Backstage over the years

Just a quick trip down memory lane: i present to you photos taken backstage at various fashion shows around the world by a photographer from Malta (who used to be fat) including Milan Fashion Week, London Fashion Week, Serbia Fashion Week and Malta Fashion Week

2015

 Fashion Scout Backstage - London Fashion Week

Fashion Scout Backstage - London Fashion Week

 Giles Deacon Backstage - London Fashion Week

Giles Deacon Backstage - London Fashion Week

 Ritienne Zammit Backstage - Malta Fashion Week

Ritienne Zammit Backstage - Malta Fashion Week

 Caroline Hili Backstage - Malta Fashion Week

Caroline Hili Backstage - Malta Fashion Week

2016

 Moschino Backstage - Milan Fashion Week

Moschino Backstage - Milan Fashion Week

 Etro Backstage - Milan Fashion Week

Etro Backstage - Milan Fashion Week

 Stella Jean Backstage - Milan Fashion Week

Stella Jean Backstage - Milan Fashion Week

 Wedding Bells Backstage - Malta Fashion Week

Wedding Bells Backstage - Malta Fashion Week

 Gaetano Backstage - Malta Fashion Week

Gaetano Backstage - Malta Fashion Week

 Parascandalo Backstage - Malta Fashion Week

Parascandalo Backstage - Malta Fashion Week

 Ritienne Zammit Backstage - Malta Fashion Week

Ritienne Zammit Backstage - Malta Fashion Week

2017

 Annakiki Backstage - Milan Fashion Week

Annakiki Backstage - Milan Fashion Week

 Backstage - Malta Fashion Week

Backstage - Malta Fashion Week

 Parascandalo Backstage - Malta Fashion Week

Parascandalo Backstage - Malta Fashion Week

 Eymeric Francois Backstage - Malta Fashion Week

Eymeric Francois Backstage - Malta Fashion Week

 Ritienne Zammit Backstage - Malta Fashion Week

Ritienne Zammit Backstage - Malta Fashion Week

 Stella Jean Backstage - Milan Fashion Week

Stella Jean Backstage - Milan Fashion Week

 Marija Sabic Backstage - Mad Mood Milan Fashion Week

Marija Sabic Backstage - Mad Mood Milan Fashion Week

 Charles & Ron Backstage

Charles & Ron Backstage

 Backstage Serbia Fashion Week

Backstage Serbia Fashion Week

 Mirat Cyril Backstage - Serbia Fashion Week

Mirat Cyril Backstage - Serbia Fashion Week

 Backstage Serbia Fashion Week

Backstage Serbia Fashion Week

2018

 Eymeric Francois Backstage - Malta Fashion Week

Eymeric Francois Backstage - Malta Fashion Week

 Jasongrech Backstage - Malta Fashion Week

Jasongrech Backstage - Malta Fashion Week

 Ritienne Zammit Backstage - Malta Fashion Week

Ritienne Zammit Backstage - Malta Fashion Week

I used to be fat - update & clarifications

Just a small update to my previous article to clarify some things based on some of the comments/chats i've had following publication

1. Exercise is good

Just to clarify this point, i am NOT saying that exercise is not a good idea. From a wider health perspective, there are a ton of benefits from regular exercise. However from a strictly weight loss point of view, you cannot rely on exercise alone. It's great to supplement a decent eating habit and will help, but you cannot ignore nutrition. So get your eating habits in order: learn how much you should be eating (depending on your weight/sex/age there are ranges of calories you should be eating every day), learn how to balance high calorie foods with low calorie bulky ones and then add exercise.

2. I am trying to lose weight and it's hard... not easy

Losing weight is not hard. Medical conditions aside, if you eat less calories than you burn then you should lose weight. It's putting yourself in a position where this is easy takes a bit of thought and planning.

Saying no to food (especially GOOD food, or food we are hardwired to crave like sugar/fat) is very hard. So the "big trick" is putting yourself in a position where you don't have to resist.

For example - meet friends for a walk or a movie instead of for dinner, skip a party or an event if you have too many that week, etc. It's realistically only in the first few weeks that you need to be a bit extra careful and say no to get into the weight loss rhythm... after that default to "not today" :)

Another example - try avoid coming home starving from work and still having to cook. Mitigate by having a snack late in the day or preparing dinner beforehand. This will avoid (in my case) nibbling 1000cal worth of stuff whilst i cook dinner.

3. This is a photo blog... wtf!

A Canon 5D mark 4 weighs 891g. Add a battery grip weighing around 390g and a lens (i use the 85mm f1.2L a lot) at 1025g - you suddenly are carrying over 2kgs. When you are doing a photoshoot or shooting an event which usually involves much running around and is spread over a few hours - those 2kgs feel like 20. Physical fitness is very important in photography, if you're tired you will be less creative, you will be more likely to be in the wrong place or miss a shot... etc etc etc... HOWEVER to be precise, being physically fit is key here so we're not only talking about weight loss - lose weight, exercise, build muscle = photo happiness.

4. What protein powders do you use?

Protein powder is not a unicorn, and many studies on the internet suggest that it may not be the best thing for the body but nevertheless i found it to be a good breakfast: it's easy to prepare - just add water, tasty, and keeps me full until lunch. My first powder was Phd Pharma Whey (i bought the vanilla creme flavour) which is based primarily on Whey protein (contains lactose!). I then started experimenting with protein blends which mix Whey (which is fast to digest), with Micellar Casein (which is slowly absorbed). From these my favourites were the MusclePharm Combat (Hybrid series) and BSN Syntha-6 Edge, both in cookies'n'cream flavour (basically vanilla with crunch bits :D)

Another protein 'hack' i use sometimes involves protein pudding (basically a powder which you mix with water and it thickens into a mousse) and in it i cut up one or two apples. This is usually a good breakfast for days when i'm going to be eating a little later in the day.

5. Did i miss anything?

Just send me a message in private or leave a comment below and i'll try my best to answer. Just remember that i'm not a health professional so whilst these methods worked for me, they may not necessarily be good for everyone (or myself for all i know!)

 

I used to be fat.

I have spent most of my life being overweight, and whilst i'm not saying that it's necessarily a bad thing per se (apparently I was even considered more attractive by some people.. ah well!), i'm happy with the transformation. Disclaimers: I'm not a doctor, or a nutritionist and for all i know the things i did will cause me to drop dead tomorrow. Use any of this advice at your own risk :)

memory-screenshot.JPG

If you haven't already read my previous article, you can check it out on Caroline's blog here: http://carolinefashionstyling.com/2016/03/diet-confessions-of-food-aholic.html

It's funny how used to things the body and the mind can get - when I saw that photo on my Facebook feed, i know it was me but then again i was surprised at how unconnected to that "me" i was. I think it's important to always keep things we did, people we love and other stuff that change our lives close to us, and also to constantly remind ourselves where we came from. 

Since I shared that memory, many people commented or spoke to me in private about their problems and challenges where weight is concerned and barring cases where genuine medical issues might make it harder (or impossible) to lose weight you need to remember two things.

1. That guy in the picture was happy, he didn't feel attractive to the opposite sex (my demons, maybe not yours) but you don't have to be thin to live a happy life.

2. For me, the biggest challenge was in my head, and food (like alcohol, or other drugs) is addictive and should be treated with the same level of respect.

I'm going to group & answer some questions i received:

1. Did it take you 7 Years?

Not even close - looking back at my Google Fit data, i was hovering around the 110kg mark late in 2015. By June 2016 i had already hit 81.5kgs, it then took me until June 2017 to go to my (roughly) current weight of 72kgs. So in a nutshell, i lost the bulk of my weight in around 8 months, that's not really that long :)

2. You must have exercised A LOT!

In the beginning, not really. I was blessed that i had a super amazing team (CCBill Architecture!) who were into sports and they enticed me to join gym & running sessions over time. However keep in mind that whilst exercise is good for you and fun in so many ways (when you're not fat, when i was fat i hated it - i was heavy, i got tired, i sweated like a pig... this all changes trust me .. except the sweating :D) it's the diet that plays the biggest effect on my weight. Just to give you an example, a few months back i was training for The Grid Sprint, we had training sessions (which i used to run to from the office) and i would do training on my off days. So in these months i was literally training at least once (some times twice) a day - and my weight DID NOT GO DOWN. I was eating more, i was becoming stronger and more muscular but if i used this as an excuse to indulge in cake - it still showed up on the scales.

So in a nutshell, ace your nutrition game and then if you can exercise - great! if not focus on exercise when you are already on your journey

3. Did you live on salads?

Absolutely not.

Mornings i usually start off with a protein shake a couple of times a week (especially if i'm training) and a coffee. Around 9am, i attack out kitchenette and harvest 2 or 3 fruits which i will eat before 12:00 noon

Every day, lunch is my biggest meal (i personally like this) and i eat whatever we have on the menu at CatenaMedia (we have an awesome kitchen team there who cook everything from veal ribeye, to tuna, grilled octopus... i digress). If you see my plate, it's pretty loaded. I personally find that i need 2 main things in my plate - Protein (could be anything: chicken, eggs, pork, fish, whatever) and bulk. "The bulk" makes me feel full without adding too many calories and it's quite easy - just fill your plate with low calorie, large items (usually vegetables or some salad).  At lunch times i try to get some carbs on my plate too.

