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Man Ray: The Unwilling Fashion Photographer Who Excelled

Man Ray is today regarded as one of the most innovative photographers of the twentieth century. He reinvented solarization and further developed photograms, which he called “rayographs,” in reference to himself. He also pioneered fashion photography in the 1920s-1940 in Paris but did not want to be known as a “photographer.” He considered himself a painter and artist above all.

Man Ray and Fashion is an exhibition organized by the Réunion des Musées Nationaux – Grand Palais and the City of Marseille, at Musée du Luxembourg, Paris. Man Ray is presented here in a new light as his photography has never been explored from a fashion perspective.

Man Ray was a notable player in the artistic life in interwar Paris and of Surrealism in particular. Man Ray and Fashion is made up of the following sections: From 1920s Portraiture to Fashion Photography, The Rise of Fashion and Advertising, and the heyday of fashion photography: The Bazaar Years.

It displays more than 200 prints of the artist’s black-and-white images alongside magazines, haute couture, and film clips. It demonstrates how fashion influenced his work and how he influenced the fashion industry and almost created fashion photography.

Exhibition poster © Réunion des musées nationaux – Grand Palais, Paris 2020

Man Ray’s birth name was Emmanuel Radnitzky, and he was born in Philadelphia on August 27, 1890. His parents were Russian Jewish immigrants. After moving to the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, in 1912, the family changed their name to Ray in reaction to the ethnic discrimination prevalent at the time. Emmanuel was called “Manny,” and he started using Man Ray as his name.

Man Ray, who had studied drawing and draftsmanship in high school, initially bought a camera around 1915 merely to record his paintings, but he soon learned to use it artistically.

He moved to Paris in 1921, where his dream was to mix with Dada and Surrealist circles, but that did not go too well.

Man Ray. Pavilion of Elegance, International Exhibition Decorative and Industrial Arts, 1925 platinum proof, exhibition print made from the glass plate negative 23.5 x 17.5 cm Paris, Center Pompidou, National Art Museum, modern / Industrial Creation Center, purchased by order, print Jean-Luc Piété, © Man Ray 2015 Trust / Adagp, Paris 2020

May Ray at first found work by focusing on society portraits to put food on the table. As he was looking for ways to make money quickly, he was introduced to fashion designer Paul Poiret by art critic Buffet-Picabia, wife of artist Francis Picabia. Poiret wanted the human element that painters lacked, and Man Ray found a niche for himself in photographing Poiret’s fashions.

Man Ray freely admitted to not knowing much about fashion photography and initially had difficulty lighting the model, but he was quick to learn on the job.

Fashion photography was not very popular in the early part of the last century as it was challenging to compete with illustrators who dominated the fashion press.

“Reproducing photographs was still very difficult and expensive at the time,” explains Catherine Örmen, co-curator of the Man Ray and Fashion exhibition at the Musée du Luxembourg to the BBC.

Man Ray. Portrait of Unidentified Woman, fashion? 1930 gelatin silver print (including solarization) 12.2 x 9.3 cm Paris, Center Pompidou, National Museum of Modern Art / Industrial Creation Center, founded in 1994, © Center Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Image Center Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, © Man Ray 2015 Trust / Adagp, Paris 2020

Fashion photography was not easy a hundred years ago.

“For Man Ray, who worked before the development of ‘fast film’ and motor-drive cameras, there was no question of snapping pictures of models cavorting at hot spots or on the beach,” notes The New York Times in 1990. “The film was too slow; the model had to stand still.”

The models were not leaping off the page in vibrant poses, but the photographs showed excellent detail in the clothes, making the designers happy.

Man Ray in His Workshop. Photo PICRYL

As Man Ray perfected his photography, word of his imagery’s high quality, which bordered on the experimental, began to spread. He started getting approached by most of the great couturiers, including Madeleine Vionnet, Coco Chanel, Augusta Bernard, Louise Boulanger, and above all, Elsa Schiaparelli.

Fashion magazines were attracted to his work, and he began working with Vanity Fair, French Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar.

Man Ray’s mother made clothes, and his father worked in a garment factory, which could also be connected to Man Ray’s interest in photographing fashion. Art historians have noted similarities between Ray’s collage and painting techniques and styles used for tailoring, as noted in Conversion to Modernism: The Early Work of Man Ray.

