Did Solange Inspire Beyoncé’s Vogue Power Play?
On Monday, Huffington Post reported what many have speculated: For its September issue, Vogue will grant cover star Beyoncé total control over the feature, which will not include an interview and will be shot by the portraitist of Beyoncé’s choice—23-year-old Tyler Mitchell.
Whatever your thoughts on Queen Bey’s omnipotence, Mitchell’s humanistic portraiture will mark a departure for the 126-year-old magazine classical glossy aesthetic. It also marks a departure for Knowles herself…
How to Shoot the ISS Flying Across the Face of the Moon
I’ve always been fascinated by the night sky, and one of my favorite things to look out for is the International Space Station when it passes overhead. It still boggles my mind that there are people up there, 200 miles into space. Perhaps they are looking down too. In this tutorial I’m going to show you how to photograph an ISS transit – in other words, photographing the ISS as it flies in front of the moon!
For me, this is the holy grail of ISS photographs. I’ve had a few false starts in trying to capture this but finally I’ve got the photo I want, and I’m going to show you how I did it.
The photo you see here is a composite of 22 consecutive frames illustrating the movement of the ISS across the face of the moon:
This whole sequence spanned just 5 seconds!
Viewing The ISS
The International Space Station orbits 200 miles above Earth at a speed of 17,500 miles per hour. When the sun is below the horizon and the angle of reflection is just right, it is visible to the naked eye as a bright pinpoint of light moving across the sky.
You can check when the ISS is visible using one of these websites
Viewing the ISS does not require a telescope or any other specialist equipment. Just look up!
Items You Need
A DSLR. I use the Nikon D850 but really, any DSLR will do the job.
A zoom lens (the longer the better). I was using the Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 lens.
A very sturdy tripod. My current setup is the Benro TGP17C carbon fibre tripod. (Note: This served me well for this particular shooting sequence, but longer exposures using this combination of camera and lens tend to suffer – a larger tripod would be recommended. However, for smaller DSLRs and lenses, a tripod of this spec is ample.)
A shutter release cable or shutter remote control. It is important to keep vibration to a minimum when using a zoom lens.
The fastest card you have. You will be shooting in burst mode / continuous shooting. A slow card will cause a bottleneck and you risk missing the magic moment
A fully charged battery. If you have one, take a spare too, just in case.
Finding When An ISS Transit Will Happen
Thanks to the incredible work of Transit Finder it is easier than ever to find out when the ISS transits the moon or sun at a viewing location near you. Choose your location from the map, define an acceptable radius (the default is set to 80km) and it will generate a list of passes.
On May 22, 2018, there was a lunar pass which would be visible across the Vale of Glamorgan, Cardiff, and Newport in Wales. This is around one hour’s drive from my home, the weather forecast was clear, so I decided to attempt a shoot.
I arrived 45 minutes early to ensure I had ample time to find a quiet spot to set up where I was unlikely to be disturbed, to take some test shots and have a quick practice run of the real shoot.
Taking The Shot
Firstly, double check the predicted transit time, and ensure the clocks on your camera and smartphone are properly synced. You don’t want to be scrambling to set up the shot because your timing was a minute off!
Make sure your camera is set up for continuous shooting, or “burst mode”. Plug in your shutter release cable or remote control.
Find your focus on the moon’s surface, then once you’re happy, turn off autofocus. Be careful as you move your camera or lens not to accidentally move the focus ring. One tip is to use a strip of electrical tape to hold the focus ring in place once you have manually focused.
The moon moves quickly throughout the frame, so position it off-center, such that it will be moving into the center of the frame when the ISS arrives.
Finally, decide upon your settings. This will vary from camera to camera and lens to lens, but it’s important to have a very fast shutter speed otherwise the ISS will be nothing but a white smudge. 1/1600 seconds is the minimum I’d recommend. Ultimately, the settings I used were: f/8, 1/2000 seconds, ISO 800.
Though I advocate shooting RAW over JPG wherever possible, if you find your camera’s burst mode isn’t very quick, switching to JPG should yield far quicker results.
Putting It All Together With Photoshop
Though it seems daunting at first, it’s really simple to put your images together using Photoshop. Go to
File > Scripts > Load Files Into Stack
Select all the images, and ensure the following boxes are checked:
Attempt to automatically align source images
Convert to smart object after loading layers
Once complete you will have a stack of images grouped into a smart object. The last image of the series will be on top. Highlight this smart object in the layers panel, then click on
Layer > Smart Objects > Stack Mode > Median
This will drastically reduce the noise in your image and make your moon much crisper and detailed – check out this before and after comparison:
Compositing The ISS
Duplicate your smart object in the Layers panel, ensure it is the topmost layer, then click on
Layer > Smart Objects > Stack Mode > Maximum
This stack mode selects the brightest pixel from each layer in the stack and therefore shows the ISS most brightly. However it also carries through noise and hot pixels, so we need to mask those out.
Masking For The ISS
There are a few ways to do this, but here is my preferred method.
