a (fashion) shooter

more tests…and notes on lighting

by on Feb.17, 2009, under cameras

(I was trying to get off of this testing phase on this blog. and back to lighting, but I am still testing…)

In trying a third Canon 5D Mark II body today, it focuses better with the outer AF points, but they are still no good for full figure shots where the target is far off. Lots of out of focus ones. 


On a positive note, the outer AF points seem to work ok for waist-up shots. And the color on this one is FAR better than my other 5D2 bodies.


(If the skin tones look a little funny, that’s because they are. The model is going to Japan tomorrow, where they insist that the models be as pale as possible. So she’s been hiding from the sun ;-) And thus, copius amounts of spray-on tan were applied.)


Still, if I were shooting something critical and could not be tethered to a computer to check focus, I would not use this camera! The auto focus is just too dodgy on far away objects, even using the center point. Tis a pity.


p.s. Dear Canon: Isn’t the one-shot AF mode supposed to only take the shot when it’s achieved focus at the selected AF point? IF so, maybe part of this problem could be resolved with a firmare fix: make it so that in one-shot AF mode the camera actually does not take the shot if the image is out of focus. Would this work, or can the camera just not tell that the image is not in focus?

**notes on the lighting setup for the above shots will follow shortly**

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one light wonders – using a single light source in the studio

by on Dec.16, 2008, under lighting & technique

While admiring photographers who can handle many lights very well, like Joshua Jordan, I usually like to keep things on my sets as simple as possible. Why? Because I find that I feel freer to work with the talent when I am not thinking too much about equipment. Also when the lighting is more simple, the models can move around more freely without messing the whole thing up ;-)
Keeping it simple often that means using only daylight, or just one studio strobe – and maybe mix the one studio light with daylight. And often it means using a reflector or two. While it might sound limiting, it really isn’t. And if you are just starting to learn how to light things, or just like to travel light, it’s a good idea to explore all that can be done with one light source.
Using only the sun (daylight) is a good way to start. Everyone has taken photos using daylight, and everyone has seen some incredible images made using just the sun. The below gallery is all shot indoors with just daylight. Sometimes there was just one window, and in some cases there were multiple windows.
Seeing as you can do all these things with daylight inside, it should follow that one artificial light source in the studio could be just as be fruitful, no? Well, it can be. Soon I will post a few shots using single-source strobe lights (usually with large softboxes for diffusion.) I’ll do my best to describe exactly how I used them.
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(A.F.) Trouble in Paradise

by on Feb.19, 2014, under cameras

Well, not exactly paradise, as the Nikon D610 doesn’t actually feel so good in the hand. But it has been GREAT in terms of IQ (best I have ever had) and usability.

The ability to shoot high dynamic range scenes and then edit with impunity is amazing. I have been shooting in bright, high contrast situations where most digital cameras would either blow highlights or shadows, where this camera blows neither. Everything in the scene fits within the D.R. This is a first for me, and it solves the one true issue I have ever had with shooting digital – and that is the choice of burning out highlights or letting the shadows go to 0/0/0.

I shot with the D800 a number of times and decided against the purchase due to loudness, weight, and the many, many reports of focus issues, Nikon claiming “impact damage” when they were sent in for various repairs, etc. It just did not seem like the right investment for me.

The D610 and 50mm f/1.8G lens have been great, BUT now and then the focus is off. Just yesterday I tested it wide open, and it seems that the camera focuses fine on the right side and the middle, but the left AF points do not focus sharply at 1.8. All tests were done using single-servo AF (AF-S) mode. The images on the left are 100% crops using the left AF points, and the images on the right are using the right AF points.

prime5 prime4 prime3 prime2 prime1


I then tested the only other lens I have with me at the moment: the 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G zoom lens, and sure enough, the left side is not focusing properly with this lens either:

 zoom2 zoom3 zoom4 zoon1

Sadly, I am a little worried about sending the body in to Nikon for service, as I am (1) afraid of waiting a month for service, and (2) afraid of being told that there was “impact damage” and thus my warranty is void.

For the record, there has been no “impact” as far as I know. In the mean time, I will be back to shooting with my Canons until this is sorted out.

 This leaves me wondering if this issue is a fluke, or if others are having this issue with the D610. Does anyone out there care to test their camera (wide-open) and report back?

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Canon 6D vs. Nikon D610 RAW files

by on Dec.31, 2013, under cameras

There seems to be some interest in comparing the RAW files form the Canon 6D and the Nikon D610. Thus I have made available a number of comparable shots form these cameras, each shot with a 50mm 1.8. The settings are for the most part identical. They should give you some idea of how they handle similar scenes.

The 6D files can be downloaded here

The D610 files can be downloaded here.

(links will expire on Jan. 7, 2014)

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Canon 5D Mark III and Nikon D610 RAW files

by on Nov.13, 2013, under cameras

There seems to be some interest in comparing the RAW files form the Canon 5D Mark III and the Nikon D610. Thus I have made available a number of comparable shots form these cameras, each shot with a 50mm 1.8. The settings are not identical, as I was using aperture priority for some of them. But they should give you some idea of how they handle similar scenes.

They can be downloaded here. (files available through Nov 20, 2013)



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Hello again.

by on Feb.08, 2012, under cameras, lighting & technique, Uncategorized

Hello again. And yes, A Fashion Shooter is back. Sort of. I am sorry for my absence, but I was busy doing things like moving to California, getting engaged, married, and having a baby! Oh, and flying back and forth between LA and NY for photo assignments.

Here’s the boy.

