Declaration of Insensitivity
We want a revote on the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” after seeing images of Melania Trump sporting a military jacket with the words “I really don’t care, do u?” on the back– a thousand words is obviously not enough. The Daily Mail reported that Mrs. Trump wore the jacket when she initially boarded her plane in Maryland, and changed outfits before disembarking in Texas.
Just yesterday, Donald Trump signed an executive order intended to put a halt to the “zero tolera…
“Great photos! You must have a great camera!” If you take your craft seriously, the odds of having heard these words are quite high. Audiences associate good images with great cameras, and for the longest time this (almost) accusation has bothered photographers who felt their skills were downplayed. But the interesting bit is that we’re walking towards making the “great cameras = great photos” equation true! And they fit in your pocket.
Before I started for real with photography and cinematography – more than ten years ago – I used to play with a Sony compact camera. Back then I believed that great photos could only be achieved with great cameras. Mine lacked everything I associated with great photos: shallow depth of field, wide dynamic range and beautiful color science (I did not know these terms back then).
When I got my first DSLR in 2008, a Canon Rebel XTi, I started to learn that a good camera indeed makes things better, but it won’t prevent you from taking plenty of crappy photos – as most of mine were. I’ve had this thing where I look at the total number of images shot on a given project and the number of images I process and export out of Lightroom. Back then, this used to be a 25:1 ratio. These days I’m at 3:1.
Over the last ten years, I’ve improved my photography skills considerably while also improving my gear – from the XTi I went to a 7D, then to a 5D MkIII and lastly to a Sony A7sII. Every time I switched cameras I remember being blown away by the new capabilities and improvements on the image – color reproduction, full frame sensor and low light sensitivity. Each one of my cameras was stronger than the ones preceding it. That was never enough guarantee some photos wouldn’t turn out bad anyway – out of focus, poorly lit, too contrasty, too shallow depth of field, too much depth of field, and so on.
During this trajectory, I took more than a few photos I’m proud of, and many times I heard the bothersome, “Woah! This is such a great photo! Your camera must be amazing!”, as well as its reverse when people saw me working: “With a camera like that I bet all your photos turn out flawless”. Many of these people were close enough friends that I was able to explain the camera is just a tool and without someone behind it to push the right buttons, the quality of the photos is not guaranteed.
During my learning process, I also watched the rise of smartphones. I used to write a column for a photography magazine back in Brazil (2012-2013) and I saw several big photographers arguing about the validity of an image taken with a phone by an untrained photographer. This was a particularly hot topic in the journalism community. Regular folks (non-photographers) would be closer to a story when it broke, snapping photos on their phones and recording precious developments in real time – way before a photographer got to the scene.
The pros would get up in arms about the media outlets using low-quality, phone-shot images. “These are not good photos!” they’d say, and “Then you should’ve been there faster”, magazines, newspapers and TV channels would reply. Phone cameras and lower entry-prices for digital cameras represented the democratization of photography, an extreme boom in popularity. Everyone was now a photographer – but not everyone was able to make a living out of it, sometimes not even the established photographers from before the boom.
Until recently it was easy to tell when a photo was taken using a phone or an actual camera. In its latest iterations though, through the use of dual-lenses and/or machine learning and automated processes, smartphones experienced an unparalleled upgrade in the images coming out of their cameras. This is where optical photography lines start to blur as we introduce the powers of computational photography.
Computational photography … refers to digital image capture and processing techniques that use digital computation instead of optical processes. Computational photography can improve the capabilities of a camera, or introduce features that were not possible at all with film-based photography, or reduce the cost or size of camera elements.
Smartphones are taking advantage of their strong processors to bring in serious upgrades over their optically limited cameras.
The latest iPhones (7 Plus, 8 Plus, X) use two lenses — a wide-angle and a telephoto — in order to create a depth map of the scene in front of its lenses. With said map, it’s easy to realistically simulate out-of-focus areas like a full-sized camera would. The difference is the depth map gives you the freedom to manipulate that data in ways your camera wouldn’t. You can change the lighting of the scene to some extent, you can create impossibly shallow (yet accurate) depth of field, as well as you can change your focus point after pressing the shutter.
Apple’s approach can be seen as conservative when compared to the solutions implemented in Google’s Pixel 2, which relies on a single-lens camera and the full force of its artificial intelligence. The Pixel 2 stacks and aligns up to nine photos taken on a burst in order to achieve maximum dynamic range as well as to create its own depth map based on the camera movement and the parallax in the scene. Not only that, its AI has been taught what a person looks like and as soon as they find something that fits the bill, they’ll make sure that part of the shot is in focus. This leads to amazing photos coming out of a fairly inexpensive, light and multi-functional device when compared to a full-size camera. Plus, the photographer doesn’t need to make any decisions. Photos taken by my 7-year old niece and taken by me can look just as good with the press of a single button.
