Just for you, on this beautiful Sunday afternoon!
In an earlier post I mentioned that I am not a photographer, apart from the odd dabble in flowers. Last Saturday I was at Box Hill School for their summer Copacabana Ball, for Madeleine Pink florist Margaret Alldridge to take some photos of the displays for her portfolio and website, my goodness what a display it was!
I prepped all of my photo kit that afternoon, taking with me the Canon 5D mkIII and a range of lenses, but I predominantly used the Samyang 35mm T/1.5 cine as its minimum focus distance is similar to that of a macro lens, the old Nikkor 50m F/1.4 and Saymang 85mm T/1.5. The Tamron 24-70mm is constantly attached to my camera as my main go to lens so that was with me too.
It was a beautiful afternoon, and very hot too! Here is a selection from the photos I took;
I took the photos in RAW, then post processed in Photoshop for small adjustments like exposure and a kick of contrast. Most of the photos had to have the saturation reduced as the vibrant colours were so punchy! Photo’s copyright Adam Plowden Videography 2014.
Kit bag, check.
Audio kit, check.
Brain, just about.
Yesterday I was out filming talking heads and some b-roll for a Wellbeing project on behalf of EEBC. Wellbeing is our general mental and physical health, but there are many factors in the way that we live that can affect our chances of developing serious health problems in the future. These include some sensitive subjects, that I was capturing to provide an information base for those in the community that may be suffering, or have friends and relatives of those diagnosed with; Cancer, Coronary Heart Disease, Dementia and Diabetes.
I was featuring nutritional expert Yvonne McMeel throughout the videos, so I began by planning my main piece to camera with her in the Wellbeing Centre.
This was a standard video shoot, so I packed my kit bag to be prepared with whatever the day would bring! This included;
Lighting – Daylight balanced 85W studio light with soft umbrella.
Extras – Lilliput 1018 (I am currently testing out and reviewing this product).
I took along the Lilliput 1018; the new flagship 10 inch touch screen field monitor, which produced crisp pictures and well represented colours. I ran this on a F-970 battery with HDMI through from the 5D, so I could monitor both. This did however cause the camera to heat up quite quickly. However, the monitor has awesome features usually found on high end products which include; exposure and focus peaking, on screen waveform monitors, levels and much more, which came in very handy for assessing the quality of the picture. (More coming later regarding this product).
I began setup at 9am, shortly followed by Char the make up artist who set up her bits. The location for filming was the Wellbeing Centre, which as a wonderfully bright open facade with big doors and windows. Luckily enough, blaring heat and sunshine poured through the windows, so that was my key light at slightly cooler than daylight colour balance at 5200k. This also matched the daylight light fixture I was using to add a fill and kick to the subject.
Why did I use a 2-point light setup?
I could have rocked up with the intention of using just the daylight and the incandescent lights in the centre with the mentality that it will illuminate my subject well, but there are risks you have to be willing to take if you approach lighting in a casual way. Some points to remember when thinking about lighting your subjects;
- Are they defined from the background?
- Do they have harsh shadows on their face?
- Moving sunlight will change throughout the day, in brightness, direction and colour.
Now, when you haven’t been to the location before it is difficult to judge the lighting conditions, so firstly if you can have a RECCE of the location. It is very beneficial as you can begin to compose the scene, judging the internal and external lighting, now noisy the environment is, whether you will need a backdrop instead of a plain background.. All points to consider before you turn up with the camera kit and begin filming.
Defining the subject from the background is what makes them look 3-dimensional and not flat, this is the same for the shadows too as it shows that features are visible on the face. With DSLR’s it is possible to use depth of field to define your subject from the background, but lighting can also be used to ‘pop’ the subject out of the BG.
Harsh shadows are caused by strong direct light, and are unwanted as they mask features and don’t represent the subject properly, unless this is the effect you are looking for. For piece to cameras and interviews having soft shadows around the nose show the features of the subject, again making them look real.
