As a beginner, you get caught up in figuring out what gear to get. People usually say to get the best glass available. That is true. So one common thing I see in forums is beginners getting caught up in which set of lenses to get. They end up getting a couple of primes or a few zooms. That’s a lot of lenses just to get pictures of their kids, cats, and flowers.
What do they really need? Just one lens. Just pick one. I would recommend a something in between a 23mm and 50mm and stick with that for a year or so.
As for the body, it doesn’t matter. Anything that is at least a micro 4/3 or higher will do fine. 90% of the people won’t be able to tell the difference if it’s shot with a m43, APSC, or Full Frame sensor. Seriously, they can’t, unless you’re planning to print huge prints and paste them on your wall.
For camera bodies, it more about how it fits, the usability, and the style points. As long as it’s a modern camera, the IQ won’t matter much. They will all look similar.
Once you shoot in one focal length for about a year, you begin to realize what you need. I shot my X100 and X100s (the same camera basically) for a whole year. I realized I’m more into portraiture. So I wanted a longer lens. So I got the X-E1 and got the 35mm lens. Now I’m 90% content.
When the 56mm f/1.2 lens came out, I pre-ordered it. But I’m wondering if I really needed that lens. I’m so happy with the 35mm, I wonder if I made the mistake getting the 56mm. Sure, it’s probably good for closeup face shots, but I do that anyway with the 35mm since the distortion doesn’t seem bad. I’ll probably get it and see if it’s something I would want to keep. If not, I’ll just sell it.
Now, my X100s is my snapshot, food, travel, and do everything camera. My X-E1 is my portraiture camera. That’s all I shoot these days so I don’t need anything else.
Will I be able to shoot sports or wildlife? No, but it’s nothing something I need to do or interested in. So I have my gear set.
Here are some stuff I did with my year with the X100s:
So as you can see, you can do a lot of stuff with just one body and lens.
We know that everyone complains about how Adobe handles Fuji RAF files. There has been alternatives such as PhotoNinja, Iridient, and Capture One. So I decided to try them and see how they handle RAF files for portraiture. Why portraiture? Because that’s the style of photography I do. I want the best RAW processor to get the best out of the X-Trans sensor.
This isn’t just a pixel peeping exercise. Sure, certain software can bring out details better. They also render colors differently. So you have to figure out what gives you the best possible look that you’re going for.
Sample Images 1
The samples are straight out of the camera with no adjustments. These are at its default settings. Sure, maybe if we fiddle with stuff, we can get almost identical outputs. But I want to see what gives me the best starting point.
Since my trial license for PhotoNinja expired, I had to take a screen shot. So keep that in mind.
The following images are shot at f/4.0, 1/125 sec, at 200 ISO with my Fuji X-E1.
Right away, you can tell these are different. They all have different tones to the image.
Let’s See These at 100%
These are screen grabs from each software. You can click on them to get a bigger size. For PhotoNinja, I had to take a screen shot again. Hopefully, you can still tell the difference.
It looks like Iridient captures the details better. The other three are about the same at its default settings. I can’t get over PhotoNinja’s weird colors though.
The settings for these are f/4.0, 1/250 sec at 800 ISO using my Fuji X100s. This is lit using a flash. Once again, these are straight out of the camera using the software’s default settings.
Once again, you can click on them to get a better view.
Wow, for these images, Iridient looks the worst. It looks weird. Is it the noise reduction that Iridient tried to give? I like Capture One’s output the best. It looks the most natural.
PhotoNinja’s version looks pretty good too. But I still can’t get over that weird tint the image has.
What Is My Favorite?
Capture One wins. The skin tone looks better compared to the other software. Detail wise, Iridient seem to pull more out. But Capture One does a great job.
I like the look of Lightroom as well. But I think that’s because I’m so used to seeing Lightroom’s renderings. It looks “normal” to me.
PhotoNinja’s output looks okay. The screen-grabs are accurate. There is no funny business going on. I just don’t like the weird tint in the images, especially in the first image.
Iridient is funny. For the first set of images, Irident seems to have the best output. For the second set, it gave the worst output. I’m thinking it’s the noise reduction since the second image is at ISO 800. I can’t believe it makes that much difference. Or maybe Iridient can’t handle the X-Trans II sensor of the X100s.
In the end, Capture One is my choice. It’s better than Lightroom for sure. Too bad it’s so expensive though.
