Crafty little number

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One of the reasons I turned to photography is because I was completely hopeless at any other form of art. My paintings look like they’ve been done by a three year-old and even my stickmen are proportionally challenged.

My wife, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. Anything she turns her hand to creatively, she’s very good at. Recently, that creativity has been directed towards old pieces of furniture that she’s revived using the ‘shabby chic’ technique. Don’t worry, she’s not taking beautiful mahogany pieces that she’s daubing in chalk paint and then sanding them to within an inch of their wooden lives. Nope, we’re talking unloved bits of furniture that most people would just take to the skip.

I’ve suggested to her on more than one occasion that when she creates these pieces, she should photograph the progress and blog about how they’re created. So when she tackled her latest project, I offered to shoot the images for her – using a Fujifilm X-A2 – just so she could see what was possible.

Here’s how the shoot evolved…

DSCF9371Getting established

The work is normally carried out in our garage, but given that various rusting bicycles, cardboard boxes and garden equipment don’t create a very flattering backdrop, I convinced her to do this little milking stool in our back garden, wrestling the kitchen table out there to provide her with a working surface. Once that was done, I quickly set up this establishing shot, which shows the constituent parts and the stool before anything was done.

DSCF9363Going through the motions

Over the next couple of hours, my wife went about weaving her artistic magic on to the stool and I busied myself taking photographs every step of the way. Naturally, these shots could be put into a specific order for a detailed blog, but this selection primarily shows some of the steps and the different angles I chose. I rarely asked her to pose, instead it was just a case of observing what was going on and moving into the right position to get the best angle.

Pass the time shooting incidentals

Although the chalk paint she used dries very quickly, there was still time to capture some incidental images as we waited for the paint to dry properly. This gave me the perfect opportunity to capture various detail images that add a lifestyle look and feel to the shoot. There was no setting up, I just shot all these objects as I found them, opting instead to change lenses and vary viewpoints to create interest.

Finished work

Once she’d done, I took a final shot in the same place as the starting shot and then took a second shot using a chair that she’d created a few days earlier. All ready to blog and sell!

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DSCF9480The camera

xa2 screenV2Along with the Fujifilm X-A2, I shot using three lenses – the standard XC16-50mm, the XF60mm macro and the XF35mm F2. I think the results speak from themselves. Minimal post production was required and the images are bright, vibrant and super-sharp. The flip out screen on the camera was ideal, giving me the option to shoot down low and also hold the X-A2 above head out and shoot straight down on to the table. The version I used – black & silver – appealed to my wife’s artistic eye too, plus with the WiFi functionality, she was able to transfer shots to her smartphone and share them quickly and easily on social media.

Funnily enough, a couple of days after I took these images, I found my wife using the camera and it has since been found along with her paints and brushes. I’m expecting a blog to be started imminently!

Fun in the sun

DSCF9203Is there anything better than a family day out at the seaside? For kids it’s an opportunity to run, jump, swim, dig and generally mess about. For adults, it’s an opportunity to sit around, chat, eat, drink and watch kids do all of the aforementioned. Perfect. 

As all of our  ‘kids’ are now old enough to drive themselves to their own day out, I had to borrow someone else’s to take these photographs. So say hello to Harrison (white T-shirt) and his younger brother Oli, and thanks to Paul and Nicola for letting me use them as subjects during our day out.

There are, of course, some extremely talented kids photographers out there who make a living out of creating stylised images with the subjects looking straight at the camera. I have great admiration for people who can do this but I didn’t want this fun day out to turn into a boring photo shoot. So, with Fujifilm X-A2 in hand, along with the XC16-50mm and XF90mm, I chose to adopt a more candid approach, snapping away as Harrison and Oli got busy enjoying themselves.

