Q&A: Ask me anything about photography

Jan 15

Anonymous asked: Hey Kirk, I am want to get into portrait photography but I don't have the right equipment. What kind of lighting equipment should a beginner like myself buy to get started?

Buy a big piece of white poster board. Or grab a big white towel off a bathroom towel rack.

Have your model sit next to a window and have someone else hold the poster board or towel up on the other side. You could even tape it to a wall on the other side.

BOOM, all the portrait lighting options you will ever need ;)

Well for me at least.

I have no clue how to use strobes in any complicated way to light a portrait, I just play with the light I have. Most of the time I don’t use any light modifiers at all, just the environment I am in and balance direct sun, back lighting and shade to get what I want.

Go out and experiment without gear then add one piece at a time, mastering each before moving on. That is my recommendation.

Anonymous asked: Hi Kirk, Do you ever expose 5 stops over on 400H with handheld light meter? :)

I probably have. Fuji 400H can take an almost infinite amount of overexposure and still look awesome. I normally rate my Fuji 400H at ISO100 on my meter and shoot for that.

Anonymous asked: xx

Same to you! MUAH!

Anonymous asked: Hi Kirk, when shooting portra400 are you rating it at 320 on both the hand held meter and the camera?

If you are using a hand held meter to judge exposure and f-stop then what you rate the film at on your camera itself, does not matter. The ISO rating on the camera only affects what the camera’s meter is telling you.

flashcharliephotography asked: I Kirk, I've been looking at Pentax 645 cameras. Do you use the Pentax 645 or the Pentax 645N? Thanks Mark

I use the original Pentax 645 as a backup (or main camera) along with my Contax 645.

Yes, it is ugly as sin and looks like a cross between a child’s Lego camera and a Casio from the 1980s, but it works great. Probably the cheapest way to enter medium format in an SLR form.


Dec 11

Anonymous asked: Thoughts on the new Nikon DF?

It looks cool. And it reinforces my belief that people are bored with digital photography. Nothing new has happened with digital photography for at least 8 years.

No one cares about megapixels anymore. No one cares about AF anymore. Low-light shooting is cool….but hey, who really gives a rip? 

The Nikon DF is playing on people’s subconscious desire to return to film, and shooting with cameras that get out of the way, with less options.

The answer? Try shooting film. No really, TRY IT. There is a whole world out there of films, cameras, exotic lenses, and chemical processes.

Digital is boring and dead. Long live film ;)

Anonymous asked: Hey Kirk, Any tips for focusing on the contax 645? Thanks.

Yes.

Shoot at f2.8 unless you ‘really-really-must-shoot-at-f2-all-the-time’ or you will die. F2 is a great look on the Contax 645 w/80mm lens, but it borders on the optical limits of what is possible with a lens. The depth of filed is as thin as a piece of paper and it is very hard to know if you are in 100% focus.

If you insist on shooting at f2 (which I use only for close-up portraits) you must get a Maxwell Screen. They cost about $300-400 but are worth every penny. The difference is night and day and you will start nailing focus almost every time at f2.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Maxwell-Precision-Optics/200647716643807

Anonymous asked: Hello Kirk! First off, you are so awesome for being so generous to the photography community and we all thank you! I'm so close to pulling the trigger on buying a Frontier scanner, but the company Im looking at has only the SP3000 ($6500) or the SP2000, but not the SP2500. Is there a big difference between the 2500 and 2000, and for someone who had no experience with these scanners, how is the ease of setup and use. Thanks!

Get the SP3000 if you can. It is worth it.

Two reasons: 1 .ICE - removes dust/scratches automagically, 2. SCAN SIZE - Much larger, things look so much better, way less grain, (35mm looks flippin’ awesome on the SP3000.)

Just save up and get the SP3000 if you are serious about saving money and taking control over your film and getting a consistent look.

$6500 seems steep … I paid $5500 for mine delivered to my doorstep.

Nov 17

Anonymous asked: For starters, as everyone else who has commented, I'm a fan. Your film images are lush and gorgeous. Secondly, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions from folks seeking to improve. It's beyond kind of you to share knowledge. Now my question: if I rate Fuji Pro 400 at 200 for sake of trying to get that pastel look, when I drop the roll off at the lab, do I tell them to pull film or process normally? Confused about this bit so any clarity would appreciated. Thxs!