It’s all personal preference. For Web viewing, all four softwares can give you a decent image. You need to do your own investigation on which look you like better.
What do you guys think? Which software gives the best look for your Fuji cameras?
I have learned several ways to retouch skin. Some are good and some are bad. I’m going to retouch the same image and describe each one.
The Original Image
This is the original image I’m going to use. The hardest part was finding a picture of a model that had skin that can be retouched for this exercise. Most of my models had great skin.
Sorry LaCole for using your un-retouched pic. Fortunately, I don’t think she will even see this blog.
Here is the un-retouched photo. I shot this with my Fuji X100s. I cropped to her face to get a better look at her blemishes. I also fixed the exposure. Other than that, it’s straight RAW out of the camera converted using Lightroom.
Before I begin, I didn’t put too much effort into this. I hate retouching. It feels tedious to me. I rather be shooting than retouching.
Therefore, these might not look good and sloppily done. It’s because they are. Also, I was doing these on my laptop with a dirty screen, using my touchpad. Those are my excuses if these don’t look good. Anyway, let’s get started.
Blur Skin + Healing Brush
This is probably the worst method ever. I learned this method early on from one of Scott Kelby’s youtube videos. I can’t believe he suggests this method. It is one of the worst methods ever.
Having said that, it is the fastest method. This took me less that 5 minutes to do. The only problem is that it destroys skin texture. It gives the porcelain doll look. I do not like it. It makes it look unnatural.
Also, some people abuse this technique so they blur the skin even more. It makes the image look ridiculous.
How do you use this?
Copy to new layer.
Use surface blur in Photoshop. Scott actually says to use Gaussian Blur. I think surface blur makes a “cleaner” blur. So use that instead. You need to mess with the slider to get enough blur to clear away most imperfections while trying to keep things looking natural.
Drop the opacity down in the blurred layer until it looks natural.
Mask away the eyes, lips, and hair. That way, those will look sharp and natural.
Heal away the rest of imperfections.
This is where you create 2 layers. One is the tone layer. The other is the texture layer. You “separate” those frequencies.
That way, when you heal the skin, you don’t have to worry about the skin tone. You just have to make sure the textures match. So you can go to any place in the skin to get the sample for your skin to heal from.
This preserves skin tone and texture much better than blurring skin method or straight healing brush method. This takes a long time to do though. My image took about 15-20 minutes to complete. And I wasn’t even putting much effort into it.
Also, you can get a bad texture and screw it up. Also, when you have skin as bad as hers, it’s hard to find a good texture to start from. So it can look “patterned.” You would need to get into 200% zoom and do it more meticulously.
But if the model has good skin in most places, this is one of the best ways to retouch skin.
How do you do this? It’s too complicated to explain. Search “frequency separation” on Youtube and you can find a ton of videos from there.
Dodge and Burning
Dodging and Burning is what the best retouchers use in the industry. It completely preserves all skin textures. It is the most natural method.
The only problem: it takes freaking too long. Also, there is no way to do this with a mouse or touchpad. I had to bust out my Wacom tablet. If you hate retouching like me, this will test your patience.
However, I do use this method more often these days since it makes people look more natural. I don’t do it at a micro level too much though. I do it on a macro level.
If you want to do this properly, you need to zoom in to 300-400%. This is also the hardest method since you need patience and artistic talent. When you dodge and burn away the skin, you can lose tonality. But you can add tonality as well afterwards. Therefore, it helps if you know how to paint in shadows and light.
If you overdo this and make the skin super smooth, the skin will look blurred. So you have to be careful not to spend 8 hours chugging away with this method and have it look like something you could’ve done in 5 min. However at 100% zoom, you’ll be able to see each texture of the skin.
So how do you do this? This is also complicated to explain. Create a 50% gray, soft light layer (search for this method on the Internets). Then you zoom in 300%, dodge dark spots, and burn light spots in the skin. Repeat until everything looks even.
This can get complicated. Like I mentioned earlier you may lose tonality. So you have to paint those back in. You may also lose skin color as well (like in my pic). So you would also need to paint those back in. It’s just too tedious and painful to do it correctly.
You should, however, do D&B on a macro level for all your images. It can help the image.
100% Zoom Of Each Method
Here are the 100% zoom of each method.
2. Frequency Separation
3. Dodging and Burning
There are other methods I haven’t shown.
