Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Ha, Headshots, who needs em!

Good Tuesday from Prospect.

Headshots, who needs em. "Hell I don't need to post a pic of myself, potential clients will just know who I am and want to work with me."

Is this what gets you ahead? I see this everyday. The infamous facebook guy or the linkedin head and especially that computer/laptop camera shot. Trust me that's not a positive image.

It's one thing if you're online in a personal capacity, but when it comes to business what are you thinking? If you think your facebook page is only viewed by your friends you're sadly mistaken. Even if you don't think it happens potential clients/employers are checking you out. That online presence is key to selling yourself and your ideas. If you don't care then power to ya.

Really, if you're going to take the time to post yourself online what the hell are you doing without a good headshot. You are your brand. A good headshot is part of your brand, if it doesn't portray your messaging and what you have to offer than why bother? 

Good branding is how you portray yourself to potentials, a good headshot is one graphic element in a successful marketing plan that stems from your brand. Good brands are about being focused. 

As a Designer and photographer I can assure you, if you don't put your best foot forward you won't succeed in whatever you're up to.

When looking to get a good headshot, look to a professional.

Professional photographers aren't your average enthusiasts, they aren't your cousin or boyfriend or fellow employee that just happens to have a camera, they are professionals because they understand professionalism. 

A professional seeks a vision, a creative that envelopes a message. Professionals deliver consistently time after time, not just get paid to shoot pictures. They know their gear and they know light. A professional headshot is a big part of your brand. Remember…"Your brand is what people say about you when you leave the room".

Whether you agree or not the net is image driven, it's not just what you say but what you show.
That deer in the headlights shot chases people away from, not toward, you. BTW, that includes your staff pics on your web site.

A Professional headshot is so empowering. So lean In, put your best self forward and get a professional headshot that communicates all of your many talents!

Until next post, enjoy Derek

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

How much should you Spend on Glass for APS-C sensor cameras?

Good Wednesday from Prospect.

To begin with, sorry I've been trying to stay off as much social media as I can lately and just honing my skills, and getting food on the table. Seems to take much more effort as of late for the same burger.

Canon 5D mkII, Canon 70-200 II f2.8 at 165mm, f2.8, 1/2500
Anyway, todays post I want to talk about full frame vs APS-C sensors as they relate to composition and DOF. Yes both of these play a big role in what gear we shoot and frankly we'll find that although APS-C cameras are relatively less expensive than FF we'll see we'll need to spend more on glass the smaller the sensor. Unless of course all you want is everything in focus all the time (point and shoot your heart out).

This post will not touch on light gathering capabilities between full frame and crop sensors (APS-C) or their pixel size and counts (too much tech there thanks). As sensors mature that really doesn't have as much bearing as it used to. But sensor/film size will always have an effect of DOF and BOKEH.

As we explain the effect of depth of field between the two we will see a trend that will explain why the crop glass should be the fastest we can afford.

Bare in mind this isn't really a tech post as so much as a technique post. What helps us to get that great BOKEH or control over the subject matter along with the composition. I am, also, not judging which is better, FF or APS-C (crop sensor), just the differences we need to be aware of.

First let me explain, briefly, what depth of field (DOF) is and what BOKEH is, for those who are unfamiliar.

Simply put DOF is that part of the subject that is in focus. To start, when we focus on a subject 1/3rd (33%) of the space in front and 2/3rds (67%) the space behind are included as in focus. 

The factors that determine that are:
 1 - the focal length of the lens
 2 - the aperture we are shooting at
 3 - the distance from the camera to subject.

Fuji XF 14mm f2.8 with dof scale
Most high-end and manual focus lenses are imprinted with a scale that express what that lens takes into focus at any chosen aperture and distance. If you don't have that at hand here's a great resource to figure it out: http://www.dofmaster.com/doftable.html

(Oh BTW there's also an app for that, linked on the same page to the left. I have my copy.)

BOKEH is all that out of focus bit in front and behind the subject.

The combination of DOF and BOKEH are what helps, or hinders, the final composition.

So here is where cameras with different sensor sizes can change how the composition will look.

