Wet Plate Collodion Passport Photos with a Polaroid Miniportrait Camera

Wet Plate Collodion Passport Photos with a Polaroid Miniportrait Camera

Passport photos on wet plate collodion aren’t legally compliant, but you’re guaranteed to have fun making them. I shot wet plate collodion passport photos using a Polaroid Miniportrait camera.

The funny thing about this camera is that it has fixed-focus lenses. You have to sit 1.2 meters (3.94 feet) away. To be sure you are sitting at the right spot, there is a tape measure integrated into the Polaroid camera. You can see a little metal thingy underneath the lens without the lens cap on.

The f/8 lenses of the Polaroid Miniportrait camera combined with a photosensitivity of about ISO 0.5 of the wet plate were a bigger challenge than expected.

The full power of the Hensel Tria 6000 generator with the Grand Mini 85 was just enough to ensure a correct exposure. For lots of people, it sounds shocking since 6000 watts doesn’t seem to be nearly enough, but when you do the math it makes sense. ISO 0.5, f/8, and a softbox.

My Sekonic light meter showed aperture 18 at ISO 3 (unfortunately you can not set a smaller value). So that’s 2 1/3 stops more than f/8, which brings me to about 0.5.

To hold the wet plate better in position, I used the empty plastic box of the Fuji FP-100C film. A fellow wet plater, Jim Kost, told me he did it a similar way. I used the original plastic box and used the foam that is already in that box to hold the wet plate in position.

Then I put the Fuji plastic box with the wet plate inside into the film holder. It’s very easy to do, and the whole project was finished in 90 minutes.

Fortunately, in the closet is a Hensel Tria 3000, so the next passport photo should be more creative.


About the author: Markus Hofstaetter is a photographer who enjoys life and meeting people around the world. You can connect with him and find more of his work on his website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This article was also published here.


Source: PetaPixel

Wet Plate Collodion Passport Photos with a Polaroid Miniportrait Camera

Process: A Short Film About a Large Format Photographer

Process: A Short Film About a Large Format Photographer

“Process” is a 3-minute short film by director Will Campbell that looks into the mind of a large format photographer.

“It’s a stylish, sensorial exploration into the process and motivation of a large format photographer,” Campbell tells PetaPixel. “The modern digital camera allows us to easily shoot hundreds of frames, edit them, and upload our favorites to the internet within minutes. This is a very different experience to that of the large format photographer.

“For them the process is arduous, analog, and anything but instant. So what pushes large format photographers on? Scott Folsom is a deep well of wisdom and knowledge when it comes to analog photography, large format, and development processes. This film answers the question of why some people would rather have it slow.”


Source: PetaPixel

Process: A Short Film About a Large Format Photographer

To Stage or Not to Stage in Travel Photography

To Stage or Not to Stage in Travel Photography

With the recent polemics surrounding a certain image that won a photography competition this week, I feel like we need to talk about travel photography. About people photography, in our case. And to set up boundaries as to what’s acceptable in both cases. Honestly, in my opinion, it’s a matter of common sense – but it seems that’s not enough. We still witness some shocking scenes in the world of travel photography these days.

Let me be clear: My goal isn’t to attack or criticize any specific, or specific group, of photographers. I don’t know these people. I’ve never met them. But the whole circus that events such as these have created is, in my book, very disturbing, which is why I feel it’s important to discuss the topic in general.

The Case of Photography

Let’s start by looking at photography in a wider context. When it was first invented, staged images were pretty much the only option. The equipment was big and bulky (and expensive) and the exposure times were very long. Anyone who wanted to photograph people had to have them stand still for several minutes. Even with the invention of the collodion technique in 1851, the exposure time still had to be 2–3 minutes. Not exactly spur-of-the-moment stuff.

Then, in 1901, came the Kodak Brownie – the first commercial camera for the middle class. Photography exploded from then on and all the different types of photography that we know today were born.

Documentary photography stemmed from the desire to illustrate newspaper articles – and quickly, a set of ‘rules’, or commonly accepted behaviors, was established. Photojournalism and documentary photography had to depict the truth, without the influence of the photographer. Nowadays, if a photojournalist is caught staging their picture or modifying them in any way, it means the end of their career.

