Posts Tagged ‘It’s’

Interview with an astronaut: What it’s like shooting photos from space

28 Dec

Jared Polin (aka. Fro Knows Photo) recently scored an interview that has us all extremely jealous here at DPReview. A phone call to NASA to find out if astronauts shoot Raw in space led to an interview with Marine fighter pilot and NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik, who had arrived back to Earth from the International Space Station just three days before Jared spoke with him!

The entire interview is fascinating from first question to last, but first things first: yes, astronauts do shoot Raw in space. Bresnik himself says he shot RAW+JPEG so he could download the JPEGs onto his laptop and see the shots ASAP, but the Raw files are beamed down to Earth where the folks at NASA process them to their full potential.

This is far from the only only topic Polin and Bresnik cover, though. They hit everything from radiation damage, to stabilizing your shots in space, to the glass available, to what it was like switching from Nikon D4 cameras to the brand new D5s that arrived on the ISS in mid-November, and much more.

And all the while, gorgeous photos Bresnik captured while up there scroll across your screen. Photos like the ones below—some of our favorites from Bresnik’s last 2 months on the ISS:

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Editor’s Note: Bresnik also contributed the #oneworldmanyviews hashtag, which paired shots of beautiful locations captured in space with photos of the same spot taken from Earth.

For Polin, the conversation seemed surreal. He tells DPReview that:

For me I was in awe for a lot of the interview. It’s not easy to wrap your head around SPACE and the sheer fact you can transfer the data back to earth. Sure that’s been going on for decades but think about it. 250 miles up in space there’s a station with six astronauts on it, with an entire Nikon setup of D5’s and glass up to an 800 5.6 for god sake. The direct downlinks to NASA transfer data all night long.

Check out the full interview up top, scroll through the gallery above for a bit of awe, and if you want even more, head over to Bresnik’s Twitter account where you can find enough photos, videos, and timelapses to keep you busy until New Years and beyond.

And, since Polin says he may actually get to interview an astronaut who is on the space station when he talks to them, we’re curious: what would you ask an astronaut about photography in space? Drop your suggestions in the comments.

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What it’s like to photograph a sandstorm

06 Dec

This article was originally published on Photography Life, and is being republished in full on DPReview with express permission from Spencer Cox.

One of the windiest nights I’ve ever taken pictures turned into perhaps the single most rewarding—and frightening—landscape photography experience of my life. I was on the Mesquite Sand Dunes in Death Valley, a place I had visited twice in the past, though under much tamer conditions. This night, the gusts of wind were far greater than I had seen before, and they kicked up a layer of sand that made for amazing sunset photos. But as the day came to a close, it was clear I had entered uncharted waters.

Even before sunset, the wind was fairly heavy. Sand stung at my feet, but it wasn’t any worse than a breezy day at the beach. I had a scarf over my nose and mouth to avoid inhaling too much dust, and I wore sunglasses to protect my eyes.

It was a beautiful sunset. The clouds were something special—patchy, orange, blue, and dark. The atmosphere was perfect for photography. Over the course of an hour, I made a series of mad dashes from dune to dune in search of the best composition, and I captured a handful of shots I liked along the way. The whole time, in the distance, one dark cloud was lower than the rest. Although it stood out somewhat, I filed it away in the back of my mind as I focused on capturing other parts of the landscape.

Soon, the day had ended. The sun dipped out of view, and the light began to fade even further. I saw, then, how far I had traveled. I was already at the tallest dune, which rose next to me in a gentle slope. The best colors in the sky had ended, but I decided to climb this last peak to see the view before turning back for the night.

That was when the air began to change. The low, dark cloud I noticed earlier had grown much closer, and the reality of my situation became obvious: this was not a typical low-hanging cloud, but, instead, a sandstorm. The wind picked up in powerful gusts, and I took a photo.

NIKON D800E + 35mm f/1.8 @ 35mm, ISO 100, 1.3 seconds, f/16.0
On the lefthand side of the image, you can see the front edge of the sandstorm approaching.

For half a second, everything was completely still. The sky dimmed and turned dirty. I started to hear sifting noises, and a thin layer of dust fell on my shoulders and backpack.

When the wind picked up again, much faster than before, it was a completely different world. I stood looking ahead, unable to see the next dune in any direction. As the atmosphere thickened, darkness fell rapidly. I pulled out my flashlight, which illuminated swirls of sand racing through the air.

When the wind picked up again, much faster than before, it was a completely different world.

After bracing myself into the ground, I went through the inevitable safety checks. Was my GPS still working? Check. Did I have enough water to last the night, in case of a true emergency? Check. But even then, it’s hard to feel completely safe at a time like this.