When we are shooting with either FF or APS-C, size does matter. A full frame sensor is typically Canon: 35.8 mm w x 23.9 mm h, where as an APS-C is typically 22.2mm w x 14.8mm h (Nikon: FF  36mm w x 23.9mm h, APS-C is typically 23.6mm w x 15.7mm h). It varies from model to model but a crop factor of 1:1.5 is common (50% smaller than FF). So the distance to subject, on a cropped sensor, will be about 50% further away from the subject to frame the same composition. 

Here's the story everyone hears at the camera store when it comes to crop sensor cameras: CAMERA SALESMAN: "This is a 50mm lens but on the APS-C camera it's about a 75/80mm lens, great for portraits, or that 35mm will make a great standard 50/56mm., or a 70-200mm is really a 105-300mm, great for sports." Insert whichever you wish in that conversation.

What no one wants to explain is what effect that has on the final composition and how it effects DOF and BOKEH. That falls in the full frame/crop sensor sales pitch.

So if by comparison we are always standing 50 percent further back to achieve the same crop with an APS-C size sensor than that's going to ultimately effect the depth of field (DOF), especially if we want the same amount of subject in focus. Now some will say that's a benefit. I'm not saying one has an advantage over the other. I'm just saying it effects how we shoot.

Canon 5d mkII, Canon 85mm f1.8 at ISO 200, f8, 1/125th
I wanted her face and hair in focus but her neck and shoulders to
fall away with subtle softening at the ears
The one thing I dislike is fuzzy hair if I can help it.
But here's my point about more expensive glass on APS-C cameras.

Theoretically every shot we make at f2.8 with a full frame camera, we will need to shoot at 50 percent more open to achieve the same thing because we're 50% further from our subject i.e.: f2 for the same effect. f4 would be f2.8., f5.6  would be f4 and so on (one full stop). 

Remember the percentage difference from front to back DOF? Here's a simple explanation.

Lets say the subject is 10 feet from us with a FF camera, same crop will set us at 15 feet (50% further away) And suppose that at FF - f4 we achieve 1 foot in front and 2 feet behind for subject in focus(3 feet in total). With an APS-C we will get 1.5 feet in front and 3 feet behind, 50% more (4.5 feet in total). To narrow down the same DOF and achieve the same BOKEH we will need to open the aperture to 2.8 (1 stop). So right off the bat we need faster glass to achieve the same effect. (Note: what to do if we're shooting 2.8 FF?)

But you say hey we can use a different focal length on an APS-C camera to be equivalent to that FF. Ahh, not so fast, now we have to compare the differences in compression as it relates to different focal lengths. The higher we go in focal length the more compressed a subject will look (more 2 Dimensional than 3 Dimensional)

By using say a 35mm on an APS-C may indeed crop the same and place us the same distance as a 50mm lens on FF but those lenses are very different when comparing compression, which is a crucial part of DOF. We can make the comparisons on the chart at this link (http://www.dofmaster.com/doftable.html) listed above as well. 

Here's an example, both resulting in the same crop/composition: 
(Note the Canon APS-C is actually set at 1.6 crop factor)

35mm (56mm with 1.6 crop) on a Canon 7D (APS-C) at f4 produces, at 10 feet from subject, 
a distance of 8' 5.1" - 12' 4"in focus (approx 4' 11")

50mm on a Canon 5D (FF) at f4 produces, at 10 feet from subject, 
a distance of 8' 8.9" - 11' 8" in focus (approx 2' 11")

To achieve the same DOF the 7D would need to stop up to f2.8  for 8' 10" - 11' 6" (approx 2' 8")
(BTW 35mm on a FF at f4, 10 feet is 7' 8.7'' - 14' 2'' (approx 6' 5") so it does have an effect, just not enough.)

Using the same focal length on both cameras to achieve the similar DOF is tough but here it is (approx). Note: the framing will be different between the shots at 10 feet and similar at 15 feet.

