There are most likely as many ways to achieve a beautiful B&W look as there are photographers. Maybe I am exaggerating it a little, but then I am in love with B&W. It is not as if I don’t like colour, oh no. It’s just that I like the “classic” look that much. So today, instead of doing some general article on B&W conversion and trying to cover several different looks, I am going to pick out a photograph and just work on it until it is exactly how I pre-visualized it a second before pressing that shutter. First of all, though, we need a photograph. I think I have just the right one.
I get asked very, very often how I process my photographs. And it is no secret – most of the time, I simply use VSCO. It suits me so well, coincides with the way I see and pre-vizualise my work, my style and my taste so accurately, only rarely do I need to dive deep into the post-processing closet to pick something else on my own. And yet despite me saying it, I get asked this one question really rather often – how do I achieve that look? It took me a while to figure out what do most people mean by that look, but I have. It’s not the colour or the light or the composition that a lot of you are so interested in when you ask me that question, it turns out. I also figured out why it’s so hard to describe properly – there really is no term for it (a reader has told me it is called “matte” and while personally I’ve not come across it before, we will see if the term will stick for good). It’s a sort of… vintage-retro-dreamy-low-contrast-film look. Sounds vague? It is. That is why any help on the matter is so difficult to find. And yet I am pretty sure you understand – or at least imagine – what I mean. Basically, a lot of you are wondering how to make the photograph on the left look like the photograph on the right.
You will be glad to know it really is rather simple.
I have a rather peculiar confession to make, something I’ve not spoken of loudly to all that many people before. Here goes: whenever someone asks me what I do in life, what I do for a living, I always cringe slightly. Now, I do not mean Photography Life – I am very proud to work here and enjoy writing interesting articles immensely (whether I manage to write something interesting is a different matter altogether, but I dare say I do every now and then). No. I always cringe before saying I am a wedding photographer. Mind you, I do not actually consider myself a wedding photographer – I am curious about people more than I am about weddings, and that is what I am interested in, people and their being. That is part of the reason why the “get to know me” section on my website is the way it is. But if someone asks me just out of curiosity or politeness, they’d be bored to death if I’d go on and dive into all the philosophical debates about how people photography during weddings and wedding photography are different. The time and place for such debates is on a comfortable couch among friends and with a glass of red wine in your hand… if you have patient friends. And so the easy way to answer is – I am a wedding photographer. You’d think that, after I say that, the question’s answered and it is my time to ask that person what he does. It should be that simple, for as soon as I answer I blush and am instantly overcome by the need to explain. And so I still end up diving into all the philosophical monologues trying to justify and explain my work, and consequently bore everyone to death.
I hate that.
A side note: if you suddenly feel the urge to scroll down to the comments section and tell me how I’m a hypocrite for doing what I hate and lying about it to my clients, hold on for just a second. There’s obviously a little bit more to it and I am afraid you are going to have to read all I have to say to get my meaning.
With most Photokina announcements behind us, it is a good time to look back and overview some of the new products we have not yet covered, namely Leica. As I expected, the new Leica M Edition 60 spawned quite a lot of differing opinions. But it’s not the only camera the legendary German manufacturer has brought to our attention and, whilst none are cheap, the other products are considerably more affordable. There’s the film Leica M-A, a new Summicron-S 100mm f/2 lens for the medium format S system and a few smaller format digital Leica models. Let’s glance through them in more detail.
Most modern camera makers have already embraced the fact that, at this day and age, providing a tool just for photography is not enough. A camera needs to do video, and really rather well at that. Connectivity is also a big deal these days with WiFi being the very least that is asked for. Bluetooth is slowly making its way in, too, and many raised eyebrows appear due to the lack of built-in GPS, something that’s been available on the cheapest of smartphones for years now. No manufacturer is brave (or stupid, or both) enough to go back to their purely photographic roots. The boldest move I’ve seen in recent years was the Nikon Df with all the “pure photography” campaign, and all they did was add some more analogue controls and remove video capability which, I am fairly certain, could be added via a simple firmware update. Not that I want to undermine that camera, far from it. Merely say that it is very much a 21st century product packed with features you may or may not use. No manufacturer is brave enough to go back to the very simplest things that are needed to capture an image and nothing else. Not even Fujifilm – under the gorgeous retro skin of X-mount cameras lies the very latest technology.
Wait. I think I may be wrong when I say there is not one such manufacturer. Leica M Edition 60, anyone?
When Samsung announced their first Android-powered mirrorless camera, I was really rather skeptical. The problem lies within the OS itself – its versatility also brings a whole lot of issues. Yet I feared the Korean manufacturer would keep at it, for better or worse. In a surprise move for me personally, they seem to have decided against it with the newly announced flagship of the NX system, the NX1. This is by far the most impressive camera in the NX line-up. It does away without Android, but Samsung still calls it a “smart” camera thanks to all the connectivity options. On paper, it is every bit as capable as the best in the class and then some.
Much like its direct competitor, Tamron is releasing one great lens after another. But if the former Japanese manufacturer started its renaissance with prime lenses, Tamron has been focusing on zooms instead. First, it was the rather great 24-70mm f/2.8 stabilized standard zoom. Then, the equally-great stabilized 150-600mm superzoom. Now, they announced a new professional grade lens, or rather – its development. And, if previous releases are of any indication, there is a good chance the new lens will impress.
Tamron’s new 150-600mm lens created quite a lot of stir. Let’s be honest, it is a cracking lens for its class, and even more so for its price. We covered it in detail in our review. We then covered it again, and again. And… yes, again. And each time, it earned a healthy amount of praise. But someone at Sigma obviously had the same idea, because today they announced not one, but two different 150-600mm lenses. I have a slight feeling they want some of that love their main third party competitor has been receiving lately.
Just as Fujifilm promised in their latest roadmap, the last quarter of 2014 sees the announcement of their first professional-grade telephoto zoom lens, the XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR. The surprise release, however, is the revised version of the already-very-popular XF 56mm f/1.2 lens that features an apodization filter. Let’s take a closer look at the specifications of both lenses.
Along with the new X100T and a couple of lenses, Fujifilm has also announced a “Graphite Silver” version of their well-received X-T1 mirrorless camera. Unlike other silver/black versions of mirrorless cameras that Fujifilm offers – X-E2 immediately springs to mind – X-T1 has a darker shade body. It is definitely more conspicuous than the black body of the original X-T1, but not as much as a regular silver camera would be. It is also more expensive. And don’t worry, there are indeed some better news that owners of black X-T1’s will find very welcome.