For this portrait session we took some close up shots of Dominika with her 19th century violin. This was a hybrid session using a digital camera and a large format camera (the Intrepid 4x5) using black and white film.
I don’t use a flatbed scanner to scan film negatives. I use a digital camera and a light box (you can read more about that in my post on developing and scanning). One big feature of this method is that I preserve the frame of the negatives, including the sprocket holes on 35mm film. With a regular scanner, the film holder masks most of the image borders to hold the negative.
I thought nothing of this benefit until I read a passage written by Eric Meola in his book on shooting Springsteen’s Born to Run album cover. For this 2006 book, he says he had to borrow a $50,000 scanner from Kodak and use an oil immersion holder to minimize dust and scratches on the negatives. We have it easy in 2018 - great quality scanning no longer requires you to remortgage your house.
I’ve started offering local black and white film developing, along with scanning, and first-time clients love seeing the full frame of each image. It adds some credibility to the ‘realness’ of your film shots when the film frame says ‘Kodak’ or ‘Ilford’ instead of ‘Unfold’. It shows that your work was recording light rather than 0s and 1s.
This Eric Meola book is a fantastic insight into how the album cover was shot, and just like the Magnum contact sheets book, shows the process of working the scene and all the rejected images.
And here is a fun fact for those thinking digital photography was the birth of ‘spray and pray’ - Meola shot 700 frames in 2 hours on 35mm film in 1975. His winding thumb must have been on fire!
I also had some work featured on the KEH blog earlier in the year. I appreciate that some of my images have been noticed this way.
Kristen’s portrait shoot was a great example of having a solid plan-b. The original idea was for an outdoor shoot in front of the historic buildings in Texas city (about an hour south east of Houston), but the rain moved in and the plan had to be scrapped.
So we got permission from Sarah, the owner of the Campeche coffee etc, to set up a few lights and a backdrop in the corner of her premises. This was perfect for simple head-shots, and with a little post-processing we got some superb full body motion shots.
We changed location for the end of the session - a laundry-mat just up the road from Campeche Coffee. It was another one-light setup to capture the movement of Kristen’s hair.
This was a hybrid digital and film session using a Hasselblad 500cm and a Canon 6D mark 2.
See more of Kristen through instagram @kristen.wollenberg.
I love meeting people with curly hair like mine so I can bombard them with questions on how they deal with it in the mornings and where they get it cut.
Sergio’s portrait session resulted in some great social media head shots and some full body shots that wouldn’t look out of place if he was interviewed for a magazine.
This was a hybrid film and digital session using a Hasselblad 500cm and a Canon 6D mark 2.
How can you hold someone's attention on a photograph? What about making barriers to stop them from leaving?
Photographs are not often studied for long periods of time by the casual viewer, but I think if you can hold someone's attention for 5 seconds rather than two, the image is somewhat victorious.
Many things can grab the viewer's attention - story, metaphor, gore, et-cetera - but in this post I'd like to talk about figuratively bouncing the viewer's eye back into the picture as it is trying to leave.
Light sources from camera left create shadows on the right so that the eye reads across the image and the shadow returns the eye to the left side.
If a person faces left, the viewer follows their gaze back across the picture. If they are facing right it is almost like the viewer can skim across the picture and has permission to exit the right side of the frame.
Bouncing the eye back into the picture is also the purpose of a matte in a frame - that is why wide mattes (relative to the picture) are desirable rather than simply filling the frame just with the picture. It provides a wasteland the viewer must cross to exit, and they may decide to return to the picture by force.
I find this theme interesting because it implies the direction a subject faces, and the position of the key light are not at the photographer's whim, but are best kept constant to capture the attention of a viewer. Of course, the converse is also useful - you may want a rapid flow of the viewer’s eye from the left and out over the right side of the frame.
There are plenty of examples dating back to renaissance paining. The lighting on the Mona Lisa is from the left and her eyes take you back left. Read across Caravaggio's “Calling of St Matthew” and you’ll find Jesus pointing you back left from the shadows. Those painters didn’t leave anything to chance - every minutia of the picture is intentional.
Bobby Wells has worked in New York and LA, and now in Houston. He is a skilled makeup artist who knows each of his brushes like I know each of my lenses. His favorites are housed in a leather pouch that doesn’t leave his side. Like a photographer, his job involves putting a subject at ease so they can get the best out of his work.