The storm didn’t seem natural. Or, instead, it seemed too natural. The power of the wind and sand was overwhelming. If you want to feel completely helpless in the face of the world’s chaos, get lost in a sandstorm.

Of course, I wasn’t truly lost. The GPS had found a path back, pointing to where my car sat in the distance (though I no longer saw it, or the road). I started moving in that direction.

It soon became apparent that my progress was slow. Indeed, I thought I was walking in circles, despite following the GPS’s recommended route. To be clear, it didn’t just seem like I might be walking in circles. I truly believed I was going around the same sand dune over and over, retracing my own footprints as the wind blew them away.

Especially in a situation like this, I am inclined to trust technology. I know that a GPS is far more likely than a clueless photographer to pinpoint its location in a sandstorm. But I was thankful to have packed along a backup GPS, which I pulled out now to calculate the same route—sending another signal to perfectly-placed satellites flying thousands of kilometers overhead. When that, too, confirmed the same path, I knew to stifle my intuition and follow the light back home.

To describe the rest of the hike, the best comparison I can make is to say that it felt like walking on an ocean. I would climb up a dune, shine my flashlight ahead, and then step down into darkness. And this repeated itself for an hour—up, down, up—on waves of sand.

To describe the rest of the hike, the best comparison I can make is to say that it felt like walking on an ocean.

Then, suddenly, I was at the car. I threw my backpack on the back seat, climbed in, and closed the door. That moment was absolutely eerie.

The constant push of wind and sand suddenly stopped; even as the car shook in the breeze, it felt like everything was absolute silence. The dim glow of the reading light overhead seemed like the only island in the entire world. I was back—back to a refuge from the relentless wind and sand. I was also back to civilization, where, surreally, the nearest town was a five minute drive away.

The fact that I could order a burger moments after I had been inside of new sand dunes forming was amazing, and deeply unsettling.

Writing this, I’m on the third floor of a huge building with glowing lights, and, a few hundred feet away, tall waves are crashing ashore. It’s nighttime, and there is a light drizzle. Heavy winds are whipping around. A car just drove past.

We’re living in shelters that we created at the doorstep of a storm, and it’s so incredibly difficult to remember that. It shouldn’t take an otherworldly night of photography to put things like this into perspective; it should be at the core of who we are.

Landscape photography is a strange art. I’ve realized that my true motivation for taking pictures is not to create beautiful images. Instead, it’s to be out there — walking into a sandstorm, surrounding by waves of dunes — to watch the planet change so spectacularly.

Spencer Cox is a landscape photographer and writer who spends his free time… taking landscape photos and writing. It works out well. His photos have gained international recognition and awards, and his work has been displayed worldwide, including at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

To contact Spencer directly or view more of his work, visit his website at Spencer Cox Photography. Or, follow him on Facebook and 500px.

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The Isolite intelligent modifier system lets you change a photo’s lighting after it’s taken

01 Dec

An intriguing new lighting system called Isolite just launched on Kickstarter. The system of hardware accessories for strobes and speedlights comprises what parent company Phototechnica calls the “first ever intelligent light modifier.” What does that actually mean? Basically, with Isolite, photographers are able to modify the lighting in an image after taking it.

Phototechnica stresses that this process involves turning on and off actual lighting in the image, not simply lightening /darkening it or adjusting contrast—this is the real deal, not a post-processing trick.

The Isolite system doesn’t require a 3D render or special camera to enable light changes during post-processing. Raw images are converted by the Isolite converter, which enables users to adjust the image’s lighting before outputting it as a raw DNG file. That final DNG file can then be edited with compatible software like Capture One and Lightroom.

Phototechnica lists the following capabilities on its Kickstarter campaign:

  • Turn real lights on and off after the capture has been made.
  • Push, Pull, Paint light after the capture has been made.
  • Hard and soft light in one capture.
  • Adjust the exposure and ratio of each light source after the capture has been made.
  • With selective masking of each light source, difficult or impossible lighting control can be done with ease.
  • Light can be animated after capture turning still image captures into full motion video.
  • Using our proprietary tools, online images can be brought to life with light.

Here’s a video intro the further explains what the Isolite system is and how it works:

As far as hardware is concerned, the Isolite system features the Duolite and Beauty Dish Kit. The gear is designed to work with popular Speedlight sizes, most legacy Speedlights, the newest Profoto and Tri/Bowens Mount Strobes, plus there are adapters for using it with Elinchrom products.

