The ePHOTOzine team is very pleased to announce that we have over 50 active members who regularly use the site, most days in fact, who have now supported us for 20-years!
Back in 2001, before we really knew what the word ‘Facebook’ would mean to us and certainly before a virus brought the world to a halt, ePHOTOzine was beginning to grow and expand into the website it is today. Of course, we wouldn’t be where we are without the support of our loyal members and site visitors so ‘thank you’ to you all but we’d like to send an extended and special ‘thanks’ to the 53 ePHOTOzine members who signed up way back in 2001 and are still here, supporting the site in 2021.
We know we get hundreds of thousands of visitors to ePHOTOzine’s news, reviews, and features but you core members, who signed up all of those years ago and make the effort to be involved in the forums and more today, make ePz one of the friendliest photography sites to be a part of.
There are also many celebrating 5, 10 and 15-year memberships with us who we are also very grateful for your continued support!
Here are the 53 ePHOTOzine members who are celebrating 20-years with ePHOTOzine in 2021:
Once again, the team would like to thank you for staying with us for two decades and we hope you stay part of the ePHOTOzine family for another two decades (and more)!
He is one of the most revered photographers in the world. Having captured iconic images that became staples of modern culture, Albert Watson is a person that doesn’t need a long introduction. Recently, Fstoppers arranged an exclusive interview with Mr. Watson, where we asked the questions any beginner would want to have answers to. Read on to see what he had to say.
Who Is Albert Watson?
Chances are, you have seen his work already. His work spans across many genres: from fashion, to portraits, to still life and fine art. He captured over 100 Vogue covers: the first one in 1976 and one as recently as 2019. Further, his work is on display in world-class galleries, such as Hamiltons. Albert has captured personalities such as Andy Warhol, David Bowie, and Steve Jobs. For his contributions to photography, he was awarded the Order of The British Empire, a Grammy, and The Royal Photographic Society’s Centenary medal, as well as dozens more other awards and recognitions.
Albert Watson was once a beginner, just like every other photographer. No one is born with a portfolio of impressive work and distinctive awards. Keeping this in mind, I oriented my questions to be as beginner-relevant as they could be. The answers were as surprising to me as they may very well be to you.
It Is Easier to Become a Fashion Photographer Now, With a Small Caveat
Some like to say that now there is more competition. However, Albert thinks it’s the other way around. Now, there is less heavy competition. It was a different philosophy back then on what fashion photography was. A lot of the photographers had to rely very heavily on very good technique. Now, a lot of bad techniques can be fixed with Photoshop. Not all bad techniques can be corrected, but a lot of them can be helped with Photoshop. This also applies to me, as my photos, especially at the beginning, were rescued with Photoshop.
Albert details that when shooting on film, a model against a white background was a technically challenging job. White had to be perfect, which is not so easy. If white was overexposed, it turned magenta; if it was underexposed, it went dirty green. Photographers took great pride in something as simple as being able to do a clean white background.
Multiply that over lots of different aspects of photography and through technological advancements, and you can see that it is now, in fact, easier to be a fashion photographer. For that reason, I strongly believe that claiming it was easier back then is false, based on what someone who started back then said.
It is harder to get crew, though. According to Watson, the main problem photographers starting out in fashion have is that they are competing with established photographers. Established photographers have the ability to work with the best crews, but most importantly, with the best fashion editors. A good fashion editor is a combination of a good stylist and an art director. They are partially controlling the artistic side of the picture and the idea. An established fashion editor will have a philosophy about fashion. The same applies to every other established crew member. Having access to all this is key for a good fashion image. Someone who is taking photos on the weekend may not have access to that and wonder why their fashion pictures are not as good as someone else’s fashion pictures.
Submitting to Magazines and Trends
Speaking of magazines, there are a lot more underground ones now that allow you to be more creative with your pictures when compared to Vogue. But one has to be cautious, even with them, because things are generational. If now, iPhone pictures are your thing and magazines are interested in it, you still can’t rely on it to be your whole career. Eventually, people will grow tired of it. It’s much better for a photographer to have a very solid background in photography, lighting, and more.
Sometimes, young photographers like the idea of being fashion photographers, but when it comes to studying fashion, some are not prepared. A fashion photographer should know their subject — fashion. It does come down to asking yourself: why am I doing fashion photography?
