Chris Hunt is a fashion and advertising photographer, based in New York, Los Angeles and Mexico City. Originally from California, he has spent the last 15 years living and working in Europe, Asia, Latin America, Moscow and across the United States. Beginning his career as a photojournalist, Chris then moved into fashion photography after working as a model agent for several years in L.A. He has recently broadened his portfolio into film, directing TV commercials for fashion and lifestyle brands.
Chris balances outstanding creative talent with an impressive level of technical expertise, delivering impeccable professionalism and work of the highest quality with a relaxed and friendly attitude.
On the rare moments he is not in his studio, Chris can be found pedaling his road bike through Italy, SCUBA diving in the South Pacific or riding a motocross bike in the mountains of California.
His advertising clients include Google, TELCEL, Mitsubishi Automobiles, Pond's, Samsung, GNC, Chevrolet, Knorr and Garnier. He also works for fashion and beauty clients such as BCBG Max Azria, Herve Leger, Forever 21, bebe, ALDO, Nine West, Macy's, GAP, Banana Republic, Wet Seal, Arden B., Jockey International, Avon, Liverpool, Skechers, Fox Girls, Billabong, Stila Cosmetics and C&A. His work has been published in international magazines including VOGUE, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, Interview, Maxim, Surface, Men's Health, Nylon and InStyle. High profile clients include sports stars Maria Sharapova and Wayne Gretzky and rappers Ludacris, Ice Cube and 50 Cent.
F1 Superstar Lewis Hamilton Thanks the Photographers Who Cover Him
Here’s a neat gesture from one of the world’s greatest athletes. British Formula One racing driver Lewis Hamilton, widely considered one of the best F1 drivers ever, took a moment this weekend to pose with Formula One photographers to thank them for their work.
After qualifying for the 2019 Australian Grand Prix at the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Hamilton gathered together all the photographers who have been documenting his races over his career for a group photo. He then shared the photo to social media with a message thanking them for their work.
“I took this picture after qualifying with all the photographers that have photographed me for the last 12 years,” Hamilton writes. “I just wanted to take this moment with them as life is precious and can sometimes fly by.
“I know I’m not always easy to work with photo wise but I do appreciate you guys, thank you”
BACK TO AMY AT SXSW
V’s Greg Foley chatted with Charles Moriarty about the stories behind the images in his show Back To Amy, from the book of the same name.
For the first time in North America and 12 years after she graced the stages of SXSW, The Back to Amy exhibit opened this week for reaction, contemplation, and celebration. The vibrant photo showing gives a rare glimpse into the life of 19 year old Amy Winehouse just prior to the release of her celebrated first album, Frank. London based photographer Char…
Photographing the Epic Beauty of New Zealand’s South Island
New Zealand’s South Island is known for its picturesque landscapes, breathtaking high peak alps, and ever-changing weather. It is a world heritage for its untouched wilderness, clear night skies, and adventure tourism. After traveling through the North Island, it was time for me to jump south.
These images are highlights of a two month’s journey through the South Island of New Zealand. I traveled from the north region all the way to the austral region at Stirling Point, the closest coast to the South Pole.
Living in my van, I was able to drive coast to coast without haste, absorbing New Zealand’s incantation one scene at a time. From incredible saturated colored sunsets, misty mountain regions, crystal clear mirror lakes and rocky coasts, to rugged glacial valleys, lush forests with never-ending waterfalls, towering alpine peaks, the so-called “Spiritual Center of the World” and the amazing spectacle of the Aurora Australis.
The south island feels like a never-ending rollercoaster of masterpieces waiting to be captured by our camera lenses.
All the images were taken with a Fujifilm XT-2, Fujinon 18mm, 35mm, 50-230mm, and a Rokinon 12mm lenses. They were edited and processed on Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop.
About the author: Jesse Echevarria is a photographer from Puerto Rico who is now based in New Zealand. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Echevarria’s work on his Instagram and Behance.
How I Converted a Durst Laborator 1200 Enlarger to Use LED Lights
I recently converted my friend‘s Durst Laborator 1200 enlarger to use LED lights. In this article I’ll share how I did it.
Advantages of having a LED head:
Reliable light source with low power consumption.
With the right LEDs, no red filter will be necessary under the lens.
With the right LEDs, no filters will be necessary for multigrade or split grade printing.
It’s possible to build a large enough diffuser and convert a small format enlarger into a large format one.
Everything is still a work in progress and everything you see is mostly a result of our quick and dirty workflow with a shameless amount of hot glue to fix everything down temporarily. We’ve expected to have a few issues here and there and everything has to be easily reversible until we’re more confident in our solutions.