Evenings i tend to remain a bit light - usually i have a fruit or other snack (protein bar/ nuts/etc) around 4pm and a light dinner around 8pm. Dinner usually is made up of indian dals, or frittata - something with some light protein (usually egg whites) and spicy vegetables.

4. Are you really suggesting eating cake to lose weight?!

Yes. Being on a diet where foods are not allowed (excluding medical reasons) is stupid. Conversely having huge cheat days where you eat a whole bakery is equally pointless and just likely to make you lose your rythm.

If you look at my photos on Instagram (usually on stories) you will see an equal amount of healthy food and .. well.. things like this slice of awesomness from Danny's:

chips-cheese-bacon.JPG

The trick here is to space these out. Say "Not Today" rather than "No" because by knowingly add fun meals into my week i am able to remain a foodie and keep my weight where i want it. Typically the system i use i that when i have a fun meal on one day, i just eat a little less the following day or two and possibly up my exercise a tiny bit. The most important thing is: DON'T CALL IT A CHEAT MEAL, YOU ARE DOING NOTHING WRONG. Just like when you buy something from a shop - you pay for it.

5. This is a marathon, not a sprint

Even though you will see results very early on, the main thing to keep in mind is that you just need to set your self up into a rhythm you can sustain for the rest of your life. Therefore you have to adjust accordingly. IF you absolutely cannot control late dinners with the family for instance, portion size is something you can easily adjust

Going back to the 15th of July (Cheesy Chips day) - 

weight-graph.JPG

My next weigh in was on the 17th - 2 days after. Remember when you have more food in your body, this doesn't just magically disappear - it takes time for it to.. ahem.. exit. To complicate life, on the 18th of July i was scheduled to visit our Belgrade office and the food in Serbia is really, really, really good. So over the week, i enjoyed myself within reason and then when i arrived back in malta, i went back on my rhythm and as you can see from the last 2 dots - we are back on track.

Malta Fashion Week - Rosemarie Abela Al-Magrib

Another in the series of fashion editorial photo-shoots done as part of Malta Fashion Week - Rosemarie Abela's Al Magrib collection. Valletta's older areas which are still a bit raw provided us with some great backdrops. The maltese limestone tends to really throw a yellow hue on the outfit, thanks to all the sunlight light that bounces off it and onto the clothes. So to add a bit of drama and also to bring out the lovely colours and texture in the clothes - you guessed it - one Bowens 500w strobe with a beauty dish. The main difference this time is that we kept it off angle to give some nice shadows on the models

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

The team behind the shoot:

  • Model: Venla from Models M and Francesca from Supernova Model Management
  • Makeup: Elaine Galea
  • Designer: Rosemarie Abela
  • Hair-styling: Flavia @ dcolorpallet
  • Photography: Kurt Paris

Gagliardi SS18 Collection Shoot

If you're somehow living under a rock and have not heard of Gagliardi: the menswear brand from malta - then do yourself (and you or your partner's wardrobe) and check out their website. I really like their designs, and they have a fantastic product, and ooh sale

*few minutes and a full shopping cart later*

So back to the topic at hand, at the end of 2017, a merry group went up to Taormina to shoot the Fashion campaign for the Spring Summer 2018 collection in a lovely Sicilian setting. The brief was built on the cult movie "The Talented Mr Ripley".

Since we were not in the peak of summer, the sun was less harsh and overhead - so in most of the shots we used a natural light with reflectors for some fill. The lights stayed inside the van almost the entire time. For the evening shots, we used a YongNuo YN-608 LED Ring which is my go-to portable light for situations where you don't have a lot of ambient light to fight. One of the reasons I opt for this particular format is that the large surface area of the ring makes for a softer light than the smaller square panels.

The Team:

  • Male Models: Gary Greenwood & Karl Andrew Borg (Supernova Model Management)
  • Female Model: Felicia Cigorescu (Prysma production)
  • Gagliardi Team: Leo, Nadia, Petra, Sarah, Sam & Keith

This shoot was one of the most fun ones I've done in a while - and apart from the great team spirit, there were a lot of things done right that made the whole experience a breeze.

Firstly, everything was planned down to a tee - we had a great visual cue, and each setting (together with the scene) was pre-planned. That made logistics as well as the actual shoot much much easier and ordered. Secondly, we had a great team of models - and in my mind, the model is key to a great shoot, not only from a visual aspect - but also from an energy and attitude point of view. We spend days literally shooting from morning to evening - the right energy and attitude is a essential for this to work out.

