Setting up the Fujifilm X100F for Street Photography

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I’ve had a lot of requests over the last few weeks to describe the camera settings I use when I am out shooting on the street, so I thought I would take a few minutes to walk through how I set up the new Fuji X100F.  When you work with pre-production cameras there are usually several firmware updates leading up to the camera’s official launch, and since November I have updated the Fuji X100F firmware 4 or 5 times.  This has given me the opportunity to really think about what works the best for me when I am out shooting street photography with this camera.

(Note:  This is a gear post, through and through.  In part two of this series, however, we will look at some new Fuji X100F street photography I’ve shot recently in Seattle and Vancouver using the set up described in this post).

As we get started I think it is important to discuss my approach to shooting on the streets, which differs from other work that I do.   When I am shooting cityscapes and landscapes, I always shoot in manual mode, as I do when I am shooting portraiture.  In these settings I am not in a rush.  My sunrise / sunset / blue hour shots are taken locked down on a tripod, and I usually use off camera lighting when shooting portraits (which means my camera settings rarely change once they are dialled in).

The street is different though:  for me it is about the experience of immersing myself in an environment, constantly observing and then reacting quickly when a moment happens.  Barring a quick adjustment here and there, I don’t want to think about my camera at all when I am shooting on the street… I want to be focused on capturing the moment and trust my camera to do its thing.

With this in mind, here are some basic needs that guide how I set up my Fuji X100F for street photography:

  1. On the street, I shoot in Aperture Priority Mode and use Auto ISO (I trust the camera to determine proper exposure).  I tend to keep my aperture between f/5.6 to f/11, depending on how much light is available in the environment I am shooting in.
  2. If I do need to make adjustments to compensate for the light, there is a 99% chance that the adjustment will be made with the Exposure Compensation dial.  It is very quick and easy for me to observe a scene, decide what I want to do with the light and adjust the compensation with my right thumb as I am bringing the camera up to my eye.  Once you understand how your camera sees a scene, this is very simple to do.
  3. I use Auto-Focus about 80% of the time.   The remaining 20% of the time I will drop into manual focus to either pre-focus on a spot that a subject will be walking through, or, pre-focus to a given distance if I am working in tight in crowds.
  4. I shoot in RAW plus Fine jpeg.  I also love to visualize my images before and while I am taking them, so I switch back and forth a lot between Acros and Classic Chrome while I am shooting.
  5. I back button focus a lot.
  6. I usually shoot in single shot mode, but I’m not afraid to use burst mode and select the best frame if the situation calls for it.
  7. I want to keep the camera set up to be able to quickly access the Digital Tele-Converter.  I will not use this feature if I can shoot without it (as I do notice a very small amount of image degradation), but it is a nice option to have in a pinch.  In order to do this I need to be able to quickly switch my drive mode to single and also to switch to shooting Fine jpeg only (because the Digital Tele-Converter won’t work in RAW or burst mode).
  8. I occasionally use the two conversion lenses (WCL and TCL – the original versions), so I need to be able to tell the camera that they are on (or off) without diving into the menus.
  9. I usually wifi photos to my phone at some point through the day, either to mail to someone or to review and edit while I’m sitting down for lunch.

So, those are my basic needs when I am out shooting on the street.  Here is how I set up the X100F to be able to easily and quickly accomplish those tasks:

On the front

front

There are two main things here:

  1. There is now a function button embedded in the OVF/EVF Lever, which I have set to Wifi.  This is my least used function when shooting on the street, but it keeps it easily accessible at the same time.
  2. There is now the new front Command Dial.  This can be set up to control the ISO, the Exposure Compensation, or both.  On the street, however, I use Auto-ISO and prefer controlling the Exposure Compensation with the physical dial, so I actually don’t use the front Command Dial for anything.

On the top

top

This, right here, is why I love these cameras so much.  You have the entire exposure triangle, plus Exposure Compensation, completely at your fingertips with tactile knobs.  After all these years I honestly don’t know if I could go back to using a camera that doesn’t operate this way.

