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07-19-2014, 12:15 AM   #1
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Street portraiture with ME Super - seeking advice

Hi,

I've been reading these forums with much interest for a while now, but this is my first time posting so i hope this thread is in the right place.

I'm an artist working on a photo-book project in Japan. Whilst i think i have a decent eye for composition, i'm not very experienced in the technicalities of photography so i was hoping i might be able to find some help here regarding that.

The book i am working on is about Japanese fashion; clothing, nail art, (manicure and pedicure).

It's a little similar in concept to the popular book "Fruits" - fruits japanese street fashion - Google Search

In the same way, i am looking to shoot full body portraits.

However, i will also be shooting facial portraits (head and shoulders) and relatively close up shots of nail art. Within this i also wish to capture the structure of hands and feet.

I am interested in getting correct perspectives on the portraiture aspect. For example, what kind of lens i might use for the different shots, and best practice in terms of distancing etc.

I will be shooting during all times of the day and at night too. Whilst i prefer not to use the flash in general, i realise it will be necessary so would really appreciate help on this too.

As mentioned, the camera i'm using is the ME Super.

The lenses i currently have are:

Takumar A 28mm 2.8
SMC Pentax M 28mm 2.8
SMC Pentax M 135mm 3.5
Takumar 135mm 2.5
SMC Pentax M 50mm 1.7
Pentax A Zoom 28 - 80mm 3.5 - 4.5

The flash i have is a Pentax AF280 T.

A couple of these lenses are on the way in the post, but i have experimented quite a lot with most of them. Whilst i have made some nice images, i feel a bit lost in trial and error so any advice at all would be sincerely appreciated!

07-19-2014, 12:47 AM   #2
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short lenses distort features avoid them.


The ideal portrait lens is around 80mm, that means with crop factor the smc takumar 50mm is the best choice.


You can go to a 135 but that's going a bit long, it will preserve proportions however, and it will give extra distance if you need it and can also be used for nail close ups without getting real close to the model.


You want good quality images, and the 50mm and both of the 135mm lenses deliver that.


Try an unconventional perspective shot with one of the 28mm lenses and then again with the 50mm for a tighter shot, you might surprise yourself,


For example sit the model next to a small window on a seat and shoot looking down almost vertically have the model angle her upper body so she is lit evenly and looking toward you and experiment with expressions of surprise while holding her hands over her mouth for a dynamic nail shot.


Four words, dynamic, interesting, distinctive and fun.


But only as additional shots once you have nailed the conventional set.
07-19-2014, 01:14 AM   #3
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From the example you gave it looks like your after natural light street shooting. It's best to shoot early in the morning or late in the afternoon, ie the golden hours, or if not find some shade. Overcast days can be slightly dull but the light for portraiture is pretty good.

I like to shoot between f 2.8 and 4 for subject isolation, less than 2.8 if your in close often one eye will be in focus and the other will not.

I think a big part of what your trying to do will be getting the gusto to ask for the picture in the first place, ( or at least where i struggle). Also you could get a old cheap digital body to play with to reduce cost of experimenting.
07-19-2014, 02:06 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Frank B. Jackson Quote
SMC Pentax M 135mm 3.5 Takumar 135mm 2.5 SMC Pentax M 50mm 1.7 Pentax A Zoom 28 - 80mm 3.5 - 4.5
I think these are your main lenses for portraits. 135mm was a classic focal length for portraiture back in the film days. You can try the 28-80mm zoom between 55mm and 80mm, see if the image quality is good enough around f5.6. Here I am mostly talking about portraits of shoulders and head.
If you are taking full body shots, wider angle would be better. The 50mm is not a bad choice for full body portraits, if you have enough space. But you know what, it might be best to just go and take some test photos with a friend, with the different lenses, and then decide which ones give you the results you want. Since you are shooting film, the type of film will also affect the outcome, as well as how you develop it.
28mm on a film camera will be very wide angle and might have too much distortion for your liking. But it can be used in creative ways to make poses look more dramatic, or limbs look longer

07-19-2014, 03:55 AM   #5
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Thanks so much for all this advice, it's a great help.