Phototechnica is offering the Isolite Dualite through Kickstarter for pledges of at least $ 195 CAD (~$ 150 USD), a Dualite Speedlight Kit for $ 250 CAD (~$ 195 USD), Isolite Studio for $ 500 CAD (~$ 390 USD), and the Isolite Deluxe Studio for $ 1500 CAD (~$ 1,165 USD). The campaign is also offering early bird versions to backers who make pledges starting at $ 95 CAD (~$ 75 USD).

For now the campaign has a long way to go before its funding goal is met, and only 15 days to get there, so we’re not holding our breath on this one. But if the campaign is successful, shipments to some backers are estimated to start in May 2018.

To find out more or put down your own pledge, head over to the Kickstarter campaign.

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Kodak reveals how and when it’s bringing back 35mm Ektachrome film

17 Nov
Photo: Kodak

Kodak first announced the rebirth of Ektachrome way back in January at CES. Along with Kodak Alaris—who will distribute the 35mm Kodak Professional Ektachrome film for stills shooters—the company said it would bring back Ektachrome by the end of 2017… and then promptly stopped talking about it.

But if you were worried that Kodak had given up on the idea, fear not: in a new episode of the Kodakery podcast, a few of Kodak’s higher ups (including Marketing and Product Manager Diane Carroll-Yacoby) updated the world on the progress of the Ektachrome reboot, how they’re making it, and what testing still stand between your hands and a fresh 36-shot roll of the stuff.

You can listen to the entire Kodakery podcast update below:

The first half of the podcast is mostly a photography and history lesson: discussing the origins of Ektachrome, its ‘characteristics’ (read: limitations), and how Kodak has managed to bring it back to life after discontinuing it in 2013. But if you want to get into the “how and when” of the matter, you’ll want to skip to the 22 minute mark.

That’s where we get to learn about how difficult it is to bring back a film like Ektachrome—which is made up of 80 ingredients, some of them no longer available to purchase—and how Kodak is making the economics of Ektachrome work by creating it in smaller, more sustainable batches.

You’ll want to listen to the discussion to really get the details of how the film is made, but here are a few of the most interesting tidbits about the revival process (for us anyway):

  • Kodak has managed to either find or manufacture all 80 ingredients required to make Ektachrome.
  • Much of the process so far has involved retooling the formula so it will work on the machines available to them, because they no longer have all of the equipment they had when Ektachrome was being developed previously.
  • They’ve already produced some ‘pilot coatings’ that they are testing to ensure they’re ready to mass produce Ektachrome that’s up to snuff.
  • When they’re ready to go, they will be making rolls using a coater that produces the film on sheets that are 4 feet wide and 6,000 feet long. The first of these ‘wide’ rolls will be produced before the end of 2017, and will be used for internal testing.
  • Kodak will be making a single (4ft x 6,000ft) roll for the first production run, so they don’t have to hold on to too much inventory at one time.
  • Kodak Ektachrome’s market release is planned for 2018.

Eastman Kodak itself will produce all of the film and plans to distribute the Super 8 cinema version of Ektachrome, while Kodak Alaris will distribute the 35mm slide film for stills shooters. For now, we still don’t know exactly when Ektachrome is coming back in 2018, but as soon as we do, we’ll let you know so you can mark your calendars.

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DxOMark republishes Pentax 645Z results and it’s as good as we always suspected

15 Nov

In a move likely to completely silence all whispers of chicanery, DxOMark has finally published its results for Ricoh’s Pentax 645Z. The camera just misses out on being hailed as the best stills camera sensor ever (as it would have been, when data was first published for the camera back in 2015), but it still scores a very impressive 101 points.

And, as we know, points mean… Er…

Several years after its release, the 645Z still holds its own in the company of some excellent cameras built around similar sensors.

The results themselves are very similar to those of the Hasselblad X1D 50c, which itself is based around a very similar Sony CMOS sensor (albeit for at least $ 3000 more). How much of the difference can be ascribed to better readout circuitry, how much to the Hasselblad’s use of 15-bit Raw files (I mean, that extra 0.1EV of DR has to live somewhere), and how much is simply within the tests’ margin of error it’s impossible to know.

Still, we can now be certain that, while not quite the best sensor in the world, is 99% as good as the best sensor DxO has tested.

In all seriousness, though, whatever the reason for the delay, it’s a seriously impressive performance from a very aggressively-priced camera. And, since we have first-hand knowledge of how difficult it is to get a 645Z for long enough to do extensive testing on, we think it’s great to see its performance recognized.

