Malta Fashion Week - Yana's Jewellery

This year, to add to the events and general fashion-craziness happening during Malta Fashion Week, designers (with the help of photographers, models, make-up artists, hairstylists, model agencies, venues) got together to do shoots with the collections showcased during the week. 

Here is the shoot we did for Yana's Jewellery:

MFWA 2018 - Kurt Paris (https://www.kurtparis.com)
MFWA 2018 - Kurt Paris (https://www.kurtparis.com)
MFWA 2018 - Kurt Paris (https://www.kurtparis.com)

Since we were shooting in natural light heaven (under the arches in front of the National Library) we had super soft but directional light. By changing the direction the model was facing I could adjust the angle at which the light hit her face - from fully frontal in the first image, to slightly off centre in the later images. A Bowens 500W strobe was used for a bit of fill and to even things out. 

The team behind the shoot:

  • Model: Katrina from Models M
  • Makeup: Jennifer Dimech
  • Designer: Yana's Jewellery
  • Photography: Kurt Paris

 

Backstage at Malta Fashion Week: Colour? or Black and White?

As many of you might already know (or guess if you wander into my backstage galleries) - i'm a big fan of black and white when it comes to backstage during fashion shows. Other than the visual appeal, this helps me focus on the emotions that are happening backstage and reduce the elements in what is usually an already cluttered image. This year however we had a great deal of colour in the collections presented... so even though i might have started in black and white...

 Dizz Fashion Show - Backstage, Malta Fashion Week

Dizz Fashion Show - Backstage, Malta Fashion Week

I quickly progressed to...

 Parascandalo - Backstage, Malta Fashion Week

Parascandalo - Backstage, Malta Fashion Week

 Agatha Ruiz De La Prada - Backstage, Malta Fashion Week

Agatha Ruiz De La Prada - Backstage, Malta Fashion Week

... we may have slipped back into black and white for a little bit...

 Gaetano Busuttil - Backstage, Malta Fashion Week

Gaetano Busuttil - Backstage, Malta Fashion Week

... and then back into colour :)

 Eymeric Francois - Backstage, Malta Fashion Week

Eymeric Francois - Backstage, Malta Fashion Week

 Rosemarie Abela - Backstage, Malta Fashion Week

Rosemarie Abela - Backstage, Malta Fashion Week

 Jason Grech - Backstage, Malta Fashion Week

Jason Grech - Backstage, Malta Fashion Week

 Bata Spasojevic  - Backstage, Malta Fashion Week

Bata Spasojevic  - Backstage, Malta Fashion Week

 Ocantos - Backstage, Malta Fashion Week

Ocantos - Backstage, Malta Fashion Week

 Ritienne Zammit - Backstage, Malta Fashion Week

Ritienne Zammit - Backstage, Malta Fashion Week

Do you prefer the colour shots or the black and white? Leave me a comment with your fave :)

Malta Fashion Week - Fashion Photography Exhibition

This year, together with Charmaine Cilia and the rest of the Malta Fashion Week team, I had the pleasure of helping to co-ordinate and curate the yearly fashion photography exhibition.

This exhibition is a driving force for both local and foreign photographers based in Malta to produce content that will feature in a prominent venue in Valletta. This serves as a great way to advertise both the individual photographer and the local industry as a whole.

This year I produced two shoots for this exhibition, both featuring talented local fashion designers Ritienne Zammit and Rosemarie Abela

 Ritienne Zammit - I Love Valletta Collection 2017

Ritienne Zammit - I Love Valletta Collection 2017

The team for this shoot was made up of: Gabriella from Supernova Model Management, Christian Galea @ Michael and Guy took care of the hair styling, Jennifer Dimech took care of the Makeup and Ritienne Zammit designed and styled the outfit.

 Rosemarie Abela - Al Magrib Collection 2018

Rosemarie Abela - Al Magrib Collection 2018

The team for this shoot was made up of: Arabella from Models M, Flavia @ dColorPallet took care of the hair styling, Jennifer Dimech took care of the Makeup and Rosemary designed this outfit. Styling was done by Caroline Paris.

In both shoots we used directional natural light and since we had very strong contrasts, black and white was used to continue to bring this out

This is how the photos looked in the exhibition:

 Malta Fashion Week - Pjazza Tritoni - Fashion Photography Exhibition

Malta Fashion Week - Pjazza Tritoni - Fashion Photography Exhibition

MFWA 2018 - Kurt Paris (https://www.kurtparis.com)
MFWA 2018 - Kurt Paris (https://www.kurtparis.com)

Taking a good photo with any camera

One of the big changes we've seen in the last few years is that at any given time, most people will have a camera on them. This may be 'just' a mobile phone but we are at a stage where mobiles have become good enough in many situations to create a photo that you can even print and enlarge. Another exciting advancement this month was the release of the Huawei P20 Pro that has a triple camera, 40 megapixel camera (more info on the Huawei P20 here) 

 Valletta, Shot on a OnePlus 5

Valletta, Shot on a OnePlus 5

Previous Articles

On this blog i have already talked about some simple tricks in the following articles: 

but lets focus on the device we all have with us everyday: Our phone.

