Welcome to the Third Series of Through a Photographer’s Eye. In this series, we continue to learn about Australian photographers and how they use X Series Cameras to photograph their world around them. Our eighth interview in Series Three is with photographer, Myles Kalus.
Myles, tell us a bit about yourself and how you relate to Fujifilm X Series cameras?
I originally intended to pursue an engineering career and studied mechanical engineering at university. Towards the end of my degree, I realised that engineering wasn’t really for me. By some stroke of luck, I picked up a camera in my last semester and realised that photography was what I wanted to do. I finished my degree, and immediately immersed myself into photography. I spent some time looking for the right camera to work with as I grew as a photographer, bouncing between different brands and different types of cameras.
I eventually picked up a first Fujifilm camera, the X100S, and knew from using it that what I needed for my “perfect” camera was one that had the modern advancements of digital camera technology in the shape and feel of a traditional camera. Having the aperture, and shutter speed dials right there to see just felt right to me. So, when the Fujifilm X-T1 was announced, I sold all the gear I had and made sure I was the first one in line at my local camera store to get my hands on it. I’ve exclusively used Fujifilm cameras ever since for both work and leisure.
Fujifilm X-T1 with XF23mmF1.4 R – 1/500 second – F5.6 – ISO 320
As someone who photographs a lot of portraits, do you have any recommendations for XF lenses to use? For instance, based on your experience which lens do you think is better, the XF56mmF1.2 or XF90mmF2?
It’s hard to pick between both as they have different qualities but I’d have to go with the XF56mmF1.2. While the XF90mmF2 is technically the perfect lens for portrait work, the XF56mmF1.2 allows me to get physically closer to the subject, allowing me to interact, and connect better with the person I’m photographing. It’s also a smaller lens, so it’s less intimidating for my subject.
I’ve always found the smaller more retro your gear looks; the more relaxed and natural people will be when photographing them. Alternatively, I’ve also used the XF23mmF1.4 to shoot portraits to provide a little more context to the picture and involve the environment to show where the portrait is captured. This lens has been instrumental when doing backstage work.
If you have some advice for someone starting out in photography what would it be?
Looking into gear, I would say to buy a camera that is straightforward to use. A lot of cameras these days have added functionalities that sometimes become a distraction. I’ve personally found that the fewer choices I have, the more concentrated I’ve been with learning and studying the camera and photography. If possible, I’d highly recommend a camera with an electronic viewfinder (EVF) as it allows you to immediately see how the settings affect exposure and depth-of-field. All these factors taken into consideration will speed up your learning process significantly, and improve your technical mastery within a short span.
From a photography perspective, I’ve always advised newcomers to find a few photographers of which their works you like, go through their work obsessively, learn what is it about their work that you admire, and try to replicate their work. This forces you to experiment with your camera and pushes your eye to see what and how they saw and why they photographed it.
You have worked with many international clients, do you think the Fujifilm X Series system delivers the image quality they are after and what are your thoughts on the new Fujifilm GFX 50S medium format camera for fashion photography?
Yes. I can confidently say that the Fujifilm X Series fulfills what my clients need. I’ve never heard back from a client questioning me about the quality or questioning about the gear I used. Whatever does the job as per client requirements. That’s all that matters when working with a client.
I feel the Fujifilm GFX 50S is a great addition to the Fujifilm lineup, and see it as an ideal camera for those requiring the benefits of medium format when working within fashion photography; higher resolution for detail, reduced vibration from the lack of a mirror and expanded dynamic range. It also opens the doors to medium format that would otherwise be closed to many photographers due to how expensive other medium format cameras are in general.
What is Street Style Australia and how has it helped you establish yourself?
Street Style Australia is a documentary project I started some years ago with the goal of documenting how Australians express themselves through what they wear. No one was doing it properly back then. So, I decided to take it upon myself to do it. Doing the project has opened many doors for me, regarding meeting and working with people within the industry, and allowing me to create work and fulfil a niche for an international audience. It’s also allowed me to further delve into the inner-workings of the fashion world documenting backstage and behind-the-scenes for runways, fashion events, etc.
