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My first experience as “Amateur” Paparazzi

Discussion in 'This or That? (MFT only)' started by sokar, Nov 3, 2012.

  1. sokar

    sokar Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 30, 2011
    My first experience as “Amateur” Paparazzi (includes Images)

    In the past week I have had to opportunity to shoot 2 separate events with a professional photographer, and it has been a learning experience on many fronts. From the outset, I am rather new to photography and even though I had film SLRs, I never delved into the many features that one could or should to achieve the best results. With digital it is a much cheaper and immediate learning experience. Until the past week, I have essentially taught myself through experimentation, trial and error using techniques that I have learned from reading this forum and many others.

    I must admit, that I had certain expectations of those more experienced than myself; not only in knowledge of gear, but the use of that gear. I also assumed many things that turned out not to be correct, and learned other things that I had never even considered.

    Firstly, the professional I had the pleasure to stand beside was a great guy, and very unassuming. He was a wealth of knowledge, and mostly works with medium format gear (Mamiya and Hasselblad) for magazine shoots / covers; and therefore dictates his own environment, conditions and the speed of the shoot.

    35mm was not his preference, and neither was the constant fight of shoulder charging the guy on either side to get the one shot that mattered. I realised after several hours of receiving constant shoulder charging that I should go back to the gym to “harden up” a little, and be in a better condition to return the favour occasionally. All in all, the camera crews both still and video were extremely polite and were quite used to this environment.

    As a professional he has a different opinion on gear to many amateurs, and only updates when he needs to add something different to the current gear, that he needs to market, to stay at the top of his field. Having said that, he admitted that with the speed of technology advancements in digital photography and video increasing, one must always be on the lookout for the latest technology and what it can offer. His specialty is still photo shoots for magazine covers. He started to describe the latest in this style of shooting which is starting to take over the traditional still shot shooting style in this category.

    I am no expert in video, but I will try to explain what I was told. Model shoots are not cheap; therefore anything to ensure that a quality result occurs is paramount. Some parts of the industry are moving towards 4K video for the model shoots. They work in short one minute bursts and then analyse the individual frames of the video and select the best. With 4K, each still shot (60 per second) is about 90MB file size and therefore brilliant quality in an editable RAW format. The 4K quality is better than most appliances can currently display but this adds some form of future archiving for the footage. He explained that digital has really only just caught up with film in quality, and that until recently analogue video was essentially HD quality, and digital has only recently matched this.

    What did I learn from this experience?

    I think it is best to put this in point form, otherwise this will become a small nonfiction article:

    • Dependent upon the final source for the product, he sometimes shoots in JPG only. In this case, the paying customer receives the results in JPG and therefore he sees little point in shooting RAW and converting. Having said that, JPG files of a 35mm camera have much more ability to be manipulated than the M43 JPG.

    • Event photography is a hit or miss affair where one must quickly adapt for poor and differing lighting conditions. There is no room for off camera flash work in this environment and therefore one must make the most of what they have; and quickly. I noticed every type of flash diffuser on the market being used, and have a better idea what would work for me if I was to be in this environment again. In some rooms there were high ceilings and colored walls, so the concept of bouncing flash when there are 20 professionals from all countries bustling for a shot is not an option.

    • The amount of dud shots was high. This sometimes resulted from focusing the camera at the same time as another flash would fire, and the result in metering was horrible. I am sure I returned the favor on a number of occasions to others around me.

    • Flash recharge speeds were paramount, as models do not stand still (unless there is a mirror available) for more than 10 seconds. My FL36R was acceptable but not in the same league as the larger flash units where most professionals were carrying additionally connected battery packs to ensure continuous firing. I changed batteries regularly to keep it working as quickly as possible.

    • This was the first time I had ever desired for my gear to be larger. Some of the looks I received were funny and confusing. I carried EP1 with FL36R + prime lens and an EPM1 with prime lens hanging by a wrist strap. The 17mm and 45mm were luckily ideal FOVs for the environment, but this would not always be the case. It would be difficult to zoom with my feet in front of 20 other photographers, and therefore a quality zoom would have been preferred.