Lowering clarity slider in Lightroom. This can look horrible if you’re not careful. But it can lighten up some blemishes if used well.
Going crazy with clone stamp on a new layer and dropping opacity.
Using portraiture and other insta-retouching software.
Many others I’ve forgotten about or not know about.
You wouldn’t use these methods exclusively. You would combine these methods to get the best possible results.
Honestly, I like the Blur method out of all 3 with this particular image. Yeah I know I wrote it’s the worst method. But it looks the best to me. Perhaps it’s because it doesn’t look sloppy. I just can’t stand the over-smoothness of the skin though. Oh well. Maybe if I spent more time on the other methods.
Each technique can be used depending on where the image will be shown. If you need to show images to a client quickly at a small resolution, the blur method might be good enough. If you’re going to print big, perhaps the other methods can be good.
Besides using software, having someone with good skin, getting a good makeup artist, having good lighting, and other factors can help as well.
Other sneaky ways you can try is soft-focusing and/or using a high ISO can help make the skin look smoother–whatever you can do to lose the details.
When fujirumors posted their rumor about the Fuji X-T1, people were complaining how it was “only” 16 megapixels. Why do these photographers care about megapixels? I’m betting 90% of them only show their photos on the web. Heck, even if they print regularly, they don’t need that much megapixels. Do they have wall sized prints for all of their photos or something?
Most photographers need only about 8 megapixels. That would give them plenty of pixels to print, show off on their facebook, and still have enough room to crop the image if needed (okay, if you’re preparing for the 4k monitors, maybe you’ll need about 10-12 megapixels if you’re planning to view all of your photos at full screen).
There are a lot of benefits of lower megapixel cameras. One major advantage would be smaller RAW files. You wouldn’t need terabytes of space to keep your photos. With smaller files, the write times to cameras would be faster. The FPS would be faster as well. In fact, everything will be more responsive from loading your RAWs to Lightroom, writing to camera, transferring files back and forth, and so on.
Another advantage would be pixel density. Lower pixel density means better ISO and low light performance. Bigger pixels means better light gathering capability from the sensor.
So Fuji, if you’re listening, keep the X-T1 and your future mirrorless cameras at 16 megapixels. We don’t need anymore. For future cameras, just keep improving the EVF so it will be clearer and brighter than any OVF can be. Keep improving ways we can manually focus with better focus peaking, split screen, faux prism screen, etc. Keep improving the AF, especially in low light. Give us real tethering capabilities in your cameras. And keep improving your sensors and make them even more awesome.
I hate most of my pictures. I guess that’s normal for most photographers to be critical of their photos. But I buckled down and decided to choose 6 favorite pictures I took in 2013. Why 6 and not do a more traditional top 10? I couldn’t find 10 I liked, so I chose 6. Some of them might not be the best photos I’ve taken, but I have an emotional attachment to them. So here they are in random order.
I hated this photoshoot. The lighting sucked, and I thought I was going to shoot adult ballerinas. But all we got were kids. I wasn’t too enthusiastic about shooting kids. I came out of this shoot feeling depressed. I seriously thought I got 0 good shots from this shoot.
When I go back and look at them, I don’t think they’re bad at all. In fact, I think these are some of my better pictures. I just used on-camera flash on all of these.
The picture above is one of my favorites. I like the composition and atmosphere of the picture. I was still in my “treat every photo as a design exercise” phase.
Also, the on camera flash made that scene look like a stage and a spotlight hit her.
I think Victoria is a great model. She made this shot work. But I must admit, it wasn’t my idea. Some dude asked the guys in the motorcycle to rev their engine so the smoke would come out. And Victoria did her thing. I just hung back and stole some shots.
I had a supposed professional fashion photographer critique this photo. His main critique was that this photo had no story. He didn’t understand why the guys were in the motorcycles in the back. I had no clue what he was talking about. I mean, to me, the story was the clearest part of this photo. What is there not to get? There are so many interpretations of the story in this photo.
Maybe he was right. Maybe I’m too arrogant to think otherwise. Whatever. After that, I never took people’s critiques seriously unless I admired their work.
My friend Christine wanted me to take her maternity photos. I resisted for a long time. I thought all maternity photos were cheesy.
