Marcus’s random Natural outdoor portraiture guide {film|portraiture}

Sometimes…maybe often, i would look for new portraits inspiration on the Internet. The best came from some obscure photographers that publishes their work more for storage rather than sharing, many good ones comes from social influencers that thru practice and hard work became skilful in creating them. However…there are quite a number that appears on seemingly professional photographers websites but are cringe worthy and makes me wonder if perhaps i have a different level of acceptance or culture.

I learn portraits by practice, joining workshops and practice. I am blessed with lots of beautiful friends that i met while pursuing my photography passion and it would be an injustice to them and myself if i didn’t focus on portraits.

I would therefore share 5 of the key reminders that i personally use in my portraits and i do mostly outdoor portraits based on available light. I am going to skip thru the normal guides like “look for interesting light”, “rules of 3rd” and those other stuffs that you can find elsewhere.

I shot all images here on Nikon U2 with Kodak ProImage100 film on a 50mm lens. Model friends ig: x.x.angela, stephyyiwen

ig: marcus_low

1. It doesn’t always have to have eye contact

best natural outdoor portraiture guide

eye contact is not always necessary

Join a group shoot and look at the photos, chances are 90/100 of those photos are images of the model or person looking straight into your camera.

While its ok and you should definitely have photos with eye contact with the model, those images quickly becomes boring when almost every single one of them are the same expression of “look into the camera”.

For shoulder and head portraits, eye contact are classical approach for getting good portraits, but it should not be more than 70% of your total images.

I find the approach of being the invisible photographer a much more rewarding approach than “look into the camera” approach. The best images are always the most natural and one where you want the person to feel very relax as though ur not there.

2. Head and shoulders portraits are boring

best natural outdoor portraiture guide

Include more of the environment background with the model

There is a true story of a group of friends that book a flight to a overseas country and went to a beautiful site to do a photoshoot of a model that joined them in the trip. They then proceed to take out their 85mm and 135mm lenses and started shooting.

The resulting images are all photos of the model without any background whatsoever. The blurring of the background and the background inclusion were so minimal that one might as well rent a studio to save cost.

Always try to include some of the environment that the model is in, preferably if the model can have some form of interaction with the environment.

On the other hand, if you going to shoot for wedding photographs, (this is where i differ from the current trend seen in Asia), it’s not a scenery shoot, don’t go shooting the couples looking like miniature figures in a beautiful scenery.  A few years down the road the son or daughter will be looking at that image and wonder who are those people in the scenery.  Might as well buy a poster of that scenery and pin it up.

3. This is not a fashion show, don’t pose like one

best natural outdoor portraits

Even leaves, yes leaves.

Unless you are doing a fashion shoot where you have this tall model wearing some designer ultra urban dress, avoid doing fashion poses in the natural outdoor. Those poses often only makes sense when showing off the clothes or if it’s done with conceptual/artistic background.

For everyone else, including the model that just dressed nice and looking beautiful, your aim should be to take photos that makes her look natural. Poses can be interesting by having some props around like a camera, book, bag or even leaves.

Poses are very important to give the image a sense of comfort and candid feel.

4. Bokeh are good if they are 1.4

best guide for natural outdoor portraits

Bokeh are a big differentiator

There are only two kinds of photographers in portraiture. Those that use bokeh and those that use f1.4 bokeh. I am not saying 1.4 is the same across all focal length, the idea is to use the largest aperture lens that you can find and use that to your advantage.

You see, bokeh and shooting with shallow depth of field differentiates your images with those fake iphones/android types of portraits. If you are not shooting with shallow dof and leveraging on bokeh characteristic of lenses, you might as well shoot with a phone. Eric Kim once posted something silly about his Samsung results are as good as a medium format and he could just be right if you are shooting without any shallow dof.

If you are using a 50mm lens, well, 50 1.8 is the most common 50 mm lens that is available in almost any camera, the idea is to avoid that “normal” range and go for the 1.4.  You want different results, use something different (probably the least important criteria to get good results, but good vs different is a different story, get it?)

5. Don’t over edit

best outdoor portraiture photography guide

keep it natural.

