What makes a great portrait?

I saw this on Scoop It today and had a peek…


I have to say I was a bit underwhelmed.  Some of them are pretty good but most of them didn’t spark any sort of reaction from me at all.  So I started thinking about what does make a great portrait…

– connection with the viewer – usually through the eyes and expression.

– telling a story.

This last one is whereI think some of the above worked, and a lot failed.  I felt quite a few of them would have been really moving if I’d known more about the context, but a great portrait should be self contained, it should not need an explanation.  Feel free to link any great portraits you’ve seen in the comments.


Getting started with the Fuji X System

A friend of mine is getting his first X series camera shortly and I started thinking about the advice I might give him from my experience using them over the last two years.  Then I thought, it might make a decent blog post and be of use to other people just getting started.  I love the fuji cameras but they certainly have their share of quirks and foibles that someone new to the system may not pick up on right away.  Feel free to add your own below in the comments section..

– Flash & studio strobes will not fire if the camera is in silent mode ( see the sound settings for this one, but it is not on by default ).

– X-T1 performs way better in High Performance mode, especially on autofocus, and the battery still lasts a decent amount of time.

– you will need spare batteries, but the third party ones are 25% of the cost of the Fuji ones and work just as well ( check reviews of them first obviously ).  Take 3-4 for a days shooting, up to 8 for a wedding ( although I’ve never gone through that many ).

– the biggest drain on battery life is chimping ( looking at your shots on the screen/evf ).

– when the battery gets to 2 bars, you have 10-20 shots before it dies completely.  This is apparently fixed in the December firmware update.

– X100S – if you have failed to read the manual, the little lever at the front top of the camera is the one that switches between OVF and EVF

– X100S – if you are shooting at f2.0, stay at least 3-4ft away from your subject or the image will not be as sharp as you would like.  Above f2.0 it seems ok, so this is a quirk of the sensor/lens combination I guess.

– X100S – the pop up flash is pretty good as a fill flash, much better than you might expect..

– when shooting jpeg in low light, put Noise Reduction to -2, or you will get mushy skin tones on the jpegs.  Even at this setting, I’d suggest shooting RAW for low light.

– when shooting moving objects, use the central 9 AF points, at their medium size ( i.e. not the smallest ) for better performance.  The large your AF box is, the quicker it will be, but also less accurate, 2 steps up from smallest is a great compromise between accuracy and speed.

– when in AFC mode ( continuous  focus ), the camera will hunt continuously until you press the trigger.  It won’t lock like a DSLR.  Have faith in it, once you push the button it generally locks pretty well, having said that, these cameras are not as good as high end DSLRs at tracking motion, and you certainly need to practice.

– when shooting in bright sunlight and wanting to review your images, put your eye to the viewfinder and view them through the EVF rather than attempting to look at the back of the screen.

– the first batch of X-T1s seem to have had 3 main build issues, the D pad buttons being too flush, the light leak issue, and peeling off off the cover of the camera skin ( the black textured skin ), all these are fixable under warranty and you should get that done ASAP while you can.

Thats it for now, I may add more later..



Some fashion and portrait images from the summer shot with Fuji

As the Autumn closes in on us I thought I’d post a few images from my shoots this summer, all shot with the Fuji X-T1 and ( mostly ) the 56mm 1.2 or the 23 mm 1.4.

Some were shot in the studio and some on location.  In the studio I tended to use the 55-200mm lens as I love using a mid range zoom in studio shoots.  Having shot all year with the fuji I’ve stopped really noticing that I’m using a mirrorless camera, it just works and I get on with getting the image I want.

5965 230121855 Some fashion and portrait images from the summer shot with Fuji 5965 650207615 Some fashion and portrait images from the summer shot with Fuji 5965 1122361727 Some fashion and portrait images from the summer shot with Fuji 5965 1380082047 Some fashion and portrait images from the summer shot with Fuji 5965 1410818431 Some fashion and portrait images from the summer shot with Fuji 5965 2069553535 Some fashion and portrait images from the summer shot with Fuji 5965 2104975743 Some fashion and portrait images from the summer shot with Fuji




Last Days of Summer – Fuji X-T1 and 23 mm 1.4

I went down to the north coast of Cornwall to visit my parents this weekend.  It kind of felt like the end of summer.  The weather was lovely and we went for a fantastic walk, I took the fuji X-T1 and the 23mm 1.4, as its a lens I’ve not really spent a lot of time with.

It did a fantastic job here though, striking a good balance between wide angle for landscapes and a decent focal length for people shots.

DSCF2800 Last Days of Summer   Fuji X T1 and 23 mm 1.4 DSCF2872 Last Days of Summer   Fuji X T1 and 23 mm 1.4 DSCF2878 Last Days of Summer   Fuji X T1 and 23 mm 1.4 DSCF2905 Last Days of Summer   Fuji X T1 and 23 mm 1.4 DSCF2925 Last Days of Summer   Fuji X T1 and 23 mm 1.4 DSCF3010 v1 Last Days of Summer   Fuji X T1 and 23 mm 1.4 DSCF3026 v1 Last Days of Summer   Fuji X T1 and 23 mm 1.4

