Photography

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.

Photography and Design – An Eternal Romance by Karthik Rajagopal

When you discover photography in your soul, when you see the world through the lens, nothing will be the same again. Your eyes rearrange every frame of life, to fulfill your whims. Each image is subconsciously designed and consciously interpreted by you. When you showcase them to others, they will have infinite perspectives. These are governed by the valuable principles of design, which is simply the way you see everything. Photography and design are interwoven inseparably, to make the viewer fall in love with an image.

Value is the soul of a picture  

A landscape is like a human being, with  subtle shades of grey that are revealed only   when you look beyond the vibrant facade. The   spectrum of grey is the value of an image,   its unabashedly raw, pure beauty.

A landscape is like a human being, with subtle shades of grey that are revealed only when you look beyond the vibrant facade. The spectrum of grey is the value of an image, its unabashedly raw, pure beauty.

Symmetry is Perfection

The Taj Mahal is a flawless romance of  symmetrical minarets and arches, a standing   testament to inimitable Mughal architecture.   Let its beauty and perfection take your   breath away, once again. 

The Taj Mahal is a flawless romance of symmetrical minarets and arches, a standing testament to inimitable Mughal architecture. Let its beauty and perfection take your breath away, once again. 

Colour Reflects Emotion

Colour is the emotional bridge between the  subject, the capturer and the viewer. Joy,   excitement, angst… every feeling is equally   beautiful, contagious and powerful in the   colours of a picture.

Colour is the emotional bridge between the subject, the capturer and the viewer. Joy, excitement, angst… every feeling is equally beautiful, contagious and powerful in the colours of a picture.

Patterns Transform Everything

The unusual is often hidden in the usual.  The slightest shift in perspective creates   fascinating patterns. View your world in a   whole new light!

The unusual is often hidden in the usual. The slightest shift in perspective creates fascinating patterns. View your world in a whole new light!

Texture is Life

Contoured, weathered, scarred, yet ready to  withstand relentless heat and lashing rain.   The texture brings alive the personality of   the tree trunk.

Contoured, weathered, scarred, yet ready to withstand relentless heat and lashing rain. The texture brings alive the personality of the tree trunk.


Movement is a Visual Journey

As the busy ants march, they create a black  path, and your mind travels along it,   wondering about their destination.

As the busy ants march, they create a black path, and your mind travels along it, wondering about their destination.


Lines Create Dynamism

The stillness of the wood turns into dynamism that takes you along inverted train tracks. Lines transform the visual experience.

The stillness of the wood turns into dynamism that takes you along inverted train tracks. Lines transform the visual experience.

Space Creates Depth

The blackened leaf acquires new life as the  centre of attention. Its rough visage is   complemented by sand and stone, creating a   unique visual mood.

The blackened leaf acquires new life as the centre of attention. Its rough visage is complemented by sand and stone, creating a unique visual mood.


Harmony is Simplicity

Beautiful grassland where deer peacefully  enjoy a meal, as the trees watch them… the   simple harmony of nature bathed in golden   sunlight. 

Beautiful grassland where deer peacefully enjoy a meal, as the trees watch them… the simple harmony of nature bathed in golden sunlight. 


Contrast is a Surprise

Rays of smoke pierce through the darkness,  contrasting with subdued vessels, lending an   unexpected flavour to an everyday scene.

Rays of smoke pierce through the darkness, contrasting with subdued vessels, lending an unexpected flavour to an everyday scene.

Perspective Adds New Dimensions

For a moment, the girl is trapped in a maze  of lines that travel in structured   haphazardness. Yet, her perspective is a  mystery to the viewer.

For a moment, the girl is trapped in a maze of lines that travel in structured haphazardness. Yet, her perspective is a mystery to the viewer.

Shape is Definition

The oddly shaped grid lights up with unusual  beauty. It starkly breaks through blackness.

The oddly shaped grid lights up with unusual beauty. It starkly breaks through blackness.

Copy & photography of window by Niranjani Ravi. Photographs by Karthik Rajagopal.