At the other end of the scale, there’s fashion photography. Very little fashion photography happening without staging, without someone directing the whole image. From the model to the props used to the choice of location… everything is controlled and staged for the best results.

But what about travel photography? It seems to me that travel photography is considered as the ‘hobby photography’; anyone can just grab a camera, hit the road and start shooting. If you try to remember the big names of travel photography, who do you think about? Well, there is only one name that comes to mind for most people. Just one.

To me, this proves that travel photography is largely ignored as professional fields in photography – so no one has bothered to set any ethical guidelines. After recent events, maybe it’s time we do so.

The Case of Travel Photography

You may remember the 2015 controversy surrounding Steve McCurry. He was accused of having Photoshopped some of his images to make them more aesthetically pleasing. At first, he said his staff did it. Then he said that he “considers himself to be more of a ‘visual storyteller’ rather than a photojournalist.”

What I understand from this is that basically, if it isn’t photojournalism, no one cares. But the problem is that I do care, and the International Travel Photographer Organization (don’t Google it, I just made it up) isn’t doing anything about it. So I thought I’d set up some ground rules because, well, no one else has.

When it comes to travelers and tourists photographing people, the situation can get out of control. Living in Asia, I witness people traveling here to take photos of people on a daily basis. In fact, my job is teaching people how to practice better people photography, so I’m constantly exposed to this industry.

As an example, a friend of mine witnessed something very disturbing while traveling in Bangladesh. As he boarded a train in Dhaka, he saw a group on a “photography tour.” A Bangladeshi man was sitting on the train, praying. One of the participants of the tour, probably thinking that the man praying was doing so at the wrong angle, or in too weak a light, put their hand on the man’s head and tilted it forward. Without a word, a hello, or a thank you.

Lots of people think that Asia is a great place to photograph people. Unfortunately, some of these people think that’s because you can do what you want with the locals… as if they weren’t people at all, but mere subjects available for your photographs. Like going to the zoo to pat the monkeys and throwing them peanuts for good behavior.

At least, that is what it feels like to me. That this is what some “travel photographers” believe. Which is simply unacceptable.

As I mentioned earlier, there are really no rules for travel photography. Not yet, anyway.

Most people practice this form of photography when traveling. Some do it as a way to remember the places they traveled to. Some do it in order to take beautiful images that they’ll be proud to show their friends and family. Some do it in order to win travel photography competitions.

The Case of Ethics

I started writing this article with the intention of applying ethics to travel photography, but honestly, it’s not just about photography. It’s about having common sense and even the minimum standard of ethics. People are people, human beings like you and me. And just because they live in a poorer country than you doesn’t make them your free models for your beautiful photographs.

If you’d like to travel and photograph people in an ethical way, first start considering people as people, as equal to yourself. This means showing them respect, interacting with them, and – one of the most important aspects – giving them something back. Not something physical, simply a personal exchange. Make them laugh by showing them the photo you’ve taken or, even simpler, make yourself available for them to take a look at you, a foreigner, that maybe they’ve never seen before.

Ask yourself this: What is travel for you? Is it staying in a group, following your guide and going to visit every place that tourists visit? Or is it getting a bicycle and going the opposite way, in search of a more authentic, genuine experience? It’s up to you what you want to do. But maybe, to those people in the huge group, you could say: “Hey guys, I think you’re missing out. You should try and get lost a little more”. (You know, in a nice way!)

A huge group of photographers in Mu Cang Chai lining up with their tripods. Photo courtesy of Mike Pollock

Now, about the staging thing. A lot of photographers travel around the world and stage images wherever they go. And there’s nothing wrong with staging photos. They can help you to take better pictures, and guarantee that you return home with ‘the shot’. I know a lot of great photographers who stage images as part of a project they’re working on. But none of them lies about it.

If you do stage an image, just be honest about it. Say that you staged it. Because telling people that you managed to capture this incredible candid image when it was actually staged… it’s just unethical. It’s lying to the people who see your picture, and it’s lying to your subject, too. It’s depicting your subject in a way that he/she is not. If you stage your image, you staged it with your preconceived idea of what it should look like. Not what it really looks like.

If you don’t buy into this for the ethics involved, then consider this: You know how the world is today, in this information age. People will find out. People always find out.

