Fuji X-Pro2 Review Part Four: Using the X-Pro2 in a Portrait Session

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Note:  This is part four of a five part review series on the soon to be released Fuji X-Pro2:

Hello again!

Part four of this series will focus on shooting portraits in studio with the Fuji X-Pro2.  The truth is that I don’t shoot in studio very often,  I much prefer environmental portraiture such as this:

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I wanted to test the X-Pro2 under as many different situations as I possibly could though, so I contacted a close friend (and beautiful model) who I shoot with often and we spent a few hours making some portraits.

A few quick notes about shooting in studio with Fuji cameras:

  1. The sync speed on the Fuji X-Pro2 is now 1/250th, up from the X-T1’s 1/180th.  This small increase doesn’t make a huge difference in studio when you are using 100% studio lighting, but it is a helpful addition when balancing flash against ambient light.  The king of the X series in terms of sync speed definitely remains the X100t and its leaf shutter though.  I love that camera.
  2. I commonly see people asking why everything is black in the viewfinder when shooting in studio with Fuji cameras and studio lighting.  This is almost always because the camera has exposure preview turned on, and the low ambient light and typical studio settings make for a very dark scene when the lights aren’t firing.  When shooting in studio it is often necessary to disable this option.

We started our day by shooting a few portraits in natural light, using diffused light coming in from a north facing window.  Here are two shots from that part of our session, taken in the new Acros film simulation:

DSCF4898-Edit(Fuji X-Pro2, 35mm, Acros film simulation, f/2.8 at 1/125th at ISO 200 – Natural Light)

DSCF4925-Edit(Fuji X-Pro2, 35mm, Acros film simulation, f/3.6 at 1/140th at ISO 400 – Natural Light)

I am really falling for the new black and white Acros film simulation.  It has a beautiful look to it, and works very well for portraits in my opinion.

When we were done the natural light shots we started working with studio lighting.  The following setup was used for each of the images below:

  1. The camera was set to ISO 200, the shutter speed was set to the max sync speed of 1/250th, and the aperture ranged between f/8 to f/11 depending on the light to subject distance.
  2. All colour images were shot in Provia / Standard.  The final black and white image was shot in Acros.
  3. The light is coming from camera right, using an Alien Bee 1600 in a 50″ Westcott Apollo softbox.  For some images a reflector was used on camera left for a little fill.
  4. For these images I used the 35mm f/1.4, 56mm f/1.2, and the 90mm f/2 lenses.
  5. We did not use a make up artist, and these images have had very little done to them in post other than the usual RAW conversions.

Here are a few of the images we shot under studio lighting, starting with the one from the top of the post:

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thoughts from the day:

The X-Pro2 was a pleasure to use in studio:  The new max sync speed of 1/250th is a welcome addition, and there were no autofocus issues shooting in a dim studio.  It was nice to have the option of the optical viewfinder, the new sensor renders beautiful images, and of course the new Acros film simulation is ideally suited for black and white portraiture.

I did have to make an adjustment to the way I hold the camera in portrait orientation.  My standard grip, with my left hand on the bottom supporting the lens and body, obscured the viewfinder on a few occasions until I learned to change it up slightly.   Once I did it was not an issue.

This shoot reaffirmed for me how much I enjoy working with small rangefinder style cameras.  Many respected photographers have spoken about the position of the viewfinder in a rangefinder camera, and how your face isn’t completely covered by the camera when you look through it.  There is a truth to this:  The whole time we were shooting,  my model and I were able to see each other as there  was no barrier between us.  It is a small thing, but I think it made for a more personal and relaxing shoot.  It was a good day.

In part five of this series I will sum up my experiences shooting the Fuji X-Pro2 throughout February, and of course there will be a few more photos to share!

Cheers,

Ian

A photograph needs to be real: The beauty of the Fuji Instax Printer

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I’d like to deviate from my normal blog posts that highlight recent photoshoots and talk for a bit about the value of a printed photograph.

I started in photography around 2007, a product of the digital era.  I’ve never taken a roll into a camera shop, I’ve never developed film myself.  Digital photography was a natural extension of my love of Apple computers, web design, etc.  I love the process of creating a photograph, importing it into Lightroom, editing it, and making it true to my vision.

Recently, however, I’ve come to realize that I’ve been missing something.  A photograph isn’t just a series of digital 1s and 0s.  It is something real.  It is tangible.

There is a restaurant my wife and I go to occasionally when we want to enjoy a quality meal.  When you walk in the door there is a large portrait of a blues musician from another era.  The eyes are piercing, and every time I see it I find myself lost in the photograph.  One of my favourite expressions is “a portrait should tell a story about the subject”, and this photograph does that every.  damn.  time.    Although my wife has printed a few of my images and they hang on various walls around the house, I am yet to print many of the 10,000 images sitting on my hard drive.

As a lover of Fuji’s X camera series I follow their product development, and recently they  launched an Instax printer (the Fujifilm Instax SP-1) that is portable and can print wirelessly straight from your camera or phone:

http://www.fujifilm.ca/products/instax/share_sp-1/img/index/pic_01.jpg

(Photo from Fujifilm.ca)

Think small polaroids.  The image quality isn’t what we would consider “high quality” by today’s digital standards, but anyone who focuses on that is missing the mark.

I should add that while this article was inspired by the Fuji Instax printer, it really is about holding a photograph in your hands.

