promotion – Jennifer Rozenbaum’s lingerie guide for boudoir photographers

Jennifer Rozenbaum has released an 80-page guide teaching boudoir photographers about lingerie, accessories, tips and tricks to help them relate to their clients better. In addition it includes a 6 page cheat sheet that the photographers can customize with their own logos and images to present to their clients. It also includes a customizable check list for client use.

First, you learn about all different types of lingerie. You’ll learn the difference between a bustier and a corset. Which type of bra is best for flattering your client. The difference between the different thigh high styles. Then, you will read about tips and tricks. What do I keep in my studio in case of emergency? What kind of shoes are my favorite? Etc…

As a bonus – when you order you will get a customizable cheat sheet to present your clients to help THEM pick what is best for their shoot. Just add your logo and images and BAM! Better boudoir sessions for everyone!

The PDF is 80 pages. The Cheat Sheet is 6 pages and I also included a bonus packing list, customizable for your clients.

This package sells for $49, but there is a 10% discount for Tangents followers via this link.

The post promotion – lingerie guide for boudoir photographers appeared first on Tangents.

Die on wafer.

Last week I got a call from an advertising agency here in central Texas. I'd been recommended to them by another advertising agency and that's always a nice introduction. The new agency and client are involved in creating a new high technology market around a breakthrough process, and the machinery and attendant software to do the process. I know a decent amount about this particular area of tech and while I'm not an expert I'm pretty certain this will be amazing stuff, and the client will make lots of money. But before I get invited to play I have to pitch. 

So today I'm going to talk about the pitching process as it relates to specialties. Most of the half million or so "professional" photographers working today are working with some variation of consumer cameras, using battery operated strobes or winging it with the convenient phrase: "I am an available light specialist." Most of the people who sell work in the general photography market came up through the ranks as wedding and family photographers. Almost zero percent have worked with film, cameras with movements, or specialty lenses and lights. Even fewer come from technical backgrounds and understand technology processes.  When I go to pitch commercial clients I try to leverage my strengths against those weaknesses.

The first thing one should do when pitching a potential client is head straight to their website and read up. The reading should include all the white papers and product information. The research should go on to include everything you can find on Google and LinkedIn about the people to whom you will be presenting. Go all the way back to their college stats if you can find them. See where they've been and what their credentials are. Then go and research their competitors, if you can find them. Once you've done that then figure out where you fit in. Define all the things you can offer them and figure out the areas where you clearly excel over your own competitors. Have these features and benefits clearly in mind when you walk through the client's door.

In this particular case the client's executive team all came from high technologies industries. Their company sells physical machines that create a new technology product. But the key staff are also pure researchers who are working with light, polymers, and lots and lots of stored electricity. I knew I should lead with some pure technology to show them what I've done for previous generations of innovators so I led with things like die photos, the cover of IEEE magazine for which I shot the very first multi-core wafer created by IBM, and the image of the historic, first PowerPC device, which I shot for Motorola. I led with a dozen pure technology shots including a few from inside a .25 micron cleanroom because I knew the images would lead into a conversation that would allow me to show off my early technical education, my grasp of underlying physics and chemistry concepts driving their innovation, and my efforts to stay topically current about key areas of technology over the ensuing years. 

We were also able to share in discussions about using oil bath techniques on chip dies to eliminate certain diffraction effects when focused under the oil layer. We discussed light piping and planar staging and a few other issues having to do with 1x-5x magnification, technical photography, and I think it cemented, in their minds, that I understood the imaging challenges we'd be facing with some of their process and products. 

The next step in the presentation was to show industrial products shot in various ways, from server racks to small details. I love the red front panels on the Salient Systems servers and showed them because we could discuss the fact that the server front panels are curved in several dimensions and this created various reflections that needed to be eliminated. Walking them through that lighting process will pay off when we produce bids because the client and agency will better understand why some things take time.

I included a handful of "ghosted" images like the receiver below so the client could see an application I thought would work well for them; the ability to show off the product as a whole while highlighting interior technology that is the point of their selling proposition. 

As we did a "walk through" of their facility I asked cogent questions about the process so I could get a handle on how we might handle organizing the photographic assignments as part of a narrative to tell their story. The walk through gave me a chance to see things that might make the story better for a lay person like a procurement officer or non-technical finance director of a potential customer company.

While I showed a good proportion of product and techie images I didn't neglect the fun portraits done for the arts, or the environmental portraits of executives in a range of companies, because I know that while the client generally loves to tell the "technical" story the agency understands that people work with people and that websites and collateral need to be a balance of tech and real people from the company. I'm selfish, I want both sides. 

Finally, I asked about their proposed use of video and asked if they were interested in seeing a video presentation we'd done for another local technology company. They did so we fired it up on a 15 inch MacBook Pro and, at the end, asked me all the right questions. "How did we shoot it?" "What is my process for video projects?" "How big (read: disruptive) was my crew?" And my favorite: "Who does your scriptwriting?'