If you want to read more about the technical wonders coming out of smartphones, Rishi Sanyal’s article “Why smartphone cameras are blowing our minds” on DPReview has been a great source of inspiration for my own article.
This makes now a time when someone can say “Great photos! You must have a great camera!” attributing the quality of the images solely to the equipment used and not be wrong!
At the same time computational photography levels the playing field of day-to-day photography, it makes other skills stand out. For example, framing and lighting are things machines are not good at just yet, among other subtleties we pick up while honing our craft. It goes to say if you’re only able to take good photos because you have a good camera, things are about to get tough!
Just to paint a clearer picture, all the photos in this post were taken with an iPhone 8 Plus and a Google Pixel 2.
About the author: Tito Ferradans is a cinematographer, VFX artist, and anamorphic enthusiast from Brazil who’s currently living in Vancouver, Canada. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of his work on his website, Vimeo, Facebook, and Flickr. This article was also published here.
My Last Frames of Fuji FP-100C, or: The Creative Obligation Not to F*** it Up
For about a year and a half, every time I opened my fridge I saw my last remaining 10 exposure pack of Fuji FP 100C instant film, and every time I opened said fridge I was reluctant to take it out and shoot it. I did not want to waste my last remaining packfilm but I knew I shouldn’t wait too long, because eventually the chemistry inside the film would dry. And since the film expired in late 2007, I was running out of time.
I decided to shoot my last pack of FP-100C (silk) on a warm and sunny day in mid-May. For the first four frames I photographed a few friends and gave them the prints but kept the negatives to scan them later, but because I was in a hurry I didn’t let them dry completely which made them stick together and thus destroyed the negatives.
Realizing that I only had 6 shots left, I decided to wait for the evening to shoot the apple blossoms in the gardens beneath Michelsberg Abbey not far from where I live. After I had exposed the first of my four frames I was disappointed because I found the image dull and boring. My expectations were of course, high since I wanted my last frames with this wonderful film at least to be visually pleasing.
I had something in my mind like “Steve McCurry shoots his last roll of Kodachrome” and was disappointed when I couldn’t find a composition worth shooting. I sat down and listened to the birds singing in the trees and thought what to do and how to do it. For about five minutes, I sat in a trampled down spot in the tall grass surrounding me and stared at the small purple wild-flowers that grew around me. I pressured myself to come up with something because the thought of wasting the last peel-apart instant-film I could shoot with my trusty RB67 on a subpar composition felt embarrassing, and so I decided to try multiple exposures.
This said, I kept my initial composition and only adjusted the exposure to accommodate a second exposure onto the frame. I wanted the deep saturated green of the grass around me to fill the shadows of my frame to contrast the white and pink blossoms. This time, to avoid the problem of sticky negatives I didn’t open the developed sheets until I was back home.
I might have wasted all my remaining film on double- and triple exposures without noticing it until it was too late. But sometimes, creativity is drawn from uncertainty and the necessity to structure an image in your mind or at least from being able to imagine the image. Fortunately, this event did not occur.
In some sense, it also was a great privilege to be able to shoot this wonderful film and peel-apart films in general. Future chemical photographers will most likely never get the opportunity to use this brilliant film that gives you a negative and a positive print of superb quality. Although it was not the very last pack of FP-100C that was shot on this planet, it was my last pack and since I’ve made the decision not to buy “freshly expired” FP-100C for up to €40 (~$46), it was my last pack.
A sad reality. A reality that will haunt us in the future when Fuji decides to kill first Velvia, then Provia, and then film altogether (apart from Instax, obviously).
Shooting my last FP 100C was in some way a revelation to me: It made me realize that if we are unfortunate, our most cherished film emulsions will be silently killed off, and that we for as long as we can enjoy shooting them, should shoot every frame as it could be the last. And even if it is only the little moment of joy you feel, when you have overcome a creative struggle, and in the end have produced an image worth looking at.
Thank you for reading this short article! I hope you enjoyed it or at least were able to draw some creative inspiration whatsoever from it. Unfortunately, FP-100C will not have been my last last film stock. The next candidate on the extinction list is the wonderful Kodak Portra 100T of which I have only 5 Rolls (120) left.
And if you’re wondering why I chose double and triple exposures: I shot 9 exposures from 4 sheets of film. The longer I shoot, the more I enjoy it, especially in this case.
