Camera Soul….

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I am writing this as I constantly get asked questions about my equipment and I hope to shed some light on my obsession. I admit it – I love cameras…period! I love looking at them; touching them and using them. My obsession is is partly aesthetically driven and partly functionally driven but the cameras that I end up having a “relationship” with are the counterintuitive ones. They are not the cameras that you would think a pro photographer would love. They are not the best performing or the highest megapixel count or the ones that other pro’s use either but they have something else….something indescribable…beyond language…a soul… Now I know that sounds a bit ethereal but bear with me…. Every camera I use has a particular purpose and raison d’etre. It serves some professional function and achieves what I want it to achieve to produce a particular piece of work. It does not necessarily follow that I enjoy using it. A Hasselblad or Leaf is great for slow and methodical work in good light that requires a considered approach and gives one the highest megapixels that certain clients require but these are both big systems that dont perform in low light. The Nikon D800 is capable of matching the lower end of the Medium Format systems and adds speed to the equation as well as a decent low light performance. It is good for fast paced studio and location work. The Nikon D4 is great for low light and action shots and low light work. As you can see there are specific purposes for all these cameras that I use. None of them are cameras that I pick up at home or when travelling or even when I am doing some personal work. None of them feel like comfortable cameras that I love to use. So, what is it that I have reached for over the last few years that satisfies my emotive connection with the equipment? Well….it is and has been for a number of years Olympus’s offerings. Olympus fans will not be surprised by this as they are privvy to a secret that all those photographers wedded to other systems aren’t. Olympus cameras just produce better images straight out of camera! There is something about Olympus files that without getting too retro are a bit more film-like and as a result have that “Soul” I was referring to earlier. Olympus has not been the easiest system to love  as I am not sure that Olympus loves its customers as much as its die hard fans love it but Olympus engineers clearly love what they do. They know how to make a camera. They are the Apple of the camera world. The latest Micro Four Thirds offering from Olympus – the OMD EM-1 is a fantastic camera which, due to its size means that I can carry a whole lens system covering all my required focal lengths in a small canvas shoulder bag that weighs less than the D800 with a 70-200 attached. It has a great selection of lenses from Olympus and Panasonic and can be mated through adapters with just about any 35mm lens out there including Leica as well as the fantastic Olympus/Zuiko legacy lenses. The camera is as good as dust and waterproof with certain lenses and is built like a tank. Image quality is superb and in good light competes with larger professional offerings from other manufacturers. It is pretty good in low light and although this is its Achilles heal it is a non issue for me. I have made exhibition prints with the Olympus E1 (Their first digital pro camera – 6mp and terrible low light performance.) I am not going to carry on with this article as I am beginning to sound like a fanboy but you get the picture – excuse the pun. I love using this camera…..

Disclosure: I have not got any connection to Olympus and these opinions are solely mine.

My thoughts on Motion Image Capture

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Apologies for taking so long to follow up to my post on what I feel about motion stills and its implications for photography. Well, I have had a bit of time to digest the idea and whilst it would seem on the surface to have the potential to radically affect photography I am now not sure it will have quite as dramatic an effect. I am sure that there will be people that will find it useful and I am not discounting using myself for appropriate jobs. It is a bit of a creativity stifler in the sense that part of the creative vision of a photographer is the pre-visualisation of a shoot and I feel that this would encourage a hit and miss and a “…lets see what we get” approach (which may be good for some but not for me). This series of photographs (http://marcrogoff.com/recent-/thumbs/) for Bambi Magazine I did recently is a good example of pre-visualising and is probably as close as I have ever got to accomplishing what I had seen in my minds eye before a shoot. If I had shot this series with a motion capture camera I am sure it would have come out completely differently. Sometimes having too much choice is a dangerous thing!
Notwithstanding the creative limitations there are of course lots of technical issues that would stifle the result. Lighting scenes like the ones above would have been extremely difficult with hot lights and probably impossible in the space we were occupying. The size and heat of the lights required and the fact that we were bleeding ambient into the shots would have meant blurry images and very high iso’s. Controlling depth of field is another issue that is a creativity killer. The other thing is the cost of storing vast amounts of moving images and the time required to go throughout them is another impracticality that personally I can do without. The are many more technical reasons why I would choose stills and strobe over hot lights and moving images and I am sure if you give it some thought you will come up with a few yourself?
So, the bottom line for me at least is that I can’t see myself being impacted by this technology to any great degree. I can see its uses for Wedding photographers or for News editorial photographers who are tasked with documenting an event or for some forms of portraiture but for Fashion work it has its limitations. I will be sticking to stills and the flexibility that strobe lights offer for the time being.

