Saturday, January 11, 2014
The Beginner’s Guide to Photojournalism
by CHRIS GAMPAT on 02/17/2010
Photojournalism is the process of documenting the happenings of life on camera through photography. These days, it tends to extend into videography but the main elements of the practice still hold their roots in still image capture. Photojournalism can still be a tough job as far as getting work and images that are different than other photojournalists but that is still a story that would hold an audience captive.
How It Is Done:
There are many factors that go into photojournalism. Many of them are ethically related and others are just how the industry works. But to tell a good story there are certain shots that are essential.
- Cover shot
This is the shot that will make your viewers want to continue reading or viewing the rest of the story. It is your opening shot. A boring opening shot can kill a story.
A cover shot needs to tell us exactly what the story is about as well as be compelling. It should elicit an emotion out of someone that is looking at it and strongly emphasize one of the elements of photojournalism in it. More of the elements later on.
- Establishing Shot
This is the shot that tells us where we are in the story. It usually requires a wide angle lens of some sort and is very environmental. It should give the reader a feeling of where this is all taking place. For example, I shot the Woodstock of Chiptunes (a genre of music that combines electronica with old-school video game music) for a website called 2D-X.com. The above photo is a good establishing shot because it tells us that a concert of some sort is going on and the place is packed.
- Detail Shot
These shots are the ones that really get in close and emphasize something very particular. If you find yourself one day shooting a story on the conditions of people and how they live in shelters during the recession, take a good look at how they live vs how to average person does. Their room will either be very bare or with loads and loads of items due to hoarding. A real example of how much they hoard will be a good detail shot. It could be anything from stacks of old records to piles and piles of raggedy clothes.
Similarly, there is also a relief effort being done right now for earthquake victims in Haiti as I’m writing this. A great example of a detail shot that I’ve seen is one that was features on the photojournalism blog (http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/) of the NYTimes on Saturday January 16th. In this story, a man was dropped off by the police and told the people he was a thief that escaped prison on Tuesday. The crowd stripped him, beat him and set him afire. And the photo is one of his feet wrapped around a whip of some sort. It is a disturbing image, but it gets the point across in a detail shot.
- Closing Shot
Closing shots are the ones that end a piece. They don’t necessarily have to be the ones that happen at the end of the story, but they can be the trickiest to think of. In some cases though it can be a shot at the very of the time you spent shooting the story. For example, perhaps you’re shooting a story on someone with a specific type of cancer. They could possibly recover from most of the effects and live out a great life, in which case you could possibly shoot the person having fun with friends/family as your closing shot. Alternatively, they might not make it. In which case, you should shoot the family at the funeral or them grieving over the body.
Something like that may be hard to do but it is what photojournalists do everyday. You just need to distance yourself from the story and not show emotions: just shoot.
These are all the shots in between that give your viewers and readers an idea of what the story is about. They take on all the elements of photojournalism and more. Perhaps they can be something that works very well with the rules of composition I mentioned in my introduction or possibly environmental portraits that really tell us what someone is about, what they do, etc.
- The Newsworthy
This is something going on in the area that is worth talking about in the news. It may not be necessarily very exciting but it is still something worth talking about. An example of this would be a robbery at a store in which the owner and assailant exchanged gunshots.
For the image, there could be evidence of this with broken glass and the store behind a police line. The image proves its point: it tells the reader that something happened there.
Every year, there is a giant pillow fight of some sort in New York City. It is literally just a bunch of people getting together when the weather is a bit warmer and smacking each other with pillows. A newsworthy shot would possibly be one that tells us where we are (establishing shot), a close-up of a specific fight (cover shot), etc.
– The Emotional
These are the shots that capture someone showing emotion. They can be the typical mother grieving the loss of her son to a fatal shootout or someone experiencing joy upon hearing that they’ve won the lottery. A less seen example of this is the facial expressions of Wall Street stock brokers as they see something they don’t like on the overhead monitors.
- The Intimate
This is where you take the emotional and combine it with interaction of people. Instead of a mother grieving the loss of her son, it is a mother, father and brothers grieving the loss together. Perhaps they are in each other’s arms crying.
The key to this is emotions and interaction with other people. That’s to say it doesn’t necessarily have to be people. It can also be a dog licking the face of his owner as he is on his back dying in the middle of the street.
- The Unusual
This is all that you don’t see in everyday life. It can be someone dressed up as SpongeBob Square Pants walking down the street. You’ll know it when you see it. If someone will look at something and say, “That’s unusual” then you know that it qualifies for an unusual photo.
Familiarize yourself with these and you’ll be able to see eventually how photojournalism can help you with almost all types of photography.
Beyond the Kit Lens: The Best Step Up Lenses For Your Camera
by CHRIS GAMPAT on 07/30/2013
Everyone has to start somewhere, and folks always ask us, “We’re thinking about a DSLR, what should we buy?” Well first off, what you should really know is that once you go into the DSLR or Mirrorless camera arena, you’ll need to consider the fact that upgrading at this point doesn’t always mean you should get a new camera. In fact, that’s totally preposterous in some cases.