50mm (80mm with 1.6 crop) on a Canon 7D (APS-C) at f5.6 produces, at 10 feet from subject a distance of 
8' 10.3'' - 11' 6''in focus (approx 3' 1") (cropped composition-slightly deeper DOF)

50mm (80mm with 1.6 crop) on a Canon 7D (APS-C) at f4 produces, at 10 feet from subject a distance of 
9' 2"' - 11' in focus (approx 1' 10") (cropped composition-shallower DOF)

50mm (80mm with 1.6 crop) on a Canon 7D (APS-C) at f4 produces, at 15 feet from subject a distance of 
13' 2.4'' - 17' 4.8'' in focus (approx 4' 2.4") (same composition-deeper DOF)

50mm (80mm with 1.6 crop) on a Canon 7D (APS-C) at f2.8 produces, at 15 feet from subject a distance of 
13' 8.4'' - 16' 7.2''  in focus (approx 2' 11") (same composition-similar DOF)

50mm on a Canon 5D (FF) at f4 produces, at 10 feet from subject a distance of 
8' 8.9" - 11' 8" in focus (approx 2' 11") (same composition-similar DOF)

As we compare we can also see a trend of a very different nature in the in-front and back focus ratio. Sorry I'm not going to get into Hyperfocal distance (Great article here http://www.dofmaster.com/hyperfocal.html) or circles of confusion. My goal is to simply show the differences between the two and how they relate to the overall composition and technique.

By the way the faster the glass (more open aperture ability) the more expensive it is, incase for some inexplicable reason you didn't know. ( to illuatrate the difference, a Leica 50mm f1.4 Summilux goes for about 4000.00us and the most expensive 50mm lens we know of for full frame is a Leica 50mm f0.95 Noctilux for 11,000.00us. In DSLR standards, a Canon 50mm f1.4 is about 400.00us and a Canon 50mm f1.2 is 1620.00us. All 35mm film/sensor sizes. I haven't seen a dslr lens at 0.95 yet and I don't think it can be done given the lens to film plane distance, at a decent price anyway.

It's always mentioned at how creamy the BOKEH is on full frame and Medium format. When we boil all this down it simply shows that if you are going to buy APS-C sensor cameras, and want that same great look, you need to spend even more on the glass. Yup f1.2 and f1.4 is in your future or at least f2.8 as a minimum.

As a side note, I do tote a Fuji XPro-1 when I walk around shooting candid and street work. My glass starts at f2.8 on all my cameras but I tend to go faster on this XPro-1 (f1.4 and f1.2 is the norm and primes only) If you're not familiar with that camera it's APS-C. I chose that for the size of gear to carry and the results in the environment I intend to use it. You can see the results throughout this blog.

Now if that XPro-1 or fuji X equivalent, XPro-2 maybe, was full frame I'd drop my big DSLRs in a heart beat, or at least when I add digital medium format, I shoot film with that format currently. Which by the way achieves even creamier BOKEH at higher apertures. You see my goal is all about the sharpest image with the best control over DOF to blow a background out at a sharp aperture, say 6.3 to 8 and still get great BOKEH. That's where full frame and medium format come in.

One more note, the case could be made that APS-C is better for landscape because you get a longer DOF but as reality would have it the further away we are from a subject the more, in focus it is anyway.

Enjoy, Derek

Previous post on this subject

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Keeping it Creative - Winter or Otherwise

Good Wednesday from Prospect.

During our last Nor-Easter
First off, sorry for taking so long to get back on this blog. I've come up with a few technical post but wanted to start this year off on a different note.

"A quick note, the blog passed 10,000 views December 11 2013. Thank You, I hope you all continue to enjoy this blog."

On to todays post.

Here we are in the dead of winter, yup for me that's exactly how I feel. I enjoy our spring and summer weather here in Nova Scotia. Yes, if it wasn't for winter we wouldn't be able to enjoy the spring. But the feeling winter gives me is dead. So with that I tend to find non outdoor recreation activities when it comes to photography. This is the season I put my nose to the grind stone and focus on design work and improving my skills, design and photographic. Any creative, photographic or otherwise, is done in studio.