Click on your ISS layer in the Layers panel.
Next, select the lasso tool from the toolbox. Set the feather to 4px. Holding down the shift key, which allows you to make multiple selections, lasso around each of the ISS spots in that layer. Once complete, it should look something like this:
Click Select > Inverse then finally click the Add Layer Mask button at bottom of the Layers panel.
This creates a mask that only shows the ISS image data, which is overlaid on top of the noise-reduced, sharp moon image that we already created.
The Finished Product
I’m so pleased with how this photo turned out. Capturing an ISS transit has been high on my photography “bucket list” for some time but for all the effort and preparation, you still have to rely on a little bit of luck for the image to truly work. As I have learned before, a stray cloud at the wrong time can ruin the shoot, and it’s a huge disappointment to travel a long distance only to return without the photo you wanted.
All those failed attempts fade in my memory though, as I’ve now bagged the image I’ve wanted for months if not years!
About the author: Mathew Browne is a travel photographer from south Wales who specializes in architecture, landscapes, and cityscapes. He’s available for commercial work and portraits in the south Wales area and he also teaches fellow photographers via workshops, seminars and 1-to-1 tuition. You can find more of Browne’s work on his website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, and 500px. This article was also published here.
The Ultimate Lens Hood Lets You Shoot Reflection-Free Through Glass
The Ultimate Lens Hood is a new camera accessory that helps you shoot through glass without reflections. It’s a versatile collapsing silicone cone that can stretch to fit all kinds of camera lenses.
Creator Josh Smith says he got the idea for the ULH during a trip to Japan back in 2015 when he found that the photos he had taken from inside the many observation decks and towers he had visited had been ruined by reflections.
So, he created a silicone product to help block light from bouncing off windows.
Here’s what he view through the camera as you press the ULH against the glass to block off surrounding light rays:
The standard ULH was designed for DSLR and mirrorless camera lenses, stretching to fit the barrels of even large telephoto lenses (60mm diameter and up). There’s also a ULHmini that’s designed for smartphone lenses and smaller digital cameras (30mm to 60mm).
The flexible nature of the ULH allows you to move the camera around and shoot at different angles while the lens hood is pressed firmly against the glass you’re shooting through.
Here’s are some examples of what the ULH can help you shoot:
Attaching the ULH backward onto your lens allows it to serve as lens protection, keeping things like water, snow, mud, sand, dirt, and dust from hitting your lens body.
An existing competitor to the ULH is the LENSKIRT flexible lens hood, which uses a non-silicone material and has suction cups for mounting to glass. Since it’s more rigid, the ULH doesn’t need to be mounted to glass, allowing photographers more freedom of movement while using it.
Here’s an introduction to the Ultimate Lens Hood by Josh Smith:
Smith is crowdfunding the Ultimate Lens Hood on Kickstarter, where it blew past its initial ~$10,000 goal in just a few days and currently sits at nearly $40,000 raised from nearly 800 backers at the time of this writing. A pledge of ~$20 and up can earn you one of the first ULHminis, and a pledge of about $40 can score you a full-sized ULH if/when the product successfully ships (Smith is aiming for October 2018).
How I Shot a Light-Painting Levitation Portal Photo
My Name is Swen Cubilette, and I’m a 34-year-old photographer living in the Central Pennsylvania area. I’ve been shooting photos for about 5 years. In this article, I’ll share how I shot this levitation portal photo.
To achieve the results in this image I first locked my camera on my tripod after I had found an area that had a suitable background that I felt would make the shot interesting.
To prep the scene, I used a bucket and filled it with water from the river in order to wet the ground as to get more reflection from the light painting and to make the elements in the photo look more appealing.
Now that I had set up the shot, I gathered 3 objects from the environment (usually random debris) to use as markers. One of the objects serves as a marker for my focal point. The other two objects I place to the left and the right of my focal point marker to get a reference on where to start and stop my light painting portal, I placed them about 4 feet on either side of the focal point marker to give me about an 8-foot light-painting portal.
I then go back to my camera to dial in my settings (settings will vary depending on the available light in your scene) and to make sure my lens is on manual focus. Since this is an image stack I have to make sure I used the same amount of light for each image, to do this I set my camera to manual and set my exposure time to about 2 seconds and adjust my ISO and F stop to balance out the exposure and to make sure that the background and scene will be properly exposed.
At this point, I’m ready to start capturing assets for the final composition. I took a total of about 3 images for this comp. The first image is a two-second exposure with no light painting to get a clean plate of my background in case I have to mask out some motion blurs of myself from when I light paint the portal.
Then I take a second two sec capture of just me light painting a portal so I have a clean plate of the foreground elements with the proper lighting to use as a mask.
For the third image, I get a stool and place it right on my focal point marker and get my model to lay on the stool and pose in a way that makes it looks like she’s falling or being levitated.
With the model in position, I ask when she’s ready so that she can hold the pose for two seconds while I light paint a portal above. I take a couple captures with her in different poses to make sure I get a good solid capture of her to edit in post.