Want to take better pictures? Get a lens. For what it’s worth, no camera manufacturer markets their lenses anywhere as much as they should. Why? Because they just want to sell cameras first and foremost. But we’re here today to educate you a little bit on the secret that most of the more savvy shooters know. This website has reviewed loads, and loads of lenses–more than most sites out there. And so we’re passing our knowledge onto you.
And we’ll also do it on a budget.
Canon 50mm f1.8
The one lens that everyone tells you to upgrade to is our number one choice for Canon users. Sometimes it can be had for under $100, but combine this with the fact that it is sharp stopped down, compact, and light and you’ll have a lens that you’ll fall in love with for a very long time.
This is an EF lens, so it can be used on both APS-C sensor cameras and full frame cameras. But on an APS-C camera, it will render an 80mm field of view–perfect for portraits.
Canon 40mm f2.8
Canon’s first autofocusing pancake lens for their DSLR line was sure to make its way to this list. Sure, it’s affordable, but it is also Canon’s smallest lens. Once again, it is an EF lens, which means that on a full frame body it will render a 40mm field of view while on an APS-C it will be around 65mm. When we reviewed this lens, we rated it very highly because of its compact size, sharpness edge to edge, and fast/silent focusing due to the new STM motors built in.
If you want to keep your DSLR the smallest size that you possible can, this is the lens to go for.
Sigma 30mm f1.4 Version II
For many years, Sigma had APS-C camera audiences enthralled with their 30mm f1.4. The lens is the closest thing that you can get to a 50mm field of view equivalent. Their first version was very sharp, fast to focus, and rendered that normal field of view that many loved.
But recently, the company revamped this lens and it now has a metal exterior and even sharper optics than what they state they previously had.
If you want your closest equivalent to a nifty 50, then this is the one to get. But take note that you won’t be able to mount this onto your full frame camera.
Sigma 30mm f1.4
One of the cool things about the Nikon DSLR system is that even though you might have a lot of APS-C lenses, you can still use them on a full frame camera body. And for that reason, we recommend Sigma’s 30mm f1.4. It has all the benefits that we talked about above, but because of Nikon’s larger APS-C sized sensors, you’ll render a field of view that is slightly wider than 50mm. But trust us, it’s more than close enough.
Nikon 35mm f1.8 G
If you want to stick with all Nikon glass, then their 35mm f1.8 G will be a lens that you instantly fall in love with. Wide open, it isn’t so sharp but as soon as it is down to f2.5, you’ll get some very pleasing results. The bokeh on this lens is also spectacular as is its overall compact size.
One of our favorite features of this lens is the fact that when mounted to a full frame Nikon camera body, you’ll experience very little vignetting and it acts as a true 35mm lens despite being recommended for use with APS-C camera bodies.
If that isn’t worth it, we’re not sure what is.
Nikon 50mm f1.8 AF-S
Though Nikon’s Nifty 50 is more expensive than Canon’s (if you’re looking for a competing system) it is better built, sharper, and faster to focus. On an APS-C camera you’ll get a 75mm field of view while on a full frame you’ll get a true 50mm field of view. In our review, we were very pleased by the bokeh–although this lens is a little larger than we’d like it to be.
If you’re stepping up to this lens, it might become your every day optic, or just your portrait lens.
Sony 20mm f2.8 NEX
Sony has had a good pancake lens for their NEX system in a while. Their first pancake, the 16mm f2.8 wasn’t so sharp but wasn’t really a very bad lens either. But with just how good Sony’s optics have become, we’ve read excellent reviews so far of their 20mm f2.8 lens. This is the company’s new pancake, and when combined with their APS-C sensors, you’ll get a 30mm field of view: perfect for street photography, landscapes, and more. Plus, Sony’s NEX system focuses very quickly–with only Micro Four Thirds being faster.
If you really want to take advantage of the NEX size factor, then this is the lens to spring for.
Sony 50mm f1.8 NEX OSS
When we reviewed this lens, we were extremely pleased with the results. Combined with Sony’s super fast focusing, we almost didn’t want to send this lens back to Sony after the review–and the reasons why are in the overall image quality. Wide open, this is one of the sharpest lenses that we’ve ever seen. Then you have to consider the bokeh–it’s pleasantly beautiful. Plus, this lens has OSS–which means all your photos will be super steady.
Sony would do well with making a black version of this lens since the stock version is silver, but color aesthetics don’t mean much to us.
If you’re looking for a great portrait lens, the 75mm field of view that this lens will give might be perfect for you.
Sigma 30mm f2.8
Though not really a pancake lens, Sigma’s 30mm f2.8 will render a 45mm field of view on a Sony NEX camera and also keep the overall package fairly compact. Due to the floating element inside, you’ll also get a tiny bit of image stabilization–but Sigma doesn’t explicitly state that you will.
But then there is the cost: this lens is more affordable than most of them out there are and there often price drops. This is also the second refresh of the lens.