I've pitched a lot of clients over the years and I have a good feeling about this one but the presentation is just the first step. The next step will be fleshing out budgets and time tables and making sure we get fairly compensated while the client gets exactly what they need and want. I have no idea who else they are talking to but I know the cohort of people still working in the field with deeper knowledge of technology imaging is small and shrinking. This is a smart client looking for a long term relationship. They are looking for experience and track record. They'll look to their agency for the creative overlay. 

On every pitch I've ever participated in I've learned new stuff. This time around I had to scramble to put together industrial work because it's not "sexy" like beautiful people shots and movie stars. It's not the kind of stuff we routinely share on the web or stuff into portfolios but if you are pursuing work with manufacturers and inventors it's pretty critical to have proof of performance in hand. 

The next time around I'll have a more locked down system for pulling up older work and consolidating the "heroes" from current work into centralized promotional catalogs that I can dip into quickly. The final point of photographic interest to me in this process was the wide variety of cameras and lenses that was represented within the material I showed. 

The video was shot with current GH4 cameras. The server racks with the same GH4's. The D2A receiver was shot in 2004 with a Kodak DCS 760. The PowerPC processor was shot with a bellows and 120 Makro Planar on a Hasselblad film camera, while the die image at the top of the article was done with a Canon 1DS mk2 with a 50mm Olympus macro lens on a bellows---camera and stage bolted to a custom modified copy stand. I showed a few main frame computers we'd shot with 4x5 inch view cameras and transparency film. And there were ample samples from DX frame Nikons and Canons as well as some full frame Sony stuff from the a99 and a850. Funny thing? They all look uniform in an on screen presentation.  Lighting and style trump gear?

The final steps in the presentation process are: follow up with "thank you" notes to the agency and client, and the delivery of a nice gift to the agency that (once again) recommended me. 

None of this has to do with the actual process of taking photographs but I thought I'd share my thinking about the process of actually getting the work. It's a bit tougher than just prancing in, showing a leather book filled with prints of various generic images and walking out with a purchase order. But really? It's always been this way.

Rack Mount Servers.

The very first PowerPC device from the Somerset Consortium. Hello RISC.

See through product shot. D2Audio.

high-speed flash sync (HSS) with the Profoto B1 portable flash

The already impressive Profoto B1 500 W/s AirTTL flash (vendor) became even more awesome in Dec 2014 when high-speed flash sync (HSS) capability was added through a firmware update.

The photo above was taken at 1/2000 @ f/1.4 @ 100 ISO. I wanted that super-shallow depth-of-field, and I wanted the light to be more flattering than you’d get from a bare speedlight. In this case, I used a Profoto RFi 1’×3′ softbox with the Profoto B1. (I kept both baffles on the softbox.)

The summary: it works! But there are a few minor limitations or quirks though that you have to be aware of. (More about this in the summary at the end of this article.)

For the photo of Melanie at the start of this article, I didn’t want any of the dappled sunlight on her. I just wanted the light from the softbox & Profoto B1 on her. Crouching down low in the middle of the road, my car shaded the sunlight.

I used the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG here, since I knew I’d get crisp images, even wide open. Check out the review: Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART lens to see just how well it performs.


camera settings & photo gear (or equivalents) used

  • 1/2000  @  f/1.4  @  100 ISO  … with Profoto B1 off-camera flash

The winter sun coming through the barren trees next to the side of the road, made for a stark backdrop. I wanted that f/1.4 aperture again to isolate her from what could’ve been visual clutter at a smaller aperture. Here I pulled the power down on the Profoto B1 to level 8 so I wouldn’t over-expose. I had to pull the light a bit further back to make sure the flash exposure was good.

  • 1/800 @ f/1.4 @ 100 ISO


  • 1/800 @ f/1.4 @ 100 ISO



The Profoto B1 is now a formidable portable light source for any photographer who shoots on location. There are a few quirks with the Profoto B1 in high-speed flash sync:

  • HSS is only available over a 2 stop range. (From power level 8 to 10.)
  • there is a slight color shift as the shutter speed is increased.
  • there is an initial 2-stop light loss as the flash goes into HSS mode. However, this means only a 1-stop loss in practice. (The reasoning behind this is left as a bit of homework at the end of this article.)
  • during repeated tests, I occasionally noticed that the flash exposure was slightly uneven at the long edges of the frame. (This is for the image left-to-right in vertical position / top and bottom edges when in horizontal position.) This has very little effect in practice, especially when shooting on location where you would actually use HSS.

Even with these few limitations and things you’d have to adjust for, the Profoto B1 500 W/s AirTTL flash (vendor) has now been improved to the point where it truly is an exceptional on-location light.


related articles


a little bit of homework

As one would expect from a flash that goes in to high-speed flash sync, there is a linear change in output as the shutter speed is pushed up. For every stop over 1/500th and up, the output drops by a stop. This is discussed thoroughly in the high-speed flash sync tutorial, and in my book, Off-Camera Flash Photography.

