I’ll admit that I’m in a creative rut. And like any photographer that feels frustrated, there’s only one thing to do: go in a different direction. For well over a year I’ve been shooting hardly anything besides studio portraits. While I love that genre and the work that I’ve created in that time, I feel like my work has hit a wall creatively. After watching several photographers and filmmakers doing these a-photo-a-day projects, I decided to give it a go in 2017.
Articles written by Spencer Lookabaugh
The idea of a travel tripod causes hesitation. On one hand, you have a size that makes bringing a tripod on location no longer a physical strain. On the other, these tripods tend to be thin, causing them to be less sturdy than larger, thicker tubed tripods. The key to a good travel tripod is striking a balance of size and strength. For the past few years, MeFOTO has been the leading brand in travel tripods with their wide selection of sizes. Their introductory line of tripods offered everything from tabletop height to a full size 64" tripod. With their newest release, they seem to be pushing the boundaries of how small a tripod can really be.
I have had the blessing and curse of having too many photos to edit in the past few months. I've had plenty of opportunities to improve my work with the high frequency of shoots, but it's caused me to feel buried. During a typical shoot, I'll take between 250-400 photos. With each light setup, I'll take a few shots to ensure it's just how I want it, then I'll start directing my model. I strive for 3-4 solid shots per setup, one of which will end up being the final image. Both myself and my hard drives are feeling the pressure. In order to make sure that everyone gets their photos in a reasonable timeframe, I've adopted a new workflow for my editing.
Some of you might not consider what you do as art, but as a photographer, you're an artist. A lot of small pieces and parts come together to make your images what they are, and that process of deciding everything from the model, to the clothing, the lens choice, to the lighting, is an artistic one. Many genres of photography are heavily dependent on other artists; portrait photographers need models and more than likely a makeup artist and stylist to bring their vision to life. Networking is key to our work in order to meet people that we trust to help us craft our images.
Camera resolutions are soaring in recent years, with Canon unleashing a 50-megapixel DSLR and Phase One showing off the new XF 100MP back. The unending argument of why manufacturers bother with such resolution swirls around one thing: printing. Photographers argue that a higher resolution camera will produce a better print with more detail. Technically, that is absolutely true, but most photographers aren't printing much these days.
The beauty of studio shooting is that you have absolute control over every aspect of your final image. From makeup, to the general lack of ambient light to deal with, to the subject in front of your camera, everything is up to you. This can bring some challenges _ namely, you as the photographer are also the director of the entire shoot. If something isn't going right, it's your responsibility to fix it. I apply this to everything in life, but it's especially relevant in assembling a successful shoot. Remember the six Ps of life: proper planning prevents piss-poor performance.
I know that all of the iPhone 7 hype is on the portrait mode and DNG file capture that the new camera has, but I was particularly interested in another aspect of iOS's photo capability. Having been stuck on a Nexus 6 for the past year and a half, I missed out on a lot of the new tricks that the iPhones were offering. Specifically, Lightroom Mobile's new raw file support, giving it similar editing capability as the desktop version of Lightroom.
I always enjoy a good time-lapse. Making them is a hobby of mine, as I love getting to relax and work at the same time. Leaving your camera stuck on a tripod or Gorillapod doesn't always give you the most dynamic shot I've found. Fortunately, there are ways to add some depth to your time-lapse film without having to lug around several backpacks worth of gear. One such device would be the Syrp Pan/Tilt Bracket.
Since the days of film, medium format has been far from reach for many photographers. Even working professionals can have trouble justifying the high price point of these systems: when used, they can be $8,000-10,000. Medium format film bodies, while cheap now, were always several thousand away from even the most exorbitantly priced 35mm bodies. Factor in the inconvenient size of just about every medium format camera ever, and it's easy to put the idea of working with these monsters far from mind.
I've always seen SanDisk and Lexar as the two main companies when it comes to camera media. Having used Lexar for some time now, I'm always excited to see what the company releases given my success with them in the past. This week they have shown a few new products for a variety of uses from CCTV to action cameras, to still photography and filmmaking.