Click here to read DxOMark’s assessment

Press Release:

Pentax 645Z: A great choice for medium-format shooters

PARIS – November 14, 2017 – DxOMark has just published the results of its in-depth analysis of the Pentax 645Z medium-format camera. With an overall DxOMark sensor score of 101 points, the Pentax 645Z has the second-highest-scoring sensor we’ve ever tested, beaten only by the 51.4Mp Sony sensor in the Hasselblad X1D-50c. The 645Z achieves extremely good sub-scores, indicating that it can capture a huge range of colors and tones in a single file.

It’s clear from our testing that the Pentax 645Z’s sensor is extremely capable, coming within a whisper of matching the performance of the Hasselblad X1D sensor. Its high dynamic range and color sensitivity make the 645Z ideally suited for capturing the types of scenes that are traditionally favored by medium-format photographers — landscapes, weddings, portraits, and other photographic genres that require capturing images with lots of detail, low noise, and smooth tonal gradations.

In addition, the Pentax 645Z controls noise well, making it suitable for use in relatively low light, and perhaps expanding the range of conditions in which medium-format cameras are traditionally used.

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Why it’s Important to Have a Good Relationship With Your Camera

12 Nov

I don’t like upgrading my camera; I’m rather content with the old one I have. I’m not one to worry so much now about the changes in technology. These days it seems there’s nothing really new under the sun. My trusty Nikon D800 is like a close friend, we have a good relationship.

The Importance of Having a Good Relationship With Your Camera

The advancements in camera technology have now slowed down and we already have more than enough megapixels to overflow our hard drives. So in my opinion, being content with a (slightly) older camera can help improve your photography more than if you are continually hankering for an upgrade.

Is your camera good enough?

Recently we had a customer on one of our photography workshops tell us they’d bought a few new lenses and were happy with them and next they wanted to upgrade their camera. I pointed out the camera they already have is way more advanced and can produce higher resolution photographs than most of the cameras I have ever used, (over the last 35 years I have used quite a few).

The Importance of Having a Good Relationship With Your Camera

My wife also loves her Nikon D800.

Having a close relationship with my camera is important to me. We need to know each other. The feeling I have for my camera enables me to obtain more interesting, dynamic, and relational photographs than I could make if I was using a brand new camera, (especially if was a brand of equipment with which I am not familiar). Having such a close and good relationship with your camera will make you a better photographer.

Use your camera with ease

If you can get to know your camera so well that you don’t have to consciously think every time you want to change a setting, you will have more energy to focus on your subject and the creative aspects of picture making. Being able to enjoy photography without your camera being the main focus of your attention is far more conducive to making great photos than having a brand new camera that you are unfamiliar with.

The keys to any good relationship are:

  • Compatibility
  • Frequent connection
  • Meaningful communication
  • Positive feelings

The Importance of Having a Good Relationship With Your Camera

Working with a camera you are just not comfortable with will not result in a good relationship. If you have small hands and your camera is large, you will struggle to operate it easily and it will be uncomfortable for you to hold. Likewise, if you have large hands and a small camera you will not find the experience of making photos as pleasurable as when you have a camera that suits you better.

If you find the controls awkward to manage, the image resolution disappointing, etc., you might want to consider a camera that’s more compatible. However, most cameras these days are well designed and crammed full of technology that produces incredible quality images. So you are probably better off committing more time to getting to know your current camera better.

Use your camera often

Frequent connection with your camera, as with your friends, will produce a richer relationship, especially when it’s a meaningful connection. Finding a subject, a location, or style of photography you really enjoy will ensure you want to spend more time with your camera in your hands.

This can take time, and can change over time, but when you have a passion for something or someone you naturally want to dedicate more of your time to that relationship.

The Importance of Having a Good Relationship With Your Camera

When you are so familiar with your camera that your attention is more focused on your subject, the timing, composition, and lighting, you will find a far greater enjoyment in photography. You will also likely see a big improvement in the photos you are producing.

Know your craft

In our modern consumer societies you are constantly reminded by advertisers there’s something else you must buy. I believe if you constantly upgrade you are potentially missing out on the depth of artistry that can be achieved by being intimate with your camera and your craft.

The Importance of Having a Good Relationship With Your Camera

A while ago I had a wonderful experience photographing two men putting finishing touches to some beautiful artworks. I was in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul looking for the copper workers quarter which I had read about. I spent quite some time searching for it and literally walked around in circles and ended up back at the same place more than once. But I was determined to find this place as I really love making photos of craftspeople working.

Eventually, I heard a “tink tink tink” sound and followed my ears down an ancient arched alleyway. I went up a staircase, and into a courtyard surrounded by two-story buildings with hundreds of pots, pans, lamps and other items all crafted in copper.