Kiki, Noire et Blanche (header photo above) was first published in French Vogue in May 1926. In this outstanding example of Surrealist art, Man Ray’s lover Kiki de Montparnasse poses with an African mask. The doubling of faces symbolizes divided subjects made up of the conscious and unconscious.

In the photo, as seen from left to right, it is white and black but the wordplay of the artist titled it “Noire et Blanche” or “Black and White”. If any of Man Ray’s imagery proves that he was more artist than a mere photographer, this is the supreme example.

Lee Miller his assistant would often take over Ray’s fashion assignments to enable him to concentrate on his painting. So closely did they collaborate that photographs taken by Miller during this period are credited to Ray.

Ray embraced all aspects of expressionistic art that flourished between World War I and II. Fashion photography was just a necessity for making a living.

As an artist who worked in several genres – painting, film, sculpture, printmaking, and the essay – he did not like the designation “photographer.” The pictures he took of women in Paris haute couture were to pay for his studio, his brushes, and his paint, he said.

During his time, one of the major art movements was Dadaism, which believed that the ordinary could become extraordinary through art and his reinvent of photograms dovetailed neatly into that thinking. Photograms are created by placing objects directly onto photographic paper and then exposing them to light.

View of the Man Ray and Fashion exhibition (7) scenography Agence NC, Nathalie Crinière assisted by Lucile Louveau © Rmn-Grand Palais 2020 / Photo Didier Plowy

Man Ray reinvented this technique and called it “rayographs.” He even moved the object during exposure to give it more depth and tonal range. This kind of imagery probably gave him more satisfaction as an artist than fashion photography, which was essentially putting bread on the table. Vanity Fair printed four of his rayographs in a feature.

“He later characterized his discovery as an unconscious, ‘automatic’ darkroom happening that occurred in his tiny bathroom/darkroom when he placed a small glass funnel, the graduate, and the thermometer in the tray on the wetted paper and turned on the light,” writes Robert Hirsch in his book Seizing the Light: A History of Photography.

It is essential to keep in mind that Man Ray was a painter, and he had done similar techniques in painting when he had put an object on the canvas and painted around it.

Man Ray also reinvented solarization (see sidenote below & Portrait of Unidentified Woman, above) and started using it in his fashion photography to make them look painterly.

He started working with Harper’s Bazaar in 1934, and it was this fashion magazine that bestowed Man Ray’s image as a fashion photographer. Art director Alexey Brodovitch wanted to innovate the magazine’s layout, and Man Ray’s creations were a perfect technical match for his visualizations.

View of the Man Ray and Fashion exhibition (2) scenography Agence NC, Nathalie Crinière assisted by Lucile Louveau © Rmn-Grand Palais 2020 / Photo Didier Plowy

Man Ray’s strange compositions, plays of light and shadow, solarizations, colorizations, and other technical experiments sprouted, dreamlike images that would create magazine pages that were not seen before.

Bradovitch granted Man Ray total creative freedom and “allowed him to produce images bordering on abstraction which embodied the very essence of fashion,” says Catherine Örmen, a co-curator of the Man Ray and Fashion exhibit.

Paris got engulfed in the Second World War as the German Wehrmacht began its entry into France in 1940, and it was then that Man Ray fled to the USA and Hollywood. Man Ray never enjoyed commercial photography and was now even more concerned that he would be viewed as just another commercial photographer and not an artist.

With all this in mind, he decided to abandon fashion photography, even though this would have been very lucrative in Hollywood given his reputation and experience in the fashion capital of the world. He resided in Los Angeles from 1940 to 1951 and during that time concentrated on painting rather than photography.

It is said that while in the US, he would often track down old magazines to look for his photos only to find them torn out. This would give him immense pleasure that readers were excited by his imagery and collecting it.

While in Paris, he had almost tried to conceal his professional photographer’s trade, even then preferring to position himself as a painter. He kept the prints he made to a minimum, printing only the contact sheet, and then just the images chosen for the publication. At that time, magazines owned the negatives in addition to the prints.

Man Ray always wanted to return to Paris, and he finally did so in 1951. There he continued his creative practice across different mediums. He even recreated earlier work in new forms. He died in Paris in 1976 from a lung infection.

Over the course of his career, Man Ray elevated the craft of fashion photography to an art form. He inspired photographers like Sarah MoonGuy BourdinPaolo Roversi, and many more. Bourdin was turned away from Man Ray’s door six times by his wife and, on the seventh, finally succeeding in gaining the artist’s company when Man Ray himself answered the door and invited Bourdin in.

