Saturday, February 20, 2021

Why mobile phone photography is great for professional photographers

You probably read the title of this blog post and thought "Is Jeff implying that mobile phone cameras are good cameras for professionals to use?" But that is not what I am talking about here. Even though cell phone cameras have gotten very good, and some may argue that the image quality has gotten good enough for most people, they are not the right tools for us professional photographers. I have heard a lot of people question whether or not these cameras are bad for us professionals, since people are taking all their own photos. But I believe that all the images captured from those pocket devices is actually helping us professionals. And here is why:

Photography has become more important to people

It wasn't that long ago that the vast majority of people walked around without a camera in their possession. And just in the last 10 years all of that has changed dramatically. Now, in most westernized civilizations, almost everyone over the age of 10 years old seems to have a camera with them 24/7. We are now taking more photos in a single day than the first 100 years of photography combined! Those images (and videos) are being posted and shared on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and countless other social media sites. This means that people are thinking visually more than ever before. Photos are now even more important to the way we communicate.

Quantity does not mean quality - but they DO want quality

I believe that, even though there are millions of photos being taken every day, the average person has had their photo quality expectations lowered. For those of us capturing photos with high quality cameras and lenses, we know that mobile phone images can't compare to the "real cameras" we use on a daily basis. The low light images are grainy and the small lenses just can't deliver image quality of dedicated cameras and good glass. For this reason, people have gotten used to seeing their portraits in selfie mode, with narrow depth of field, and taken with wide angle lenses which are not very flattering. 

I say all of this because I photograph a lot of teenagers and young adults, and am always intrigued when they see their portraits on the back of my camera. They are totally surprised to see how good they look, with narrow depth of field and lenses that flatter people. Sure, it is not all about the optics, it is also the skills of the photographer knowing the best settings, light and locations. But I truly believe that the "low bar" set by everyday mobile photography is helping us professionals shine in comparison.




Mobile phones lenses are not flattering

As I just mentioned,  most cell phone cameras are wide angle which does not flatter most people. When I take portraits, I usually opt for a good zoom lens, like the Canon 70-200mm 2.8 lens which really compliments my subject. I zoom in tight to accentuate the depth of field, keeping my subject in perfect focus while blurring everything else. And when photographing at long focal lengths, this helps slim people which is always a good thing. Since people are so used to seeing themselves through the wide lens of a cell phone camera, they appreciate our more flattering lenses.

No depth of field

Sure, most of the new mobile phones offer some sort of "portrait mode" which simulates narrow depth of field, but even with this feature, the image quality still does not compare to the real thing. And the rest of the time, people are photographing with cameras that default to keeping everything in focus. This is great when photographing landscapes, but not so great for photographing people and events. I can't tell you how many times I have shown people their portraits on the back of my camera and had them amazed at the selective focus (which really draws the viewer to the subject).

Flat lighting

Just about anyone who takes photos with their mobile phone is doing so using ambient light or the tiny little flash on the back of their handset. This is very limiting and makes it hard to control lighting like us professionals do with one or more large flash units. So, once again, the general public is used to flatly lit images, with no dramatic lighting!

 

Low light = low quality

Whenever there is a cool event with the moon, I see countless phone shots on social media, and all I see are grainy photos of a white dot in the sky. Sure, they tell a story, but it makes the images that us professionals are taking with long lenses and tripods stand out that much more. 

Everyday user vs trained professional

Ansel Adams used to say that the most important feature of the camera is what is 12 inches behind it. That would be the person taking the photo. Most people who take photos with their phones are not photographers and therefore do not know how to make a great photo, regardless of the equipment used. This means that they are creating images for keepsake (which is great), but probably not the quality that us professionals desire to deliver to our clients. They may not be able to take great photos, but they will likely appreciate the difference when they see professional images.

All of this is not to say that the camera in your phone is a bad thing. Not at all! There is the common saying that "the best camera is the one that is with you" and, like most of you, I love having a camera in my pocket all the time. Just yesterday afternoon I was capturing photos and videos on the ice rink as we played hockey. I chose to to use my iPhone 12 instead of taking my DSLR on the ice. 

I am curious to hear what you all think of this assertion, and I welcome your opinions on this subject. Feel free to comment here on the blog or on social media.


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Thursday, February 4, 2021

The Summer Olympics in Tokyo - The rumors, the truth and the challenges

A couple of weeks ago there were a lot of news reports that the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo (yes - it is still called the 2020 Olympics even though they are slated to happen in July of this year), were going to be cancelled. I received a lot of phone calls, emails, and text messages asking for my take on this. It was really strange for me, because at the same time that all of you were seeing the news about a potential cancellation of the Olympic games, I was getting emails from the Tokyo Organizing Committee (TOCOG) about upcoming logistics. 