I’ll start by posting the where we ended up in the end:
Yes, that’s a filled 5L bottle on top of the enlarger. The color head that we’ve removed weighs even more than that and until the laser-cut-form-fitting-counter-weight arrives, that bottle will have to act as dead weight to prevent the head from breaking free of its locked position and launch into the orbit.
Here’s the old CLS 501 color head:
All the drivers for the LEDs, power supply for the control unit and relays are inside the remaining chassis, tucked away behind the faceplate. We 3D printed a bracket (in the wrong orientation so the power switch is away from us while the power cable is near, measure twice print once everyone) and placed it temporarily on top of the head.
Since then, we’ve reprinted the bracket and everything looks better now (with much less hot glue everywhere) but haven’t taken photos of that yet, so this will have to do. We went for the DSub 9 socket so we have enough pins for communication and other features.
The black rectangular box underneath the faceplate is the diffuser box and some of you may have spotted that it says 24×36 mm on it. That’s because this enlarger (that my friend had rescued from being scrapped) came with a 35 mm diffuser only. All that bulk and weight for that?
Much better now. If you think that this diffuser is larger than 35 mm, that’s because we took a Dremel and cut out most of the bottom section. The newly inserted opaque white acrylic sheet is large enough to cover a 4×5 negative in either direction now.
Four clusters of LEDs. Following the suggestion of our dear friend Alexander Kharlamov (who has already built 6 of these conversions so far), we went for Red, Green and Purple LEDs, placed in the corners. According to some computer simulations, this layout gave us the best and most even illumination. The ones closest to the center are the red LEDs since even illumination is not a major concern with them. They are there just to act as a safelight, essential when placing some paper underneath the enlarger. That’s right, we won’t have to use a red safety filter under the lens anymore (we did test them with some paper and they turned out quite safe to use).
Here’s how the diffuser looks like with the red LEDs on. We also covered the inside of the box with some white reflective material and used two layers of opaque white acrylic at the bottom with a 1cm spacer between them. In the end, the lighting seems quite even, even for the red.
The green LEDs are closer to the corners (one in each) and are used for low contrast printing. They are more or less equal to an Ilford #00 filter and only activate the low contrast emulsion of the paper.
Here are the purple LEDs in action. These are also placed close to the corners (each cluster you saw above has RG and P LEDs, one of each). Some guides on the web suggest that Royal Blue LEDs would’ve been enough to activate the high contrast emulsion only but after digging through some datasheets (and also once again according to Alexander), the peak wavelength needs to be under 420nm to activate the high contrast emulsions of most papers and Royal Blue peaks at 440nm. These are 410nm near-UV LEDs. We also used a 1W driver for four of these while the two colors have 3W drivers of their own. This is because you don’t need as much light to activate the much more sensitive high contrast emulsions.
Here’s all of them on at the same time. Looks a bit bluish due to the white balance but it’s much closer to white in real life.
There’s a huge heatsink directly behind the LEDs. We used thermal paste and a drop of epoxy to attach the RGP clusters that are built into circular and aluminium PCBs. If we’re not happy with the light distribution, we’ll look more carefully into the arrangement and the number of the LEDs but this should be a good starting point.
We did not have a 4×5 negative at the point so this is a 6×6 negative. It is bright enough to be seen even with the room lights on.
The purple LEDs can be a bit hard on the eyes so while I took this shot with them, we actually turn the red LEDs on at the same time, resulting in a much more pleasing magenta illumination.
One of these is made with an Ilford #5 filter while the other is made with the LEDs. Can you tell which is which?
One of the first prints we’ve done.
It was quite a pleasant workflow once everything was put together. I actually built a custom timer for this (using an Arduino Uno we had around) but if we had three light switches mounted on a surface somewhere, this could’ve been used with a standard timer as well.
Here are a few footnotes:
The 3W drivers we used for the Red and Green have a slight delay at the start. I could’ve just added a fixed number into the code to compensate for the delay but as it turns out, it’s not a constant amount. It’s around 200ms if they’ve been turned off for a few minutes and almost instantaneous when doing a test strip. So, we’ll either upgrade our drivers, use a different kind (that would also allow dimming) or build a probe inside the head to watch for the changes in light.
The exposure times are around 5-10 seconds at f/11, which may be a bit too short to be practical, especially for dodging and burning. We’ll either add a few more layers of acrylic inside the diffuser box along with some ND filters to dim the light a bit or switch to a dimmable driver.