So, was Man Ray a fashion photographer or even a photographer? Sure, but it would be more accurate, and even autobiographical, to say that “Man Ray was a reluctant photographer.”

Sidenote: Did Man Ray or his assistant/lover re-discover (read popularize) the technique of solarization?
I guess they both did jointly over a darkroom accident. The story is that Lee Miller*, his assistant thought she felt a mouse running over her foot while she was working in the darkroom in Paris, and promptly turned on the light (after screaming her lungs out!), exposing the photograph that was in the developer. Imagine Man Ray’s surprise when he saw that the photo had turned part negative and part positive to create a surrealistic image.
Although solarization was known to the early pioneers, including Daguerre,  John William Draper, and J.W.F. Herschel, Man Ray helped popularize it by using it in his fashion photography published in major magazines.
* Miller was accredited with the U.S. Army as a war photographer for Condé Nast Publications during World War II. Miller was famously photographed by LIFE photographer David E. Scherman taking a bath in Hitler’s Munich apartment.

About the author: Phil Mistry is a photographer and teacher based in Atlanta, GA. He started one of the first digital camera classes in New York City at The International Center of Photography in the 90s. He was the director and teacher for Sony/Popular Photography magazine’s Digital Days Workshops. You can reach him via email here.

Image credits: Header photos “Kiki, Noire et Blanche” by Tim Evanson from Cleveland Heights, Ohio, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Story of Analog Photographers Thriving in the Digital World

Film photography has enjoyed a significant resurgence in the last several years despite the expansive growth of digital cameras. In this 11-minute short documentary, Exploredinary interviews a few analog photographers to see why they stick with the aged format.

The short film interviews Frank Lopez who works with tintypes, Shamsy Roomiani who works with cyanotypes, the company Photographique which handles photo restorations, and Don Puckett who works with a custom polaroid camera.

One note that perhaps is often forgotten in the digital age is the idea of not just accepting imperfections, but seeking them out. In many analog photography formats, the creation of the image is not perfect, which leads to character notes that makes the work unique. With modern cameras and lenses, perfection appears to be the point and much of the character – what some would call “soul” – is absent. This of course does not have to be, but appears to be the direction manufacturers are headed. This is a topic that has been discussed in the past.

The short film at one point argues that film is a known quantity that has withstood the test of time and that while digital photography has many merits has yet to last long enough to prove that it will do likewise.

An often forgotten side effect of the transition to digital was the collapse of the photo printing industry: when images became digital, people quickly stopped ordering prints. A whole business segment collapsed because of this.

The film is an informative look at those who still treasure analog photography and why they plan to stick with it, despite the “easier” or “more modern” tools that are now available.

For more from Exploredinary, subscribe to their YouTube Channel.

(via r/photography)

Is This Editing Technique Better Than the DeHaze Slider?

If you’ve ever dealt with atmospheric haze in your images, you know that it can ruin an otherwise great image. Years ago, Adobe developed the Dehaze slider to deal with it, but photographer Andrea Livieri argues it’s not the best solution in this 11-minute video.

Livieri says that the atmospheric haze he plans to address can be broken into two types: fog, and mist. It’s especially visible when you look at an image’s histogram.

“Haze removes most of the contrast from your photo, and that’s what gives it the flat, washed-out look,” he says. “There are different approaches to tackle de-hazing, but contrast is for sure one that will make the biggest difference in your shots. The phenomenon of haze is pronounced when you use a telephoto lens, and chances are it’s totally washed out and lacking any punch at all.”

Below is a reference image that Livieri uses to show how different methods affect the image:

Livieri’s method, which he calls the Luminance Range Mask method, involves creating three gradient filters for the shadows, midtones, and highlights and then setting a Luminance Range Mask to limit the range of each adjustment. The goal is to adjust shadows, midtones, and highlights individually without each affecting one another.

While he uses the Dehaze slider a bit in some of the range adjustments, the changes he makes to the image using that slider are done with a much lighter hand thanks to the limits he sets with the Range Mask. Most of the adjustments are done using the Exposure, Highlights, Shadows, and Contrast, sliders. You can see exactly how he adjusts each of the masks in the video above.

Livieri says it’s important to periodically zoom in to 100% to make sure that the adjustments you are making do not cause unwanted artifacts.

“The result is an image where the atmosphere is clearer, more balanced, vivid, and quite punchy,” he says.