Indeed, you’ll be happy with this one.
Sigma 50mm f1.4
While we were talking about their NEX cameras for a while, we don’t want to leave Sony Alpha users out in the dust. Most users will want a really good 50mm lens, and there is nothing better out there than Sigma’s 50mm f1.4. Though a tad soft wide open, by f2 it will be pretty darned sharp. And like other 50mm lenses, it will give you a 75mm field of view on an APS-C sensor camera. But the awesome thing is that it will focus quickly, is built quite solidly, and can stick with you in your camera bag for a while if you want to move up to a full frame camera.
Micro Four Thirds
Olympus 45mm f1.8
Affordable, small, fast to focus, and razor sharp–that’d how you can describe the Olympus 45mm f1.8. Due to the Four Thirds sensor, you’ll get a 90mm field of view with this lens; and that means that it is perfect for portrait. We wouldn’t even recommend stopping it down unless you’re using strobes, otherwise it is a total waste. You’ll get more than enough of a subject in focus wide open due to the fact that the field of view will also be around f4 on a full frame camera.
Better yet, this lens now comes in both black and silver.
Panasonic 20mm f1.7 ASPH
One of the first lenses that many Micro Four Thirds camera users got was the 20mm f1.7. And recently, Panasonic revamped the lens. Giving users a 40mm field of view on their cameras, it became a legend and revered as a god-tier lens amongst street photographers. Not only thing, but it is still a pancake lens that will be awesomely sharp wide open and will focus fastest with Panasonic cameras.
There is almost no reason not to have this lens in your kit.
Panasonic 25mm f1.4
When Panasonic announced this lens, photographers using the Micro Four Thirds system became ecstatic. They now had a fast 50mm equivalent for their system. Any photographer that owns this lens essentially has it glued to their camera due to its sharpness, bokeh, and its fast focusing abilities. Granted, it isn’t the fastest aperture lens for the system in this focal length–but if you want that then you’ll need to spring for more than $1,000.
Since the start of Fujifilm’s X series camera system, many users have all agreed that their 35mm f1.4 delivers some of the best image quality in the system. Rendering a near 50mm field of view, there is no reason why someone might not want this lens. Indeed, it renders some of the sharpest image quality that we’ve seen and the bokeh is outstanding.
When this lens was first released, it was plagued with autofocusing problems but the image quality was just that good. With many firmware updates that has since passed, the lens’s performance has improved. Couple this with the fact that Fujifilm’s X Trans sensor now plays nicely with Adobe and Capture One products and you’ll get image quality that will make you look at your full frame DSLR in wonderment.
Zeiss 12mm f2.8
Though Fujifilm has their own 14mm f2.8, we couldn’t warm up to it. The reason why is because we didn’t believe it to be sharp enough. However, its build quality is positively stellar. Then Zeiss came out with their 12mm f2.8. We loved this lens when we reviewed it due to its sharpness, bokeh (though very little because of the nature of the lens) and the fact that it was incredibly fast to focus. On top of this, we also liked the metallic build quality but didn’t really fall for the rubber focusing ring so much.
But if you want a wide angle prime for the Fujifilm system, you should go this route.
SLR Magic 23mm f1.7
Looking for a 35mm field of view on the Fujifilm system? SLR Magic has you covered–and at a damned good price too. Though this lens was a bit too soft for us wide open, when stopped down it dramatically improved. Then combine this this some stellar build quality (better than some Fujifilm lenses actually) and you’ll be very pleased.
But fair warning: it is a manual focus only lens. But Fujifilm’s cameras now have focus peaking, so focusing shouldn’t be a problem.
Buy Now: Adorama
Pentax 50mm f1.8
Pentax’s 50mm f1.8 is being recommended for a couple of reasons. First off, everyone loves the 50mm field of view on an APS-C DSLR (despite the fact that Pentax also has a very good 55mm lens). Second, if Pentax ever releases a full frame camera, this lens will become the one that many spring for. So if you’re already invested in the Pentax system, then here’s to hoping.
Otherwise, you should value this lens for its pretty darned good image quality when used with Pentax’s cameras.
Pentax 43mm f1.9
Though this lens is from the film days, it is still considered by many to be one of their best. On a full frame camera (if Pentax ever comes out with one) it will render what is known as true normal–this has to do with the field of view and diagonal dimension of the sensor/film.
At B&H Photo (where I used to work) many older veteran photographers have called it an absolutely beautiful lens, but a very weird focal length.
Sigma 17-70mm f2.8-4 DC Macro HSM
In keeping in line with our budget minded selection, the Sigma 17-70mm f2.8-4 is one of the few zoom lenses that we would recommend to anyone on a budget. As part of the company’s contemporary collection of lenses, not only does it look beautiful but it also produces some jaw dropping image quality. Using this lens, you can cover a wide-angle field of view to the telephoto focal length range with no problems–or major sacrifice on image quality which can be common with affordable zooms.
Just note that it is an APS-C sensor lens only though.