The Painter’s Brush and Fujifilm

guest-blogger-strip-blackPhotography is art. Whether you’re capturing the soul of another in a portrait, or the essence of our world in a landscape image. What you capture on a sensor is reflective of how you perceive our shared environment. A camera, in other words, is akin to a painter’s brush. Perhaps this is why we place so much importance on our tools. We want to wield a brush that will help us achieve what we see in our minds. I love the analogy of a painter and a photographer especially when considering the use of Fujifilm for one of my brushes.DSCF4103You see, one of the reasons I bought into the Fujifilm X System was because of how I thought it’d allow me to obtain a certain aesthetic. Sure, I loved the retro look, the portability, the easy access of essential controls, the fact that it was supremely sharp; but there was more to it than these common Fuji-loves. As an artist I draw a lot of inspiration from the work of old masters. I find their aesthetic as timeless and powerful. The use of light and contrast in their paintings to be awe inspiring. I wanted to achieve with my camera and lens something close to what they were able to produce with a brush and canvas. Enter the tools I prefer to wield for a master aesthetic: the X-T1 and X-Pro2.DSCF3287Fujifilm’s X-Trans APS-C sensor has a few advantages in regards to capturing light. One of the largest advantages is how well it can get everything in focus when compared to one of its full-frame counterparts. A crop frame essentially increases your depth of field while you are also able to bring in more light to the sensor with an equivalent aperture and focal length. Why is this an important factor, even for portraits? Because having your scene in focus allows your viewer to get a better idea of the entire area your subject is in. A story can unfold before your viewer with better ease. Of course, you can achieve a deep depth of field with larger sensors, but you’ll lose out on light and sometimes even enter into diffraction issues depending on your scene. I’m sure some of you are wondering, “but what about the bokeh?!” Sure, bokeh can be nice for a headshot and even in environmental portraits. Bokeh offers a great way to force a viewer to look at the subject. Though, I feel as though there is a stronger element to draw attention to a subject: light. Breaking out of the bokeh-mold you’re able to expand upon your use of light. DSCF1385The X-Trans sensor also has an oddity about it that I have not found on a Bayer patterned sensor: it produces sharp images that have an almost a brush stroke feel to them. Some will point out that it is due to my processing an image in Lightroom and Adobe’s refusal to really figure out how to sharpen an X-Trans sensor. There could be some truth to that and from what I’ve read online, most people aren’t impressed by this interaction between camera and processor. I, however, enjoy this look and use it to my advantage. The images produced by a Fujifilm sensor seem to come together in a different manner than my images from other sensors.DSCF3684Since I am a large fan of natural light I really love cameras that are able to take what I throw at them in terms of needed dynamic range. With Fujifilm, I love how easily I’m able to bring down the highlights and get a nice overall exposure. This puts me shooting my exposure a little to the right more often than I’m used to, but it’s great to be able to see a clean sky in my images. There is also the DR setting which gets baked into the RAW files and even allows some more pushing of the files if need be. This is especially useful when using harsh lighting.DSCF3171There you have it, some of the greatest reasons of why I love my Fujifilm cameras and why they are able to capture the moments I love.

Project 104: An Exploration of Humanity

Guest Blogger strip BLACKBy Chris Daniels

Hello friends. My name is Chris Daniels. I’m a portrait photographer based in Nashville, Tennessee. I’m here to tell you about a year-long project that I’ve recently launched and the key role that X Series cameras are playing. The project is called Project 104. Most simply explained, it is an exploration and observation of humanity through portraiture.

  • 2 portraits per week
  • 52 weeks
  • The same 3 questions asked to each participant

The project is one of honesty. It asks people to reach within themselves and give something real back to the world. ChrisDanielsproject104fujifilm_High_Res(6of14)If you asked me to sum up in a word what Fujifilm cameras are to me I would say
“Honest”. From the moment I put my hands on one, and especially once I started to really test the X-Pro2, I knew that it was something extremely special. As an artist, I can’t 100% agree with the phrase, you’re only as good as your equipment. It is up to us as creative people to use our means to the best of our ability. What I will say is that when I have the X-Pro2 in my hands, it becomes much more than equipment. It becomes an extension of myself and my mind.ChrisDanielsproject104fujifilm_High_Res(14of14)The cameras made by Fujifilm are incredibly intuitive. I’m never fumbling around trying to get the settings just right or searching through menus with no seeming end looking for the perfect whatevers and whatnots. Adjusting to light and situation is all at my fingertips and I feel as though I could do it blind.