With the Profoto B1, there is an approximate 2-stop light loss initially as the flash goes into HSS mode. Just as you go from 1/250th to 1/500. (Or whatever your camera’s max flash sync speed might be.)

However, this actually means only a 1-stop loss in practice. The homework part – figure out why a 2 stop light loss only means 1 stop change when used on location with bright ambient light?

The post high-speed flash sync (HSS) with the Profoto B1 portable flash appeared first on Tangents.

Click Through to the Free Book.

When it's over it's over.

A Friday morning update: The book is #2 in "Action and Adventure" in the Kindle store:

Product Details

    Please let all your friends know about the free book deal. We've given away over 4,000 copies. I'd love to make it 10,000 by midnight tonight. Thanks. Enjoy.


    business headshots in the studio, with a contemporary / modern look

    When Matt Sweetwood, the owner of the largest Camera Store in New Jersey, discussed doing new new business headshots for him, we agreed that a more contemporary look suited him. There’s a large dynamic personality at work here … and using an 85mm f/1.4 lens wide open would place attention on his eyes and his expression. Nothing else is really in focus aside from his eyes, and this really makes for a compelling portrait that grabs your attention.

    We shot various sequences, with the background brighter and darker. In the end we settled on a sequence of images with the lighting shown in the top photograph – it has an airy brightness to it, and looks modern. With the colors muted like that, it draws attention to his expression even more. No bright colors to distract.

    We also had fun with various expressions just to mix it up a bit.


    lighting setup & camera gear used

    • 1/200 @ f/1.4 @ 40 ISO
    • Nikon D810
    • Nikon 85mm f/1.4

    These and any other photo gear can be ordered from Unique Photo.

    The low ISO settings that the D810 offers, helped in maintaining that wide aperture with studio lighting.

    The lighting setup used Profoto D1 studio lights, with the main light modified by a Profoto 5′ Octabox
    Click through on the image for the exact description of the lighting setup.



    related articles

    The post modern / contemporary business headshots in the studio appeared first on Tangents.

    A mirror free camera with a 50mm f1.8 lens. Boston, Mass.

    Off to meet one of my long tenured friends for happy hour. Maybe she will have the secret of the universe. I'm pretty sure it has little to do with photography.

    Resume following me on Twitter:
    The I.T. Center Lobby at the University of Texas at Austin.

     The reception area in the Student Services building at Brandeis University.

    I like visiting colleges. I taught for a while at the University of Texas at Austin and I also hang out over at Austin Community College when I go see my buddy, Bill. He's the chair of the Photography Department there. Sometimes he invites me over to talk to the students.  The nicer colleges invest a lot of money for places to sit down and swill coffee. That appeals to me. Sitting, drinking coffee and reading. Nice work if you can get it...

    If you work somewhere and the coffee is not good does it seem reasonable to talk to the people in H.R.? I'm thinking about starting a VSL H.R. department so I can complain to myself about my variable ability to make decent coffee. But I don't want to ruffle any feathers...

    Resume following me on Twitter:

    I hate what happens to black and white prints when I upload them to Blogger. They get grayed down. The surrounds go from 95% to about 74% and it makes me crazy. Oh well. This is the last image I'll show in the series of Art Historians and it is my personal favorite.

    I'm not sure why other than that I like the tilt of the subject's head, the accessorizing of the scarf and neck chain as well as the tuft of hair right in the middle of this accomplished woman's forehead. No features, I am afraid, that would pass the test of modern portrait imaging as approved by the web at large. But then the audience for these images was an entirely different demographic...

    It was 80 degrees in Austin today with bright sunshine. I bought a tank of gas today for $1.70 a gallon. The world has turned upside down.

    I hope everyone who regularly reads VSL is happy, well and warm.

    Resume following me on Twitter:

    photography workshops for 2015

    The group photography workshops are full-day events – and are a mixture of seminar presentation and practical shooting. The workshops will be held at my studio space in NJ. There is free parking, and it is easily reached from the main highways in the area. There is also regular bus transport from NYC. (We can fetch you from the bus terminal.)

    The fee for the full-day workshop is $600 and the workshop is from 9am to 8pm. Lunch and refreshments are included!

    The workshops are now limited to 6 people – and working within my own studio with more equipment readily at hand, gave the workshop a relaxed tempo. The material is always streamlined a little bit more, from workshop to workshop.

    More info about the photography workshops.

    The three workshops for 2015 will take place on:

    • May 17, 2015  (Sunday)
    • July 19, 2015  (Sunday)
    • Sept 20, 2015  (Sunday)

    Book a spot at one of the workshops.  Each class will be limited to 6 people.

    If you would like an individual workshop, or a personal tutoring session, those are available as well throughout the year, depending on both of our schedules. The studio is only 17 miles from Manhattan. Just a short hop from New York and quite accessible by bus. Oh, and there’s parking at the studio. Free parking.

    If you are limited in how far you can travel, there are Skype sessions and also video tutorials to help you get a much better understanding of photography and lighting techniques.

    The post photography workshops appeared first on Tangents.