Now that I have my images to edit, I export everything into Lightroom and choose the 3 images I want to use for my edit and stack them. Once I have my images stack I send them to PS as layers and begin to create my masks. The first image is a clean plate with no lighting for the background which goes on the bottom of the layer stack, so I take that layer and mask out everything except for the city lights. The second layer is the clean plate shot with the just the lighting so mask out everything in that picture to prepare it so I can paint over the image with the model as to hide the stool and other elements that need to be edited out to create the levitation effect.
After finishing all the masking and I have the results I desired I save the file and go back into Lightroom to make some additional color edits and tweaks.
I used a Canon 5D Mark II, a Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L, a remote radio trigger, a tripod, an Eagletac D25 tactical flashlight, a blue acrylic fluorescent light tube guard, and a stool. The EXIF details of this photo are: f/2.8, ISO 400, 2s, and 23mm. The model was Shey Herrell.
About the author: Swen Cubilette is a photographer based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Cubilette’s work on his website, Instagram, Facebook, and Viewbug.
Tommy Jean’s Creates Smartwear Collection
You officially don’t have to be an influencer to earn money by wearing your favorite brand anymore. With Tommy Hilfiger’s new clothing line, anyone can accumulate serious coins by just frequently wearing specific products.
The line, Tommy Jeans Xplore, uses smart technology to track the garments you’re wearing through an app. The 23-piece collection of men and women’s designs equip each hoodie, cap, jeans, or jacket with a Bluetooth chip from AWear solutions. Designed to create a “micro-commu…
When I initially began to integrate the Flashpoint XPLOR H1200 into my workflow, HSS, portability, and the long-lasting lithium batteries were key factors in my decision to switch from Broncolor to Flashpoint/Godox. With the release of the AD600 PRO earlier this year, I began to add more units, enough to be able to light for any conceivable studio or location requirements.
Note: There are photos below that may not be work friendly.
I may use as many as 20 lights for a setup, or just one, but for sure I like to always have a good number of spares available.
On a recent shoot with singer/actress Becky G for the cover of Galore magazine, and another shoot for Vogue, I needed to have various setups ready at once.
I used only a single AD600 PRO inside a modified Broncolor Flooter S for a series of dramatic sky shots in HSS mode, and also a late afternoon pool shot, but I needed 20 units to light a series of colorful, 2000s pop inspired studio shots.
With so many units going at once, keeping track of the lithium batteries proved to be somewhat of a challenge.
My concern with adding AC adapters was that nobody could tell me reliably how many units could be put on one typical North American breaker.
I guessed that 3 or 4 units would probably max out one circuit. I worried that getting used to working with the AC adapters would limit the great flexibility I appreciated so much with the lithium batteries. Nonetheless, I decided to give the AC adapters a try.
Last week, on a promotional shoot with NBC’s Extra, I shot a series of close up portraits of the program’s co-host, Mark Wright, a British soccer star turned TV personality.
I wanted to be sure to not run out of battery power during the taping of the shoot and decided to use an AC adapter for the first time.
It went well and I appreciated not having to check battery levels constantly.
The next day I became determined to once and forever find out how many units it takes to knock out the breaker! To my utmost surprise, I was able to run 12 Godox/Flashpoint EXPLOR AD600 PRO units at full power in HSS mode off one single circuit! This efficiency of draw is extraordinary and adds a huge benefit for anyone who needs to use multiple units when electrical power is available.
Additionally, switching the AC adapter to a battery can be done in 2 seconds, so any concerns that adding the AC adapters would somehow
slow things down was completely unwarranted.
About the author: Markus Klinko is an international fashion/celebrity photographer who has worked with many of today’s most iconic stars of film, music, and fashion. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Klinko’s work on his website and Instagram.
A Guide to Switching from Nikon to Sony for Wedding Photography
After almost a decade of photographing weddings with Nikon cameras, we decided to trade our D750 cameras for the Sony a7 III. Here are a few thoughts on how the process went and why we feel it was the right decision.
We’ve been shooting with Nikon cameras for a long time. Our first Nikon camera was the D700, and over the years we’ve owned everything from the really amazing D3s and D4 to the totally pants D610 and D800. For the last few years we’ve shot with the D750, a brilliant DSLR that is small and light (for a DSLR), and capable of superb images. We’d always assumed that someday we’d be updating our D750 to whatever Nikon came up with to replace it.
When I first tried the a7 III, I was expecting not to like it. I’d tried various A7 iterations over the years that were ergonomic nightmares. I’d also heard endless talk of the a7 III’s ‘horrible’ menu system. We’ve owned a few Fuji mirrorless cameras (X100, XT2) over the years which I’ve loved but have led me to believe mirrorless is still some way off challenging DSLRs for so-called ’real’ work. I also had a full Nikon system that has served me really well and helped me capture some of the best images of my life. While I’m generally not a fanboy, I like when something works well. And having shot Nikon for 10 years, I would always consider their offerings first. I loved, and still love, the D750. So, in short, I wasn’t actually objectively fair to the Sony when I first grabbed it.