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Creative candids

The X-A2 proved ideal for capturing candids. It’s small and discreet so the boys probably don’t notice me taking half of these images. The camera’s fold out screen was an absolute godsend as well, helping me to get some low angles. Despite the bright conditions, I didn’t miss a viewfinder one bit. I did have to turn up the screen brightness a little as it was a very bright day, but this made the screen easy to view even when the sun was out.

Don’t forget the details!

While it’s great shots of your kids that you’re after on a family day out, it’s often the little details that get forgotten, so I concentrated on getting those shots as well. For this, I think anything goes, just as it would if you were photographing details at a wedding. You’ll soon start seeing images everywhere.

Keep shooting

When we’d finished at the beach, we headed to the pub, but rather than put the camera away, I kept taking pictures of the boys. The clip on mouths, by the way, came on a birthday card and I knew they’d make for some great shots of the boys. By the time we get to the pub, they were more than used to me taking pictures, so I just fired away as and when I saw a nice shot.

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The camera

xa2 screenV2I hadn’t used the X-A2 before our trip to the seaside. Admittedly, this was largely because it doesn’t have a X-Trans sensor in it, but I was truly impressed with the quality of images it delivered, even with the standard XC16-50mm lens. Just like other X Series cameras, it produces superb images packed with colour and detail and the images you see here are virtually straight from the camera. I’ve only made minor crop changes, plus added a minor boost to the shadows and contrast here and there.

When I showed the resulting shots to Nicola and Paul after the day they both said the same thing: ‘Nice shots, great little camera’. Says it all really.

X-A2 review by photojournalist, Brad Hobbs

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Knickerbocker Avenue, Brooklyn. NY

Guest blogger

bradAbout me

I was born in Margate, Kent on the south east coast of England on the 5th July 1990. I grew up about 40 minutes south of Margate in a small seaside town called Deal.

Growing up in the south east of England, there isn’t much to do unless you like being outside. Being a teenager, I wanted to either be in front of a TV sleeping the days away or out skateboarding. When I turned 13, my dad brought me my first camera and I took around with me everywhere. I mostly concentrated on the boats, beaches and surrounding farm land.

I moved to London in 2010, where I started working at a magazine as an intern for 3 months. Once my internship had ended I was quite lost as to what to do next. After networking around the city I fell into a PR job which kept me occupied for 3/4 years working with some big names in music, sports, movies & television. At some point I thought this would be a job for life but I slowly grew away from it and followed my dreams in photography and writing. Over the past 2 years, my life and career has had its ups and downs like most people, but things have recently really take a turn for the better with a few different ambitious projects.

So what do I think about the X-A2 for my style of photography?

When I first picked up this camera my instant thoughts were how lightweight and compact it is. Using the XC16-50MM kit lens it has fed me with everything I need.

With my style of photography I like to be as close to my subject as possible and to paint a scene of what’s happening around me. The Fujifilm X-A2 helps me capture those moments.

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Broadway, Brooklyn. NY

Once I started learning how to use the settings to their full capability, I found myself shooting at night, which was something I never used to do. The SR+ setting and High ISO settings really help capture what we as humans can see during the darker hours of the day, if not better than what we see. The end results from this camera are so good it is a shame to edit or tweak images.

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Doyers Street, Chinatown. NY

During my time thus far with this camera, I have begun to edit less and take more photos that I am proud of. With the 175º tilting screen, shooting buildings and streets at interesting angles has never been easier. The resolution of the screen makes you want to take more and more images.

This camera is like having a little lightweight best friend around your neck that is never going to disappoint. It maybe even teach you a few things along the way.

So far I have travelled to Glasgow, New York, London, Los Angeles and have never left the house without my camera. On all of these trips and locations the X-A2 makes me proud to be a photographer and proud to be using a Fuji camera.

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To follow Brad’s photographic adventure, please visit his social channels below:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brad-hobbs/

https://www.instagram.com/brad_hobbs/

https://twitter.com/brad_hobbs

Shooting ‘Lifestyle’ with X-Photographer Kerry Hendry

Kerry Hendry - webOfficial X-Photographer Kerry Hendry was recently asked to shoot a product-lifestyle photoshoot for a very special client – us! Here she shares some useful tips and techniques to help you produce similar, stunning results.