I've actually taken quite a few shots with the various lens you guys recommend, and thanks to this feedback i'm starting to understand why some of the shots look the way they do which is brilliant.

I have to head out now to try some night shots, but when i get back i will post some photos that i have taken so far, and i probably have a few more questions too!

Thanks again
07-19-2014, 04:58 AM   #6
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Imageman, there is no crop factor to consider since he's shooting film.
07-19-2014, 08:01 AM   #7
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I use an 85mm for body shots (K85/1.8) and a 100-105mm for head shots (K105/2.8) on film.

120mm-135mm (K120/2.8, K135/2.5 & K135/3.5) are also good if I'm futher away from the subject.

I even use 200mm sometimes (K200/2.5).

Phil.
07-19-2014, 11:28 AM   #8
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Perhaps shoot some test shots with the lenses and find out for yourself! You may find, for example, distortion is insignificant between a 50 and 85mm for your work or not.

07-20-2014, 12:03 AM   #9
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Hello, and thanks again for this valuable advice.

I've taken a bunch of test shots and i was hoping that you guys might be able to give me some feedback.

Unfortunately as i had only a very short time to take them and took a great many, in some cases i have forgotten which lens was used, but hopefully there may still be some useful info to take away from them.

The first thing that is clear to me from looking at the images and reading the advice in this thread, as well as doing research is that i really have very little idea about correct aperture usage.

I'm fairly sure all these images were shot at the most open aperture setting each lens would allow, and i then changed the shutter speed accordingly. It's dawning on me that this is probably terrible practice, so i would really appreciate some advice in that area.

Something else i have noticed is noise/grain. Some of these images were shot at 200 Iso, and some at 400. I was using a mixture of Fuji Superia Premium and Xtra. I may have made some mistakes in forgetting to adjust the ISO as i changed the film. I understand that 400 can be quite grainy, although it seems in the blacks a little more than i would usually see.

So in short probably a lot of terrible, amateur mistakes! But i am slowly learning, so again, advice and feedback would be most welcome.

Regarding the 85mm lens that has been mentioned. I don't have one yet, but was considering to buy the M42 Takumar 1.8 with a screw adaptor, if this would be a good choice? I do have some budget for this project so i can afford to spend a bit of money to get the correct set up for this project.

Will post photos below with descriptions. Many thanks again for your help.
07-20-2014, 01:58 AM   #10
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Here are some of the test shots i took that illustrate the problems i was having. They are not scans of prints, but negative scans (don't know if that causes any issues in itself at all?).

This photo, whilst not particularly exciting, is pretty much the composition i'm after for the full body shot. I have a feeling that i took it with the 28mm. Could i recreate this composition with the 50mm and have a more accurate shot?
https://www.flickr.com/photos/126316617@N06/14717077703/

This shot shows an issue i was having. With the model moving, i often found it very hard to keep her in focus. I'm interested in walking motion because it can create some interesting shapes with the structure of the feet.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/126316617@N06/14696916382/

The next shot illustrates the issue i was noticing with noisy/grainy blacks (ceiling). Does that mean that the photo was overexposed?
https://www.flickr.com/photos/126316617@N06/14697209765/

I also noticed similar effects in the next photo. (I think taken with the 135mm 3.8). I was curious as to why two very similar shots came out very differently as i think i only changed the focus.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/126316617@N06/14674189076/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/126316617@N06/14510756987/

And again very grainy black. In this shot i think it looks quite pleasing, i don't actually mind grain as such, but i just want to establish some control, and work out whether it's a normal effect in this case, or an exposure or focus error on my part.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/126316617@N06/14510550179/

The next shot I believe is with the 28mm lens, is this why the model seems to be somewhat elongated? The reason i was using this lens is because when i was using the 50 i found the focus very tricky. With the 28mm, there was not so much problem getting the entire model in focus. Because the background is quite nice, and i imagine will be nice in other locations in Japan too, i don't want to lose it so much. Is there a way to achieve this with the 50mm?
https://www.flickr.com/photos/126316617@N06/14694032101/

In the next few shots, again i am having depth of field issues i think. I'm guessing because the aperture was open all the way to 1.7? I would like all of the model to be in focus if possible...although i do quite like the photos...perhaps i am hoping for unreasonable things?
https://www.flickr.com/photos/126316617@N06/14696915582/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/126316617@N06/14510520840/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/126316617@N06/14696915702/

Any feedback on these would be really helpful.

