When “bokeh” can’t save you {portraiture}

 

deep depth of field requires strong elements

I have always depended on “bokeh” from my 1.4 and recently the 1.1 Noct to produce beautiful images. But after looking at a lot of beautiful photos (e.g instagram “pimtha”) i knew these type of photos is something that have eluded me for a long time.

Its pretty obvious these photos uses some kind of app filters, but isn’t thats exactly what i am doing in Photoshop when i edit the images and tones of the portraits. Last two weeks, with the Casio TR camera with me, i could not produce any satisfactory portraits depsite having access to Elaine in town. TR is a puny sized compact sensor 1/1.7 that Casio don’t even sell to their own japanese market, maybe its not an honortable thing to do, selling compact cameras at 8x the price of ordinary compacts. 

So i tried hard to use it to do portraits, force myself to carry only the TR. 

You see, there is a big difference how you shoot images that leverages on “bokeh” and those that don’t. I have been doing portraits for years and always paid heavy attention to the bokeh and blurring of background characteristics so much so that my eye for portraits are accustomed towards such setup.

Yesterday, while studying further images, it suddenly dawns on me the simple truths that when you can’t count on bokeh, you have to count the background in as strong elements. When i see those multiple repeated fences or columns or lights behind, i would have an idea how they would turned out with the 1.4 lens or the noct. That doesn’t work at all in the bokehless camera, in fact, almost all the poses that would work on beautifully with these fast lens and big sensors, would fail terribly on compacts or mobile phones. 

The image above is my first decent image using this new line of thinking. I am happy and excited to continue this journey. I will be sharing more of these images and my works #nobokeh

Images, who cares and why we take them

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Never before has we been so equipped with photography gears like we are now. Mobile phones granted us the freedom to shoot whereever we are, whenever we want. Our visual senses are constantly being challenged by the vast flood of images. Often the meaning of photography is lost in the habit of snapping photos for no reason whatsoever. These candids and snaps however takes on a different meaning when we are not attempting to profit from it, but rather to just share what interests us.

Processed with VSCOcam with a9 preset
Processed with VSCOcam with a9 preset

I must confess. Its pretty much a roller coaster ride to me when it comes to taking images. Fuelled by the lust for gears and the ever thirsty curiousity of trying different lens and creating different albums for models, i have come to a point whereby i just want to take a break and have some fun. Fun, comes in the form of small packages, like this casio TR, the legendary bimbo camera.

No way i can kneel down so low or even focus with a rangefinder so close to get this shot. In fact, i didnt put any effort, just pointed the camera at the cat, look at the big lcd screen that is tilted and snap on the shameless “premium auto mode”.

I hope to share more photos as i continue my daily walk with this mobile camera. The sensor size is 50% bigger than the Iphone 5 and samsung s6 but casio is ironically honest enough to maintain 11 mp on this sensor, giving it a high true resolution.

Processed with VSCOcam with g2 preset
Processed with VSCOcam with g2 preset

What are your thoughts on this? What if you can just take this ridiculous small camera for all your shooting needs and take its limitations as part of the challenge to improve urself. Would you not rather be focused on taking images than wasting time on setting up gears and lenses?

Why Casio TR is the craziest camera on earth {review}

In case you haven’t heard of this camera, allow me to load you with some. This is the 5th generation Casio TR 50, a compact camera whose all predecessors have been selling very well ever since Casio decided to drop this camera from the US/Europe market and focus on Asia. Its primarily a COMPACT camera using 1/1.7 (previously 1/2.33) whose market segment have been killed by mobile phones…except the Casio TR found a niche market and capitalized on it. This is arguably the most successful compact camera ever sold in both value and numbers in the last 3 years. Its the 5th generation now and they just launched the recent TR 60 at over USD 1100. Why is it so popular over here? Because its the ultimate selfie camera…for the ladies. Period. Apparently Casio R&D decides that for selfie portraits a 21mm lens is the ultimate focal length. This is where neither Iphone nor Samsung gets it. At arms length you can take photos that : 1. Includes half your body 2. Optically SLIMS you down As a serious enthusiast i have never bothered myself with this camera, i have always considered it a scam, a junk camera only for the bimbos. But when they released the TR 60 and since i have now heavily invested my time in an amazing fashion app “Shoppr”, i decided to buy it just so i can criticize it all i want. If you think Casio is just silly, take a look at Sony’s selfie camera also priced below USD 1000. Apparently this is Casio’s TR official competitor and this just proves market fitness for such a product that Sony decides it wants a pie of it too. Priced slightly below Casio TR, the KW-11 comes with real rose gold and the latest sony Exmor RS sensor. Whats my take on it? Technically after using it for a week. My impression timeline of it is :

  • Initial 3 days, scratching my head. buyers remorse. feeling stupid.
  • 4th and 5th day, felt like selling it off
  • 6th and now. I begin to understand and i am keeping it

I going to tell you my reasons why i am keeping this camera by showing you a short illustration. But before that let me just list down some of the real technical plus points.