 

Mobile Photography Workflow

Mobile phones like the OnePlus 5, The Samsung S8/S9 have great cameras that are able to capture great images in many conditions. As we try to take pictures in more challenging scenarios then things can get ugly. If we understand the limitations we have and work our way around them then we can help our phone's camera produce better results.

1. Buy the right phone

In the words of 'The sound of music' - "Let's start from the very beginning, a very good place to start". When you are making the choice on which mobile phone to buy, steer clear of the many marketing gimmicks manufacturers will use to tempt you. The laws of physics apply to any camera - bigger sensors (all other things being equal) will produce better photos. They will allow in more light, which leads to better colours, less noise at night and happiness. A lot of happiness. This is something you can easily check since most review sites list the sensor size of the phone's cameras. The Google Pixel, the Samsung Galaxy S9 or upcoming Huawei P20 have a larger physical sensor and this can be seen directly affecting the good scores they receive on DXO Mark (Check out DXOMark mobile for camera reviews)

For landscape lovers: optical image stabilisation, Samsung's new variable aperture system provides high detail in good light

For people & low light Look out for bigger sensors, lenses that will let in lots of light (the smaller the 'f' number, the more light you get), Phase detection autofocus. Dual camera setups with a zoom lens and good bokeh simulation can work nicely here

For everything: Look out for bigger sensors, good scores on review sites like dxomark. Watch out for dual-camera setups - some may bring advantages but more cameras is not always better

2. Shoot first, ask questions later

One of the biggest arguments among photographers, especially ones who have come from the days of film is the "spray & pray" attitude that digital allows. Whilst it is very important to think about what you are shooting and to time the shot correctly... taking multiple shots will increase your chances of getting the perfect one. In mobiles this is particularly effective since the device is more fiddly than an SLR and also has more lag between pressing the shutter button and the shot being taken. This can cause the photo to be blurred due to camera shake, or a subject having his/her eyes closed.

3. Look around you first

Are you shooting in the sun? Is there something really bright/reflective behind you? Are you on something moving? Are you in a very dark area? If you've answered yes to any of those questions then you're putting your phone's camera in a hard place. Look around you - if you are in the sun try and find a spot of shade. The main source of light should ideally be behind you (this will provide the best lighting for your subject). If you are in the dark, is there a bright shop window nearby? or can you turn on some more lighting? These will help the camera choose a setting which will result in better image quality.

4. Know your lens

The main camera on most phones is a 24mm-27mm (ie wide angle) lens. This means that it is quite susceptible to the way you position it towards your subject. For example if you are taking a photo of a person (full body outfit shot for example) - if the camera is held at head height, then this is going to cause the person to look shorter than they are. Moving the camera down to chest or waist height will make them look taller. Taking the photo from near the ground will make them look much taller and also provides an interesting perspective - perfect for showing off those new Gucci Loafers

5. Editing is part of the workflow

Snapseed or VSCO are simple tools that can be used to greatly enhance photos taken by phones. One of the main areas of weakness for mobile phone cameras in my opinion are - White Balance and Noise. Snapseed has a colour picker tool that allows you to click on an area of the image that is neutral (white/gray) and this will automatically adjust the colours of the image accordingly. This will really improve the way the image looks since some lighting systems (like tungsten) can give a yellow/orange colour cast to everything in the photo. 

Noise can be tackled by using contrast and darkening the darker areas of the photo, combined with noise reduction filters. If an image is particularly noisy, converting it to Black and White can help.

Canon 5D Mark 4. Long Term review

It's been just about over 6 months since I made the switch from the Canon 5D Mark 3 to the shiny new Canon 5D Mark 4. I've been a fan of the 5D series for a while, the only model that I skipped was the 5Ds/r, this had great image quality (Thanks btw to Avantech who had given me the 5Ds and r for review). However, the camera was primarily aimed at (I felt) studio use and I tend to have a broader set of needs which made me stick with the Mark 3 at the time.

This is not a feature list or a discussion of all the features in the camera - most major photography sites have comprehensive reviews that go into lots of detail if that's what you're after. This article focuses on those features that I was most in contact with as I used this camera as my primary day-to-day tool.

Without further ado.. some context: What have i been using the Canon 5D Mark 4 for, over the last 6 Months?

- Backstage at Malta Fashion Week

- Catwalk at the Pink Fashion Show

- Street-style/ Backstage at Milan/ London fashion weeks

- Portraiture

- Editorial/ Magazine Fashion shoots

- A Top Secret! :P Upcoming exhibition

These include a healthy mix of available light & artificially lit shoots, colour & monochrome and many situations where I had very little time to shoot - so camera ergonomics and handling were really important to me.

