Using color gels on your flash to dramatically change the look and feel of a scene

I have a portrait shoot with a rare talent coming up in a couple of weeks, so I have been working on building a mood board. To do that, I have been combing the internet and magazines for looks that would fit well for the type of shoot that I have planned. This is not only a source of inspiration, but it also enables a more straightforward creative discussion with the model, stripped off the jargon of photographers. I’m also experimenting with my gear in order to refresh my technique or try new styles for me. That’s when Chopper comes in. Chopper is the most patient and understanding model I have ever known. Even when I waste time trying to figure out my settings rather than shooting, I have never heard Chopper complain. Last but not least, Chopper is always on time too, all I need to do is… open my closet! Ah, what would I do without my Chopper plastic figurine 😉

Anyway, I get Chopper from its closet, and on we go with the topic of the day: using color gels with 2 flashes. This is what the scene looked like without flash:

The shallow depth of field gets rid of the clutter in my living room, but overall a pretty boring result so I decided to give a bit of kick to the scene by using some colored lights. You could go for only one color gel on the rim light for something a bit more interesting (usually something in the orange-red spectrum works well), but since I was experimenting for myself in my living room with a silent model I decided to go all the way and use some color gel on the main light too. As I was going to paint the scene with 2 colors coming from 2 different flash units, the first thing I did was to kill any ambient light by using a faster shutter speed, so that I started from a black canvass so-to-speak. From there, I find that the best way to work is by working on each light separately.

For my rim light, I positioned a flash unit with a pink gel to the side and slightly behind Chopper.

For the main light, I used another flash unit, to the camera right at around a 30º angle to the subject, but this time with a blue color gel. Again, I worked out my settings on this light independently, turning off the rim light.

Finally, once I was happy with the settings on each light, I combined them for the final result. Both flash units were triggered remotely using a commander unit mounted on the camera. Et voilà!

All the images in this article are JPEGs straight out of the camera. The Pink & Blue look is quite popular on social media at the moment (those colors go well together), but most of the images you will see like that on social media are the result of some tweaks of the hue and saturation sliders coupled with split-toning during post-processing. It is a different type of technique.

Anyway, on my end I will continue to play and experiment with lights, and I’m getting super stoked about my upcoming shoot… I hope you enjoyed this article, and I’ll talk to you again soon 😉

Product shots of the Fujifilm X-T2 and the X-Series family (and a few sample shots)

After 2 months of intense hype, the X-T2 has now officially joined the Fujifilm X-Series family on the 8th of September, as it finally shipped across the globe. I received mine on Thursday, along with its battery grip. I won’t do any unboxing video this time, as there are already plenty to be found on the net. I will also take the required time to put the X-T2 through its paces, especially the new autofocus system (rethought algorithms + Canon-like customizable settings), so I will not rush any review. Meanwhile, here are some pictures of the X-T2 (mine), which kept a similar design as its predecessor, although just a tiny tiny bit fatter. Anyways, I still would like to share some pictures OF the X-T2 along with its siblings, because it still looks gorgeous. So, without further ado, here is… the Fuji X-T2!

 

And the battery grip (or Vertical Power Booster Grip VPB-XT2 as Fujifilm calls it) that comes back on steroids:

  • 2 extra battery slots instead of 1 (for a total of 3 batteries including the one in the X-T2)
  • can be used to charge 2 batteries at the same time thanks to the AC adapter that comes with it in the box
  • includes a headphone jack for video shooting
  • has its own AF joystick for shooting vertically
  • also improves the grip when shooting horizontally

When compared to the X-T1, you can see that the X-T2 is a little bit bigger, although the difference is barely visible. The main difference in design visible from the front is the taller ISO and shutter speed dials:

29600521945_0d306e4256_o

Comparing the X-T1 and X-T2’s grips, the size difference is more obvious given the additional functionalities of the XT2’s grip:

However, the X-T2 (without battery grip) still feels more compact than the other X-Series camera sharing the same sensor and image processor, the X-PRO2:

29600540565_cf1ef008bc_o

And here are the first few sample images I took with the X-T2 (JPEGs from the camera with the Velvia film simulation):

The ACROS film simulation

A little over 2 years ago, I wrote a post in which I compared all the film simulations available at the time for the Fujifilm X-Series cameras. Since then, Fujifilm has come up with the classic chrome film simulation, and more recently with the ACROS film simulation. For whatever reason, the latter is only available for the cameras from the X-Pro2 and onwards, but it is quickly becoming one of my favorite film simulations.

If I want to shoot in black and white, I now just set my camera to ACROS instead of converting the picture to black and white later during post-processing. Here are a few examples:

Field Test: Shooting with the Fujifilm XF50-140mmF2.8 + XF1.4X TC WR Teleconverter

The Fujinon XF1.4X TC WR Teleconverter came out at the end of last year. At the moment, it is only compatible with the XF50-140mmF2.8 zoom lens, but the XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 telephoto zoom and the XF120mmF2.8 macro will also be compatible when they are released.