  • 21mm f2.8 – its a very good aperture for this focal length. The need to focus quickly and get things into this slim size means you can’t have a too big aperture. There is no cheap 21 mm lens.
  • Aspherical lens – this means it has good lens design.
  • Electronic shutter that goes all the way to 1/16000.
  • It starts up very very fast.
  • It comes with a built in tripod (no joke)

The Illustration Now Elaine came by to Kuala Lumpur to attend a launch. She is a popular internet idol here in malaysia with over 400k fans on her facebook alone. Obviously she has done a lot of photoshoot  with me and other photographers. To illustrate my point here, i will show you 2 photographs taken by really good gears and dslrs and the response of the fans/public on the likes count and sharing of the images.

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4.3k likes, 2 shares.

Above is a beautiful photograph taken by Kin Wei, who is a passionate hobbyist in taking portraits. Notice the nice colors, bokeh and editing on her skin tone. nice! 4.3k likes, 2 shares.

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5k likes, 2 shares

This is a photo taken by Tze Leong, an experienced photographer that have keen passion in model portraiture like me. The image above has beautiful framing, colors and bokeh. 5k likes, 2 shares.

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7.8k likes, 89 comments, 28 shares!

This is just a selfie shot taken by Elaine using my Casio TR 50 by herself and i selected this photo when she asked me which one i think is good. Notice how the likes, comments and shares exceeds any of the other photos taken in better gears and sensors. Although a photo should never be judged by likes alone, i can’t deny the fact that voluntary likes and participation of the public on the image serves as a kind of measurement for the impact the image have on the audience. In this case, it demonstrates the TR capability to do what it does best, selfies. Here are some i took using the TR without using any Photoshop on its output. IMG_1432 IMG_1437 IMG_1452 IMG_1434 Conclusion The Casio TR is an overpriced camera at an initial glance. However, i find that its a very capable camera that opens up a lot of mobility and creative angles for seasoned photographers. 21mm is a beautiful focal length that can be used in almost any kind of shoot, esp on such a small sensor and it can focus so close. I find that using a camera with a built in tripod, jpeg only mode and cool apps such as VSCO for post processing a really refreshing approach and challenge to my photography. I stare for sometime at my noctilux in my drybox as i look at some pictures taken of my family. There are very few photos that i took with my family whereby i am inside the photos, given that i am always holding the camera. The thought that TR indeed made it convenient for me to take such photos, is priceless.

USD 50 lens that u can get for your Sony / Leica..and a surprise { Portraiture}

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Ok so i went ahead and took out the Industar 61/LD lens from an old Zorki Russian camera that you can have for around USD 50. Added the M39->Leica M adapter and slot it to my leica. Everything looks good, lovely bokeh, sharp.

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Its very light and gives your camera that extra vintage look. At f2.8, its pretty much good enough for most shoot, if you are using Sony, low light wont even be a problem.

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very bad flare control

 

 

 

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Here comes the scary part. On an accidental flare..i notice there are actually dead? creatures living inside the lens. Hows that for a 40 years old lens?
Yeek. If anyone knows what creatures are these, please comment and let me know.

ZERO reason why you should read my tips on taking natural Photos {Portraiture}

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This week i made another attempt on producing some of the most natural photos. While it is impossible that the model are not posed in the shots, i made the condition and…technique a limiting factor for posing. Natural unposed photos are like the holy grail for outdoor portrait photographers. Some of the ways i have tried previously are :

  • Shooting at 10 fps at least using Nikon D4 and track focusing
  • Shooting at the model while asking someone else to get into an engaging conversation with her
  • Shooting right after the the model unfreeze from the posed
  • Shooting candidly
  • Shooting without informing the model when the shutter is pressed
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Posed, without the knowledge of when the shutter is pressed

Despite all the techniques that i have tried previously, i wasn’t really happy with all the natural shots that i got. Primary reason being that they are missing that elusive candid and relaxed posture and expression that so easily defined a natural portrait. When a model knows that you are shooting and about to fire the shutter, she will automatically freeze to some extent, to give that “model look” or her favourite gaze complete with unnatural wider eyes and posed smiles. Its just something that anyone would do when facing a camera.