The sunlight is your best friend and worst enemy at the same time… As the Earth rotates, we move further away or closer to the sun which changes the lights direction; if you start filming in the morning with your subject lit from the front, by 12 noon the sun is over head and by the late afternoon the light will be behind you. To combat this, keep continuity by filming at the same times each day, or even simpler be aware of the suns direction and gradually rotate the subject and other lights to keep a constant illumination. For me, I was filming from 11am through to 15:00 with the sunlight to my left for the whole day which was very beneficial, but not every time will I be that lucky!
Watch out for clouds that can block the sunlight, and be aware of how the colour temperature of daylight changes throughout the day; cool in the morning and warm in the evening. For me, shooting in midday sun meant a constant temperature of 5200K for both cameras, matching the other light.
The use of a kicker or fill light, pushes out the shadows caused by the key light (the sun), and gives a halo effect to the hair of the subject making them stand out. The difference is subtle but effective.
Camera Setup and Composition
Once I had my lighting up and running, it was time to set up the cameras and audio equipment. I was going to shoot using the Samyang 35mm T/1.5 cine lens, but this would result in being intimately close to Yvonne, the subject, which would be quite off putting and may add shadows/interference such as me rustling papers to the recording. Instead, I used a telephoto lens as I can be a good distance away from the subject, and create a narrow field of view that frames up as an MCU (medium close up).
My main A camera was the 5D mkIII, and although the Sigma lens can open up its aperture to F/2.8 for shallow depth of field, this was not required for today. Instead, the camera was set to F/4.5 for a still shallow depth of field, but deep enough for the subject to move forward and backwards in the frame a little, and to de-focus the background. The ISO was set to 200, although when the Sun disappeared behind clouds I would ride the ISO to 250 or 320 depending. To stick to the 180 degree shutter rule, the electronic shutter remained locked at 1/50th.
The B camera was the Canon 60D, I paired this with the sharp Tamron 24-70 F/2.8 and shot wide open, again riding the ISO when required. I did this because this camera was capturing a wide shot of the subject, so depth of field was not noticeable. To keep continuity, both cameras were set to a white balance/colour temperature of 5200K, but it appears that the 60D picture is slightly yellow/green than the 5D picture.
The often forgotten partner to the pretty pictures you see, having top quality audio is just as important as having your subject in focus and exposed. I used the Zoom H6 as my recorder, with the XY mic attached to capture one stereo recording. I also used the Sennheiser ENG-G3 wireless mic kit, attaching a lav/lapel mic to the subject which would be my main audio source. As a back up I also used the Rotolight Roto-Mic plugged into the 5D just in case. Remember to take headphones so you can monitor the sound recording, just like you would use the cameras screen to compose the picture.
The filming went brilliantly. As a precaution I decided to use the ‘record to multiple card’ function in the 5D so I had a back up of the footage in case the cards got corrupted from such long recording times. As mentioned earlier with the lighting, as the light slowly changed, I also adjusted the position of the kick/fill to push back the shadows.
I was very impressed with the Lilliput 1018 field monitor too, and although it is larger than monitors I would usually use the touch screen control and diverse functions suited the shoot well, so I could keep a close eye on the changing light levels.
After the principal piece to camera filming was complete, I ventured out into Epsom and Ewell with Yvonne to film some b-roll pieces that would add to the information and dialogue about wellbeing and health. So, we visited Shadbolt Park outdoor gym, Ewell Court Library, Epsom’s Derby Square, we were going to hit the market but by that time it was 17:30 and no chance of finding fresh fruit and veg to film.. We returned to the car to go to the last location, Epsom Downs, when this happened…
My car broke down. The filming day abruptly ended with a call to my insurers for recovery, while I also arranged a taxi for Yvonne to take her to the train station. That didn’t put a dampener on the day though, I had captured great video and dialogue that I hope will help many people in the borough and wider community who may be suffering with cancer, heart disease, diabetes or dementia.