Livieri shows how the original image compares to using a Dehaze global adjustment, blacks/whites/exposure changes, and tone curves when compared to his Luminance Range Mask technique:

Luminance Range Mask
Dehaze Slider (Global Adjustment)
Blacks, Whites, and Exposure Adjustments
Tone Curves

Livieri says that the Dehaze slider alone, as illustrated above, can cause counterproductive effects, while the blacks/whites/exposure adjustments and the Tone Curves methods both caus strong color shifting.

Below are a few more examples of different scenes edited using the varying techniques.

Second Example:

RAW Image
Luminance Range Mask
Dehaze Slider (Global Adjustment)
Blacks, Whites, and Exposure Adjustments
Tone Curves

Third Example:

RAW Image
Luminance Range Mask
Dehaze Slider (Global Adjustment)
Blacks, Whites, and Exposure Adjustments
Tone Curves

Fourth Example:

RAW Image
Luminance Range Mask
Dehaze Slider (Global Adjustment)
Blacks, Whites, and Exposure Adjustments
Tone Curves

What do you think of Livieri’s techniques? Let us know in the comments. For more from Andrea Livieri, subscribe to his YouTube Channel or follow him on Instagram.

Image credits: Photos by Andrea Livieri and used with permission.

Use This Astro Calendar to Plan Your Milky Way Shots This Year

Planning is key to capturing the best Milky Way images. Unlike other types of photography, shooting our galaxy requires you to consider many astronomical factors, like the sunset, the moon phase, and the Milky Way’s location in the sky.

Contrary to what many people think, the Milky Way is visible throughout the year. However, the most photogenic area, also known as the “Galactic bulge/center”, is only visible during a few specific months depending on your location.

To help you plan your Milky Way images in 2021, I’ve created a series of Milky Way Calendars where you can see, at a glance, the best days of the year to capture our galaxy according to your location.

This calendar is very easy to use:

1. Download the best calendar for your location

I’ve created Calendars for 20 different regions on the planet. Most likely, there’s a calendar for your location.

Below you can find the calendars for the most popular areas:

In addition to those, you can download calendars for other regions like the UK, Australia, the Midwest/PNW/Southern U.S., Europe, and more in our  Milky Way Viewing calendars at Capture the Atlas.

All calendars are based on latitude, so if you don’t find one for your location, you can use a Calendar from a different region as long as you’re located at a similar latitude (just consider the possible time difference).

For example, above is a Calendar for the U.S. Southwest, considering Death Valley, California, as a reference (36º latitude). If you’re located in Tokyo, Japan (35.6º latitude), you can use this Calendar since the best days to shoot the Milky Way will be the same.

2. Check the best days to shoot the Milky Way

The Milky Way visibility is defined by the first columns:

  • Moonlight: This shows the percentage of moon brightness. Keep in mind that more than 30% brightness is too much to see the Milky Way
  • Sunset/Sunrise: This determines the total hours of darkness.
  • Milky Way time: This corresponds to when the Milky Way is in the sky.
  • Galactic Center visibility: This is the most important column and shows when the Galactic bulge is visible so you can photograph it.

3. Plan your composition according to the Galactic Center position

In the rightmost column, you can see the angle of the Galactic center in the sky. The main options in this section are:

  • Milky Way horizontal: Up to 60º, you can see and capture the Milky Way horizontally or as an arch across the sky.
  • Diagonal/Vertical: From 60º up to 90º, the Milky Way will move from a diagonal to a vertical position.

When there is a value going from positive to negative (Ex. Vertical 75, Vertical -75), it means that the Milky Way moves from 75º up to a completely vertical position (90º), and then descends.

4. Check the best days according to your goals

The calendar is divided into three different colors depending on the number of hours that the Milky Way core is visible:

  • Best days to photograph the Milky Way
  • Days when the Milky Way is visible for a short time
  • Days when the Milky Way isn’t visible.

Also, while creating the Calendars, I used all the Saturdays of the year as a reference. As a result, you can generally see and shoot the Milky Way two days before and two days after the “best days.”

Other factors to consider

To fine-tune your planning, I also recommend taking a look at the following:

  • Light Pollution: Use a light pollution map or website to find the darkest areas. Consider the position of the Milky Way in the sky (ex. South, Southwest, etc) and check if there’s any potential source of light pollution in that direction. You can see different light pollution maps here.
  • Clouds: Checking the weather forecast before your session is crucial. Use any official weather site or app.
  • Technique: Apart from planning, the most important thing is your technique. Make sure you know the best settings to shoot the Milky Way. Here you can also check a crash course in less than 5 minutes.
  • Gear: Make sure you use a good lens for Milky Way. I recommend a fast and quality lens, like the Nikon Z 14-24 f/2.8, as you can see in this review. Also, if you want to take your Milky Way photography to the next level, I strongly recommend getting a star-tracker to take longer exposures with less noise.