The Importance of Having a Good Relationship With Your Camera

I continued farther to the source of the sound and was welcomed into a small workshop. With no common language, I gestured to my camera and received a thumbs up for me to take photographs there. The two men working on the art pieces were being watched by an older man, (I learned he was the father of one and uncle of the other.)

Another man arrived after a while and some discussion took place. That man was a customer coming to buy their art and he spoke some English. I asked him to help me because I had a question. How long, how many generations, had this family been working with copper and creating such art?

The lost art of generations

My question was translated and a long discussion ensued. Then all three family members looked at me and shrugged. They did not know. Their families have been copper craftsmen for so long and been passing on the skills of this lifestyle so long that nobody knew the answer to my question.

I was not surprised. Looking at what they were producing and at the pride on the older man’s face, it was evident they were not novices. They know their craft and their tools so well they made it look like what they were doing was somewhat effortless. But this is the result of a generations-long relationship with their materials and tools, (some of which may be generations old) frequent use of them, and an obvious passion for what they do.

The Importance of Having a Good Relationship With Your Camera


For more on loving your camera, watch the video below:

As you are pushed to spend money, rather than time, on your creative photographic expression, I believe you are in danger of losing touch with the depth and meaning that can be obtained by a more conscious connection with the camera you already own.

So if you are tempted to upgrade your camera let me encourage you to consider holding on to the one you already have for a while. Learn to love it and you will see the results in an improvement in your picture making.

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Why it’s a Good Idea to Take Lots of Photos

05 Nov

Take lots of photos. Lots and lots of photos. Make mistakes. Lots of them. The more photos you take and the more mistakes you make, the better the photographer you will become.

I’m not encouraging you to blaze away with your camera like you’ve got a machine gun and are an actor in a B-grade action movie, you won’t improve your photography doing that. You need to carefully consider many aspects of what you are doing and make sure every frame you shoot is different than the previous one.

Why it's a Good Idea to Take Lots of Photos

Increase your odds

Whether you’re photographing your kid’s birthday party, a street protest, graduation portrait or studio product shot for your website, there’s always a multitude of variables. Taking minimal photos is going to reduce your chances of success.

Varying the composition, timing, and exposure for each picture you take will give you more options when you come to edit your photos and choose the best of them.

Vary the composition and move around

Even the slightest changes in composition can produce significantly different photos. So if you only take one or two frames without moving your camera you might be missing the best angle.

Why it's a Good Idea to Take Lots of Photos

Small variations in composition can make a significant difference.

Moving your position from side to side and up and down, even just slightly, or adjusting the focal length when you are shooting a static subject will provide you with a series of different images.

Then later, when you’re editing, you will have the benefit of multiple different photos to choose from.

Moving subjects

Why it's a Good Idea to Take Lots of Photos

Taking a series of photos when one or more elements in your composition are moving gives different results.

When photographing a moving subject it’s always best to take lots of photos. As the location of your subject changes the dynamic of the photo can be varied in many ways. The relationship of your subject to the background will alter, for better or for worse.

The distance between your subject and your camera may change, possibly resulting in an out of focus photo. When your subject is moving, their position within your frame will be different from moment to moment. So it makes good sense to take a series of images, rather than just one or two.

Timing the moments you choose to make an exposure has a major impact on the outcome of your photo, especially when you have more than one element in your composition that’s moving. If you limit the number of photos you make you will risk the missing the best opportunity.

Continuous shooting mode

Why it's a Good Idea to Take Lots of Photos

In many situations, holding the shutter release button down with your camera set to continuous shooting (burst) mode will not often give you the best results unless you carefully consider your actions.

If you are observant and know your subject, taking time to track the action and choosing the moments you make your exposures will give you better results. Use continuous shooting mode carefully when you need it, otherwise, you will be trying to choose your best photos later from a myriad of exposures with insignificant differences.

Exposure variations

Why it's a Good Idea to Take Lots of Photos

Experiment with exposure settings.

Experimenting with different exposure setting is another good way to produce an interesting variety of images of the same subject, especially if the contrast range in your composition is broad.

If you prefer making photos using one of your camera’s auto modes, make a few exposures like that, then switch to Manual mode. Make more photos, adjusting the exposure slightly for each one.

By taking exposure meter readings from different locations with your camera’s spot meter and adjusting your settings accordingly, it can give you a range of more diverse photos than you would have if you only use an automatic exposure mode.

It’s all in the details

Why it's a Good Idea to Take Lots of Photos

Recomposing slightly avoided the bright line connecting with the flower.

Paying attention to detail when you are photographing can make the biggest difference in achieving fabulous photos or just mediocre ones. Taking your time to carefully observe the elements within your frame as you line up your camera to take a photo is essential.

Watch for changes to the light that will affect your exposure. Watch for movement and make deliberate adjustments to your composition. These are all ways that will add depth and an extra dynamic to your photography. However, if you are simply not taking enough photos you are truly limiting your opportunities to be making your best photographs.

Oftentimes the first angle you think of and photograph will not be the best. And, if you only make one or two exposures, you will not get the best photograph. The second composition you choose may be smarter, but all the smart people will do the same. The third step you make with your camera angle, composition, timing, etc., will likely give you a more pleasing, unique result and even lead to more inspired choices for subsequent frames.

Why it's a Good Idea to Take Lots of Photos

Over to you

By taking your time, observing carefully, and considering the various options of how you can set your exposure and frame your subject – it will give you an opportunity to get a diverse range of photos.

Time your exposures so the action is at its peak and your composition works. Then making variations on your choices will return you considerably more options of good photos to choose from. If you just make one or two exposures without making any changes it’s highly possible you will be missing out on making the best photographs possible. So always take lots of photos.

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Macphun has changed its name to ‘Skylum’ now that it’s not Mac-only

02 Nov

Macphun—the Mac-based software company that launched about seven years ago—branched out onto the Windows platform this year with the debut of its HDR and Luminar products for PC. In light of that, Macphun has decided to change its name to the platform-agnostic moniker Skylum, explaining in a blog post that, “we think that this name is a better fit, since we’re no longer a Mac-only developer.”

The company will fully transition to the Skylum name in early 2018.

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The D850 is Nikon’s best video camera yet, but it’s not ideal for beginners

23 Oct

What’s it like to use D850 as a video camera?

Despite there being a mirror between the sensor and the thing you’re trying to film, the D850 is a pretty capable video camera

SLRs weren’t really designed for video but, thanks to the pioneering work of the Canon 5D Mark II, it’s increasingly expected to be a feature they offer. Nikon has struggled more than its big rival in this respect, not helped by a reliance on contrast detect AF and a lens mount designed around the assumption that you’d never need to change aperture while taking a shot. It’s also been somewhat held back by not having a camcorder or broadcast equipment division to lean on during the development process.

Despite all these hurdles, the D850 is the company’s most capable video camera yet, with 4K capture taken from the full width of the sensor. But how videographer-friendly is accessing this capability? And, just as importantly for this do-everything super camera, what’s it like to use for stills shooters, such as wedding photographers and photojournalists who’re increasingly being asked to capture clips as well as stills?


Beyond the headline specs: 4K UHD capture from the full sensor width or 1.5x crop and slow mo 1080 from 120 fps capture, Nikon has added a host of features to make video capture easier.

The most obvious of these features is the addition of focus peaking to help indicate the plane of focus as you shoot. As is fairly common, there are three settings for peaking intensity and a choice of four colors. In addition, there’s a zebra-style highlight warning for setting exposure. But, as we’ll see, having a feature and having it well implemented are not always the same thing.

Having a feature and having it well implemented are not always the same thing

Other features include a Flat Picture Control color profile, which uses a low-contrast tone curve to avoid clipping to black as aggressively as the standard stills profiles do. Some users have tried to create Log or psuedo-Log profiles using Nikon’s Picture Control Utility software, but we’ve not had a chance to test any of these yet, and we’ve not heard of any attempts to build LUTs to simplify the grading process.

There are some other nice touches, too. The camera records its starting aperture and ISO setting along with other shooting metadata such as Picture Style and D-Lighting setting with each clip. This is something you take for granted as a stills shooter, but without any widely-adopted equivalent of the EXIF standard, it’s still pretty rare for the kinds of hybrid stills/video cameras we usually encounter.

The experience

The experience doesn’t always live up to the promise that this list of video-friendly features might imply. Sadly, it’s the headline features that fail first.

The D850 has focus peaking but it can’t be used when you’re shooting 4K. Or when you’re using electronic stabilization. Or Slo-Mo mode. Or when you’ve got highlight warnings engaged. Or in combination with Active D-Lighting. Which, in my experience, isn’t that different from not having focus peaking at all.

The highlight warnings are a lot better. They’re easily engaged* via the touchscreen and persist across the different view modes (grid view, histogram, audio meters, virtual horizon) as you cycle through them. They’re fairly simplistic, though, only indicating areas brighter than the threshold, so they can’t be set to indicate regions that are roughly 75% for Caucasian skin tones, for instance. Also, this threshold is specified in 8-bit brightness values, not IRE %, as is more common.