Funny story. I was at a function last Friday, one about this upcoming seasons ocean racing, and a friend of mine who enjoys photography as an enthusiast, asked me what steps I took to get my gear ready to shoot outdoors this time of year. Most would state how long they take to climatize and protect their stuff from the outdoors. My answer was simple, I don't. Winter photography is just not something I find interesting. Frankly it's just white on white or lots of dead looking plants waiting for a better time of year. I suppose I could get to a ski hill and find someone interesting to shoot but that's not my environment either. Shooting people in winter doesn't work. How can you capture an individuals expression if they're covered in clothing to keep warm. So much for that facial expression. Yes I've seen a lot of portraits of women in parkas up-close in a winter environment. Sorry, studio work, no need to set it up outdoors. Only time I see to shoot outdoors is for extreme sports (snowboarding certainly comes to mind) But that's not in my bag of tricks.

Now don't get me wrong, the weather challenge is not the issue, it's about having your heart into a subject. If you can't get into what you're creating then you aren't really doing a good job.

Snowing and blowing hard enough
to not see the other side of the bay
Creativity is about expressing ideas and portraying a thought or message. Honesty is the first quality you need to do that. This not only holds true for photography but anything I do creatively. Whether it's a portrait or a brand, it needs to be honest and express the message and idea to be successful.

I suppose this holds true for any niche you may choose in your line of work. If you're not feeling the honesty and passion in what you do then your audience/client will sense it. I say take the time to explore what interests you before doing what you don't love. You'll be far better off and I bet less stressed.

Until the next post, which I may take a few people to task for posting crappy photos online (you know who you are) instead of good head shots, Enjoy. Derek

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Mastering the right kit part2

Happy Tuesday from Prospect.

Well, back in the studio today perfecting the traveling headshot kit. Today we set up the typical clam shell.

This set-up is typically used in fashion but works exceptionally well for head shots, when set-up right, and the beauty is it can have a black, dark (non distracting) or pleasing, environmental, background depending on your light ratios. The kit only includes one main light and an optional second light to add separation where and when needed.

Something I wanted to add. I, for the umpteenth time, heard Zack Arias' ( his link is on the side bar) talk about an honest and inexpensive starter kit when starting out as a a photographer. He chose a Canon 5D mark 1, 2 primes and some basic flash gear, all used for easy pocket book pricing. What he failed to mention is why this gear. Although it may not be the latest and greatest in camera gear with oodles of mega pixels, it is a full frame package that fits a productive bill that delivers real results your client will love.

Full frame vs Crop sensor discussions are all over the place. Sorry, Full Frame rules…and delivers, period. (My XPro-1 is the only crop I've ever enjoyed and I use it for street, not business or deliverables.)

So for the shoot today, I used just that. I shot some of these with a 5D mk1 (this is my back-up body) with an 85mm f1.8 and the rest with a 5D mrk2 with a 70-200mm f2.8. Same strobe and separation flash set-up for both. Doubt you can tell the diff and I'm not tellin'. (Aperture/shutter speed/ISO/white balance are identical between the two. That's what happens when you take the time to calibrate your gear. PREVIOUS POST HERE

BTW, when I'm in the studio or on location doing these I always want my clients to enjoy themselves so we shoot as much fun stuff along with the final serious pieces, even if they don't leave the studio and no one else sees them. It makes for a better shoot and my clients end up much happier that they decided to do these. No humdrum Walmart here.

Good Headshots are just as important as your business card or brand. It's what you put forward. Can you really afford to go cheap. A Bad headshot (Maybe shot from your computers camera. Don't laugh, I see it all the time) is just as detrimental as a bad logo (50 bucks online).

Stop hurting yourself and look good to your potential clients, it's worth it.

Enjoy the fun poses, Derek

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Does Social Media Devalue what we do?

Good Thursday from Prospect.

All pics shot with Fuji XPro-1 with 35mm f1.4
Queen Street TO.
So I'm going to make a jump here and talk about my xpro-1 and street photog. I'm not one to do camera reviews and this isn't one. I want to talk more about usefulness instead.

Then here I am with about every format covered and what do I grab as I run out the door? XPro-1.