I told everyone that I thought the Olympics would go on for the following reasons:

* The athletes have trained for many years for this event and it means so much to them.

* With all the new vaccines coming out, hopefully they can have a safe Olympics with minimal impact.

* Even if there are limited people in the stands, the television revenues are far too big to be lost. 

Then, last week, there was news coming from Japan that the Games would be going on as planned. And since then, there has been an onslaught of communication from the IOC, TOCOG and the US Olympics and Paralympic Committee. 

I know that a lot of you follow the blog to see my Olympic images and to read the back stories, and I am happy to say that everything looks good for this summer and next winter. It is weird to sit here and write this blog knowing that in 6 months I will be photographing the Summer Olympics AND at this exact same time next year I will be photographing the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Since the planning for these events are so far out, I am dealing with overlapping processes for both Games at one time. Like so many other things in the last 12 months, this is unprecedented.

Just today I received the first "Playbook for Press" for the Tokyo Olympics. 

This playbook lays out the safety guidelines for the press, from beginning to end. They set forth the protocol for pre-travel to the Games, how things will be handled when on the Olympic grounds, and even protocol for exiting the country. 

The bad news

Photographing the Olympics in normal times is always a challenge and exhausting. From what I am reading, there are going to be a lot more challenges at this Olympics. Here are some of those:

* Traveling from venue to venue will be more restricted, with TOCOG recommending that we use press buses only, and not using any public transportation.

* I may have to make reservations to be in certain venues at set times due to the limited number of press per event.

* It sounds like we will all be COVID tested at regular intervals.

* They stated that the press center and other public facilities will be running at only 50% capacity to allow for social distancing. 

* We need to stay at least 6 feet from all the athletes, which will be challenging during the post game interviews. 

* All attendees (including press) will be asked not to cheer, sing or chant, replaced by simply clapping.

* And of course, it will be the first time I will have to shoot wearing a face mask (or two). 

The good news

It looks like the Olympics will actually happen, which is awesome for the athletes and the viewing public. And...since all of you like to follow along with me on this adventure, I am sure to have some crazy and interesting stories leading up to these Olympics, while at the Games and beyond. Stay tuned!



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If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
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Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Cuba, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours. 

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Tuesday, February 2, 2021

NEW VIDEO TUTORIAL - Fish eye lenses are fun to use!

The other day I posted this fish eye shot from an "at home" Bat Mitzvah and had a great response to that photo. It was taken with the Canon R6 and the Canon 8-15mm fish eye lens in the client's kitchen.

It reminded me that many months ago I shot a video tutorial on how and why I use fish eye lenses in my photography business. I shot the video, but had not published it on my YouTube channel yet. Well...it is published now and you can see it by clicking HERE.

There are photographers who are not big fans of using this wide angle lens, but I find them really fun and creative. What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know.


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Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
__________________________________________________________________________
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
__________________________________________________________________________
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Cuba, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours. 

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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

My wish list for the next Canon professional camera

Today, Sony announced their new flagship camera called the Sony Alpha a1.  This is the first professional level mirrorless camera designed for the high-end photographer who might shoot sports and fast action. This is all fine and good, but I am waiting to see what Canon has up its sleeve for the upcoming Summer Olympics in Tokyo (provided it happens).

I have been using the Canon R5 and Canon R6 for many months now and have fallen in love with both of these mirrorless cameras. As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, I have become so reliant on these new cameras that my Canon DSLRs have sat virtually idle for many months.

There is a lot to love about these late model mirrorless workhorses, most notably:

* Even though these newer cameras are packed with features, the one feature that stands out the most to me is the eye detection mode. This fine focusing ability has yielded amazing results and let me concentrate on other parts of my photography, as opposed to the old DSLR day when I would spend a lot of my time making sure my focal point was on the eye of my subject. Not only is the focus incredibly accurate, it is also fast enough to lock onto my subjects, even when they are moving. 

* The image quality is also outstanding, even when shooting at high ISO.

* The battery life goes far beyond what Canon states in their manuals.

* The silent shooting mode is really helpful when shooting in quiet environments (which I am doing quite often these days).

BUT, even though I am extremely happy with the Canon R5 and R6, I still have some things that I would like to see from a pro level mirrorless camera (probably called an R1 or something like that) from Canon. 