    • The lacks of controls on the EPM1 were not ideal for this style of shooting. Too much time was spent diving into the SCP to change TTL flash settings, and many opportunities were missed with this camera. In comparison, the EP1 with the larger flash unit attached and the ability to adjust TTL intensity with the wheel was ideal and quick. This will definitely dictate what camera body I purchase next. As this professional stated, he only buys gear with the most functionality. It is pointless having gear that is not suited to as many situations as possible; lesson learnt and my next body will have manual adjustments / buttons /dials for exposure and flash compensation.

    • Shooting with no viewfinder tended to identify me as an amateur. I did get some funny looks. This was okay because I am just that. Having said that the ability to raise the camera quickly to a higher position and see what I was shooting via the LCD was quite handy. I also believe that without the optical viewfinder, it was better to focus the camera and then watch the target for the opportune moment to capture the best shot. This also enables one to have eye contact with the target and get a one on one interaction. Of course there would have been times where a viewfinder would have been ideal, but one must use what they have.

    • The size factor of M43 was great. My back did not hurt and I was able to move quickly between the crowds and point a camera at a model from different positions. A 25mm prime would have been ideal for this environment.

    • I need to invest in a better diffuser system. I currently use the plastic cover over the flash head and I am considering 2 different options; a demb flip it, or a small lumiquest light box. Both are compact and have different results, but would work in this environment where bouncing in not an option. I believe these would both work in either portrait or landscape mode reducing the harsh shadows when the target is too close to a background of any type. Towards the end of the evening I was actually pointing the flash directly upwards and using my hand to deflect light towards the target with quite good results. Essentially anything to get a result in quick time.

    During the quiet times, I sat with him and went through many photos from different shoots he has done. His knowledge was astounding. He could immediately identify from every photo what style of lighting, diffusing and angle etc was used by the style, shape and harshness of shadows. He described how the fashion industry continually changes trends in what style of lighting they prefer, and currently the “desired look” is a front on style lighting above the lens using a single umbrella enclosed soft box.

    I also observed how critical he was of photos he took and how quickly he discarded photos that did not meet his criteria of what he required. One quick look at a photo, and it was either yes or no. I was also surprised of the exposure blowouts that some of his photos had, and I had believed that this was would not occur with the larger format cameras, compared with M43 sensors. I guess that is what one is conditioned to believe after reading the internet too much and not having direct exposure (no pun intended) to firsthand experience with the larger format cameras. Having said that, it was easily recoverable in PP and there was much more flexibility with the larger files.

    Finally, great fun for me, and many lessons learned. We also got to compare similar photos of the previous shoot we did a week earlier, and I was pleasantly surprised at the performance and output of my M43’s gear when compared to a similar shots of his with the FF cannons. Does FF generate better results? Of course, but I will stay with M43 for now, and take his advice on framing, composition and better lighting.
    • Like Like x 18
  2. elavon

    elavon Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 1, 2012
    Tel Aviv Israel

    from your post I can take a few lessons learned.

    1. The OMD/GH3/G5 kind of camera would suit this environment since they have better control and EVF.

    2. The 12-35/35-100 are needed and Pana made a good decision to make them.

    3. We have good cameras:smile:
  3. addieleman

    addieleman Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 5, 2010
    The Netherlands
    Very insightful read on this type of photography, thanks for sharing. :thumbup:
  4. Luke

    Luke Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jul 30, 2010
    Milwaukee, WI
    Great post....any photos to share?
  5. mf100

    mf100 Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 26, 2012
    Sawbridgeworth, England
    Really enjoyed reading this and confirms I know very little about using my flash. Thanks
  6. RobWatson

    RobWatson Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Pretty much same as every field: Pros don't ef around while amatuers do.