We’ve used a Pentax Spot meter to measure the illumination and everything seems to be within half a stop. However, a prototype spot analyzer I’ve developed tells us that it might be more than what we’d rather have. Will do more experiments to see if we need to increase the quality of the diffuser box.
We made all the preparations to add an 80mm or 120mm fan on top of the heatsink but surprisingly, we never encountered much heating even after turning everything on for a few minutes. We’ll check again using a thermometer inside the lightbox and quite probably add the fan just in case but so far, everything’s been quite cool.
All in all, I’ve quite enjoyed working with the LED light source. Along with the custom-built timer, there is simply no need for any filters. Press the focus button and only the red LEDs are on. Press another button and everything turns on, so you can focus easily. It is so bright that I never needed to open the aperture while working. The exposure times are kept separately for each of the high and low contrast channels and we’ve even come up with a method to do both exposures automatically, so all that is needed to make the final exposure after the initial test strips is a single button press.
It is theoretically possible to set it up for single grade printing between #00 and #5 but so far we’ve only used it for split grade printing. Will experiment with different methods and techniques in the near future.
Next up, I’ll be modifying my Kaiser 6002. Might even build and offer conversion kits for Kaiser V-Series enlargers since all of them have compatible parts, so it should be possible to build a one-size-fits-all solution for them.
About the author: Can Çevik is an industrial designer and film photographer based in Istanbul, Turkey. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Çevik is the inventor of MAYA, an advanced darkroom timer. You can find more of his work and photos on Instagram. This article was also published here.
Astrophotography Can Capture Seismograms During Earthquakes
During an earthquake, a camera capturing a long exposure of the night sky can capture star trails as seismograms that records the motion of the ground.
Back on January 20th, a 6.7-magnitude earthquake rocked Coquimbo, Chile. About 56 miles (90km) away, the ESO La Silla Observatory was in the process of shooting images of the night sky.
The observatory’s Rapid Action Telescope for Transient Objects (TAROT) telescope, which monitors gamma-ray bursts, was shooting a series of 10-second exposures of geostationary satellites and stars.
In the stacked photo above, each star trail is seen three times. The blurry left version was a 10-second exposure captured 41 seconds after the start of the earthquake. The last version on the right was captured 100 seconds after the earthquake when the ground had mostly stopped shaking.
“Each star is seen three times as the earthquake shakes the telescope and blurs its view of the night sky,” the ESO writes. “The effect of the earthquake gradually weakens with time […] The recording on the image here is similar to measurements recorded by seismographs on a roll of paper.”
Louis Vuitton Makes More Waves
After riding the ’80s redux wave last summer, Louis Vuitton is going back in the water. As part of the brand’s New Wave bag line, two classics—the bumbag and the camera bag—are taking a dip in the ’80s-inspired collection’s totally tubular color palette. Embodying an on-the-go, visually driven lifestyle, the remixed models retain their original lightweight constructions—the bumbag a crossbody/fanny pack hybrid and the camera bag a DSLR-sized case for everyday—while incorporating New Wave…
Iggy Azalea Introduces “Sally Walker”
Iggy Azalea has had a tough couple of years recently. After a very public breakup with ex-fiancée Nick Young and two major label moves following her debut album, Azalea seems positioned to finally reclaim her reign on the rap throne. “Sally Walker,” Azalea’s first song in seven months, is the debut single from her long-anticipated sophomore album, In My Defense. Over a “Humble”-esque piano trap beat, the Australian raptress shows off her lyrical prowess and playful delivery. Stemming…
Why I Ditched My Nikon Kit for Sony as a Wedding Photographer
Changing camera systems is not something to be taken lightly. As a die-hard Nikon fan since I first got into photography, I didn’t think I would ever consider switching away from them. And yet, here I am, sitting with no Nikon kit in sight having just shot my first wedding entirely on Sony kit and no regrets.
My entire career as a professional photographer has been forged with a Nikon. I knew my D750 inside out, knew how it would meter differently in different lights, when I had to adjust things, without even looking. It was comfortable to use and yet, as my way of working has changed, and my photography has grown, the camera hadn’t quite kept up.
What’s wrong with the D750
Well, nothing really. The D750 is a fantastic camera, and for the price it’s regularly available at (under a grand pre-owned), I still think it’s one of the best all-around DSLR cameras on the market for the money. Its dynamic range is incredible, the ISO performance is fantastic and it’s a monster when it comes to focus in low light situations.