Well, after researching and thinking about it, I decided to do it. All I had to do was take a nice portrait of my friend who happened to be pregnant. That’s it. I didn’t have to do anything cheesy like making heart signs on their bellies or having the dad kiss the stomach.
Sure, the photo isn’t perfect. I could’ve photoshopped her fly away hairs. But I think I accomplished my goal.
This was a fun shoot. I liked this picture because of the genuine emotion between two models. No posing, no emoting, no modeling. Just a good snapshot.
This was my first popular 500px photo. I strategically made sure this would get popular in 500px. I had it all planned out: flattering lighting, hot model showing skin, clean post processing, glamorous style, and a clean image.
I accomplished my goal and got a 95.5 score and got to the popular section of 500px. I got my validation from the circlejerk that is 500px. I’m glad I don’t have to subject my eyes to their boring photos again.
I’m not a landscape photographer. But for some reason, I like this pic. It’s nothing special. But I like it. People liked my Joshua Tree pictures better. But again, I just like this picture better.
Why do I like it? I don’t know why. There’s a lot of problems with this photo like the huge empty space on the top. But I still like it.
I guess it feels like a poor-man’s version of Ansel Adam’s Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico photograph to me.
I got the Fuji X-E1 with the 35mm f/1.4 lens. Yes, I broke down and got a new camera and lens. I couldn’t handle using my X100s anymore for portraiture. I needed something longer (that’s what she said).
At first, I was skeptical if 23mm vs 35mm would be big difference. Well, it’s not, but it’s enough of a difference in perspective and most importantly, speed for me. That extra stop of light made a whole world of difference in doing night time shots.
Anyway, I want to compare the Fuji X100s and the X-E1. Using the X-E1, it made me appreciate the X100s a lot more. I believe the X100s is almost the perfect camera for all around use. Sure the AF could be faster, and the price is on the expensive side, but everything else about the X100s is perfect.
That said, the X-E1 is growing on me big time. When I put it through the paces last night at a shoot, I was loving it more and more.
At first, I was turned off by the loud shutter sound from the X-E1. I’m so used to the silent shutter of the X100s, I was shocked by the loud shutter sound by the X-E1. But as I shot the X-E1 more, I got used to the sound and didn’t bother me much.
I hate the pop-up flash on the X-E1. It’s not “intelligent” as the X100s’ flash. When I played with the flash, it seemed to blow out the subject on occasion. Others have reported decent results with it, so I’ll play with it more.
I’m worried about the low sync speed of the X-E1. Since I rarely use strobes it shouldn’t cause problems for me. They should up it to 250 like the other cameras though. Then again, I haven’t used it during daytime, and I use fill flash on occasion; so I don’t know how this is going to work. I’ll probably have to rely on my reflector more.
The body of the X100s and the X-E1 is the same size. Of course, the lens on the X-E1 is much bigger. So I can’t go super-minmalist and carry it in my pocket like I can with the X100s. That is one major advantage of the X100s—the size.
The sensor is the same so it gives great images out of both cameras. Also, both of their low-light capabilities are awesome. The photo below was shot on ISO 3200.
The AF is a tad slower than the X100s. The X100s’ AF speed is over-hyped anyway. I’m sure the AF on Fuji’s new lenses for the X-E1 will be on par with X100s since I’m using the ancient 35mm lens. I even did a semi-scientific comparison at my house where I focused on different objects with both cameras. The speed was about the same.
The focus peaking doesn’t seem to be as good as X100s. I haven’t had a chance to use MF that much though. Speaking of which, the MF of the 35mm is okay. It’s not as bad as the original X100’s, but it’s not as good as X100s’ MF.
I couldn’t tell the difference with the EVF. The lag never bothered me. I don’t usually have my eye stuck to the viewfinder all the time. I look at a scene, bring my camera up, and snap. I don’t move around with the camera glued to my eye. Also, I found myself using the LCD monitor more and more than using the viewfinder. It helps with my composition better since I don’t have to bend down or get into other uncomfortable positions.
The X-E1 is growing on me, and I still love my X100s. The X100s is my first baby. I’m going to use the X-E1 on portraiture and the X100s for more of a do-it-all camera.
Sucks. I need to shoot RAW more often with my Fuji X100s. I’m so disappointed. The original Fuji X100 had awesome JPEGs. But X100s smears and softens the picture too much it seems. I need to shoot FINE+RAW and bit more and see if I’m not imagining things.