Your Guide to Posing Bands in Photography

The post Your Guide to Posing Bands in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

Getting your favorite band into your photo studio might sound like a dream come true – but could quickly turn into a disaster if you don’t know what you’re doing! Not all bands know how to pose or position themselves for photographs, and it’s your job as a photographer to direct them. So before you find yourself having a crisis – unsure of how to properly get bands set up for their epic promotional shoot – check out your guide to posing bands in photography!

How is band photography different from other group photography?

I hear this question a lot in my line of work. How does band photography differ from, say, a group portrait at a sports game or a family reunion? Well, the short answer is – the intent is different. Though all types of photographs tell a story, band photography has to sell both the image and idea of the band. The poses, styling, arrangement, lighting, and everything in between is akin to the marketing of the music group itself. To make this even more complex, the audience members have to develop the right preconceived idea of what the music will sound like based on the picture! This is the same principle that is applied to album artwork.

Aimee Saturne

As well as this, the connection between all of the members in the band is different than that of family members or a sports team. Bands can be a complex series of relationships, some akin to kinship, others to sibling rivalry, and some can even be likened to business partners. Whichever is true for the band you are photographing, that unique relationship will come out in the photographs.

Does the genre of music affect the pose?

DIM7

In short, yes and no. The genre of music can impact every facet of the image, but not necessarily. Doubling back to the idea that a photograph of a band needs to sell their music, the genre portrayal can be a fundamental part of that goal. For example, metal music has a much darker, harder, and tougher edge to it than, say, a girl pop band.

Much of how I figure out how to pose bands has to do with three key factors:

  1. What is the stereotypical image for that genre? (This being said, the image does not have to be stereotypical – but there are some specific poses to include if you want to really push on the fact that the band plays a specific type of music).
  2. What image does the music evoke? (I find that closing my eyes and listening to some of the key songs pointed out by the band can provide a lot of inspiration. Music and imagery tie together, and whatever image is evoked by the sound is one that you should likely follow).
  3. What is the story the band wants to convey with their presence?

Aimee Saturne

Here is an example of how these three questions can drive a photo shoot.

Say that a five-piece, all-female symphonic metal band approaches you, with a melancholy and dark sound, whose story revolves around pagan rituals. With this in mind, the posing will likely be more rigid with the band members standing in a crescent formation due to the ritualistic nature. Their chins will likely be a bit lower down with a very slight hunch and legs tightly placed together, and eyes are looking directly towards the camera (whilst the face is slightly lower down).

Likewise, say an all-male pop duo approaches you with a very light-hearted, summer, beach feel to their music, with a tagline revolving around living every day in the moment. The posing will be very loose, fun, and expressive – likely a popular choice would be to place the two lads back to back with them looking over their shoulders at one another laughing and the arms placed in very relaxed positions.

As a photographer, much of our jobs revolve around bringing a static visual image to an ever-moving description.

Chasing Desolation

To express why genre doesn’t necessarily have to affect the pose, not all bands fall perfectly within a box.

That’s a good thing. Art shouldn’t always be easily categorized.

As such, some acts defy traditional rules and do not follow convention. Their images won’t follow convention either, and the posing may change drastically from the usual.

Common posing qualms

Of course, posing groups of people isn’t without its troubles.

Here are some of the most common posing “uh-ohs” you might encounter (with solutions, of course):

Not all of the band members are a similar height – someone might be very short or extremely tall

This is a very common situation you’ll encounter. Luckily, there are some clever solutions!

Firstly, if your band promotional image doesn’t include full body shots, simply place the member(s) on boxes (often called ‘apples’ in studios) that even-out their height.

If the band does want full body shots, play with perspective. Place the taller members further in the back and the shorter members closer to the front. A reverse V or U shape is an excellent idea!

Thirdly, get creative with levels and props. My go-to – which tends to receive favorable reviews – is to place one member sitting on a chair and pose the rest of the band around the chair. The taller members can crouch on the ground at the corners of the chair while the shorter members can stand around the chair. The frontman or frontwoman sits in the chair.

You can achieve a similar effect by posing on stairs, walls, rocks, or anything that allows one person to sit while the rest are crouched or standing.

Killin’ Candace

Everyone is wearing the same color clothing

I photograph primarily heavy metal and rock music, so this is something I deal with daily. Everyone wants to wear black in a black studio, against a black wall. The result, when done right, is super cool. However, when done wrong, the image suffers from “floating head” syndrome.

The real key here is to ensure that every article of clothing is a different texture from one another. Everyone can wear the same color, but try to encourage the band to wear different textures.

For example, a shiny top with matte pants works great. If a band member has both a matte top and matte pants, throw in a textured scarf or a tie to break it up. Jewelry is also a great idea. The point is, the colors can all be the same, but the way the clothing photographs must be different from one another. This can affect pose positioning as well, as you don’t want the same texture to cross one another and look flat in an image.

You can also use lighting to help separate the subject from the background. For example, shoot your studio lighting behind the band so that it creates a rim light, which pushes them off of the studio wall.

Our Dying World

Someone is dressed elaborately and someone is not

Sometimes, a band member overdresses while others underdress. If you can’t swap out wardrobes or add accessories, then get extremely creative with posing.

When I was pursuing my visual communications degree, I had a wonderful professor drill into my head that the key to an effective image is having the viewer’s eye move around the entire frame rather than settle on one central point.

A great way to get the viewer to take in the entire image rather than settle on one point is to place the elaborately dressed band members around the less-elaborately dressed members on opposite ends.

Another solution is to use the flashy wardrobe to create lines that the viewer can follow throughout the image. A good way to create a line is to have the overdressed band member stretch an arm out to the other band members to encourage the eye to travel.

Bullet Height

You are shooting a large piece band in a small, constricted space

If you do backstage photography, you’ll run head-on into this issue (especially in Los Angeles. Unless the band is in a major theater like The Hollywood Bowl, your backstage experience will be cramped. Trust me on this one). The most efficient way to utilize small spaces is posing the band in levels. Have some crouching and some standing, some leaning on walls and some stretched on the floor! Think of keeping everyone in a square image ratio format. You’ll be able to pose even 11-piece bands in a small space (I’ve done it!).

Trash Deity

How does the lighting affect the pose?

The lighting you are using will make a difference in how you pose the band. If you’re shooting outdoors and are at the mercy of natural lighting (but don’t have a reflector), you will need to adjust head, hand, arm, and leg positions in order to make the best of the conditions you are working with.

For example, if you ended up shooting at high noon, keep chins up to avoid unflattering shadows on the neck. Likewise, make sure hands aren’t hidden in shadows so that they do not appear too dark.

Jyrki 69

If you are in the studio with more controlled light, this becomes a bit easier – assuming you have enough lights! Work with what you have, and find creative ways to pose the musicians in order to illuminate them in the most flattering way. If you don’t have enough lighting units to capture certain poses, avoid them altogether (unless you are a whiz at post-processing!).

Karim Ortega

(Pssst: reflectors are your best friend! Both indoors and outdoors. In outdoor situations, these help control the light. In indoor situations, if you don’t have enough budget for additional studio lights, you can use reflectors to bounce light and help it stretch further. Reflectors are budget-friendly solutions, and can even be made at home if you are DIY-savvy).

Is hierarchy in a band a real thing?  

Athanasia

With some bands, it definitely is! Generally, you want the frontman or frontwoman as the center of attention with the rest of the band members posed around. Some bands have more than one vocalist, and often the vocalists tend to be the central figures (not to be confused with importance. All members are important. A band does not function without all of its contributing talents). Guitarists and bassists tend to find themselves beside the singers naturally, and other instruments such as percussion and keys even further off to the sides.

Bullet Height

Most of the bands that step into the studio are live performers; that is, they have experience playing on a stage together. As such, the first thing I do is have them stand in my studio the way that they would arrange themselves on stage. I use that as the basis of where I pose everyone in the lineup. Many bands organically step into the spots that they are meant to stand in.

Posing a solo musician

Brandon Rage

Posing a solo musician opens up a door of massive possibility. Very little is out of your control here. However, remember, because you are photographing only one person, try to give the image as much interest and life as possible. Images are static; we have to make them move. The more dynamic the pose, the better, and the benefit of music photography is that you can get super-quirky with it!

Grant Webb

Remember that traditional posing rules also apply here. Flattering angles and flattering poses. Try to avoid harsh shadows on parts of the face or body that may make someone appear different than they are.

Aimee Saturne

Mess around with props as well. Props are great ways to give a client something to do with their hands or legs. They can also make an uncomfortable or nervous client much more comfortable as they have something to which to focus. Don’t assume that because a client is a musician that they love getting photographed – not everyone does. It’s your job to give them the best experience possible and make them love being in front of the camera with you.

Aaron Lee

My technique is to shoot with a high shutter speed and have the musician constantly move and change poses, encouraging even the weirdest of ideas to come through. More often than not, the weirder it seems, the better it looks. Also, making the client move continuously keeps them from pausing and overthinking.

… with instruments

Alexx Calise

Including their instrument is a common request from musicians, especially solo artists. Band photography often steps into the realm of endorsement photography for the various instrument companies that may be sponsoring the project. With solo artists, it’s fairly easy to get them posed with their instruments as you don’t have to consider the spacing with other band members.

Alex Crescioni

The key with instruments, however, is to ensure that the instrument does not cover any important parts of the musician’s body such as their face! The instrument should fit in very organically and not feel forced or uncomfortable. It’s okay to have the band member pose with, say, a guitar hanging just a bit lower than they play it – as long as everything looks natural.

Ace Von Johnson

Commonly, I have the musician play the instrument to feel more comfortable with the lens being there. Often, those candid moments look amazing.

Arielle Silver

Posing an odd number of persons

Posing an odd number of people in a band is arguably the easiest (outside of a solo musician). This is because you can adhere to many of the traditional (and very effective) band poses, such as the “U” formation, the “V” formation, and anything else that pushes the lead member to the front. The lead member that stands in front of the rest is a great baseline to use to pose the remaining band members. Moreover, you tend to keep your composition more even on either side as a result.