Family party

I was asked by my family to shoot a birthday party for my sister in law.  It was a really interesting and fun party and most of the guests had learning disabilities.  Mostly this meant they just went nuts on the dance floor, with few of the inhibitions that are normally exhibited at such events.  Was a great event to photograph, mostly I used the fuji and the 56mm 1.2, as the light was very low.  Oh and there were lots of small children running around in low light, so you’d need a dslr for that…DSCF0329 Family party DSCF0346 Family party DSCF0365 Family party DSCF0383 Family party DSCF0431 Family party DSCF0479 Family party DSCF0577 Family party DSCF0738 Family party DSCF1244 Family party


Rob and Laura’s wedding

Had a great time shooting Rob and Laura’s wedding.  They were a really lovely relaxed couple and wanted a documentary style shoot.  I shot this wedding with my brother, who also used an X-T1 ( I used an X-T1 and XE-2 ).  The 23mm is great for group shots, but both of us tended to use the 56mm 1.2 a lot of the time.  I did also use the 55-200 in the church where we were confined to the back of the church and not allowed up front.


Ok, time for some more details..I started off using aperture priority mode for the start of the day but I found that in very dark situations like in the church and the inside of the reception venue, the shutter speed would drop to 1/60.  For me, on the 56mm 1.2, I don’t want to drop below 1/125 or I find I can start to get blurries creeping in.  So eventually I went back to my normal way of shooting which is to shoot in full manual mode, shutter speed 1/125 but with ISO set to auto ( and limit the shutter speed to 1/125 in the auto iso settings ).  For metering I use spot metering 95% of the time and focus on the persons face so that it is always correctly exposed.  I do play around with exposure compensation sometimes, but generally leave it at 0.  On the X-T1 I find the metering dial is quite easy to knock onto one of the other 3 settings.  Normally I notice this when the image is too dark and changing the exposure comp doesn’t seem to do anything..in these cases I’ve almost always knocked the metering dial off spot and onto one of the other settings.



DSCF3667 1 Rob and Lauras wedding DSCF8846 Rob and Lauras wedding DSCF8883 Rob and Lauras wedding DSCF8897 Rob and Lauras wedding DSCF9077 Rob and Lauras wedding DSCF9184 Rob and Lauras wedding DSCF9225 Rob and Lauras wedding DSCF9298 Rob and Lauras wedding DSCF9339 Rob and Lauras wedding DSCF9414 Rob and Lauras wedding DSCF9453 Rob and Lauras wedding DSCF9580 Rob and Lauras wedding DSCF9783 Rob and Lauras wedding DSCF9857 Rob and Lauras wedding


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Sian and David’s Wedding

I had the huge privilege of photographing a friends wedding last week.  Sian and David had  their wedding on a farm and it had a very relaxed feel to it, which is just what they wanted.  I was covering the wedding with my Fuji kit ( X-T1, XE-2, 35mm, 56mm, 23mm,55-200mm), along with my brother, who now also shoots with Fuji gear.  Here are some of the images, the ones with the TV in are from a lovely moment after the ceremony where David’s brother surprised him with a video showing moments from his very eventful life.  Sian looked amazing and the weather was beautiful, all in all it was one of the most fun weddings I’ve shot.

As for the Fuji system…this is my third wedding with these cameras and it keeps getting better.  There were some very harsh lighting conditions, especially at the ceremony but the Fujis did really well.  I shot half the wedding on jpeg ( burst mode to try and capture some candids ), and just used RAW for the ceremony where I knew the light was very harsh and I might need the ability to pull back the highlights.  This really cut down on my post production and the jpegs were just fine, needing nothing more than a quick crop..they came out looking sharp and vibrant. My most used lens by far was the 56mm 1.2, I did end up using the 55-200 a lot too, I don’t normally use it much outside the studio but whenever I do I’m reminded how good it is.  It is not super fast, but it is very sharp and produces really lovely images.

DSCF6186 Sian and Davids Wedding DSCF6144 Sian and Davids Wedding DSCF6043 Sian and Davids Wedding DSCF5898 Sian and Davids Wedding DSCF5218 Sian and Davids Wedding DSCF4961 Sian and Davids Wedding DSCF3488 Sian and Davids Wedding DSCF3431 Sian and Davids Wedding DSCF3325 Sian and Davids Wedding



Fashion shoot with Artemis

I had the good fortune to work with an incredible model a few weeks back, someone who brings a whole heap of creativity to a shoot.  She also brought an enormous bag of fabric and we found a forest to use it in.  Here are some of the images.

All of these were shot on the X-T1, mostly with the 56 mm 1.2, but also the 23mm 1.4 and 35mm 1.4 all got a lot of use.

DSCF3084 Fashion shoot with Artemis DSCF4808 Fashion shoot with Artemis DSCF4895 2 Fashion shoot with Artemis DSCF4886 Fashion shoot with Artemis

Shoot with Darren

I don’t get to shoot male models all that much, so I was really pleased to be able to shoot with Darren.  We covered a wide variety of styles and shot both studio and location.  I don’t really think “oh I’m using a mirrorless camera” any more, its just a tool and I don’t notice any difference to when I was shooting with my 5d3 or D800, especially in the studio.  On location I notice, as the awesome EVF gives me a much clearer picture of how the image will turn out.  The only thing missing is a higher shutter speed and the ability to use high speed synch with a flash.  Once I get some high quality ND filters for the 56 1.2 and 35mm 1.4 I will not even miss that so much.

DSCF4740 Shoot with Darren DSCF4738 v1 Shoot with Darren DSCF4672 Shoot with Darren DSCF4662 Shoot with Darren