Staging an image using a preconceived idea, a concept you have in mind, using a model that you can control? There’s a name for that – it’s called fashion photography.

There are no rules in travel photography, so anyone can do what they want. At least, that seems to be the unfortunate consensus.

But there are basic human rights that everyone should respect. You shouldn’t use people as your personal models if you don’t show them respect or even involve them in the process. This happens a lot when people disguise a staged image as a candid one – often with the goal of getting into photo competitions and increasing their perceived value. If they shot these images candidly, it means they’re pretty good photographers. Whereas staging photos can actually turn you into a worse photographer – sure, you’re in control of all the elements in the frame, but where’s the creativity?

The Creativity Question

In the end, it’s a personal choice – whether you want to stage your image or not. As I said above, if you decide to stage your image, it’s fine as long as you’re honest about it. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it if you’re honest with yourself and the people viewing your images. You won’t be misleading the public by pretending that this or that situation was real when it’s been fabricated by someone who may have interpreted the scene from a different cultural point of view.

My main issue regarding this topic – and this is more personal – is about creativity. Because my primary role is teaching photography, I’m against staging – for me, it’s counter-creative.

Creativity in photography, and art in general, comes from conflict, from the unexpected, and often from the accidental. I’ve never woken up in the morning feeling like a creative genius! No, the times I’ve felt creative with my images and composition is when I’ve messed them up – I was too late, I cropped in a weird way, I had the wrong setting on, or my subject moved in an unexpected way. These, in fact, were the times that I got my best photographs.

Staging your images closes the doors to all of these factors, factors which can make creativity happen. Of course, it isn’t as simple as that. Becoming a good photographer, able to capture a good image in any condition, takes years of practice. But there are no shortcuts when it comes to art, and the real genuine art takes years to create.

Take the example of fashion photography. Most of the time, the final image starts with a concept, an idea. What differentiates it from travel photography is that the people coming up with these ideas are usually good at doing so. They’re artists, they make bold moves, they think creatively to catch the attention of the public.

I doubt that every single hobbyist photographer traveling around Asia and staging their images has such vision. Often, they’re simply inspired by other images they’ve seen before — some stunning scene that moved them. Or by some other image that won a photo competition once. And so, what they often do, is copy that image they’ve seen in the past.

If you want examples of these images, I list a few in this article. Frankly, as a photographer, a teacher and a fan of creativity, I find it pathetic to be constantly exposed to the same images – merely copies of copies of photos that, once upon a time, were original and authentic.

The scary part is that this trend isn’t slowing down. Nowadays, photography is accessible to pretty much everyone, and with the huge number of ‘photography tours’ available in Asia, anyone can be a travel photographer. All of this competition makes it harder to make a place for yourself as a photographer or to be recognized by your peers. So some people choose to take a shortcut, to reach fame faster.

Who’s to Blame? Photo Competitions, For Starters

A decade ago, there were only a few travel photography competitions around. Prestigious names, prestigious competitions, awarding great creativity and originality.

Nowadays, it seems that launching a photo competition is simply seen as a great way to make good money.

Think about it. If you know how to build a website, that’s all you need. You can launch your new “Renowned International Photography Competition” website, and charge people to enter their images. Then you can find tons of emerging photographers happy to judge the images for exposure. You make money, you don’t spend any. Jackpot!

The truth is, there is no exposure for the judges. When is the last time you checked the bio and website of all the judges in a competition?!

Another problem is that these emerging travel photographers may not be experienced travel photographers. They may not know about photography as much as a pro, and may not know about images which are actually copies of other images. If I see one more image of a novice monk in Bagan burning incense, Chinese cormorant fisherman, Inle lake fisherman or Omo valley cute kids with flowers on their heads winning a competition, I will instantly categorize that competition as BS. Because such images have been created and captured for over a decade now. They have already won plenty of competitions. We’ve had enough of seeing them. And any respectful competition organizer should know that.

Since it’s getting more and more difficult to make a name for yourself in the world of travel photography today (remember, everyone is a photographer), then it seems that winning photography competitions could help. What that means is that photography competitions are the ones who officially decide and tell the public what a good picture is. And that’s the scary part!

