The Freeware Photographer's Blog

Here I muse about assignments and plans and my experiences being a free photographer in and around Antwerp. Unlike the rest of this site the Blog is only available in english, since it will be of interest to a wider audience anyway and would be too much bother to keep up in two languages.

A baby in the studio

Created Wed 23 Nov 11 21:07 by Mathias

Specifically my own baby, Rune. It's nice to have a "willing" subject to use in the studio, so over the past ten months since his birth I've taken some opportunities to shoot him.

Here he is at 6 months old:

At 6.5 months:

A favourite of mine at a bit over 8 months:

And finally a couple more recently at 9.5 months old:

Children this young are quite tricky to take pictures of. Either they are too young to sit unassisted, or they are too old to sit still. On the other hand, it's very difficult to take a picture of a baby that isn't cute to the parents :)

Wow, an update!

Created Tue 25 Jan 11 16:59 by Mathias

I've not been keeping up with the blog much, which has a variety of reasons, the primary one being that I've just been too busy.

So what have I been up to? Well, I became a father last week, which is one of the things that have been keeping me busy. On the photography side I've mostly been working on the Jespo assignment, finishing a bit over 40 photo shoots for them. I handed them the DVDs with pictures yesterday and they were very pleased. They've already used some of the pictures I handed them earlier in printed banners and other advertising materials. I can't wait to see some of those.
I'll probably do a more detailed write-up of my experiences on the Jespo shoots at some later date.

In the next few weeks I'm going to dust off the studio a bit and spend some time in there playing with different lighting setups. I'll also probably do a studio session of the new baby (hey! free model!)

Jespo day 1: sailing and olympic games

Created Tue 5 Oct 10 8:05 by Mathias

Whew... it's been almost a week since my first shoots and still no write-up. Shame on me!

I don't know whether I'm allowed to post any of the pictures here, so this write-up is without any. Sorry.

The first day of shooting for my jespo sports project was last wednesday and was supposed to be a triple: first a combination of sailing and windsurfing, followed by a sport called "olympic games" (basically an introduction for several different sports). I say supposed, because none of the kids showed up for the windsurfing. The instructors blamed a lack of wind (apparently these kids were experienced enough to know when to simply stay home) and a bus strike. The sailors, however, were unperturbed and took to the lake in their little boats.

For this shoot I had a new toy, bought the day before: a ZD50-200 lens. I had been planning to get this lens for quite a while now and it had been on my wishlist for several years. Now with two of my lenses out of action (sent in for repairs) I was forced to buy this lens a bit earlier than originally planned. That said, I'm glad I did because it proved the perfect lens for this day.
Apart from the shiny new ZD50-200 lens, I had my E-3 (fresh from repairs itself), the ZD9-18, the ZD50 (for portraits) and the E-510 kitlens ZD14-42. The latter only because my 14-54 was one of the lenses in repair.


For the sailing the instructors took me along in their motorized dinghy allowing me to stay close to the boats. This was a good thing because while the ZD50-200 is a great lens, they were sailing on a pretty great lake. During the shoot I tried to stick to the new lens as much as possible, only switching to the 9-18 a few times when we got really close to the sailing boats. Switching lenses in a rubber dinghy is a bit precarious, especially since I didn't yet have a good place to put the new lens while not in use.

This last bit deserves a bit of expansion. My standard camera bag is a front-carried waistbag. It's a pretty big one, in itself large enough to hold the E3 and a couple of (smaller) lenses. It's expanded on both sides by cylindrical lens holders for my bigger lenses. The upside of this is that I always have my gear in easy reach in front of me. For the new lens, however, I didn't have a side bag yet (the one for the 135-400 was too narrow because of the oversize lens hood of the 50-200) forcing me to use the standard lens bag that came with the lens, slung over my shoulder. This was all fine ... until I sat down in the dinghy and that extra bag proved most unstable. These kind of concerns may seem trivial, but I think it's important to have everything worked out beforehand so that during the shoot you don't lose time, focus and shots with mere practicalities,

Back to the shooting. Sailboats are very vertical things, especially when the sail is at an angle. I found myself using portrait orientation most of the time, even when I had multiple boats in the picture. The verticalness comes from two things: first, the masts and sails obviously leap way above the boat, and secondly the reflection of the boat in the water adds some depth below it.
While shooting I always tried to get as much of the reflection in as possible, but I found that in post I cropped most of it away again in favour of getting a better composition.