My first exposure to the Fuji Instax printer came via one of my favourite photographers, a gentleman named Zack Arias.  He is a prolific photographer, educator, and blogger who isn’t afraid to share his opinions and stories.  Zack wrote about an experience using the Instax printer on the street:

http://dedpxl.com/the-girl-on-a-bridge-the-instax-sp-1/

 If you aren’t a gear nerd ignore the technical stuff in the article, that isn’t really what this is about anyway.  It’s about the moments.   It’s about having a memory that doesn’t just live on a hard drive, on an iPhone, in an instagram account.

Watch this six minute video.  Heck, if you’re in a rush just watch from around 4:05.  Watch the reaction of the bride and groom when they get the pictures in their hands during their wedding reception:

Ok, it’s a promotional product video.  I get that.  Watch the reactions and the emotions though.  That’s what counts.

You see the same reaction when Bert Stephani used the Instax printer while shooting street portraits in his Fuji X100T review.  You can see it in this video here starting around 13:52:

Watch the look on those children’s faces when the photographs develop.  They get to hold them in their hands and look at them as often as they want.  Those photographs will exist even after their iPad runs out of battery power.

Will I get a Fuji Instax Printer?  I’ll admit it, I want one badly.  Part of it is that I am a boy, and we love our toys.  The other part though is that I am an artist, and artists both create and share.

Realistically, would I use it that often?  I’m not sure if I would, or if that money should go toward other gear.

What that little Fuji Instax printer has done at the least though is to inspire me to make my favourite photographs real.  They deserve a better place than the spot they currently occupy on my hard drive.

See that photo at the top of this blog post?  That is my all time favourite photograph of my daughter.  I need to print that.

I spend a lot of time making large panoramas like this one:

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I need to print that too.  Large.  For the wall.

I am an occasional contributor to a website that focuses on mirrorless cameras like the Fuji X series.  The website is called:

http://mirrorlessminutes.com

Recently, on Twitter, we had a discussion that centred around the point that gear can inspire you.  It’s true.  I totally want a Fuji Instax printer.  I may or may not get one in the future, but that little printer has reminded me of the true value of a photograph.  A real photograph, not just a copy of a photo that lives on my phone.

That is all kinds of awesome.

Cheers,

Ian

Shooting portraits on a sunny winter day!

DSCF3963(Fuji X-T1 with 56mm f/1.2 lens @ f/1.6 – Click to view larger)

There are photoshoots that are carefully planned:   Discussions.  Pre-shoot planning sessions.  Studio bookings.  Wardrobe.  Hair and make up.

Then there are those days where you call up a friend and say “it looks gorgeous tomorrow, want to  shoot?”  That pretty much describes every shoot I have done with my friend Saige, a brilliant and beautiful local actress in the Vancouver area.

When the day of the shoot arrived it was bright and sunny, literally t-shirt weather in Vancouver in January.  Fabulous!    For a quick and impromptu location we chose Campbell Valley Regional Park in Langley, specifically an area of the park that has several old heritage buildings (barns, an old schoolhouse, etc).

I travelled exceptionally light in terms of gear, bringing only my Fuji X-T1 with the 56mm f/1.2 lens (an amazing lens for portraiture work) and my Fuji X100s with it’s 23mm lens if I wanted something a little bit wider.  I planned on shooting mostly natural light, but threw in a small flash and some modifiers just in case I wanted to add a little fill.  All of this fit into a small Think Tank Retrospective 5 shoulder bag.  No big gear.  No backpacks.  No packing around large lights.

I love my Fuji kit.

With both of us being creative types it was almost inevitable that we would start the shoot a little later than we planned, which meant the sun was high overhead when we started.  The quick and easy solution was to find the shady side of the barns and work from there, adding in a little fill flash as needed:

DSCF3952(Fuji X-T1 with 56mm f/1.2 lens @ f/2 – Click to view larger)

DSCF3920(Fuji X-T1 with 56mm f/1.2 lens @ f/2.2 – Click to view larger)

From there we moved to another barn to get a different look.  This barn was red, with white trim around the windows, so Saige chose a white top to compliment the colours.  Due to space I switched out to the wider lens on the Fuji X100s, but used the 35mm teleconverter to get a little bit more of a pleasing perspective for portraiture:

DSCF5134(Fuji X100s with the TCL-X100 telephoto converter @ f/2.8 – Click to view larger)

DSCF5122(Fuji X100s with the TCL-X100 telephoto converter @ f/2.8 – Click to view larger)

In another part of this park there is this amazing bench, under the shade of this amazing tree, in this amazing field (I’m starting to channel Bob Ross apparently).  We tried several looks there but by now it was noon, the sun was high, and the light was not working in our favour.

You win some, you lose some.  😦

I did, however, get one of my favourite shots:

DSCF3963(Fuji X-T1 with 56mm f/1.2 lens @ f/1.6 – Click to view larger)

A few things came together in this photo:  Saige  is beautiful.  Shade from the tree provided  diffused light on her face, and the incredibly shallow depth of field of the Fuji 56mm f/1.2 lens shot at f/1.6 gave a beautiful out of focus background which really made her pop.  Love it!

Finally, we spotted this great field full of tall grass on our way back to the parking lot.  We wandered into the field and a series of events occurred  that soon had us laughing (stepping in hidden puddles of water, getting poked in inappropriate places by the grass, etc).  This made it very easy to capture some more great portraits of Saige:

DSCF5166(Fuji X100s with the TCL-X100 telephoto converter @ f/2.8 – Click to view larger)

This was a great way to spend a sunny winter day.  The sky was beautiful, it was warm, and I got to spend time creating images with a friend.

The recent trimming down of gear in my camera bag (and my shift to working with small Fuji cameras) has shifted my focus away from the technical aspect of my photography and put it more on capturing who my subject really is.   Each shoot takes me one step closer to who I want to be as a photographer, which is a great thing.