And yet, as my shooting style has evolved certain aspects of it have frustrated me at times. The buffer is pretty dire, even with fast cards in it, shooting RAW to both cards the camera chokes after 10 shots. Now for weddings, this doesn’t matter for 90% of the day, but the 10% it does matter, it started to irk me.
Similarly, the max shutter speed of 1/4000th of a second. Not a problem, unless, like me, you like to shoot wide open. My most used aperture is f/2 and after this blazing hot summer we’ve had, I was having to push the aperture higher than I’d have liked to, in order to stop highlights being blown.
Shooting in Liveview on the D750 is another letdown — the AF is awful and slow, it hunts back and forth. It’s fine if you have the time to wait, but if you’re trying to catch a moment, you’ve got no chance.
Why not the D850?
So surely my obvious choice is to upgrade to the D850 right? Bigger buffer, using even faster cards, better Liveview, touch screen focus etc. That fixes all of my concerns right?
Well yes and no. It’s a bigger camera, physically, plus I don’t need 42 megapixels for a wedding. XQD cards are expensive, with not even the sole-manufacturer of them (Sony) adopting them. Making it an expensive upgrade path, especially as I like to shoot on two identical cameras.
Sure I’d get some of the benefits that I wanted, but it wouldn’t solve all of my issues. Liveview is better than the D750, but it’s nothing special.
Mirrorless is where all cameras will end up
I did a lot of research before I made the decision to change, I tried friends cameras, I checked all the boring things like ISO performance against my Nikons and most of all, I looked into the AF accuracy and speed, because that’s what’s key as a documentary wedding photographer, capturing moments the instant they happen!
Where mirrorless used to lag behind, it’s now not the case, with AF points covering the entire frame, dual phase and contrast detect pixels making Autofocus lightning fast and the addition of Eye-AF on the Sony’s is a game changer for me. It sounds so simple, it detects the closest eye to your focus point and tracks it. But just how accurate this is and how well it tracks around the frame has to be seen to be believed.
And let’s face it, the whole idea of a mirror having to physically move to take a photo, is just, well, behind the times in this digital age.
WYSIWYG shooting, What You See Is What You Get, is where the future is and is what makes mirrorless systems a pleasure to use. No more checking to see if any highlights are blown, you know whether they are or not *before* you hit the shutter button. Real-time exposure preview through both the viewfinder and the rear screen mean no more chimping, you know what you’ve got straight away.
A week of using the Sony a7 III and the DSLR seems dated.
So how is it vs the D750?
The D750 is a fantastic camera, and for the price it can be picked up for these days, I still have the opinion that it’s one of the best buys for an all-around DSLR in most parts of its performance.
And of course, it’s an absolute monster when it comes to low light performance. And that’s where the Sony misses in one way and wins big in the other.
It loses on low light AF. It’s just not as good as the D750 at locking focus when it gets dark, period. So you might want to think about an AF assist beam, a low power video light, or pre-focussing (which is what I do for dancing shots anyway).
But when it comes to ISO performance, the Sony smashes even the mighty Nikon. With native ISO going all the way up to 51200 (which is a horrible horrible mess, but still) at any ISO that you’re likely to use, the Sony wins. Sony has even managed to get even more dynamic range out of the A7 III than the D750, which was already an impressive camera in that regards.
The D750s ultra-deep grip is better in the hand, admittedly, or at least when holding it to your face, but with me not using the viewfinder, I find the Sony sits really nicely in my hand. Although a little front-heavy with fast Sony glass attached.
There’s no weight saving once the lenses are attached, so if you think a plus of switching to mirrorless is a reduction in weight, think again! Similarly, if your work is predominantly studio based and you use flash all of the time, you’re not going to get many of the advantages of that a mirrorless system would give you. They all vanish when you introduce flash and you’re metering for exposure anyway.
But when you’re working in natural light, zebra lines highlighting the parts of the image that will have blown, or focus peaking helping you manually focus combined with being able to see the exposure before you take the shot, are simply fantastic.
What it’s like to use
The body is smaller, the grip is quite deep though and it feels comfortable in the hand. If you don’t use fast lenses, then you may get some decent weight saving out of the switch. But connecting up a 35mm f/1.4 Distagon or 85mm f/1.4 G Master is definitely not a light combination. Maybe a hundred grams lighter than my equivalent set up on the D750.
It feels nice in the hand though, the lens sits nicely on my hand, I think a bit of weight helps stabilize the camera a little. But if you’re thinking about switching just to save weight, and you’re planning on adding a fast aperture lens. Stop, step back, and think again. It won’t be lighter!
