X-Photographer’s Spotlight – Bert Stephani

Tell us about yourself and what got you into photography? How did you develop your style in photography?

I’m from Belgium and recently when I turned forty, I realised I’ve been a professional photographer for ten years now. I shoot quite a wide range of subjects but it’s almost always about people. Although I’m a one man band, I feel my company has three divisions: The biggest division is my commercial photography in which I usually employ documentary techniques to capture real images for companies and agencies. Teaching is my second division. I really enjoy teaching and encouraging other photographers during workshops and video lectures. The smallest division is the one that caters to individuals, capturing weddings, family portraits, … It’s what I started my career with and it still gives me a lot of satisfaction.

As a kid, I was intrigued by the buttons and dials on my great-aunt’s camera but I didn’t give it much thought then. When I was seventeen I discovered some Time/Life books in the library. I got so intrigued by documentary and particularly war photography that I asked for an SLR for my 18th birthday. I played around with photography and developing my own film but soon photography had to make place for filmschool and writing. I rediscovered photography ten years later while I was following a Photoshop course in order to learn how to make nice DVD menus for my video work. I can still remember the moment I held my neighbour’s first DSLR and decided I wanted one too. Only a couple of months later, I decided that I wanted to become a professional photographer.

I spent all my free time (and some of the company’s time I was working for back then) to understand the world of f-stops, shutterspeeds and focal lengths to learn the craft. When bad weather and short days in the winter, forced me to learn about lighting, I discovered a whole new dimension and developed an ongoing passion for light. But after a couple of years I had become a photographer’s photographer. My work had become about the techniques, the gear and the fashion of the moment, while the pictures I really cared about where the simple, timeless, often imperfect shots of my friends and family. That was the moment that I went back to what I’ve been doing all my life: simply telling stories.


Why did you choose Fujifilm cameras?

Very early on in my career, I already realised that a big camera can get in the way of photography and a friend recently reminded me that I once told him: “I wish someone would find a way to put a big sensor in a small camera with a compact fast prime lens”. So I guess I pre-invented the X100 back then ;-). But it would take a couple more years before mirrorless cameras became a reality and a usable option for professional photographers. I used a number of Panasonic and Olympus mirrorless cameras for family pictures and started thinking about using a small camera for part of my professional work. Although the prospect of reducing the weight and size of my kit, got my back and neck excited, it wasn’t the main reason to consider mirrorless cameras. Much more important to me is the fact that I can shoot without attracting attention and that a smaller camera removes the barrier between me and my subjects.

My X-story started out with the X-Pro1 and just a 35mm lens, but I have to admit that we got off to a pretty stormy start the first few months. Coming from a well established high-end DSLR, it took a while to get used to the X-Pro1 in it’s first firmware version days. Although I had my share of frustrating experiences, I had to conclude that the X-Pro1 made me a better photographer and I just fell in love with the files it produced when I worked hard for my shots. I kept my DSLR within range for a while until I realised I hardly ever used it anymore. That’s when I sold all my DSLR gear and went all Fuji. As an early adopter I have seen the X-system going through it’s growing pains but I’ve been very impressed with the way Fuji has responded by spectacular firmware updates, listening to its customers and developing a complete system in such a short time. There are a lot of technical reasons why I choose to work with Fujifilm cameras but the main reason, is that I just love to shoot with them.


Do you have a photographic philosophy you live by?

Most of the time, I would say: “keep it real”. But every now and then, I want to create something larger than life, surreal or whatever. So ultimately … no


Key inspirations – What & who inspires you?

My inspirations comes from everywhere and sometimes I can’t find anything at all. I follow young emerging Instagram photographers but I’m also hugely inspired my masters like Sally Mann, Jeanloup Sieff, Elliott Erwitt, … There are also photographers who’s pictures may not blow me away, but who inspire me by how they approach their work. In the last few years, I’ve been finding a lot of inspiration in reading about the history of photography. And then that’s just photography. Music is also a great source of ideas. When I listen to good music and close my eyes, I see images. I’m often jealous about how musicians can convey emotions. When I’m stuck I sometimes ask myself the question: “How would Pearl Jam or Sinead O’Connor tell this story?”.