When I’m sitting face to face with a person, camera in my hand, and they allow me a tiny glimpse into their world I can’t think about my camera in that moment. It’s usually such a fleeting moment and I need to be able to trust that I can capture it. The X-Pro2 allows me that ability. 
ChrisDanielsproject104fujifilm_High_Res(2of14)The camera itself is beautiful and inviting, which goes to far greater lengths than just aesthetics alone. It puts the subject on the other side of the lens at ease. The system is small. Quiet and not at all intrusive. For those reasons I am able to capture naturally. My intention is to always focus on the art first. That is what Project 104 is about. Having a system that I can trust is such a key part of the success of the project. In the last few months of getting to know Fujifilm I have been nothing short of impressed. They seem to not only understand the needs of a photographer but they also listen to the photographer as well. I, for one, can say that I am a proud X Series user, and I can’t wait to see what they have up their sleeve in the future.ChrisDanielsproject104fujifilm_High_Res(5of14)Project 104. Though it is still very young, it has already proved itself true and invaluable. The three questions that I ask are simple, but somewhat intense. I ask them just prior to taking the person’s portrait and let the mood and emotion created by them answering somewhat dictate the mood and feel of the image.

I hope that you’ll follow me along as I journey through this year of portraits, X-Pro2 in hand. It’s been fantastic. I have met and had beautiful conversations with some amazing people already and I’m excited to see who chance sends my way soon.

Check out the project and see everyone’s answers so far here.

X-Pro2 Portraits with The Woz, Apple’s Co-Founder

Guest Blogger strip BLACK

By Dan Taylor

It’s not every day that you get the chance to photograph a person who is directly involved in creating a product that has changed the world. And it’s even rarer to have this person’s undivided attention for a few minutes just before getting mic’d up to take the stage.Dan Taylor photographing Steve Wozniak for Fujifilm - Image by Dan Taylor - dan@heisenbergmedia.com-1So, when I first got word that I’d have exactly this opportunity to photograph Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in Manchester, England, at Business Rocks, I knew I had to be prepared and have everything ready to go the minute he came out of the green room. Striving for absolute image perfection, my choice of gear was clear: The Fujifilm X-Pro2 and XF56mmF1.2 R.

While I’m generally a fan of the SLR body format, e.g. my X-T1, utilizing the new technology and features in the rangefinder format X-Pro2 was too good to pass up. And when combined with the XF56mmF1.2 R (in this case at F8) the results are razor sharp, crystal clear, and absolutely stunning. I’d even venture to say that the XF56mm is the best headshot lens I’ve ever used.

Knowing that I had very little time with Steve, I had prepared my lighting setup in advance, and fired off a few quick test images with a colleague. Given that our time together was to be quite short, I knew that simplicity would be key. Building on this simplicity, I found a plain white wall between the green room and stage and used a slow(er) shutter speed to capture the ambient lighting to help illuminate the background.

Initially, I had a black background setup, but decided at the last minute to go with white. With the black background I could use a fast shutter speed, as ambient light wasn’t needed or wanted. However, with the introduction of the white background, I did want to capture the ambient light generated by the speedlights. At f/8, a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second was just right.

For my headshot with The Woz, I used 1 key and 1 fill triggered via a wireless transceiver in an off axis clamshell lighting setup. The key light is diffused inside a Lastolite Umbrella Box, and the fill light diffused via a standard umbrella.

Depending on the look you’re trying to create, the fill light might not even be necessary. In this case, I’ve used it to fill and soften the shadows the key light would be casting.Dan Taylor and Steve Wozniak headshot  for Fujifilm - Image by Dan Taylor - dan@heisenbergmedia.com-1When shooting with speedlights and any FUJIFILM X Series camera, one crucial menu option you want to turn off is the Preview Exp./WB in Manual Mode. If this option is on, you’ll be presented with things exactly the way the sensor sees things, normally a good thing, but here, without compensating for the light the speedlights are going to generate.

Right. Settings set, lights lit, The Woz ready to go. Let’s make some magic!

I generally turn to humor to get the ball rolling, and always have a joke or two ready. I’ve got a few really, really bad one liners that are just so horrible, there’s really no choice but not to laugh at them, and so far, they haven’t let me down. With The Woz, I actually had to resort to joke number two, as he gave me the punch line to joke number one before I could even finish the sentence. Ever the prankster.  Steve Wozniak for Fujifilm - Image by Dan Taylor - dan@heisenbergmedia.com-1All in all, I’d estimate that Steve and I did 4 shots together in a time period totaling less than a minute. And even though our time together was short, The Woz has been one of my favorite sessions yet. Not only is he an iconic figure, but a true gentleman, as for when I sent him the images we did together, he replied within minutes, stating, “It was great to watch you work. I love seeing great technical skills of all kinds.”

Thank YOU Steve for a great collaboration!

For me, when it comes to quality, portability, and forward thinking, the Fujifilm X-Pro2 is the camera that always makes it in my bag.