If you see an image winning the National Geographic photography competition, you’ll probably think that it must be a great image. Similarly, people seeing competition-winning images tell themselves that these must be great images, the images that they should be taking in order to… win photography competitions. They’re leading by example: what to shoot in order to be popular. The sad thing is, it’s becoming more and more rare to see real creative work being awarded. People want the “wow”, the postcard. The problem is, the postcard isn’t real. It was created to look “wow”.

Why Are You Practicing Photography?

If your goal is to become famous and win competitions by staging beautiful images, there is ethically nothing wrong with that IF you are clear about what you do and how you do it. The worst thing is finding out that a photographer lied about staging images. It usually means, for them, the end of a promising carrier.

On the creative side, though, this won’t help you to improve your travel photography skills, especially if you photograph people. Because in places like Asia, where scenes can be quite busy and chaotic, photography skills are needed to capture great images.

If you practice photography for the sake of it, because you love it, because it’s your passion – or, in my case, because it pushes me to travel further and meet new people – then why would you ever need to stage an image?

As I mentioned earlier, creativity comes from the unexpected, which is the opposite of carefully planning a composition and using models. Staging images can make you become a lazy, bad photographer. Staging photography can lead to you traveling in that huge group of people who all want THE shot. (Sure, everyone will get THE shot. But everyone will get the same shot.)

Conclusion

In the end, you can stage photos if you like – but please be honest about it. If your goal is to win photo competitions, just be aware that a lot of today’s ones are dubious and won’t get you anywhere. (I know a lot of people who have won great photo competitions and their lives haven’t changed because of it!)

One last thing: It’s important that photographers don’t fall into the photo competition/social media trap. That is, taking photos of what you expect people to like, in order to bring you more popularity. This is the end of art and the beginning of marketing.

Shooting for popularity, not shooting for yourself, will make you become a predictable photographer – shooting the same things, over and over again. There is no more room to express your voice and opinion. There is no style and originality. You may win a photography competition once, but what are you going to do next? Shoot the same thing?

To stage or not to stage? To shoot for others or yourself? They’re big questions, which pose a lot of arguments. But I think it’s about time that we started asking them.


About the author: Etienne Bossot is a travel photographer based in Asia. You can find more of Bossot’s work and writing on his website, blog, Twitter, Flickr, and Facebook. This article was also published here.


Image credits: Header photo courtesy of Mike Pollock


Source: PetaPixel

To Stage or Not to Stage in Travel Photography

GCDS Drops Streetwear For Dogs

GCDS Drops Streetwear For Dogs
Edgy streetwear is going to the dogs. Teaming up with V.I.P (Very Important Puppies), Italian brand GCDS has released a streetwear-inflected collection for canines. While keeping with core brand values re: graphic apparel and accessories, the collection is tailored to various dog sizes and gaits, keeping your four-legged friend’s comfort in mind. And while he or she may be colorblind and illiterate, the pink palette and catchy phrases like “J’Adore GCDS” add human-friendly touches. Perhaps best…

Keep on reading: GCDS Drops Streetwear For Dogs
Source: V Magazine

GCDS Drops Streetwear For Dogs

The Problem Isn’t the Photo Contest, It’s Us

The Problem Isn’t the Photo Contest, It’s Us

Eye-rolls, shrugs, and barbs greeted the $120,000 Grand Prize winner of Dubai’s HIPA Photography Prize. Malaysian photographer Edwin Ong’s photo of a partially blind Vietnamese woman carrying her baby was derided for representing yet another “poverty porn” contest winner before it was suggested that the image was staged by photographer Ab Rashid.

Ong defended his claim that the image was not staged to the Malaysian daily The Star, saying, “In this trip to Vietnam, we (the photographers) went to the rice field and there was a mother (who had her children with her) that passed by. We never told her to stand up or sit down.”

The circumstances that led to the photo are largely irrelevant. HIPA has no restriction in their contest rules that would prohibit staging, nor does the contest adhere to any photojournalistic ethics despite a jury selection throughout the years that has a bias towards photojournalists.

Photo by Edwin Ong Wee Kee

Yet we feel duped, and not necessarily because the image may or may not have been directed. We feel duped because Ong took the image with a gaggle of other photographers of a young, impoverished mother in a way that feels creepily reminiscent of a mid-20th-century all-male camera club hiring a female model.