Athanasia

However, don’t let this fact make you lazy. Just because you can do a traditional “crowding around the lead” shot, doesn’t mean you should make it boring! After all, you’re photographing bands – play with various facets of music photography and keep it interesting.

… with instruments

The addition of instruments might seem daunting, but this is a brilliant opportunity to use the lines of the instruments to have your viewer’s eyes move around the frame. As well as that, this allows you to use the instruments as a way to direct the attention to the lead of the band.

Posing an even number of persons

Zeistencroix

The most common even-number band is two. I love posing two-person bands. There is such a dynamic range of posing you can do. The connection between each member in a two-person band is also really cool and unique. There are lots to play off here. Honestly, get as quirky with this as possible!

Batfarm

An added benefit to two-people bands is that they don’t take up much space. Whether you’re in a studio or an outdoor location, two people take up less space than three or more. You can fit in a lot of wickedly cool shots in smaller spots.

Ascent

The main things to remember are that both members need an even amount of attention in the images. Don’t try to have one overpower the other. It doesn’t look right in an image.

Our Dying World

Now, the difficult even-number bands are those of four, six, or eight members. The primary difficulty is that you can no longer arrange them in “V” formations or have one member in front of the other because there isn’t an odd number! As such, try staircase poses or diagonal lines. You don’t want either side of the frame to feel too empty or too busy; you have to even it all out.

The addition of a prop is an excellent idea to even out the composition. I like to pose even-number bands in a more square-ratio (and this isn’t just because of the rise of Instagram). This gives you more options for dynamic posing and is a good baseline to help pose even-numbered bands.

… with instruments

Much like with just the band members themselves, use the addition of instruments to comply with a square posing ratio even further. If you pose everyone straight, make sure that you have enough room for the guitar and bass necks. You can play with levels here too, like in the example image below.

Our Dying World

Bonus tips:

  • Straight backs! Pay attention to your client’s back and shoulders. If they are arching, straighten them out unless you’re going way more vogue and odd. In that case, over-exaggerate the arch.

Alex Crescioni

  • Make sure there is nothing in anyone’s pockets. You will thank me for this one in the editing room.
  • Don’t allow someone’s pose to block out a key part of another person’s body.

Brandon Rage

  • For the “stretching arms towards camera” pose, have the band member cheat and keep the arm lower. It may feel counterintuitive, but if they stretch out towards you organically, their face will be blocked.
  • Pay attention to how poses cast shadows on oneself and the people around them.

Final takeaway

In conclusion, all great posing arrangements start with a deep understanding of what your client is wanting and needing. Don’t be afraid to have some fun with it, but keep everything cool, flattering, and most of all – epic. This is the music industry after all!

Do you have any other tips to add to this guide for posing bands in photography? If so, please share with us in the comments below (and your band photos)!

 

The post Your Guide to Posing Bands in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sport Review

The post Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sport Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

Sigma has made a significant name for itself via its famous ART line of lenses. But did you know Sigma also has a Sport line? Lesser known than the ART lenses, the Sport lenses are the incredible workhorses of the photography world (and deserve recognition). The Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sport (Canon and Nikon Mount) is the newest addition to the Sport line, featuring a loved focal length. A big contender in the telephoto field, this lens may just be the top dog you didn’t see coming.

This lens focal length is so splendid, that the Digital Photography School even has an article on why you need a 70-200mm lens!

Lens build

Weight

I have tried many different 70-200mm F/2.8 lenses in the past, and currently own the newest one from Canon’s L line. This version of a favorite millimeter stands out. Before we even get into the construction, I can tell you that this lens is not the heaviest by far as compared to other brands like Tamron, and Rokinon, and older versions of the Canon and Nikon. As someone who tends to shoot sporting events for a good 12 hours at a time, my back is bowing in thanks at the decreased weight. Weighing in at a teeny bit less than 4 pounds, this is by far a more useable weight. The lens size is customary for this focal range at 3.7 inches in diameter by 8.0 inches in length.

Construction

The body is constructed out of a clever mixture of a very durable form of plastic, metal, and a new compound known as TSC (short for Thermally Stable Composite). The lens feels durable, and I found it to be more shock resistant than many of my other lenses. The glass itself is a high-grade glass mixture – 24 Elements in 22 Groups. I like the tactile feel of the focus and zoom rings, and it is very comfortable to use.

Weather sealing

This lens is built to work, and as such, its weather sealing is incredible. I feel very confident taking this lens out for a spin in whatever situation I find myself in. With the recent rains and odd weather in Southern California, I was still able to take this lens out in ease at a local outdoor sporting event. The weather sealing is a testament to a highly effective dust and splash proof structure with special sealing at the mount connection, manual focus ring, zoom ring, and cover connection.

That said, do use your best judgment to determine whether the weather is good enough to go out and shoot or not… weather sealing is not equivalent to weatherproof! As for the glass, the forefront and rear lenses incorporate water and oil-repellent coating that allows water to be wiped away easily. It prevents oil and fat from sticking to the surface, even in challenging shooting conditions, making lens maintenance easy.

The only downside I find with the lens construction is that you cannot remove the customary tripod foot (that many 70-200mm lenses have). This lens is also still technically heavier than the latest Canon or Nikon versions, but I’d argue this is a fair trade for how shock resistant and durable it is.

Lens features

As is customary for the Sigma lenses, the Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sport features a slew of unique and useful features. Before we even get into them, it is worth mentioning that at this time, this lens is available only in Sigma, Canon, and Nikon mount. Sigma does offer a mount conversion service in case you want your lens to fit onto a different camera brand.

Sigma has gone the extra step to make sure that the mechanics of their lenses work as well as Canon and Nikon native lenses. The Canon mount version is compatible with Canon’s internal chromatic aberration control, and the Nikon version works with Nikon’s electromagnetic diaphragm.

Focus range limiter switch

A nice added feature for any telephoto lens is the focus range limiter switch, which restricts the range of distance your lens can focus. I use this feature myself when I photograph dog agility shows to make sure that the lens doesn’t focus on any obstacles near me but remains locked on a running dog that is far away.

Hyper Sonic AF Motor (HSM)

As the name suggests, this lens uses HSM (Hyper Sonic AF Motor) for its focusing. HSM uses ultrasonic vibrations to drive the focusing group. This motor benefits an internal focusing system.

You can easily override the HSM for manual control via a finger switch on the lens. A feature that goes along with this aspect is the Manual Override (MO). With MO, a photographer can continue using autofocus as usual, before making any final manual adjustments using the focusing ring around the lens. The lens can focus as close as 1.2m away from the subject unless restricted by the focus limiter.

The lens comes with a locking lens hood, which is superb considering the number of times the hood on my other lenses go flying off because they get bumped! The lock is sturdy, but still very easy to use when you need to get the hood off in a flash.

Focus

With a sport and action lens like this one, strong autofocus is the key to success. I photograph a slew of canine athletes, and you’d be surprised how incredibly fast those small champion papillons are! Additionally, to ensure the dogs are not distracted by the sound of my camera or lens, quiet autofocus is pretty high up on my list of needs too.

Lucky for me – and anyone else interested in this telephoto model – the Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 checks all of these boxes. The HSM motor keeps the autofocus noise to a minimum or nonexistent, which allows me to get a wee bit closer to the dogs as they make their impressive jumps and leaps.

The autofocus is rather accurate – even on small moving subjects like an Italian greyhound dog, through to bigger canines such as the border collie. The lens allowed me to capture the agility competition with ease. The focus was very smooth too, with little focus hunting, even when the clouds took over and the location became quite dim. No manic focusing movements either, like I’ve experienced with Tamron’s equivalent of this lens last year at a tradeshow.

In comparison to my Canon 70-200mm F/2.8 L IS USM III lens, this one performed just as good, and I would certainly consider it as an additional.

Sharpness

Although zoom lenses may never be quite the same level of sharpness as fixed focal lengths, this one still performs brilliantly despite this fact. Sharpness and contrast are excellent, even when shooting wide-open, throughout the entire zoom range. Centre sharpness at 70mm is excellent and just fine at all other focal lengths. Corner sharpness is high at 70mm, but at 100mm and beyond, corner sharpness takes a significant downturn at larger apertures. If you want to get the entire frame sharp, you’ll probably have to switch over to F/11 or so. That said, this isn’t unusual for zoom lenses. The contrast it produces is also excellent.

Depth of field

The F/2.8 wide aperture gives a nice subject separation and bokeh (the out of focus areas in an image). The depth of field is creamy and smooth, and very pleasing to the eye. The 11 diaphragm blades help to keep bokeh looking natural.

There is some vignetting on the edges. Some people like this, others don’t. I enjoy the natural vignetting that is contrary to popular opinion, but for those that find it a nuisance, keep this in mind.

Image Stabilization

The image stabilization system in this particular 70-200mm is superb. This lens incorporates Intelligent OS, which is the latest algorithm to deliver image stabilization. The intelligent OS works horizontally, vertically, or diagonally – whatever direction your lens is being held or used. The mode can be adjusted by a switch on the side of the lens and has two modes from which to choose.

The optical stabilizer was effective up to four stops – fantastic for a telephoto lens. The panning stabilizer was equally impressive, allowing me to track my subjects with ease while handheld. I took this lens out for a swing at a local concert as well. The F/2.8 aperture paired with stabilization, allowed me to expose my shots quite well.

Flare resistance & chromatic aberration

The glass coating on this lens does a fine job decreasing flaring and ghosting – an annoying issue that plagues photographers when the light hits the lens at a bad angle. The chromatic aberration control is quite good as well, with the optical array comprising of 24 elements spread across 22 groups. This includes nine FLD pieces of glass and a single SLD lens, all of which are used to help control chromatic aberration.