I hope these calendars help with your planning so you can take fascinating images of the Milky Way this season. If you have any questions about how to use them or which you should download, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments!

About the author: Dan Zafra is a passionate travel photographer and co-founder of the travel photography and photo tours website Capture the Atlas. To see more of his work, visit Capture the Atlas or follow Dan on Instagram and Facebook.

Regarding Photographs: Photo Criticism

The previous essays in this series have tried to develop some ideas about what happens when people look at photos. The realism, that mass of realistic detail, causes (I claim) a visceral reaction: we feel, we react, we think, a little as if we were transported by the photograph into the scene itself.

We find ourselves, a little, in an imagined but somehow complete world. This world is a version of reality we build from the picture itself, from what we know of the picture, from captions and other surrounding material, but also from who we are, what we know, what we remember. We build, each of us, a different world into which to fit the picture, because each of us is a different person. Sometimes we build radically different worlds, but often we arrive at more or less similar worlds.

We make meaning from photographs each of us in our own individual way. If we’re finding radically different worlds around the picture, we are might read the picture radically differently. If, though, we arrive at roughly similar ideas of what the world around the picture looks like, if we imagine similar events before and after, similar emotions from the people in the picture, we might well arrive at similar meanings. We might then read the picture in roughly similar ways.

Even if there are substantive differences in this imagined world, between you and me, we can still arrive at the same meaning. Whether it’s a duck or a cow we’re imagined just out-of-frame, we might still see the same delight on the child’s face.

Normally we find that the meaning we make is a lot like the meaning made by people who are like us. People with similar political leanings will likely understand political portraits along party lines. While each read is different, Democrats or Tories will likely see the photo roughly one way, while Republican or Labour faithful will see it quite the other way around.

Similarly, what you make of a news photograph probably falls into a small number of groups of roughly similar readings, depending on what opinions you have already formed about this particular item of news. Occasionally, a photo or a news piece will change your mind, but rarely to some radically new position. Rather, you tend to move from one camp to another camp. You will leave the “guilty” fan club and join the “innocent” fan club, rather than founding a new “it was aliens that done it!” club.

People have, it turns out, much in common with one another, and tend to have similar ideas about the world, and therefore tend to arrive at the same kinds of conclusions about photographs.

If you are a photographer, or a picture editor, or a critic, or are simply interested in how photos “work” you’re probably interested in what happens when people look at photos, at how they make meaning from them. Understanding how people read photos is a kind of criticism. In fact, in literary circles, this has been identified and named (starting around 60 years ago) as “Reader-Response Criticism.” As far as I know, it’s not particularly prominent in photography circles.

It seems to me, though, that it should be. While we might not be able to unlock deep academic, um, secrets with these simple ideas, sure the reader’s response is something a photographer or editor might reasonably care about?

As photographers and editors, we’re often just interested in this simple question: what will my audience, what will people, make of this?

We can, of course, just look at it and see what we make of it.

Every photographer rapidly learns that what we make of our own pictures does not necessarily line up with what everyone else makes of them. Your mom doesn’t notice that you nailed the focus but does see that your model looks underdressed and chilly.

This same idea is more general, though. Your photos from the Quinceañera might be read as “kind of like a Bat Mitzvah” to a Jew, “kind of like a cotillion” to an American southerner, and “some sort of party” to many others. Different groups of people will see your picture, your pictures, your photo essay, differently.

It’s tempting to think that what we need to do, really, is to establish the truth behind the photograph. Is that, really for-real, an alien spaceship or a hub cap in the photo? Is the girl really happy, or just acting? This is often impossible to do, and in the end often isn’t very interesting anyways. Who cares if it’s a macro photograph of a pollen if everyone thinks it’s a baseball?

I call this kind of critique, the attempt to establish the truly-true-truth of a photo, a forensic reading.

The understandings each of us arrive at, one by one, of a photo I call personal readings.