A little Photoshop work - not a real camera!

Here is my list:

* Two CFexpress card slots

I would love to see two CFexpress memory card slots. These memory cards are super fast and I want to write to both cards at the same high speed. The Canon R5 has one of these slots, but the second slot is a slower SD card slot. And the Canon R6 has two SD card slots, which means that I have to use that memory card format. I prefer the CFexpress not only for the faster write speeds, but more importantly, I want the ability to download the images faster to my MacBook Pro. I also like the size of the CFexpress card more than the smaller and thinner SD card. 

* High capacity battery

Even though the battery in the existing Canon R cameras does a fine job, I would like to see a Canon R1 (as I will call it here) with an even more robust battery. The smaller LP-E6 battery can give me more than 1000 shots, but when I am shooting at events like the Olympics, I would like to have more than that. Can I just switch batteries? Yes, but having longer battery life means that I have one less thing to worry about when I am shooting under pressure.

* Even faster focusing

As I mentioned, I have been really impressed with the focusing capabilities of the Canon R5 and Canon R6, but that does not mean that I don't want it to be even better! I would love to see the focusing speed increased so that the camera locks onto my subject at lightning speeds.

* Faster and user selectable frame rate

Speaking of speed, I really want a camera that lets me select my frame rate, regardless of the shooting mode I have selected. In today's Canon mirrorless offerings, there are some modes where I can shoot in either one frame at a time or 20 frames per second. I want the ability to select something like 3fps, 8fps, 15fps all the way up to 30fps.

* User selectable image resolution

Many of the newer DSLR and mirrorless cameras are offering really high resolutions, in the 40MP to 70MP range. For most of my photography, I don't need or even want that type of resolution. But I would love to have the choice to shoot at various resolutions, depending on what I am capturing. I would love to have a camera that would let me shoot anywhere from 20MP to 50MP, and make it use selectable.  

* Better quality at high ISO

I can't have a wish list without asking for even better image quality at high ISO. This is not to say that the existing cameras do a bad job with high ISO, but hey, I always desire cleaner and sharper images in low light!

* Save / Load camera settings

I know that this is a small point, but the previous high-end cameras from Canon allowed me to save the camera settings to a card and therefore transfer all my settings (and custom menus) from one camera to another. I want this in the Canon R1.  


For those of you reading this and wondering if I have this camera in my hands to test right now, I can tell you the answer is "no". And I have not been told anything by Canon. If I knew anything officially, I would not be able to write this blog post as I would be under an NDA with Canon. But am I hoping to have a camera like this in my hands before the Summer Olympics? Heck yes! I guess that only time will tell.


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Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
__________________________________________________________________________
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
__________________________________________________________________________
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Cuba, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours. 

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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Almost a year of no events - the challenges, the pivots, the uncertainty of this pandemic

Here we are at the beginning of a new year and we are still surrounded by an abundance of uncertainty and an unknown future. It is hard to believe that most of this started back in March of last year, with none of us knowing what we were headed for. As I look back to the beginning of this pandemic, a couple of moments really stand out from the rest:

* I was driving to a Temple to photograph a Bar Mitzvah when I received a phone call from a photographer friend who also shoots a lot of events here in the Bay area. He told me he was getting multiple cancellations from his clients. I had yet to have any, and thought that maybe he was over reacting. 

* I remember hearing that we might have to shelter in place for 2-3 weeks and thinking "Two or three weeks! That is a REALLY long time!"

And here we are almost a year later and still dealing with all of this. 

For those people who work in the event business, it has been brutal. I think of the venues, caterers, florists, DJs, coordinators, photographers, videographers, rental companies and so many others who have basically lost all their business for a really long time. For most people, the biggest impact is financial. But there are so many other losses, including the lack of creating art for others, the lack of socialization, and the boredom of staying at home. I feel all of these on a daily basis. As you may know, I am one of those people who likes to be busy all the time; working, traveling and socializing. To say that this has been a tough year is an understatement. But at least, as a photographer I have something to shoot right now. Many of the others vendors have no business at all. And it gave us a chance to follow up with past clients to encourage them to select their favorite images and get their albums designed and printed.

But along with all of those challenges, I have seen some bright spots too. I have seen some of my industry friends pivot their businesses to achieve revenue in really creative ways. A couple of my friends who own DJ businesses are now providing high-end Zoom conferencing production capabilities. I have seen coordinators who used to organize large parties who are now helping their clients put together virtual events and even deliver gift boxes to attendees.