The Canon mount versions of this lens also benefit from compatibility with a full set of in-camera corrections for lens aberrations (a big yippee for me as a Canon user).

Pros and Cons of the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG Sport

Pros:

  • Durable, comfortable, solid lens build.
  • Superb weather sealing, as well as dust and moisture resistance.
  • Water and oil repellent coating on the glass.
  • The Canon mount version is compatible with Canon’s internal chromatic aberration control and the Nikon version is able to work with Nikon’s electromagnetic diaphragm.
  • Various switches built into the lens for professional use such as the focus limiter, modes, and image stabilization.
  • On the topic of image stabilization, the IS is superb.
  • HSM for quite and reliable autofocus.
  • The addition of an Manual Override mode for focus.
  • Locking lens hood.
  • Good flare and ghosting resistance.
  • Excellent chromatic aberration control.
  • Good center sharpness.
  • Very nice, creamy, natural bokeh.

Cons:

  • Tripod foot cannot be removed.
  • Vignetting on the edges.
  • Sharpness suffers in the corners at 100mm and more.
  • Weight

Conclusion

At a price tag of US$1,500, while this may seem hefty to some, it’s actually much more affordable than equivalent lenses of this caliber. There is a lot of bang for your buck. Moreover, it’s a very worthwhile investment for those shooting outdoors or in questionable conditions, as this lens is built to be the perfect workhorse.

I genuinely loved this model. It was very easy to use for my athletic needs!

Have you used this lens? What are your thoughts? Please share in the comments below.

The post Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sport Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

Sony FE 135mm F/1.8 GM Lens Review

The post Sony FE 135mm F/1.8 GM Lens Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

Sony is here to turn your photography world upside down with its absolutely incredible technology and equipment. A name that is now leading much of the industry, Sony’s G-Master series of lenses have become big contenders in the photography game. As such, Sony has released approximately 30 G-Master lenses for their full-frame cameras. The newest addition to the collection is the Sony FE 135mm F/1.8 GM lens, which is now arguably the sharpest lens in the collection! I had the pleasure of testing this lens out fully at the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI) show in Las Vegas late last month before the lens is even released to the public.

1 - Sony FE 135mm F/1.8 GM Lens Review

Image courtesy of Sony

To get the basics out of the way, the Sony FE 135mm F/1.8 GM is intended for full-frame cameras and is only mountable on the E-mount cameras. This lens has similar specifications to the other lenses in the G-Master line such as the Sony patented XD linear motor, Super ED glass, and Sony Nano AR (all of which we will get into later).

My primary experience with this lens was taking it for a test run at the WPPI convention in Las Vegas at the end of February and it was a pleasure to try it out before the general public.

Lens build

Upon first glance, I was immediately smitten with the aesthetic of this lens. Clean, sharp, and a beautiful black – this lens looks phenomenal (as even noted by a few of my photography clients). This lens measures at about 3 5/8th inches long and 5 inches tall, and is a very decent and comfortable size for its focal length – even when held by someone like me (small hands, yikes). The lens isn’t very heavy either, clocking in at only 33 ounces (2 pounds).

For a master telephoto lens, this one is quite easy to take on travels! Comprised of magnesium alloy, the lens is lightweight yet durable. The build feels incredibly solid, and I would not hesitate to bring it to difficult or uncomfortable shooting situations such as live concerts or the beach on a windy day. The lens is rather wide, which may be a downside to some, however, you must keep physics in mind. The lens must be wide to accommodate the F/1.8 aperture.

2 - Sony FE 135mm F/1.8 GM Lens Review

Image courtesy of Sony

The Sony FE 135mm F/1.8 GM features excellent weather sealing to help prevent wind, rain, dust, and dirt from entering important mechanical components. Alongside this, the lens is touted to be dust and moisture resistant. The lens glass has a pretty impressive build in its own right too. The glass has a fluorine coating on it to resist fingerprints, dust, water, oil, and other contaminants. If these do end up on the lens, cleaning is easy. That said, I do still suggest purchasing a glass filter – being resistant to fingerprints is not beneficial to dropping or a significant bump!

Aperture ring & additional lens features

3 - Sony FE 135mm F/1.8 GM Lens Review

Image courtesy of Sony

All of the buttons on this lens made me a very happy photographer. Designed with professionals in mind, this lens features manual buttons and features such as the aperture ring, an aperture ring silencer, the focus range limiter switch, custom focus hold buttons, and an AF to MF finger switch.

As an avid Canon DSLR and EF lens user who had recently added a Sony mirrorless to the collection, the aperture ring was something a bit new to me. Intended to be beneficial during cinema work, instead of adjusting the aperture on the camera body, you have the option of adjusting its width on the lens. This ring can be adjusted to either be silent or make little clicks to indicate it is turning – very useful for silent shooting. For those that prefer to adjust the aperture on the camera body itself, you can set the dial ring to ‘A’ for automatic.

The focus ring features Linear Response MF, which gives you instantaneous and sensitive response (a big bonus if you’re brave enough to use manual focus to capture something that moves)!

A nice added feature to the Sony GM 135mm F/1.8 is the focus range limiter switch which restricts the range of distance your lens can focus. I use this feature myself when I photograph dog agility shows to ensure the lens doesn’t focus on any obstacles near me but remains locked on a running dog that is far away.

Alongside this, the lens also has customizable focus hold buttons on the side and top which let you control focus via buttons on the lens rather than just the camera. Extremely useful in low light situations where lenses tend to naturally ‘hunt’ for focus.

Focus

4 - Sony FE 135mm F/1.8 GM Lens Review

Where the Sony line particularly shines in the mirrorless game (if not the camera game as a whole) is in its Autofocus. For many of their mirrorless cameras, advanced algorithms provide high AF precision, and infrared technology allows autofocus to be achieved even in extremely low or difficult lighting situations. As well, various autofocus features such as “Eye Tracking” makes these kits superb pieces of machinery. Pair this with the autofocus of the lens, and you have a masterpiece.

This lens has two unique actuators called Extreme Dynamic (XD) Linear motors. These motors not only silence the autofocus but also allow the lens to focus significantly faster than many other motors.

5 - Sony FE 135mm F/1.8 GM Lens Review

The autofocus is speedy and constant. I can attest to this as a sports photographer. When continuous autofocus is enabled in the camera, the lens holds onto the subject of your choosing like its life depends on it. The lens won’t hunt very much (if at all) and can keep following even a spontaneously and erratically moving subject.

When I took this lens out for a spin at WPPI, I can attest that the focus was incredibly fast and sharp, and was able to follow a human subject throughout the entire range of movement, regardless of the obstacles in front or behind. Even when the subject walked into a crowd of people, the lens was able to figure out who I was photographing.

Sharpness

The sharpest lens in the G-Master lineup. Hands down. A bold statement, but I stand by it!

For most lenses, they are only very sharp in the center. Sony GM 135mm F/1.8 is sharp everywhere. From the corners to the center, allowing you the versatility of any composition under the sun.

6 - Sony FE 135mm F/1.8 GM Lens Review

The sharpness is also very consistent from shot to shot. I have had many instances in which I capture a sequence in a portrait and only the first or second shot is very sharp and the rest drop off a bit. Of course, to most photo viewers, this discrepancy isn’t very noticeable. However, the photographer’s eye can see it glaringly.

Another big bonus is that this lens does not have a vignette, which can be a common problem with wide apertures.

There is absolutely no reason to add sharpening in post-processing either.

The clarity and colors this lens produces are impressive. I found the images required significantly less retouching too.

Depth of Field

7 - Sony FE 135mm F/1.8 GM Lens Review

Image courtesy of Sony

“Wide aperture” is my favorite phrase to hear. Truly. My photographic aesthetic dwells heavily on shallow depth of field. With my work as a concert photographer, the low light capability brought forth by wide apertures is a must-have. The F/1.8 aperture of this lens is terrific (although my obsession with my Canon 50mm F/1.2 L lens makes me wish this lens was an F/1.2). Even if you’re not one to shoot shallow, my rule of thumb is to always invest in lenses with a lower aperture number, so you have the option to shoot at all ranges.

The bokeh produced by this model is right on par with Sony’s unique look to out of focus areas. This is thanks to the unique lens build. To start, the XA element in the glass is developed using an exclusive glass molding process which makes it smoother than conventional aspherical lenses. Conventional lenses are rougher, which can cause rings to appear on your shallow depth of field (a pain to Photoshop out, though Gaussian Blur can do the trick if you mask it right). Secondly, Sony’s camera system aids in creating effortless-looking subject isolation. Third and final, the 11 circular aperture blades inside of the lens create a circular bokeh that maintains its shape no matter what.

8 - Sony FE 135mm F/1.8 GM Lens Review

Image courtesy of Sony

I find the depth of field (DOF) looks more dreamy and a bit artificial from other similar lenses, but it has an authenticity and liveliness to it. The shallow DOF has a subtle, calmer rotation that creates a very natural look to the images (or in the least, as natural as this shallow of a field can be).

Pair that with the fact that this lens has a focal length of 135mm and you have some great subject separation. There is a typically unmentioned benefit to telephotos used for portraits. Because of the length of this lens, there is a nice separation of subject from the background and foreground. This happens because of the compression inside the lens.

Flare resistance

As someone who photographs live concerts often, I find that flare resistance is an important factor in deciding whether to purchase a lens or not. Although some prefer the stylistic look, many of my music clients don’t want an image that is heavily washed out by colored light and lacks contrast. Flare resistance tends to stem from the glass coating of lenses, and some are better resistant than others.

9 - Sony FE 135mm F/1.8 GM Lens Review

Lucky for all of us, Sony’s patented Nano AR Coating is applied to reduce flare. Most of the time you can just shoot directly into the sun and you will neither have problems with a huge loss of contrast nor ghosting. This is brilliant for natural light photographers, especially during the beloved golden hour.