Hell have a special place for three(3) types of photographers. First, those who exploit new models for nude shoot in the name of art, those who use HDR on portraits and lastly, this group outnumber the first two by a large margin…those who liquify and edit their subject generously.

While its perfectly understandable that female subjects would love to look flattering in your photos, you know the edit is too much if anyone who sees that person have an “ouch” effect. “Ouch, she don’t look like anything in her photos” kinda ouch.

Clearing blemishes, spots and lighten the dark circles and the model would look really good as though as he/she had a very good makeup artist. But slimming her down like 30% or making those alien V faces and pulling the legs longer is just no no no. Fact is you would be doing the model more harm than good and you should be drawing anime instead of photography.

* this photo has editing done on the eye’s dark circles.

In 2018, i would love to do more collaborations with models for outdoor shoot but with heavy focus on “feel”. How do we define “feel”, it is that feeling that you get when you look at the photo and you could feel the serenity, loneliness or the joy of that person.

 

The Vietnam Connection {portraits | film | experience}

It dawn upon me that some of the “best” photographers are the famous photographers. In today’s age of internet and social media, popularity and fame falls upon those that are able to blog and express their photos. Maybe its not a popular opinion but from time to time i am often confounded at the quality of portraits or streets that are shared by some online photographers. Its not that they are bad, they just didn’t satisfy my thirst for inspirations.

So i asked myself, “if u think ur better, why don’t u share more of your portraits, gears and street photos, maybe similar minded folks out there could be looking for some inspirations too”. Thank you, 2018, lets just do more of that. In my posts i will attempt to share images, gears and street photos all in one article per post.

I visited Hanoi on 26th-30th december, hazy and cloudy, there isn’t much good lighting to look forward to but i was really excited to see some of the unique scene in Hanoi and wanted to do some shoot there with a model.

I had this peculiar camera with me, its nearly a 80 years old and do or die, it’s the only gear i brought with me.

rolleiflex portraiture film

The rolleiflex 75mm f3.5 automat

 

I brought along some Kodak 400 porta and Fuji 160NS 120 films.  After walking around the streets i notice a unique occurrence in the Old Quarters where a live railway runs thru the city, this is it, i told myself, i need to do an album here.

Thru SanAsia Event, a model was selected for my shooting, her name is Phuong Thao. The agent Miss Dao Thuong from SanAsia Event is a savvy and charming lady, she  told me that Phuong Thao is one of the top 30 in Miss Vietnam search but her dreams are cut short because she could not fund her own glamour outfits nor photo-shoot.

rolleiflex in vietnam portraiture

Miss Thao Phuong, Rolleiflex 75 f3.5, Fuji 160Pro film

vietnam film portraiture rolleiflex

Miss Thao Phuong, Rolleiflex 75 f3.5, Fuji 160NS

 

Miss Thao could understand english but her pronunciations of the english language sounded queer to me. The agent Miss Dao told me that this is a common problem in Hanoi, mainly because graduates are taught in the wrong pronunciations.

While shooting i thought of how lucky the other pageants and contests are in other countries as most of the requirements and needs are covered by sponsorships and the organizers.

After shooting two rolls of film, Miss Dao from SanAsia suggested that we should do the next shoot at Long Bien Bridge, a french architecture marvel that is still supporting the commuting activities in Hanoi.

rolleiflex film portraiture vietnam

Long Bien Bridge, Rolleiflex 75 f3.5, Porta400

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Despite the weather which was hazy and the light is flat, film tones are just so beautiful. It brings out the moment and the very life of the scene, when i look at these images i thought to myself, “wow, i could just reenact the scene and hear the sounds of the bikes and see the hazy ambiance”.

Shooting with film has always been special because i need to manually focus the Rolleiflex and i always shoot wide open regardless of camera and lens. On the Rolleiflex automat this require a lot more effort because the focusing screen is just a ground glass, relatively dim with no split screen or focus confirmation of any sorts, you just have to see the image and when you believe you got it in “focus”, you press the shutter.

The efforts slows down your photoshooting tremendously, i needed to do it fast so that Miss Phuong Thao here won’t be posing too awkwardly waiting for me. It is those very effort and focus that you do while shooting film that your mind embeds the scene with everything in it far beyond what you can remember on a casual snapshot.

