Mirrorless Reflections

This is not a gear blog. When the gear matters to the creative output, however, it's time to write a gear post. 

Such is the case when it comes to fashion photography. We've previously discussed the preliminary thinking that goes into a fashion shoot, but once the photographer and the designer understand the creative vision, it's time for the photographer to implement it through the magic ingredients of ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. 

Camera considerations in the studio are fewer than on the street. In the studio with strobes, the maximum shutter speed will be the camera's sync speed. ISO in the studio is a much more controllable artistic effect, but unless there is something particular about your camera sensor's high-ISO noise that you like, those considerations are usually handled in development. Most of the attention in the studio is on creating the right kind of lighting and the right action with the model. In a studio, it's possible to work the same idea repeatedly until the image gets made.

The story is very different on the street, with only available light. Shooting fashion on the street is an order of magnitude harder than studio photography, but the images can be so much more engaging. 

Depeche Mode

Unlike a controlled studio setting, the street has not only constantly changing action in the background, but constantly changing light. That's the appeal of street-fashion: it's dynamic. The dynamic nature of the model and the environment allows the fashion to be shown as it exists. People don't wear fashion for a fixed environment, and so it's more informative to see it in varied places, with varied light.

Not a pose. In this shot, Rayanne had turned the reversible coat inside out and was putting it back on. It was a brief moment of action on a poorly lit Parisian street. Without live exposure compensation on the XE-1, the image wouldn't exist.

An unplanned stop at a produce stand and an unplanned moment of fun that showed great details of the coat. The shadow of the awning required a stop of adjustment that was quick to make with the EVF.

Depending on what aspect is most important to feature, a model can pose on the street, or simply let her personality shine through by engaging with the opportunities the street offers. Both approaches have benefits, so remain visually flexible and don't ignore potential moments by preconceiving them.

Mirrorless mirrorless, who's the fairest of them all?

A solution for me is to use mirrorless cameras. While the DSLR is faster in operation and in my ability to more accurately analyze the scene directly through the lens, a mirrorless body let's me adjust for the rapid changes in lighting as the shoot moves through the streets. Good moments often take place in shadows, are backlit, or in otherwise challenging light. A mirrorless body's EVF let's you adjust for these situations visually, while making similar adjustments to a DSLR would require a cognitive load that would, minimally, interfere with observing the scene. 

These images were all made with Fuji X-Series cameras, and primarily the X-E1.

Backlight is always difficult to work with. The EVF gives immediate visual confirmation of how blown are the highlights, allowing you to adjust the exposure. This kind of image is easier to evaluate in monochrome in the viewfinder. That's an option that an EVF gives you live, and a DSLR only provides after you've made the image.

Another example of how the EVF makes short work of ensuring there's enough shadow detail in a backlit image.

Whether in the studio or on the street, all the camera's options are still important. To work quickly on the street, I set the Fuji's to Aperture Priority, and Auto ISO. Aperture is more important to me than the other settings, but I keep aware of the shutter speed and adjust accordingly when I want to capture more movement.

Harsh light is great for noir images, but camera meters don't know what to make of it. Balancing the highlights and shadows is easier with a mirrorless.

This system works pretty well. In fast moving situations, the slowness of the EVF updates is annoying. Worse is when the buffer fills and the EVF doesn't even bother updating. However, the benefits of being able to adjust for the light is worth the annoyances.

Texture is also easier to handle with a mirrorless. It's easy to lose subtle texture in highlights. Adjusting exposure in the viewfinder can save an image that the meter would have ruined.

Texture in shadows is no less a problem, especially with dark clothes. And again, EVF to the rescue!

In the end, no matter how great is the moment you capture it will be a lot better if it's exposed right. To maximize the opportunities for well timed and well exposed street fashion images, look to the beauty that a mirrorless camera can provide.