Monday, 21 May 2012

Higher and Lower Sensitivity

Exercise - 12 images

The purpose of this exercise is to study the effect changing ISO sensitivity has on an image comparing the overall effect on appearance and any change in ease of shooting.

It is suggested to photograph a street where there is a mixture of light levels and subject movement in order to access these changes.

I am expecting to see a marked increase in noise as the ISO increases and also a faster shutter speed which would result in less motion blur in moving figures. My current camera, the Nikon D7000, generally has good reviews when it comes to the effects of noise on an image due to its internal noise reduction system but this is something I haven't tested out myself so it will be interesting to see the effect.

ISO 100 - ISO 640
All of these images were taken on Aperture Priority  - f/8. At ISO 100 the shutter speed was 1/350sec which jumped to 1/2000sec at ISO 200, 400 and 640. I had expected a faster shutter speed at increased ISO levels but am surprised by such a marked increase between ISO 100 and ISO 200.

With the slowest shutter speed recorded at 1/350sec there is no motion blur in the image. In hindsight using a narrower aperture to carry out this exercise would have demonstrated the effect on shutter speed better. Viewed at 100% there is very little noise visible in the images.

ISO 800 - 3200

At ISO 800 the shutter speed increased to 1/3000sec at f/8. Between ISO 1250 and ISO 6400+ this increased again to 1/8000sec. Some detail is beginning to appear in the shadow areas at the higher ISO however the brighter areas are also becoming brighter and the colour in the sky less saturated as a result.

ISO 5000 - ISO 6400+
The camera now captures much more detail in the shadow areas but the scene is generally overexposed. Adjusting aperture, shutter speed or using exposure compensation would correct this but generally I can't see a reason I would use such a high ISO value in this type of daytime setting anyway. In low light or night photography high ISO values are much more useful.

Comparing Visible Noise

These are the images take at ISO 100 and ISO 6400+ viewed at 100%.
ISO100  viewed at 100%
ISO 6400+ viewed at 100% 
The speckled appearance of the noise is clearly visible in the image taken at ISO 6400+. More noise is visible in the shadow area than the cobbled street area where it is disguised by the general pattern of the paving. How detrimental this is in the image probably depends on how large the final image will be viewed at and the purpose of the image.

Higher ISO values have their uses and are particularly useful in low light and night photography where the use of a tripod is restricted or not permitted. As a general rule using the lowest possible ISO setting is recommended.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

The Sartorialist - Scott Schuman

I picked up this book a few months ago not knowing anything about the photographer Scott Schuman. What initially attracted me to the book were the portraits of individuals with a fantastic sense of style. Not your everyday slavishly following fashion type of style but an individual sense of style which captures the sense of the individuals personality.

Very little text accompanies the images in the book which are full length portraits taken in the streets of London, New York, Paris, Tokyo - many of the fashion capitals of the world. At first glimpse you would think this is just a book on fashion. But when you study it you can see that it's much more than that. It's a book on the study of how individuals express themselves and their personality through fashion which has been captured in a photograph.  

Schuman is a self taught photographer with many years experience in the fashion industry  shooting advertising campaigns for the like of Vogue, GQ and Elle magazines. His original idea for the "Sartorialist" was a blog to try to connect the  highly stylised fashion he was seeing at fashion shows with the fashion on the streets. The images stand alone on the pages. No names given to the faces although there are one or two famous faces amongst them. As there is very little text in the book it's difficult to get any idea of the photographer's personality.

In the introduction to the book Scott Schuman explains the lack of commentary.

"I like people to draw their own conclusions, to find their own inspiration without the influence of a guiding hand."

His blog is regarded as the place to be seen in the fashion industry and has a huge following.

There are no clues or technical tips on how the images were taken in the street and for the best part appear to have been taken with natural lighting.  As the topic of my current assignment relates to lighting I have been trying to access these images from that viewpoint. The majority are taken outdoors on a bright but probably overcast day. Possibly a reflector or fill in flash was used to ensure an even illumination of the "model". In over 500 pages of images there are only 5 at the very end which are taken either at night or in what looks like a church with candle light suggesting the photographers preferred method of lighting is natural daylight.

In an article in The Times - March 2009 Schuman is said to have taken inspiration and be a fan of the Seeberger Brothers photography, whose fashionable images of chic ladies in France are credited as being some of the first real fashion photographs. In fact Scott Schuman lists the book Elegance by the Seeberger Brothers on his own blog reading list.

Unfortunately I can't find any images that are copyright free to post here which would show the comparison between Scott Schuman and the Seeberger brothers work but I would urge anyone interested in either  fashion or portrait photography to seek out both.

Here in the university town of St Andrews there is a huge, ever changing student and visitor population. As such there are new faces appearing all year round. Taking images of people in the street is way out of my comfort zone but I feel inspired to give it a go using the "excuse" of being a photography student to set myself a mini project. If you like you can follow my progress and see if I've managed to approach anyone in the street by using the new page tab at the top of this blog. Don't expect to see a picture a day  though it might take me some time to  pluck up the courage to stop people in the street but if nothing else I'll learn all the pitfalls of taking portraits using natural lighting and it should also help consolidate my learning from part 4 of this course.