Weddings…

Just a gathering of some of our recent, favorite, wedding photos…

 

…we’ve photographed over 100 weddings!  Our style is 30% fine art, 70% event-photojournalist.  We shoot with professional lenses and a variety of camera bodies, and one thing that stands us apart from pretty much every other wedding photographer…

…we give you EVERY usable picture we take that day, which over the last 3 years has averaged over 7000 images!

The DSLR era is over.

PHOTOGRAPHY CLASSES

…..are about to change. But it’s more of a “philosophical” change than a practical one.

Since we started One on One Classes (and we’ve done more than 600 in three years) we’ve worked EQUALLY with whatever camera someone brings to class.

For a very long time, we’ve recommended LIVE VIEW cameras to pretty much every type of photographer, but most people who come to One on One Classes already have DSLRs (which are not live view cameras, even if they have a “live view mode”)…..so we’ve tried to stay up to date on all cameras, to better answer questions and work out problems.

We’re dumping DSLRs, finally, altogether. You can absolutely take a photography class with your DSLR, but we’re done trying to stay “current” on, what we have to say, are now absolutely, outdated cameras.

We photographers love our cameras, so for some of us, this will sting a little….but the technology that made SLR so very very important for 40 years….started becoming unimportant when cameras went digital….and over the last 10 years while SLR became less and less important, it also became more and more of a design FLAW.

The only thing that makes an SLR an SLR, is a moving mirror. And that moving mirror is…

IN THE WAY

It blocks the camera from some the best, most useful, most exciting features we’ve ever put in cameras. That makes SLR not just outdated, but a design FLAW.

I’m not trying to talk anyone out of their camera….I’m just explaining why it’s finally come time to quit supporting SLR as a current camera design. There are better options, and most importantly, those better options make LEARNING PHOTOGRAPHY and learning to be CREATIVE much easier………much faster.

If you want to take a class and focus on theory, composition, light……all the great creative parts of photography, this won’t effect you in any way. If you want to learn how to shoot your SPECIFIC camera, and it’s a DSLR, it will effect you a little.

But the reason we’re making this (kind of ceremonial) announcement, is I think it’s just time….time to finally say…

The DSLR era is over.

For almost any shooter, you can learn faster, be more creative, shoot more fluidly with less distractions, if you get rid of the moving mirror 😉

Clever little trick….

…one of the better techniques to learn, is getting down LOW, so you can get more distance behind your subject.  These clover blossoms sit right down on the ground, and it can be hard (or impossible) to get any kind of angle on ’em, other than shooting DOWN (uggghh)

We all know what the shooting down pics look like:

 

One thing I do, to give my subject the isolation it deserves, and to give ME more options for backgrounds and compositions, is pick my subject UP….and one clever little way to do that, is with a “lifter.”

Here’s that clover shot again:

..I have the subject up, off the ground and I’ve strategically moved it around until I found not only a good background and light, but I’ve created a little bit of a frame with these tree leaves.

This is what my lifter looks like….it’s custom made to break down into three pieces so it fits in my backpack…..and you can make one, easily, for less than $10.  (you can also buy things that are similar)

….that alligator clip at the end is important.  With my version, I can either hold it in my hand like a selfie stick, or I can jam it in the ground.

That’s SUPER handy when I want to shoot with my longer lenses.

The “lifter” lets me do this:

…so I can GET this:

And it lets me take this:

…and isolate one stem and move it around looking for a composition, like this:

 

In the above example, I can even SEE my bokeh and light effects, I’m looking through the camera as I move my subject….if you have a mirrorless camera this even works when you stop your aperture down.

I often even dial my shutter speed with my thumb while I move the subject around against changing backgrounds and in changing light.  Since my camera is true live view, the whole process of changing backgrounds, composition, light and exposure is fluid.

 

Inexpensive, and make it any way you want it.  But if you make it small and easy to carry, you’ll have it with you more often 😉

All images essentially straight from the camera, sony a6000

Your gear’s limitations…

ISO doesn’t always equal ISO.

On the Sony a58, in normal situations, ISO 200 and ISO 800 are pretty close to impossible to tell apart (without very close scrutiny)

But if you take out the blue and green light, that camera’s ISO 200 looks more like 800 (which would normally be fine) and the 800 now looks like 3200, which on that camera, can be pretty smudgy.