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this review and I receive no commission on any Canon products sold.

The Good.

Spoiler alert: This is going to be the biggest section.

Metering

The metering system is by far the biggest upgrade in the Mark 4. I sometimes felt that the Mark 3 could be a bit erratic, especially in backlit situations, however, the Mark 4 has an impressive accuracy to the metering. This has really reduced a lot of the times I've had to go to fully Manual mode for challenging light conditions, and could rely a lot more on Av/Tv modes.

 This photo for the Hoya campaign of O'Hea Opticians was shot purely with natural light and despite the bright white background, the camera nailed the exposure beautifully

This photo for the Hoya campaign of O'Hea Opticians was shot purely with natural light and despite the bright white background, the camera nailed the exposure beautifully

Focus and Handling

Looking at a spec sheet, the AutoFocus system on the Mark 3 and the Mark 4 are fairly similar. There are some key differences which I found to be quite useful since I tend to shoot at very large apertures (f2.0 on the 85mm f1.2L and 50mm f1.2L). The first difference is that the autofocus points are spread out over a larger area - which makes choosing the correct point easier.

Autofocus speed is pretty similar to the Mark 3, but lets face it - it was already a stellar performer, even in very low light. Autofocus accuracy however, I feel has improved significantly. When shooting at large apertures I'm noticing a much higher keeper rate which reduces the number of reshoots and allows me to shoot subjects such as streetstyle (where time is critical) with much less time/waste. For the little bit of LiveView shooting I did, DualPixel AF works impressively quickly and tracking is smooth.

The ergonomics of the camera haven't really changed much - the Mark 4 is a little bit lighter, but other than that if you're used to the 5D series, you get the same great user experience and updated Canon menus. Thumbs up.

Camera Speed

Continuous shooting has increased by 1fps to 7fps - which is a noticeable improvement... although for sports/birding/action shooters who can afford it, the 1D is still light years away. Reviewing images, camera menus and general usage is very snappy and the camera doesn't feel sluggish at any point. Image transfer is also quite fast. 

Image Quality

The Mark 4 is noticeably better than the Mark 3 in this field. There is a small improvement in High ISO noise & colours.. but the main gains are when shooting in good lighting. The colours and dynamic range of the new sensor are simply put - fantastic. The size of the image is also ideal since it gives enough cropping room, without the bulky file sizes of say the 5Ds which takes its toll on all the subsequent workflow.

Connectivity

Finally! the secondary slot supports UHS. This makes a big difference in card speed and the buffers are cleared noticeably quicker. The camera also features WiFi which makes it easy to connect to my tablet/phone and transfer images of the camera. For bulk/dumb transfers during shoots i'm still using an Eye-Fi card since this part of my workflow was already set up.

Construction

The Mark 4 feels a bit more sturdy than the Mark 3. I can't give an exact reason why :) (and this could just be a placebo/new toy effect) however it feels very well put together

The Meh

Touchscreen

Great for when you're shooting in LiveView in weird positions... but not really a killer feature for my usages. I still ended up using the wheels for my day to day operations

Dual Pixel RAW

This could be chalked to me being an old fart, however, the increase in accuracy out of the box doesn't really make me need this feature to the point where I'm fine with the increased file size. I used this initially a bit, it's cool but it's something I didn't keep using once the novelty wore off.

The Bad

I really have nothing much to say in this section. If I had to be picky, the battery life (using the same batteries I had for the Mark 3) is a bit poorer than the Mark 3 but we're still talking about battery life that would last me for a few days of shooting (using the battery grip).

The price has increased a bit over the Mark 3 at launch, however prices have already come down and I think the Mark 4 represents really good value for the workhorse it is.

Conclusion.. a.k.a Should I upgrade?

This is an easy one - Yes. The Mark 4 improves all the core areas of photography and these will translate into improved quality, speed and ergonomics for pretty much any photographer. These will be particularly noticeable if you do ambient light shooting or any sort of reportage/weddings. I really recommend this camera and I'm personally very happy that I've made the switch. Initially, I thought the difference was minor, and that I would use the Mark 4 and Mark 3 interchangeably but ever since the Mark 4 has entered my bag, I have almost never picked up the Mark 3 again... I think that speaks for itself.

Facebook, please stop mangling our photos

The Facebook compression has never been stellar. With the advent of "High Quality" uploads i had thought that it would improve (and to be fair it did at the time) however I think that whilst the quality is perfectly fine for your average selfie... well I'm not happy with it.

Both of the following files are the same, the only difference is that the top photo was uploaded to Facebook and then downloaded again. In both cases the file does look a tiny bit different before Squarespace (my hosting provider) has applied it's sauce to the image but the degradation is minimal/insignificant.  The Facebook compression on the other hand is VERY visible.