In the United States, you might know them better as Rokinon. Samyang Global, the Korean optics manufacturer, has announced two new lenses that may come as a bit of a surprise. While they have been producing quality manual lenses for a variety of mounts, they haven't done much that the mainstream manufacturers haven't already in terms of focal length, aperture, or cinema capability, though their price points have always been far more reasonable. With these new releases however, that has changed.
Traveling as a photographer can be difficult. The issue we always seem to encounter is a lot like G.A.S.; we want to have the right lens for every shot, and we don't want to miss out. The key to circumventing this issue is planning. While some of the best shots can be unexpected, you have to have an idea of what you're looking for. When planning my recent trip to New York City, I had to find a way to pack the camera gear I wanted for a variety of work in a small, comfortable bag. Enter the ThinkTank Photo Turnstyle 20, the best small travel bag I've ever seen.
Sony has created a few gems when it comes to lenses in the past few years, with the 90mm Macro and 16-35mm f/4 potentially being some of the best in their class. 50mm for some reason seems to be their favorite focal length to produce, seeing as they now have seven different "normal" lenses with the release of their new 50mm Macro this morning.
I'll preface this by saying that I am in no way bashing the Instagram community, other photographers, or their style. I got to be curious about why these Instagram portrait photographers were gaining such popularity. If you search any of the various Instagram "superhubs," you'll see this style crowding the pages. Once deconstructed, there isn't much to the look that has exploded across social media in the last year. Though there isn't much to it, there is certainly some work involved. It's not always as simple as a few sliders in the Instagram editor.
I have always preferred simplicity when it comes to lighting portraits. When connecting with a model or subject, especially when working without assistants, I hate having to deal with several lights or various flags, cutters, and bounce cards. This way I can work the camera and move around without having to worry about tripping over my whole setup, and my subject feels more comfortable without obtrusive equipment crowding them. Also, if the model can move around a little, I feel that I can get far more natural poses when they aren't confined by specific lighting. My favorite lighting tool to "keep it simple" with is the Westcott 7-foot Parabolic Umbrella.
In the wide world of video, one of the most important aspects of production is the sound quality. Sound sells the realism behind your favorite movies and TV shows. In fact, a lot of what you hear when you watch the latest blockbuster or HBO hit series isn't "real." It's created by Foley artists in a studio and mixed in later. This gives the editors maximum control over each individual sound, from footsteps, to gunshots, to engines. Of all the sounds, however, there is one in every feature film that just can't be faked: dialog.
What makes a photograph or movie memorable? With cinema as widespread as it is, a film needs to stand out in a big way, not only to succeed at the box office, but to be remembered in any capacity. As for photographs, it's the same challenge. We remember the Tiananmen Square protest photo because it captured the issues sweeping the globe in a single frame. Films like "The Shining" and "There Will Be Blood" are relatively simple in terms of visuals, but have stories that will forever make them classics. And that's exactly what makes a film or a photograph great: story.
Over the past few weeks I have been touting the Sony a6300's video performance. This past week I decided to take the camera to the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course to film a track day. Oddly I ended up not using the auto focus, as the fences were proving to be a challenge with adapted EF mount Sigma lenses. On native lenses like the 70-200mm f/4 or the 70-300 f/4-5.6, this likely wouldn't have been an issue. Aside from that, the camera continued to impress me and exceeded my expectations.
Today, video is everywhere. Whether it be an iPhone shooting super-slow-motion footage, or a RED Weapon eating away at hard drive space in 8K resolution, capable cameras are available to almost everyone who wants them. And while we can’t all shoot on RED, it’s possible to get amazing production quality out of consumer-level cameras. Here are a few things to look out for and keep in mind when purchasing gear.
In 1987, Canon made a widely criticized move and introduced the EF mount. This was mostly to create a mount that was easier to build auto focus and stabilization mechanisms into. The EF lenses are among some of the best in the world, so there's no complaint now. Back in the 80s, however, there was a massive outcry against Canon's decision to abandon an entire system and force their shooters into new cameras and lenses with no backwards compatibility. As time passed, no one really cared. Canon's legacy is often forgotten, but Canon left behind a solid system of lenses. Those lenses are the Canon FD series.