    Sneaky fellers like me would have a partner holding the flash off camera. Flash on a pole is very flexible.
  7. sokar

    sokar Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 30, 2011
    I actually offered to do that job for him, as the lessons for me would have been similar. He declined because of the hectic nature of the event.

    With regard to posting photos I need to check with the Admin/s first regarding content suitability. I don't wish to upset the owners, Admin staff or members.
  8. RobWatson

    RobWatson Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sorry, I mostly mean't for folks like me who spend too much time fiddling instead of getting in and getting to work directly.
  9. Ulfric M Douglas

    Ulfric M Douglas Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 6, 2010
    My e-pM1 can change flash EV bias with the menu-wheel (Edit: no it can't), are you talking about another function which is found in the e-P1 and not e-pM1?
  10. sokar

    sokar Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 30, 2011
    That describes me also Rob. It was a case of differing conditions and the absolute speed required in the hustle.

    Ulfric, the way I have the EPM1 set up is select the centre button to bring up the SCP and then use the wheel to adjust. It did mean directing my attention away from the target and time / opportunities were lost. I am not aware of any other method with the mini. After reading your post, I delved into the mini's menus but could not find a better solution.

    I have the okay from the mods to post some shots. Will do so soon.
  11. Ulfric M Douglas

    Ulfric M Douglas Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 6, 2010
    Thanks Sokar, I double checked my e-pM1 against the e-P2 and sure enough : no flash comp for the dial.
    I must have been thinking about a different body.
    Thanks for that.
  12. sokar

    sokar Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 30, 2011
    Miss International Queen 2012 - backstage

    As stated in an earlier post, I was provided with an opportunity to experience the professional photography lifestyle and stand beside many professionals from varying countries during an International Beauty Pageant in Thailand.

    This pageant is a little different to most, due to the fact that this was a pageant for Transgender Participants only. The following photos are from the dressing room / backstage area where all International Press were permitted entry prior to the event commencing. There were film crews and still's professionals from all nations present, and some wonderfully expensive gear that one can only dream of owning.

    All photos taken with:

    EP1 + 17mm + FL36R + diffuser
    EPM1 + 45mm Oly + clip on flash (nil diffuser)

    As one can clearly see, The flash diffuser and/or lack thereof in some cases left some rather unattractive shadows. I believe there are 2 solutions that are worth considering for this type of photography: 1, Demb Flip-it, and 2. Luminquest Lightbox. I observed several using the flip-it and it looks like a great and flexible set up, that is portable and stores flat. It would also be great in either portrait or landscape mode. Then again, the lightbox with a good quality zoom would also enable the flash above the lens at all times, with no need to change orientation.

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    • Like Like x 3
  13. zapatista

    zapatista Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Mar 19, 2012
    Albuquerque, NM
    Mike Barber
    It's nice to see beauty pageant where the contestants aren't waif-like thin.
  14. drd1135

    drd1135 Zen Snapshooter Subscribing Member

    Mar 17, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    I like the Pro's comments about equipment. No GAS, just need. Of course, that's a bigger investment with FF DSLRs .
  15. Fmrvette

    Fmrvette This Space For Rent

    May 26, 2012
    Detroit, Michigan
    I used the Gary Fong Lightspheres with my Nikon flashes, and had good results (for me; I'm not a skilled strobist). With the EM-5 I have only the clip on flash and the FL=300 that came rebated with the camera, and haven't used either of them except to make sure they work. I too have heard good things from folks who used the Demb, but have never used one myself.

    The issue with the Fong gear (other than cost) is size - the Lightspheres don't collapse.

    Were you using a bracket to move the flash away from the camera body? That can help in managing the shadows.


  16. Ulfric M Douglas

    Ulfric M Douglas Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 6, 2010
    I'm voting for Miss Thailand ...

    Thanks for posting!
  17. sokar

    sokar Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 30, 2011

    I was not using a bracket, and expected to see some of the more experienced pro's using them. I did not see one being used.


    The Philippine entrant named Kevin (2nd picture) won the evening and the Thailand entrant was the runner up.
    • Like Like x 2
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