Now, in the past, we’ve contemplated changing system only twice. Both times to Canon and both times, after long consideration, we didn’t do it. This time was different. After a day with the a7 III, we made the decision to put ourselves through the abject hell and financial turmoil of changing a full camera system for two people at the height of wedding season.
There was a method to our madness…
What’s the Sony a7 III like Ergonomically?
The first thing that surprised me about the a7 III was how it felt in my hand. The important disclaimer here is that I’m 5ft 9 and have dainty little Trump-esque hands. It felt really perfect nestled in my delicate digits. The grip is nicely recessed like the D750, and I didn’t have the ‘pinky problem’ I’d had using other Sonys, where my littlest of little fingers would dangle in the air below the grip. Within a minute or two I was entirely at ease with how everything was placed — many controls are just like Nikon D750 which is a massive help.
So the much-maligned ergonomics, for me at least, were as good as or better than my beloved D750. It’s important to remember that there were some ergonomic complaints about the D750 when it came out as well — we all love a good whinge about something. While the D750 kinda short-changed back-button shooters, the a7 III gets it spot-on offering dedicated AF-ON and AEL buttons on the back. The back button on my D750 (assigned AEL button) required a bit more reach, but the a7 III has it positioned perfectly
Using the Sony a7III Menu System
Ah, the supposed horror show that is the Sony camera menu system. I’d been warned about it so much that I imagined it would be like navigating my way through Mordor. You’ll read stories online of how people have ventured into it never to be heard from again.
The Sony menu system is daunting at first. There are around 14 billion menu pages to navigate, and some items have been given what appears to be deliberately obscure names. It feels like it was designed by the kind of person who can conceptualize quantum mechanics but can’t microwave popcorn. With that said, I quickly grew to enjoy the depth of it. Sony has left the camera pretty open to customization, and as a result, the menu is extensive. It would speed things up significantly had it been a touchscreen menu. For some inexplicable reason, the Sony a7 III has a touchscreen that doesn’t work when navigating menus. In an age where practically everyone from toddlers to centenarians uses a touchscreen daily, this strikes me as daft.
Like Nikon, you can assign things you’ll often use to a custom menu area cutting out stuff that you won’t need on a shoot. If you do this when first setting up the camera, you’ll have little need to descend into the murky depths of the menu system on a shoot. Added to this, the mini function menu accessed quickly from a dedicated button, is brilliant. It allows you to change many of your most-used features without taking an eye off what you’re shooting.
Sony a7 III Customization and Set Up
Setting up the customizable buttons and menus on the a7 III makes you wonder why all camera manufacturers don’t design their cameras this way. The customizable buttons are utterly brilliant. In fact, pretty much everything is customizable in some shape or form — this again flew in the face of my ergonomics concerns. I remember marveling that I could assign my movie Rec button to control ISO on the D750. The Sony is next-level in that regard, and it’s a very clever way of doing things.
It was only over the course of shooting my first few weddings I began to realize what I wanted on the menus and which things needed to be a button press away. While I first set it up to mimic my D750, after a while, I realized other things were more important and adjusted accordingly. I now have a quick way of quickly turning the brilliant silent shutter on and off. I have one-touch ISO control, and I can quickly turn face-focus on and off. By default, I have the camera set to EVF only because I prefer to manually switch to Live View only when I want to use it — a habit from the D750.
Focusing Ability of the a7 III
This is what everyone has asked me about the Sony, so I’ll get to the point: The focusing ability of the a7 III is brilliant. I will add the caveat that Ireland has been experiencing ridiculously beautiful weather since I bought the camera (we’ll put that one down to coincidence, not Sony) but I’ve still had to use it in some challenging situations where it faired as well as or better than the brilliant D750. When it gets good focus (practically all the time), it’s as sharp as anything I’ve seen from a camera.
Does the Sony a7 III Eye-Focus Actually Work?
I had been ready to dismiss Eye-Focus as a gimmick, but it is a proper delight, especially during portraiture, leaving you to concentrate on framing. When a bride walks up the aisle, you can lock on to her eye and rarely miss a shot as she walks towards you.
There is still room for improvement though. In large groups it can sometimes get a bit lost, choosing to jump to a face/eye in the distance rather than the logical one so I often still shoot candids with spot focus. It would be good to allow you to cycle through the recognized faces or for the camera to pick the closest eye to the AF center point.
The camera also has a face recognition system. Basically, you take a picture of the Bride/Groom in the morning and can at any stage set the camera to prioritize her face in any large groups throughout the day. You can do this for up to 6 people and set them in order of priority. I think this feature is still in its infancy, and I’m not convinced from using it that it’s beneficial in current form. It does give us a great idea of where Sony technology is going and could probably improve with future firmware updates.
The edge to edge tracking is incredible. We’ve tested this with people walking running and jumping towards us, and 90-95% of the shots are generally usable. This has made it more fun to shoot confetti shots and kids running about, especially when combined with Eye Focus. The D750 gets nowhere near the Sony in this respect.