Why thank you!

So - Fuji 400H - rate it at *100* not 200 unless you have to.

I actually call it Fuji 100H in my head when I think about that film.

When you drop it off at the lab don’t say anything. Except that you like your images scanned a little more high-key. Hopefully they get it. Or just point them to some example images so they know what to scan for.

If you shoot Fuji400H as though it were ISO100, you will create the necessary conditions for the look you are after.

Nov 07

barbshoop asked: Hi, Kirk. How would you advise someone (me) to meter more consistently when their exposures range from surprisingly perfect to WTF?!

ALWAYS USE A HANDHELD METER.

The in-camera meter is a trick designed by the devil to ruin photography. (unless it has a spot meter mode and you know what you are doing.)

But yeah. Go on eBay or a local camera store and buy a Sekonic L-358.

You will make that investment back on non-ruined film in just a few shoots. 

Anonymous asked: Hi Kirk, I remember you saying when you overexpose Portra 400 at 200 you end up with an ugly yellow in the skin tones. Does the same happen when you overexpose Portra 160?

Yes. I shoot Portra 160 at ISO 100 or 160. But never at ISO 50 or 25.

It goes all yellow. A wonky pukey yellow. 

Anonymous asked: Hey Kirk! Love your work! I wanted to hear your thoughts on the Leica M6! Have you ever shot this in weddings or do you just use it for personal work? And do you use any other 35mm film cameras other than the M6? If so how do they compare? And is Medium Format film really that much better than 35mm? Okay I asked too many questions. Cheers~!

Hi!

I’ll do my best to answer this tsunami of questions :)
The Leica M6 is one of, if not, THE most perfect cameras ever made.


Why?

One reason: it feels good to hold and use and it has no extra bullcrap. It is made to SHOOT PHOTOS. It is the essence of photography boiled down to the bare minimum. And I LOVE THAT. I FREAKING LOVE THAT. Especially in this day and age where we are tricked into upgrading our perfectly good digital cameras for even more complicated digital cameras that do ZERO to improve our actual photography (because photography is about what happens in YOUR MIND and HEART and not contained in, or determined by, a metal box.)

Other 35mm cameras?

I shoot a Fuji Klasse S and more recently a Ricoh GRs (both point and shoot cameras) and that does it for my 35mm work.

Medium format is sweet too, but I find myself shooting mostly 35mm for non-client work.

I think of it this way: 35mm is like sketching and Medium Format is like painting a big oil painting. I *prefer* the grittiness and realness of 35mm for day to day stuff. But that is just me. In the end it depends on the project. I shoot almost all my portraits with medium format. And all my non-directed portrait and life/photojournalism with 35mm. Go figure.


 

Anonymous asked: Have you ever tried out the x100s?

Yes. I was super psyched to try it too. I felt it may be the one digital camera I could love.

Anyway - I tried it, and honestly it didn’t make me feel anything. No satisfaction from it.

I will take my 36 shots on my Leica M6 just for how it FEELS TO USE over eleventy billion digital photos on a Fuji X100s. Even though I could make them look almost the same.

It is not just about how film/digital looks. It’s about how it feels to use. And you won’t know until you try it for yourself :) 

Oct 24

Anonymous asked: Hey Kirk, thank you for this. How do you mix digital and film in LR when you edit a wedding? It is a nightmare for me.. Thank you! Rui Vaz Franco

Mastinlabs.com will answer that question very very soon.

davidbright asked: please explain the thought of rating the film lower than the box rate - David

Hi David,

Rating film lower (ie. rating ISO400 speed film at ISO320) is a way to intentionally overexpose your film. Most color negative film benefits from some overexposure. It brings out the shadow detail while the highlight detail is preserved.

I always tell people new to shooting color negative film to err on the side of overexposing the hell out of it rather than risk underexposure.

The only issue, is that with most Kodak color negative film, you start to get a lot of yellow as you overexpose. Most of this yellow can be corrected out in the scanning process and I regularly and intentionally overexpose all of my Kodak film.

Fuji film on the other hand, does NOT go yellow when overexposed - and film like Fuji 400H doesn’t even really look that great until it is shot way overexposed - like at ISO100.

Part of this too is a matter of taste. You can get vastly different looks from the same film stock depending on: how you expose it, the light you are shooting in, and how it is handled during scanning.