It is not just the people in the industry who have adjusted to the pandemic, but the clients as well. When Covid19 was shutting down everything, nobody knew what to do. My calendar showed almost every weekend booked with some type of event, and that just stopped completely. It took a little while for people to adapt to the "new normal", but the adaptation has been really interesting. There are still no parties, but at least people have gotten creative with the situation we are in.

The first event that actually happened was a Bar Mitzvah on April 18th, and the family told me they were doing the service in their home via Zoom. It was a last minute decision and they scrambled to make it happen.


At the time, I thought that this was a totally unique solution to use this new service called Zoom, but not likely to become the norm. And with so much unknown about Covid, I was not going into their house. I did offer to go to their house (at no charge) and take portraits of them in their front yard. I felt that this event should be captured for the family, regardless of the circumstances.


They were joking about the month long shelter in place, and how they were ready to strangle each other. And that was back in April of 2020!


In June I photographed another Bar Mitzvah at the family home, and this time the Temple loaned the family the Torah. It was great to have that for the photos.


This was the first time that I had entered a home and captured photos of the mitzvah service (with my mask on and staying at least 6 feet from them).


In early August, I photographed another Bar Mitzvah, and by this point the Zoom Mitzvah was becoming more routine. The big difference is that the families had become more Zoom proficient and more cognizant of the lighting, foregrounds and backgrounds.


And this was the first time I had ever photographed a Bar Mitzvah with a dog at the service!


Towards the end of August I photographed a beautiful Bat Mitzvah in this family's backyard. The decor was amazing and the video production was now really polished. They had different camera angles, top notch microphones, and even someone designated for the video production. 


This was also the first mitzvah where I exclusively used the Canon R5 and R6 mirrorless cameras (making overhead shots like this a breeze).


Before the month ended, I photographed a wedding at this family's home.


The entire wedding was performed on their front porch, and it was awesome. Lots of great moments and lots of laughs too. 




And just like all the other events, one of the main guests was the computer and Zoom camera. 


In early September, I was back inside a client's home to photograph another Bat Mitzvah. 


And they had their new puppy joining us as well.


Yes, this was the moment where their puppy did #1 and #2 on the carpet during the service. You don't see THAT every day! Hysterical.


In late September, I photographed this young lady's Bat Mitzvah at the local JCC. Her mitzvah was supposed to be in March, and was my first postponement. They did a beautiful job of decorating a hallway, and only the family and myself was in that space for the service.


The service was then broadcast outside the building to families (who each had their own table distanced from the others).


In early October I photographed a Bar Mitzvah inside a temple for the first time in almost 8 months and it felt so good! 


Once again, it was just the family and myself (and the video guys) inside, with everything being sent out via Zoom. 


A week later I was in a different temple and feeling like maybe we were headed back to more normal days.


Still all Zoom but at least I could get more traditional photos.


There was even a lunchtime party at the family's home.


In November it was pretty much the same, shooting with limited people at the temple. By this time, custom face masks were almost a given..



The key photographic moments are a little different for a Zoom mitzvah, like this moment at the end of the service when everyone is on Zoom congratulating the family. 

And just when I thought we were heading into more normal times, the next wave of Covid hit California and all the churches and temples were shut down again.


So...I was back to the client's home to photograph the next service.


One of the local temples acquired a mini torah for them to loan out to their mitzvah families. 



In December I photographed a Bar Mitzvah inside a tent, with a limited number of people in attendance. 


More custom face masks....the sign of the times.


This family decided to host a drive in movie party for their closest friends and family. They played interactive games and even had dinner delivered to each car.


And they played the young man's favorite movie.


This last weekend, I photographed yet another Bar Mitzvah at the family's home.


Since so many of their relatives could not be there for the big day, they decided to make these awesome photos representing family who could not attend. 


They hosted a drive-by ice cream stand for friends and family in the area.


This was yet another clever way of celebrating a young man's big day in a unique way. 

As I mentioned earlier...these are tough times, but it is nice to see so many people adapting to the current situation and coming up with their own original celebrations. For me as a photographer, this time has given me a chance to photograph these events in unique environments. 

With that said, I can't wait to get back to the days of traditional parties, but only time will tell when that might be. 

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Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
__________________________________________________________________________
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
__________________________________________________________________________
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Cuba, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours. 

__________________________________________________________________________ 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Photographing a baby and a toddler in natural light

It was the day after Christmas and I was up in Sacramento celebrating with family for a couple of days. My niece and her husband were at home with their 2 year old and their 2 month old, and I offered to come over and take baby photos for them. You may remember that I took photos when Patrick, their oldest, was a newborn (that blog can be found here) and he has grown up a lot since then! Now he has been joined by brother Owen, and we needed to document these cuties while they are young and adorable. 