We feel outraged because “poverty porn” is a reliable trope for winning photo contests – even one with the theme of “Hope” where no hope is to be found. A glimpse at the previous winners of HIPA certainly supports this claim despite having a rotating jury of some of the world’s best photographers who are supplementing their meager photo-related income with judging.

Photo by Mohamed Alragheb.
Photo by Arash Yaghmaeian, the 2016-2017 HIPA Grand Prize winner.

We feel disgusted because the subject is a brown woman. Never mind that Ong is brown because brown and black people are fully capable of committing the sin of exploiting their own just like white people.

We feel repugnance at a contest culture that often rewards unethical behavior, and allows contest organizers to build their business on the scam of contest entry fees. Never mind that this particular contest offers a total prize package of $450,000. The $150,000 Grand Prize is too big for this photo, for this photographer. He ought to share it.

But it’s hypocritical to impugn contest culture while simultaneously consuming most of our photography diet through a game-ified app on a 4-inch screen that algorithmically encourages and rewards “likes.” We’re sometimes more concerned with vertically scrolling as fast as possible to catch up with our feed than actually view photography.

We are competitive creatures living in a world where contest promoters and apps prey upon our vanity and search for validation. The same people who decry contests use platforms like Twitter and Facebook to build their own followings while chasing retweets and likes of their own.

Contests are problematic. The celebration of suffering is amoral. Large monetary prizes cause some people to act unethically. But contest popularity is merely a symptom of the Information Age optimized for the id. Of course, we should strive as a community for ethical standards, but it’s inaccurate to lay blame solely on Ong for taking and submitting the picture when the entire ecosystem is suspect.

Hopefully some of the online discussion in the wake of the contest will cause photographers, juries and contest organizers to reconsider “poverty porn” in contest culture. And perhaps HIPA can consider some ethical guidelines for future incarnations. And if nothing else, maybe the increased awareness of the world’s richest photo contest will attract a whole new wave of photographers doing important, long-term work thereby rendering discussion of poverty tourism moot.


About the author: Allen Murabayashi is the Chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter, which regularly publishes resources for photographers. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Allen is a graduate of Yale University, and flosses daily. This article was also published here.


Source: PetaPixel

The Problem Isn’t the Photo Contest, It’s Us

This is How Photorealistic Video Game Engines Are Now

This is How Photorealistic Video Game Engines Are Now

The asset library Quixel has released this new 2.5-minute cinematic short film titled “Rebirth.” It’s an eye-opening look at how photorealistic real-time rendering in video game engines is now.

To prepare for the project, Quixel spent a month in cold and wet locations in Iceland, scanning all kinds of objects found in the natural environment using. The team returned with over 1,000 scans that captured the details of the landscape.

Examples of Quixel photogrammetry scans. Screenshots by TechSpot.

Using the scans — a part of Quixel’s Megascans library — a team of three artists at Quixel created the 1:45 cinematic film in real-time using the power of the Unreal Engine 4 game engine.

“The high fidelity of the physically-based scans delivers results that are remarkably photorealistic,” Unreal Engine writes.

Here are some still frames from the short film:

Part of the realism was due to the use of a physical camera rig that allowed the creators to “film” in virtual reality.

“With UE 4.21 at the heart of the real-time pipeline, Quixel’s artists were able to iterate on the go, eliminating the need for previsualization or post-production,” Unreal says. “The team also built a physical camera rig that was able to capture movements in-engine using virtual reality, adding an enhanced dimension of realism to the short. All post-processing and color grading was completed directly within Unreal.”

The result of all this work and technology is a real-time film that rivals the photorealism of offline renders.

(via Unreal Engine via DPReview)


Source: PetaPixel

This is How Photorealistic Video Game Engines Are Now

5 Quick Headshot Tips in 3 Minutes by Photographer Peter Hurley

5 Quick Headshot Tips in 3 Minutes by Photographer Peter Hurley

Want to up your portrait game? Here’s a video by B&H in which Naew York City-based portrait photographer Peter Hurley shares 5 headshot tips in about 3 minutes.

Here’s a rundown of the tips covered:

1. Keep it Simple

2. Keep a Consistent Portfolio

3. Get the Jawline Out

4. It’s All About the Squinch

5. Confidence and Approachability

Watch the video at the top for Hurley’s explanation of each of these tips and how they can result in better headshots for your business.