The brief

Shooting the ‘X-Lifestyle’ was the brief – featuring lovely creative hipsters, out and about with their beautifully styled beards and retro looking cameras. The desired outcome: a collection of images that can be used worldwide for marketing the (fabulous) X-series cameras.

Planning

My mind was immediately racing with ideas – where, when, models, styling – what if it rains?

I love the creative side of life – and working out how you can translate the images in your mind into reality.  What look am I going for? Styling? Locations? Where to capture the best light – and how?

Aim high – super ambitious ideas will challenge and stimulate your creativity. Get out of that comfort zone and work out the ‘how’ !

And so it began – working up a mood board of ideas, selecting outfits, booking models, styling and location ideas.  For that true ‘hipster’ style Cheltenham was perfect, and as I only live a few miles away I know the town like the back of my hand.

Know your kit – I probably shouldn’t say this but I only ever read the manual if I get stuck or if I’m working out a new feature. Fuji X-Series are very intuitive and once you ‘get’ the Fuji way – you’ll never look back. Make sure you know all the key features to squeeze the very last drop of performance out of your camera

Making it Reality

Models were booked, outfits agreed, hair & make up booked, locations recce’d – and double recce’d!  We were super lucky to have a two very special locations on board to work with.

Light & Locations – ensure you recce your locations at the time you want to shoot them. We deliberately ended up at the boating lake as late in the afternoon/evening as possible to get the best light

For the first day we shot at The Boathouse & boating lake at Pittville Park in Cheltenham and for our second day of shooting, I managed to arrange early morning access to one of the most beautiful locations in town – the Sandford Park Lido – a 50m Art Deco open air pool in the centre of Cheltenham.

Be clear what you want to achieve with styling, less is often more – better to have 2 or 3 key outfits ready to go than a room full of clothes to wade through. Think accessories – shoes, jewellery, hats – all great props

Location, location, location

Some locations are perfect – no outside interference, no people in the background, no traffic, no kids playing football around you.  Others – you have to be a bit more creative, or dodge the traffic at least!

Engage & Direct – unless you have the luxury of a seasoned model (and sometimes even then), you will need to direct the shoot. If you can’t find the words to describe what you want, show them! It’s always entertaining to see a photographer try and model, which always breaks the ice

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We shot in peaceful parks, standing on a traffic island on a busy road, shooting across two lanes of traffic, waist deep in wild flowers – not to mention balanced on the edge of the boathouse deck trying not to fall in.  Boats drift artfully, photographers just sink.

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Experiment with depth of field – we all love the fast Fuji lenses with the delicious wide apertures, but do experiment. Putting your subject in context for a commercial shoot can be important, so look at your backgrounds and stop it down from time to time

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Work it – if you are just setting out, don’t be afraid to use some of the assisted options – face detection, the tracking autofocus, it’s all there to help you achieve the best photos possible

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Deliver – rule No 1 of any commercial shoot – deliver what the client needs. Listen, plan, deliver – only then cut loose and add those bonus images

Above all have FUN. Fuji to me is freedom – freedom to be individual, freedom to create, freedom to experiment.

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After two days of shooting the team was exhausted – most important thing of all – one very happy client (and no one fell in the lake!)

I hope you find these tips helpful and may they inspire you push the boundaries a little more and try something new in your own photography. Go on, sprinkle some Fuji magic!!!


About Kerry

Kerry Hendry is a fine art equestrian photographer who is passionate equestrian commissions and adventures. Her equine images have been widely published in national media and sell worldwide. A keen rider from a very young age, Kerry combines her three main passions in life: horses, photography and travel.