    I was having coffee with a friend yesterday afternoon. We were helping each other stay motivated with our respective projects. It's a great thing to have friends who will push you forward. Once you've discussed a project that you want to do it's almost as if you have more discipline simply because you don't want to let them down.

    As artists we all need to know and socialize with other artists because they so rarely ask you things like: "Will that be cost effective?" "What's the R.O.I. on your creative venture?" "Won't that take time away from paying work?" And all the other helpful advice and suggestions that people who don't do their own art projects like to offer by way of constructive input.

    We were sitting outside, enjoying the warm spell, and the sky began to change just before sunset. Neither of us said anything about the sky but we both glanced over as the light became more beautiful. I don't remember who stood up first but we walked over the edge of the sidewalk and shot a few images of the sky and the clouds and the trees. I can pretty much guarantee that we did it because we both felt that the sky in that moment was beautiful.

    And I can pretty much guarantee that neither of us was thinking, "I wonder how much money I can get for that image as a stock photograph."

    Find friends who are artists and hang out. Feed the fire. Turn the coals. Help them get their projects done. Let them help you to do the same.

    Art Historian.

    Few things bother me more when looking at a printed brochure or a website than being confronted with a page of photographic portraits that are not consistent in look and feel. I looked at a website for a law firm yesterday. Three years ago I had made portraits for them of all sixteen partners and all of them were on consistent backgrounds, with consistent color and head sizes. The feel of the lighting was carried through from photo to photo.

    Over the last three years some of the partners retired or moved on while nine new people were added to the roster. Unfortunately, they must have decided not to spend the money on updating the website with new images of the newcomers because each new added photograph was strikingly different. Some were done with very hard light. Some where phone-cam snaps. Others were archaic styles from another time. It's not that any one image was horrible but that the mismatch of images stood out like a red wine stain on a white silk dress. The ensuing collage of mixed styles and varying level of production quality damaged the visual integrity of the page and degraded the marketing effect dramatically.

    I try to make sure that we don't have that problem if I can help to avoid it. I keep a sketch or lighting diagram of the shoots I do so I can replicate them closely if there are additions after the initial shoot. If we are doing projects with teams here in Austin and counterparts in another state or country we set a style, shoot it and then create a detailed style guide for our counterpart photographers. The goal is to be able to seamlessly insert an image into a corporate website and have it look like it matches everything else on the site.

    Continuity of style is part of a company's brand. You work with the marketing people not only to come up with the style but to preserve it over time. Yes, I did send a note to the marketing director at the law firm.  Yes we will probably reshoot everyone.


    I was commissioned to make a series of portraits of art history professors at the University of Texas at Austin. The client and I decided to go with black and white images as it seemed appropriate to the nature of their work.

    To make the assignment most efficient it was decided that I would go to their location at the Fine Arts College and set up a temporary studio. I worked with medium format cameras and high powered electronic flash generators. The lighting was very simple. I used a 4x6 foot soft box as my main light, adding an extra layer of silk diffusion material to give me the look I wanted. I did not use any fill to the opposite side of the subjects' faces in order to add contrast and black intensity to the images.

    I was able to select a room that had a good amount of distance from front to back and I set up my canvas background as far from the subjects as I could while keeping the subject framed correctly and without showing the edges of the background material. The background was lit by a small soft box powered by a second electronic flash generator. The background soft box was positioned directly behind the subject and just below the shoulder line.

    For each subject I exposed two twelve exposure rolls of black and white film after testing the set up carefully with black and white Polaroid test materials.

    After we wrapped up the shooting I returned to the studio where I processed the film and hung it up to dry. The next morning I went back into the darkroom to make contact sheets of all the rolls of film I'd shot. I made two sets. One for my use and to keep with the film in the filing cabinet, and a second to give to the client for selection purposes.

    After the individual images were selected (days or weeks later) I went back into the darkroom and made 8x10 inch, double weight fiber prints of each person. Excluding test prints I made sets of prints "bracketing" exposures by small increments in order to get exactly the level of highlight detail I was looking for. The prints were marked with copyright and contact information on the backs with pencil and I asked that the prints be returned to me after the contracted use.

    I came across the envelope this morning as I "thinned out" a drawer in one of the filing cabinets and pulled the prints out to take a look. These are quick copy shots of the printed material and certainly don't have the same impact,, as small images on the web, that they do when one is able to hold them in one's hands and really examine the subtly toned surfaces in good light. Maybe that is a reason why actual photographic prints seem overlooked these days; there is less exposure to the actual product and what is seen on the web is hurried and prone to bad electronic interpretation.

    In my encounters with subjects I am rarely interested in in smiling images and much more interested in images that show the personality of the sitter as I have experienced them, even if our exposure to each other is limited. I like the compression I get with longer lenses and I like to fill the frame with the main subject so I can really go back and inspect the nuances of their faces.

    The critical part of a portrait shoot is establishing a rapport with the sitter and providing an emotional space that makes it safe for the sitter to relax into the stasis that represents themselves at rest. Everything else is just showmanship...

    Well. At this point we've shared 2200 blog posts with each other. We've bantered back and forth with nearly 28,000 comments. The VSL blog has racked up nearly 18,000,000 page views. We've covered trends, cameras, lenses, business of photography and Ben's progress through high school and into college.

    I've posted thousands of photographs. Some interesting (at least to me) and some not. Today I lost one follower. I think it may have been someone disgruntled by my recent purchase of a D810.

    So I thought I'd take a moment and ask those of you who are left: How are we doing at VSL? What do you see too much of and what would you like to read more of? What do you like here? What annoys you? I rarely do much research but would sincerely like to know what our audience is thinking.

    legal disclaimer: The request for information should not be construed as a contract, or bailment, or assurance that any suggestions, or comments, will influence content, cause specific content to be created or discarded, nor is the request a guarantee of a continued flow of written content and/or images. Nor is the request for comments an indication that any employment or offer of employment has been extended to anyone from VSL, their agents or assigns. We reserve the right to write whatever pops into our head at any time and in any font. Should we be subject to alien abduction the blog will be suspended until such a time as when we are returned to the planet and have recovered from our experiences at the hands (should they have them) of the extraterrestrial perpetrators. ©2015 Kirk Tuck

    Thanks, Kirk

    Remember the old days when you could buy one camera and use it forever? We'd get our hands on a crunchy good camera like an F2 and just bang on it for years and years and years. Nothing in the imaging chain really ever changed. As long as the "magic box" kept dragging film through the gate and the shutter kept clanking away the only upgrade you ever needed was a green or yellow box of the newest emulsions from the chemical boys. Good times. Really good times. Back then we hardly ever talked about cameras it was mostly about lenses and film. And developers. And condensers versus cold light heads. And enlarging paper. And enlarging lenses. But bodies? Naw, those things were just something to mount the lenses on.

    Then those reckless bastards at Kodak set the world on a path which eventually destroyed Kodak entirely and plunged the photographic faithful into a long period of wild confusion. From 2000 (A.D.) onward we have had to deal with the insane combination of computer programming and silicon design progress when using cameras. We had to learn all kinds of stupid stuff that we really never wanted to learn because computers destroyed the world as we knew it. We became lab, color scientist, retoucher and IT department.

    At first the magazines, pundits and smarty pants people in the industry told us to be patient and that one day we'd actually see cameras with native resolutions of SIX MILLION PIXELS!!!! And at that point we would have, for all intents and purposes, achieved parity with 35mm film. The road to six megapixels was littered with 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5 and 4 million pixel cameras that cost way too much.
    Most of these cameras sucked and sucked hard. They were slow and gimpy. The files were shallow and brittle and the time between shots was the new reference standard for coffee breaks. Amazingly, we were all stupid enough to continue the march forward.

    We were assured that everything would plateau right there around 6 megapixels. But it didn't turn out that way. First it was those nut jobs at Canon who drove up the pixel count to an astounding----eight. Nikon leapfrogged to ten and then Canon dropped the big bomb---12 megapixels in the 1DS FULL FRAME camera. The universe shook. Pigs flew and the dead rose from their graves and reached for their credit cards.

    It was a revolution. Nothing would ever be the same again. Millions of hard core Nikon fans rushed to trade in their obsolete DX sized gear for pittances as waiting lists for Canon gear grew. Canon was invincible. They would be the Guardians for the Universe of Imaging for all eternity.

    And just to toss some mud into the faces of Nikon, and any of the other upstarts, the all knowing Canon engineers (and marketers) came along and cemented their place in the heavens with both a 16 MEGA-NORMOUS-PIXEL full frame camera AND a super fast shooting 8FPS!!!!! Sports camera. All the Nikon believers could do was glare at their 12 megapixel, mini-sensor cameras, balefully, and plan their switching strategy. Exiles. Outcasts.

    It was 2005 and the headlines were already being prepared by the photographic press: "NIKON WITHERS ON THE VINE AND DIES. OBSOLENCE THY NAME IS NIKKOR." Scores of Nikon shooters in countries around the world died of shame. It was also the year that Leica was pronounced, "The Walking Dead of the Camera World." Olympus's brave and virtuous attempt at birthing a new format standard and shiny new lenses was slowly dying as well under the onslaught of Canon's prowess and perfection.

    We could have stopped the universe right then and there with the 16 megapixel Canon 1DS mk2 and that could have represented the ultimate, aspirational camera for generations to come. Had we stopped there future generations of photographers would have grown up assuming that all camera lenses were light gray. Everyone who could had switched brands. Everyone who couldn't just shuffled off into obscurity.

    And no one blamed the people who switched. It had to be done. They felt that the writing was on the wall and that was that. But there was one little glitch. They hadn't counted on the scheming collaborative powers of Nikon and Sony. All at once Nikon delivered a Sony powered full frame camera that could see in the dark. It was the D3 and it was both bulletproof, insanely fast and able to shoot two or three steps higher on the ISO scale than anything Canon could put out into the market. Sports photographers went nuts and the Nikon faithful came out of their huts near the river Styx where they had gone, waiting to die, and re-embraced the magical machines from Nikon.

    Another tidal shift happened overnight! The shock waves were everywhere. How dare these people switch systems when they had pledged their allegiance to Canon??? Was nothing sacred? Canon volleyed back with a higher pixel density camera, the 5D mk2 and trumpeted its 22 megapixels from the roof tops. Then they showed off how the same camera could also take pretty good movies and even make most stuff out of focus if you wanted it that way.

    Movies and a bigger pixel count? The pendulum swung and the faithful followed Vicent Laforet back over to the Canon camp. Each time the trade-ins benefitted the retailers and the sheer volume of recent and now unwanted gear fed an almost insatiable used market. The Canon camp swelled back toward their original supremacy right up until Nikon tossed in not only a flagship 24 megapixel camera but also a never ending series of 24 megapixel consumer cameras. Cameras that uniformly could out perform the sensors in just about every Canon at any price. And just when you thought Canon would volley back with an incredible new product that would leapfrog over the Nikon offerings.... Nikon rushed to the net and slammed home their advantage with the 36 megapixel D800.

    Now, most of this was only of interest to sports geeks and people working to produce commercial photography for the very high end of the market. And a few wedding photographers. The rest of us could pick and choose as we liked. If we didn't do print then the biggest buying filter was the 2560 x 1440 pixel count of the best monitors. Or the 2,000 by 1080 standard of real HD TV. That meant that we could select fun cameras with resolutions of 12 to 16 megapixels and have more than enough in resolution reserve; more than we needed. Most of us stopped printing with any serious intent in those years although we did talk about printing and showing prints for good long time....

    During the great recession I'd given up the megapixel race and was exploring other interesting things like cool aspect ratios, nice color, smaller sizes, higher portability and lower costs. With client budgets down and the pixel wars raging at the esoteric end of the spectrum I figured we'd just cruise along with inexpensive gear and try to make some truth out of the web-ism of "Indian not arrow."

    All the while wishing that film had never vanished (yes, I know some of you still shoot it. I am very impressed.) and that the cameras that cost us a fortune in our youth were still in service today.

    While we all paid lip service to the idea that 12 megapixels was enough no one was ever pilloried for moving up to 16 megapixels when the change came to m4:3 cameras. As long as you only moved within your established systems.

    We're well into switching fatigue now. The feeling I get from everyone is that they just want to snug in with what they've got; be it Fuji or Olympus, and chill for a while. A camera nesting phenomenon.
    And I don't blame anyone. Every time the big switcheroo happens it always seems like a good excuse for a nap in the aftermath.

    But for commercial photographers it doesn't always work that way. We can't always schedule a nap and sit on the sidelines. The field of photography is now a living and (ever) quickly evolving organism that reaches into everything. The recession ended in Austin early and the people in the lucky part of the cycle realize two things. First, that the money was coming back, and secondly that BIG and SHARP was going to be a photography industry differentiator for workers in this field. Especially in the most competitive and affluent markets.

    I also realized that I'd love to have the same big, sharp gear shoot good video too.

    For the last year or so I've waited to see how everything might play out. I bet on 4K video and the GH4 as my strategy for increasing profits last year. I should have realized that rich ad agencies would be the first to want "big" and also to replace their existing 2K monitors with 4K (retina) monitors. I should have realized that the payoff would extend far beyond just viewing video and would change the way art directors and fashion forward marketing people started to look at images. Still images.

    The younger people, with fewer fatiguing gear replacement cycles in their recent history, jumped on the Nikon D800 bandwagon hard. They marketed the crap out of their gear's features and benefits. But at the same time no one in my camps (clients) even mentioned the need for 4K video. So I belatedly, and once again, became a switcher. I bought a bunch of Nikon stuff. And I'm not at all sorry I did.

    You don't have to be an eagle-eyed forensic photo viewer/scientists to realize that 36 megapixels with really good technical parameters is a game changer for commercial (for profit) shooters. Now there's nothing scary about clients who like posters. Nothing scary about clients who do trade show graphics. But this only applies to people who have to justify their tools to the market!!!

    But guess what? None of this is binary. Just because I bought a D810 doesn't mean I can't also have a drawer FULL of micro four thirds cameras and lenses. Lots and lots of them. I get to decide when I leave the big camera at work and bring the little cameras along for a nice walk, or a daylong assignment whose only missing parameter is the need to be printed at very large sizes. It's not binary. Owning one camera doesn't cancel out owning other cameras. It doesn't cancel the reality that you liked other cameras in the past. In their context. Especially when the camera budget for all these cameras is less than the amount I used to spend on film and processing in one year! That's right, in some ways I consider the cameras bodies to be more like film that our original thought construct of "cameras" back in the film age. The bodies are less precious now precisely because they do become obsolete.

    In two years Canon might leapfrog over the D810 or Nikon might consolidate their new lead with an even better camera. If they do I might switch or upgrade (respectively) because it will be the equivalent of sticking a couple of new cases of film in the deep freeze (a common practice in the day...).

    So why am I writing all of this? Why not just enjoy the new camera and get on with it? What's the point? Well, someone wrote to ask this morning if I hadn't betrayed my readers by writing in a nice way about some gear last year (or last month) and then personally switching to another system. I wanted to get across the point that nothing really stands still any more. That cameras are the interchangeable film of the process now. That professionals photographers might need to change just to reach new markets and new customers. That styles, client tastes and viewing systems change.

    Look, I love to play with new gear. I'm as nerdy as the next guy. Maybe even more so. Put titanium on it or carbon fiber and I'll probably buy it.  I've owned every major system that's hit the market since I started working (with the exception of 35mm and digital Pentax ---- but in my defense I did own both the Pentax 6x7 and 645 cameras....) including Contax, Leica, Sony, Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Hasselblad, Mamiya and some I've forgotten. They are fun to play with. Current tax law allows full time imaging companies to expense a lot of the gear. It all has good resale value. It's almost like leasing.  So I get to play. It's one of the few fringe benefits of being a full time, self-employed photographer. A brief respite from paying self-employment taxes, your own health insurance, business insurance, disability insurance, liability insurance, retirement, blah, blah, blah.

    So, here's the current and future disclaimer: 1. The only time I've been given free gear by a manufacturer or their agents was Samsung. I used their mirror less cameras for a year and a half before resigning from their program. I now own exactly one Samsung kit lens. All the rest of the equipment is gone. Traded, sold or gifted. Every single time I wrote about any Samsung gear or experience my relationship and perks were completely disclosed here. 2. Neither Nikon nor their agents have ever given me any equipment or any discounts that were not available to the general public in exchange for purchasing, using or writing about their gear. This includes the many articles I wrote as far back as 2009 at the inception of the Visual Science Lab blog. I am not a member of Nikon Professional Services. I don't get swag from them. 3. When I review cameras I am either using cameras I've borrowed from the manufacturers or purchased myself. If I borrow a camera there is no stated or implied quid pro quo. I am not ever given the cameras to keep. They are all returned. Mostly sooner than I'd like but some are here too long even if they've only been here a day or so and they are rarely reviewed.

    4. When I review a camera or write about the performance of a camera (or lens) I am writing contemporaneously about how I feel concerning that camera in that particular time frame and under the circumstances of the moment. 5. If I write positively about a feature such as EVFs this doesn't create an obligation on my behalf to limit myself only to using EVFs for the rest of my life. There may be compelling reasons other than viewing and composing that make a camera useful for a particular service. Equally, my use of a camera with a particular feature or lack of feature doesn't obviate my preferences or my previous purchases. To state it simply, I wish the D810 had a state of the art EVF. It doesn't. But the performance of the sensor impels me to overlook Nikon's engineering shortcoming in that regard.

    5. My use of, or appreciation of, any piece of gear, enjoyment of a television show, taste in wine or my shoe size is no guarantee that you will appreciate the same subjective characteristics of an object, product person or piece of art. It is always wise to establish the historic perspectives (and changes in perspective) of any reviewer whose work you might read. For example, I think Lloyd Chambers writes about gear by looking for objective measures of perfection. While he can tell me objectively which lens might be sharpest he can't convey to me whether I will like all the other characteristics of a lens because subjective analysis is an area in which he is tone deaf. Ming Thein's review are fun for me to read (and a subtextual insight into his struggle to find meaning in the craft) but the way he shoots and the way I shoot are nearly opposite. I suggest that you read my writings about gear only to whet you appetite to experience the gear and see how it might work for your uses. For example, if you travel extensively I don't really need to tell you that the sheer mass of a full frame D810 and attendant professional caliber lenses will suck the joy out of traveling quicker that a 500 HP pump draining a bathtub.

    6. This is a two way street. I use my brain to write this stuff but you are required to use your brain when reading it. There's no "second coming" or holy insider knowledge being doled out here. Just the opinions and topical ramblings of someone who tries to work full time in an incredibly challenging and ultimately fluid business.

    7. I will let you know every time I write about something that is on loan. If Nikon gifts me with a shipping carton full of D810 bodies you'll be the first to hear about it here and the bidding will begin shortly afterwards.

    8. The Olympus EM-5 camera is still the most fun, most portable and most cost effective personal shooting camera you can buy on the market to day. Everyone should own four of them. Especially if they own bigger cameras. Contrast between products is good.

    9. The market will change again. I will shoot some video with the d810 and if it is good I will write and say it is good. And the minute I do they will come out with a 4K capable D820 and I will buy that, and if the video is even better I will write that the video is even better. The D810 video will not cease to exist but it will be newly overshadowed by its predecessor. And I will have no guilt in buying the new camera if I can make a profit using its new capabilities.

    Finally, if you had your own company wouldn't you sit down every year and ask yourself what worked in the past year and how you could improve your products and services to your clients in the next year? Would you wait for your competitors to define your market on their terms? Would you allow them to define you?  Could you consider product extensions? Could you use different tools for different jobs? Would you change tools if you felt that you could secure a more profitable market niche? Or, are you emotionally tied to your tools?