Being able to shift your focus points right to the edge of the frame is excellent. One of my biggest gripes about the D750 was the limited spread of AF points — especially as I’d come from a D4 which had a wider spread (though still nowhere close to the Sony).
How Well Does the a7 III Focus in Low Light?
In low light, I found it to equal or beat the D750 regarding both AF and high ISO ability. I didn’t find the camera hunted for focus in conditions that had me shooting 6400 ISO, unlike the Fujis I had owned (and many DSLRs). In fact, eye focus was often working accurately. In post, I found more color depth in high ISO than on the D750.
The Nikon also missed focus more than the Sony in low light (it was still great though, given its age). With low noise at high ISO, coupled with the Sony’s great in-camera stabilization, I can see this camera getting me out of a few tight spots.
Shooting with Live View on the a7 III
Don’t listen to any curmudgeonly old pro that tells you live-view is for amateurs. Any feature that your camera gives you is worth exploring to see how it can improve your shooting. The D750 is responsible for making me enjoy using LV. On the Nikon, I both loved the feature (flippy screen and exposure preview) and hated it (piss-poor AF and what seemed like an eternity of screen blackout).
Being able to use the same incredible focus you get on the EVF to shoot in LV is a gift. I love shooting from a variety of perspectives and angles, as well as shooting through things. Doing this on the D750 was a fight for focus, on the a7 III it’s a total joy. You can even use the touchscreen to select your focus point quickly and accurately, right to the edge of the screen.
I’ve found it allows me to be more subtle during weddings too — often shooting candids from the hip instead of having the camera up to my eye. Coupled with the silent shutter, you can really blend into the background more.
Editing a7 III Files Compared to Nikon
I edit using Lightroom, and annoyingly I had to finally cave in and subscribe to Adobe’s creative cloud so I could edit the a7 III files — Adobe isn’t updating their standalone Lightroom anymore, forcing you into a subscription if you buy any new camera body. Admittedly, CC is reasonably good value, but not having the option to purchase the software outright sits uneasily with me. Alternatively, Capture One has special offers for their Sony standalone program that makes it an utter bargain. Alien Skin has also updated Exposure to support the cameras and have the added bonus of some fantastic film emulations built in.
In terms of editing, it took me around 30 minutes to adjust my Nikon presets to work with Sony files — I may tweak them more over time. They’re not a million miles away from the D750, probably in part due to Sony manufacturing many Nikon sensors (the D750/D810/D850 and others contain sensors made by Sony). If you already went through the mental anguish of transitioning from a Nikon D700/D3s to a D750/D850, you’ll find it relatively easy to adjust to the color of Sony Files.
What Lenses are Best for Wedding Photography on the Sony a7 III
In all honesty, I’m not a big pixel peeper. I don’t do ‘wall tests’ or compare bokeh side-by-side for ‘creaminess.’ I often keep or sell lenses based on factors I can’t articulate. When shopping for lenses, I was drawn to the same focal lengths that I used on Nikon. We shoot primes exclusively, and most of our work is shot on 35mm or 85mm. I was lucky my friend was selling a mint condition Zeiss 85mm F1.8, and it’s absolutely gorgeous to use. Because of its shape and design, one of our brides referred to it as the ‘bell-end lens’ — I’m still not sure if I love or hate that nickname.
Brideen shoots with Sony’s own 85mm FE 1.8, and it’s every bit as good as the more expensive Zeiss. Because we had already spent gazillions of pounds changing everything, we settled on Sigma Art lenses for 35mm, which are much cheaper than Sony’s 35 1.4 and ridiculously sharp. The Zeiss Batis 25mm (little bell-end?) is excellent but rather expensive for an F2. Its small size, quick AF, and sharpness make it worth it, but I can see the 24mm 1.4 Sigma giving it some competition. The 55 1.8FE is so sharp, quick and light that it had me wishing for a similar sized 35mm 1.8.
The best thing about using native FE mount lenses is that they have no need for focus micro-adjustments. With our D750 we had to manually fine-tune every lens for every camera body. Some back-focused, some front focused. It was a tedious process that took endless hours. With the a7 III, any native prime lens we use is sharp and accurate straight out of the box.
It is worth noting that there just isn’t as many native lenses for the Sony as there are for Canon/Nikon cameras, and some (not all) of the Sony glass is very expensive. That said, I know people who are happily shooting with an adapter and their Canon glass with no issues, and we’ve kept hold of our old manual Nikon lenses to use with Sony via an adapter. Sigma has made a big statement by supporting the FE mount on the Art range and offering a quality alternative to the often pricier Sony lenses.
How Does the Build Quality of the a7 III Compare to Nikon?
When the D750 came out, there was much whining about how it felt like a toy compared to other FX Nikons. How it was cheap and wouldn’t be robust. The same criticism is now being leveled at the Sony a7 III, with its build quality being questioned by D750 users. It’s too early to comment on how well built they are, but first impressions are very good. I don’t expect them to be like our old Nikon D4 which I’m pretty sure could survive a nuclear apocalypse, but the bodies have a surprising solidity. I do think that the black metal finish will be susceptible to scuffs and scratches over time, though.