Going back to the Gagliardi team - they put immaculate attention to detail and made sure that each outfit was styled correctly and fit well. This made my life much easier both when shooting, and especially during post production. 

Photo: Kurt Paris (http://www.kurtparis.com)
Photo: Kurt Paris (http://www.kurtparis.com)
Photo: Kurt Paris (http://www.kurtparis.com)
Photo: Kurt Paris (http://www.kurtparis.com)
Photo: Kurt Paris (http://www.kurtparis.com)
Photo: Kurt Paris (http://www.kurtparis.com)

Parascandalo - STAR Collection 2018, Campaign Shoot

All i'm going to say is: Check out that blue!

Ok maybe i'll say a few more things... Parascandalo is a designer brand from malta, headed by the talented Marco Parascandalo. At this year's fashion week, when Marco and I were discussing how to shoot backstage he said "This year (with Marco wearing head-to-toe black at the time)..  shoot in colour please,  i'm going to have a lot of colour this year". He was not kidding :)

For the campaign, Marco suggested the Cospicua waterfront, which has amazing geometric shapes as well as a fantastically neutral set of tones. This provided a playground of shadows and texture for me, and also allowed the bright colours of his collection to really take centre stage.

The team for this shoot:

  • Female Models: Lara & Giulia @ Supernova
  • Male Model: Matthew Lanzon
  • Clothes & Styling: Marco Parascandalo
  • Makeup: Jennifer Dimech
  • Hair: Lee's Hair Stylist
Photo: Kurt Paris (http://www.kurtparis.com)
 This technique can be easily created by mixing flash and ambient light. Simply set a 1-3 second exposure and make sure that this gives you an image underexposed by at least 1 stop. Add flash and let the camera use TTL or set manually if you're using strobes.

This technique can be easily created by mixing flash and ambient light. Simply set a 1-3 second exposure and make sure that this gives you an image underexposed by at least 1 stop. Add flash and let the camera use TTL or set manually if you're using strobes.

Photo: Kurt Paris (http://www.kurtparis.com)
Photo: Kurt Paris (http://www.kurtparis.com)

Malta Fashion Week - Marco Parascandalo

The third in the series of Malta fashion week editorial fashion shoots was the one we did with Parascandalo for their 2018 collection: Star.

In this shoot we decided to use an urban setting, specifically a car-park which had a monotonous, grungy look & feel (kudos to Marco for this great idea for a location). This almost boring setting is a mix of empty space and clutter, a place where there is actually a lot of stuff lying around but it's the kind of stuff that our sub conscious has gotten used to tuning out. In this setting the outfits felt at home, but their vibrant colours & designs shone brightly

Without further ado:

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

Photographer's Talk

Since we were in an urban setting, one of the ways to make the subject stand out (and bring out all the detail in the clothes & make-up) is to overpower the sun as we did in the shoot for Ritienne Zammit's _Atronymic collection. Only this time, since we had more depth behind the model, it allows us darken the whole scene and increase the lighting on the model. One 500w Bowens studio light provided the lighting for the scene, coupled with the Bowens beauty dish. As you might have noticed by now, this is really my favourite lighting setup since it provides a good mix of soft and hard light.

The team behind the shoot:

  • Model: Julia from Models M
  • Makeup: Jennifer Dimech
  • Designer & Stylist: Marco Parascandalo
  • Photography: Kurt Paris

 

Malta Fashion Week - Ritienne Zammit

The second in the series of post-show Malta fashion week shoots was the one we did with Ritienne Zammit. Ritienne is one of my favourite designers and every year I look forward to her new collections. The fact that she is also a fun, humble and generally awesome human being simply adds to the fun :)

This shoot caused a bit of a stir since we did it right in front of the new parliment building in Valletta. We set up, started shooting and promptly a crowd gathered behind us - and started shooting us, the models, Ritienne, everything. Fun times.

Without further ado:

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

I'm not a big fan of shooting under our scorching Maltese sun. In general the makeup is lost and the harsh shadows destroy or distort the lines of the clothes as well as their texture. Since the clothes are quite bright and distinctive, i wanted a simple plain background to let the outfit speak for itself. Thank you Mr Piano for the great outdoor studio you provided us :). The only caveat is the aforementioned sun... and this was fixed by overpowering the sun using a Bowens 500w strobe. If you've never used this technique before check out this really easy video from fstoppers.

The team behind the shoot:

  • Model: Beatrice from Models M and Francesca from Supernova Model Management
  • Makeup: Elaine Galea
  • Designer: Ritienne Zammit
  • Hair-styling: Chris Galea @ Michael & Guy
  • Photography: Kurt Paris

 

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