The AF is incredibly fast, the D750 was no slouch, but the Sony impresses me again and again. Eye AF which I thought was going to be a bit of a gimmick. Is quite simply, incredible, it’s fast, accurate and tack sharp.
Full silent mode is great if a little weird to begin with, and you have to understand the technical limitations. In certain artificial lighting, it will create banding across the image. You might be able to avoid it by shooting in multiples of 1/50th (1/60th in the USA) due to the frequency lights flicker. But if you notice it, you’re better off disabling silent mode under those lighting conditions. Similarly, it can’t be used for particularly fast moving subjects, or they will appear to stretch across the screen. This isn’t an issue with the Sony, it’s just a technical limitation of how electronic shutters work vs mechanical shutters. So you have to learn when you can use silent, and when you can’t.
I’m the first to admit, I’m not a fan of Electronic View Finders. The one on the A7 III is good, the EVF in both the A7R III and A9 is better. But I still don’t really like them. Don’t ask me why, I just don’t, I think it’s to do with my eye being so close to a screen, I just don’t like it. Whereas others rave about it. So it’s definitely down to personal tastes.
So is it a problem? No, because that’s the other thing with mirrorless that has changed how I shoot… I don’t use the viewfinder. Not only does it eat up batteries faster (due to internal heat generation), but also, I just find shooting in LiveView better. It’s freeing, it allows me to get the camera into angles I’d otherwise struggle, creating new creative opportunities. There’s a mode for bright sunlight, which works great, probably increases battery drain a bit, so I turn it off when not needed.
And the big thing for me, as a social photographer. I’m not hiding my face behind a camera, I’m able to engage with my clients while shooting. Making them feel more comfortable, which creates better connections, which makes for better photos. And that is what we all want.
How was it at the wedding?
So I switched kit a week before a wedding, and I will admit, on the run up to it. I was thinking “Is this sensible? Am I going to be used to using these by Saturday? Will I deliver the same quality that my clients expect?”.
Any worries were completely unfounded, once set up how I wanted them to be, they’re a dream to use. So easy! Focus points covering the whole screen and being able to tap the screen to select them is a dream, the AF was quick and accurate all day long, it even surpassed my expectations late on for the dancing.
The silent shutter meant I could shoot even more discretely for most of the day (I had to turn it off in the barn to avoid banding) and the expanded buffer vs my D750 meant I never had to worry about the camera choking. Combined with the fact that I could see the exposure before pressing the button it was a dream.
Let’s put this into perspective…
I’d had the cameras for a week. And this was the most confident I’d ever felt shooting a wedding.
So you’d recommend I switch to Sony then?
No. Well, maybe.
It depends, doesn’t it? If you shoot predominantly studio work, then you lose some of the benefits straight away. No WYSIWYG for you, obviously. And you don’t need it. Super fast AF, well, you don’t need that either for the most part as you know the distance, you can prefocus.
Social and lifestyle photography? Maybe. I’m not going to say Yes, because it’s a very personal decision and what feels right for me might not feel right for you. But I think it’s worth checking them out certainly.
Some of the more dreamy portrait work? Maybe not… The A7 III has a very weak low-pass optical filter (or Anti-aliasing filter). A low-pass filter softens the image, mainly to prevent moiré but also because sometimes a slightly softer image is just more pleasing to the eye. As it is the A7 III delivers incredibly sharp images and for some styles of photography, that might actually be too sharp.
Ultimately, it’s not a camera for everyone. Kit doesn’t make you a better photographer, or somehow able to better frame an image in your head. But for me, it’s made it easier to translate the image in my head, into an image to deliver to a client.
Specific advantages of the Sony
Bullet points time!
Silent shooting – brilliant, just brilliant, especially for couples shoots when you’re potentially invading their personal space a little. It’s a bit less intrusive without a rapid clicking of a shutter!
A HUGE buffer – I get 50 images in a row at 10fps before the camera even starts to choke!
Real-time exposure preview with zebra stripes on the blown highlights – nail that exposure every time!
Eye-Af (this is seriously insane)
Focus points covering the whole viewfinder
Focus Peaking so manual focus is easy
Brilliant battery life – I shot the whole wedding with 1 battery in each camera!
Whether you agree with me, disagree, are considering the switch or have tried to switch and found you hate mirrorless! I’d love to know why! Please drop your thoughts below.
About the author: Andy Dane is an award-winning wedding photographer, lifestyle blogger, husband, and father based in Norwich, UK. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Dane’s work on his website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This article was also published here.