Fujifilm X-T2 with XF56mmF1.2 R – 1/1000 second – F1.2 – ISO 640
Fujifilm X-T1 with XF56mmF1.2 R – 1/500 second – F1.4 – ISO 200
Aside from fashion, what elements of the photo do you think are important to make a portfolio-worthy fashion shot?
For me, the first step is understanding the purpose of the photo and working out how to deliver that goal through the photo. Great portfolio-worthy fashion photographs have always put feeling, mood, and story-telling before technicalities and aesthetics. An aesthetically pleasing photograph doesn’t cut it. Great fashion photographs also make the audience immediately look straight into and embrace the content within the frame as if it is a window, and see what the photographer is seeing. The presence of the photograph as an object to the viewer is invisible or non-existent.
So, giving an example from landscape photography, when I look at Ansel Adams’ photographs of Yosemite, I don’t think about how beautiful the photograph is. I think about how beautiful Yosemite is, feel how amazing it is to see the view. His photos make me feel like I’m there witnessing or at least, make me want to go there to witness Yosemite myself. I forget that the photo is a photo.
How important is it to work in a team in your field? Do you find stylists; makeup artists and models are all easy to work with? How does a general shoot form?
A good team is vital because you can’t-do everything yourself in general. How easy others are to work with is usually based on the individual and their capabilities. Most of the time, everyone’s down-to-earth and professional. Occasionally, you do get less than ideal team member, but that doesn’t often happen, thankfully.
Ideally, you’d work with those who understand what you’re trying to create in the photographs. A lot of discussion happens before shoots, to discuss how to execute the shoot, and to find the right people who can do what you need in the shoot.
Generally, a shoot forms when someone (client, creative director, stylist, or even the photographer) has an idea or a brief that they want executed. A team that they feel is right for the task is then assembled, pre-production for the shoot that involves location-scouting, pulling garments or accessories from brands/labels, identifying the right gear (camera, lighting, etc.) for the job. Then, once all the pre-production is hopefully done, then the shoot happens.
Can you share some insight into what it’s like to cover an event like Paris Fashion Week on the street? What gear would you recommend someone have to help capture stunning images?
Looking at the photos that usually come out from any fashion week, you can’t really tell but shooting street style at fashion week is quite a physically straining job; a lot of running, a lot of rushing from one venue to the other, staying outdoors regardless of how bad the weather is, barely any resting or eating from the deadlines and number of photographs you take in a day. I take about 5000 photos per day and go through them all at night to send them off to the client by morning.
Fujifilm X-T2 with XF56mmF1.2 R – 1/2000 second – F1.4 – ISO 200
This goes on for each day of fashion week. I usually only get time to have a couple of small meals and about 4 hours of sleep each day during fashion week if I’m lucky. Also, the environment you photograph in is best described as chaos; there are so many unpredictable elements to juggle with, and you have to make quick judgment with what you see in front of you.
You’re dealing with trying to find the best angle to photograph the best-looking outfit or garment after finding it among a mass of people moving in an environment that is full of distracting elements, traffic, and at times, unforgiving weather. Think too much and you might lose your only opportunity to photograph a look.
Camera body-wise, the X-T2 with the grip was perfect. I bought it before flying off to Europe, and its upgrades over the X-T1 made my life much easier while shooting. The 11 FPS and high refresh rate in the EVF provided in Boost mode, and the customisable autofocus system the X-T2 has were a joy to have while shooting in the erratic shooting environment. For lenses, I predominantly used the XF56mmF1.2. Ideally, I would have preferred using the XF90mmF2 because I prefer the look produced by the lens, is weather-sealed, and is quicker at autofocusing, but ultimately chose not to use it as forced me to step too far back from the subject to photograph them. I did use the XF23mmF1.4 when I wanted to capture more of the environment. Though, I mainly use that lens backstage due to there being limited space.
To see more of Myles photography follow Street Style Australia on Instagram or mylekalus.
Previous interviews from Series Three of Through a Photographer’s Eye:
Through a Photographer’s Eye: Johny Spencer
Through a Photographer’s Eye: Gavin Host
Through a Photographer’s Eye: Mike Bell
Through a Photographer’s Eye: Ryan Cantwell
Through a Photographer’s Eye: Sarp Soysal
Through a Photographer’s Eye: Harrison Candlin
Through a Photographer’s Eye: Geoff Marshall