HOW TO SHOOT QUICKLY OR WHAT MY CURRENT CAMERA SETUP LOOKS LIKE.

With a client like Abandon Ship Apparel I’m often tasked with photographing a large amount of garments on short notice, this is mainly due to the brand having to create exciting new content daily for their social media channels. I have to frequently photograph up to 20 outfits, make multiple selections of the same outfits to provide variation for the brand on social media, edit and upload the final images in a two-hour timeframe.

A note on making selections: For me personally, I'm a firm believer in quality over quantity. I believe providing one strong image to a client is better than providing them with 3-5 okay images. This is mainly due to quality control as a photographer as I personally don't want an average image out in the world with my name attached to it. But with these types of shoots I cannot do this as multiple images are to be provided as part of the agreement. For full transparency I've decided to include all the images I provide to the brand at the end of the shoot. In the gallery below you will see multiple variations of the same image. 

I used to find this style of shooting incredibly taxing and overwhelming but after many mistakes, stressful shoots and editing sessions I have developed a method which can be easily replicated and I have now come to love these types of shoots. I mean, what's not to like, I'm getting paid to take photographs and having a great time.  

Below I will outline my camera, lens, flash choices as well as my processing techniques and output methods. I hope you can implement some these methods and techniques into your own photo shoots and workflows.


CAMERA CHOICE

 

Recently I switched from a full frame Canon rig to Fuji. For around 4 years I was using a 5D Mark ii with various lenses but was converted to Fuji 2 months or so ago. The reasons I chose to switch was because I like a film look and the images the Fuji sensors output to have been the easiest by far to replicate a film look with.  Now I know I could just shoot film, but for most shoots I don’t have the time to shoot film due to time constraints. So switching to Fuji was the logical choice for me. I started with a Fuji Xpro-1 which I love and still do but I have recently picked up the Fuji-XT1, which to me is the perfect camera.

When I pick a new camera I’m not pixel peeping or looking for something that does everything under the sun, because frankly I won’t be using half of those features. When I buy a new camera I look at a couple of key specs.

1.     Does it perform well at High ISO?

2.     Can you buy great lenses for it?

3.     Is it unobtrusive?

4.     Is it light (because I don’t want to be carrying around 10kg of camera and lenses around my neck all day.)

5.     And lastly and most important to me does it feel good to hold?

Fuji answered yes to all the above questions. Everything else is down to the photographer.

I was sold on the XPRO-1 mainly due to how it felt in the hand. It reminded me of my favourite camera to use the Contax G-1, which is what I shoot all my film pictures on. I don’t believe there is a more tactile and intuitive camera around. Another reason I was sold on the Fuji system is because of their constant firmware updates. If something didn’t perform well that they could fix with firmware they do, they don’t punish their customers by making them buy a new camera to get updated features. They constantly improve their already existing products.

If you’re interested in picking up a Fuji XPRO-1 you can get it with the 27mm and 18mm lenses at the moment for £658 HERE, which is a steal.

Lens choice

For these shoots I like something small and not invasive, so I often use the 27mm, effective 35mm focal length of 45mm. I feel at home with this focal length as the Contax G-1 I own also has a 45mm lens, so it was an easy transition for me from one to the other. I recently picked up the Fuji 16-55mm F2.8 which has an effective 35mm focal length of 24mm-85mm. It’s great lens, tack sharp even wide open and I like that the lens doesn’t stop at the conventional 70mm end, it gives me that extra 15mm to make up to 85mm which means it’s a great portrait lens but it’s a tad to large for these types of shoots so I stick to the 27mm and zoom with my feet.

FLASH CHOICE

For these photo shoots I often stick to using on camera flash, a lot of people dislike this look as they think it looks amateur, however I like the sharp shadows, contrasting tones and punchy highlights that this light gives. For portability I use a small speedlite. I recently picked up the Nissin i40 for my Fuji XPRO-1 and Fuji XT-1 rigs, it’s a surprisingly powerful little speedlite with fast recycle times and full TTL mode. If you’re looking for a small powerful speedlite I recommend this over Fuji’s own speedlites. As great looking as the Fuji EF-EX20 looks, I mean it’s straight copy of the awesome Contax TLA200, it does not perform nearly as well as as the Nissin i40 So if you’re looking for a great flash for FUJI, this is it, it even has a video light built in! You can see and buy the Nissin i40 for Fuji here HERE

Extra tip: If the light in the room isn’t terrible or a horrible colour cast I usually boost my ISO to up to a 1000 to improve recycle times. Some pixel peepers may be losing their heads about now, but understand that these images aren’t to be seen printed, or at 100% they’re intended to be seen on a handheld device or website. Shooting quickly also helps the shoots to run more smoothly, you can easily get into a nice state of flow without having to wait for your flash to recharge.