If you know the limitations of your gear, you know when to compensate, or use a different strategy, like I did here by opting to push the lower limits of my shutter speed rather than risk the inevitable fail of the higher ISOs

 

sony a58, 70-200f2.8

Compare….

You see a lot of learning photographers in forums asking “which setting should I use for….”

I’m not here to tell you NOT to ask for advice, but I’m going to give you a two-part piece of advice that works for every single one of those questions, and is far more valuable than any ONE answer.

Test it side by side.
Practice ahead of time.

“Which aperture is best for….?”
“Go shoot several, and compare.”

“What is the highest ISO I should use on my camera?
“Shoot the same scene at several ISOs and compare.”

Most of the “which settings” questions you’ll be tempted to ask, you can not only answer yourself, you learn more by doing it.

And as a BONUS…..when you can, when time allows, shoot things MORE THAN ONE WAY.  So even if you think you already know the best choice, you’ve given yourself some options for when you open up the images on the computer later.  I learn from that every single time.

The Breakfast, getting everything in focus, f5.6

 

…..and for more focus on my new Asiago Cheese Soft Roll, with Egg and Pepperjack
f1.4

 

Then I can decide later:  Is this a photo of a breakfast, or a picture of my new sandwich with supporting players?

Sony a6000, Sigma 30mm f1.4, natural light, no editing
ISO 400

…..and here’s a “Making Of” shot:

Commercial photography….

Nine quick tips on shooting advertising/marketing pics for businesses.

You pretty much ALWAYS have to compose with negative space.

…give yourself or the designer room to add content.

Consider shooting wide.

Today’s full page websites often use wide format images, plus, it gives the designer the flexibility to use one image for several applications by cropping.

When you compose your shot, consider the potential for adding elements later, that contribute to the composition.   For instance use TWO elements instead of three, so that a logo or type could act as the third element.

Try to subtly include logos and products, almost subliminally.

Know the goal of the marketing.  A beautiful image is less useful if it doesn’t fit the objectives.

Technically perfect trumps creativity.  Creativity is great, but getting a technically perfect image within the goals of the marketing plan is crucial.  Good composition, light, color……and it needs to be SHARP.  The file quality has be usable for almost any application, including the most demanding like a large print viewed at a close range.

Your goal is always to make the product look even better than it really is. Photography and design and concept can’t be the weak links.

Give your customer colors they can work with.

Cinematography master class….

Photographers should treat themselves to the masterful photography, design and lightcraft of the film:

A Cure for Wellness.

Cinematographer Bojan Bazelli and director Gore Verbinski are clearly paying tribute to the style and attention to detail of Stanley Kubrick with their new movie.

It’s worth watching for the fabulous symmetry, one-point perspective and incredible compositions.

My only disappointment is in their choice of aspect ratio….the film would have been even better, WIDER.  At 1.66:1 it’s beautiful, at 2.4:1 it would have been magnificent. Although I understand their reasoning….their interior location had enormously high ceilings and they wanted to be able to take advantage of the room framing. That meant that not even the normal 1.85:1 would work, they had to go taller.

I can’t sell you on the story, dialog or performances.  I thought all were very good, but those are more personal, subjective things.  The technical skill and artistry of the photography and design, however, is inarguably astounding.  My current front runner for Best Cinematography, 2017.  (although they’ll have to claw and fight past Blade Runner this fall)

85mm lens battle….

Does it even make sense to compare a $300 lens to an $1800 version?

Yup.

This is a quick, only somewhat scientific comparison of the
Sony 85mm f1.4 Gmaster
and the much less expensive, manual focus,
Rokinon 85mm f1.4

First of all, you’ll not find anyone, anywhere, that claims the Rokinon is as good as the Sony.  The Sony, in lab tests, is sharper (though that’s hard to prove in reality) and the bokeh is better (though again, it’ll be hard to prove much of the time)

The Sony is built better, and has bonus features, its one of the 5 or 6 best portrait lenses in the world. (currently, my opinion)  That’s tough to argue against.

The QUESTION is, does it matter?  And believe it or not, depending on how you shoot, it may not.

But if you choose the Rokinon, you ARE giving up some features:

…and some of those features may be MANDATORY for you, like autofocus.