Hudson at 6 weeks

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food and drink with the Canon Rebel T21

by on May.21, 2011, under cameras, food

2010_07_28_1222 2010_07_28_1137




blackened peppers

I shot a story in a restaurant in Los Angeles yesterday – not with my usual full-frame cameras, but instead with the 1.6 crop Canon Rebel T2i / 550d. Why? In part to see how successful I could be in getting the background blur I want and need for tabletop photography in a busy room. Also, because I travel a lot, and having a small, light and usable camera is important at times. Knowing that the dynamic range of the newer crop-chip cameras is on par with the 5D2/1Ds3 cameras, it seemed feasible that this camera could do a stellar job. As I travel a lot, the 550d acts as a backup for my full-frame cameras when on the road – because it is small, light, and has an on-camera flash, which comes in handy now and then!)

I also used inexpensive consumer leneses: Canon 50mm 1.8, the kit zoom lens 18-55 IS, and the 24-85 3.5-4.5) These cheaper lenses are sharp enough most of the the time. But when pointed down, the focus and zoom tend to drift due to gravity, which means a LOT more work and constant refocusing and re-compositing. When working with time constraints, this is a big problem. The more expensive lenses which I use most of the time (70-200 2.8 L, 100mm macro,  50mm 1.4 etc. are much better in this regard. They stay where you put them. And the tripod collars on the 70-200 and macro are real time savers.)

A few issues with the T2i:

Viewfinder is not great for precise manual focus when using narrow depth-of-field! After using the full-frame cameras with their optional precision focusing screens, the T2i’s manual focusing is vague. Stopped down it is no problem, but using a 50mm or 85mm near wide open, you really can not tell precisely where you are focused until after the shot is taken and you can view it on an LCD screen.

I somehow thought I could use my Canon remote cable release for this camera, but no! I ended up using the 2 second timer instead, which is not nearly as convenient or fast as a remote release.

What worked well:

The image quality on this camera is really very good. No one I know of in the publishing world is going to complain about the files coming out of this camera. And these are going to Gourmet Magazine.

Tethered transfer times to the computer are good (I was shooting RAW connected with Canon’s Digital Photo Pro software. )

Battery life is very good. After the shoot the battery still showed just about full-power. The older cameras (including the 5D Classic, T1i…) would chew through batteries much faster, especially when shooting tethered.

In conclusion: The T2i/550d worked very well in this commercial application. Files look great, and everyone is happy. However,  I do not recommend the cheaper consumer lenses for table top photography. While the IQ was fine, their mechanical characteristics made for some frustrating focusing and compositional issues.

While the T2i has been replaced with the T3i, the T2i can be had for good prices now. I bought this one as kit with the 18-55 IS as a refurb directly from Canon for under $500. IMO it makes a great small and light travel camera, and it also makes a good backup for the full frame bodies.

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Canon’s T1i/T2i

by on Feb.01, 2011, under cameras

Thoughts on the Canon T1i/T2i

It seems like every month I am asked about which camera to buy – usually by some friends who are about to have a baby. I have recommended Nikon and Canon entry level DSLRs, and I have gotten raves about just how much better the results are. And it is true – a lot of the time one can get far superior results with a decent DSLR than with a point and shoot. And the control over depth of field can give the images a professional-looking touch.
With cameras like the recently announced Canon T2i (rebel 550) at $900 with a lens, there are many choices which are simply out of reach for many new parents.
And the cameras I am used to using for my fashion and food work (1Ds mark III, 5D Mark II…) are WAY out of price range, and far too heavy for most casual users anyway.
So I set about to get relatively inexpensive SLR and put it through it’s paces on a trip to Martha’s Vineyard.

I got a minty T1i body and a minty 18-55 IS kit lens off of Craigslist in Los Angeles for a total of $500. (The T1i kit sells for $700 new today.) This is a saving of close to $400 over the aforementioned T2i kit with tax.

Well, first things first – the kit performed remarkably well. Metering was spot on using evaluative and partial modes, even when shooting JPEGS. I had read that this camera can be prone to overexposure in bright conditions, but I experienced no such thing. If anything, it underexposed 1/3 to ½ stop, which is perfect in my opinion – so as not to risk blown highlights.

Using the built-in flash at a party worked very well too – and again the exposures and skin tones were dead accurate. What a surprise! (It’s easy to get used to the Pro bodies and to assume that the consumer cameras are going to be lacking in many obvious ways, but that it not what I found with this camera + lens combo.)
Overall I feel it is a great backup camera for someone who as a full-frame camera such as a 5D. IQ is so good that I cannot see any difference in terms of image quality in the applications I have used them for (moderately sized prints for advertising, portfolios and web.)

I would not hesitate to use it as a primary camera, unless absolute control of depth of field is a priority – in which case the larger the sensor the better, and the 5D/1Ds3 would be the better choice.
The T1i and T2i represent amazing value, and have superb image quality and ease of use. Everyone I have recommended them to has been thrilled with the results!




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food, dude (off on a tangent)

by on Sep.26, 2009, under food, lighting & technique, the industry

Ok, just so you all know I am not a one-trick pony, i thought I’d post some of my ‘other’ work. And it’s good. Most of these were recently shot with Laurent Lanneau, who was the chef for the French Ambassador for the United Nations in NY at the time.

In New York it is very difficult to be taken seriously in fashion if you admit to shooting anything other than fashion. If so, people think you must be scatter brained, unfocused, unsure. For the most part NY is a very specialized photography  market – people expect you to do one thing only. But I am fearless, so here goes ;-)

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