This was a hybrid portrait session using a digital camera and a medium format film camera. Some of my favorite images were the low-key shots on a black background. They remind me of classic artist portraits from the 60s and 70s.
You can find Bobby’s Instagram feed @bobbywellsmakeup.
Omar, who has a line of Villain printed apparel, set up a photographer/model collaboration in Houston to promote his brand. I thought it would be a good opportunity to break out my stereo camera to get some gritty black and white 3D images. The camera takes two pictures at the same time, with the lenses as far apart as human eyes are. When the images are combined in the brain, the give the illusion of depth.
How to view the images
The simplest way to view the stereo pairs is to go cross-eyed until the two images appear to overlap and a third image seems to exist between them. If you are viewing this on a desktop/laptop, you want the images to be small or viewed with your screen further away from you. If you are on your phone, it should be only a few inches from your eyes for the effect to work. Many people cannot (or will not try to) use this technique. In this case, you can use an set of inexpensive 3d viewers which are easily found on eBay (I recommend these low cost viewers). If you get it to work, let me know about how you did it in the comments below!
The Stereo Realist is as basic a camera as it gets. It is slow to operate because the shutter needs to be cocked independently of the winder, and the focusing has to be done through a rangefinder which is separate of the framing window. You can read an in-depth description of this camera in this overview Stereo Realist blog post. I left the digital camera at home for this session - I figured that because there were other photographers on this shoot, I could take the risk of shooting only film.
400 speed film used to be considered a grainy compromise for low-light shooting. But film quality improved, and digital sensors can exhale images at 400 ISO without any noticeable noise. You could theoretically have cleaner images at 100 ISO, but in practice there is very little benefit. So here are the reasons even my digital camera is always set to 400:
Consistency - I can always guess my exposure settings quickly because I fix my ISO at 400 and only have to think about shutter speed and aperture. The sunny 16 rule is useful, and after a while it all becomes second nature. See more tips on being an exposure expert here. Less fiddling with settings means more time concentrating on the picture.
Shooting film - 400 speed film is in the Goldilocks zone - just right. It works outside on sunny days and indoors with a moderately fast lens. There are also plenty of choices for 400 speed film. Ilford’s HP5 is a classic, and Delta 400 is available for those who want less noticeable grain at the expense of exposure error latitude.
Speedlites - Using a higher ISO means you can use your lights on a lower power (1/4 the power compared to 100 ISO). Quicker recycle times, quicker flash duration and longer battery life are the result. It also makes up for the light your modifier eats. Indoors, you can still block all ambient light with a 1/180th shutter and f8.
Faster shutter speeds. Compared to 100 ISO, 400 gives your shutter 2 stops of advantage. Especially with longer focal lengths, think of the difference between 1/30th vs 1/125th of a second. And between 1/125th and 1/500th! Sharper images with the cost of very little added noise.
Higher and lower speed options. As 400 is the middle of the road, you’ll only change your ISO dial or film for a good reason. Lower speeds will reduce noise/grain, but you’ll need a lot of sun or artificial light to make up for it. You can use 800 or 1600 speed to shoot in the dark or higher shutter speeds for fast moving subjects, as long as you don’t mind some smoothing in your post processing.
Speaking for myself, 400 does it all. It simplifies my decisions with compromises I can live with.
Tell me about your go-to film and ISO setting in the comments below.
Rusty's DeLorean can often be found parked outside of his 80's arcade, The Game Preserve, in the Woodlands, just north of Houston, Texas. The car stirs up the same sort of nostalgia as the pinball machines inside - and every passer-by during this portrait session felt compelled to get closer and see the car for themselves. Touching a DeLorean, for most people, is a once-in-a-lifetime thing.
And with every curious spectator, Rusty gladly talked to them like they were the first to show interest in his DMC 12. I'm finding that each owner knows that ownership is much more than possessing a vehicle, it is spreading joy and preserving a cultural icon.
The portraits were a mix of digital and medium format film shots on a Hasselblad 500cm. We got some shots as an established business owner, and also channeled Rusty's inner-teenager.
The arcade was founded by Rusty and some arcade machine-collecting friends as a way to share their passion/addiction with the public. The Game Preserve is $15 on entry with unlimited games for the night.
I returned to play in the arcade recently and I completely lost track of time - by the end of the night I'd played only a fraction of the games in the place, including Street Fighter, Qbert, Virtua Cop, some early wooden pinball machines and (don't tell my kids) Fix it Felix.