Knowledge

Use of Off-camera Flash for Natural Light Portraits by Karthik Rajagopal

Most documentary photographers, street photographers and some of the candid wedding photographers consider it a sin to use flash for natural light portraiture. Is it because they really want to keep the pictures close to reality? Let’s take a reality check at the real reason.

After talking with a few portrait photographers who have only shot in natural light on why they do not use an external flash for their portraiture I narrowed down the reason to two points.

  1. Most photographers had a horrible experience with the use of on camera flash.

  2. Many of them who hate flash don't make an effort to learn about flash photography.

As photographers it easier explained with pictures than typing paragraphs of text. Here is a particular portrait of a tea-estate worker I shot in Kothagiri during the course of a post-wedding outdoor couple shoot. It was a compulsive shot for me as I saw a women dressed in scarlet saree in a green background with beautiful warm backlight from setting sun.

Shot without Flash   |   Camera Sony A7R II with Zeiss Batis 85 mm f/1.8

Shot without Flash   |   Camera Sony A7R II with Zeiss Batis 85 mm f/1.8

The first shot is one I did without a fill flash. I could have recovered shadows and with face mask I could have almost brightened her face. But, if the shadows were a little more darker recovering would have certainly produced losses.

Filled with Light from Godox AD200 with 60 cm soft box| Sony A7R II with Zeiss Batis 85 mm f/1.8

Filled with Light from Godox AD200 with 60 cm soft box| Sony A7R II with Zeiss Batis 85 mm f/1.8

Fortunately this time my friend Praveen was waiting with a Godox AD200 with a 60 cm softbox equipped with a boompole. As soon as he saw me shooting he was at the spot for the next shot to light her. In such a situation it is quite difficult to judge the flash intensity you need to get a good fill. I trusted on TTL with a -1 dialed in to retain some of the shadows. This is almost like holding a white reflector to reflect the sunlight onto her face. While using a reflector is not possible in all situations, a portable flash comes handy.

I trust I did not kill this picture with a flash. I did not do any exposure changes on this image in the raw processor to represent the pictures as shot for better understanding.

The idea of writing this blog was just to get people who never tried off camera portable flash for lighting natural light portraits. Please feel free to comment and write to me. Based on your inputs I 'll probably throw more light on using off-camera flash.

 

I am a Beginner. Which camera and lens should I buy? by Karthik Rajagopal

I get this question from several people at least twice in a week and I have been giving different answers depending on their needs. The truth is that you can start with any camera and lens. Your passion will eventually make you find the right stuff you need. Depending how strong your intention to learn is and how much time you can devote towards photography, you will learn. In early 2000's there was little resources online and internet bandwidth was a luxury. Today with the abundance of knowledge available on the web, esp the youtube videos, there is no dearth for knowledge. So you just need to set your mind and start with any equipment available to you.

For those people who do not have any camera to start with, you need to buy one. Most beginners ask this question. "I need a camera which I can use for all purposes and it should also be one with all manual controls to learn photography. And it should be within INR 30k to 50k budget." I am a kind of person who buys something if I really need it irrespective of how expensive it it. If I have the money, I just go ahead and buy it. But this is not something I am going to advice to people who ask me for a suggestion.

Nikon FE2 with 24 mm f/2.8 AIS Manual Lens along with Mint Hot Chocolate ;) Shot on my mobile phone.

Nikon FE2 with 24 mm f/2.8 AIS Manual Lens along with Mint Hot Chocolate ;) Shot on my mobile phone.

Yes, I would love to recommend the above camera for learning. Film and resources for developing is rare. While starting to learn, if availability is itself a problem, where will you even learn. So, I am going to suggest digital photography. But, film cameras and lenses cost a fraction of the price of what a professional modern cameras and lenses cost. And I recommend learning photography with a good choice of lenses from a focal length of 28 mm to 135 mm to start with and preferably with open apertures in the range of f/1.4 to f/2.8. This will help you understand the nuances of DOF (Depth of Field) and help you understand how to choose lenses.