As previously mentioned, my primary experience with this lens was at the WPPI convention. Despite the lighting conditions being very difficult in the convention center, this lens outperformed many of the other lenses that I had tested on the same week- notably the flare resistance and overall quality. There was no real issue with the glaring back lights on any subject I had photographed.

Chromatic aberration

Chromatic aberration, also known as ‘color fringing’ or ‘purple fringing,’ is a common optical problem that occurs when a lens is either unable to bring all wavelengths of color to the same focal plane, or when wavelengths of color are focused at different positions in the focal plane. This issue plagues fast lenses the most, as the shallow depth of field tends to bring the optical problem forth. With this lens being an F/1.8, many are concerned about fringing issues in backlit portraits (when the light source is behind the subject).

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Sony’s Super ED element reduces chromatic aberration. Some aberration does exist – it isn’t foolproof – but luckily this issue tends only to affect the off-center portions of the frame. They are very minor in comparison to similar lenses and is easy to remove in post-processing programs such as Lightroom or Photoshop.

In comparison to my other Sony lenses, this one has the least chromatic aberration (as I found my 85mm was plagued with it, unfortunately). However, the Canon L lenses I have seem to have significantly less chromatic aberration all around.

Pros and Cons of the Sony FE 135mm F/1.8 GM Lens

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Pros:

  • Wide aperture at F/1.8.
  • Professional lens build.
  • Lighter than most alternatives.
  • Very accurate autofocus, especially paired with the mirrorless autofocus system.
  • Sharp throughout the entire frame, not just the center.
  • Silent autofocus due to the XD linear motor.
  • Convenient features physically built into the lens, such as the aperture ring, an aperture ring silencer, the focus range limiter switch, custom focus hold buttons, and an AF to MF finger switch.
  • Weather sealing and dust resistance.
  • Flaring and ghosting resistance Sony Nano AR coating on the glass.
  • Reduced chromatic aberration due to Super ED element.

Cons:

  • Pricey investment.
  • The lens is quite wide in physical build. Understandable for the wide aperture.  

Conclusion

This lens is a bit of a hefty financial investment, clocking in at about $1,900. However, considering the build quality, features, and incredible final output, I’d consider the value of this lens to be worth its asking price. I am also predicting that the lens will not depreciate much overtime.

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In conclusion, this lens is a stunner in its own right. For those that find a use for the 135mm (like myself), I’d go as far as to say this may be a must-have on the mirrorless list.

We had a fun jest at the WPPI show stating that you can just purchase the 24mm G-Master, 85mm G-Master, and this 135mm G-Master lens and that’s all you need for your kit! Arguably the absolute sharpest lens in the lineup, the 135mm is worth every penny for the immense amount of features included in this great lens.

The post Sony FE 135mm F/1.8 GM Lens Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

Gear Review: Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera Kit

The post Gear Review: Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera Kit appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

1 - Gear Review Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera Kit

The Canon EOS M50 is a compact interchangeable lens camera for aspiring photographers looking for an easy way to boost the quality of their photos and videos. Sporting 4k video capabilities to capture your favorite memories, 24-megapixel vibrant photographs, and Dual Pixel Autofocus system, the Canon EOS M50 is a masterful piece of technology.

Social media mavens can benefit from the camera’s Wifi function that allows users to connect to the Canon Camera Connect app to transfer images to their smart device. From there, you can share and upload from your device directly to various social media sites.

Canon’s newest addition is an excellent introduction to mirrorless cameras. Complete with a lens, its ready to go right out of the box – making it a fantastic holiday season gift for any photography enthusiast. Following is why this camera is so spectacular!

What is a Mirrorless Camera?

Before we get into it, let’s have a quick look at what a mirrorless camera is and how this new technology compares to digital Single Lens Reflex cameras (DSLRs).

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The way that a digital SLR camera works is that a mirror inside the camera reflects the light up to the optical viewfinder (which is also how you see the image before you take it). When you release the shutter, the mirror lifts, allowing the light to hit the sensor and capture the image.

In a mirrorless camera, there is no mirror or optical viewfinder. Instead, the imaging sensor gets exposed to light at all times. This method gives you a digital preview of your image either on the rear LCD screen or an electronic viewfinder (EVF).  As such, a mirrorless camera is one that doesn’t require a reflex mirror – a key component of DSLR cameras.

Due to the lack of mirror, the camera is significantly smaller and lighter weight than a DSLR, a very distinct difference between the two. However, DSLRs are well-trusted because of their true-to-life through-the-lens optical viewfinder system, which uses a series of mirrors to reflect light to your eye.

Mirrorless cameras, on the other hand, require an electronic viewfinder or LCD screen for image monitoring. Both are equally spectacular. Each model has their own pros and cons and it comes down to personal choice.

Canon EOS M50 features and specifications

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Features

The Canon EOS M50 mirrorless camera sports some very impressive features that would make even the smuggest photographer blush. The EOS M50 delivers improved Dual Pixel CMOS AF for fast, accurate autofocus that helps you get the photo you want right at the moment it happens.

The 24.1 Megapixel (APS-C) sensor is capable of capturing high-resolution image and video. The files grant the user images suitable for enlargements with sufficient resolution for significant cropping. The video capability of this hardy little camera is even more impressive. It has the ability to record in 4K UHD at 24 frames per second. The high-speed 120p mode is possible in HD.

According to the manufacturer, the built-in high-resolution electronic viewfinder features approximately 2,360,000 dots. So, you can see high amounts of detail in whatever you’re capturing.

The vari-angle Touchscreen LCD, which has a flexible tilt range. The tilt range is ideal for high-angle and low-angle shooting so you can get the composition you want without breaking your back. The Canon EOS M50 camera features the new DIGIC 8 Image Processor, which helps improve autofocus performance, enables you to shoot 4K UHD 24p video and aids with many other advanced features.

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Specifications

  • Improved Dual Pixel CMOS AF and Eye Detection AF.
  • 24.1 Megapixel (APS-C) CMOS Sensor with ISO 100-25600 (H: 51200).
  • 4K UHD* 24p and HD 120p** for Slow Motion.
  • Built-in OLED EVF*** with Touch and Drag AF.
  • Vari-angle Touchscreen LCD.
  • Built-in Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth Technology.
  • Automatic Image Transfer to Compatible Devices while Shooting.
  • New DIGIC 8 Image Processor with Improved Auto Lighting Optimizer.
  • Silent Mode for Quiet Operation.

This is only the second EOS M model to have a built-in Electronic View Finder (with the first being the EOS M5). It is also the first EOS M model to offer 4k video, which puts it one step ahead of the EOS M5. The camera also uses a DIGIC 8 processor, rather than the older DIGIC 7 processor.

Physical build

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This camera’s size is brilliant! It is smaller than my cell phone (Google Pixel). Easy to throw into any bag, purse, or pocket. The body construction consists of polycarbonate rather than a metal body shell, but it still feels robust enough in your hand. The camera features a very comfortable and well-designed grip containing  ‘hooks’ for your second finger and thumb. As a result, the M50 feels surprisingly secure, even when used with one hand.

Much like Canon’s pro-level DSLRs, the controls are well laid-out. The buttons are a decent size and easily located by touch while using the viewfinder. However, the size may be an issue for those with larger hands. My hands are petite, and I find the controls just fine (haha)!

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The tilt, vari-angle touch screen is brilliant. This nifty feature has infinite uses. Additionally, the screen can be stowed backward against the camera body to avoid any potential scratches (for those that don’t purchase screen protectors). The built-in viewfinder is very helpful when shooting during the noon sun or other bright conditions. There’s an auto activation when your eye approaches the viewfinder, ensuring that the LCD doesn’t blind you.

Canon has a knack for making its small models handle well and feel professional. The M50 is proof of this.

Autofocus

Canon’s autofocus is what has kept me loyal to the brand for over ten years now. Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS sensor that the M50 sports mean every sensor pixel is capable of being used for phase detection. Allowing fast autofocus almost wherever the subject gets situated within the frame. The AF system is sensitive down to -2 EV, which means the camera continues to focus in extremely low light.

7 - Gear Review Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera Kit

A new autofocus feature of this model is the eye-detection autofocus. The camera can find eyes on your subject and lock focus on them with the push of a button. It is photographic witchcraft, and I love it. This feature is activated when face detection is turned on, to focus specifically on your subject’s eye.

Do make note that this fun feature is only available in single-AF mode, which means you can’t use it track focus during burst shooting. As can be seen above, the eyes of my dog are nicely in focus (and this was easy to achieve, even when she moved a bit).

I have always preferred the AI Servo | Continuous Focus mode due to the majority of my subjects moving around a lot. Thanks to the ability to use phase-detection anywhere in the frame, this feature is fast and reliable.

Low light capability

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As the years’ progress, so does low-light capability. In higher ISO levels, image quality stands up very well at ISO 800. It’s only at ISO 3200 noise, and noise reduction starts to blur away detail. However, the color gets retained well. The higher numbers are passable for smaller reproductions, but you’ll generally find yourself not wanting to move beyond 12,500 max! The autofocus continues to shine even at low-light levels.

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Battery life

I have always been a tremendous fan of Canon’s batteries. They always continue to impress me with their longevity. This camera is no exception, despite having an always-on LCD screen! As always, I do suggest purchasing more than one battery, but you can remain confident in this camera lasting you through your entire photo session and photography adventures.

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The lens: EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM

The M50 kit comes complete with the EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM, a compact and stylized zoom lens for the mirrorless camera. The lens is very compact and features a side switch to flatten the lens when stored. This feature makes traveling with the M50 kit an absolute breeze.

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With the 15-45mm kit lens with its STM focus motor, autofocus is great. It is super-fast, silent, accurate, and excellent for any photography style. The 35mm-equivalent 24-72mm range combines a wide-angle for landscapes and big group photos, with a telephoto zoom for close-ups and detailed headshots.

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I found the lens to be reliable, fast, and sharp – no complaints whatsoever!