(Canon R6 camera, RF 24-105mm lens at 70mm, ISO 1000, f/4, 1/400 sec)

I started by photographing Owen on his own, since Patrick was still taking his nap. I was using the Canon R6 with the Canon RF 24-105mm lens

(Canon R6 camera, RF 24-105mm lens at 105mm, ISO 800, f/4, 1/400 sec)

I got down low on the ground and photographed Owen from his level. I brought some different lighting options, but decided to keep it simple and use window light only. We positioned Owen facing the sliding glass door, which was behind me. 

(Canon R6 camera, RF 24-105mm lens at 85mm, ISO 640, f/4, 1/250 sec)

The window light was perfect for lighting his face and also adding nice catch light into his eyes.

(Canon R6 camera, RF 24-105mm lens at 45mm, ISO 640, f/4, 1/400 sec)

We put Owen into the same bucket as we did with his brother 2 years earlier.

(Canon R6 camera, RF 24-105mm lens at 45mm, ISO 640, f/4, 1/320 sec)

I stood straight over him and shot down, careful not to get my shoes in the shot. (Photographer's note: the photo was taken in color and then converted to B&W using NIK Silver Efex Pro in Adobe Photoshop)

(Canon R6 camera, RF 24-105mm lens at 43mm, ISO 1000, f/4, 1/125 sec)

Again, like 2 years prior, we put the youngsters in front of their custom skateboard.

(Canon R6 camera, RF 24-105mm lens at 45mm, ISO 1000, f/4, 1/100 sec)

When photographing kids, you need to be ready to capture the really cute unplanned moments like this.

(Canon R6 camera, RF 24-105mm lens at 43mm, ISO 1000, f/5.6, 1/80 sec)

I love this photo of them both looking at me as if saying "are we done yet?" (Photographer's note: You will notice that I changed from f/4 to f/5.6 for this photo. I did this because I wanted both of the boys in focus. Having a slightly narrower aperture, gives me both of their eyes sharp.At f/4, only one of their faces would have been sharp.)


Patrick was very interested in what I was capturing in the camera. And like with any client, I had to get approval from him. (Photo credit: Annette Cable)

(Canon R6 camera, RF 24-105mm lens at 65mm, ISO 1000, f/5, 1/100 sec)

Patrick got this really nice wood puzzle for Christmas, so I asked him if he wanted to hold it for some photos.

(Canon R6 camera, RF 24-105mm lens at 65mm, ISO 1000, f/4, 1/160 sec)

He gave me this look right before tossing the puzzle in the air. You can see that "I am almost 2 and can do whatever I want" look in his face.

(Canon R6 camera, RF 24-105mm lens at 65mm, ISO 1000, f/4, 1/125 sec)

My daughter, Ali, moved the blanket away and decided to do some yoga poses with Patrick. This is him looking up at her to see what she was doing.

(Canon R6 camera, RF 24-105mm lens at 37mm, ISO 1000, f/4, 1/125 sec)

Ali was showing Patrick the tree pose and he was doing his best to imitate her. 

(Canon R6 camera, RF 24-105mm lens at 63mm, ISO 1000, f/4, 1/125 sec)

Then it was time for Patrick to get his own camera out for some photos.

(Canon R6 camera, RF 24-105mm lens at 63mm, ISO 1000, f/4, 1/125 sec)

I love this shot of "Little P" looking at the back of the camera. Even though he has no LCD on the back, and it is only wood, it still looks like all of us professional photographers who are checking our images while shooting. 

(Canon R6 camera, RF 24-105mm lens at 53mm, ISO 1250, f/5, 1/250 sec)

Then it was time to get some more photos of Owen in the bucket again, this time with Patrick.

(Canon R6 camera, RF 24-105mm lens at 50mm, ISO 1250, f/5, 1/250 sec)

Ahhhhhh. So cute!

(Canon R6 camera, RF 24-105mm lens at 53mm, ISO 1250, f/5, 1/250 sec)

After a couple of kisses, Patrick got tired of kissing Owen on the head. But Ali had a plan. She placed an M&M on Owen's head and told Patrick he had to eat it off of his head. And voila, I got the last shot we wanted. Good thinking Ali!


__________________________________________________________________________
Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
__________________________________________________________________________
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
__________________________________________________________________________
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Cuba, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours. 

__________________________________________________________________________