Then, of course, there’s video autofocus, which is every bit as bad as you’d expect of a system designed around contrast detection using lenses that weren’t. It’s jumpy and indecisive, even when asked to pull focus between two stationary objects.

However, the touchscreen access to many key settings is very good, allowing you to adjust the audio capture on-the-fly without the need for any noise or vibration-creating button presses.

Better still is the option to use the two buttons on the camera’s front plate to adjust either exposure compensation (if you’re using Auto ISO to maintain brightness in manual exposure mode) or Power Aperture, the smooth, motor-driven aperture control mode. These buttons are easily accessible as you shoot, without causing too much camera shake.

What does this end up meaning?

For experienced videographers, none of these are issues you can’t work around to one degree or another. Planning shots to minimize the need to refocus or ‘blocking’ a shot so that any movement is predictable are pretty basic techniques. When working this way, using magnified live view or tap-to-focus single AF to set initial focus then using the lens distance scale to judge movement may be enough.

Alternatively, adding on an external recorder will often bring much more powerful versions of Zebra and Peaking tools where the D850 fumbles, as well as features such as waveforms and false color that are vanishingly rare on hybrid cameras anyway.

Videographers are likely to appreciate the features gained from Nikon’s well-polished stills interface

The camera’s HDMI output is limited to an 8-bit 4:2:2 stream, so there won’t be a big hike in quality, but the videographer willing to experiment with homebrew Log-like profiles will no doubt find it a very capable camera. Ultimately, the D850’s video quality is easily good enough to make these sorts of workarounds worthwhile.

Videographers are also likely to appreciate the degree to which the video side of the camera has gained from Nikon’s well-polished stills interface. Hold the ISO button and the rear dial changes ISO while the front toggles Auto ISO, hold the WB button down when one of the camera’s 6 (!) Custom WB values is selected and you can set a new custom value at the tap of the rear controller. It’s pretty slick when you’re out and shooting.

For stills shooters

For the less experienced video shooter the D850 is likely to be quite a handful, though. Without usable autofocus, you’ll need to learn how to manual focus and minimize the need to, to work around the camera’s shortcomings. This makes it challenging for anyone who can’t control or choreograph the action, which is likely to include exactly the sort of wedding photographers and photojournalists who might be attracted to the D850.

However, you won’t need to learn too much about video exposure in order to make use of highlight warnings and the simple aperture control on the camera, beyond basics such as the 180 degree shutter ‘rule.’

This is helped by at least one feature we’ve been requesting for many years: the camera retains two banks of shooting settings, one for stills, one for video. This means you can specify a custom white balance and color profile and choose exposure settings (including ISO behavior) for video, then jump back to your stills settings at a moment’s notice.

In a clever piece of design, you can even define a button let you check your stills settings, while you’re shooting movies, so you need never be caught out. But this two-setting design is perfect for wedding shooters, who can hit the shutter button to shoot a grabbed still, fractions of a second after capturing some video footage, without the risk of everything looking, well, a bit Flat.

It’s also worth noting that the “e-stabilizer” mode that’s available when shooting 1080 footage is very impressive, making on-the-go handheld shooting a realistic proposition. Better still, its resolution is near indistinguishable from the unstabilized variety, so you can shoot both and intercut at will.

Overall, then, there’s a lot to like about the D850 and Nikon deserves recognition for putting a lot of thought and effort into making its video capture better. However, it does little to make video any easier to shoot for video novices in a way that Canon’s Dual Pixel AF system does. For now, at least, you still need to build up plenty of videography experience to work your way around the D850’s wobbly AF and occasional quirks.

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3 Times it’s Okay to Consider Offering Free Sessions

20 Oct

If you’ve made the transition from a hobbyist photographer to a part-time or full-time professional photographer, chances are that you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about your pricing. You’ve likely looked over your cost of doing business and the cost of goods sold. You’ve probably had to have some difficult conversations with friends and family members establishing that you can’t work for free.

These are all really important parts of starting (and maintaining) a photography business. However, it’s also just as important to sit down and identify some instances in which you would consider donating your services. In this article, we’ll talk about three times you might consider offering free sessions or options at a reduced rate.

3 Times it's Okay to Consider Offering Free Sessions

1. New Technique or Gear

If you’ve always wanted to try newborn photography, it might make sense to offer reduced rate or free sessions. This will help you build your portfolio while perfecting your technique at the same time. Let’s be clear–offering free sessions shouldn’t replace classes and workshops designed to teach you proper technique and safety. Instead, you should consider offering free or discounted sessions after taking a class or workshop in order to implement the new techniques you’ve learned.