The weather was gray and uninteresting which resulted in low contrast shots. Not much you can do about weather, except do the best with what you got. At least there was heaps of light shining through the clouds.

I experimented a bit with taking some shots from right above the water level. Easy thanks to the E-3's liveview and articulating screen and not too scary thanks to its weather sealing.

Olympic games

The olympic games were held on the other side of the lake, in a city sporting hall. When I got in it looked bright enough, but a quick test with the camera showed me that my eyes were deceiving me: there was very little light indeed. In fact even at ISO1600 (a setting I'm loathe to use) and with the relatively bright ZD50-200 I could not get shutter speeds faster than 1/80s, which is borderline at best to take pictures of young kids running around.
I stayed on the side lines because I hadn't brought appropriate shoes (preparation again) which strongly limited my perspective. Still, I did my best and got a heap of shots in. These will need quite a bit of work in PP to remove at least some of the noise, and even then I won't be able to remove the motion blur. Luckily these pictures will not be printed at huge sizes.
For future indoor shoots I will just have to use a flash, possibly with a couple of reflectors.

For this shoot I needed to use C-AF, and I'm going to need a lot more practice at that. I used a trick I found somewhere on a forum to get better results, but even then I often missed focus entirely (not to mention that I forgot I was using the trick a couple of times).

A Big Project: Jespo sport groups

Created Fri 10 Sep 10 9:12 by Mathias

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by Jespo vzw, a non-profit organisation that organizes cheap sport groups for children aged 2-18. They needed somebody to take pictures for their new brochure and since they prefer working with volunteers they googled for a free photographer and bam, there I was.
Currently their brochure has pictures they've taken themselves and a couple that they bought online. While far from horrible, these pictures often don't always bring across the sport, atmosphere and location and there was definite room for improvement, which they hope I can bring.

This is a huge project: Jespo organizes over 50 sport groups and they'll need pictures from each of them. In addition they would also like portraits of all their volunteers. Have a look at my calendar to get an idea of just how much work this is going to be (and that's not counting postprocessing, which will easily be equally as much work).

From a technical viewpoint this will also be challenging. There will be a mix of outdoors long-tele work and indoor work, the latter likely in difficult mixed lighting. Since these are sports action pictures, I'll have to try to keep up a high shutter speed no matter what the light conditions are. Annoyingly, I don't have the perfect lenses for this, so I'll have to make do with some tricks. On the bright side, the pictures will be printed pretty small, so where needed I can get away with quite a bit of high-iso noise.

The first photoshoot of the project will be an outdoor one: sailing and surfing on the Galgeweel lake on antwerp's left shore (linkeroever).

Fotoshoot #9: SantokuSystem

Created Sat 4 Sep 10 6:09 by Mathias

My ninth photoshoot became my first offsite one. The band SantokuSystem wanted some shots of their rehearsal to use for band promotion purposes.

I'd shot a rehearsal of one of their previous incarnations, so I had a pretty good idea what to expect: very very bad light. The options then where to shoot everything at very high ISO, or to bring along all my studio lights.
I chose the latter and packed up everything but the backgrounds (setting all this up in the small rehearsal room was a challenge). All in all the shoot went pretty well. Backgrounds were an issue, because the room was rather cluttered and too small to blur out the background given how close the lights were to the subjects. I played around a bit with gold reflectors to make the light a bit warmer (which worked quite well). The hardest part was to get the drummer well lit, because he was considerably further back than the rest of the band. However once I dedicated a light for him (lighting him from the side) that was no longer a problem.