Let’s take a look at the top:

  1. As previously mentioned I set the Aperture to f/5.6 to f/11, depending on the amount of light I have.
  2. I have my Shutter Speed dial set to A.
  3. I have my ISO dial set to A also.  This configuration lets me choose my Aperture, then the camera maintains the exposure by adjusting the shutter speed and the ISO as needed.
  4. I ride the Exposure Compensation dial a lot when shooting, often to underexpose a scene when the light is harsh or when I want to create more shadow in an image.  This means I always need to check in between scenes to ensure I reset it to zero… something I have forgotten to do many times.  🙂
  5. I have the conversion lens selection assigned to this function button, so I can quickly tell the camera when the WCL or TCL lenses are being used.  This won’t be an issue for those of you who use the new versions of these lenses as they now auto-detect on the X100F, but with the older ones this is still a necessity.
  6. Finally, there is the Control Ring, which I have assigned to control the Digital Tele-Converter when I am in auto-focus mode.  When I want to use this feature, I drop into jpeg only and single shot mode (if needed… this is usually my default), then I can turn the Control Ring to select between 35mm, 50mm, and 70mm fields of view.  This is probably my least used function (tied with Wifi), but it is nice to have it quickly accessible.

On the back

back

There’s also a fair bit going on here:

  1. I have AF-L assigned to the Read Command Dial, so I can use it to back button focus.  For my hands this is a better position than using the actual AEL/AFL button.
  2. The X100F has the drive mode locked to the up button;  I use this to choose between single shot and burst mode depending on my needs (usually single shot).
  3. I have this function button set to cycle through the various film simulations.  I tend to “see” images in black and white or colour, so I will often quickly jump back and forth between Acros and Classic Chrome when I am out shooting.
  4. This function button is set to allow me to quickly choose RAW plus jpeg, or just Fine jpeg.  I normally wouldn’t assign this feature to a function button, but you have to be in jpeg only mode to use the Digital Teleconverter.
  5. I have this button set to cycle between the three Auto ISO modes, which I do often during the day.  More on this below.

How I use Auto ISO

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My goal on the street is to have the camera maintain a shutter speed fast enough to freeze movement within a given scene, by letting Auto-ISO raise the ISO as much as needed to obtain a proper exposure.

This is situational, however.  A stationary subject may only require a shutter speed of 1/60th, whereas a fast moving subject might need 1/500th.

The way I achieve this is by assigning the ability to switch between the 3 saved ISO settings to a function button.  My 3 Auto-ISO settings are saved as follows:

  1. Minimum Shutter Speed of 1/60th, Maximum ISO of 3200.
  2. Minimum Shutter Speed of 1/125th, Maximum ISO of 3200.
  3. Minimum Shutter Speed of anywhere between 1/250th and 1/500th, Maximum ISO of 3200.

If I am shooting a static scene I may choose the first setting.  This maintains a minimum shutter speed of 1/60th, which helps keep the ISO down while still exposing the scene properly.

If I need faster shutter speeds to capture movement I select the 2nd or 3rd option based on how fast the subject is moving.  Depending on the amount of light the camera will select a higher ISO setting, but I will get an in focus image.

This is a quick and easy way of contextualizing Auto ISO to the scene I am in.

Performance and Battery Power

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I’d rather let my camera perform to it’s highest level than worry about battery life, so I always keep my camera in High Performance mode.  I also almost always use the EVF or LCD when I am shooting.  These two things are guaranteed battery drains.

The thing is though, batteries are cheap.  And, on the X100F, I routinely average 500+ frames per battery.   With one or two extra batteries in the bag, or in a pocket, I am good to go.

POST PRODUCTION

Every scene is different:  in one I may want a lot of contrast, in another not so much, so I tend to keep my in camera settings flat (i.e. shadows 0, highlights 0, sharpening 0, etc) and use Lightroom to apply any simple changes I want.  My post production is minimal on street images though;  for example, here is a frame out of the camera, a jpeg shot in Classic Chrome:

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And, here it is after less than 1 minute of processing which amounted to lifting the shadows, boosting the highlights a little, and some minor sharpening.

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When you have the right light you really don’t need to do a lot of post.

Summary

There are so many ways to customize a camera like the Fuji X100F.  This is just my way, configured to quickly access the things I need when I am shooting on the street.  With the camera set up like this I don’t go into the menus at all.  I don’t even use the Q menu, as everything I need is assigned to a button or dial, ready to go.  It seems like a lot when it is all written out, but in the field it comes down to the occasional adjustment to Aperture, Exposure Compensation, or the Auto-ISO setting as needed for exposure control, occasionally switching back and forth between Classic Chrome and Acros depending on how I see a scene, and much more rarely using another feature like wifi or the Digital Tele-Converter.   This configuration works well for me and lets me keep my focus on everything happening around me on the street.