Out on the street is where this camera shines. Sure you can use it in studio and, guaranteed, it will perform as well as any c-sized camera on the market, and I mean top gear dslrs. (Check my previous post)

But outside and during events you just can't beat it. 

While I was in TO this summer I touted this camera everywhere I went. You need to know that I was suffering from a pinched nerve in my right shoulder the whole time I was there. If I had have taken any of my Canon DSLRs I would have been out of luck for shooting. Just too heavy gear.

Now with the onslaught of quality mirror-less/range finder gear that meets pro standards I'm truly wondering why I have such heavy stuff. Oh I know why, because it's sole purpose is to shine in studio and nail sporting events. And you just can't beat full frame quality.

But wait, what about the Leica M for street and studio? Oh yeah, have to sell my kids for one with some great glass. Oh well, nice idea.

Costing is usually the main factor to purchase any gear. Whether it be for personal or professional/production. It needs to have purpose. It needs to perform and ultimately, in business it needs to return a profit.

Personally I'd love to tout a Leica M (240) system around and maybe some day, but right now I need to be practical. There are so many people selling their wares as photographers I need to stay focused. Use the great gear I have that does what I want it to do that satisfies not just my clients but ultimately me. Yeah I'm a bit fussy, so it's got to be great stuff.

You know, this post looks like a good time to lead into whats been going on as of late.

To be honest my career seems to be at a stand still. Everyone keeps telling me that it's slow all over. It is easy to just buy into that and hope it gets better but that's just not me.

What does it take, beyond my current efforts to get above the newest crop of mouths all looking to take that bit out of the that one apple.

I know my skills, hell I better, been in this game for over 30 years. It's always been a struggle with new faces on the scene vying for the same piece of pie, for next to nothing and devaluing the general market. But eventually there's always been enough to go around.

I just loved the contradictions here.
Nice patch though
But here's where it's been taking a turn as of late. Recently I was covering an event, freelance in a public space, and the organizer had the gumption to hauler over to me and ask if I could hand over all the pics for them to use when I was done. No this wasn't an offer to purchase. They thought it acceptable to expect them for free. I mean it was their event, in a public space without entrance fees, why should they have to pay.

Where do you start when the general public just don't understand the value of a craft. Is it caused by the freedom of info we see around us? Is it caused by the manufacturers saying how you too can be great by just buying x gear?

It's one thing to strive to be you, different or unique. To standout. But what do you do when the market just doesn't get it?

I have rates, ones well within the industry standards, sometimes lower than I feel are acceptable, but I've got to eat too right? I mean I have my share of overhead. Being a designer and photographer does come at a price. And I don't just mean the 10s of thousands of dollars for hardware, software, office/studio space phone, internet and travel. I also mean the countless hours spent selling, educating and improving your craft to be the best you can be.

Is that really only worth a snap shot to share for free. It's one thing to request a discount but to see no more value than a gift?

I honestly do believe the whole social sharing thing has gone too far. We're expected to share everything we do so anyone can use it.

The whole industry has gone to hell in a hand basket so to speak because of it. Or am I wrong here.

What real benefit does producing to share really net. I know you can't sell anything if you don't get out there and show it. Let people see what you do. But after years of doing that does it really cover the cost of sales?

I will continue to trudge along sharing what I do, what I love, and displaying it in galleries and portfolios but I have to wonder. Does social media truly net any ROI? Recently, Coke just released a study that buzz generates zero short term sales. And I think they know what's working. They haven't ended their study yet but I just wonder where it will take them.

So the perception shows, can people like Zack Arias, whom I admire as an honest and down to earth photographer, honestly say social has made him money. Or is he in the light for the buzz. Or should he say a head of an educational company, Scott Kelby, pushed his career by referring him as a wonderful photographer and human being, working for Kelby Training at the time, through his sales network. So it definitely benefited Kelby.

Is it Zacks' fame through Scott that gets his work or old fashioned sales? He says trudging along selling his wares does it for him. He may have a statement about what I've said and that I'm wrong. 

Maybe I so, only he really knows. I wish him all the best. I mean if it wasn't for social media I'd have no idea who he was.