I then ingested the footage, and backed up a whopping 80Gb of footage and audio.. Lots to edit through, but thankfully those wonderful geniuses at Red Giant have a tool called Pluraleyes which can sync video with externally recorded video, so suddenly the issue to matching up the audio to the video disappeared, saving me potentially hours of work!
Pluraleyes then allows you to export the sequence as an XML that I then imported into Adobe Premiere Pro to edit! It’s ready to go!
Overall, very happy with the footage and the outcome of the first day! I need to get out and shoot some more cutaways/b-roll of healthy food, socializing and some more bits and bobs to add.
I am not a yes man. I will never say yes to doing something I haven’t had experience in, as it can just cause anger, frustration and disappointment from both myself and the client, especially if I don’t deliver what is expected.
Photography for me is one of those disciplines. Personally I am not a photographer, I don’t have an education or background in still photography apart from graphics and VFX, so I go against one of my own rules here purely because of the following reasons, that may be applicable to you too!
1) I learned videography and production on broadcast video cameras, transitioning to DSLR through the wedding film job I do; I was heavily trained and now 3 years on my 5D mkIII is my port of call. Many will be in the same position as me here and will follow the exposure triangle (aperture, shutter speed, ISO).
2) While at university, and still now I study cinematic and storytelling techniques (it wasn’t included in my Television and Video Technology BSc. course). Whether it be moving the camera or with a static shot, the composition of storytelling is a present and constant thought in my work.
3) I have prepared myself heavily with the correct equipment and research to use; high speed lenses, a range of lights to compose the image, building mood boards and finding out the clients requirements (as well as any inspiration they have that will add).
4) My client is very happy with what I produce, and if they weren’t they wouldn’t ask me to work with them again.
Note: I never advertise myself as a photographer.
That makes me confident to go out and take some photos of flowers for a florist, which I am doing today!
Transferring the skills from DSLR videography to photography have been easier for me, probably because I always shoot in manual, I love taking my camera out with me wherever I go, and the storytelling techniques of composing images are still present in photos like they are in video.
If however you find it a little more difficult, consult the exposure triangle, and keep a couple of things in mind;
Aperture – Wide open allows lots of light to enter, shallow depth of field. A narrow aperture reduces the light making the image darker, and creating a deep depth of field. Using focus and blur is one of the main tools the director uses to concentrate the audiences attention onto specific details.
Shutter speed – Controls the motion due to how long the sensor is exposed to the light. A fast shutter captures fast motion with minimal blur (sports and outdoor), a slow shutter means the sensor is exposed for longer, allowing the subjects to move in the frame while it is open, creating blur.
ISO – Digital noise added to increase the image exposure. Low ISO results in low noise, crisp images but with no added exposure, where high ISO will increase your exposure but will introduce digital noise that is more visible in dark situations.
Other key points to remember: White Balance/Colour Temperature – make sure your whites are white and your blacks are black. This depends on what light you are using, daylight for example is 5600K, but Tungsten is 3200K.
Make sure your camera is set to capture RAW and JPEG images to allow for greater definition when editing the pictures afterwards!
It is worth a go if you are confident you can produce the images your potential client is looking for. Being a videographer not a photographer, I do not charge a standard fee to have me out for an hour and to post process the images later. This is for two reasons; I am a new business, and so is my client. Why out price your skills and make it a hard decision for your potential client to use you? Secondly, like I keep mentioning I am not a photographer and although I have rates and targets to meet financially, I see this more of getting out with the camera to be creative for an afternoon rather than a job.
Some points to consider if you are ever approached by someone who requires something different from your usual line of work! Do not forget to do your research though. Unfortunately I have had a number of experiences of photographers embarking on video without understanding the full production process, where I’ve been asked by their client to correct the mistakes.. So if you’re a photographer doing video, again have confidence in that you will be able to produce exactly what is expected, and with the internet being the biggest learning and education network, there really is no excuse nowadays!
Taken with the Canon 5D mkIII and Samyang 35mm T/1.5 cine lens and Sigma 70-200mm F/2.8 DG APO HSM telephoto lens while I took some time out from pre-production and drawing for another animation!