Life in general is my biggest inspiration, just take the time to really look around and you’ll see so many inspiring things.


Do you have any tips or tricks you could share with us?

Like with a good meal, a good picture starts with quality ingredients. For me, a photo always has to tell a story or convey an emotion. So let the story/emotion be the starting point of the photographic process. That’s not an excuse not to worry about technique, equipment, experience and skill. The more you know, the better you’ll be able to translate that story into a picture.

I see myself as a fat athlete that wants to become a top player in the sports of photography. In order to get there, just playing streetball with my buddies every Saturday, won’t cut it. It’s about recognising your weak points and target a lot of practice towards them. It’s about getting out of your comfort zone and working hard to become comfortable in new zones.

Instagram in combination with a small camera like the X30 or X100T has been an important training tool for me lately. I try to post a nice picture every day with mixed success. But the journey is more important than the goal. I’m training my eye, get my shots right in-camera, try out new things (like long exposures or landscapes), I learn how to get the most out of my small camera, … I can see the things that I learned that way slowly enriching my paid work and I love the interaction resulting from my Instagram activity.


What’s next for you?

I’m not entirely sure what’s next but I should. The last couple of years have been a crazy rollercoaster that gave me amazing moments but also left me with a bit too much chaos. Life threw me some curveballs that I didn’t see coming and I was forced into a kind of short-term survival mode. I didn’t have much time and energy to spare to look at the big picture and think ahead. It’s time to change that, make some big decisions and move forwards.


Contact info

Commercial website and blog: www.bertstephani.com

I’m a proud member of the KAGE Collective: www.kagecollective.com

Private commissions and weddings: www.lifelovebybert.com

Facebook page for workshops: https://www.facebook.com/bertstephaniworkshops

Twitter: https://twitter.com/bertstephani

Instagram: https://instagram.com/bertstephani/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/bertstephani/videos

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X-Photographer’s Spotlight – Doug Chinnery

Tell us about yourself and what got you into photography?

Doug Chinnery headshotLike many children I was given a Kodak Brownie, when I was around seven or eight years old, I think, and I happily cut off peoples heads and sloped my horizons burning through film at an alarming rate. When I was about twelve or thirteen my step-father gave me a Russian Lubitel Twin Lens Reflex medium format camera, a Rolliflex knock off. He taught me the basics of aperture, shutter speed and ISO and I was hooked. I think it was this camera that also made me fall in love with the square format. In the early years of married life, like so many, photography had to take a back seat but as digital cameras began to emerge my interest was reawakened and an anniversary gift of a digital SLR from my wife, Elizabeth, opened my eyes to all of the new possibilities that digital opened up.

At that time, I was working as a sales and marketing manager in an industrial manufacturing company but I started getting opportunities to make some income from my camera; selling prints, shooting weddings and portraits (which I hated!) and then teaching workshops. This gradually grew until I was only working part time for my company. When the recession started my MD wanted me to return to my role in the company full time, something I felt I couldn’t do. So, I pushed the company car keys across the table to him and walked away to become a full time professional teacher, writer and photographer. It was a huge step, but one I have never regretted.

As for my style of photography, I find myself in a strange position. I know in so many books and articles we are encouraged to develop a personal, identifiable style, but I just can’t. I have no style. I can’t shoot just one way, or with one technique. This is why I don’t describe myself as a ‘Landscape Photographer’ or an “Outdoor Photographer’. I am just a ‘Photographer’. I see things all the time, wherever I am I want to photograph and when I see things I visualise the image in different ways depending on the light, weather, the mood, my mood. I look at photographers websites who have a distinct style with envy – they are so slick and flow so beautifully. But I just can’t be like that. I just take pictures and present them in the way that I feel suits the subject, light and mood best. Perhaps having no style is my style?

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Why did you choose Fujifilm cameras?

I lead workshops all over the world and needed a high quality camera system which would stand up to the rigours of professional travel but would be light and inconspicuous. I was impressed with Fuji’s investment in lenses and also they way they were responding to users feedback rapidly. To me they were clearly a company dedicated to producing a customer focused system. My first body was an X-Pro 1 and within a couple of hours of using it I was astounded by the results and delighted by its usability. Since that day I have hardly used my DSLR system at all.

I now use a full range of prime lenses for my personal work and when travelling light can manage with just the 18-55mm and 55-200mm zooms in almost all situations. Although I do find myself lusting after the new 10-24mm!

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Do you have a photographic philosophy you live by?

I believe we should shoot images for ourselves, not to impress others or to conform to rules they would try and impose upon us. There are no Photography Police. Then if others like our work, that is great, but if we are satisfying ourselves creatively it shouldn’t matter to us what others think.

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Key inspirations – What & who inspires you?

I have a number of photographers who inspire me, in fact, I list them all here.

But there are some particular ones I would mention. I love the quiet beauty of Michael Kennas work and would also encourage people to look at the extraordinary work of photographer Valda Bailey whose images truly bridge the gap between photography and painting . Another English rural documentary photographer who has had a huge effect on me is Chris Tancock and especially his long term project Beating The Bounds.  I would also point to another major influence as being Chris Friel, a master of alternative techniques who sees the world in extraordinary ways through his camera

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Do you have any tips or tricks you could share with us?

When I started using the Fuji system I tried to use it in the same way as I used my DSLR and found it soon frustrated me. I soon realised it is better to work with the system, not to fight it. So rather than working in Manual as I was used to, I switched to working in Aperture Priority. I also found it much easier to use auto focus on the Fuji than manual focus as I did on the DSLR. For this I manually selected which auto focus point I wanted active so I was still in control of my depth of field. I have always only shot in raw on my DSLR, but as with so many Fuji users, I fell in love with the jpegs and so I now shoot in Fine Jpeg + raw. I use the jpegs for social media, my website and so on but then process the larger raw files as my master files for client work. And for anyone wondering if you can print large images from the Fuji sensor, yes you can. I have clients printing well in excess of 2 meters wide from Fuji X-Pro 1 raw files and the quality is stunning.

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What’s next for you?

I am patiently awaiting the launch of an X-Pro 2. I am sure Fuji will have some special for us when it comes out. In the meantime, I am already planning locations for 2016 and 2017 and have personal projects ‘on the boil’. Gnawing away at me is a huge backlog of images which need processing too. One day, when I am ready, I would love to produce a book, but I don’t feel I have a suitable body of work yet, but I enjoy writing for photography magazines and leading photography tours and workshops.

Contact info


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Macro Photography Tips

An emphasis on detail, texture and pattern is what makes macro photography so
complex and unique. If done properly, macro photography can give you mind-blowing
results. In this article, let’s go through a few tips which will greatly improve your macro
photography skills and help you take dramatic and high impact shots.

Turn on macro mode: This may seem like a tip for dummies, however many beginners
forget or do not know because they’re too lazy to scan through the thick manual. Macro
mode is usually represented by a small flower on the setting dial. This lets you bring the
lens of the camera closer to the subject.

Use a tripod: Since macro photography is all about sharpness and clarity, you must use
a tripod to avoid any form of vibration that may occur. A tripod will greatly help you in
getting a sharper image.

Focus manually: When the subject is very close to the lens, the auto-focus would tend to
search backward and forward for something to focus on. It would save you a lot of time
to manually focus on the subject and would also be a lot more precise. For starters, shoot
stable objects like flowers where you can take all the time in the world to get your focus
spot on. In time and with practice, you can shoot insects and other wildlife.

Turn the flash on: A shadow can completely ruin your picture; so don’t forget to use
flash. However, you should idly shoot in brightly lit spaces. Use a reflector if you have to
fill the shadow. It would be perfect if you could adjust the intensity of the flash on your
camera, however if you cannot, tape a piece of tracing paper to the top of your flash to
adjust the brightness of the flash.

Aperture: Having the freedom to adjust your aperture settings is a big plus point as it
allows you to control the depth of field. Certain cameras do not allow you to change the
aperture setting once in macro mode. However, if they permit you to do so, you should
use a large aperture in order to blur out the background.

Macro photography is great fun and will keep you preoccupied for ages. You can
endlessly experiment with it on a variety of subjects. It will literally open up worlds
within worlds, so let those creative juices flow and let your camera go wild.

Originally posted by Fujifilm India http://www.fujifilmblog.in/macro-photography-tips/