The Photographer Contributes the Most, but Often, the Content Can Outweigh Technicalities of the Picture
The photographer contributed the most; it is their stamp on the picture. However, it is easy to confuse what you’re looking at. If you were to compare a photo featuring Iris van Herpen’s creation and one with an H&M outfit while keeping everything else constant, of course the first photo would be better. It’s easy to see that content of the photo matters a lot, as the photographer didn’t change anything. A lot of photographers focus a lot on content, they make sure to put something of value in front of the camera. The audience may look at an image and say how great it is, whereas what they actually are reacting to is content. The photo itself could be imperfect, but with the addition of great content, it becomes all that better.
Learning How to Light Is Paramount to Developing Your Style
Albert Watson realized early on that it was something he had to learn, concentrate, and focus on. It wasn’t a pleasure to learn, he says. It took him a lot of time and energy to be able to light things. But going through that pain and agony to learn paid a big dividend in the end. His effort resulted in being paid very well. Being able to light solves difficult problems and opens creative doors. It is sad that people have given up on lighting. When I spoke to Albert, he told an amusing story:
I often work in studios where there are 14 other spaces, and it amuses me to see everyone shooting with the same softbox. The reason they opt for the softbox is that the girl and the dress look kind of nice. A lot of passion for light has gone away. Maybe people don’t care about that so much anymore.
Albert claims that as a photographer, you should know how to light above all.
Passion and Obsession Will Get You Through the Giant Slog of Learning Light
If you’re passionate about photography, if you’re in love with photography, if you’re obsessed with photography, if you practice shooting whenever you can, you will explore all aspects of lighting. Buy a second-hand strobe unit and get a friend to pose for you. Spend ten 12-hour days working on your lighting with one strobe. Spend weekends, evenings, every second you can on seeing what you can do just with one light. If you’re an amateur, spend less, but still hone your ability to light.
Anyone who has become successful has gone through a slog. Even Mozart went through one; his father had him playing piano since two, so by the time he was 14, he had a decade of experience. Depending on how much photography means for you in life, you should pick how much are you willing to give.
Niche Down at the Start, Expand to Different Genres Later
Although Watson focused on celebrities and fashion to make money, he still was interested in still lifes, landscapes, and so on. It is evident from his portfolio that he gave himself projects that would take a different direction from the usual work. Spending six weeks in Iceland photographing landscapes and then coming back to fashion helped Albert Watson. However, starting out, you have to focus on one genre, as he suggests. If a photographer tries to do too much, they will never become successful. In the beginning, you need to find what you love and become obsessed with it.
Inspiration Is Everywhere, and Access Has Never Been so Easy
The internet is full of stuff that you can use as inspiration, even if it’s copying at the start. If you take away the internet, there is no access. Italian Vogue offers full access to their magazines from the past 50 years for $6 a month. Every single issue for 50 years — thousands of pages of editorial and commercial content. Have a look at that to start with. As you go through these pages, you can transfer the things you like to your iPhone and build up a portfolio of things you find interesting.
Copying Is Not Wrong If You’re Starting Out
There is nothing wrong with copying in the beginning. If you’ve been doing it for 30 years, you shouldn’t copy. In the very beginning, why not. That said, even if you do your best, you won’t be able to pull it off exactly as the photographer intended it.
Albert Watson’s New Book Is a Manual for Aspiring Photographers
There are a lot of things beyond this interview. In the Masters Of Photography video series,Albert Watson shows hands on how he works. The book is for students and anyone interested in photography.
You shouldn’t copy me, but this is how I’ve done it. I’ve essentially put together everything that I do in a book. In a way, it is a teaching manual. As I said, you may not want to create those exact pictures, but still, you will learn something from it as a photographer.
Even if you want to go someplace else with fashion, the book will still teach you a lot about fashion photography.
If You Were To Start Over Now, What Would You Do Differently?
I would use my spare time more. You see people everywhere looking at stuff. There’s stuff everywhere. Concentration is really a problem. What I would do is the same as I’ve done already. I would spend a lot of time with art books and understanding painters, both modern and classic.
Graphic Design Is One Unusual Thing All Photographers Must Know
It is rather unusual to hear, but Albert believes that one thing that is invaluable for any photographer is graphic design. If you think about it, it makes sense: for the most part, you’re confronted with a rectangle. What you put in that rectangle is what you are as a photographer. Exploring art in all of its aspects is a key for any successful photographer. There is endless inspiration in art.
I recently wrote a review of the Canon 5D Mark IV. In it, I mentioned that before buying it, I used the 5D Mark II. The Mark II has been nothing but good to me.