A critical reading, which is what we’re going for here, is an attempt to understand the breadth of possible, reasonable, personal readings. Is it a UFO, or a hub cap? Both are possible personal readings, depending (probably) on whether you believe in UFOs or not. A critical reading makes some attempt to understand which it truly is, as far as is possible, but also and more importantly gathers up both of the personal readings.

I think of this as constructing a sheaf of readings. That is, a collection of ways this picture could be understood, mainly by people we’re trying to communicate with.

To discover in ourselves the ways that other people will tend to see a picture is essentially an act of empathy and of imagination.

To discover, to guess, what even one other person will see in a photo we need some limited ability to stand and walk in their shoes. We need to imagine ourselves as them, rather than as ourselves. To understand a photograph of a political figure critically we must imagine ourselves as a devoted member of the other party, not merely the one we follow. Only then can we see that the hated politician can be seen as venal and weak, but also as powerful and decisive.

Neither reading is forensic, they’re both personal readings. The truth of whether the politician is weak or decisive is not even relevant here, what matters is what people think when they see the picture. It is the two readings together, that little sheaf of two, that makes up the critical understanding of the picture. Having both, we understand more broadly what the picture means to people generally.

In the same way, to critically read a UFO photo, or a photograph of the Loch Ness Monster, of Sasquatch, has nothing to do with whether these things are real. We need to imagine ourselves as believers, and also as non-believers, and look at the photograph through both sets of eyes.

Empathy and imagination are the keys, here.

You are already perfectly capable of discovering what you make of a photograph. To discover what others might make of the same photo, though, demands empathy. You must understand, at least a little, something of other lives, other ideologies, other beliefs, other faiths, other cultures. You must, also, have the emotional skills necessary to step into the shoes of these other human beings and see the world, a little, through their eyes.

Then you can begin to see how they might, having been transported into a photograph, build and interpret the world around the photograph, in ways that are different from the ways you do. Then you can begin to see how they might make meaning from a photo that is different, but perhaps no less valid, than the way you so.

In the end, after mastering a few technical details about focus and exposure, the exercise that might help you improve your photography the most might just be to read a few good novels, and maybe some world history.

This is the sixth in a series of essays on photographs, on the ways we as viewers construct meaning from them, and on what it all means.

About the author: Andrew Molitor writes software by day and takes pictures by night. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Molitor is based in Norfolk, Virginia, and does his best to obsess over gear, specs, or sharpness. You can find more of his writing on his blog.

Is 645 Medium Format Film That Much Better Than 35mm?

Photographer Kyle McDougall says that one question he gets asked a lot is if shooting in medium format film, such as 645, is really “worth it” compared to 35mm film. In this 11-minute video, he explains why he thinks it is.

While he’s clear that there are no “bad” formats, and all are quite capable. What it really comes down to is the type of work you plan to create and the preferences that you develop over time.

“If the format you’re working with right now suits you and is working for you, don’t feel like you need to upgrade just for the sake of it,” he says.

That said, he believes that 645 is a great step up in many cases from 35mm. Working with a larger negative mean you get finer details, less apparent grain at similar image sizes, and smoother tones. Side by side, 645 versus 35mm are markedly different if you were to view the negatives side by side.

645 film also offers the 4:3 aspect ratio, which many photographers – McDougall included – find to be particularly visually pleasing. Additionally, if you’re moving to medium format from 35mm, it’s not too much narrower than a frame of 35mmm, unlike other medium format film sizes which can be quite a bit narrower.

McDougall also says that in his experience, he finds that of the medium format cameras, the 645 cameras seem to have the most compact and readily available cameras that can be found and the options are also more budget-friendly than other medium format options.

In summary, McDougall believes that for those who are interested in moving to medium format film from 35mm, 645 has the most positives in his opinion. To answer the initial question posed, McDougall basically argues that the answer is yes: for many use cases, especially landscape and posed portrait work, it is better than 35mm for many reasons. Not only is image quality improved thanks to a much larger negative, but the tradeoffs are less severe when compared to other medium format sizes.

Do you agree? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments.

For more from Kyle McDougall, you can subscribe to his YouTube Channel.

(via ISO 1200)

Snoots Aren’t Good At Their Job, And Here’s Why

The purpose of a snoot is to take a light source and focus it down into a more defined point, but The Beyond Photography Show host Andrew explains in this 11-minute video that the physics of snoots makes them terrible at their job.

Instead, he offers a better solution for successfully getting a more perfect defined edge to lighting.

Andrew says that snoots, by design, are terrible at their job (in fewer words). Basically, the problem is that even though snoots do initially narrow the spread of light, because they are usually positioned farther away from a subject, the light has too much physical space to spread out yet again, even if the snoot is gridded.

Andrew also argues that Fresnel lenses aren’t a proper solution either, as not only are they more expensive and heavy, they still don’t do a great job at keeping a distinct edge to light.

To solve the problem, Andrew builds his own snoot that solves the main source of the problem by bringing the end of the snoot considerably closer to the subject. It’s by no means an attractive solution, but some of the best lighting modifiers are not custom, high-end products made by an expensive lighting manufacturer, but cheap pieces of cardboard (there is a reason that V-flats are a constant in any studio).

The “ugly snoot”

By using a long box that was used to ship backdrop paper, Andrew is able to bring the end of the snoot much closer to his subject without it getting in the way of the image and therefore helps it keep a more defined edge.

The light can still show flaring if the flash is set at too high of power, though. Below, Andrew demonstrates the difference between using his off-camera flash at max power versus 1/8 power:

Below are a few examples of the kinds of images that you can make with this custom snoot:

Calling it his “ugly snoot,” you can see the difference in a more typical portrait between using a regular snoot versus his custom one:

For more from The Beyond Photography Show, subscribe to their YouTube Channel.

The Process of Colorizing and Animating an 80-Year-Old Photograph

Photo colorizer and restorer Hint of Time has shared an 8-minute video where he shows his process for not only colorizing an 80-year-old black and white photo, but also brings it to life with subtle animation.

While usually stopping at colorizations on his YouTube Channel, Hint of Time decided to go one step further with this latest work on a photo of a New Jersey farmworker taken by Mario Wolcott in 1941.

“I decided to add a little twist and not only colorize but also give this photograph a 3D effect,” he writes. “It took me about 5 hours to colorize and animate this old black and white photograph in Photoshop and After Effects.”

Hint of Time has uploaded multiple videos that show his process for colonization, and his results are rather impressive:

There are some prominent historians that argue the colorization of history should be avoided, but Hint of Time says that he does his research to make sure that the colors he adds are as true to life as possible.

“When I do colorization or restoration work on an old black and white photo I always do research before anything else and try to find the colors of historically significant elements like uniforms, a person’s features, buildings, or even popular color palettes of the decade,” he writes. “The colors are then adapted to the scene in the photograph and added by hand with the help of Adobe Photoshop. Color accuracy is more important than perfectly drawing over the edges. The objective is to have an end result with colors as historically accurate as possible. The research, colorization, and restoration are processes that take a long time but the dramatic comparison of the black-and-white photos and the colorized version of the picture always makes it worth the hard work.”

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(via r/ArtisanVideos)

This Page is a Fantastic Primer on How Cameras and Lenses Work

If you want to learn the science and technical details of how cameras and lenses work, there’s a fantastic new resource on the Web for you. Developer Bartosz Ciechanowski has published an interactive 5,700-word article that explains things in great depth.

“Pictures have always been a meaningful part of the human experience,” Ciechanowski writes. “From the first cave drawings, to sketches and paintings, to modern photography, we’ve mastered the art of recording what we see.

“Cameras and the lenses inside them may seem a little mystifying. In this blog post I’d like to explain not only how they work, but also how adjusting a few tunable parameters can produce fairly different results.

“Over the course of this article we’ll build a simple camera from first principles.”

Ciechanowski first explains how light is recorded by image sensors, including how photons detected through a color filter array are turned into color images through demosaicing.

The article walks through the basics of a simple pinhole camera and uses interactive sliders to show how changing the size and distance of the aperture affects the resulting image.

The article even goes into classical electromagnetism and wave propagation.

The interactive illustrations Ciechanowski created are among the best we’ve seen in articles of this type.

By the end, you should have a fairly thorough grasp of what exactly is going on when you do things like adjusting your aperture for a wider or narrower depth of field.

“We’ve barely scratched the surface of optics and camera lens design, but even the most complex systems end up serving the same purpose: to tell light where to go,” Ciechanowski writes in conclusion. “In some sense optical engineering is all about taming the nature of light.

“The simple act of pressing the shutter button in a camera app on a smartphone or on the body of a high-end DSLR is effortless, but it’s at this moment when, through carefully guided rays hitting an array of photodetectors, we immortalize reality by painting with light.”

Head on over to Ciechanowski’s article to give it a read, but be warned: you may come out the other end a whole lot more knowledgeable.