So how fast was i? Here is an image of a man riding a bicycle while walking his dog in Hanoi.

rolleiflex street film photographer

man, bicycle and a dog, Rolleiflex 75 f3.5 Porta400

 

The guy running the film lab in Kuala Lumpur didn’t believe this is possible. Well, it is. In fact i am a lot slower than Vivian Maier if you have seen her works, those photos that she did with shallow depth of field on the street, they are impossible to be shot slowly.

Here are some other images on the street that i took.

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portraiture rolleiflex film hanoi

Farmers of Ninh Bimh, north of Hanoi, Rolleiflex 75 f3.5, Fuji 160NS

 

I did bring along a backup camera, my phone, the Google Pixel2. I also took some pictures using it on the rails and the bridge, the results are too crappy to be shared here. Despite being the latest and greatest in mobile photography, “portrait mode” results is far from usable except in the most common scenario of poses.

Feel free to see some of the fail cases of Google Pixel2 here.

Today we live in a world where instant gratification and yada yada is cutting short our experiences and joy in many ways. Film photography as painful as it is, brings back some “pauses” to this world.

Medium format fun with RZ67 {portraiture|film}

When the world first herald the end of film, film gears prices went downhill very quickly. Today, we no longer talk about “film is not dead” as a topic but rather whether one chooses “film” or digital as a choice of medium. The recent Rollei “Vario-chrome” was sold out all most as fast as it reaches the shelves, even if those are virtual shelves sold online.

If you wanted to try film, you should go ahead and try Medium format as those gears are just a fraction of its original cost and being medium format, you get huge “sensors” hahaha. These huge negative size produces really amazing and beautiful results even when scanned by the same scanner that scans the normal 135 film.

For medium format portraiture, i would recommend the Mamiya RZ67 and its legendary 110mm f2.8. So as per the style of my blogging, lets see some of the images i done for the last 2 months using the Mamiya RZ67 and films like pro160NS or kodak porta400.

 

This image barely got any editing, the model is a stranger i bumped into an offered her a makeup with an album. Her name is Kiwami and she is a local chinese in malaysia. Look at those faithful rendering of her hair and the skin tones on her, see how those highlight behind just falls in beautifully into the bokeh.

This is Amanda, a popular makeup artist in Malaysia, aka Mak3upQueen. This scene was shot at a rooftop around 630 pm and some of the sunset light are coming in. Just love those tones!

Notice that in the portraits above, Amanda wore red, a color that is often problematic to digital sensors even today. For film, its just a walk in the park. I must say, i wished the sunset golden light was better.

Blue are gorgeous on film too, even though its indoor. You can find out more about Mamiya RZ67 pro cameras from google and checkout its pricing in ebay/etsy or other online used marketplace. I personally went for the version 1, instead of the more expensive RZ67 proII. Hope you enjoyed the medium format portraiture samples that i took.

 

If portraiture bores you, try doing it at night {portraiture | CCD}

Just wanted to quickly share two images i just took tonight.

If you feel that portraiture are beginning to bore you and you have been doing way too many portraits, try doing it at night.

Its a totally different level and playing field at night and the resulting images often brings a long lost smile to that photography kid hiding inside.

All images below are taken with Nikon CCD sensor camera at F1.4.  As to which camera it is, you will have to dig around my blogs to find out, i have been very vocal about how underrated this camera is, i bought three of them just so i have some assurance of its continuity.

 

malaysia top portrait photographer

malaysia top portrait photographer

 

The model is Amanda CME, also known as Mak3upQueen, you can find her on facebook and if you happened to be in Malaysia, do engage her makeup services for your model photoshooting.

cheers.

 

 

fujifilm GA645 review thru portraiture {review}

I was visiting a film lab in Publika KL last week and the owner offered to loan me a Fuji GA645 for my portrait works. I took the camera and did some googling. After reading a few reviews i was totally disappointed. Most reviews talk so much about the authors’ feeling on the camera but failed to show any interesting portraits or even images.

Here are some example of sites : filmshootercollective.com, dantestella.com , while they do contain some useful info about the camera and some nice photos of the camera itself, i came out feeling empty and hungry.  Maybe its because i am into portraiture and the lack of such examples just doesn’t show the camera any justice.

