Three portraits with the Phase One IQ3-100
By Andrew Paquette – His website is HERE
I started working as an editorial illustrator in 1986. Since then, I have drawn comic books, sold paintings in galleries, made story boards, done art direction, and made 3D art for films and games. In each of those endeavors (and others), the key to getting the results I wanted was meeting an expert who was willing to give me honest, clear, feedback on my work. Of greatest importance was feedback that allowed me to understand what a “professional” standard looked like. Technical knowledge, techniques and methods, were all less important than that. Each field had different criteria, so in each case I needed a different “coach”.
In photography, I felt pretty isolated, in the sense that I hadn’t received much feedback from professionals. For that reason, I relied on my training as an artist and hoped for the best. However, I knew that I was probably missing something important. There are consultants available to give professional reviews for a fee, but I don’t trust those. This is because they might be reluctant to be perfectly candid due to the nature of a client relationship. A couple of pros, one an art director I knew from my days in New York, and a photographer I met more recently, did give me some advice regarding my photography, but neither was related to the criteria that defines a professional standard for commercial photography.
A few people had reacted positively to my portraits, but didn’t say anything beyond expressing a preference for the portraits on my website. That was interesting, but I didn’t know if I could trust it. This was because 1) they were friends, 2) they weren’t working photographers or photo editors. Recently though, I finally met someone who was able to explain what a professional standard in commercial photography looked like, and where my work met that standard. Our conversation lasted about an hour, but the crucial part lasted only ten minutes or so. Regardless, it was as important as when I learned that editorial illustration is all about encapsulating an idea, or that comic book art was all about storytelling, not draughtsmanship.
Based on this conversation, I re-edited my portfolio website. When it was done, I had deleted all but two sections: portraits and sports, and reduced the number of images in each to 20, from over 50. I got rid of everything that didn’t match the new criteria: portraits of people in an environment, with an emphasis on color. Going forward, the next step was to focus on the type of photo I enjoy the most, which is environmental portraits and the fine art of action in sports. I haven’t had the opportunity to shoot any sports recently, so in this article, I’ll focus on my three most recent portrait shoots. The first was done a couple days before the meeting, but exemplified some of the qualities I decided to focus on, the second was an informal test, to see if a new approach I was thinking of would work, and the last is the first serious shoot done with the new criteria in mind.
I used the following equipment for these shoots: Phase One 645 XF camera body, Phase One IQ3-100 MP digital back, Schneider-Kreuznach LS lenses (28 mm and 55 mm), ProFoto B1 portable strobes, a MacBook Pro, Capture One software, tether cable, and an Induro carbon fiber tripod.
For those who have questions about sharpness, please keep in mind that the images here are rescaled so that their longest edge is 1500 pixels (from 11,608 pixels), and they have been converted from 16-bit color from 8-bit color. Both of those changes affect actual resolution and apparent sharpness. Any camera with the right lens could have captured the compositions shown here, but there are only two cameras I know of capable of capturing them at this resolution, color depth, and sharpness, all of which cannot easily be differentiated from other cameras at web resolution. The primary benefit of using this camera instead of a standard DSLR is that the RAW file provides much more room for editing than anything you can get out of a Nikon, Canon, Leica, or other non-medium format camera, and the resolution provides more flexibility for cropping. This is because the higher resolution allows a fairly tight crop without losing so much resolution that the image cannot be printed full page at 300 dpi.
Shoot 1: Martin
This shoot featured artist and teacher Martin Beresford, in two of his classrooms. In both, my interest was as much Martin as the environment around him. The first shot was done in a room that had no light, so it was lit with two B1 units. The second shot was done in a room that had a wall covered with windows. I wanted the shot to look as natural as possible, so it uses a wider than normal aperture for me (f/4.5 instead of f/9) and a slower shutter speed (1/100s instead of 1/500-1/1600). Two B1 units were used. One to light the rear of the room, which didn’t get much light from the windows, and a fill light behind the camera.
Figure 1 Martin and casts, f/9, 1/250s, ISO 50, 28 mm
Figure 2 Martin in drafting room, f/4.5, 1/100s, ISO 50, 28 mm
Shoot 2: Bing (test shoot)
For this shoot, I took my camera to town to get some casual test shots of cartoonist Bing Wang. I wanted to see what happened if I went out with minimal materials and no preparation, with the goal of “seeing” more natural compositions with my new 55 mm SK lens. On a serious shoot, I would have used a reflector for the first one as fill light, and a tripod on the second, along with a B1 flash unit and a strip box to enhance the lighting.
Figure 3 Bing at the plaza, f/6.3, 1/125, ISO 200 (+1 exposure bias), 55 mm
Figure 4 Bing at hotel, f/2.8, 1/80s, ISO 800, 55 mm
Shoot 3: Galdino
Galdino Haime is a professional freestyle basketball performance artist, and a partner in Showcase Basketball. This is the shoot the test shoot was preparation for. Based on those results, I had a loose plan for the day. I brought an assistant, one light, my tripod, MacBook, and some light modifiers. Galdino would drive around Rotterdam to a few places where he practiced basketball when he was younger, and I would shoot “freestyle” by finding the shots while roaming around without the tripod, then setting up all the equipment once the shots had been “found”. We used three locations. The first was a small court he played at when he was a kid, the second was another court near the train station that he practiced at when older, and the third was a fantastic old factory building called the Electriciteit Fabriek.
I wanted as much natural light as possible, so most of these shots have a higher ISO than I normally shoot at, and a wider aperture. The factory was problematic because I wasn’t able to bring my lights inside the building. This required a higher ISO than usual and very slow shutter speeds. Luckily Galdino was up to the challenge and did a good job holding still for the camera. For a couple, my assistant held up two cell phones as lights. That worked better than expected, though I was really missing my B1 unit we’d left in the car.
Figure 5 Galdino I, f/4, 1/320s, ISO 100, 55 mm
Figure 6 Galdino II, f/3.2, 1/400s, ISO 100, 55 mm
Figure 7 Galdino III, f/8, 1/80s, ISO 50, 55 mm
Figure 8 Galdino IV, f/8, 1/40s, ISO 50, 55 mm
Figure 9 Galdino V, f/8, 1/80s, ISO 50, 55 mm
Figure 10 Galdino VI, f/4, 1/4s, ISO 200, 55 mm
Figure 11 Galdino VII, f/7.1, 2.5s, ISO 200, 55 mm
Figure 12 Galdino VIII, f/2.8, 1/13s, ISO 200, 55 mm
Figure 13 Galdino IX, f/2.8, 1/13s, ISO 200, 55 mm