Final thoughts

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The Canon EOS M50 is an excellent entry-level camera for aspiring, beginner, and hobbyist photographers alike. From its variety of features to its portable size and ease-of-use, unraveling this camera under the Christmas tree would excite even the most controlled picture-takers. Plus, having a kit that comes with a lens is just a brilliant bonus!

The post Gear Review: Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera Kit appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

The (Almost) Perfect Autofocus of the Sony a7R III: a Hands-On Review

The post The (Almost) Perfect Autofocus of the Sony a7R III: a Hands-On Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

Focus is one of the most important concepts for a photographer. It can make or break an image. Whether you’re a pixel peeper like me who always looks for technical critical focus or an image maker who uses specific focus points to tell a story,  how the camera focuses is everything.

That’s why the newest addition to the Sony Alpha series is so conversation-worthy. With the 399 focus points on the Sony a7R III, and its ability to track focus like no other, the company touts it’s hard to get a shot that’s out of focus. This camera is like an artificially intelligent robot – it can predict and figure out exactly what you want in focus on.

With the thumb joystick on the back of the camera, you can quickly and easily change your focus point. And its AI Servo is out of this world. It could figure out the entire outline of a subject and hold on to it for dear life.

I take varying images – shooting animal action sports, live concerts, and everything in between. So I took all the boasting I’ve heard about this camera and put it to the ultimate test.

About the Sony a7R III

The a7R III is one of Sony’s newest and flashiest addition to its impressive mirrorless line of cameras. According to its website, the Sony a7R III sports the following drool-worthy perks:

  • 42.4 MP 35mm full-frame Exmor R™ CMOS and enhanced processing system
  • Standard ISO 100-32000 range (upper limit expandable to 1024005, with a lower limit of 50)
  • Fast Hybrid AF with 399-point focal-plane phase-detection AF and 425-point contrast-detection AF. The focus modes include:
    • AF-A (Automatic AF)
    • AF-S (Single-shot AF)
    • AF-C ( Continuous AF)
    • DMF (Direct Manual Focus)
    • Manual Focus
  • Face detection, with Modes:
    • Face Priority in AF (On/Off)
    • Face Priority in Multi Metering (On/Off)
    • Regist. Faces Priority (On/Off)
    • Face registration (max. number detectable: 8)
  • High-speed continuous shooting of up to 10fps (12fps with AF/AE tracking)
  • 5-axis image stabilization with 5.5-stop exposure advantage
  • 4K video recording
  • Dual card slots with simultaneous or consecutive recording
  • Silent Shooting Mode

The camera is compatible solely with Sony E-mount lenses, including G-Master and Zeiss lenses (sought after in the Sony world). The aspect ratio is 3:2, and the camera can record still images in JPEG, (DCF Ver. 2.0, Exif Ver.2.31, MPF Baseline compliant) and RAW (Sony ARW 2.3 format). The images are quite large: a 35mm full-frame image is 42MP (7,952 x 5,304 pixels), which in uncompressed RAW format takes up about 80MB of storage.

The camera also has built-in noise reduction software you can turn on or off as needed.

But what really set this camera apart (and why I fell in love with it) is the autofocus.

The Sony a7R III Autofocus Features

The a7R III allows for silent shooting at up to 10fps with AF/AE tracking – great for those who do wildlife photography. Shooting at 10 FPS yields up to 76 images at a time (when shooting JPEG).

Its phase-detect points cover around 47% of the sensor area. When you combine that with the contrast-detect sensor areas, the total AF coverage is nearly 68% of the frame.

Advanced algorithms provide high AF precision down to light levels as low as -3 EV for more reliable autofocus in dark scenes. The enhanced Fast Hybrid AF speeds up AF approximately two times faster under dim lighting conditions. The camera’s infrared technology allows it to autofocus even in extremely low or difficult lighting situations.

The camera also has an ‘eye autofocus’ setting. You read that right: it can find eyes on your subject and lock focus on them with the push of a button. This is photographic witchcraft and I love it. The a7R III’s Eye AF evolves with twice the effective eye detection and tracking, even when shooting a moving portrait subject. It’s touted by the company to work when:

  • the subject’s face is partially hidden
  • the subject is looking down or wearing glasses
  • the subject is backlit
  • the lighting is dim or low
  • the subject is far away.

The a7R III includes a touchscreen that provides touch AF, focus point dragging and focus racking features. The AF-C (continuous autofocus) option feature is extraordinary. The camera can keep tracking the subject even if it’s changing direction erratically or an object gets in the way.

Tip: The ‘Expand Flexible Spot’ mode is a good one to start from, and works well with the AF joystick for quick adjustments to the preferred focus area.

Real Life Use

This camera is fast and accurate. With my DSLRs, I usually have to refocus multiple times. But I didn’t have to do it once on the Sony a7R III. I think mirrorless cameras really outshine most DSLRs in the autofocus department.

Here’s how it did in various scenarios:

Action and Sports

I photograph a lot of action, and when I first bought this camera I took it to a Frisbee dog competition to test it out. I was absolutely blown away by the autofocus. The camera even recognized a dog’s face with its facial tracking autofocus and maintained focus on the dog’s face throughout its trick-induced performance. When the dog moved further away the focus changed to the animal’s entire body, which I appreciated.

Regardless of how spontaneously the dog moved, the focus remained locked.

I typically use my Canon 7D Mark II for animal sports photography due to its speed and the fact the body is intended for action. But I now prefer the a7R III due to its superb tracking. The 7D tends to get lost when there isn’t much contrast between the subject and the other objects in the frame, such as photographing in the fog. (Many of these dog sporting events happen around 7am when the fog rolls onto the field.)

The Sony mirrorless clearly identified the subject despite the lack of contrast. It can even refocus on dogs running at me without needing any prompting or additional technique.

Portraits

Portraits are an absolute breeze with this camera. From face tracking to eye tracking, it’s almost impossible to take an out-of-focus image unless you have your settings wrong. As I mentioned earlier, the eye tracking feature is said to work in problematic scenarios (the face is partially hidden, the subject is looking down, etc.)

Well, I can confirm that what Sony promises is true. It works in all of those scenarios. Even when I shot a model wearing unnatural contacts and bright glittery makeup, the camera had no issue.

Dimly-Lit and Golden Hour Portraits

Much like the camera’s success with well-lit portraits, the Sony a7R III can focus on portraits in dim light as if they were lit to perfection. I’m happy to say there was absolutely no difference between the two. Night portraits were a breeze.

The golden hour portraits were just as easy (not to mention exquisite). My other cameras have focusing issues when the sun is low and hitting the lens at an angle. But the a7R III breezed through and held focus on the subject no matter how the sun was hitting the lens glass.

Live Concerts

Dogs may wake me up in the mornings, but it’s the rock stars who keep me awake at night. In the evenings you’ll probably find me shooting a live concert with an arsenal of camera equipment to get me through the job.

Live concerts are extremely difficult focusing situations. In fact, they’re like a low-light sports situation. For the most part, you’ll have limited lighting, and have to deal with colored bulbs that can paint the subject with a very saturated color (such as the dreaded red hue).

Live concerts are also high-energy and filled with action as the guitarists swing their guitars and the drummer pounds away. You may not always have enough contrast to work with, and plenty of annoying obstacles to get in the way of whatever musicians you’re photographing.

Much like I found success in dog sports photography, the Sony a7R III does mighty well at maintaining focus on the subject despite erratic movement or instruments getting in the way. If the light is low but even, the camera does a splendid job of finding the subject thanks to its Advanced AF algorithms.


Unfortunately, live concerts are also where we hit a bit of a snag. As venue goers know, most music venues (especially small indie ones) don’t have consistent lighting on the stage. It can be uneven, sporadic, and wild. Some genres of music (e.g. metal and rock) really love using strobe lights on the stage as well.

And this is where the Sony a7R III flops terribly.

The moment strobes are used, the camera completely loses its ability to focus or find the subject. It’s a negative I haven’t seen covered in other reviews and one that keeps me from bringing this camera to a live concert (after having a particularly bad experience at a recent show).

When strobes were involved, none of the autofocus settings or adjustments worked. The camera began to hunt and then failed to focus at all. This happened with other native and non-native lenses. My guess is the infrared technology is affected by the strobing effects, but that’s just an assumption.

Non-Native Lens with an Adapter

As an avid 16-year Canon user with an army of L lenses, I have no plans on switching brands anytime soon. When I added the Sony a7R III to my kit, I immediately looked for ways to adapt my L glass to the Sony camera. (That way I’d need to buy only buy one native lens for the Sony and use the rest of my existing kit.)

After testing out several adapters I found that the Metabones Smart Adapter worked best.

Now it was time to test the autofocus on a non-native lens.

Although some of the autofocus features (e.g. eye-tracking) are disabled on non-native lenses, the facial recognition and AF-C (continuous autofocus) features worked like a charm. Once I’d calibrated the adapter to my lenses I didn’t experience any lag, searching or loss of focus. And despite certain features being unavailable, the camera was just as fast with non-native lenses as it was with native ones – even in low light. (I took this set up out for a spin during a club event.)

But the strobing issue was still there, which is why I’m convinced it’s a camera issue rather than a lens issue.

Final Thoughts

I have no regrets investing top dollar in this mirrorless camera. I find myself using it as much as my DSLRs, and I have three of them. I’ll often pick the mirrorless for more complex shoots simply because of its exquisite face tracking with autofocus.

Have I got you salivating? Think the Sony a7R III might be your next camera? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

The post The (Almost) Perfect Autofocus of the Sony a7R III: a Hands-On Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

Gear Review: Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens

Gear review: Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens 1

 

Sony has very quickly risen to be a photography power horse in the professional world. With their collection of impressive mirrorless cameras and fantastic cinema products, Sony has carved a name for themselves among the photography legends such as Canon, Nikon, and Leica. As such, it is of no wonder that the company has released a version of their own of the famous 85mm f/1.4 lens (Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens) – a fixed millimeter that features a beautifully creamy bokeh.