Illustrations in photo by Alisa Pavia

 Uploaded to Facebook & Re-downloaded

Uploaded to Facebook & Re-downloaded


 Uploaded from PNG

Uploaded from PNG

The Nexus 5X mini review

 

3 weeks, and €550 later my trusty LG G3 earned retirement status and I joined the family of Vanilla-Lovers via the 5X. This review is not going to cover all the points and fine details of the Nexus 5X (there are plenty of more in-depth literature floating around. link: www.gsmarena.com) but is going to highlight some of my personal experiences and impressions.

1. The Price

Clocking in at €529 in europe, it feels overpriced... The feeling gets much worse when you factor in shipping and the fact that it's available at $378 in the US. A few weeks in and this is one of the only pieces of electronics i've bought where I feel that I was slightly cheated. The soft touch plastics are pleasant but feel cheap compared to the LG G4's opulent leather, or the sleek aluminium and glass of the Samsung Galaxy S6... and the fact remains that both of these are cheaper than the 5X.

2. The Camera

The Nexus 5X has a great camera, particularly in low light. I've been consistently surprised and impressed at the photos that I was able to take with the phone... especially since there is absolutely no way to manually control the exposure. The idiot-mode camera app together with it's HDR+ mode gets a good result most of the times (it has a tendency to clip highlights in some scenarios such as this burger shot) however I find it very annoying that I have no way to tweak exposure settings. Double tapping the power key brings up the camera app in a reasonably snappy speed.... but it seems counter-intuitive that the power button will then shut off the display as per normal rather than acting as a shutter button (the volume key will however work as hardware shutter)

 Renzo's Parliament

Renzo's Parliament

 Burger, Vecchia Napoli

Burger, Vecchia Napoli

 Ritienne Zammit, Strada Stretta

Ritienne Zammit, Strada Stretta

 View from CcBill,  sunset

View from CcBill,  sunset

 

3. Performance

"Meh. It's Ok" is the best way to sum this up. The phone will not impress you in the way a Samsung Galaxy S6 will... but it won't annoy you either. Games work fine, OS snappiness is up to usual Nexus standards but no new ground has been broken. Another wierd issue is that when the phone is being charged, touch-screen responsiveness and performance in general simply die.

 

4. Battery Life

The Nexus were never known to have stellar battery life. This is still the case with the 5X. The great thing is that the phone software (and Doze in particular) is very efficient - this means that the battery only goes down when you're actually using the phone. So far there hasn't been a single time where i've picked up my phone and found it warm and battery-less (meaning that it decided to do something stupid in the background, my Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4 were the worst offenders at this). For power users who are constantly using their phone, the battery will just about last through the day... i've found that the battery will last me a day and a half with normal usage

 

5. USB Type-C

The Nexus 5X uses the new USB standard port: Type-C. This similar in size to MicroUSB but it's symmetrical and can be inserted both ways. This is one of those things that you don't really expect to love, until you actually start using them. The new connector is much easier and less fiddly to insert in the dark, (and most of us plug in our phone to charge... at night.. when you're usually 75% asleep and operating on 1 solitary braincell). The connector also feels more sturdy. On the downside - USB Type-C accessories are harder to find and more expensive than their counterparts. Luckily MicroUSB to USB Type-C Adaptors exist that will allow you to convert any existing accessories over.

 

6. Charging

The phone is bundled with a 15W charger and a USB Type-C to USB Type-C cable. This means that you will not be able to use any of your existing chargers with this phone. You won't even be able to move the cable onto another charger ... so make sure that you buy an extra USB Type-A to Type-C cable or two if you buy this phone. Using the bundled charger the phone charges VERY fast. Whereas i used to leave all my previous phones charging overnight, i usually plug the Nexus in when i'm getting ready in the morning and in that 30-45mins it is usually back to 100%

 

7. Fingerprint Scanner

Everything about this scanner is awesome. Training is simple and straight forward, scanning is really impressively fast and very accurate (works with any orientation or fragment of my finger). Positioning at the back of the phone is very convenient too. So far living with this scanner has been great. Combine this with trusted places and trusted devices and locking/unlocking my phone is very ergonomic

Studio. Faces. Black & White.

 Caroline Paris. Partner in Crime.

Caroline Paris. Partner in Crime.

 Tamara Webb. Photographer.

Tamara Webb. Photographer.

 Bojana, Supernova Model Management

Bojana, Supernova Model Management

 Suncica, Supernova Model Management

Suncica, Supernova Model Management

 Valentina Rossi, Modelle Internazionale

Valentina Rossi, Modelle Internazionale

 Henry, Makeup Artist & Model, Supernova Model Management

Henry, Makeup Artist & Model, Supernova Model Management