BATTERY CHOICE

With shoots like this I often find myself shooting very quickly, usually as quickly as I can press the shutter button. To speed up recycle time I use Eneloop Pro rechargeable batteries. If you don’t know about these, they have been regarded for a long time as the best rechargeable batteries you can get for speedlites. They hold a huge amount of power, recycle quickly and charge quickly. They are used by pro wedding photographers all over the world. If you use speedlites or any non proprietary battery designed powered photography equipment I would really urge you to buy these. They haven’t let me down in 2 years of having them. I rarely go through a whole set in a day even if I am using flash for every image! Amazon currently has a great deal where you can get 8 AA Eneloop Pro batters and free storage boxes for them Here

SD CARDS

For SD cards I use SanDisk Extreme PRO 32GB SDHC UHS-I/U3, they write quickly, haven’t let me down and are pretty cheap.

SHOOTING STYLE

With shoots on short notice I like to use a whitewall backdrop, it’s a simple backdrop that puts the emphasis on the clothing and the model, it’s also incredibly cheap to do as all you need is a white wall. It also eliminates the cost of using a paper backdrop and there is virtually no set up time.

On these shoots is fun, it’s hard to pinpoint what fun is photographically but it usually involves the model pulling faces, interacting with the clothes and having a good time.

A good thing to remember is that when you photograph for a brand is that their prospective customers who are looking at the images, don’t really buy into the clothes they buy into who they can potentially be if they wear the clothes. They buy into the feeling that it can give them. If they see someone having fun in a t-shirt they think that the item of clothing will make them have fun too. There’s a reason lifestyle shots are called lifestyle, because people want the lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong the clothes have to look good and be photographed well but you have to give customers the sense that these clothes can change their life. Great examples of this are car adverts, it’s rarely about how many features the car has it’s about how the car will make you feel like. It’s never, it does 700 miles to the gallon and has great windshield wipers. As you can see from the images above, I like to keep the images fun, the model animated and doing something. This works especially well if the model has little experience or is new, by keeping them occupied you have more chance of capturing a real gesture or a genuine smile. 



IMAGE PROCESSING

For processing these types of images I use Lightroom and VSCO. If you haven’t heard of VSCO, where have you been? It’s by far the quickest and easiest way to replicate a film look digitally. I often start with a Kodak Portra filter and tweak it until it I create the look I’m going for. I like Lightroom as it enables me to rename, make selections and batch process images in a short period of time which is essential for these types of shoots. I can also make individual libraries and a self contained filing structure so I cam easily revisit the shoots and see the changes I’ve made to the original images. 

Below is a quick video introduction to VSCO.



 

OUTPUT

This for a long time was the by far the hardest part of the process to get right. I’ll explain, with photoshoots of this kind there are often a lot of images required to be uploaded quickly to the brands company dropbox or sent via Wetransfer and as much as I love Lightroom I wasn’t able to output images with a decent quality without having to bump up the file size. I tried moving the quality slider up and down, reducing the dimensions of the image but everything was still coming in at over 1mb, I know that doesn’t sound like much but if images are to be used online for the website and you have a large volume of traffic on the website you need small images to ensure that the customers shopping experience isn’t ruined by slow loading pages. After a year of trying every output technique under the sun I discovered JPEGMINI.

 

If you haven’t heard of it check it out HERE. It dramatically reduces the size of jpegs without sacrificing quality. I don’t know what sort of magic is going on under the hood of this program but it’s brilliant. It also works on full size 300ppi images often taking a 20mb image and reducing it to 3.9mb. It’s actually so good at what it does that I have had to ensure clients that I have in fact sent them High Res images and that they aren’t Low Res images mislabelled. If you often find yourself shooting large quantities of images that have to be uploaded, then this program will dramatically slow down your upload time. It’s also really good if you want to have a fast responsive portfolio website without sacrificing image quality.

 

 

Below is my current kit that I use on a daily basis. 

 

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Any questions leave em in the comments and I'll answer them.