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I am a very versatile photographer. My work spans a variety of niches in the field, from live concerts to portraiture, action photography to animals. I have found a use for the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens in all of these situations, and the wide aperture is a fantastic bonus for the work that I do.

I use this lens in low light situations, aiding in isolating the subject in busy locations, and creating a precise depth-of-field-look for my clients.

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Lens build

My frame of reference is the Canon L lenses of which this is meant to be an equivalent. I find the build of those lenses to be very high quality and durable. Upon opening the box to unveil the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens, I was actually rather impressed at the build quality. The camera weighs about 825g – almost 2lbs – a significant weight.

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The outer casing of this lens is high-quality polycarbonate, and all markings are engraved and filled with paint. The physical feel of the lens in your hand is solid and sturdy. The rubberized focus ring was quite comfortable to the touch and was very smooth to turn.

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The lens features a rubberized focus ring, an aperture ring, an AF/MF switch, and on the left side of the lens, there is a programmable button that you can set to work as most anything. An excellent idea for a lens!

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The hood that comes with the camera is also high quality in build. The hood sports a rubberized front bumper and felt on the inside to counteract stray light. Furthermore, there is also a button which you have to press to remove the hood, which ensures the hood stays in place.

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Aperture ring

As an avid Canon DSLR and EF lens user who had recently added a Sony mirrorless to the collection, the aperture ring was something a bit new to me.

Intended to be very beneficial during cinema work, instead of adjusting the aperture on the camera body, you have the option of adjusting its width on the lens. This ring can be adjusted to either be silent or make little clicks to indicate it is turning – very useful for silent shooting.

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For those that prefer to adjust the aperture on the camera body itself, you can set the dial ring to ‘A’ for automatic. My one gripe would be the location of the ‘A’ option- it sits on the f/16 side rather than the f/1.4. It seems more logical to me to place this option on the side of the widest aperture. I found myself accidentally shifting the ring over to f/16 during shooting.

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Focus

The focus on this lens is very accurate if I do say so myself. Although in these types of camera combinations, much of the autofocus relies on the camera- but the speed is very much the lens. The close focusing distance is approximately 0.8m.

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I have read reviews of others who have had focus issues with this model, but I have not. I was able to record an entire sequence of a dog running directly at me from start to finish in perfect tack sharpness. The body I am pairing the lens with is the Sony a7r III, which can make a significant difference.

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Keep in mind that shooting at f/1.4 has its challenges- wide apertures tend to be difficult if you aren’t used to them. To quickly refresh you of the basics, when you focus your camera on a subject, it establishes a focal plane. To get your subject in focus, it has to be on the focal plane. Focal planes happen on an x (horizontal) and y (vertical) axis.

Anything along either of those axes will be in focus, and anything not on them will be out of focus. With wide apertures like f/1.4, your focal plane is quite narrow. Quick trick? Step further back to widen the plane!

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Sharpness

Talking about the focus naturally leads to sharpness. This lens is tremendously sharp. I was very impressed with the amount of detail that this lens can capture. There is absolutely no reason to add sharpening in post-processing.

One of the first sessions I did with the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens was action portraits at the beach, and the final result managed to pick up all of the detail including specks of sand flying up.

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I was also very impressed with the clarity and colors when using this lens- the glass was superb. Though I still find a significant advantage in Canon L glass (reminding that I am an avid Canon user), in regards to raw-off-of-the-camera quality. This lens is a close second best.

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Depth of field

The bokeh produced from this lens is where the difference is quite noticeable to the trained eye. The depth of field (DOF) at f/1.4 looks somewhat different from that of its competitors, such as Canon’s equivalent.

I find the depth of field looks more dreamy and a bit artificial from other similar lenses, but it has an authenticity and liveliness to it. The shallow DOF has quite a bit of a subtle, calmer rotation that creates a very natural look to the images (or in the least, as natural as this shallow of a field can be).

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That said, there is a vignetting that occurs at f/1.4. Some people like this, others don’t. I enjoy the natural vignetting that is contrary to popular opinion, but for those that find it a nuisance, keep in mind that this issue does occur with this lens.

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Flare resistance

A big bonus that sets this lens apart from others is its impressive flare resistance. Most of the time you can just shoot directly into the sun and you will neither have problems with a huge loss of contrast nor ghosting. This is brilliant for natural light photographers, especially during the beloved golden hour.

For me, as a concert photographer, I found this to be a significant perk as the stage lights didn’t flare too badly.

Gear review: Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens 17

Chromatic aberration

Chromatic aberration, also known as ‘color fringing’ or ‘purple fringing,’ is a common optical problem that occurs when a lens is either unable to bring all wavelengths of color to the same focal plane, or when wavelengths of color are focused at different positions in the focal plane.

Gear review: Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens 18

Unfortunately, where I lose a bit of love for this lens is the chromatic aberration issue it suffers. Though I have read reviews in which others claim that the chromatic aberration is minimal, I have experienced the contrary and consider the chromatic aberration to be rather severe.

I have used several high-quality fast lenses that have little to no aberration, and this is not one of them. I have experienced a slew of colors coming out in quite contrasted images, ranging from the purple fringe to aqua or bright green fringing. Although this can be removed in post-processing (especially in a program such as Lightroom), that is an extra step.

Gear review: Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens 19

Pros and cons of the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens

Pros

  • Very fast lens – focusing is a breeze.
  • The build quality is quite solid and durable.
  • Very sharp and clear images.
  • The depth of field is more natural rather than dreamy, which I find to be positive.
  • This is a full-frame lens intended for full-frame cameras – always a massive perk.
  • Excellent flare resistance.

Cons

  • Very noticeable chromatic aberration in high contrast situations.
  • Visible vignetting at wide apertures.
  • The ‘A’ option on the aperture ring is located in an inconvenient spot (in my opinion).
  • The lens has a significant weight.
  • The price is a bit steep at around $1700 USD.

Gear review: Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens 20

Conclusion

For those rocking Sony E-mount cameras, this lens is dreamy. An excellent and high-quality choice as a native Sony mount. I find it to be rather worth it for those sporting this brand’s camera body.

Have you used the  Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens? What are your experiences with it? Let us know in the comments below.

 

The post Gear Review: Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens appeared first on Digital Photography School.

5 Reasons to Consider Concert Photography with a Wide Open Aperture (and the Secret to Perfecting it)

Concert photography is arguably one of the most adrenaline-filled niches you can engage in as an image maker. Musicians, magazines, fans, and record labels alike turn to skilled concert photographers to tell a story for the momentous performance. For most music photographers (due to venue constraints) there is less than ten minutes to capture enough great images to populate a full gallery. Partner this with tumultuous circumstances such as sporadic lighting and an excitable audience and you have effectively created a photographic situation that is unlike any other.

As such, shooting with a very wide open aperture might appear to be too daunting of a task! There are common misunderstandings of how to use and work with a wide open aperture! If your inner aesthete drools over soft, dreamy photographs and creamy bokeh, then you better get ready to play with some low, low, low numbers. We are here to tell you how to photograph concerts at f/1.2, f/1.4, and f/1.8!

Wide aperture concert photography tips

Why Use an Ultra Wide Aperture?

Here are 5 reasons you may want to consider shooting concert photography with a wide open aperture.

1. Aesthetic and Style

To preface, a lot of the quality and final image look is based on the type of lens used. In the past several years, photography fans are gravitating towards the shallow depth of field aesthetic. If you’re in the business of producing commercial music photography (like myself), you’re going to want to keep following the trends and adapting to what is sought after in the industry.

Aesthetic and Style with Wide Aperture Concert Photography

An added bonus is being able to niche yourself a bit in an industry that has a lot of competition, many photographers are wary of shooting fast paced events with a wide aperture due to potential focusing issues. If you can master this art, you have something that will separate you from others.

 

2. Low Light Capability

Low light concert photography with wide aperture

Unless you’re shooting a big name at an amphitheater, a lot of smaller venues will have very poor lighting. You’ll need to use equipment that will illuminate the frame with whatever limited lighting is available. In these low light scenarios you need a lens with a wide enough aperture to let in more light. Using a lens that goes down to f/1.2, for example, is a great way to let enough light in and make the frame bright. Remember, the aperture is the hole the light passes through in your lens. The wider the aperture, the more light that enters the camera.

 

3. Shallow Depth of Field

Shoot concert photography with shallow depth of field

The wider the aperture, the shallower the depth of field. Shallow depth of field is great for live concerts because the stage can be rather cluttered compositionally. From instruments to cables, background props, and other band members, there can be a lot going on in the frame at once. Only having one subject in focus with the rest blending into a creamy bokeh makes for a much more visually pleasing and simplified image. With the depth-of-field being so shallow, whatever troubles you about the background can easily melt into a beautiful creamy bokeh.

 

4. Detail Shots

Capture detail in your concert photography with wide aperture

On the topic of shallow depth of field, if you are photographing for an instrument company, an aperture of f/1.8 will likely become your best friend. This is because photographs taken with a large aperture allow all of the focus to lie on the subject, and the background ceases to remain a distraction. Many instrument companies love to have their products captured in a natural usable setting, such as musicians at a live show.A shallow depth of field will keep the interest solely on your single subject.

 

5. Sharpness

How to achieve sharpness in your concert photography with wide aperture

Due to technological constraints, lenses that open their aperture below f/2.8 are fixed millimeter lenses (they do not zoom). As a general rule, fixed millimeter lenses tend to be sharper than lenses with a range.

 

Let’s Talk About the Elephant in the Room: Focusing with a Wide Open Aperture

Right where all of the benefits of an f-stop of 1.2 start to break down is the focusing. The wider the aperture and the shallower the depth of field, the more difficult it can be to focus on what you want. Pair that with a live show in which the lighting is a bit of a mess, and the subjects move spontaneously in various directions, and it sounds like the perfect recipe for a photographer migraine. However, focusing with a wider aperture doesn’t have to be so difficult- it’s just a different thought process.