How do I find my style? It’s a question that inevitably comes up for almost every photographer actively trying to improve their images. It’s a tough question, at first. Because at first, you don’t really know what that means. Many photographers think that “style” is just equal to how someone might edit their images.
They start going down the rabbit hole, curious about how their favorite photographers ended up with those nice blue tones, or desaturated browns on their feeds, or how they have just that little bit of fade in every image.
When someone is starting out in photography, they don’t know the trends that have come and gone. The permanence of certain visual language elements that have stood the test of time. Or the kitsch crazes that have been and passed.
All of that is okay because that’s the journey we’re all on. The shiny stuff aside, to really find your style in photography, one has to know what this actually means.
What Style Is
Style is not a specific “thing”. It’s not something you can just decide to have or not have. Rather, think of style as a toolbox. A toolbox that has been refined over time.
When an apprentice builder starts his first job, he does so with a few tools he thinks he might need. Eventually, he finds tasks that he doesn’t have the tools for. He figures things out and adds more tools. Along the way, he finds better, more efficient tools to do the same tasks, and so he swaps out his old tools over time.
Eventually, after having nailed thousands of nails and making hundreds of walls, he knows how to do it in his way, fast. Efficient. With style and grace, even. He’s become a master at that task and he sticks to what he knows.
Style is a lot like that. It looks a lot like the process of mastery. Your toolbox isn’t just things like cameras, lenses, and drones. It’s not just your choices of blue tones or red tones. It’s not just whether you like sharp images or blurry ones.
It’s also more abstract – it’s what you shoot, how you shoot it, and why. Do you shoot landscapes more than urban scenes? Portraits over street? How do you shoot those scenes? Wide? Tight? Abstract? Why do you choose to shoot those scenes and why did you decide to do it in that way?
The answer to those questions is the genesis of “style” – the foundation of your toolkit.
It’s About What You Value in Life
A mix of knowing what you don’t know, and an alignment of that knowledge to the things you value in your own life.
For me, photography is about two things: Adventure and minimalism.
My first camera was given to me by my ex-girlfriend. We’d chatted about wanting our relationship to have more adventure, and a camera was a great excuse to get out in the world and start documenting them. I’ve been addicted to chasing new experiences ever since.
But I’m also a minimalist. I put a lot of value on the things I bring in to my life. So on a more tactical level in my images, I try very hard to lean in to simple scenes. Scenes that have only 1 focus point, scenes that are immediately understandable and don’t require a lot of abstraction to pull meaning from.
I do this because I’m thoughtful about the value I place on my time in real life, and subsequently, I’m cognizant of your time too.
Of course, this, like all things in photography, is generally a guideline, not a rule, but it’s something I aim for, and it’s also something that took me a long time of practice, reflection, and a lot (over 100,000) of crappy frames to uncover, and I’m still (and forever) working on it. This is the state of my toolbox right now, and it’s always going to be changing.
What value do you give photography in your life?
One of my photography idols, Alex Strohl, talks about his work being symbolic of his love towards water. How it features in his images, the types of tones he uses, everything. I’ll let you discover why that is in your own discovery of his work, but this is the genesis of it, and I think the clarity of meaning he’s given his work is great.
It Begins with Inspiration
Start with why and find inspiration (from inside or outside yourself) until you discover the answer. The problem for most beginners (but it never really goes away for anyone) is that you don’t know what you don’t know. There are so many places to gather your inspiration from. So many influences you can apply to your own photography.
Don’t think Instagram. Look wider. Look deeper.
Expose yourself to as much inspiration you can and take note of what you like and give value to that. Maybe it’s the story of your childhood. The visual treatment of your favorite movie. Your favorite quote from your grandma. A memory of a trip you’ll never forget.
How can you turn your life’s experiences into images?
Focus on the why and all else will follow. All the other shiny things like gear, settings, and post-processing will be so much better once you have your why.
But of course, look for other things that inspire you too – visual language techniques, color palettes, bokeh, focal lengths, big scenes, little scenes, countries, films, everything. They all have a part to play.
The Clarity of Synthesis
After you’ve immersed yourself in inspiration and made a list of the things you love and are inspired by, synthesize them into something meaningful. Make sense of your inspiration. Give yourself some maxims to operate by, even if you just write them down and never use them, at least they’ll be in your subconscious for when you’re out in the field.
Once you’ve defined what you’re inspired by, it’s much easier to find and make those images in the real world.