About the author: Ludwig Hagelstein is a 23-year-old photographer and college student based in Bamberg, Germany. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Hagelstein’s work on his website and Instagram. This article was also published here.
Instead of ‘Finding’ Your Passion, Try ‘Developing’ It: Stanford Scientists
If you think you may have a passion for photography, try “developing” that passion instead of “finding” it. The shift in mindset could help keep you from giving up when the going gets tough.
That’s what Stanford psychologists have concluded after doing a study on the age-old advice of “finding your passion.” In a new paper that will be published in the journal Psychological Science, the researchers state that that advice may actually limit people’s pursuit of new fields and cause them to give up when they face challenges.
“Mantras like ‘find your passion’ carry hidden implications, the researchers say,” Stanford writes. “They imply that once an interest resonates, pursuing it will be easy. But, the research found that when people encounter inevitable challenges, that mindset makes it more likely people will surrender their newfound interest.
“And the idea that passions are found fully formed implies that the number of interests a person has is limited. That can cause people to narrow their focus and neglect other areas.”
Former post-doc fellow Paul O’Keefe and Stanford psychologists Carol Dweck and Gregory Walton conducted 5 experiments involving 470 participants who identified as either “techie” or “fuzzy” (i.e. interested in STEM subjects or arts/humanities, respectively). Both groups read two articles: a “techie” one and a “fuzzy” one.
The scientists found that subjects who had a fixed mindset about interests were less open to articles outside their interests.
In a second experiment, students were shown an engaging video about black holes and the universe. They were then given a challenging scientific article to read.
The scientists found that students who had a fixed mindset about interests were more likely to give up excitement over a subject when things become challenging.
What this means is: if you’re interested in photography, focus on developing your interest and skills rather than trying to figure out if it’s “right” for you. Having that mindset can help you persevere and continue in photography when you start hitting walls and facing challenges in your journey. Otherwise, you may quit too early and conclude that it’s “just not for you.”
Why You Don’t Put a Cheap Filter on an Expensive Lens
I recently took my Sony A7 III and a rented $2,500 Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS lens to the 2018 Montreal GP. A friend of mine had recommended that I use a polarizer. I remembered that I had a pack of 77mm Vivitar Series 1 filters that came with my 24-105mm, so I threw that onto the 100-400mm and started shooting, completely zoomed at 400mm.
It was bright out, so it took me a while to notice that the images on the back of the camera didn’t look right: I was puzzled why they were coming out with a strange refractive blur that was not like the kind of blur that you get with camera shake/motion, but something different.
The previous day I had taken a lot of razor-sharp 400mm shots, completely handheld, and they looked great. Then it dawned on me: it was the filter that I had just put on. I took it off and was shocked at the difference.
It doesn’t take pixel peeping to see why this filter is worthy only of a life in a landfill. I have roughly 2,000 shots (bursts) that are completely ruined because of this filter. I am not a smart man.
After sharing my findings online, a few people argued that it wasn’t a scientific test (I agreed) and that user error was likely (I disagreed). The shutter was static, but the f-stop was different due to my attempting to debug the issue, and I let the ISO float. That said, I argued that the findings were still valid given:
1. The f-stop was different, but it was more stopped-down in the filtered (blurry, CPL case) and wide open (sharp, unfiltered case). These conditions were more favorable to the CPL, yet it was still blurry.
2. Some claimed that the blur was motion blur. I took roughly 4,000 shots that day, half with filter, half without. 0 filtered shots are clean. Roughly 50-60% of the unfiltered are usable. It’s safe to say that I didn’t suddenly learn how to hold the camera steady after I removed the filter.
3. The ISO was different, which more than one person pointed at, but both images were unprocessed and still noiseless.
So I said I’d try to reproduce the results in a more controlled way, shooting manual, with a tripod, static shutter and aperture, while letting ISO float (to maintain exposure). I had to return the 100-400mm GM, but I had my 24-105mm G with the same filter threads to try to recreate the problem.
At first, I couldn’t! My A/B testing yielded almost exactly the same level of detail. However, I observed that it was overcast. So I waited for a bright and sunny day, and below is what I saw:
Even minimized, it’s easy to see in this comparison that the filtered case is far blurrier. When maximized (click the images above), it’s far more pronounced. Again, this was a tripod shot, static settings except for ISO.
So with that, I think we can make the following conclusions:
1. The original assessment was correct, even if not exactly empirical.
2. Overall light intensity is critical towards exposing the problems with this particular filter.
Anyway, that’s it. Lesson learned. That filter is no better than a lens cap.
TL;DR: You shouldn’t put a cheap filter on expensive glass. Just don’t.