Sony A6000 mirrorless camera with 16 - 50 mm Kitlens (Approx Rs 35,000 ). (Internet Image)

Sony A6000 mirrorless camera with 16 - 50 mm Kitlens (Approx Rs 35,000 ). (Internet Image)

I would recommend a digital mirror-less camera against a DSLR and specifically Sony A6000 for people who are on tight budget. This camera with Kitlens is available for Rs 35,000 and the image quality is at par with even cameras costing a lakh and over. You may also buy good mirror-less offering from Fujifilm, Olympus and Panasonic depending on how much budget you have. I am not against learning photography with a DSLR which are available at a similar price point. But there are certain advantages with a mirror-less camera esp when you are on budget and want to explore a variety of lenses.

Nikon 24 mm f/2.8 AIS Manual focus lens mounted on Nikon FE2 . 

Nikon 24 mm f/2.8 AIS Manual focus lens mounted on Nikon FE2 . 

For the last wedding shoot I did with FE2 with film, I had borrowed a Nikon-F to Sony-E adapter for using Zeiss Milvus lens on my Sony A7R ii from www.kitkarma.com. As the adaptor was still lying with me, I just thought I 'd try shooting pictures with that lens on my Sony A7R II. Here are a few pictures I shot in my room with tube-light as the only light source.

Shot on Sony A7R II with Nikon 24 mm f/2.8 AIS lens and Fotodiox Adaptor. (f/2.8). Shot as JPG on camera

Shot on Sony A7R II with Nikon 24 mm f/2.8 AIS lens and Fotodiox Adaptor. (f/2.8). Shot as JPG on camera

Shot on Sony A7R II with Nikon 24 mm f/2.8 AIS lens and Fotodiox Adaptor.  (f/4). Shot as JPG on camera.

Shot on Sony A7R II with Nikon 24 mm f/2.8 AIS lens and Fotodiox Adaptor.  (f/4). Shot as JPG on camera.

Once I downloaded the pictures from the camera to my mobile, I was pleased to see the results this Rs 5000 lens could give. While the pictures were not as sharp and perfect as the modern Sony and Zeiss lenses that I have bought, it was definitely good. I am sure it is near impossible to find that I shot with a Rs 5000 lens on manual focus. This is one best thing about mirror-less cameras. As long as you have a focus ring and a way to control the aperture, you can mount any lens on a mirror-less camera. Focusing is extremely easy with the peaking feature. A manual 50 mm f/1.8 lens is avilable for as cheap as Rs 2000. Pick one to experience excitement.

Nikon 24mm f/2.8 AIS lens mounted on Sony A7R II with Fotodiox Nik(G) to NEX adaptor

Nikon 24mm f/2.8 AIS lens mounted on Sony A7R II with Fotodiox Nik(G) to NEX adaptor

The cost of these old manual lenses from brands like Nikon, Pentax, Olympus, Zeiss, Contax, Helios, Meyer Optix, Zenith, Vivitar, Canon a hots of M42 lenses are in the range of Rs 2000 to 5000. You can get it from ebay, keh.com & usedphotopro.com. You can try with local dealers who sell these lenses too. If you do not know how to check these lenses take the help of an experience photographer who could help you. I am sure you could build a good set of four prime lenses with open apertures from 28mm to 135 mm for about INR 16,000 or USD 250.

As I was writing this blog it was 05.45 pm and its sunset time. They time every photographer gets excited about. Moreover, I still had an hour before my wife would give me a call to pick her up from her office. Now, I decided to think like a photography beginner. I quickly mounted that old Nikon 24mm f/2.8 AIS lens (Introduced in 1977, even before I was born) on my Sony A7R II with the help of a fotodiox adaptor I borrowed from my friend Vivek through www.kitkarma.com (peer to peer photographic equipment sharing platform). Like a child I walked out of my home towards the riverside and started shooting random shots without any thoughts. Here are some of the pictures striaght out of the camera without any processing. (Now I am a learner, so I assumed I dint have access to Capture One/ LR / PS :D )

These are images from one 24 mm wide angle lens, with another 35 mm, 50 mm, 85 mm it will give you million possibilities. I will soon share images shot with some vintage lenses. 