It might seem silly to make a vision board of your own style. It might seem strange to write down that you like taking photos of animals because you miss your dog at home. The act of getting it down into the real world, to synthesize it, gives you clarity that most other people just don’t have. And when someone asks you “why do you take photographs?”, you’ll have a killer answer for them that will make you feel great and inspire them to think about their own work, too.
The Art of Experimentation
Once you’ve synthesized your style, you’ve reached the hardest part of it all. Putting yourself out there. It’s time to test it out. At first, alone. Spend time working on it as much as you can. But eventually, with people. Because art really isn’t art until it’s shared, and feedback isn’t really feedback unless someone else is giving it.
Yes, it’s scary. Yes, people might not like it. But if you like it, then maybe it’s not for them, and that’s okay. But for the people who do like it, it might just be the best f***ing thing in the world, and without putting it out there, no one would never know.
What I love about this stage though, is the impermanence of experimentation. If it’s just an experiment, then it’s temporary. It should be. It means you can take it away or revert back to something else. But it also means that you can make it even better if it’s successful and it works.
It’s imperative that every creative sees life in this way. To have the courage to try something new, even if it’s scary. Change is the only method for growth.
The Value of Repetition
And once you take your experiment, shown it to the world and both you and the world loves it, refine it. Work on it some more. Keep getting better and better at that thing, because it’s here that the builder becomes a Master builder.
It’s here that you can see the finesse in the quality of work. The smooth joins and the perfect vertical lines. It’s also after mastering something that you can see the finesse in the quality of other people’s work and add that to your own inspiration too. It’s the best of all worlds.
And Then Start Again
Because creativity has ebbs and flows. Ups and downs. Sure things and irrational fears. Sometimes you need to just drop everything and start again. Sometimes that’s necessary to create the great work you’ll do in the future. It’s totally fine. It was all an experiment anyway.
After all, your toolbox might be a big one. Hell, it might even be well organized. But just like creativity, the contents never really stay the same forever.
Happy shooting and good luck.
P.S. If you enjoyed this article, please consider checking out my preset pack! Each sale helps support me and my work, and in return you get 25 high quality Adobe Lightroom presets and 15 high-res mobile wallpapers to use! Check them out at shop.patkay.com.
About the author: Pat Kay is a freelance photographer and content creator based in Sydney, Australia. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Kay has garnered over 65,000+ people on Instagram to share his journey with and works regularly with many great brands such as Sony, DJI, Samsung, Adidas, Nike, Ford, Lexus, Cathay Pacific, and more. You can find more of his work on his website, Instagram, Facebook, and 500px. This article was also published here.
A long, long time ago, that is, in days of film photography, it was a rather difficult task to learn how to produce properly exposed pictures. There was no instant feedback and the only way to see how good of a job you did exposing the scene was to wait until the picture was developed.
Nowadays, regardless of your skill level or how advanced are you with any photo editing software, if you are using a digital camera, there’s a slice of digital information that can help you instantly adjust your camera settings in order to take a picture with near perfect exposure. This piece of information is probably something that you might have even noticed before, but never really paid too much attention. Indeed, I’m talking about the histogram, which is often overlooked or completely ignored.
Yes, I understand, that strange diagram with mountainous peaks might seem too technical to go into too much, especially when you have an LCD display on the back of your camera showing you the picture you just took. However, I believe that there are a number of ways to improve your photography once you understand how to read the histogram.
In this article, we will explore the technical aspects of it as well as ways to incorporate it with your workflow on the field and in post-processing.
Breaking Down the Histogram
In essence, the histogram is a visual representation of the brightness values of all the pixels in your image. Generally, we use a combined histogram of the three main color channels (red, green and blue) or RGB histogram. However, if needed, you can dwell deeper into the histogram of each individual color channel.
First, let’s try to break down what exactly is represented in the histogram. If you look at any histogram you will notice two axis – horizontal and vertical. The horizontal axis represents the number of tones and their level of brightness, starting from 0 (pure black) up until 255 (pure white). The vertical axis represents the number of pixels at each level of brightness.
So, if you follow the line within the histogram, those highest “mountain peaks” tell you exactly where on the brightness scale you have the most amount of information about the image. If the “mountain peaks” are stacked more towards the left side, even without looking at the actual image, it tells you that it’s dark. On the contrary, if they are towards the right side of the histogram, the image is bright. This is probably the most essential aspect of the histogram that you would need to remember.
For an image to be correctly exposed, you need to stay within those walls on each side of the histogram. If you expose beyond those walls, in photographic terms we call it clipping. So, if any part of the histogram reaches the right side of the wall, the image is considered to be overexposed and means that every single pixel that reaches this wall, will be represented as pure white.
In simpler terms, all you will see in the overexposed part of the image is nothing else but white pixels. Similarly, if the histogram touches the left side of the wall, it’s considered underexposed and you are left with pure blacks. Take a look at this picture. Here you have a visual representation of how an underexposed, overexposed and correctly exposed histogram looks like.
We established that overexposing and underexposing is something that should generally be avoided, however, there might be situations when dynamic range or difference between the darkest and brightest parts of the scene are so high, that it’s virtually impossible to capture it without clipping either shadows or highlights.
Of course, you can use neutral density graduated filters to compensate for the difference or even bracket the shot and correct the exposure in the final image during post-processing.
Let’s imagine you don’t have these options or the scene is too complex to bracket without failing miserably. In this case, it is advised to underexpose the scene rather than to overexpose. Modern digital cameras are capable to record quite a lot of information about the details in the underexposed areas and bring them out later during the post-processing of the image. However, it is virtually impossible to recover any of the information in the overexposed areas.
Additionally, some cameras are more capable in one thing than the other. For example, Nikon cameras are performing better at recording the details in shadows, so Nikon users have to worry less about underexposing than, for example, Canon users. On the other hand, Canon cameras have a higher capability to record details in the highlights than Nikon users.
Expose to the Right
I would like to mention another aspect of the histogram that might be worthwhile to learn. As I mentioned before, every scene is different and on the whole, there’s no such thing as an ideal histogram as it depends entirely on what are you shooting. However, there’s one piece of advice you might have heard before and I suggest you listen to it: expose to the right!
What it means is that you should generally push the exposure to the brighter levels of the histogram. The reason behind it is simple: the number of tones within the horizontal axis of the histogram. Let’s split the histogram into 5 equal parts starting from left to right, from darkest part to the brightest.
The first section only has 575 tones available, next one has 1149 tones. These two sections make up the so-called darks in the picture. The third section is composed of mid tones and has 2298 tones within it. Last two sections represent the brightest part of the picture and have a combined number of 13,788 tones available.
In simpler terms, if your picture is dark, you will only have a very limited amount of tones available to work with. Let’s say you would like to adjust the picture during the post-processing by increasing the brightness, contrast or do any other changes. Lack of information about the tones will manifest in banding (pixelated gradients), increased noise levels and other problems. On the contrary, if you have a picture that exposed towards the right side of the histogram, you are less likely to run into these problems during post-processing.
The Back of Your Camera Lies
Another important aspect of learning to read the histogram is that once you understand it there is no need to rely solely on LCD display built inside the camera. Why is it a good thing, you ask? Because the LCD display lies!
While it gives a reasonably good interpretation of the image, it’s far from perfect to determine, for example, how correct the exposure is. First of all, the LCD displays only a JPEG preview version of the image, even if you shoot RAW files. Besides, the LCD screen has a much lower resolution than the image itself and the brightness level of the screen might be adjusted too bright or too dim. This is especially important to remember when shooting in very bright or dark conditions.
For example, when shooting northern lights, while looking at the screen in these dark conditions, it might seem that the picture on the back of your LCD is correctly exposed, however, this is misleading. This is due to the way how our eyes adjust according to the viewing conditions. In this case, when viewing the picture it in the dark, it will look much brighter than it actually is.
Making Use of This Knowledge
There are a number of ways how to implement an understanding of histogram in a photographer’s workflow. First of all, most of the modern cameras have an ability to represent histogram on an LCD screen even before making a shot – through live view mode. This way you can adjust your exposure exactly, even before taking a shot.
Ideally, I would suggest making it a habit to check the histogram after each shot. If that sounds too tedious, one can at least use “highlight alert” function built in the camera. Once a shot is taken, it is possible to view the image and allow the camera to detect if there are any areas that are overexposed.
Additionally, you can use your knowledge of histogram while making adjustments to an image during the post-processing. Increasing or decreasing brightness might result in lost pixels and to prevent that you can always rely on monitoring the histogram while making sure that no clipping occurs.
It doesn’t necessarily make you a professional just because you are able to read the histogram, but learning it can be very helpful at times. I hope that this article helped you to understand the basic principles behind the histogram and with time you will be able to incorporate this knowledge in your workflow and ultimately improve your photography.
About the author: Kaspars Dzenis is a landscape photographer based in Iceland. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Dzenis conducts photo tours and workshops in his country. You can find more of Dzenis’ work on his website, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, 500px, and Instagram. This article was also published here.