Source: PetaPixel

5 Quick Headshot Tips in 3 Minutes by Photographer Peter Hurley

Class of 2019: IMG Models

Class of 2019: IMG Models
This spread appears in the pages of V118 our Spring I issue!
They say fashion is like high school. This model-off (dress code: SS19) puts theory into practice. In V118, 7 IMG fierce faces Lily, Eliseu, Akiima, Nana, Mads, Noah, and Valentine redefine tailoring while striking a “power suiting” pose.

Keep on reading: Class of 2019: IMG Models
Source: V Magazine

Class of 2019: IMG Models

Why Lens Focal Length Matters

Why Lens Focal Length Matters

Thinking about which lens to buy next? You might want to take a look at this 9-minute video first. In it, photographer Jamie Windsor argues that choosing the right focal length is more than a technical decision based on what type of photography you want to do — your choice affects the dynamic and meaning of your photos.

“Choosing the right focal length is much more than about creating a flattering portrait or being able to fit everything you want into your frame,” Windsor says. “Your choice of lens changes the dynamic of your image and the psychological meaning the audience will derive from it. In this video essay, I examine how different focal lengths can be used to communicate different messages to your audience.”

Windsor says that the advancement of TV sets and TV show quality has made many popular shows indistinguishable in quality from movie theater films, and as a result, most people are now exposed to the visual language of cinema on a daily basis.

“While film cinematography and photography are very different beasts in a lot of ways, there are also some aspects that unite them,” Windsor says. “And one of those is how we as an audience psychologically derive meaning from different focal lengths.”

The video then goes through a wide range of examples showing how cinematographers and photographers use different focal lengths in different ways to convey different types of feelings and meanings.

“When choosing a lens, think about how you want your audience to feel,” Windsor concludes. “Why are you shooting what you are? What are you saying with it? Use focal length to subtly communicate your message to the viewer, because changing focal length can completely change the whole meaning of your shot.”


Source: PetaPixel

Why Lens Focal Length Matters

Harvard Sued Over Profiting From Its Earliest Slave Photos from 1850

Harvard Sued Over Profiting From Its Earliest Slave Photos from 1850

Harvard University is being sued over daguerreotypes of slaves — believed to be the earliest photos of American slaves — commissioned by one of its professors back in 1850. A descendant of the slaves accuses Harvard of wrongfully seizing, possessing, and profiting from the photos.

USA TODAY reports that the Swiss-born biologist Louis Agassiz had commissioned the photos to be shot by photographer J.T. Zealy in a South Carolina studio to support a theory of human origins called polygenism, or the view that human races have different origins. A slave man and his daughter, Renty and Delia, were stripped of their clothing and photographed naked from a number of angles to argue that African-Americans were inferior to white people.

An 1850 photo of Renty at the center of the lawsuit.

Now a woman named Tamara Lanier who claims to be Renty’s great-great-great granddaughter is suing Harvard over those photos of her purported direct ancestor. Lanier says she has repeatedly demanded that Harvard stop licensing its photos of “Papa Renty” for profit, only to have her requests ignored.

She’s also demanding that the original Harvard-owned daguerreotypes be handed over to her family.

“For years, Papa Renty’s slave owners profited from his suffering,” Lanier tells USA TODAY. “It’s time for Harvard to stop doing the same thing to our family.”

After the photos of Renty, Delia, and 11 other slaves were made in 1850, they disappeared for 126 years until they were discovered in an attic at Harvard. One particular photo of Renty has since become an iconic photo representing American slavery, and it continues to be used on things such as conference programs and book covers.

Harvard allegedly charges a licensing fee for the photos to be reproduced.

“These images were taken under duress, and Harvard has no right to keep them, let alone profit from them,” attorney Michael Koskoff, who’s representing Lanier, tells USA TODAY. “They are the rightful property of the descendants of Papa Renty.”

The lawsuit states that Harvard has “avoided the fact that the daguerreotypes were part of a study, overseen by a Harvard professor, to demonstrate racial inferiority of blacks.”


Source: PetaPixel

Harvard Sued Over Profiting From Its Earliest Slave Photos from 1850