Whether it will be as robust as the D750 over the years remains to be seen, but it is worth pointing out that all 4 of our D750 bodies were recalled by Nikon for warranty repairs.
a7 III Buffer and High-Speed Shooting
The buffer, a big gripe of mine with the D750 from day one, is perfect on the a7 III. It has never once stopped shooting before I wanted to. Too many times I’ve found myself covered in confetti and watching a couple kiss while cursing at my D750 that had decided to go on strike while it emptied its buffer.
The A7 can shoot compressed RAW at 10fps should you need it. And it can do it silently. That is utterly ridiculous. You can adjust the drive mode for Lo, Med, Hi, and Hi+ (aka insane). I generally find the Med or Hi setting is quick enough for most wedding burst-shooting.
How Silent is Silent Shutter Mode?
In the past 5 years, Canon and Nikon introduced DSLRs with quiet modes. In the case of Nikon at least, quiet modes were crap. It did little to make the camera much quieter — giving it a curious elongated sound that always made me feel more conspicuous. With mirrorless cameras, silent means silent. There is no sound whatsoever. Silent shooting is a revelation and now allows me to do Unit Still Photography without a blimp, or become discreet when a wedding/event requires it.
There is a significant downside to it, though. When shooting indoors, you can (often) get banding from modern artificial light sources. In these cases, the camera throws up a flicker alert on screen and you know to adjust to a slower shutter speed (helped by Sony’s inbuilt stabilization) or switch to the mechanical shutter. The more expensive A9 is much better at reducing banding in silent mode, so I imagine when we see the next iteration of the A7 it’ll be less of a problem.
It’s also not advised to shoot really fast moving objects with the silent shutter as you can get a shutter roll effect that distorts images. For the average wedding photographer, this shouldn’t be a significant issue.
Shooting with an Electronic Viewfinder (EVF)
The EVF will polarise people more than Brexit, but I think it’s great (the EVF, not Brexit). There’s no more chimping to double-check exposures — I know I’ve nailed it (and likely the focus too). With the a7 III there is a millisecond blackout when taking a shot that some get annoyed by, but it doesn’t really bother me. When in silent mode it’s actually quietly reassuring to see that flicker and know you’ve taken the shot!
I recall being disappointed that the D750 didn’t have focus peaking. Shooting my manual Nikon lenses on the Sony is more enjoyable than shooting them on Nikon, thanks to peaking. I have no issues with lag or disorientation that I’ve heard from some. And reviewing images on the EVF in harsh sunlight is really helpful compared to cupping your hands over an LCD screen to reduce glare.
I should give a nod to Fuji at this point — their split-screen EVF is incredible when it comes to shooting with manual lenses. It would be nice if Sony could nick that feature!
What’s the a7 III Battery Life Like?
It was rare that I needed to use a second battery in my D750s while shooting a wedding. With our shooting style, the a7 III takes two batteries to cover an extended 12 hour+ wedding day so you will definitely need to buy a backup. But in saying that, the battery tech is superb considering it’s powering an EVF and screen constantly. If I heavily use my D750 screen, the battery depletes quickly.
You can charge the a7 III via USB or USB-C, meaning that those big battery packs or your car USB ports can top you up should you need it. USB charging, in general, is a handy failsafe if you’ve traveled for a shoot and forgotten to pack your battery charger (more on the charger later, grrrr) or if you shoot destinations and want to save weight. We have an Anker charger that’s capable of charging 4 a7 III bodies and a MacBook simultaneously from the one plug.
What Are the Flaws and Downsides of the Sony a7 III?
Remember earlier when I said we all love a whinge? Well, every camera has flaws, and the a7 III is no different with some ranging from trivial (the SD card slots are the wrong way about) to the more serious which I’ve discussed below. Some of you will struggle to change to Sony from the D750 because of these things, while many will tell me to bugger off and quit complaining. So yeah, this is pretty subjective and deliberately extensive, but here it goes.
The same people who complained about the D750 body being too small will hate the size of the a7 III. With heavier zoom lenses, I can imagine it would feel terribly unbalanced. Although, that being said, a friend is a 6-footer with big manly, man-hands and he loves it. And you can always buy a battery grip to give it more weight, bigger grip, and better battery life. Ergonomically, the main irk for me is that the tilt screen is difficult to articulate as it really doesn’t have much for your nails to grip onto. And I would’ve liked another customizable button or two at the front of the camera — I miss the Preview and function buttons on the front of the D750.
As a cost-saving measure, the a7 III is missing the handy drive-mode/AF selector dial that features on the Sony A9. If you’ve come from a D750, you may find yourself missing that when it comes to quickly changing to continuous high-speed shooting or bracketing/timer modes.
