Saturday, April 13, 2013

Calibrate Your Gear

Good Saturday from Prospect.

Today I'm going a little geeky. I'd like to share a little calibration exercise every photographer should do wether you are shooting film or digital. It's about knowing your gear.

A fitting layout for these guys. Remember them?
Recently I decided to put film back into my work flow, if for no other reason than self gratification.

Film has and always will have it's place. I'm not getting into all the reasons here in this post. It's been argued to death and this is purely a personal decision on my part to increase the quality of my work and make me a better photographer and designer.

To quote Zack Arias, I just want to suck-less every day.

Shooting film is about taking your time not shooting away and hoping you get a good shot. I will be the first to admit I fell into that digital trap early on and learned my lesson quickly. The trick to getting your work right starts with knowing your gear and planning your out comes.

The exercise before you is about aperture, shutter speed and multiple lenses in your kit, no matter what you shoot with.

Fortunately I have some great glass but every piece can have it's own little nuances that change the resulting final image. It's important to know what that is.

Here I'm setting up some interesting subjects in studio (a controlled environment) to judge those variances.
By taking the time to set-up (including using a proper light meter) a test environment like this we can judge on a common ground (good basis so to speak). 

I use Sekonic 398 and 358s depending if I'm inside or out. Although we have built in meters I have never truly trusted reflective variation in camera. I don't care what light is bouncing off a subject, I want to know what is lighting my subject. Incident meters do that. In camera meters don't, never have and never will.

Shot of my set-up
Anyway, as I said, I need to know what my gear does so I simply set-up and shoot adjusting aperture and shutter to simply see what the camera does compared to what my meters say. Then process the film and compare with the results I have for my digital gear. I've done this before with my digital gear but it was time to do it again, with everything.

My basic set-up was with two strobes. Main at 1/4 power (what you set your camera to) and the second at 1/8 power for fill (one stop difference f8 for main and f5.6 for fill). I usually shoot this way in studio or on location depending on the goal. Sometimes two umbrellas, sometimes, as you can see here, a softbox and an umbrella. Sometimes I go just for the one light (undetermined modifier) with an open strobe on the seamless to blow it out (one stop brighter).

The set-up is something that always changes and grows depending on the desired result. This one is my basic 45s so I know what it does.

This set-up let me start at my ISO, which is 100 (using Provia F100 in the Hassy and Velvia in the EOS 1V 35mm), sync at 1/200th and fstop at 8.0 shooting 1/3 increments to determine which suits my taste and accuracy on exposure. I chose 1/200 to kill the ambient and it's the fastest my Canon will sync, the Hassy goes to 1/500th but I want them as close as possible.

I've posted the digital resulting image, tweaked , to show what I've used to set the calibration, and a shot of my set-up in this post. I slowed my sync/shutter speed down to show you the overall set-up. 

Note: the test image contains all of what I want to test. Bright whites, deep blacks, shin tone, wood tone with grain, my calibration fan and background texture with primaries. I'll get everything from exposure, depth of field to detail and colour accuracy from this set-up. I don't need to pixel peep this to death, just understand the basic differences between my gear so I can compensate for it on set.

Another view with the shutter speed slowed down to let the ambient light in to show the set-up a bit better

You can make up what ever interests you just include the basics of what you shoot day to day.

Once I get the processed film back and can scan them I'll share those results.

Next post is about Letting your work breath (on Tuesday).

Enjoy. Derek

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