Visit Kerry Hendry’s official website here
Visit Kerry Hendry’s official Facebook page here
Visit Kerry Hendry’s X-Photographer gallery here

Upcoming event

You can meet Kerry at Wilkinson Cameras Digital Splash show in Preston, on Sunday 11th October.
Kerry will be giving two talks which will cover her adventures with the Fuji-X system – looking at landscape, portrait and fine art equestrian photography:

 

Product photography with the X-A2

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By LAURA HARVEY

Photos are super-important for anyone selling online – our customers aren’t able to pick up our products. They can’t get a feel for our cards, prints or mugs as they would in a traditional bricks and mortar shop.


Although we have stockists in the real world, we also sell our products online via our own website, as well as on marketplaces such as notonthehighstreet.com and etsy. These are ultra-competitive marketplaces, with a lot of products all shouting for attention. Type ‘birthday cards’ into etsy and you get 184,757 (and counting) results.

Having an eye-catching design and an appealing price can only take you so far. You need strong SEO and, just as importantly, professional-looking product shots.

This isn’t only important for catching a customer’s eye, but also for getting the attention of the people running these sites, who will promote products with superior photography.

That’s why we love using the X-A2.

I had been using an old DSLR, which did a job for us, but was a bit of a pain for my partner Jack, who has very little camera experience (he claims to have taken GCSE Photography many years ago, but you’d never know) to use on a day-to-day basis.

The X-A2 is far more intuitive, operating more like the compacts he’s used to from family holidays and so on.

Having a camera we can both use makes taking product shots – and promotional photos for our social media posts – a breeze.

We work from home, in a spare room converted into a store room for all our cards, packaging material, mug press, printers, blank mugs… you get the picture. Oh and this room also doubles as our photo studio. This means that when we need to photograph our products, we have to do a quick transformation of our designated packing area into a mini photo studio. The quicker we can do this, the better. So being able to stick the X-A2 on to our tripod and shoot away is a real bonus.

Of course, we’re not just limited to the studio and with the X-A2 being so lightweight and compact, it has joined us on our travels this summer, including a long-awaited visit to Wimbledon (on the hottest day of the year, no less) which meant I was able to get some great photos that I will treasure forever.


In a nutshell, here are our 10 favourite things about the X-A2

Image quality.

What can we say? When we want a bright, sharp image to show off our colourful designs the X-A2 does not let us down. This gives our customers the closest experience possible to actually picking up the products in their own hands.

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Reduced noise at a low ISO.

I knew that the photos I had taken with my DSLR had more noise on them than I’d like, even at ISO 100, but it wasn’t until I blew up an old image and one taken on the X-A2 side by side that I noticed just how grainy the old photos were in comparison. When your main selling tool is a product shot, quality is everything and could make a huge difference to the overall appearance of our online shop.

Selfies.

You can flip the screen over the top of the camera body and take a mean selfie (Jack particularly likes this feature. Boys…)

Exposure preview.

Being able to preview the exposure before shooting is really time-saving. Our studio doesn’t always have the best light, it’s natural and changes in seconds. With the X-A2 I can keep adjusting and previewing the exposure quickly and easily, which saves heaps of time.

Liveview.

The liveview screen is ultra clear, exceptionally responsive and tiltable. I hadn’t really fully appreciated the point of an tiltable liveview screen until I started using the X-A2. Our studio space-cum-photography studio is pretty pokey, with stacks of cards, boxes of envelopes and postage tubes all coming in and out all the time. Being able to tilt the screen rather than stand back and crouch down makes photography a pleasure rather than a chore.

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It ain’t heavy.

How can a camera packed with so much clever stuff be so lightweight? It must have come from the future. Going back to the DSLR after using this is like trying to pick up a Rottweiler when you’re used to a Pomeranian.

Hip to be square.

The square format mode is a big bonus for us. The standard photo format on our website and notonthehighstreet.com is square, so this not only saves us time in cropping, but also helps us to shoot specifically with these websites in mind. Seeing the crop in camera first, rather than having to imagine a square crop from a landscape or portrait image is a huge benefit for us.

