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Selling my studio strobe kit, Tamron 35mm f1.8 VC, and Portraits with 24-70 GM Samples

Selling my studio strobe kit, Tamron 35mm f1.8 VC, and Portraits with 24-70 GM Samples

I’ve been in a photography rut lately, as I’m sure most of you feel from time to time. Chicago has been having some amazing weather lately, high 50’s to even low 70’s in February. The weather has definitely been getting my creative juices flowing. Kevin’s too, probably. A while back, I had posted on my Snapchat how I was selling off a bunch of gear to fund my recent GTI car purchase. Kevin is a Canon shooter, and unfortunately by the time he hit me up, I had already sold all my Canon gear, except my strobe studio setup (600W strobe + 2x Softboxes + Battery Pack).

I honestly haven’t used the setup in quite some time, as I stopped doing studio work. At one point, I looked at my strobe work and thought about how cliche my images looked. I’ve fallen into a trap of always wanting to perfectly expose all my photos -to essentially want to replicate a 3 point lighting setup, even when not in studio. I’ve become obsessed with perfect exposure, fill light, and rim lighting in my portraits, that I was really failing to capture the essence, or mood of the moment.

Recently, I’ve been experimenting with Fuji gear, and it has recently inspired me to really look for good light and to shoot candid moments. Infusing this recent revelation experience with selling off my strobe kit to Kevin, Kevin had asked for me to show him how to use this equipment. Looking at these images, I definitely think I did better myself in trying to capture more candid-like/moody type images. It took me a while to understand, but utilizing studio/flash/strobe lighting does not mean you need a perfect exposure all the time. IN fact, it’s the imperfections that gives a photo character.

Now, what I am trying to master is, a purposeful use of artificial light with fast shooting and connecting with the subject, to capture candid like moments with good lighting, if good quality light isn’t readily available.

What i’m trying to say is, I’m really working on taking candid photos with artificial lighting, because I used to focus too much on nailing exposure.

So in remembrance to the 600w strobe that served me well over the years, below is the first image from the session with a 24″ square softbox on camera left. Thought the glare from the glasses was cool. I also forgot how gorgeous the light produced by this 600w with a massive softbox is. It’s such a cumbersome setup, but it’s tried and true, and I’m always surprised at the quality of light when I bring it up in Lightroom. I obsess over quality of light, and light fall off. It’s sad.

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Naturally, Kevin took a jab at using the strobe kit afterwards. Kevin was actually in Lincoln Park shooting with Mariz, for her lifestyle blog and also happened to be in the neighborhood. What better subject to test this gear on? The photo below was taken with the modeling lamp on the 600w strobe ON.

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I wanted to quickly test if the quality of light from the modeling lamp was really any different than the regular light bulb I get from Target. Both generate a tungsten light source. There is a slight difference in intensity, obviously, but really I can’t tell any difference. Side note: If you creep at the background to my unorganized apartment, I am now partially a bit more organized due to the amazing AmazonBasics shelving unit on the left. If you have bags like me, you need this in your life. Buy a shelf today and thank yourself later.

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Kevin likes to Snapchat. I’ve noticed he brought his new Tamron 35/1.8 VC that I recommended for him to buy. I wanted to try it out, but I had on my Sony 35/1.4 Zeiss FE on my A7RII. Thought it would be a good comparison in post to compare the two, in a very non scientific analysis. Below is with the 35 FE Zeiss @ f1.4.

Side note: I posted this photo because I really dig the colors. The image is white balanced for tungsten, which is the main light coming from my lamp is back camera right. There’s also a blue/greenish tone produced by the light from my computer monitor, just behind Kevin. The bokeh is nice too, but hey it’s a Zeiss, so it better be.

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After I grabbed that shot, I took Kevin’s Tamron 35 VC and attached it to my Metabones IV. Grabbed this shot of Ai Nhu. At first glance, you honestly really cannot tell the difference. Both are absolutely tack sharp and both produce a pleasing bokeh. Now, if you are a pixel peeper or a bokeh junkie like me, you can notice the difference in the quality of bokeh each lens produces. The fall off is also very different, and there is a subtle, but noticeable difference in f1.4 vs f1.8 aperture offerings.

Now, in the real world, this doesn’t make any difference. With today’s camera sensors, the ISO performance savings when comparing f1.4 vs f1.8 is honestly negligible for most applications. The Tamron VC was also considerably lighter. But when paired with the Metabones IV, they felt about the same on the A7RII. Cost wise? Tamron + Metabones IV is ~$1000, whereas the Zeiss FE will set you back $1500. If native autofocus isn’t a selling point for you, I’d highly recommend the Tamron + Metabones setup. Focus was accurate and snapy on the Tamron adapted glass.

There’s also the take out food container on frame bottom right. Can you tell how much time I put into composing my shots?

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Photo below of Kevin’s Tamron 35 VC. Also featuring, Chinese food take out from Sun-Wah on Broadway in Chicago. :)

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After Kevin left, I felt nostalgic from selling off my strobe kit. I grabbed my bare bulb flash (AD360II) and a small beauty dish, slapped on my 24-70 GM and took some snapshots. Some samples below. They were all taken at f5.6, 1/200 at varying focal lengths. And yes, I purposely wanted to get my Dell XPS 15 in the shot. We tried removing it, but I have some really ugly cabinet cubes and camera bags that were even more distracting. At least my XPS 15 has a yellow wood-skin cover on it that helps the frame. Kinda..

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I always like to shoot a bit wider to capture the scene, especially with the lighting setup. I find that it helps create a candid type atmosphere that you just can’t get without the lighting setup in the frame. Great for BTS type shots, or explaining lighting setup. You can see below that the setup is quite very simple. If you’re shooting Godox and Sony, you’ll find that TTL + HSS is stupidly easy. Also, yes, my apartment is very messy.

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Pro tip: If you are editing in Lightroom, use a brush with reduced clarity and sharpening and brush around the solid color wall area. This helps smooth out unwanted details you may get from the background. I could’ve done a better job spot healing certain dirty parts of my wall, but these are just snapshots and editing takes wayyy too long with Lightroom’s terrible algorithms for Sony’s A7RII massive files. :(

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Oh, and featuring some hipster looking glasses we got in Hanoi, Vietnam for like $5 after haggling. They add so much to the photo.

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And finally, this is the last image I’m showing, which I’m very happy with. I rarely bring images into Photoshop, as the added step adds time to my regular workflow, which in most cases, is not necessarily warranted. Example: I don’t need to fine tune color tones in Photoshop for every wedding photo, because the client won’t ever notice. The subtly in perfecting the image vs time wasted per photo is not worth it.

However, there are times where I’ll bring it in PS, as the case below, for skin retouching and fine color tuning. I’ve been really digging warm, greenish/yellowish tones lately. My walls are light green/beige, so I thought toning it with a yellow/green midtone mixed with a subtle blue highlights tone added a nice flair to this photo. For all you photo nerds out there, I also added a subtle gradient (black to white) that was brought down in opacity to ~20% to draw attention towards the eyes and to emphasize the light fall of.

I generally like to keep things very subtle, and tend to dislike loud edits, such as HDR or distasteful cinematic type heavy color grading (although I do admit these do catch my eye on Instagram ALL THE TIME. I tend to double tap for them, but whatever…).

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