I found out to my relief that my studio lights come with a spare fuse: the drummer light didn't like me moving it and fizzled, but luckily the spare fuse meant I could keep shooting (though the pilot light was broken).

Photoshoot #8: Steffi and Nick

Created Wed 25 Aug 10 19:02 by Mathias

Wow... it's been a while since I've updated this blog. In fact it's been so long that I haven't yet gotten around to commenting on photoshoots I did in June and it's almost september, so I figure I better get those out of the way before I explain why I've been remiss in updating.

Anyway, photoshoot number 8 was Steffi and Nick, a young couple wanting some pictures together. This brought its own sets of challenges because now instead of one person, I had two in my small studio. Sure, I've had more before, but those were kids. Adults are different: they're bigger.

While they were standing up there was no problem, but I've found that you tend to get more dynamic poses while sitting, and that's where the narrowness of my studio becomes an issue (and the wide angles I need in there). This brought a lot of work filling in the sides of the frames where the background ran out. I'm not entirely sure how I can prevent that without getting a bigger studio (which is not an option).

The models wanted some of the shots converted to sepia tones, which is something I don't usually play with (I'm more likely to greatly desaturate an image for a similar but different effect). It was interesting to contrast the colour images with the sepia ones. Take the following two, and look especially at the rose and the contrast it forms with the rest of the picture:

I also returned to playing with silhouettes this shoot, taking it to a full black and white extreme:

Some more pictures (not many as most pictures were of a personal rather than an artistic nature):

Created Thu 8 Jul 10 20:41 by Mathias

Upcoming shoots: weeks 25-26

Created Thu 24 Jun 10 12:32 by Mathias

I'll have the weekend off this week, which will give me some time to catch up with friends and family. Not to say I won't be taking any pictures though: I'm halfway planning on going by a local zoo (there's been a litter of lions and snow leopards and another zoo has a baby hippo)

I do have an appointment for a shoot on monday: a young woman and her friend want some nice pictures together. I think during this shoot I'm going to focus more on directing and pay special attention to facial expressions. I figure with a couple this will be easier than with a solo model as here I can direct them to look at each other.

On tuesday I have a completely different shoot: a coworker of mine wants pictures from his band and I'll be attending one of their rehearsals with my studio lighting kit. This should be an interesting experience. I've previously shot his earlier band, but that was with my old camera and without the lights.

What people get

Created Wed 23 Jun 10 21:26 by Mathias

So, what do people actually get after a photoshoot? Well, pretty much this:

That's a DVD, a dvd case and a couple of prints. The number of prints depends on how much time and paper I have. Occasionally I'll also toss in some business cards.

Photoshoot #7: Yentl

Created Wed 23 Jun 10 15:39 by Mathias

Last Saturday's shoot brought the youngest model in my studio yet: 8 or 9-week old Yentl with her parents and godmothers. The brief for the shoot was to get some pictures for the baptism card, and then add some various pictures.

After running out of white background paper during the previous week's shoot, I went to get a new roll and also got a roll of light blue. It's this latter roll that was used most, and I'm actually quite pleased with the results. The light-blue near-sky colour seems to work well with the yellow light from the gold umbrella reflector (after some white balance tweaking) and it was quite easy to light. Fortunately the clothing colours of some of the models worked quite well with it as well. The only minor gripe I have about the blue is that it looks a bit weird in full body shots when there's blue below people's feet. I'm sure I can find a way to adjust.

Speaking of paper rolls, the people were kind enough to take off their shoes for this shoot which meant the paper survived without any marks on it. A big save for me :)

Also new during this shoot were relatively tall people and groups. The former was a bit problematic because the white paper roll (rolled up) came in view on several pictures when the father was standing up. Nothing I can't fix in post, but something to be aware of. The group was easier: all 4 adults + baby fitted on the picture (albeit with the father on the second row). One issue here is how to cope with multiple skin tones under artificial light. White balance is tricky here and getting natural skin for all involved proved tricky.

Oh, and this time I'm allowed to show some of the pictures, so here goes: