Thursday, February 28, 2013

Fruit Theme Beauty Shoot

I saw some beauty shoot images by shot by Rankin and based on fruits, vegetables and inserts earlier this year and thought I must try that.  For beauty shoots, makeup and model are absolutely vital.  For makeup, I turned to Jean Fernand, a makeup artist I’ve worked with many times before.  She was keen to do something on the theme.  Before the shoot, we sent each other images and agreed to shooting three looks using orange, lemon and strawberry.

I originally wanted to shoot five looks, but I am glad I took Jean’s advice and shot three.  The shoot took much longer than I thought.  For beauty shoots, the makeup and hair takes the most time, the picture take bit is the easy bit.  The lighting I used was simple and worked out beforehand.  I wanted a high key look with a pale skin blonde model.  This is where Tori come in, she is a model/dancer I’ve worked with a couple of times before.  While the images shown here are retouched, I did not do any skin smoothing at all.  What you see is the result of makeup and Tori's natural skin, I only removed some skin blemishes.

I think models need to be able to act if they are to succeed.  This is especially important with beauty models when you are only looking at the face of the model.  I am a firm believer a photo needs to tell a story and have a purpose.  It is the job of the photographer to do put it all together and the help of lighting, stylist, makeup and model.

The photographer is like a movie director and gives direction to the model.  When I started shooting, Tori was not sure what I wanted and I had to tell her where to look, how to pose and expressions I wanted.  Like most shoots, she quickly warmed up and I also fine tuned the look I wanted.  Once we got the look that worked it was much easier to get outstanding images rather than just good photos.

Really small difference in expression can make such big difference to the final image.  I had to shoot a lot of images to choose just a few of photos to edit.  There is no point in releasing the photos that you are not 100% happy with and quality always wins over quantity.  I am very happy with the images I got from this shoot and very happy with the work done by Jean and Tori.

Credits for all images:
Model: Tori Kingsbury
Hair and makeup: Jean Fernand

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Panasonic 20mm F1.7 Experience

Olympus E-PM2 with Panasonic 20mm F1.7 lens

I’ve used this lens almost exclusively for over 6 months now and I feel it is the right time for me to write my experience using it for such a long time.  This lens was the first M43 lens I purchased after buying the E-PM1 twin lens kit.  I enjoy using the 24-42mm IIR kit lens, but wanted something smaller and faster.  I used to own a 24mm F2.8 lens with my Canon EOS 550D and really enjoyed that focal length.  The 20mm lens is very well received by the M43 community and I decided it will be my lens of choice.  The reason I chose this lens over the 25mm F1.4 was the size.  It is significantly cheaper and also much smaller.  One reason I bought into M43 was because they are small, therefore it makes no sense to put a large lens on a carry around camera.

Initially, the lens was used with my Olympus E-PM1.  I had great success using this combination, even in very low light.  Now I do not bother to fit the clip on flash that came with the camera.  I just shoot it wide open at ISO 3200 and very rarely I need a flash.  You can see what can be achieved using this combination at my works' Christmas party photos.  All photos were shot without flash and I am very happy with the results.  I do not miss not having a zoom lens on the camera and I am happy to use my legs to zoom.  Of course you cannot zoom into distance objects, but when you do not have the option of zoom, you learn to work with the focal length and make the best out of what you’ve got.

A couple of months ago, I bought the Olympus E-PM2 as an upgrade for its latest imaging sensor which is shared with the OMD E-M5.  So far, I am very happy, as it is significantly better than the E-PM1.  The image quality and high ISO performance is so much better.  Now, the 20mm F1.7 lens is permanently on the E-PM2.

Enough of my rambling, so what is my impression of this lens?  Here are “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” of this lens.

The Good

Sharp, even wide open.
Love the small size of this pen cake lens.
Make a camera like Olympus E-PM2 almost pocketable.

The Bad

Slower to focus (relative to Olympus MSC lens).
More distortion than I like for a prime, although this is automatically removed in Panasonic cameras or RAW software.

Image showing distortion, the vertical lines
 on the wall should be straight

The Ugly

Poor chromatic aberration wide open, again automatically removed in Panasonic cameras or RAW software.

10% crop showing purple fringing

Fringing removed in Lightroom

My recommendation is to buy this lens if you want a small general purpose carry around lens.  Do bear in mind the limitations listed above.  If you want something smaller but wider, then the 14mm F2.5 is a better choice.  For me, the size, low light performance and sharpness is more important.  If distortion and CA is a worry, I will shoot RAW and correct in post.