Next week, in part two of this series, we’ll look at a selection of street images captured recently with the Fuji X100F, using the above configuration.

Until then!

Ian

p.s.  Every time I post a photo, like the one at the top of this article, I get asked where I got the camera strap from.  It is a strap from my friends at Hyperion Camera Straps, you can find them on Facebook.  In a world of expensive camera accessories, they make a nice product at very cost effective pricing.  I am not paid or endorsed by them, but I think it’s nice to give a shout out to people who are supporting the photography community with good products and reasonable prices.

Vancouver Street Photography Workshop

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There is nothing better than the moment in your professional life where two passions merge together.  For me, those two passions are street photography and education.

Everyone who reads this blog, or follows me on Instagram, knows how much I enjoy street photography.   I love the process of shooting on the street, I love the people I meet, I love the resulting images, and I love how it always makes me a better photographer and artist.

I also love teaching, which I have done for twenty years up to and including at the college level.  Multiple diplomas in Adult Education and Curriculum Design, plus thousands of hours in the classroom, have provided me with so many incredible moments and memories.

I spent much of last year studying the photography education landscape, speaking with highly respected peers who provide photography education and taking the time to develop a street photography workshop that will allow me to share my experience, both as a photographer and as an educator, with my students.  I am excited to now be rolling these workshops out in several different cities over 2017, starting with two workshops in Vancouver on the following dates:

  • June 2-4, 2017
  • August 11-13, 2017

My goal with these 2.5 day / 20 hour workshops is to help you find your own vision as a street photographer.  I don’t want to teach you to make images like I make them (no instructor should want that), but instead want to give you the tools to make the images you see in your own head.  During the workshop you will learn about the history of street photography, a bit about the legalities surrounding the art form, how to prepare yourself and your camera for a day on the streets, considerations for crafting story-telling images, techniques for shooting candidly, techniques for approaching strangers and making portraits on the street and a bit about editing and post processing.  Along the way you will gain confidence, have fun, make new friends and capture great images.  Through it all, I will be there right beside you offering advice and feedback.  These courses are going to be a lot of fun!

As a long time educator I believe that education should be as accessible as possible, so I have taken every effort to keep the price of these workshops affordable.   I can also afford to price my Vancouver workshops lower than other cities as I don’t incur travel costs here, allowing me to set the price for these workshops at $450 Canadian per student (about $340 USD).

I would love to work with you in one of these workshops.   If you are interested in learning more about them, or registering in one of the course offerings, please click the link below to visit the Vancouver Street Photography Workshop page for more details:

Vancouver Street Photography Workshop

There are only ten seats open per class, so please book fast if you are interested.

Best wishes,

Ian

On Creativity, Perspective, and Acceptance

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I have a young, beautiful, talented friend who is working towards a career as a full time creative, and who recently expressed frustration over where she was with her career versus where she wanted to be.  I get this.  It is so easy to feel like you are behind the 8 ball when you don’t get the gig after an audition you thought went well, or when you see others on social media living the life you want to live.

This is a common theme:  In this day and age of social media we are inundated with information;  it only takes 60 seconds to jump on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook and see someone having huge success, showing off new equipment, talking about their latest travels, the new gig they got, or being liked and followed by tens of thousands of people.  It is so easy to compare our own lives to this and feel like we are coming up short.  It is easy to become jealous and then to let that jealousy guide our actions.  I see this a lot in the photography world.  If you pick an immensely popular photographer, I will show you 100 people copying that person’s style in an effort to re-create that person’s success for themselves.  This is a trap.  These feelings can get even more magnified because we are really comparing our day to day lives to someone else’s highlight reel.  I know a lot of people who are extremely popular on social media, and I can say that in many cases their day to day lives differ quite a bit from what they choose to show on social media.

Then, there are the times when you put yourself out there, only to encounter the inevitable internet troll or person who begrudges you your success, and who goes out of their way to let you know about it.  It is amazing how one negative comment can decimate that feeling of success you were having… if you let it.

I suspect all creatives go through this.  Heck, I suspect all people go through this.  No one is immune really.

Speaking personally, I have had huge successes in my life in almost every endeavour I have pursued.  By all accounts I am successful in my photographic pursuits:  I am an official brand ambassador for a company I love working with.  I have the joy of presenting and teaching.  I have the honour of photographing weddings and working with other clients, and I have wonderful conversations every day with people I respect from around the world that I know through social media.