Learning Newborn Photography - 3 Times it's Okay to Consider Offering Free Sessions

Similarly, if you want to break into wedding photography, it might make sense to offer to assist a local wedding photographer for free. You’ll learn a lot by watching the primary photographer manage the flow of the day and seeing how they interact with the bride, groom, and guests. Additionally, depending on your contract, you may even end up with images that you can use as part of your own portfolio.

3 Times it's Okay to Consider Offering Free Sessions

Likewise, if you’ve just upgraded from a crop sensor to a full frame camera, you’ll probably want to take that equipment for a test drive before using it with a paying client. It may very well be that you can get your bearings photographing your kids in your own backyard. However, depending on the genre of photography you specialize in, it might make more sense to put out a model call on social media and offer a mini session that will allow you to put your new gear to the test in a low stakes environment.

Learning Newborn Photography - 3 Times it's Okay to Consider Offering Free Sessions

2. For a Creative Photography Project

I spend most of my time photographing newborns, children, and families. As a young mom myself, I really love that genre of photography and feel passionate about helping families preserve their memories.

That said, because I spend so much time photographing people, I make a concerted effort to take on a creative photography project that doesn’t involve people at least once a year. Sometimes, that may mean begging a winery to let me come photograph their grapes after hours in exchange for allowing them to use the images on social media.

3 Times it's Okay to Consider Offering Free Sessions

Other times, it has meant asking a local photographer for half an hour to pick his brain about astrophotography in exchange for snapping a photo of his family for their annual Christmas card. For me, the point isn’t to actually become an astrophotographer. Lord knows this image isn’t winning any astrophotography awards anytime soon, and it feels really uncomfortable to share something publicly that isn’t perfect.

But the point isn’t to be perfect with a creative project. The point is to stretch yourself in ways that you normally don’t, realizing that sometimes the journey is more important than the final destination.

3 Times it's Okay to Consider Offering Free Sessions

Ideas for your project

Perhaps you are already an award-winning astrophotographer, and you’d really like to stretch yourself by doing some child or family photography. Consider asking a friend if they’ll meet you at a park to try photographing them and their children. Try snapping a few images at your nephew’s next soccer game. Ask a friend that loves to bake if you could photograph the next cheesecake he or she makes. The point is that you’ll never grow as a photographer if you don’t take risks. Similarly, it can feel easier to take risks and do something new if you’re not being paid–there’s really nothing to lose.

The point is that you’ll never grow as a photographer if you don’t take risks. Similarly, it can feel easier to take risks and do something new if you’re not being paid–there’s really nothing to lose.

3 Times it's Okay to Consider Offering Free Sessions

3. Partner With a Non-profit You Care About

You’ve probably already been asked to donate a photo session to a non-profit’s fundraiser or auction. This is a great way to give back to the community, and it’s not my intention to discourage you from doing so. However, more and more frequently I’m finding that donating my services directly to the non-profits that I care about is an even more rewarding way to stretch my creative ability and become involved in my community at the same time. Perhaps, instead of donating a session gift certificate, offer to come photograph the office staff, an event the non-profit is holding, or the population that the non-profit serves.

Perhaps, instead of donating a session gift certificate, offer to come photograph the office staff, an event the non-profit is holding, or the population that the organization serves.

3 Times it's Okay to Consider Offering Free Sessions

In doing so, you will likely learn more about the organization itself, their mission, and the community as a whole. Your local humane society would probably love images of the animals in their care. A nearby NICU may be completely blown away by the offer to come photograph the families and babies they serve. Your child’s school may love abstract photography of kids that they could hang on their walls or use as reminder postcards. If you’re religious, your church would probably love photos of their upcoming baptisms or other special religious ceremonies.

Serve your community

This sort of partnership isn’t about parlaying the non-profit organizations into future clients. Rather, it is about using your time and talent to bless others in your community. There are opportunities to use your gifts and talents to make the world better–use them.

Sometimes the things that a non-profit may ask for may be completely outside of your normal wheelhouse. You may have to tell them that you don’t think you’d be the best person for the job they have in mind. Other times, you may feel comfortable telling them that though their idea is outside your normal wheelhouse, you’d be happy to give it a try. Both responses are absolutely okay, but I’ve never regretted trying an unusual request that a non-profit has given me!

3 Times it's Okay to Consider Offering Free Sessions


Have you identified instances in which you will consider offering reduced rate or free sessions? Do you partner with any local non-profits in order to give back? Chime in below and tell us about your experiences.

The post 3 Times it’s Okay to Consider Offering Free Sessions by Meredith Clark appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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