But let’s assume, for a second, that AF is not a major issue.  For instance, we’re testing them today on the Sony a6000, and with Sony’s focus peaking, unless you want TRACKING focus, manual focus is super easy and accurate.

Let’s assume the details aren’t important, we just want a GREAT PORTRAIT LENS.

Both are sharp, the below images are EXTREME crops from much larger images taken in very controlled conditions:

But if you look closely, the Sony has a slight advantage at f5.6 and that advantage is just a little wider at f1.4

In practical use, you really can’t tell them apart.

Regarding colors.  Both lenses are contrasty with vibrant color, but in my SUBJECTIVE OPINION, the Sony colors are more natural and it’s easier to capture skin tones.  This is one of those features you more or less have to take my word on, it’s based on having shot about 30 people with the Sony, and about 200 with the Rokinon.  The Rokinon does fine, but I’m certain for my own purposes, the Sony colors are better.

That said…you may not notice unless you spend a lot of time with both.

The Sony:

The Rokinon:

The Sony is a clear winner when it comes to chromatic aberrations.  (purple fringing)  BUT, again……that proves to be easy to remove in software from the Rokinon images.

The Rokinon does have two obvious advantages.

  1. It’s FIFTEEN HUNDRED DOLLARS CHEAPER!
  2. It’s a full two pounds lighter

The Sony is a little fatter, but otherwise, they’re the same length.  Frustratingly for me, the GMaster on a Sony E Mount Body won’t fit into my favorite waist pack 🙁

But that leaves us with the BIG QUESTION.  How beautiful are those out of focus backgrounds.  The lenses can both capture plenty of detail……but what about the BOKEH?

This is where it gets very very interesting.  The Sony wins.  No surprises, the Sony was engineered in a whole new way to provide the best bokeh ever.  But, the Rokinon actually holds it’s own, enough that it’s kind of hard to tell them apart:

 

So when do you buy the Sony?  Well, the easy answer is when money doesn’t matter and you want the absolute very best.  If weight is not an important consideration and you’re just after the bar-none best possible image quality.

…or when autofocus is a must.  But you can also consider the Zeiss Batis and the Sigma ART with an adapter.

When do you choose the Rokinon?  When you are on a limited budget, or when you want to STRETTTTTTCH your budget, because let’s face it, with an extra $1500 you can do an awful lot.

The Rokinon is also a great option for being part of a smaller, lighter setup.

The images OF the lenses were taken with an a6000 + Sigma 30mm f1.4
And if you combine two Sony a6000’s with these two fast primes, you get one sleek, fast, efficient little duo:

ASTERISK.

Much of this is just my opinion, but it’s based on extensively using the cameras and all of the lenses involved.  This is NOT a case of me grabbing a lens for a day and making a snap judgment, I’ve pushed a quarter million pictures through these two lenses over the last year.

Also keep in mind that I’m making the bokeh comparisons using APS-C cameras, not full frame.  Both of these lenses ARE full frame lenses.  Of course, you do get all that awesome light gathering and creamy bokeh of an f1.4 lens with the field of view of a 127mm lens…..when you shoot on those tiny a6000’s.

And something to keep in the back of your mind…whether you shoot Sony, or Canon or Nikon or whatever…the Rokinon is just $300.  You may find it easier to leapfrog that cheap 50mm f1.8, and get a TRUE portrait lens with all the power of a 127mm  equivalent focal length and that beautiful, HUGE aperture 🙂

 

Photography Books….

I try to reference my books in this blog, as little as possible.  I want it to be very clear that the blog is it’s own thing, it’s not here to sell my books, it’s here to provide a good way to get my backlog of essays out.

But I also get a lot of questions about the books, and very honestly, I think they all are designed in a way to give the reader something you can’t get anywhere else.

There are 12 photography books in my Universe.  Right now three are in print.  The one I’ve been promising for sooooo long, The Six Things is finally going to see the light of day on June 15th.

….the thing that has held up this book, is it’s simply BETTER for people NOT shooting SLRs.  It’s a book that required an asterisk*

*this book is more helpful if you STOP shooting SLRs.