Battery life.

We kicked the heck out of the battery, really going to town on what we thought would be real energy-sapping sessions of lengthy liveview use, but the X-A2 just kept on keeping on.

Wireless transfer.

Being able to zap the files straight over from the X-A2 to our computer, tablet or phone not only makes us feel a bit like Tom Cruise in Minority Report, but saves time and, teamed up with the square format, makes Instagram a doddle.

It looks cool.

Well, it does, doesn’t it?


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After a few weeks of launching new products – and mainly studio-based work, we’re keen to get the X-A2 out on the road to get some great new content for our blog. Watch this space…


Laura Harvey is the founder and designer at Paper Plane

Paperplanedesigns.co.uk | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


Learn more and buy now

X-A2_Front_Right_Silver16-50mm_FlashClick here to find retailers selling the Fujifilm X-A2

It’s all in the AUTO – X-A2

With the sunlight beating through the window and falling across my work monitor I knew I had to take a camera out for a play. And I thought that this was the perfect excuse to really try out the SR+ AUTO mode on the X-A2 camera.

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To give some background on the Fujifilm X-A2, it’s one of our entry-level mirrorless cameras which is aimed at photography enthusiasts and individuals that want great pictures without all the complicated settings that can come with DSLRs.

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SR+AUTO MODE

The idea behind my little afternoon shoot (other than to enjoy the sunshine 😉 ) was to really see just how good the Auto mode is on this camera. I have so many family members who love to take pictures but they don’t know all about apertures, shutter speeds, ISO etc. They just want a proper camera that takes nice pictures and which is easy to use.

So this is what I did:

I drove to my local country park, put the camera in the auto mode and set about my walk.

For those who know the film simulation modes, I kept it on PROVIA to give the most true-to-life colours and tones. 

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The thing that is nice about any AUTO mode on a camera, is if it works well, you can just enjoy your surroundings and let the camera do all the hard work. Not only that, but I know that if I was out walking with my family and friends, I wouldn’t want to think about all the settings. I would just want to snap away and enjoy the atmosphere and conversation.

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Another area that this camera excels in, is the colour reproduction. I have not boosted the colour saturation in post-production – these images are pretty much all straight out of camera…

In fact, the only post-production I used was in Picasa (a free to download editing suite by Google – find it here.) to crop a couple of the images into squares (1:1 format) and a one click ‘Auto-Contrast’ adjustment, which basically creates a better balance between the brightest point and the darkest point of an image – in many cases this will make the whites brighter and the blacks darker.

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I did this to make the images ‘pop’ out of the screen a bit more as our eyes are naturally drawn to high contrast scenes.

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As I continued my walk on this beautiful day, I turned my attention to macro (close-up) photography. I wondered how the SR+ AUTO mode would cope with close-up photography. Now what I haven’t told you is what SR stands for – it stands for Scene Recognition, which basically means the camera automatically detects what the camera is going to shoot. This helps the camera decide what settings it’s going to use for a particular shot. Of course, for me, this just meant I could point and shoot again.

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All in all, I was very impressed by the overall performance of the AUTO mode. Especially as I normally shoot using my own custom settings, apertures, etc. I think it really helps prove that having a good eye at photography is what it’s really all about. I didn’t have to fiddle with the settings on the camera, I only did that tiny bit of post-production which was to enhance my creative style, but it was certainly not necessary.

And the most important part was that I really enjoyed it! I could have gone walking without the camera and still had a nice time – it was a beautiful day after all. But because this mode does the hard work all I was left with was the fun part of photography, which made my walk a great one. I think I’d have to call SR AUTO carefree mode! 😉

If you’re looking for a camera that’s incredibly easy to use and takes great pictures, perhaps the X-A2’s the one for you. Please feel free to share this blog post with anyone else you think might be in the market for a carefree, no-nonsense camera.

Any questions, please leave a comment below.

Happy snapping! 🙂