I trust I have given you an affordable solution under 50k for learning photography. Creative images are made by the photographer and I have always felt lack of budget should not prevent one from shooting beautiful images. Throw that MTF and other pixel peeping measures into the dustbin and concentrate on the art. You will enjoy and share that joy with others around.

I recommend the same for budding filmmakers as well. Get A6300 as A6300 cannot be used with external mic.

Why I do not recommend a DSLR:

Flange Focal Distance. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flange_focal_distance

Flange Focal Distance. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flange_focal_distance

I do not recommend DSLR for old lenses as you cannot use any lens with a flange to film distance less the one in your current DSLR. With mirror-less the flange to sensor distance is really short and this does not become a limitation. Moreover all mirror-less cameras give focus peaking which is easier to confirm focus during manual focusing. Today's DSLR lack split prisms on focusing screens.

PS: By no means I am preventing people from buying advanced equipment which is many times a need for professional photography. This blog is written for beginner and hobbyist on budget who sill like to complete explore photography beyond the confines of a Kit Lens. I have seen people buying a camera worth a lakh and one kit lens which handicaps their creativity. Variety of good open prime lenses are more important than an expensive camera to come up with creative images. Comments and critics are welcome.

Going back to shooting with film - Part 1 by Karthik Rajagopal

I was about 11 years old when I used a camera for the first time. And that was in 1990's when film and transparencies were the only media to shoot images and digital photography was not in vogue. Later once I finished my Engineering and moved to Chennai, I bought Nikon FM10 which was my first professional SLR, followed by Canon EOS 5 , Electro 35 & Nikon FE2. While I sold all gears I used during film days, I kept Nikon FE2 that I bought from Sekar anna as a matter of beautiful memories associated with learning photography in film.

Madras War Cemetry shot with Nikon FM10 and Novapan film. Printed with an enlarger and then scanned. 

Madras War Cemetry shot with Nikon FM10 and Novapan film. Printed with an enlarger and then scanned. 

I was lucky enough to learn film developing and printing from my first photography teacher K.L. Raja Ponsing at Ambitions4 Academy in 2005. May be, I am one of the last from my generation to have learnt photography using film and working in a darkroom. 

Honestly, for a good photographer this film/ digital choice is not something I want to get into. But, there is something in it which makes me crazy and run behind film. Its two reasons:

  1. The whole process with a suspense and surprise. If you do not understand... Its like magic... An image slowly appears on white paper when dipped in a magic chemical called the developer. And you get to expose twice ;)
  2. That arty filmy look you get when manually printed. 

With this in mind, I decided to clean and put my FE2 back to life. Thanks to Khaleel Bhai who did a through work on cleaning my lovely camera.  

 My Nikon FE2 cleaned 2 weeks ago

 My Nikon FE2 cleaned 2 weeks ago

So, why not shoot wedding photographs in analog and also print it manually. Atleast to mee silver hallide prints are more arty as compared to dye based prints. On one side it satisfies my fancy craving and on other side I thought I could delight my clients with a fancy offering which they may not otherwise get from a commercial photographer. I shared this thought with a few friends and I was humbled by the amount of support i got from them and through social media. 

Film Rolls from Makka's refrigerator

Film Rolls from Makka's refrigerator

First of the help came from my friend Bhagath Makka who happily gave his treasured expired rolls that wer stored in his freezer. While I wanted to B&W, he showed me the creative variations and tones possible with colour film. I wish, they were all available and affordable in Chennai.

 Can you see those two Zeiss Milvus lenses?

 Can you see those two Zeiss Milvus lenses?

Carl Zeiss always had supported me. Be it workshops or anything I wanted to experiment. I would say its a luxury to have Milvus lenses for a test shoot. Thanks to Vivek Infocom and Sachin.