At the moment, there is no other lens at this focal length, cost, size and speed.  The closest lens in term of speed and focal length are:

Panasonic 25mm F1.4 - Sharp fast lens and better for bokeh, but significantly more expensive and larger.
Olympus 17mm F1.8 - Sharp fast lens, slightly larger, but again more expensive.
Sigma 19mm F2.8 - Very sharp, it is a slower lens and physically much larger, but at a bargain price.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Olympus E-PM2 Experience

I have now been shooting with the Olympus E-PM2 for over a month now and can share with you what I think of it.  I will not go into technical details and will concentrate on what is important to photographers.

Red Light London, E-PM2 with Panasonic 20mm F1.7

The E-PM2 is very similar in size to the E-PM1, but it is noticeably worse in build quality.  It does not feel as solid.  For me, it is not a big deal as it is still quite good.  There is an additional Fn button which can be customised.  This is very useful and a real improvement over the E-PM1 with one button that can be customised.  The rear screen is the same 16:9 ratio but it is now a touch screen.  I must say the touch screen is very good and I think it is a real improvement to the usability of the camera.  The touch to focus function is a very useful feature during video recording when you want to change focus point.  The touch shutter function is also useful, as it does not require you to go into the menu to select a new focus point.  There is now a delete button which saves a lot of time if you are deleting a number of photos after a day of shooting.  Overall, the camera is much easier to use than the E-PM1.

London Eye - E-PM2 with Panasonic 20mm F1.7

A feature I find very frustrating on the E-PM1 was the internal audio recording level during video.  The recording level cannot be adjusted and most of the time it works well.  Problem occurs when you’re in a very quiet or loud environment.  When it is very quiet, it struggles to pick up any sound.  On the flip side, when it is very loud, like shooting a live band, the recording level is easily saturated and you end up with distorted sound.  With the E-PM2, the sound recording level can be change to Low, Standard or High.  I’ve yet to fully test this, but the ability to adjust the recording volume is a must after my experience of E-PM1.

London Underground - E-PM2 with Panasonic 20mm F1.7

Another useful feature that is missing from the E-PM1 is an orientation sensor.  After a day of shooting I hate to rotate each photo on the computer.  That short coming is now fixed.  Thank god.

E-PM2 with Panasonic 20mm F1.7

The biggest change is the imaging sensor.  It now shares the senor with the OM-D EM-5, the flagship camera from Olympus right now.  I’ve done some low light tests for noise and sharpness and I can say it performs basically the same as my Canon EOS 650D, maybe a little better at ISO 3200 and just as bad as each other at ISO 6400.  You can see the comparison between the two cameras at an earlier blog HERE.  This is significant as the E-PM1 uses a very old (by digital standard) sensor and noise level is noticeable above ISO 800.  Now I am happy to shoot at up to ISO 1600 knowing there is very little and up to ISO 3200 knowing there will be some noise, but still happy.

E-PM2 with Olympus 45mm F1.8

Some people will rave on about M43 cameras will never outperform FF cameras because of its smaller sensors.  They are right, but I don’t spend my life looking at every photo at 100%.  Ten years ago I was using film SLR and ISO 400 film was the highest I shot with.  Anything higher resulted in very grainy images.  With my Panasonic 20mm F1.7 lens, I have a very portable set up I am happy to carry with me all day and get amazing results without flash.  Since I bought an E-PL1 two years ago, I’ve not carried my Canon SLR gears around with me.  I only use my SLR when I go to photo shoots in a studio environment or when I need fast focus tracking.  The progress of digital technology is still marching on.  In another ten years’ time, I am sure some people will moan about the noise level of M43 cameras at ISO 128,000.  The E-PM2 is the first small camera that I am happy to carry around which has the image quality I am fully happy with.  The E-PM1 was almost there and will now be used as a time lapse camera.

E-PM2 with Panasonic 20mm F1.7

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Betty Havok

I had a great shoot with Betty Havok and Krystal Johns last week.  The aim of the shoot was to produce a range of images with clothes from different designers for submissions to publications.  These images are of Betty, the photos of Krystal will come later.

Simple white background really show
off  Betty's slender body.
For this shoot, I took along some simple props: some red curtains, a 85mm spanner and an old analogue TV.  We used Essex Photo Studio for this shoot and they had a few different sets which we made the most of.  They also have a number of various objects laying around the place which we made full use of.

What else would you do with a 85mm spanner?

Good use of analogue TV?
Betty has the dark latin look, and she can look very sexy if you want to.  By putting down a simple red curtain on the floor and shooting from above, we created this amazing image.

Simple red curtain really enhance the look of Betty.

The sofa was old and dilapidated,
but Betty just look great on it.

I think we fully achieved our objective to created some different looks from our photo shoot and I look forward to seeing some of these images published.

Make up on all images by Alice Bizzare Make Up.