24232578581_2400eb272f_c

When you add a 1.4x teleconverter between your lens and your camera, you lose one stop of light (due to the almighty laws of physics). Therefore, the XF50-140mmF2.8 + XF1.4X TC will be equivalent to an XF70-196mmF4 lens. You need to update the firmware of your camera (X-T1 in my case), something We have gotten used to do, but you also need to update the lens firmware (something we do less often) before you start using the teleconverter. Once both the camera and the lens firmware so are up to date, your camera will be able to understand to which lens you have attached the teleconverter, and from there will be able to calculate the correct values of focal length and aperture.

24232472271_13dafd9101_c

In order to test the XF50-140mmF2.8 + XF1.4X TC combo in real-life conditions, I decided to use it for most of my portraits of the last Coming of Age Day, mounted on the X-T1, only switching to the XF56F1.2 prime at the end of the day. Knowing that I was losing one stop of light, I raised my ISO to 400 before I started shooting but apart from that the experience was completely seamless. In particular, shooting during daytime in good weather condition, I did not feel any difference in terms of auto-focus performance compared to using the XF50-140mmF2.8 without the teleconverter. I would assume there should be a more pronounced impact when auto-focus conditions are intrinsically more difficult (in low light for example), but this is not something I tested as in such conditions I would by default take only faster primes with me anyway.

23686747494_2c21aff87d_c

In terms of image quality, adding a piece of gear, no matter how well designed, between your lens and your camera body is going to downgrade the image quality. If you zoom enough on the files and do some comparisons, you will without a doubt find some differences, but the important thing to define a good teleconverter, in my opinion, is to make sure that these differences are not visible if you are not looking for them. Mission accomplished for Fuji. When you look at portraits like these ones, the fact that it might have been shot with a teleconverter which would have slightly downgraded the image quality is not the first thing that comes to your mind (not the second either!):

23967727139_13b0edcabd_c

Conclusion: the XF1.4X TC WR Teleconverter is a piece of gear that does well what it is supposed to do, and will come very handy in various situations for the nature and wildlife photographers. Unfortunately, you cannot use it with any lens, and the number of compatible lenses is very small at the moment. I am looking forward to see how it performs with the XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 zoom when it comes out in February.

 

If you found this article interesting, there is a good chance your friends will like it too, so share it with them on Twitter and Facebook! 😉

Testing the latest prime lens for the Fujifilm X-Series: XF 90mm F2 R LM WR

It all started with prime lenses for the X-Series, and while Fujifilm has now also released zooms covering the whole range the family of primes has kept on growing. The XF 90mm F2 is the latest member of the family, the second-one graded weather-resistant (WR) after the XF 16mm F1.4 released earlier this week.

The Awaodori festival of Shimokitazawa was held last week-end (more on that later, but in the meantime you can see dozens of preview images on my Instagram feed), so I rented the XF 90mm F2 at the Fujifilm service center for the occasion.

As soon as I got home with it, I tested it on my traditional model who never complains when I ask him to pose for me at the last minute: Chopper 😉

As you can see on this first sample, this lens will be perfect for portraiture, and produces a pleasing and smooth bokeh.

Here are a couple of samples I took in the streets of Shimokitazawa before the Awaodori started:

There is not much I could say about this lens that images would not say better, so I won’t quibble too long. You could always wish that it had an F1.4 aperture (especially if you own the XF 50-140mm that you can use at F2.8 at 90mm but with optical stabilization), but this is the price and size compromise that Fujifilm decided to go with, so it is what it is….

The one thing I would say though, is that while this lens is a great piece of gear, you are the only person who will know if you really shoot often enough at his focal length to justify its purchase. In fact, I ended up using it less than I had planned, as the streets of Shimokitazawa are quite narrow so I was too close to the dancers for this focal length. If you are a portrait photographer and you shoot this focal length all day long, then it is a no-brainer. But if you only shoot the occasional portrait amid other things, then you might end up being better served by the versatility of the 50-140mm zoom. Also, while professional models are used to photographers using a 135mm equivalent focal length (if not longer), it might not be the case of your subject if you photograph every-day people. As an example, every time I asked one of the dancers or musicians if I could take their portrait on the side of the street, I would then have to back off after I positioned them somewhere in order to get them framed properly. But every time I did that, they would move towards me instead of letting me “unzoom with my feet”, because you have to understand that most people nowadays are used to taking pictures with their smartphones, so they are used to a wider focal length. But that has nothing to do with the quality of the lens, this is about what kind of photographs you want to take, and you are the only one who can answer to that question for you. Just thought I’d mentioned it here anyway… Personally I will happily rent this lens for the few times it will be the one I really need.

Talk to you soon with more images of the Shimokitazawa Awaodori festival 😉