Master the X-Series – Off-camera flash

Here you will learn how to shoot creative flash-lit portraits in four easy steps

All the shots taken in this tutorial were shot with a Fujifilm X-T1, 56mm APD lens and EF-42 flashgun. In normal use, when the EF-42 is mounted on the camera’s hotshoe there is communication between the two. As soon as the flashgun is separated from the camera, that link is severed. To get around this problem, you’ll need a remote trigger, of which a variety of third-party options is available. Triggers come in pairs and function wirelessly over many metres. The transmitter unit is fixed into the camera’s hotshoe while the receiver is connected to the flashgun. When you’re working with the flash off camera, you should use the manual (M) exposure mode so you have total control of the camera’s shutter speed. Correct flash operation is only possible at the camera’s flash synchronisation speed or slower. The Fujifilm X-T1 synchronises with flash at a shutter speed of 1/180sec or slower – the 1/180sec speed on the shutter speed is marked with an X on the shutter speed dial to indicate this. Use a shutter speed faster than this and the flash will be incorrectly exposed.

STEP 1

With this portrait, camera settings of 1/110sec at f/2.5 were needed to reveal the subject’s face using ambient (available) light only. Going to the other extreme we took a meter reading with the camera from the sky – this was 1/180sec at f/3.6 – and took another shot (below). This totally silhouetted our subject, but recorded the sky accurately. For a dramatic portrait we need to stick with this exposure and then add some flash to reveal the subject.

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Available light
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Exposure set for the sky

STEP 2

The flashgun can be held in position by an assistant, or placed on a tripod or lighting stand, then you’ll need to vary the position and power output to get the best result. To prove why taking the flash off camera is a good idea, we started by taking a straight flash shot with the EF-42 slipped into the camera’s hotshoe and the TTL setting. Our subject is correctly exposed, but the light is harsh, the background is too dark and the sky lacks depth and colour.

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Flash on-camera

STEP 3

With the flashgun attached to the wireless triggers, it has to be used manually with a power output to suit the flash-to-subject distance. With experience you’ll be able to estimate the required output, but initially you can shoot and review the result before fine-tuning the flash output. Keeping the same exposure for the sky from Step 1, we started at 1/16 output (main image) but the result was too weak. Changing the output to 1/2 power (inset) gives too much light, resulting in overexposure of our subject’s face.

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Flash too powerful

STEP 4

Adjusting the flash output again to 1/4 power produces the right result with our subject correctly lit, some detail in the background and colour and depth in the sky. Simple!

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6 Great tips for better portraits

Winter isn’t just about shooting landscapes, you can grab some great portraits too – just follow our advice for better people pictures

Good portraits don’t just happen, some planning is essential. Preparation can be a constant process; bookmark websites with images that inspire you, tear out pictures from magazines, grab shots of billboards that appeal. That way you’ll have some ideas to draw on.

When it comes to taking the pictures, share those ideas with your subject; see the shoot as a collaboration. Keep talking to them as you take pictures and show them the images on the rear LCD – silence isn’t golden in portraiture.

At this time of year, you may want to shoot indoors or out. Outdoors on a cloudy day, the light is beautifully soft, which is very flattering for portraits. Use a reflector to even the light up as much as possible and consider changing the white-balance to the Shade preset to warm up the scene. Sunny conditions work well too, but make sure you use a lens hood to avoid excessive flare and ghosting. Indoors, position your subject near a window for an available light shot or use flash lighting for greater control.

No matter where you work, keep the shooting time short, especially if you’re photographing kids.

Sharp focus on the eyes is crucial otherwise the portrait will lack impact, but don’t feel your subject has to look straight at the camera. Be bold with your compositions – you don’t have to take everything with the camera held upright.

When it comes to lenses, anything goes! The XF50-140mm and XF56mm APD lenses are obvious options, thanks to their excellent bokeh effects, but wide-angle optics are worth consideration, especially if you want to include more of the surroundings. Need some portrait ideas? Try these…

Open wide

Portraits aren’t all about cropping in close, they can also work well when shooting wide to include the surroundings. Use this approach when you want to tell more of a story with your subject, or simply want to make the most of a fantastic location you’ve found.

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Go for bokeh

Fujifilm’s new XF56mm F1.2 APD lens is perfect for portraits. Position your subject in front of a background with bright highlights, then use the maximum aperture for stunning bokeh effects. This approach also works well with other fast-aperture prime XF lenses.

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Keep it simple

If you’re shooting in a studio, don’t try to use too many lights. One main light and a reflector is all you need to get some great shots, especially if the light has an umbrella or softbox to diffuse the light for a more flattering result.

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Form a group

Make portraiture more social by shooting a group. Avoid lining everyone up in one row; try having some people sitting with others standing behind, or look for a slope or steps for compositional variety. Silhouettes like this work well, too. Take plenty of shots – you’ll be surprised how many group shots can be spoiled by one person blinking!

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Creative candids

Getting your subject engrossed in an indoor or outdoor activity gives you the perfect chance to shoot natural candids. Set your X-series camera to continuous AF and continuous shooting so you can keep up with any movement, then fire away. Choosing one of the Auto ISO options will increase your hit rate of sharp shots.

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Add some colour

When the weather is colder, natural colours are more muted. Give your portraits a colour boost by adding in bright accessories such as a hat, scarf, coat or gloves. Then select the Velvia Film Simulation mode to give them extra saturation.

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