I'm starting to think that my main problem is having the apeture all the way open. The reason for this, is that even in such a bright room, no matter what i do i never seem to have enough light.

Is it possible i'm being too scared to shoot at lower shutter speeds? If so, how low can i go for such work? In all cases, even though they are portraits, in order to keep them dynamic i want the models to move, talk and interact, so i assumed i would need to stick at at least 125?

Thank you again for the help. The combination of these shots and the feedback given here has already helped me learn a lot about what is possible, but it also opened up a lot of new questions for me!
07-20-2014, 09:27 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Frank B. Jackson Quote
Regarding the 85mm lens that has been mentioned. I don't have one yet, but was considering to buy the M42 Takumar 1.8 with a screw adaptor, if this would be a good choice? I do have some budget for this project so i can afford to spend a bit of money to get the correct set up for this project.
Or maybe the Samyang 85mm f1.4?
QuoteOriginally posted by Frank B. Jackson Quote
This shot shows an issue i was having. With the model moving, i often found it very hard to keep her in focus. I'm interested in walking motion because it can create some interesting shapes with the structure of the feet.
Yes, its best if you can somehow prefocus or use zone focusing/hyperfocal focusing. But there might also be motion blur in that particular photo. We assume people walk smoothly, but on cameras even a slow walk can cause quite a lot of blur if you don't have a fast enough shutter speed (and / or flash). So best is to use tripods, flash/continuous light, prefocus,..
QuoteOriginally posted by Frank B. Jackson Quote
The next shot illustrates the issue i was noticing with noisy/grainy blacks (ceiling).
What film did you use and how did you process the photo? Grain is sometimes added to black or white areas to give them some texture, so they aren't completely just one colour. It also depends on the film and processing
QuoteOriginally posted by Frank B. Jackson Quote
The next shot I believe is with the 28mm lens, is this why the model seems to be somewhat elongated?
Yep. With wide angle lenses you get the benefit that you can come much closer to your subject and you get a wider Depth of Field (which is also why its "easier" to focus - simply because the DoF is so much wider, error is less apparent). The main drawbacks are the distortion (making limbs longer, making faces look rounder), making foreground and background feel much more separate (wide angle exaggerates distances), and also that working close to your model might be a bad thing - it often makes people uncomfortable when the photographer is very close. But if you work with experienced models or people you know well, that might not be a problem
QuoteOriginally posted by Frank B. Jackson Quote
I'm starting to think that my main problem is having the apeture all the way open. The reason for this, is that even in such a bright room, no matter what i do i never seem to have enough light.
Yep, wide apertures mean shallow DoF, which can make it very tricky to focus. Using f5.6 or f8, on film you can even go up to f14 easily. I think most pro photographers that you see in magazines use flashes and f8 or so, to make sure the model is well-lit and sharp. Wide apertures can make a very nice bokeh effect, but are difficult to use. One thing you can do is buy a different focusing screen, to help you determining exact focus, but I don't know much about focus screens for the ME super, don't know if its possible
If you find you are using wide apertures too much, you can also try a film with higher ASA / ISO. But that can bring some other sacrifices.

50mm vs. 28mm - no, they are very different and will give you a different look. 50mm won't have the distortion and can have very wide aperture. 28mm has a slower aperture, but wider angle, more distortion. That is just a difference between wide angle, normal, and tele lenses. If you use a tele lens, the subject and background look much more "compressed".

All that being said, you took some quite nice photos. The colours are nice, the exposure seems okay, the model is cute.. you just need to work on focusing and planning ahead. And it would be great if you could bring some more lights or flashes so you can use f8 and not worry about DoF and motion blur. Keep in mind that magazine photography is usually not spontaneous, but a product of a lot of planning. One easy thing you could do is add a remote trigger and diffused flash a little to the side and above you, that alone will make the model brighter and sharper. Of course if the flash is too strong, then the background will appear dark, so you need to find a sweet spot for fill flash.

