Today’s post is a bit exciting, for two reasons, the first simply being that the photos are kind of good. In fact, I would go so far as to say that these are some of my best portraits I’ve ever shot. Perhaps not an awesome feat but nevertheless I’m very happy with them.
I dragged my girls outside after dinner when the sun was starting to get a bit lower in the sky. Time of day and location really are huge factors for this kind of shoot; I can control the former but I’m rather limited when it comes to the latter. Luckily we have some trees and stuff around our flat, nothing much but enough to squeeze out a few decent locations – the tricky part is to avoid getting any buildings in the background.
The light is simple, just my standard two LP160 in a octabox. It’s coming in from camera left at about 45 degree angle. The second light is of course the sun and could actually be seen that as the main light in this scene. As you see there’s quite a heavy flare in these shots but that was intentional, I wanted to try that look since I’ve never really shot anything like that before. Next time I’ll probably try to control the flare more though; I like the look but it’s not something I want to do in every shot.
One thing that also helps explain the heavy flare is the fact that I shot this without a hood and wide open at f2, which brings us to the second exciting thing about these shot: they’re the first proper shots taken with my new camera. I’ve been wanting to upgrade for a long time now and finally I got approval from the wallet as well. The camera in question is Fuji’s new X100S, which is quite a bit different from the DSLR I’ve been shooting with up until this point. I’ve discussed my reasoning for getting a camera like this in a previous blog post, so I won’t go into that too much here (though feel free to ask questions in the comments if you have them). The main reason was that I wanted a camera that would get used more, not just something that comes out for serious work. I can tell you that this is definitely a camera that lives up to that. It will come with me whenever I go out.
So, as I mentioned, this was shot without a hood and that’s simply because I don’t have a hood yet (it’s on its way though). The hood should be able to control the flare a bit and of course you can always change the way you shoot as well.
One thing (of many) I love about the X100S is its leaf shutter. Without it these shots would have been a lot harder to pull off. What it does is that it allows you to sync your flash at almost any speed. My old camera had a maximum sync speed of 1/200 and these shots were all taken between 1/400-1/1000. So in order to get the same results with a 1/200 sync speed I would need to kill off an additional 1-2.25 stops of light, either by closing down the aperture or by applying a ND filter on the lens. That would also mean that the flashes would have to work a lot harder. For these shots my flashes were at 1/4 power, which is very comfortable. How fast you can sync will also be limited by the flash duration. I haven’t tried it yet but with the LP160s I should be able to sync at 1/1000 and 1/2 power, since the flash duration at 1/2 is around 1/1000. There may still be some power loss though. The X100S also has something else that makes shots like these easier and that’s the built-in ND filter, which allows you to kill 3-stops of light so you can keep the aperture wide open.
Another thing that I’m rather happy with about these shots is the colours. I’ve always felt that I’m really bad at getting the tones and colours that I want in my photos but this time it’s pretty much spot on. If you look below you can see what the original file looks like straight from raw and straight from camera jpeg.
I’m using very neutral settings for the out of camera jpegs but I have to say that they look really good. For pure snapshots I don’t think I’ll bother with the raw-files, the jpegs are plenty good enough.
What I did to get the colour right was to change the red and blue tone curves. The red was pulled up to add more red and the blue was pulled down to add more yellow. This achieves a different effect than simply choosing a warmer white balance. I’ll have to try this again in different lighting conditions to see if it was just luck or if I’m actually learning. Another big reason that the colours works so well is the fact the my subject’s clothes matches the location so well, something that I didn’t even consider until I saw her standing there.
I’ll probably take plenty of bad shots with the new camera soon enough, but the fact that I can get these kind of results when I get everything right gives me hope that I might actually be improving. I’m hoping to shoot more stuff that’s similar to this during the summer and then we’ll see if I can repeat the success.