Perspective is everything though, and one of the funny things about perspective is that it can easily be lost.  And, when it is, it is so easy to go astray.

Do you see that photo at the top of this post?  99% of the time I feel like the rocks on the left are where I started, the buoy in the water is me and the rocks on the right represent my photographic destination (my creative and business goals).   Like you see in the photo, I currently feel like I am about a third of the way to where I want to be, but I know I will get there because I am passionate about my craft and I am determined.

Sometimes though, rarely, I feel more like that buoy (me) is just floating and getting bashed about in the waves.  I feel lost, and I tend to struggle to regain focus.  This is where it becomes dangerous.  It happens to everyone from time to time, you just don’t see the struggle posted on their social media that often.

Recently, ironically enough during a period where things were going extremely well for me, I went through this exact thing:   A good friend had huge success with a project.  This is a project that I was also given the opportunity to do, but which I passed on due to life circumstances at the time.  When my friend was experiencing their success I should have been happy for him, yet instead I felt jealousy.  And, once I felt it, it started derailing my other efforts.

At the same time, I had a negative experience with a couple of internet trolls.  For clarity, I usually just shake my head with a smile when I encounter negative people.  I spent 20 years on an ambulance as a paramedic, responding to about 15,000 911 calls, and I know better than most what real problems are.   I think there are few things in life that give you perspective on what really matters like working as a paramedic does because of the hurt, confusion and fear you see in people.  Negative comments also usually don’t bother me because it is a truth that when you put yourself out in the public’s eye you are going to encounter people with many different points of view, including negative ones.  The first thing I do when I get negative feedback from people is to follow this advice:

“Consider the motivation of the person who is giving you the feedback:  Are they sincerely trying to help you?  If so, then think about what they are saying.  Or, are they just trying to get under your skin?  If that is the case, simply ignore it”.

This almost always works for me, but for some reason it didn’t this time.

All of a sudden, just like that, I found myself derailed for a day or two.  Derailed by jealousy over a friend’s success (how crazy is that), derailed by a sense of not being far enough down my path, and derailed by some unknown person on the internet who doesn’t agree with my work and my thoughts (and who went out of their way to let me know about it).

Stupid, right?  Stupid, but also human as some very good friends pointed out (thank you Patrick and Valerie).

Why am I sharing this?  Because I want my friend, this brilliant and talented young actress, to know that she isn’t alone when she feels like this.  We all feel like this from time to time, just not everyone talks about it.  Success is really an iceberg.  On the surface you see the rewards and accolades, but underneath it is nothing but blood, sweat, failure, hard work, frustration, set backs, disappointment, and resistance.

So what do we do, as creatives, to get out of these funks we occasionally find ourselves in?

The first thing has to be to regain perspective.  Step back, step away, re-connect with family and friends.  We need to remind ourselves of what really matters in life, and to remind ourselves that happiness is intrinsically driven.  We own it.   We have the ability to create it, and others can only destroy it if we allow them to.

And, as I was recently reminded by my friend Patrick Laroque, we need to create art.  Not art guided by what we think others want to see, not art guided by trends, not art created to satisfy the needs of the internet and social media, and not art to further our business pursuits.

We just need to create art.  For ourselves, because that’s what we do.

The only way to truly be satisfied as an artist is to create for the sake of creating.  Create art for no other reason than we love the process.  Create art because it brings us joy, and create without giving a sh*t about what other people think about it.

If I consider all of my successes, I achieved them because I was being true to myself.  I created and shared work I was happy with and some people responded to it.  That is where we need to keep our focus, because that is the path to being happy and feeling satisfied as artists (if artists can ever truly be satisfied).  If you chase trends you are selling yourself out.  When you purposely edit your photographs to look like today’s popular artist, when you become photographers of a certain genre because it is currently popular, or when you connect with people on social media for no reason other than they are the “cool kids” and represent where you want to be you are only setting yourself up for failure in the long run.

So, to my brilliant friend I say just continue to create art that makes you happy.  Put it out into the world and don’t worry about what other people are doing, just be the 5 year old with the box of crayons and make art because you love it.  If you remain true to yourself you will find satisfaction as an artist and, when the time is right, people who respect and are aligned with your vision will also find you.  Trust the process, as it is really the only true option.  Everything else is just chasing the rabbit down the hole for all the wrong reasons.

Just my two cents.

Cheers,

Ian