While I like the levels of customization, including being able to assign ISO to a jog, there is one major flaw for me: There’s no way to quickly turn on/off auto ISO. Instead, you have to scroll down to the lowest ISO value before turning it on. This is poor design that can lead to accidentally knocking it on and off. Also concerning auto ISO, you cannot set your minimum shutter speed to 1/3 stops so, for example, you can only choose between 1/250 or 1/125 but nothing in between. Hopefully, Sony addresses these things with a firmware update.
An initial complaint as a back-button shooter was the proximity of the REC button to the AF-ON button. No doubt this is great for video shooters, but on my first wedding, it led me to accidentally record a dozen blurry, expletive-ridden videos. Delving into the menus sorts this out. You can turn off that button for stills mode — although it would’ve been nice if you could customize it instead.
The clock inexplicably has no seconds counter (even though it records time to the second) so syncing 4 cameras is unnecessarily awkward. Not only has every Nikon camera I’ve owned had a second counter, many could be synced to your computer clock using bundled Nikon software.
In a colossal PR misstep, Sony decided not to bundle a dedicated charger with the a7 III prompting angry buyers to take to the streets in violent protest (well, kinda). The official charger from Sony costs $88/£70, which is pretty mean when you’re shelling out $2,000/£2,000 for a camera. I bought Hahnel’s amazing ProCube2 charger which is around the same price but can charge two batteries simultaneously. It also looks cool — an important consideration when buying any battery charger…
In terms of the files themselves, there is currently no 14-bit lossless compressed RAW format, which is really poor in 2018. This leaves you with the choice of shooting 50mb uncompressed RAW files or 12bit lossy 25mb ones. In my experience, the compressed files are perfect for the majority of moments at a wedding, but where I need more dynamic range, I switch to uncompressed RAW. Be sure to read up on this from some excellent writers and geeks out there who’ve gone into much detail on the subject before deciding which to shoot with.
Although I’ve had no problems editing Sony files, when reviewing images in Photomechanic, the extracted JPEG previews are small — only 1616x1080px. This makes it very difficult to check photos for focus and adds time to any culling. Nikon NEF files, by comparison, include a full-sized JPEG preview. There are workarounds (shoot RAW+JPEG or convert to DNG), but none of them satisfactorily resolve the issue. It would be great if somewhere in the labyrinth of menu items, we were given the choice of JPEG preview size.
The good news is that most of the issues with the a7 III can be fixed with firmware. The bad news is that Sony might not bother their arse to fix them. Here’s hoping…
Should I Wait for Nikon’s Mirrorless Camera or Switch Now to Sony?
Well, obviously I decided not to wait, but its good to be aware that at least one Nikon mirrorless body will be released later this year — maybe two. I had a few reasons for not waiting, and they were based entirely on conjecture at this stage.
While I fully expect Nikon’s mirrorless camera to be amazing, it’ll almost certainly not be cheap. The a7 III is so aggressively priced at the minute that I can’t imagine Nikon getting close to it on price. If it costs (the currently rumored) £2,500-£3,000, that would make it too expensive for me and put it dangerously close to the grey market price of the excellent Sony a9. As a photography duo, when we buy into a system we buy 4 bodies, so a £500 price difference ends up being £2,000.
Nikon’s own mirrorless camera is set for launch in August.
Secondly, the Nikon mirrorless camera will have a new mount so unless Nikon has been working on it for a decade, we’ll likely see only a handful of lenses at launch. To use our old Nikon lenses with it will require adapters which will probably be quite expensive and make them bulkier. Using Sony as an example, adapted glass generally doesn’t perform as well as native glass.
Finally, over the years, being an early adopter of Nikon products hasn’t been fun. The D600 and D800 were deeply flawed, prompting quick revisions. The D750 has suffered QC problems and recalls. Nikon is new to the full frame mirrorless party, while Sony has been developing their mirrorless products for almost a decade.
I’m fully prepared for the schadenfreude should Nikon release a flawless 24mp mirrorless camera that costs the same as the a7 III, alongside killer 24/35/85 primes, but I really don’t see it happening. Right now, I mirrorless camera is on the market that does everything I want it to while having all the lenses I need available. There’s no guarantee that Nikon will manage that: will it have eye-focus? will the battery life be as good? will it offer the same level of customization?
Ultimately, it’ll only help the consumer if there are more great full-frame mirrorless cameras out there, so hopefully, Canon and Nikon get it right.
Should I Switch to the Sony a7 III from the Nikon D750?
I believe that the Sony a7 III is objectively better than the Nikon D750 in almost every department, but this is precisely what you’d expect of a camera that is more expensive and four years younger. The question of ‘should I change to Sony’ is a more subjective one.
Right now you can pick up a mint condition used D750 for under £900 and use it with a range of lenses and accessories going back decades. At that point it becomes a question of economics — the D750 is still an incredibly capable camera for wedding photography. Will spending over twice the money on a Sony a7 III make your images twice as good?
Nikon D850 and Canon 5D Mark IV shooters will laugh their balls off at this puny little toy camera and continue on as they are with their ‘more-professional’ big DSLRs. It’s all horses for courses.
