My style, my clients and my way of working have changed a lot since I started out as a professional photographer about eight years ago … and so has technology. Therefor I started a major gear bag audit a couple of months ago. You can’t believe how much time, research, testing and thought, I’ve put into this so far and I still have some decisions to make. But I’m almost there. Since so many people have been sending me questions about gear choices, I thought I’d share my thought process with you in a couple of blog posts. Writing all these things down, might even help me make my final decisions. Yesterday I wrote about what has become my main camera: the FujiFilm X-Pro1. I’m currently testing it’s little brother the X-E1 to see if it can be my backup/second camera for most of the work I’m doing. Today I’m still lugging a heavy DSLR with a big L-lens with me as backup, which takes away the advantages of working with a small and light main camera. I’m pretty confident the X-E1 can fill in the gap so that I only have to lug my DSLR with me when really needed.
Here are my first impressions and some pictures I’ve shot during my first studio test shoot with the X-E1. I had a couple of goals for this shoot. First of all, I wanted to see if I could recreate the “organic” look and feel that I can get with on-location portraits. My second goal was to get some miles out of the X-E1 and test out the Fujinon 60mm lens.
Those who have been following my blog for a while, will notice that I used the same background as with my 70 EUR studio experiment. I wanted to keep the lighting simple to be able to focus on my subject and limited myself to use a single Elinchrom RX300 with a medium Chimera softbox and a white Sunbounce Pro reflector. We started out by being sensible and using the Elinchrom like it’s supposed to be used: flash it.
I quickly found the results a bit too harsh and too artificial. So I switched off the flash transmitter and shot with only the modeling light on the flash (on full power). I shot up to ISO 2000 and knowing the Fuji I know I could have gone even higher and still get excellent files. But I wanted to introduce a bit of organic imperfection in the pictures by shooting at a slightly too slow shutter speed (mostly between 1/30 and 1/60). I asked Melanie to keep moving really slowly. I know many people don’t like it but I love how that slight motion blur makes the skin look smoother and somehow it makes the eyes pop too.
Mélanie is not a model, she has in fact very little experience in front of the camera and she was pretty nervous before the shoot. But she has the will to throw herself into it. That’s exactly the kind of people I want to shoot in similar settings so she was a perfect fit. By keeping the setup simple I can dedicate more energy to building the trust and intimacy required for these kind of portraits. Big thx Mel for being so amazingly good in front of the camera.
We stuck most of the time to the same setup, making small adjustments and forcing myself to dig deeper to get more out of it.
At the end of the shoot we tried something a bit different by shooting into an old speckled mirror that’s standing in the studio. I used the halogen worklights from the 70 EUR Studio experiment and made them perform double duty. The bounce of the studio ceiling to provide the main light and at the same some raw light is hitting the spots on the mirror giving the illusion of great background bokeh.
I’m pretty pleased with the results of this test shoot. I learned a lot and realize I want to be experimenting a bit more with continuous light sources. The X-E1 performed flawlessly. The autofocus on the 60mm had some small issues, but to my surprise I found it’s pretty easy to manual focus in this kind of situation.