Photography

Black and White With The Fuji X100f (Photos) and Nikon D600 (Video)

If you have spent any time looking at my work you know I enjoy shooting portraits. You may have also noticed that I often process my photos in black and white. It’s typically not something that I elect to do on purpose the photos just end up that way. In the case of my most recent shoot with Haven Hudson I ended up making the entire section black and white.

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Why Make Photos Black and White?

The most common reason that I choose to make photos black and white is because they were shot in low light. Because I’m compensating with a higher ISO and to a lesser extent larger Apertures the photos I shoot in low light tend to have a shallow depth of field along with a noticeable amount of “noise” (Grain, Static, artifacts and discoloration). While noise is a common byproduct of increasing the sensitivity of your camera’s sensor it is typically something many photographers would like to avoid. It’s why camera manufactures will invest a respectable amount of research and development into getting cameras to shoot at higher ISOs with less Noise. However even the best cameras shooting at 6400 ISO are going to show some noise but that doesn’t mean an image is ruined.

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In my opinion a humble amount of noise can give photos a film like quality. In an era where Photoshop can polish an image down to the point where it looks more like a life like painting it can be a bit refreshing to keep some of the old rough edges to images as opposed to scrubbing the photos of their soul and leaving them as nothing more than images. The issue is though is that Digital Noise isn’t film grain. It has completely different qualities, the most significant being the way it effects color tones; They can become muddy and difficult to grade colors the way you want. It is especially difficult when it comes to skin tone which tend to be a pain in the ass to change anyways. However if you are okay with less color and a bit of grain you can get some very vintage/filmic looking images.

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This is what makes black and white such an effective method of editing. You’re not worried about what the colors look like you’re more focused on what your exposure, Contrast, whites, blacks, shadows and highlights are doing without having to stress about color balance or saturation as well.

Technical justifications aside the main reason to process in black and white is purely a aesthetic choice. I have always loved the way black and white photography looks especially when it comes to my more candid and improvisational photography. I like having photos that look like you could find them in the attic of you grandparents house and it’s a big reason I frequently order 4×6 prints on some of my favorite photos. One day someone is going to be going through my old stuff and that photos I have taken throughout my life.

Shooting with the Fuji X100f.

cr-35The Fuji X100f is a relatively new addition to my camera bag. I have had it for the last 6 months and in my time shooting with it there are some certain qualities that I have grown to appreciate and other that I have learned to loath and this Black and White series is a good illustrations of the good the bad and the ugly when it

comes to this camera.

The Good:

The image quality off the sensor of this camera is excellent. I have grown so spoiled by shooting with a full frame Nikon DSLR that I have grown pessimistic when it comes to smaller sensors but the APS-C sized chip on the X100f Renders details and colors so well that in the right lighting conditions you would think that you were shooting with a full 35mm sensor.
cr-32I personally believe the sensor benefits from having a well paired lens attached to the front of it. The 23mm f2 lens that is fixed on the Fuji is roughly a 35mm equivalent on the APS-C Sensor and the combination of the f2 wide open aperture and being fixed focal length allows for very precise rendering that takes some very breathtaking images.

The final thing that I love about the camera is how fast it is. The auto focus, the shutter response (along with being incredibly quite) allows me to shoot very quickly and the responsiveness of the camera to my adjustments happen at such a pace that I can focus on shooting more than constantly making minor adjustments.

The Bad:

The X100f is not well suited for portraits, Not going to lie about that. While I am super pleased with the image quality coming out of the camera there are some things that makes it hard to get portraits to look the way portraits to should look (at least for my personal prefrence.

cr-2 Because the lens is a 23mm it has a lot of the qualities and drawbacks of a wide angle lens. Noticeable distortion, the bokeh (blurred Background) never quite gets the subject isolation you want and getting the right composition  becomes a bit more of a challenge.

Most of these things can be overcome with some editing. Adobe Lightroom (Which I almost exclusively edit with)  has profile corrections built right in for this camera and the you can add more blur the background if you’re into that kind of thing but ideally you want to minimized editing by getting as much in camera as I can and having my processing for implementing the style I want. Not so much for fixing issues.

The Ugly:

The high ISO performance on this camera is sketchy at best. The noise after 3200 ISO is Pretty noticeable but the thing that I constantly notice is how muddy the mid-tones become as you raise the sensitivity.  It is especially rough on the color quality. after 1600 ISO the color starts to fall apart on the RAW files to the point that you almost feel like you have to go to black and white which I why I elected to edit all of these photos in black and white. I’ve noticed in time that people are really committed to color photography and I will often deliver black and white photos and have people ask me to convert them back to color. So for me I’m okay with living with a camera I know I’m going to get some color issues but I think there a lot of photographers and clients out there who color quality is non-negotiable.

Video in Black and White:

I want to get back to shooting video more often. Typically I don’t mix a lot of my video work with my portrait work but it has been something that I have wanted to do. After Editing the whole set in Black and White I decided I wanted the video I captured to match.