I love the camera and can’t recommend it enough to anyone who is starting out. Perhaps I would say to start off with a used 5D Mark II. The full-frame sensor is better than any cropped sensor. A medium format sensor, even from 2009, generally beats anything full-frame. It’s just how the physics of sensors is. But what would happen if I was to put two 5D models side-to-side?
Interestingly, I don’t use a 5D Mark II for my work now, as I go with a 5D Mark IV. So could it be that me recommending the 5D Mark II is hypocritical and I should really ignore Mark II? I don’t think so. The reason, as I outlined in my review of the 5D Mark IV, is simply that it gives me more resolution, which is critical for crops and large prints that inevitably most fashion photographers deal with. A few more things like the improved autofocus and better sensor made the transition more necessary.
That said, could I still do a shoot on a 5D Mark II? Absolutely! But how different would it be? That’s the question I want to answer in this article.
I took a 5D Mark II and 5D Mark IV to a test shoot and tested them in two situations: beauty and fashion. To do both cameras justice, I will examine raw files that were not retouched. While retouching is where much of the magic happens, I feel it is only fair to show what the camera can do, not what a post-processing software can.
Holding two cameras in the same hand for hours shows the 7 years of development between them. The Mark IV is better in this regard, it’s more stable to hold in your hand. When it comes to the Mark II, I am often worried about it slipping because the card slot cover is bare plastic that lacks grip. Otherwise, the cameras are essentially the same in terms of weight, dimensions, and size.
A big edge the Mark IV holds is its locking mode dial. I’d often accidentally switch the mode on the Mark II, and it got so bad I taped the dial at one point.
Sensor and Image Quality
Here is where the biggest difference is, but it is important to put that difference into perspective. Having had them side by side, the difference is noticeable, but not day and night.
The biggest for me is resolution. I crop to fit different print purposes often, so the extra ~10 megapixels (21MP vs 30.4MP) make a difference. That said, if you like to get everything perfect in-camera good, for you. My shooting style is quite quick, as most of the time, I am working with a strict timeline.
For ISO, I rarely used the 5D Mark II on anything beyond ISO 3200. Fashion work shot on a Mark II anything above ISO 800 isn’t usable, but it is rare to go that high. With a Mark IV, ISO 1250 is usable to some degree. As with all cameras, old or new, detail and contrast are lost.
Sometimes a high ISO is needed when the strobe doesn’t have enough power or the location dictates it. The 5D Mark IV is noticeably better in that sense too. The sensor has a better dynamic range as well as color depth. Both sensors have similar color reproduction which is second to none. Yes, both cameras tend to shift the red to orange while giving blue a more cyan shift, but that’s just how Canon’s color science works. I found the Mark IV and II to be identical in terms of color reproduction.
The 5D Mark IV is packed with different features that make it a lot better than the 5D Mark II.
The Mark IV has a touchscreen that makes navigating a lot faster and more intuitive. For photographers interested in time-lapsing, the Mark IV has a built-in intervalometer that I used to make this time-lapse of some clouds:
The two game-changing features for me are the dual card slots and USB 3.0 connectivity. I shoot tethered most of the time, so the improved transfer speeds are always welcome. When I cant tether for some reason, I find myself using the dual slots all the time. It gives me peace of mind that my images are likely not going anywhere. With Mark II, that was a constant worry. When tethered, the Mark II is a solid camera with okay transfer speeds. It can certainly work and do a good job at it.
A Mark II has only one usable autofocus point. You can disregard the rest because they simply miss too much. The Mark IV solves that problem, which makes shooting a lot easier. I noticed that the 5D Mark IV nails the focus a lot better. Having programmed the AF-ON button to switch to continuous focus when pressed makes the Mark IV ever so much better. Sometimes images I shoot are quite dynamic, and the AI-servo really helps in that situation.
Price is a key factor in any camera, regardless of its features. I am proud to say that I’ve never bought a new camera. For that reason, I will give average street prices. A 5D Mark II in good condition will be around $400-$450. A Canon 5D Mark IV will be around $1,500. These prices vary dramatically from location to location. If you’re starting out, a Mark II is a great budget-friendly investment. If I were to start again now, I’d go for the Mark II and buy a decent lens with it.
Does the 5D Mark IV improve over the Mark II? Yes, it does, and I’d be silly to say that they’re equal. But at the same time, I can’t say that the Mark II is so bad it’s not usable anymore. For people shooting on later models, it is a great backup camera, and for ones looking to switch to full-frame from APS-C, the Mark II is a fantastic budget-friendly option.
About the author: Illya Ovchar is a fashion photographer based in Budapest, Hungary. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Ovchar’s work on his website.
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