc. After time, when you sit back and look at your selection, you will find that they all tend to hang together, or the vast majority anyway. Then you can see what you like and (probably) the way you want to photograph. It saves hours of self-analysis. I speak from experience….

Here’s my fashion board

And here’s my portrait board

See what kind of photographer you think I am. Polite answers only please….

A Very Quick Shoot

Sometimes things don’t go to plan. I turned up to do a shoot and we couldn’t do it where it had been planned. So we quickly found somewhere else, moved all the kit and were setting up when our subject, the footballer Scott Parker, turned up half an hour early. His wife had given birth the day before so he was, understandably, in a hurry.

The whole shoot was exactly 15 minutes from first to last shot, and we did pretty well all things considered. But then I love working under pressure. And even better, he’s a lovely guy, too.

© Joe Miles © Joe Miles © Joe Miles© Joe Miles © Joe Miles

Why you should always be ready to release the shutter

Just very quickly, I took this photo the other day. I really like the shape the model is making:

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The stylist had actually just asked if she could change something, the model relaxed, looked down at what she thought needed changing and, just before the stylist entered the shot, I released the shutter.

It’s not a new trick or anything particularly clever, but very often the shot after the shot you intended to take, or the image of the unguarded moment is the best one. After all, it tends to be the most natural. When you photograph groups you can make them all laugh, but there’s often a second wave of laughter after the shot has been taken. Everyone relaxes as they think the photo is over – and you can capture that, too.

On a vey different level, here’s one of British Vogue’s most popular covers of recent years, from January 1995 (OK, so not that recent):

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So the story goes, they were in between outfits, and while Kate Moss was waiting for the next one to be brought to her, Nick Knight saw thew shot and took it. And it made the cover.

Always be ready to get the shot that you didn’t expect to get.

What’s the best way to teach photography: film or digital?

I end up talking about this a lot with various people, but I’m not sure why. It’s really pretty simple.

First off, can I get this out of the way – I love film. Genuinely. I was educated on film and still talk fondly about the characteristic curves of HP5 and Tri-X, or why I preferred HP5 pushed three stops over T-MAX 3200 (you may disagree). I’m even excited when I find Photoshop filters and plug-ins that replicate the effect of film grain, such as the excellent Silver Efex Pro by Nik software (www.google.com/nikcollection/products/silver-efex-pro). But I haven’t shot on film for years, none of my clients want me to shoot on film and I have enough brain cells to realise the overwhelming advantage of digital. But I still love film.

However, it’s astonishing how often students are told that it’s easier to learn about the basics of photography using film. Why are they told this?

Firstly, and probably most importantly, a like for like comparison is not used. In the discussions I have had, people talk about learning with film using a Pentax K1000, or a similarly simple, manual, basic camera, whereas they assume that learning by digital involves a Nikon D4, Canon 1Dx or similar. The assumption is also made that the digital camera will be on automatic everything: aperture, exposure, focus….

Pentax K1000 I-am-Nikon-D4

Now let’s look at the next problem. Most digital cameras now use 1/3 stop increments. In the good old days we had the ‘standard’ aperture settings, i.e.

f2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22, 32, 45 and so on. Each one being a ‘whole stop’ increment and there was either no inbetween setting or if there was it was halfway and you called it f8/11 or f22/32.

Now, with 1/3 stops included, we have: f2.8, 3.2, 3.5, 4, 4.5, 5, 5.6, 6.3, 7.1, 8, 9, 10, 11 etc.

Likewise, with shutter speeds it used to be:

1/250, 1/125, 1/60, 1/30, 1/15, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 second etc. Now it’s:

1/250, 1/200, 1/1601/125, 1/100, 1/80, 1/60, etc.

The argument goes that this makes it harder to learn on a digital camera. Which would be true, unless you CHANGE THE SETTINGS!

Most DSLRs now allow you to change the settings to 1/3, 1/2 or whole stop increments. Sadly, a lot of people teaching this stuff don’t realise that and so they hark back to the beloved K1000. And, of course, you can turn off the autofocus and all that gubbins as well.

So, let’s say that we’ve now got an old school film camera and a digital SLR set up to fully manual, which is the better camera to teach the basics of photography on? Let’s say you get a student to photograph something with a setting of 1/125 sec @ f8. You then ask them to take the same photo using 1/60 sec @ f11. They look at the back of the camera, see that they are pretty much the same, and are a step on the road to understanding.

The student who shot on film is currently waiting until they have finished the film. They then have to unload the film and go into the darkroom to develop, stop, fix and wash it. They then hang it up to dry, come back later, chop up the negs and go into the darkroom again. They have to set up their enlarger, get their paper out, expose a couple of test strips, develop these, then print the 1/125 sec shot and the 1/60th sec shot and hang them up to dry. They then look at them and realise that the exposure is the same.

What a waste of time.

Don’t get me wrong, if the digital camera isn’t set up properly and the student doesn’t understand the relationship between shutter speed, aperture and ISO then that’s a problem. EVERY student should know the ‘standard’ shutter speed, aperture and ISO settings. But that doesn’t mean that shooting on film is a better way of learning. It just means that you have to know how to set the camera up first.

Which every good photographer should know how to do anyway.

Guess the lighting

Just a quick link. Love this site: guessthelighting.com

If you want to know how many of the photographs you see in magazines, ad campaigns and the like are lit, this is a great place to start. And it has drawings of dogs, too!

Of course, it would be a lot easier if some of these photographers would just tell us how they do it….

Why use a long focal length lens for portraiture?

Hello, hello. A quick post for you here. You may have heard it said that when you’re photographing people it’s better to use a longer focal length lens. On a 35mm/DSLR camera 50mm is a standard lens, so anything over this is preferable. But why?

Here’s an image I found online, and very informative it is too:

lens focal length

 

As you can see, most wide angle lenses distort the image (unless you have a rectilinear lens, but that’s for another time). If you’re photographing a person it’s unlikely that you want them to be distorted – though you could use that look if desired, therefore a longer focal length is preferable. Once you go above the standard lens the difference becomes increasingly negligible e.g. the difference between 19mm and 50mm is much greater than the difference between 70mm and 100mm, which is is useful if you’re shooting full length. A 350mm lens is lovely if you’re doing a headshot but when shooting full length it might mean you have to be too far away from your subject, so a shorter focal length lens would suffice.

Anyway, in a very simple, easy to understand nutshell, there’s why focal length can make a big difference when photographing people.

And thanks to http://neilvn.com/forum/uploads/FileUpload/13/493.jpg for the image.

 

Paolo Roversi, behind the scenes

Here’s a great little video of Paolo Roversi at work. Aside from seeing such a great photographer at work, it’s interesting that he’s shooting digitally, tethered to his computer running Capture One Pro. For someone who has made his name using 10″x8″ and film in particular this is a pretty big deal. But most importantly, he says that the subject comes first, way above any technique.

Hope you enjoy it.

Bert Stern, RIP

Sadly, the photographer Bert Stern, most famous for photographing Marilyn Monroe, died yesterday.

Marilyn Monroe by Bert Stern.

Those photos in themselves are testament to what a great photographer he was, but it’s worth looking deeper into his work to really appreciate that there was much more to his photography than one famous subject shot over three days shortly before she died.

He was an outstanding fashion and portrait photographer with a genuine love for what he did. He could find a passion for any subject, which inevitably came through in his photographs. His influence was widespread, cemented by the Marilyn Monroe shoot, though he was already a great photographer by then. In 2002 Sophie Dahl, asked who she would like to photograph her for British Vogue, chose Bert Stern. Good choice.

He’ll be sadly missed….

Louis Armstrong, by Bert Stern.

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