Personally, I’m really enjoying using the a7 III and excited by what Sony’s next steps are. Whereas my years of buying DSLRs felt like evolutionary steps, this feels revolutionary. Over long days carrying two camera bodies, my back and shoulders are thanking me for switching to Sony. I’m picking it up more when not working whereas before I’d opt to use an iPhone instead of a big, bulky DSLR. If you shoot destination weddings, like us, the lighter, smaller bodies make things easier. Everything we need for the two of us to shoot a wedding can now fit in a single carry on bag.
If money isn’t a problem, then yeah, consider the switch. I don’t think you’ll regret it. If money really is no object, get yourself a couple of Sony A9 and A7rIII bodies too, for the hell of it.
Tips for Using the Sony a7 III for Wedding Photography
Although the battery life is impressive, you can get more life out of it by switching the camera to airplane mode (just like your phone). Unless you really need any of the connectivity features, you’re merely wasting your battery. Also, mechanical shutter takes more battery power so switching to electronic front curtain or silent shooting modes will give you more shots between charges.
Focusing modes are subjective, but I find that Flexible Spot (S) in AF-C alongside Eye Focus is an excellent combination for weddings.
Metering type is less important than ever when you have an EVF. Set the EVF brightness to standard, and you’ll find that metering will be accurate just by looking at the screen. If you like to use spot metering, make sure you change spot metering point to ‘focus point link.’
Not to everyone’s taste, but I like to have the ISO set to the back jog-wheel so it can be changed without having to press a button.
If you’re a back button focuser, turn off the REC button in stills mode to avoid a build-up of 2-second sweary video clips.
You can set the touchscreen to enable a pad mode. This allows you to use the screen to move your focus point while looking through the EVF. This won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it is a bit quicker than using the joystick.
Before shooting anything, set up the ‘FN menu’ and the ‘My Menu.’ Your couples will physically age while you try to find items in the main menu during a shoot unless you have all your shortcuts in place. Some of the things I have in ‘My Menu’ include Format, Date/Time, Airplane mode, RAW format, Custom buttons etc. Find out the things you might need quick access to and put them in these menus.
If you intend to use silent shooting, definitely assign it to one of the custom buttons. I have it assigned to C1.
Use the custom shooting settings (U1 and U2, if coming from a D750). I don’t care how you use them, but they’re great so use them!
Turn off all audio signals. Having any kinds of beeps coming from your camera is bad, especially during a ceremony. You may as well shout ‘LOOK AT ME’ really loudly.
Gridlines aren’t to everyone’s taste, but I like them. Turn on Rule of Thirds grid, and it will be overlaid on your screens. It can help you compose your shots — placing your subjects better, keeping horizons straight — meaning less cropping in post.
Unless shooting really high contrast scenes, I’ve found compressed RAW to work perfectly well. If you’re not sure, switch to uncompressed during high contrast scenes or portrait sessions.
You can rate images on the fly using the a7 III. Assign a button (I use C3) and you can quickly give images a star rating that will be picked up when you import to computer. This is really handy if you’ve just taken an image that you want to use as an online preview for the couple, or if you want to start culling the wedding during any downtime.
That big full-frame sensor doesn’t have a mirror in front of it so, if you can, keep lens switching to a minimum during shoots to stop it getting dusty. Also, have a rocket blower on hand to clean it out before every shoot.
Maybe don’t get a massive speedlight — it’ll feel weird. We bought the Godox TT350s and its the perfect accompaniment for the a7 III.
My opinion is that the a7 III is currently, pound for pound, the best full-frame camera for wedding photography that you can buy new at the time of writing.
It manages to provide speed and accuracy along with exceptional customization all in a small, sleek package. Its sensor is brilliant, giving the perfect balance of IQ, DR, resolution and file size for high-volume shooters — I still believe 24mp is currently the optimum sensor size for weddings.
The a7 III feels like a pivotal moment in the evolution of mirrorless professional cameras. With a few tweaks, mostly firmware, it could be near flawless.
Full disclosure: I am not a representative for Sony or Nikon, nor do I work with either company. I buy all my gear and the generally the only contact I have with camera companies is when something goes tits up. That being said, I’d welcome any free s**t that I could get from either company to try out.
These comparisons are based on our real-world shooting — all the pictures are from real weddings/couple shoots. I haven’t shot one single red-brick wall. I haven’t extensively commented on weather sealing, quality control or durability of the a7 III because it’s too early for me to say how it performs in those departments.
Check out more of Christin and Gareth’s wedding here.
This is a Paper Mockup of the Nikon Full Frame Mirrorless Camera
Want a better glimpse of what Nikon’s upcoming full frame mirrorless camera will look like before it’s officially unveiled on August 23rd? Matteo Bärtges of @buildyourcamera referenced the shadowy glimpses teased by Nikon and created a paper mockup of the camera.
Here are some of the teaser images and still frames Bärtges references while creating his mockup:
We’re now less than 24 days away from the official announcement. Stay tuned.