Working hard usually nets you your goals, but I wonder if we are devaluing ourselves to the point of being not worth the effort we apply. 

Note: this doesn't just effect photographers, see how many photographers devalue all areas of creative by buying things like 50 dollar logos through a competition on line or wonder why models are so expensive, I mean they just stand there, right?

You know I could go on and on about this stuff, but I think you may have the gist.

To boil it down I've got time on my hands, things are as slow as I've ever seen it. I may not have a handle on why, but I can assure you I'll continue to plug away until I'm done. I mean I love my work and can't see myself doing anything else.

Look close he doesn't really think it applies to him

Oh, for the hell of it I've included some of my favourite shots from TO this summer (on the streets with my new found tool) since that's what started this post in the first place. It is, after all, what I love to do.

Enjoy Derek

My girls enjoying the trip
BTW, if you have the solution or constructive thought to my questions place a comment below. I know you're reading these so pipe up. love to hear it.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Lighten that Load

Good Wednesday from Prospect.

Set-up including living light stand
So here I am proposing on location headshots. You know, the one's that don't hurt. 

Well for the most part they only hurt me, lugging way too much gear for seamless shots. 

It usually takes me three trips and a car load when doing a larger shoot.
But I want a kit for those quicker runs. You know less time setting up and more with my client.

I finally decided to trim this big kit down. If I can walk out of here with one bag of stands/modifiers, one box of lighting and one camera bag with bodies/lens I'll be happy.

Well I think I've done it. Even tested it with my main digital bodies so I can handle what I need when I need it.

List is now 3 stands, 2 light booms, 2 reflector/diffusers (for white, grey, black backgrounds, 1 60" umbrella/softbox, 2-3 speedlights (1 main, 1 background, 1 hair-light when needed) , 3 pocket wizards (may make that 4), 1 light meter, assorted cables, batteries and 1 stool. Camera plus lenses (depending on the shoot).

One thing to bear in mind this is a "headshot" kit. Not a full body set. That would require an existing wall or available background.

Canon 5D markII, 85mm f1.4. ISO100, f9, 1/125th
I've included a couple of test shots to verify my lighting set-up, plus a look at the set-up.

Enjoy Derek
Fuji XPro-1 35mm f1.4. ISO200, 1/125, f5.6

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sailing and Halifax are a great lifestyle choice.

Good Tuesday from Prospect.

This post is to update you on a few things I've been up to. The summer in Prospect hasn't been stellar but it's still warm and not winter.

Prior to my trip to Fan Expo, which I won't bore you with any more, I started chasing sail boats during their amature racing events here in Halifax. Specifically out of the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron.

We don't really have an official photographer to highlight what the club does as mission. Promoting and teaching sailing both recreational cruising and world class competition.

So I've attempted to get that rolling. This past weekend (Sept 28 and 29th) was the RNSYS club championships once again. It's an annual event including qualified member racers who partake in either club regattas or wednesday night racing events and have achieved a certain level of wins.

The race is done using 6-J22s owned by the club so as to level the playing field. Each team is required to complete at least 3-4 races to qualify for the final 4 (we had 11 teams this year). Each time a team races they use a different boat, once again to level a fair playing field.

Well this year they could not have asked for better weather and although I wasn't a spectator for Saturdays races I did get out on Sunday for the qualifying rounds.

On the charge to the mark. The crew on the number 4 boat were the ultimate weekend champs
Rory MacDonald and the crew from McMac
I've included a couple of shots here and included the link to the RNSYS galleries on my site. They include 2 galleries for the 2013 championships, the last Wednesday night races before Chester race week for this year, and the championships from 2010.
Committee boat while changing crews

They are for sale as listed on the site if you're interested. If so just follow the instructions on the site.

The plan is to get out tomorrow night for the season final for the Wednesday night series.

Don't worry, sailing isn't quite over yet, with at least two more regattas left and what looks like stellar weather for the near forseeable future

Enjoy these in the meantime, Derek

Link to the Galleries.

Yes the younger members were out to practice their skills and watch as well