FE2 with Zeiss Milvus 85 mm f/1.4 and Fomapan ISO 400 film

FE2 with Zeiss Milvus 85 mm f/1.4 and Fomapan ISO 400 film

My friend Thaseen Jeelani has been helping me with film stock. He arranged couple of fresh rolls of Fomapan in 1 days notice. 

Complete set along with Sony A7R ii

Complete set along with Sony A7R ii

Digital media is now indespensable to give a commercial delivery. So, I packed my Sony A7R II kit with Godox flash, accessories a nd other lenses. I should thank Vinoth Vincent (Chennai Cameras) for offering me a Vivitar flash at the time of need. Madhavan Sir also offered to help me with flash. I should say I felt lucky to have help from the photographers community on my experiment to shoot wedding with film.

Zeiss Milvus 85 mm f/1.4 on Nikon FE2

Zeiss Milvus 85 mm f/1.4 on Nikon FE2

As the Milvus lenses were F mount, i will not be able to use on my Sony. And I always make sure my kit is as small as possible. That makes me mobile and checked concentrate on the picture. But, its almost impossible to find a Nikon to Sony adaptor for rent. Buying it would set me down by atleast Rs 5000. I just posted the requirement on FB, and KitKarma was ready with the solution within minutes.

fotodiox F mount to EF adaptor

fotodiox F mount to EF adaptor

Its a true case where #kitkarma a peer to peer equipment sharing platform has helped me get an adaptor for rent. And for a reasonable Rs 50 per day. Peer to peer sharing helps professions when they come across a situation where you require something you never use for a brief period of time. Hope I can soon find Leica M6 on #KitKarma.

Beauty it is...

Beauty it is...

I am indebted to the community of photographers for supporting me. This is my first shoot with film after 10 years of break. My idea is to just establish the workflow so that I can do it in a seamless way next time. I will write another blog to share my shooting and developing experince soon...

FAQs on Behance Portfolio Reviews. by Karthik Rajagopal

behance_portfolio_review.jpg

What is a Behance Portfolio Review?

Portfolio Review events are hosted by companies, professional organizations, and individuals interested in connecting their creative community, and attended by creatives of all disciplines and experience levels looking for inspiration and actionable feedback on their work.

What is the difference between review of photographs by an individual/ getting comments on social media as compared to this event?

A Behance portfolio review is not limited to giving a critic on a photograph / an art work. It’s a review of your complete body of work. Experts will give insights on how to take your work further. You will get an actionable feedback on your work.

You have called in experts and established people. I am a beginner, is it apt for me to attend?

Whether you are a beginner or a person who has progressed advanced, this forum shall help you take the next step. As a beginner you will draw a lot of inspiration from the work of others and get to know from experts on your strengths and weaknesses and take appropriate action. It will be an opportunity to meet fellow artist and socialize with them.

Can I get my Portfolio reviewed on Multiple Genre by Multiple Judges?

Its our aim that participants should get maximum benefit. Our answer depends on the number of participants and time left. We will do our best to keep you happy.

Do you charge a fee?

Its absolutely free.

Do you give a prize?

Yes Adobe gives Behance awards. This shall be given to members based on judge’s discretion. One person get a full pack of adobe application access for an year.

Am I allowed to use Social Media Apps at the Venue?

You are absolutely free to use FB, Instagram and Tweet from the venue. It’s a cool event. In fact you can hash tag #BehanceReviewsChennai. Its our request not to use mobile phone while you are in conversation with the judge.

How am I supposed to bring my work for review?

1. Photographers and Artists bringing prints/ painting can bring their work in sizes 12 x 8 inches and above as it will be convenient for review.

2. Photographers, animators bringing soft copy are requested to bring their work in pen-drive, laptops, iPads/ Tabletswith displays of 9 inch and above. We shall not review pictures on mobile phones, SD cards, CDs, DVDs and Bluerays.

3. Most importantly bring best of your work which shows diversity in your style of work. Bring a minimum of 5 to a maximum of 20 art works, so that you get more time with the judge on review.

 

Further reads:

1. https://www.behance.net/reviews

2. https://help.behance.net/hc/en-us/articles/204484024-What-is-Portfolio-Review-Week-