Very happy to hear back from anyone who has different thoughts on the subject so please feel free to comment, disagree or email me if you dont want to comment below.

Motion Image Capture – A threat to still photography?

I just came across this video which is worth watching as it is a good indication where things are going in stills photography and has got me thinking broadly about what I do and what implications it has for my future as a stills photographer. I will let you assess it for yourself and will be writing my thoughts about this in my next blog entry but feel free to let me know what you think.

 

Targeting the tricky subject of usage and why we license our images?

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On a number of occasions recently, I have found myself in the position of having to explain to new clients why Photographers and Model agencies charge for usage and the licensing of images. One particular client who has not had any experience in these matters was initially incredulous that he should have to tell us what media he was planning to advertise in and how long he required a license for. As far as he was concerned he was paying us to take photos and that should be that! Usage and licensing is an increasingly difficult thing to explain and justify to clients, particularly in an era when everyone seems to have a camera and competition is ferocious.A lot of photographers I talk to these days are either unwilling to discuss licensing and usage with their clients for fear of alienating themselves or are genuinely ignorant of what the reasons to charge for this are. This method of payment for photographic services rendered however, is important to our industry and the way it functions but there are times where it is not appropriate.

Firstly, let me delve into the reasons that we charge usage and license our images. For Model agencies the exposure of a model in the media can have an effect on the capability of a model to get additional work and for the price she can achieve. For instance if a model is chosen for a global skincare campaign, then the likelihood of additional work coming her way from other skincare brands is diminished. Other large skincare brands obviously don’t want the same model as their competitors resulting in less work for that model in that particular area. If on the other hand the same model got a highly localised campaign then her options in terms of other skincare clients is relatively good and therefore she can charge less for her services. Simply – the higher the exposure the more it should cost. This logic is much the same with say a car photographer who has a distinctive style. Once this style has been exposed in a global campaign then the likelihood of him being employed by another car company is diminished.

The other more obvious reason is that if we do our jobs well then we can create a tangible effect for our clients such as an increase in turnover or more interest in their brand and in some cases we actually “make” the Brand. With this much responsibility we should be remunerated accordingly. So, the value of an image should be based on how and where it is used – if you are shooting something for a local business with little exposure then usage is something that IMHO should not necessarily be charged for. Licensing however, should be clear to stop that image from being used for things outside of the initial intent and being sold on. If you are shooting for a business where clearly you are going to be making a difference to their bottom line such as a global campaign for a large brand then you need to be charging usage.

Another situation where usage and licensing needs to be tightly controlled is if you are a fine art photographer who’s images need protecting from clients thinking that because they purchase prints from you that they have the right to reproduce them for their own/company’s benefit – clear licensing needs to be established early. I personally use a great program called Blinkbid which easily allows you to draw up licenses and usage contracts at your estimate stage. I can highly recommend it.

So, the final big question is how much do I charge for a particular image in a particular country; a particular use and for a particular time period of time…well there is no easy answer for this but a good guide is to look at rates the Stock agencies use to supply images. This will give you a good basis and justification for your usage rates. You can tell a client that your usage is based on “Alamy” rates for instance…. The advertising business is one business where photographers usage is generally respected but it is the individual photographers that deal direct with clients that need to realise the benefits of working this way. I do find it interesting that all the model agencies I deal with have no qualms in charging for usage and yet photographers seem to shy away from it.

It is incumbent on all of us who call ourselves ‘professionals’ to act as such and collectively make sure we charge for usage where appropriate. If we don’t act collectively then we are pilfering the legacy that previous generations have worked so hard to achieve to establish usage for us.

Let me know if you have any thoughts on the subject…