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enjoying the session. {natural shot taking using silence shutter with manual rapid pressing}

Here’s the thing. Advancement in technology and cost have allowed fast tracking and shots that belongs to premium cameras like D4/1Dx to sub USD 1000 cameras. But this is just the tip of the iceberg, its the 4k video thats making its debut in various sub USD 1000 cameras that is changing the game and possibilities here. In these images that you see, you will notice the difference between posed shots and those taken using a very simple technique :

  • Extracting 4K stills¬†

I have a mixtures of images done here using the “silence shutter” and 4k stills extraction.¬†This entire series is done via the Panasonic FZ1000 that housed a puny 1″ sensor. You can easily distinguished the images below from a normal photo still vs an extracted 4K stills.

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beautiful {shot at over 200mm, silence shutter still shots}
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the real mccoy {4k stills}
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the padi {4K stills, emphasis on the reflective emotion}
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left alone {silence shutter normal stills}
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happiness run {4k stills}
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cinematic smile {4k stills}
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breeze {4k still}

These are just fast stills i extracted without spending much time on it. I am sure as the week goes on i would be able to extract even better stills and also produce a glance videos of short clips with nostalgic music to match. There is no better way to capture natural photo than using 4k videos extraction. At around 8mp per stills, its more than enough for most online use and even sizeable printing. Those with GH4 and magic lantern for 5Dmk3 can even try raw footages of DNGs per extraction.

While i still love using the Leica ME with the noctilux to produce out of the world images of still images, i have to confess that my heart have gone after videos for its ability to showcase the scene, model and life. Photography is becoming like a secondary workflow process as 4k videos becomes more available in large sensors.

Three story of people i met that you should read {portraiture}

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irresistible

Elaine Cheah. An internet idol. As a student in a quiet state north of Kuala lumpur, her reputation for being cute, beautiful, sexy didn’t take long to go viral. She found herself having over 400k fans in facebook and her new instagram account went over 20k. As an internet idol, she has a lot of offers from businesses and new ventures for advertisement posts for her huge base of fans.
Reputation comes with its price though. As her chosen photographer and friend, i personally witnesses how some random strangers would try to “get her” with baits of contracts and career. One such instance was just in April, 2015, after our shoot in Bangsar Village Shopping Centre a guy claiming to be of some management position gave us his card and took our numbers. He then personally msg just Elaine for “private invites” to some event which happened to have only “1” ticket availability and the promise of meeting prominent people.
Elaine rejected that event simply because she wasn’t free, the event turned out to be just some lineup launching of a bag brand in a public mall where anyone can just see. He followed up with msgs like “hook up for coffee” which is highly inappropriate usage of words. One can only wonder if its ignorance of english words used by new generation today is the reason for such construct or just another subtle way to reveal his purpose.

 

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short hair

I met Nicole thru another friend from Kampar, Perak. This is the same place where Elaine study. Nicole is a tall, girl that occasionally model for her varsity. For asians 170cm is considered tall. Reminded me of Janice which i met in 2013 which is at 173cm and today is an active freelancer in decent catwalks and ushering, a friend that i often miss and yet happy for her new found success.
Now back to Nicole. She was just finishing her studies so her request for a photoshoot was greeted without resistance on my part since she would be in KL.
It was 1st January 2015, a public holiday where people go out and celebrate but we decided to shoot the whole day with 3 different makeover and location. I enjoyed myself much that day with all the laughs and awkward situations of her learning to pose for the camera. We met up with Danny for a cafe shootout and did a nightshoot outside a prominent KL shopping mall, Pavilion.
You can find her albums in this blog on January 2015.
Nicole has a more laid back attitude about her images and often taking up stronger moral stand on daily issues. One could easily see how happy and proud she is on her boyfriend, a handsome young man that is at least 180 cm. Looking at their images that they have done for the varsity and bridal houses in Kampar, i often joked about how they don’t need to get photoshoot on their actual wedding day. She has a dimple on her right side of her face, which made some images unique and that extra punch in character.

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desolate

 

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white

 

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classic

Stephy is another internet idol here in Malaysia with over 100k fans in Facebook, but an equivalent amount in Instagram. Instagram seems to be a much better platform for advertisement and Stephy found herself courted with many offers for advertisement. At a young age of only 19 now, i recalled my first photoshoot with her when she was just 15. It was one of the most challenging shoot i ever did simply because of the mounted pressure i had on myself for the quality of images to be delivered…and i was just starting out myself in photography back then.
Stephy Yiwen is a very friendly and comfortable person to be around with during photoshoot, she gave clear indication of her objectives what are some of the images she likes or don’t like and i often found myself forgetting that i was shooting someone with a huge fan count. She could play guitar by learning it from youtube and is currently taking up japanese language classes as her additional language. In Malaysia, most people know at least 3 languages, so adding japanese would mean knowing 4 languages.

 

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many reasons to be happy

 

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the baby

Do pay their facebook a visit to know more about them or for advertisement opportunities. Keywords: Elaine Cheah, Stephy Yiwen.