Without any materials to draw inspiration from, i took the camera, a roll of kodak Porta400 220 and went shooting with Irene near bangsar at Plant Cartridge.

There is this idea that have been in the air for sometime about what kind of imagery can we create that would hit the mass appeal for “the perfect girlfriend impression”, to the asians. Reading up on some articles and some sharing of ideas with makeup artists like Megan, the suggestion is that guys prefer girls that are just simple, wears basic clothing that are comfortable, long hair (what?), slim and with a pleasant personality. Sexy elements such as showing strong curves and cleavages didn’t make it to the list. #pfibyM

Enjoy the images and do leave me a comment or two. All the images are shot wide open at 60mm f4, Aperture priority mode.

fuij ga645 portratis

beauty and flowers

 

ga645 beautiful portraits

Skintones

fujiga645 medium format film

its summer

fuji GA645 full body portraiture

floral balcony

fujifilm ga645 outdoor solo portraiture review

hello

fujifilm 645 medium format GA645 portraiture

serendipity

fujifilm camera review medium format 645

joy

fujifilm medium format camera gear view ga645 portraits

yellow bokeh

World’s most beautiful Leica M6 Part II {does it takes pictures?}

best leica m6 available

M6 Dragon Y2000 Black Paint

Read Part 1 here

We have to ask ourselves whenever we try to justify our purchases. Especially one that comes from the red-dot company (cough*). The left brain begets us to explain, to sanitise our conscience through logic. The big question is “Why did you buy this camera, will you even use it?”. There is a thin line between a gear head, a collector and an actual enthusiast user that appreciates using the tool.

 

leica zeiss ultimate m6 camera

Leica M6 dragon with 35mm f2 Biogon

When i bought the Dragon M6 limited edition, i was clearly stunned by its built and quality. I even blogged about this earlier . It has been weeks since i had the camera. All the early shouting and self afflicted propaganda to keep buyer’s remorse have subsided. I couldn’t allow myself to keep the camera in the box to just appreciate its aesthetic values, my views of collectors are pretty low in respect and using that same measurement on myself would make me a complete hypocrite.

A beautiful tool such as the Dragon M6 have to prove its worth and a camera is useless if it isn’t used to create images. So i took it out for a whole day shoot when my model friend and internet idol Stephy Yi Wen told me that she would be going to Korea for studies. I got myself some rolls of Fuji Superia 200 and Fuji Venus 800. I knew that i would be using the 35mm Zeiss Biogon wide open but in a room with only dimly available natural light coming in, the ISO 800 film would be handy.

 

best film camera 2017

The Dragon 2000

If you happened to be travelling to South East Asia and passing by Malaysia, do get your films replenish and develop in Bang Bang Geng in Publika. With the pathetic level of Malaysian currency today, you could get a Superia 200 for USD 4 and scanning with development for USD 4.5.

Now back to shooting session. I noticed that there are indeed some improvement that M7 does have over even this Dragon M6. One of them being the iso dials you see behind the body, the M7’s iso dial is clearly easier to use and felt more robust. The other is the shutter dials. The Dragon’s shutter dial are more polished and looks great but turning the knob at each stop felt better on the M7. The M7 is after all a much newer camera.

 

most expensive leica m6 2017

Immaculate finishing

The rewind knob is used slightly differently than how i imagined it would be. The Dragon’s knob needs to be lifted up while the 2 dots remains submerged to do the rewinding. I found myself winding for 5 minutes and getting nowhere initially before i realized that the knob needs to be lifted.

There are several aspect of the camera that made it a very inspiration tool for use. First, the body is slightly lighter than the M7, i would say almost nobody would buy an M7 or M6 without using it on a holster or case. The Dragon just felt perfect while the M7 felt a bit on the heavier side. This is of course a purely personal evaluation. The other advantage is that the Dragon only uses 1 battery as opposed to 2 on the M7, the mechanism of replacing the battery on the M6 is definitely built better than the M7s.  The 0.85 finder, delicious.

Enough about the camera, how did it do, i will leave some images here for you own evaluation.

recommended leica m6 for today

beautiful stephy. M6 dragon. venus 800

 

desire leica m6 dragon edition

Enlightenment. M6 Dragon, venus 800.