The Concept of Sharpness

Sharp concert photography through composition

Really, the focus stems from a desire to have an image that is sharp. But what is sharpness? Sharpness is an interesting concept. How sharp a subject appears is a matter of two things: the focus the camera captures and the amount of contrast on your subject. The term “sharpness” is, in fact, an illusion. You see, for an image to be considered sharp, it needs to have contrast. If the there is little contrast in the image, the subject will not look three-dimensional regardless of whether the focus is perfect or not. Biologically, the way that our eyes work, our vision naturally detects edges to register sharpness, and shadows and highlights in order to record the depth in a subject. This is a very important concept to understand when answering the question of how to make images look sharp. When editing your concert photography images, be attentive to the shadows and highlights. And add contrast to define your subject.

 

Perfect Focus

Sharp concert photography through perfect focus and wide aperture

In terms of getting your image to actually be sharp (from being in perfect focus), here is the basic concept of how focus works in a camera. When you focus your camera on a subject, it establishes a focal plane. To get your subject in focus, it has to be on the focal plane. Focal planes happen on an x (horizontal) and y (vertical) axis. This means anything along either of those axes will be in focus, and anything not on them will be out of focus. The concern with a wide open aperture is that your focal plane is quite small. As you decrease your aperture number and make the opening wider, the invisible area in front and behind the plane of focus will get smaller and smaller, leaving you with much less wiggle-room. As such, distance from the subject plays a key role in your focus.

When shooting wide open, even the smallest diversion from either of the focal plane axes will cause your subject to be out-of-focus. You cannot take a step forward or back without the need to refocus when shooting at a wide aperture. But by keeping this in mind, you can adjust your photography technique to better accommodate the small focal plane.

Single Point Autofocus

Using single point focus and wide aperture in concert photography

A trick to help make sure that what you want in focus is indeed sharp, is to use single point autofocus. By default, your camera will probably select either the object that’s closest to the camera or what’s in the center of the frame. By using single point autofocus, you tell the camera exactly where to focus, which is extremely helpful with low aperture numbers. Refer to your camera model’s manual to find how to change the focus setting!

The Real Secret

The real secret to wide aperture concert photography

Keeping in mind how the focal plane works, this is the big trick to shooting wide open at a concert: The farther away you are from the subject, the easier it is to get the subject in focus. You can get the subject in focus and still maintain and extremely creamy depth of field.

Whether you’re in a photo pit or just in the main venue floor, your position to begin the concert shoot can significantly affect your success for the rest of the shoot. Keeping in mind that for most general photography passes your time is limited, you need to be ready to jump right into the shoot the very second the music hits your ears. My suggestion is to start on the outer edges of the pit or venue and work your way to the middle. Many concert photographers all flock to the center of the shooting zone, and begin shoving to claim their dead center spot. When you start from the edge, while the other photographers are all congregating and fighting for the center, you have much more room to move freely on the outer edge. This is where you will have an advantage to be able to move a bit further away from your subject in order to expand your plane and get that perfect focus.

Shooting concert photography in wide aperture

Now that you’ve been let in to the secret, go out there and capture some awesome concert shots!

The post 5 Reasons to Consider Concert Photography with a Wide Open Aperture (and the Secret to Perfecting it) appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Review: Evecase Canvas DSLR Backpack

Awesome highlights of this wild career: taking photographs, hanging out with cool clients, and producing stunning imagery.

The not-so-fun part: transporting all the cameras, lenses and bits and bobs we need from point A to point B.

If you’re like me, you know that being able to carry all of our must-haves comfortably can make or break the work day. I’m always looking for better ways to lug my gear. So when I came across the Evecase Canvas DSLR Backpack I had to try it out.

The Evecase Canvas DSLR Backpack

 

Before we get into my opinion of this strappy carrying device, let’s take a moment to discuss what this backpack is about. According to Evecase it “features a customizable interior which can hold camera bod and 2-5 lenses, a laptop compartment that holds a 14-inch laptop, Chromebook or tablet, plenty of pockets, pouches and spaces for jackets, books, a tripod and other accessories. Rain or shine, wet or dry, the removable rain cover will give your backpack the best protection. Fashionable canvas design with discreet look that won’t stand out as camera backpack.

According to Evecase, the highlights include an easy-to-access camera compartment, discreet instant laptop access, and extended top storage. There are a slew of accessory pockets, tripod holder straps, stowaway side pockets and ergonomic shoulder straps.

Appearance

I won’t lie. The appearance of this canvas backpack is what piqued my interest in the first place. I always gravitate towards cases that don’t scream “Expensive camera equipment stored in here”, and this backpack is certainly inconspicuous enough.

This product is 15 x 12.5 x 7 inches , with the camera compartment being 9.6 x 11 x 4 inches.

The canvas fabric material has a subtle texture to it and is a rather pretty grey. The material is waterproof and weatherproof. (Well, generally. But it also comes with a waterproof case.) It looks like something you’d take on a camping trip or backpacking across Europe. The details are all black, and the color scheme can easily match whatever your style is. Much of my carrying devices and storage units are grey. (I like having all of my products match one another.)

The front of the backpack features a multitude of pockets and flaps, with bottle or beverage pockets that can be stowed away discreetly when not in use. The inside is lined with a light, slate grey that has a bit of a blue tint to it.

The backpack has a bit of weight when empty, but not enough to concern me.

Build Quality

The build quality is where other people’s reviews on this product get a little shifty. I’ve read many claims of it ripping at the seams or being rather fragile. But having used this Evecase product rigorously for more than a month, I haven’t experienced it myself.

The photography I do involves a lot of wear and tear on whatever I have with me. I photograph canine sports, exotic animals and live concerts. My daily dose of damage can include anything from animals biting my bags to a rowdy crowd unintentionally tearing at my stuff. After being put through the wringer for more than 30 days, this bag has managed to survive with almost no visible damage.

Even when it’s fully packed, I haven’t experience any ripping, tearing, or deformity of the compartments due to the weight. I even took it for a spin at the beach (being from California and all), and neither sand nor salty water caused much of an issue. Based on my experiences alone, I’d consider the build quality on this backpack to be great.

That being said, as with any product you own a bit of TLC goes a very long way in ensuring its longevity. I have weekly cleaning where I perform cleaning and basic maintenance on of my work gear. And backpacks, cases and other carrying devices are no exception.

Comfort

The main criteria for whether or not a backpack, sling, or any carrying device stays is comfort. After dueling against several alternatives, the Evecase Canvas DSLR Backpack is definitely staying.

I’ve worn this backpack fully stocked with supplies for around six hours, and suffered no significant discomfort or additional pain normally associated with carrying weight for such a long time. This being said, I feel the size of this backpack and where it suits my height (5’ 5”) brilliantly. Taller people may have an issue simply there’s no real way to adjust where this backpack sits. It would also be nice to have have more padding on the shoulder straps. I think I’ll  eventually mod the straps and add more padding, but if it came with some initially it would be even more rad. 

As for ease of access, I like the solid build of the camera compartment. I can easily balance the backpack on my knee as a table to help switch lenses or attach something to my rig. There’s a wonderful side pocket I can pull my laptop out of if I don’t feel like opening the top and reaching the computer from there. All of the small bits and bobs I might need are also easily accessible due to the various pockets on the front of the backpack, and the beverage pockets are also within a comfortable reach.

Storage

This backpack features plenty of storage for everything I could possibly need. Of my kit, at maximum, I can fit:

  • either:
    • three lenses (Canon 16-35mm F/2.8L USM II, Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM, and Canon 24-70mm F/2.8L USM II) and a camera body (Canon EOS 5D Mark IV)
    • two camera bodies (Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and Canon EOS 5D Mark II) and two lenses (Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM and Canon 24-70mm F/2.8L USM II)
  • my 13.5” laptop with its case on and a laptop charger
  • two variable ND filters
  • camera batteries
  • chargers
  • cards
  • lens cleaning kit
  • roll of tape
  • scissors
  • notebook
  • pens
  • contract / liability waivers / model release forms / non-disclosure documents
  • card reader
  • metal case of business cards
  • tripod
  • cellophane gel kit
  • my personal belongings (cell phone, portable cell battery, wallet, car keys, jacket, deodorant, makeup)
  • two water bottles
  • snacks.

That being said, a couple of the pockets in the front are a bit odd in the sense that I would have gone for something different. The size of the two small pockets in front of the camera compartment are a bit strange. The dividers inside them are a bit too large for some of the smaller electronics I’d put there, but too small for anything larger. I’d prefer them to mimic the one long pocket at the top of the backpack, as I currently have to dig deep into the dividers to pull out the small components I need to use. A couple of the flaps could make excellent pockets for paperwork or business cards, but instead they sit there as decorative elements.

Padding

The backpack features an acceptable amount of padding in both the camera and laptop sections. The camera section had significantly more padding than the laptop slot, and so I often store my laptop in its compartment with a secondary case already on it. Fortunately a secondary case fits just fine. The camera compartment includes your run-of-the-mill customizable dividers, so you can arrange that area to suit your needs.

Pros

  • Aesthetic and style
  • Not bulky
  • Comfortable straps
  • Plenty of storage space
  • Easy camera and laptop access
  • Waterproof case is a nice touch

Cons

  • Lack of confident padding in the laptop compartment
  • Some of the outer pockets are odd
  • Needs a better way of hiding tripod straps when not in use
  • Needs more buttons to the main compartment to customize size better
  • Forget about putting in a DSLR with the grip attached
  • Needs more padding on shoulder straps if you pack heavy

In conclusion, for between $40 and $60 on Amazon.com this backpack gives you a decent bang for your buck. I quite like it, and still get tremendous use out of it.