I shot the Video on my Nikon D600 with the Nikon 24-120 f4g lens. This Camera is a bit on the old side when it comes to video performance. It shoots at 1080p at 30fps (I shoot in 24fps) on a H.264 codec which is respectable but there are a lot of 4k 60fps options hitting the market with better codecs and more video centric features. But the footage from the 35mm sensor looks great and 1080p is still respectable in the online space. (But I still am tempted to upgrade.) The real drawback of doing video on this camera is the focus. The back screen makes it really hard to tell when things are in focus and nikon photography lenses really aren’t suited for manual focusing. Another thing that some of the more latest and greatest cameras have are better video auto focus features that the D600 just doesn’t have. All complaints aside, the best camera is the one you have on you and the D600 has been a work horse since I bought it and part of working in the creative space is being able to work within the limitations of your equipment and to a greater extent yourself to realize your creative vision.

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I was actually really happy with how the video came out but I do want to improve a few things going forward. First I need to get a better stabilization setup. Not necessarily something fancy like a DJI RONIN or a Glide Cam but possibly a shoulder rig to give me more steady movements going forward. Also I need to get back on my music game because it’s very hard to get quality music that you can use in videos. Luckily Brain Altano has encouraged people to use the music he is now making for his new creative project Weird Heat on their own projects so I have decided to take advantage of his generosity.

The Set:

I feel fortunate to have been able to shoot with how busy I have been lately but I’m finding it important to continue with my own creative endeavors. A lot of what my day (and night) job have me do is beneficial to my professional growth, but being able to do things like this black and white series makes me feel like still have the ability to flex my creative muscles.

Exploring National Harbor

One of the places I have frequented now that I live on the East Coast is National Harbor. It’s just across the bridge from Alexandria and has a lot to do and see in the way of entertainment. I spend a couple of hours down there just looking around and taking photos. Being that it was the middle of the day on a Wednesday there weren’t a whole lot of people around but what was around was some unique opportunities to brush up on my photography skills when not shooting people.

FLZ Jacqui Daniels Makeup: Lightroom Timelapse

A year ago I did a shoot where I helped my friend Jacqui Daniels Get started on her makeup portfolio with a shoot where she introduced me to Feliz. The shoot was themed to be a very high fashion glam look. It featured a lot of gold and so for the edit I wanted that gold look to shine through so that became a main focus of the editing process. Balancing out colors is always a challenge but what I always find works best for portraiture is to lower the saturation by at least 30 and that counters anything drastic that you do with contrast or the white balance. Other than some basic retouching and softening on the skin all the photos really came together

To check out Jacqui’s makeup go to https://www.facebook.com/makeupbyjacquidaniels/?fref=ts

You can see more photos of Feliz on instagram at https://instagram.com/flzmrtnz

Emilie in the Snow

Virginia just got it’s first snow of the year just in time for me and Emilie to have settled in after moving out to Northern Virginia. We got about and inch and a half of snow and it’s a site that is so rare in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I am from. We manage to get out right as the snow was calming down but flakes were still falling. It added an element to the photos that is incredibly unique and the help create interest as out of focus element. Bellow is a time lapse of my editing process which you can see I only use a light amount of retouching and most of the focus is on getting the contrast and color right where I like it. For this shoot I ended up cheating a little bit on the magenta side simply because i felt like sit fit the mood better especially because it looked like the white balance I shot in was cheating toward the Green side.

Jacqui Daniels Cosplays Poison Ivy: Set Editing

To try and find some new means of creating content I decided I would start making these videos that show off my process of editing in Adobe Lightroom. This set with Jacqui Daniels was something I did a few Months ago but figured it would act as a good test run. In this set you will notice one big thing that needs adjusted and that is white balance. All the images were taken in shade and came out a very cool color. Ivy is a much warmer feeling character so I needed to move the white balance to reflect that. Another thing you will notice is that I didn’t have to do much correction on Jacqui’s skin. She is a very talented Make Up Artist and know what she’s doing with makeup and skincare making my job as a photographer easier in post. If I don’t have to do a lot of skin retouching I’m not going to.  You can check Jacqui’s stuff out here as well as her instagram and her Make Up Page. Bellow you find the original gallery I have posted.

2 For 1 Shoots: Wednesday Adams and the Devil with Batmanda

October is here, the leaves are changing and Halloween is right around the corner. Now is the time to get out that old bin of creepy decorations and figure out what you’re going to be for the best holiday of the year. Lucky enough for me a lot of the people I work with have no shortage of costumes and ideas that they want to play with.

Batmanda and I had already talked about a Wednesday Adams shoot months back so we finally got that together but she recently posted a piece of cover art to inspire another shoot. I tend to shoot very fast. Shoots once they get going don’t last much longer than and hour so I don’t mind doubling up concepts especially when I can get them done at locations near each other.

The Devil theme was the shoot we did in a studio setting. I kept it super simple with natural light coming in through a window and a white wall as a basic background.  There is rarely any need to go over the top when it comes to shoots. you can get amazing results.

For Wednesday Adams we went down the road to the bosque where we could pull off some  more on location type stuff. Trying to get the tone of the photos was more of a matter of editing. Toning down the saturation to make it fit the character.

I love October in the what it offers aesthetically and I hope I get the opportunity to do more shoots this month.