 

most desirable leica

Alluring. M6 Dragon, venus 800.

 

best film camera leica dragon m6

Stephy @ Sekeping Jugra. M6 Dragon. Superia 200

 

limited edition 2000 dragon leica

“There”. M6 Dragon. Superia 200.

Could i have gotten better or similar results from the Leica M7? Of course i could, don’t be silly :-). The Dragon M6 might be the most beautiful Leica M6 that warrants it as a collector item but it should by all means be used. The 0.85 works really well with the 35mm frame lines. What was you weekend shoot, did you try film? Do share some of your thoughts here.

Beautiful Portraiture at 35mm {portraiture}

Recently I have been shooting on both the sigma dp2x and the canon 6d digital. It’s Chinese New Year and the film labs are not open so i invited Stephy chang over for a session.

malaysia portraiture best photographer

Sigma dp2x

Sigma have amazing colors but highlights often blown easily. Despite what some die hard sigma fans will defensively tell you, it’s pretty much Sigma’s silly decision to put the AFE conponent into an otherwise usable camera.

Well regardless of brands and advantages, let’s just enjoy some of these images.

best outdoor portraits 35mm photography

Sigma dp2x

best malaysia portraiture outdoor photographer

dp2x on vertical portraits, 3 meters away

I have a lot of beautiful images taken by the canon 6D, it’s amazing how easy the common cameras are in delivering results vs sigma. There is this beautiful airbnb site “sekeping jugra” that allows various interesting scene with the play of light. If you happened to be in KL, do drop by this place or make it your accommodation.

35mm outdoor portraits canon 6D photographer

Canon 6d. Added grains

best outdoor portraits canon malaysia

Canon. Moving candids are easy on canon, impossible on sigma

 

stephy yiwen photography best photographer

Canon 6d

The sigma images are shot on 41mm and the canon images on 35mm. I am a fan of using non standard portraiture lenses focal length because I needed the outdoor scene for context . I find it often hilarious how some would travel far and shoot models on 85mm losing any relevant context to the images.

What is your favourite outdoor portrait lens ? I have once tried using 18mm for portraits.

 

Penang beach {portraiture}

penang best portrait photographer

Serenity

One of the unexpected nice location for photoshoot in Penang is this small opening at Babylon restaurant .

I have always strived for taking portraits that are natural with an element of candid feel to it. With the wind on my side and a close and happy model at the scene, the right recipe for a beautiful album that presents itself.

penang outdoor best portraits 35mm

True smiles, a rarity among portraits

Eilein Pang have collaborated with me for over a year now for her albums and her popularity and freelance jobs have grown too. Often we would chat about some local issues that are faced by the freelancers and the individuals that we could draw inspirations from.

She has never doubted my  constant preference to try new ideas on different mediums and gears. When I pursued film for the skin tones and organic feel she was pretty patient with the waiting period that her generation have never experienced before.

35mm penang best outdoor photography

Horizon

penang best 35mm portraits marcus

Calmness

I will be visiting this place again if I visit Penang. Curious as to how the light would be at sunrise.  I hope you enjoyed these short series of images.

Portraits, last months of 2016 {portraiture|film}

Just wanted to share some of the images i took in the last months of 2016, between November and December 2016. Some friends call me the best portrait photographer in Malaysia jokingly, looking back, i have done portraits without any limitations on myself, pursuing whatever medium and gears i felt is inspiration for the album and experiment and learn at the same time.

I have been using mostly film exclusively, some on the medium format Mamiya rz67pro film with Kodak Porta and  some on the leica noctilux f1.0, M7, fujipro 400h film.

 

 

Amanda kills digital {portraiture | film}

amanda

Amanda | mamiya rz67pro | fuji400H pro

Perhaps this picture will cause you to consider doing medium format film photography. Although i did a lot of nice sexy beach shoot with Amanda, this photo taken in a cafe on the Mamiya RZ67Pro with 110 f2.8 lens just raised the level to 3D literally.

The colors and tones are just so beautiful. Its mind blowing to think that one need to spend USD 2000 on puny FF digital nowadays when USD 400 gets you this amazing gear with plenty of $$ for film development. Awesome.

 

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