About the author: Mike Evans is a photography enthusiast and GPU logic designer and micro-architect at Radeon Technology Group (a part of AMD). The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can connect with him and find more of his work on Twitter and Medium.
OPPO’s Find X Smartphone Features a Hidden Pop-Up Camera
The Chinese electronics company OPPO has just unveiled a new smartphone called the Find X. Featuring an edge-to-edge display covering 93.8% of the front, the Find X avoids having an iPhone X-style notch through an unusual design choice: the front-facing camera module is hidden and pops out of the top of the phone.
When a camera app is launched, the Find X uses a tiny motorized system to slide the 25-megapixel selfie camera out.
Here’s a diagram of the technology found in the front-camera system:
The 20-megapixel and 16-megapixel cameras on the rear dual-camera system are always visible and ready to go without sliding.
Here are some sample photos captured with the OPPO Find X camera:
Other features of the OPPO Find X include a 6.4-inch/1080p display, portrait lighting, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB storage, a 3,730mAh quick-charge battery, and Android 8.1 Oreo.
The Find X will OPPO’s first phone officially sold in North America, but pricing and availability details have yet to be revealed. It will be available in Europe in August 2018 with a price tag of €999 (~$1,158).
“All my Instagram photos are shot professionally — I don’t post iPhone photos — probably because I’m a photographer and there are different expectations of me,” Yow responded. “I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my photos.”
But Mothership found numerous examples of photos in Yow’s Instagram feed that look either identical or uncannily similar to photos by other photographers, including those found on prominent stock photography websites.
Here are some side-by-side examples discovered by Mothership through impressive and extensive digging online:
Hours after Motherboard‘s story was published and began going viral, Yow appears to have begun quietly deleting select photos from his Instagram account and editing the captions of others to include credits citing where he found the images.
Yow has also since provided a response to the controversy to Must Share News. The photographer admits that he uses stock photos, but says he legally licenses them prior to editing and/or publishing them — he claims to have receipts proving this.
For non-stock photos, Yow says he tries to tag them in the Instagram posts — though, crediting a photographer when copying and publishing a photo without permission is generally still copyright infringement.
“Daryl also claims that he does not sell such photos for personal profit,” Must Share News writes. “We asked him instead about work that he does with brands — in particular, creating sponsored content and posts. For client work, he explains that his clients are aware of the costs of these purchases. Daryl says that he would even submit the receipts to them upon completion of the job.
“As for the captions on his Insta-posts, he says that he never claimed they were taken live at the scene depicted.”
So even though many of Yow’s captions imply that he had captured the images on the spot, he never actually claimed to have shot those photos or to have actually visited those locations himself.
We’ve reached out to Yow for comment and will update this article if/when we hear back. He’s also reportedly planning to release an official statement to his Instagram account “soon.”
Ariana Grande Unleashes ‘The Light Is Coming’ feat. Nicki Minaj
Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj go dancing through the woods in the music video for their latest joint single, “The Light Is Coming.”
Released exclusively on Reebok’s website, Grande dons the brand’s Classic Rapide sneakers as she prances through a forest on in darkness, illuminated only by the light of the camera and the occasional flashing of red background lights.
This is the fourth single Minaj and Grande have released together, and the pair did not disappoint. The song’s ultra-catchy ho…
Facebook’s AI Can Open Your Eyes in Blinking Photos
“Take it again, I blinked.” That’s something commonly said after pictures are snapped, but it may soon be a relic of the past if Facebook has its way. The company’s researchers have created an AI that can automatically replace closed eyes with open ones in your pictures.
The scientists trained the AI with photos of people with their eyes open to learn what the subjects’ eyes normally look like. After learning what a person’s eye shape and features should be like, the AI can then work to replace closed eyes with artificially generated eyes in blinking photos.
Here are some more examples of results produced by Facebook’s eye-opening AI:
Some results are better than others. A few are quite realistic, while others produce cold and creepy stares that you probably wouldn’t want to share with friends and family on Facebook.
Advancements in this type of eye-opening AI will undoubtedly produce better and more realistic results as time goes by. But for now, this is an interesting (and eerie) look at what the future may hold for our casual snapshots.
Alexander Wang Teams Up with Trojan for Pride 2018
Yesterday, Alexander Wang announced a special Pride Month collaboration with Trojan Condoms to benefit the LGBT Center of New York’s sexual health and education programs.
The limited-edition capsule is comprised of a hat, bandana, t-shirt, and socks, all inscribed with one cheeky, on-brand message: “Protect Your Wang.” A free Wang-branded condom will come with every purchase from the collection. Though only the socks and tee are currently listed online, it appears the entire lineup is avail…