    I write this as a business owner first, a photographer second. Although why I write it is usually a mystery to me since this is the least (financially) profitable thing I do.

    It's a new year. My boss told me I could buy new gear. Who am I to leave allocated budget untouched?  :-)

    Nikon D610

    It all started with a comfortable combination. When I picked up an ultra-cheap Nikon D610 I rediscovered my much loved 105mm f2.5 ais lens. Having rediscovered the 105mm I immediately rekindled my love affair with the 50mm f1.2 lens and felt the rush of familiarity in using that lens at its intended angle of view. The experience was nostalgic, sentimental and, well, it reminded me that there's a lot to like about the 3rd best (35mm sized) sensor in the world. Especially when packaged in a good camera body for not a lot of money. 

    I probably should have stopped there but I started pressing the D610 into commercial service and that's when I fell down a different rabbit hole. You see, all during my career I've tended to buy and use camera bodies in tandem. One as a main shooting platform and the second as an identical back-up when doing advertising projects. For public relations and event work (math conferences, banking conferences, tech conferences) I usually put a wide to normal zoom on one body and a long zoom on a second body and carry them over each shoulder rather than toting a camera bag around. 

    When selecting a second body I want something that is the same format. That way, in a pinch I can use either lens on either body to good effect. No extra thinking required. I would also want to have two bodies from the same maker and the same era; that way I would have a reasonable expectation that the menus would be very, very similar, the nomenclature identical and the operation most rational. And it's always better if each body has an additional strength you can count on. 

    I looked at a second, identical D610 body but I decided that I wanted to choose a second body with some additional benefits. While the D610 has one of the best high ISO ratings on DXO and the same high dynamic range as both the D750 and the Nikon D810 what it doesn't have is a complete set of video features. The D610 requires you to exit video to change apertures on non-manual lenses, it also lacks 60 fps in 1080p. Finally, video people in the know tell me that the codecs on the D750 and D810 are vastly improved. All three cameras can output uncompressed files in 4:2:2 so adding a Ninja Star digital recorder gets you into the realm of really, really great video quality at a very low additional cost.

    When I weighed the pluses and minuses between the 750 and 810 the 810's higher resolution was a selling point, but so were the higher top shutter speed (1/8000th) and the higher flash sync speed (1/250th). The D810 also added 1.5 and 1.2 crop modes and because of the very high pixel density it is still able to deliver 16 megapixels into 1.5 (DX) and 20-something pixels into the 1.2 crop. 

    Any combination of the three cameras would do a great job getting me good, high resolution files for still work but the D810 would add the ability to do really good video with a wide assortment of fast lenses. It also provides an "ultimate" marketing tool when I come across techie clients who are interested in getting the highest resolution files for their work.

    I am also interested to see what kind of look the combination of the "flat profile" and high resolution sensor of the D810 will create when making portraits. I am hoping for the endless and subtle cascade of tones I used to be able to get from medium format film files. 

    Once I made up my mind in favor of the the D810 I headed up to Precision Camera where I got the camera (as can anyone else) for the exact same price as I would have paid at or B&H Photo and Video.  I love to keep my money as local as I can and I certainly owed the sale to Ian (my regular sales guy) since he spent much time with me going over the assortment of cameras over the last few months. It's always wonderful to have a bricks and mortar resource where I can go in and actually handle the cameras and put them through their paces. Had I not handled the D810 and heard the vast improvement in the sound and feel of its shutter I might have just defaulted to the D750 just to save some money. But I would have missed out on owning the 35mm style camera that currently boasts the best sensor specs and overall image quality in that market. 

    It was sunny and warm in Austin today. I grabbed the new camera and a 24-85mm G f 3.5 to 4.5 lens and walked around shooting. It was a blast to shoot in the sunlight with a (native) ISO of 64. Even though the camera's main failing is its lack of an EVF the view through the optical finder was pretty nice. But the real joy was the well behaved shutter mechanism. When I got back to the studio I tossed the uncompressed, 14 bit raw files into Lightroom and took a good, long look. The color in the files is wonderful and no matter how hard I tried it was impossible to find even a trace of noise.

    Next week I'll be shooting a dress rehearsal for Zach Theatre. I am looking forward to having one body with a fast 80-200mm ED f2.8 on it and a second body with the 24-85 on it. Each body with a killer sensor. It should be fun. 

    Why did I buy the new bodies and attendant lenses? For fun. For the tax deductions. As a differentiator in the market. For the resolution. Just to see if the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Finally, perhaps just to be able to use that old Nikon 105 f2.5 as I remember it from the days when it sat on the front of F2s, F3s, F4s and F5s. Nostalgia pure and simple...

    I'll write a review of each camera as I accrue more experience with them both. We've got some low light projects just on the horizon.

    Final note: The boy has arrived at his dorm, safe and sound. I can hardly wait for Spring Break...
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