Last edited by Na Horuk; 07-20-2014 at 09:35 AM.
07-20-2014, 04:11 PM   #12
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Thank you so much for this feedback, it's hugely helpful. I'm really starting to get an understanding for things now. Took some more test shots today around early evening time, and a few in a well lit night spot, so will also post those when they are ready. Hopefully they should be a bit better! Starting to get a feel for the difference of 50 vs 28 too, so thanks also for that information. Really useful to know.

Being in Japan is very handy for camera gear. Today i picked up a cheap Super Takumar 1.8 55mm, and also the SMC Takumar 1.8 85mm so i should have all bases covered now in terms of lenses.

Regarding the film processing i was using Fuji Superia Premium 400 ISO. I had it processed at a shop in Japan, just process and data, so i haven't actually had any actual prints made yet. When i return to London i'm hoping to find a place where i can collaborate a bit more personally with the print process.

The information you posted about depth of field is invaluable. It seems like flash should definitely be something i should incorporate for the more standard shots. I do have what seems to be a decent flash. I have read about covers for diffusion so i will see if i can pick one up and then do further test shots. When you say flash to the side and above, do you mean to angle the head of the flash?

I was also looking at those reflective silver discs (not sure of the proper name). I've seen those used a lot in outdoor shoots, and i do have an assistant for this project. Is that something that might be of use?

Something else i was wondering about was filters. I don't know too much about how to correctly use these, but i'm researching. Is there anything that might be useful in that department for this kind of work?

Thanks also for the kind words about the photos. I do think a few will be useable for the project and luckily i will have another session or two with that model before i leave Japan so i hope to have really improved by then.
07-20-2014, 10:43 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Frank B. Jackson Quote
I was also looking at those reflective silver discs (not sure of the proper name). I've seen those used a lot in outdoor shoots, and i do have an assistant for this project. Is that something that might be of use?

Something else i was wondering about was filters. I don't know too much about how to correctly use these, but i'm researching. Is there anything that might be useful in that department for this kind of work?
Yes a reflector is handy for indoor/outdoor portrait work if you want to change the lighting hitting your model. They come in different sizes & colours and are collapsible.

Filters are only really needed outdoors and which ones depends if you are shooting colour or B&W. (Unless you are shooting daylight colour film indoors without a flash)

A skylight & cloudy is a good start for colour and a yellow/orange/red for B&W. You should also get a polarizer which can be used on either colour or B&W.

The filters for colour film change the colour temperature; the B&W filters darken/lighten specific colours and the sky. Google each type for more info.


Phil.
07-21-2014, 10:44 AM   #14
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What I meant with the flash being up and to the side is.. um.. well, having flash directly at your model's face can make the model look "flat" since it removes all shadows. In worst case scenario, it can make the brow, eye sockets and nose seem exaggerated by casting harsh shadows. So it is good to have the flash just to he side of you and usually a little higher. You use a trigger to make it go off, and the flash can be on some sort of tripod or held by an assistant. This way the face gets light, and looks nice and 3D. Another benefit is, once you know the distance and power, you can easily re-create this setup and take photos that look pretty consistent. But I have never tried this with a film camera, so I don't know what kind of flash triggers your camera allows.
I googled for a schematic that would explain it better: 6 simple lighting setups for shooting portraits at home (plus free cheat sheet) | Digital Camera World - page 5
07-22-2014, 01:53 AM   #15
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I truly feel for those that had to learn manual flash photography on film, i would go to the poor house. It sounds like your flash is ttl and you can meter it as a bounce flash. Others here would know lots more about that.

1/125 of a second is not a bad guidline for yourself to stay above depending on your focal length. At f8 indoors a lot of the time with 400 speed film your shutter speed will be to slow. Flash would be the answer, or higher speed film.

That 85 1.8 super tak is supposed to be awesome, and will be perfect as a portrait lens. Also they're pretty valuble from what ive seen.
Your photos are already looking good so im sure you will get what your after.
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