The post Review: Evecase Canvas DSLR Backpack appeared first on Digital Photography School.

11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Musicians, magazines, fans, and record labels alike turn to skilled photographers to tell a story of a momentous performance and return unique concert photos.

Concert photographers are often on assignment for a publication that has sent them out to capture meaningful pictures that could very well go down in music history. Otherwise, music photographers are individually hired by the performing artists. Whatever brings you to the photo pit, your goal is to capture something wonderful.

That being said, the music photography industry has become surprisingly saturated in recent years. In order to stand out amongst the crowd, you have to take live music photographs that differ from others in your photo pit. Here are 11 tips on how to take more unique concert photographs.

#1 – Don’t Forget About the Detail Shots

still life concert image - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: Behemoth

Although you want to focus heavily on the musicians performing on the stage, the detail shots are just as important.

Many bands put in a significant amount of effort into their live show productions, from stage props to lighting schemes. A unique and effective statement to your live concert gallery are some close-ups of the epic stage props that the band uses.

At the very least, the artist who created the props or the instrument company will thank you!

#2 – Play with Art and Distortion Lenses

blue and pink concert lighting - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: MGT. Shot with the Lensbaby Burnside 35.

Though concert photography is often an assignment from a journalistic outlet, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a couple of minutes to yourself to do something vastly different. You do not have to be afraid of using artistic or distortion lenses at a live show. If anything, they make the frame exceptionally cool!

The fish-eye lens became very famous by well-known concert photographers by being used at live shows. I, myself, love using the Lensbaby lenses at live concerts. The manual focus can oftentimes be much more effective than relying on autofocus.

Try using a copper tube to create very cool swirls around your subject.

art lenses - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: A Mirror Hollow. Shot with the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L IS USM lens.

You can submit the standard shots to the outlet, and the unique ones to the band. I am telling you, the musicians will love a new take on their live performances.

#3 – Tons of Flying Hair is Great

hair whipping - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: Cradle of Filth

Naturally, try to capture the facial expressions of the performers. However, you are dealing with rockstars here, and part of the cool factor of these rock gods is their wild style.

Take advantage of the flying hair and fun headbanging, they can sometimes make cooler shots than your standard singing portraits.

#4 – Perspective is Everything

band between legs - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: HIM

Although concert photography can be very limited, between shooting time restrictions and limitations on your shooting location, you can still play with perspective.

The key to being different is viewing life through a lens that is more diverse than those around you, no pun intended. Get low, low, low to the ground and shoot up or move yourself to the very far side of the photo pit and shoot from there! Photograph in between the heads of fans or get up on the balcony.

Whatever you do, find new angles, views, and compositions to take advantage of to create more unique concert photos.

#5 – The Musician Doesn’t  Always Have to Look at You

musician on stage - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: Nightwish

It is true that the viewer connects best when the subject is looking at or engaging with the camera.

However, you don’t always have to fight for that type of shot during a live concert setting. It’s okay for the musicians not to interact with you as a photographer. Shots of them looking away or down can be just as eye-catching.

#6 – Embrace the Light, Don’t Avoid it

stage lighting - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: IAMX

Having a good grip on lighting will aid you in your concert photography journey. Stage lighting can differ tremendously between shows, venues, and even what lighting is available for that evening. The lighting can range from bright white strobes to deep reds.

Understanding how lighting is photographed by your camera, how it reflects on the instruments and equipment, and how the bulbs affect the performer’s skin tones will change how you take the photograph.

Most incredibly safe and tame images come from the photographer being wary of taking advantage of the lighting situation at concerts. Don’t be afraid to jump right in there and take advantage of whatever bizarre lighting scheme the performers have cooked up for you.

At the end of the day, the lighting is a part of the concert experience, and your job is to capture that.

#7 – Lens Flares are Rad

lens flare musician performing - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: Epica

On the topic of lighting, lens flares can be very cool!

This is, of course, an aesthetic choice, but I personally find them to be quite fun. You can cause a flare in a similar fashion to photographing during sunset or golden hour. When the light hits the front glass element of your lens at a specific angle, a flare will appear.

#8 – Overexposing and Underexposing Can Work

moody concert lighting - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: The Misfits

To help accurately capture the emotion and feel of the show, it is alright to overexpose or underexpose your frame. This can also create a rather unique and uncommon type of photograph.

Use your best judgment and common sense here to determine when such exposures are appropriate.

#9 – Don’t Be Afraid to Get Close

close up of a band member on stage - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: Jyrki69

Guitarists don’t bite (not hard anyway)! Don’t be afraid to get close to the performers on the stage. Take a wide-angle lens, such as a 16-35mm lens, and get right up in there. The perspective distortion can make for a very cool shot.

However, that being said, be aware of your surroundings. I cannot reiterate this point enough. Absolutely be aware of your surroundings!

It is easy to get lost in the moment and fall into a creative bliss when shooting, but a live music event is not the place to lose yourself.

If you’re not growing eyes in the back of your head, you’ll most likely get clonked right in the temple by a crowd surfer, tangled in a microphone cord, or smacked by a flying guitar. This will help you avoid injury to yourself and others.

#10 – In-Between Moments Tell a Story

singer between songs - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: HIM

The band may have put their instruments down for a moment, but that doesn’t mean that the job of the photographer ends there.

Some in-between moments can become incredible iconic images through their powerful storytelling ability.

#11 – The Moment is More Important than Technical Accuracy

red concert lighting - 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos

Band: IAMX

Let’s face the facts, we all pixel peep. I believe that over time, passionate photographers get a bit anxious about technical perfection in their images (I know I sure do sometimes). However, some niches such as event photography are not as fussed over technical mistakes as long as the moment captured is important.

There is be a fine balance between taking a good photograph by technique and taking a good photograph by design (aka a great and powerful moment). However, if you have to choose between capturing a fantastic story and ensuring equipment perfection, pick the story.

Many wonderful images are overlooked because the focus is too set on ensuring that an image is tack sharp rather than what the subject portrays.

Of course, this isn’t meant to be interpreted as disregarding technical proficiency. You should aim to take exceptional photographs, but don’t get lost in your pursuit and forget your purpose for photographing the event.

Your turn

Now that you have these tips in your photography toolbelt, go out there and take some wicked shots!

Band: Epica

The post 11 Ideas for More Unique Concert Photos appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Portraits

We’ve all seen the usual studio set up –  beautifully crisp white light, maybe some strobes, diffusers, and other things of the sort. However, what can you do beyond that to make your portraits stand out? Add some color! In this article, learn how to use colored gels to add some spice to your images.

musician portrait with pink background - How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Lighting

Colored gels are filters that go on your light in order to change the output color. They are usually sold at photography stores and clamped onto your lights. They range in size, thickness, color cast, and most importantly, price. Be very mindful of how hot your lights are because we’ve had gels melt on the set before during long sessions (such as music videos). 

However, you can also make your own colored gels using cellophane and tape. Just take some really saturated cellophane from a local party or art store and wrap them around your softbox or LED light (so long as the LED runs cold and won’t melt the plastic paper) and fasten with tape.

This may not look like the most professional setup, but I suppose that matters little so long as the final outcome is fantastic!

spooky photo with double exposures - How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Lighting

There are limitless possibilities with gels. In regard to color combinations, I suggest making sure all of your gels are saturated the same in order to match with one another (and not become a headache in the editing room later).

Here are some of my favorite gel lighting arrangements to create some new and unique imagery. As a personal preference, I use continuous light, but the same can be achieved with studio strobes or speedlights.

One Color Gel Setup

The simplest and most traditional gel lighting look. There isn’t any fancy setup for this look, you can photograph your model in any fashion and just replace the white light with a color. Make sure your colored gel is really vibrant or the image may fall flat. 

portrait of a girl with amber gel - How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Lighting

Play with distance, shutter speed, and some light post-processing to see how far you can get the light to spread. That can add a unique and unexpected twist to your one-light setup!

A good use of the one color set up is backlighting! Take your light and place it behind the subject.

backlighting with gels - How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Lighting

Double Colored Gel Setup

My personal favorite is the double colored gel setup. All this requires is two lights, each gelled with different colors. Set them to the side of your model and watch the magic happen!

The division can be very eye-catching and intriguing.

model with red and green lights - How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Lighting

lighting diagram - How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Lighting

Be mindful of your model’s physical structure. You want to make sure that the color division hits the proper place. Aim for the lighting to (generally) divide right at the center of the nose (split lighting).

Tri-Color Gel Setup

How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Lighting

You can go as intense with colors as you like, but when I do three color looks, I like one of those colors to be white. The white softens the whole look and doesn’t make it overly exaggerated.

However, if you prefer a color, I suggest placing a lighter color in the center of your arrangement and the darker colors on the sides.

portrait with 3 colors of light - How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Lighting

For three color looks, my favorite arrangement is the traditional triangle light setup. This includes one light in front of the subject and two lights at the sides.

Depending on the look you want to achieve, you can set up the two side lights behind the model and just turn them towards the model. That keeps the light from being too harsh. For a more intense look, place the lights directly at the model’s sides.

lighting diagram - How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Lighting

Rim Light Colored Gel Setup

girl with rim lighting - How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Lighting

Always a very dramatic and edgy look, using gels for rim lights can bring a bit of flair to your portraits. It does depend on your model’s structure as to where you place the lights. What I do is set up a white light in front of the model and two colored gels on lights to the side pointed forward.

The best colors I’ve found for the rim light look are purples, blues, reds, and greens – oranges tend to get a bit lost with the white light.

How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Lighting

Background Light Gel Setup

How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Lighting

The quickest way to liven up any location is to aim some lights with colored gels attached toward the background wall.

You can photograph your subject in any traditional studio light manner, and just shoot two gelled lights to the back wall. This allows your subject to be really well separated from the background (something we always strive for in studio photography).

How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Lighting

Now go out there and play with colors!

The post How to use Colored Gels to Create Unique and Creative Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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