That’s all well and good, but until just this year, there was so much resistance from die hard DSLR users, that it was tough to even RECOMMEND anything but a DSLR.  The blowback and negative reactions would have outweighed the benefits of what I think is a brilliant system.  That sounds really arrogant, but I truly believe it….this is the simplest, most powerful system for shooting creatively.   And now that DSLRs are genuinely on the rapid decline, I think this book’s time has finally come.

10 years after I wrote the first draft, lol.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++

The three books that ARE currently in print are:

The Mountain and the Pebble

Understanding Sexy

and

The Composition Code

The Mountain and the Pebble is a collection of short stories….anecdotes or parables, they’re designed to make you THINK about art, the creative process and the philosophy of good photography.

 

Understanding Sexy is a unique book, based on the conversations and interactions I’ve had with women over 35 years…it’s about how to think sexy, feel sexy and BE sexy.  It’s disguised as a book about being beautiful for the camera, but it works just as well as a guide for feeling sexy any time.

…and The Composition Code is totally unlike any photography book out there. Rather than spelling out the information, the Code challenges you to solve the puzzle……not just finding the intended answers, but inventing your own tools of composition.  It’s currently only available as an ebook, to enable the inclusion of all full color photographs.

 

All three books are available on Amazon.

The Mountain and the Pebble

Understanding Sexy

and

The Composition Code

You can also get PDF versions by contacting us directly at
DAVE MELGES on FACEBOOK

 

…take better selfies.

I always find it odd, some of the best photographers (and most of the rest of us) end up having just TERRIBLE pictures of ourselves.

I’m not saying we’re not photogenic, I’m saying we quit making an effort, or we think it’s much harder than it really is to take a GOOD SELFIE.  How many professional photographers out there just point at a mirror and take the same picture we’ve seen a thousand times.

As it turns out, taking a GREAT SELFIE is actually pretty easy, assuming you can take a good picture in the first place.  You just need a couple extra things (they’re cheap) and a couple extra minutes (you’re worth it) and voila!

Here’s my list of requirements for getting a GREAT SELFIE.

  1. Tripod.  Stop pointing at mirrors, take a REAL picture.
  2. An intervalometer.  That’s a device that controls your camera, delays it, allows it to take multiple images, etc.  An external, an internal, an app……there is definitely an inexpensive solution out there, and an intervalometer is great for many other things, like timelapse photography.
  3. A plan.  Don’t just shoot………THINK ABOUT IT.
  4. Something to focus on that’s not you.  I often use a tripod or a stick I jam in the ground.

This intervalometer runs about $20 on Amazon:

A plan (this one was free)

 

…and here’s my list of tricks:

  1. Use a longer lens, and find a location with a lot of distance between YOU and your background.  This lets you use a wider aperture and still have a high percentage in focus, because your lens is farther away.
  2. Don’t use your WIDEST aperture though, I like to use my 70-200f2.8, but shoot at f4.  I get more of me in focus.
  3. Don’t take TWO shots…………take TWO HUNDRED.  Set your intervalometer to delay 15 seconds, then take a pic once a second for several minutes.  When you get into your spot, you can adjust, shift, change expressions and experiment.  Give yourself options later, take a LOT of images.
  4. Manual focus…either place an object where you will be, or use an object the same distance from where you will be.   Manual exposure and white balance….set it and TEST IT.
  5. Pick a time and location where the light is fairly constant.

Took this one in the rain:

..this one too:

For this one I focused on the fence:

For this, I focused on the tree branch:

I used a stick stuck in the ground to focus on for this one:

For this I added flash:

…and this one was a long exposure:

And……………..if a mirror is still your plan, at least make it interesting:

Here are some tips for professional mirror selfies:

  1. Don’t use an entry level camera…even if you have to borrow one, use a better lens….nothing says “NOT a professional” like a kit lens
  2. Lift your chin a tiny bit.
  3. After you’re all set, and focused, the last step is looking AT the lens.

 

If you want people to believe you’re a serious photographer, don’t go cheap on pictures of YOU.  Another good solution is hooking up with another photographer and trading….or I have my second photographer shoot me while I work:

 

And lastly, my latest selfie……”Dave upside down”

The important thing, to me, is all the rules for shooting someone else still apply….good light, good composition.  I shot this at sunset, with lots of room behind, and a I chose a tree that created a frame.

I shot it with my 70-200f2.8 from about 70 feet away: