Mirrorless, mirrorless, ah the joys of mirrorless. Isn’t it better than DSLRs in every way possible? It may be. But honestly, I couldn’t care less. While that may sound egoistical, the reason I don’t care is that I’m not upgrading to mirrorless anytime soon.
I don’t keep up with camera news. While I know that a Canon EOS R3 is coming soon, I didn’t look at the spec sheet nor do I intend to unless I’m reviewing it. For some of you, this may sound stupidly ignorant. Ignorant it is, but stupid no.
I don’t care about mirrorless at the moment because I’m not upgrading to it, so it’s just irrelevant information I don’t need now. I’m perfectly comfortable with my fleet of aging DSLRs and will be for at least 5 more years. In this article, I will explain why I am not upgrading and suggest why you may want to hold off on upgrading to mirrorless too.
Is There Too Much Hype?
I strongly believe that the mirrorless is way too hyped up at the moment. I have even been laughed at because I had DSLRs in my camera bag. People really think that the DSLR-to-mirrorless change is as significant as the film-to-digital change. Somehow DSLRs just got worse when the R5 came out.
Sony shooters like to think that their technologically advanced camera can beat a DSLR in every aspect. It probably can when it comes to video, but I’m a photographer, not a cinematographer. A question I ask myself before buying any gear is: “Is the upgrade going to make me more money if I invest in it?”
Does It Make Financial Sense?
Let’s evaluate the cost of upgrading to mirrorless:
The Canon EOS R5 costs $3,899, and I’d had to get two to have a backup body. Let’s assume that I will not be retiring my Canon 70-200mm lens from 2001 and my 24-70mm lens from 2006. Because a used R5 is rare at the moment, I’d likely have to buy a new one. That’s already nearly $8,000 to dish out.
Suppose I sold my DSLRs. That would likely bring in a little over $3,000. I’d still have to still shell out five grand for a new camera system. Purchases must be justified, so let’s see if the specs or anything else will make the upgrade to mirrorless worth it.
How Much Better Is It?
The specs that are relevant to fashion & portrait work are resolution, color depth, connectivity, weight, dynamic range.
Speaking from experience, I can’t think of a time when I wished for a better camera. Sure, the 100% autofocus coverage can help some shooters, but for me, it doesn’t make a difference. I keep composition simple and shoot at f/11 most of the time, so critical focus at a crazy f/1.2 is not a gamechanger for me.
One thing that is marginally better is the weight and size. I do appreciate the reduced strain on my hands, but when the pro glass gets mounted on the camera, that difference is really barely noticeable. Besides, I bring a tripod to virtually every photoshoot that I have. This means that a tether table is coming with me and with it an assistant to take care of the camera.
As a portrait & fashion photographer, medium format is something I can’t avoid. The rented medium-format cameras are a marvel to work with but a pain to handle. So much so, I got used to it and think of a DSLR as the lighter option.
Learning It All
Specs and pixel-peeping aside, let me dive into what switching cameras may mean for many of you, as it does for me: learning and adjusting.
Camera brands will hate me for saying this, but honestly, the last thing I want to do is buy a new camera. Not only because it’s expensive but also because I probably need to spend lots of time figuring it out, and trying to understand where all the buttons and settings are. Sure, most of them are in the same place, but for me, even the slightest shift slows me down in a shoot. Those seconds make me lose momentum and in general, are destructive of creativity.
When shooting with a 5D Mark II and IV side-by-side, I found myself a lot slower than usual. Keep in mind, those are two cameras I know well. I like to think that the fewer steps I need to take to be creative, the better my systems of creativity are. If all I need to create is to turn the camera on and shoot, that’s good news. If I need to mess with the settings for dozens of minutes, that’s not good news.
A great example of this would be Platon, who I believe still shoots on a Hasselblad 500 ELM. That’s the battery-powered medium format film camera produced in the 1970s. Platon’s work is world-famous, and he’s not upgrading for simplicity’s sake. He puts it quite simply: due to his dyslexia, complicated things are never a good idea. Being as simple as possible is often the way. His light, his posing, his composition, and his camera are all simple and brilliant.
Switching Won’t Make Me/You Better
This is one that I see a lot. Time and time again I see the most expensive camera equipment owned by photographers — anything from a Phase One for $55,000 to a Leica for $8,000. There may be more megapixels, color depth, and dynamic range in what is produced, but it wasn’t better quality work by any stretch of the imagination.
Sure, saying that you shoot with a Leica will get you reputation in your camera club. But you can’t (or shouldn’t) put a Leica logo on the photos. The only logo you can put on your work is your authentic style. Being an artist is what makes great photographers. If the people who owned the most gear and/or the best gear were always the best photographers, rental house owners would be unbeatable. It’s hard to compete against a place that can give you $500,000 worth of gear.
When WILL I Switch to Mirrorless?
I inevitably will switch to mirrorless. The main reason would probably be my DSLRs aging. The shutter counts are racking up quite fast for me, as I shoot quite a lot (thankfully). Also, my 70-200mm lens from 2001 won’t work forever. The same goes for my aging fleet of other DSLR lenses.
I think it would make the most sense to upgrade when the time has finally come to say goodbye once and for all to the gear that no longer works or isn’t serviceable. As a photographer, I rely on repairs to be readily available and affordable, no matter where I am. If I can’t get a lens repaired or rented for my camera system, I’m in trouble. When that time comes, I will upgrade.
An upgrade in this way isn’t a panic purchase. It is a process that requires deliberate saving, budgeting, and forecasting to get right. It is, after all, a huge investment.
In conclusion, I’d say to anyone looking to upgrade now: mirrorless is the future, but it’s not the present. There hasn’t really been a bad camera since 2009. What you have is a lot more than what photography legends such as Irving Penn, Robert Capa, and Richard Avedon had. You can take great pictures with what you have if you know how to do it.
One of the most frequent questions I am asked is about social media likes and followers and how to ‘boost’ those numbers.
There are a few questions I will always ask:
1. Why? Simple first question. What is your goal? Why do you want more likes or followers? Is it for personal reasons (for example an ego boost or a feeling of validation) or is it about making a living (you are looking to sell your brand and need those numbers to maximize potential sales)?
2. What are you currently doing to work towards this goal? This could be a simple question such as, “how often are you on social media ?” because we all know Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, etc. are businesses and a business wants to make money. They need to see you as a bankable asset, and engagement by you equals return.
Also when you are online how are you interacting with others, are you just spamming on images, or are you making meaningful connections? Think about if you were to pass someone in the street and mutter “hi” (the equivalent of a like) or you were to stop and talk to them about their day or compliment them on an item of clothing they were wearing (the equivalent of a comment)? Which do you think would mean more to that other person and which could potentially lead to a deeper friendship?
3. Finally, depending on your goal, how are you managing your content, and is it “good enough” to reach your goal? Now ‘good enough’ is very subjective. However, I have seen people who have sent me images that would be categorized more as ‘snapshots’, with little consideration to composition or subject, and have asked me why they aren’t getting attention.
Now you need to remember you are in a sea of millions upon millions of images, so you need to be doing something to stand out — the image needs to grab you in some way. There does come a point when you have ‘loyal fans’ (which I will touch on later) when the support becomes more personal, but initially, looks do matter. It’s like that first date — you need to attract the opposite person.
Do ‘Likes’ Matter?
We all want to be liked as individuals, going back to those childhood days of being in the playground and having that awkward feeling of trying to join a new group and make new friends, feeling that joy if you are accepted, or worse the disappointment to find that your friendship is not wanted. It can be a tough time and that feeling never really disappears.
We are social creatures. We want to mix and share our lives, our hobbies, and interests with others. We also put a lot of time into our art, so we want to know that people are liking what we are doing. Therefore, I understand completely why people want to see a high number of likes against their work, it brings a sense of achievement (but is that achievement of value? More on that later).
But the question needs to be, what does being ‘liked’ more offer to you as a photographer? Does it make you a better photographer if you have 500 likes on an image? Do you think, “Well, 500 people like this, therefore I am an amazing photographer”? Because to be brutally honest, it does not mean what you feel it may. Likes are not a resource you can use to measure quality.
Now if we focus for the rest of this article on Instagram, as this is the only platform I am active on, let’s discuss something that a lot of people forget when it comes to the number of likes an image gets, and that is reach.
Instagram has something called reach, which is the number of accounts that have seen your image. You have the functionality in Instagram to see what the reach of your posts are and if you look at this it is very obvious to see a correlation between the number of likes an image gets and the reach it hits.
Remember when I said Instagram is a business? This is exactly where this comes into play, because if your image is generating initial interest then Instagram is going to put it out there in front of a lot of people.
Let’s create a scenario where you have taken a photograph and you print it out. You then hang it in your hallway. Over the next two weeks you have 30 visitors (your reach) and from those visitors 26 said they liked the photograph. Now you take the same image and put it in the middle of a high street for 4 hours and over that time it is seen by 3,000 people. Statistically, there is much more chance of more people liking the image because more people have seen it.
For ease, let’s say that 1,000 people from the high street like the image. More likes. However another way to look at it is that from the 3,000 only 1,000 liked it (33%) however from the 30 that saw it in your hallway, 26 liked it (87%), so which is the most successful? It is the same image, yet the size of the audience has dictated the number of likes because of its reach.
My own images work exactly the same as this. I have images that have had a reach of over 18,000 accounts and received say 3,000 likes (what a talented fella), yet some images receive 500 likes but only reach just over 1500 accounts (having a bad day). But again, the ratio of likes to reach would say that actually the image with the lower number of likes is liked by more who saw it.
You also need to consider the ease with which people ‘like’ an image and the reason why they click that little heart. Maybe they just follow the photographer and want to support anything they produce, or maybe they are just trying to show Instagram they are engaging on the platform to help boost their own images and just ‘spam like’ anything posted on a hashtag over the past 20 minutes without even looking at the image.
Roll all of this together, reach and if a ‘like’ is genuine or not, and really think how much weight that number actually has.
Follow Me… PLEASE
The flip side of likes is followers. Again it is another quantitative measure that people put a lot of focus on. Similar to likes, it can be seen as being popular. “400,000 people have chosen to follow me! They are all sitting, waiting for me to upload my next image, they idolize me… I am a genius.”
Well, hold that thought.
First of all, how many of those followers are genuine? How many are bots or people who made an account, followed a bunch of people, and then never returned to Instagram again? How many of those people are following you for a totally different reason to you being a photographer? Maybe they like you as an individual, maybe you have a YouTube channel, or you are a famous person and you drum up followers because of you, not your photography.
Also just because you have 400,000 followers doesn’t mean that every image you post will be seen by each and every one of those followers. If you head into your Instagram feed now and look within the ‘least interacted with’ section you will see a bunch of people who you follow but may not have seen their posts for months and there are even more than this within the account list of who you follow. The reason? Again, Instagram is a business and they will show you the content from the creators who you interact with most, also increasingly space is being taken up by advertising, promotions, etc. (got to keep the money coming in somehow) so that space is limited even more on your feed.
Now if you are a brand or selling a product, of course there are more benefits to having a large following. You could be seen as an ‘influencer’ (I hate that word) and you may get opportunities to try out products for reviews (usually biased in some way, or stated to be unbiased but then bias to keep the companies on board), and this, in turn, generates money or more companies to take interest and it could snowball.
Follower count can equate to positives. However, outside of the money side of things, how important is a follower count really?
When I first started on Instagram, I really wanted 1,000 followers. I have no idea why I chose that number — I just thought it sounded cool to be able to say 1,000 people follow me. Fast forward to when I hit 1,000 followers, and I remember waking up and seeing I had 1002 or 1003 or something like that and thought “YES!! I have 1000 followers… Ok, now what?” It was a totally empty celebration.
I hadn’t suddenly become a great photographer, the emails weren’t suddenly pouring in offering me sponsorships and book deals. It was a great eye-opener for me to see that actually what I had been chasing over those months was something that ultimately didn’t really matter if I thought long and hard about it. Actually, what had mattered over those months were the friendships I was making and seeing my work grow and my own style developing. This led me to realize two important things: the importance of loyal fans and that of value.
I mentioned earlier the concept of loyal fans. These are followers you have who love your work, they like your style, your ethics, maybe they have spoken to you a few times and a connection has been built up, they want to see you do well. There is an article online about how in order to make enough money to survive within photography (or any art form), you just need 1,000 genuine fans — 1,000 people who will buy whatever you create because they are invested in you.
Loyal fans play a huge role in, say, a YouTuber’s Instagram account and there is a feeling that a large YouTuber could post a photograph on their feed of a dog turd on a pavement and it would generate thousands of likes and receive multiple comments of “wow this is great” or “deep photography man, really made me think about life”, and that is because they love that person for who they are. It will be those people who buy every photobook they release or watch every video on their channel, and that is the fan base or following that (from a money-generating point of view) you want.
However, what about from a personal point of view? Let’s take money out of the equation. I love an analogy, so imagine you had a dinner party (because I am old and I don’t hold raves anymore). Imagine you had a dinner party and it was open door, during this dinner party you had 500 random people show up and they came, ate your food, and left. They didn’t really speak to you or to each other and just came, took for themselves, and left.
Now imagine the next evening you had a dinner party and hand-selected 30 of your friends or people you had come to know and you all sat and ate and talked about your interests and what was going on in your life and then they all left. Now for me, that smaller dinner party where I was making connections with people would hold so much more value than the party where I had more people show up but fewer people take any interest. I see followers in the exact same way.
I have people on my Instagram I speak to almost daily, we talk about photography, life, movies, Netflix recommendations, music, and even use each other as a sounding board to bounce ideas off or get advice from. I would say this core group is my loyal fans (actually I would say they are my friends and 95% of them I have never met in person, yet I love having them in my life).
I don’t want this to come across as ungrateful, as I am grateful for the following I have and I am grateful that so many people have chosen to add me to their own following. However, I would say that when choosing who you personally follow, focus on the quality they will bring in return be it in terms of friendship, inspiration, motivation, support, etc. and try to mold your following to your own needs.
It is nice to have a large following, but just as in the case of likes, it can be an empty number and interaction levels have much more value.
I mentioned earlier the value of likes (and I suppose followers too). I have a few photographers who follow my work who I aspire to be like and to reach their level is definitely an ambition of mine. If one of those people takes the time to like and comment on an image of mine I am genuinely humbled. High value.
Beyond that, I also hold value in a lot of the comments and likes I receive when you know they are coming from a good place. It can be tough without the relationship to know if it is a ‘spam like’ or a genuine one, but you quickly become accustomed to those other accounts who start to see past your images and see something in you and your body of work that is inspiring them. This then builds value.
Also, any comment that is beyond the usual ‘great shot’ or a smiling emoji is also valuable as someone has taken the time to stop their day and make that comment about how your image has made them feel. I receive direct messages, very supportive and encouraging direct messages, that hold value again in that someone has taken the time to send me those kind words. Those moments have so much power and carry so much more weight than any others on Instagram.
I would try and think more about the value of the likes, comments, and followers you have rather than the quantity. If you lose 100 followers who never interact with you and you have never seen their work either is that such a loss? Chances are they are only there for the wrong reasons.
A Few Quick Points
A couple of other quick thoughts regarding a few topics that always come up;
1. Follow / Unfollow. Unfortunately, a lot of people feel that quantity outweighs quality and therefore are in it just for the numbers. Personally, I find that shallow and very unfulfilling but each to their own. To that end, there will be people who will follow you and then either unfollow you because you didn’t do the same or unfollow you as soon as you follow back. It is a side effect of the platform and for many it is frustrating but again think about the value that person was bringing to you anyway. Is it as big a loss as you think?
2. Why don’t you follow me back? I receive messages almost daily from people wanting to know why I won’t follow them back. Now first of all having my account and managing a different account, not to brag, but I receive hundreds of notifications an hour on Instagram and I have zero chance of checking through each and every one of them. Therefore I do not see every notification for every comment or every follow so I don’t always get a chance to check them out.
I have actually recently found accounts that have been following me for months and I have loved them and returned the follow. It can be tough to keep up. Another reason could simply be the type of photography you shoot is not for me, not that it is bad or whatever (I controversially believe there isn’t bad photography if an image is presented as it was meant to be by the photographer, just not to your taste photography). And in order to ensure I am seeing work from photographers who shoot what I am looking for, I don’t want to fill up my feed with other work. It 100% isn’t a personal thing, just a subjective art thing.
3. Should I buy followers and likes? Just no. Why? That is like entering a photography competition and winning because you are the only participant. As much as I don’t believe all likes are from genuine people saying ‘I love this,’ a majority of them will come from a good place, so earn that love and trust me it is much more satisfying.
If you made it this far I commend your stamina and I hope that this has given you some insight into my thoughts on the topic of likes, comments, and followers. If you are just an ordinary photographer picking up your camera and going out into the world to share your vision then focus on that, focus on the enjoyment of pressing that shutter and freezing time. Focus on coming home and uploading your latest work to your little corner of the internet where you have your own loyal fans who love to see what you have been shooting, no matter how big or small that audience is.
The numbers really don’t matter if what you are doing you are getting pleasure from. The best feeling I believe you can get is from sitting in front of that computer at the end of a shoot and being proud of the images you have taken.
1. Don’t equate the number of likes to the quality of an image.
2. Don’t focus on having a large, faceless following (unless you are looking to grow your following for possible financial benefits).
3. Build a valuable community with people who respect and support you and want you to succeed.
4. Interact with others, don’t just spam that like button or drop generic emoji comments, and take the time to connect.
5. Finally, don’t put too much pressure on that side of photography, your enjoyment is far more important and the satisfaction with your images should always outweigh the numbers.
About the author: Lee Thirkellson is a photographer and writer. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Thirkellson is the founder of The Northern Street Collective. You can find more of Thirkellson’s work on his website and Instagram. This article was also published here.
Expensive cameras often lack basic features. The most common limitations-by-design are fixed screens and no flash. I suspect that some camera designers aren’t photographers and don’t realize how much these two features will be missed.
Let’s consider these two limitations. Other limitations will be discussed later in this article.
Cameras with Fixed Screens
A movable screen has many uses, yet is missing from many very expensive cameras. A movable screen saves wear and tear on your knees. Some of the ways I use a movable screen include:
Achieving a low point of view for photographing pets and children.
Using my tripod set low which is easier to set up and more stable.
Table-top macro photography.
Shooting selfies (still or video).
Steadying my camera on low posts, fire hydrants, etc.
Cameras with No Flash
Unfortunately, all full frame cameras lack a flash. They may have once been classified as pro equipment. And perhaps it was thought that pros only use big, powerful flashes. But there are countless situations where a low power flash does the job perfectly. Also, of course, many amateurs use full frame cameras and photography forums ring with complaints about missing flashes.
And there are many closeup situations where it’s best to have the flash close to the lens, such as shooting the anthers (pollen clusters), or insects, deep in a flower:
Flash freezes action and shake. It’s often better and easier than using a tripod.
The easiest way I’ve found to photograph a watch is with a pop-up flash. I just shoot from slightly below center to avoid reflections. But a shoe-mounted flash is so high that I must shoot from well below center to avoid reflections – leading to an oblique view. (The crystal of this watch is flat. Domed crystals pose a greater lighting challenge).
The long exposure (with camera on tripod) alternative is far less desirable, resulting in blurred second hands or pulled-out crowns to hack the movement. And, of course, not all watches can hack (stop the movement).
Flash can dramatically isolate the subject because its brightness diminishes with the distance squared. So the background will appear dark if distant from the subject.
A touch of flash is great to fill harsh shadows with sunlit portraits.
Let’s consider two other limitations by design. Fixed lenses and monochrome only.
Fixed Lens Cameras
These cameras have a short, non-changeable, prime lens. They are valued for instilling a discipline by confining the users to one, moderately wide, field of view. Henri Cartier Bresson and Fan Ho did their greatest work with this limitation.
I only recently discovered Fan Ho, who used a Rolleiflex with a 75mm lens. It has the field of view of a 35mm lens on a full frame camera when cropped to square format. I find Ho’s work to be absolutely stunning. What an eye! Of course, Ho held his camera at belly level, which we can do with a movable screen.
My favorite walk-around rig is my Sony a6400 ILC with a 24mm lens having the above field of view. I use either a manual focus lens or an autofocus lens in manual mode. I set it at f16 and focus at 6 feet, which is the hyperfocal distance. This is faster than autofocus and there is never the error of the autofocus focusing on the wrong thing in the picture. With this setting, everything from 3 feet to infinity is sharp. I think it’s the perfect setup for street photography.
But the above is not the only type of photography I enjoy. I also shoot wildlife with a long telephoto, portraits with a slightly long-ish lens or zoom, and insects with a macro lens. My ILC does it all with the appropriate lens.
Many of us have asked, “Why buy a limited camera when you can make the equivalent by putting a short lens on your ILC, or not zooming your point and shoot?” But owners of fixed-lens cameras love them.
Let’s and move on to the final limitation by design.
Currently, only Leica offers monochrome-only cameras. But when you shoot with a mono camera or a color camera in mono mode, you lose a wonderful advantage available in edit. That advantage is the freedom to control the brightness (in the mono image) of selected colors.
Consider this image:
Below are two mono treatments of the above image.
The left image is relatively straight mono, about what you would get from a mono camera or a color camera in mono mode. The right image was adjusted in edit to make red brighter.
This just one example of the flexibility of creating mono in edit. You can create any effect that you can imagine.
Filters in front of the lens can achieve these results with monochrome cameras. But I like to play with these effects in edit.
Leica states that their monochrome cameras have higher resolution than their color versions because the pixels are not screened by the Bayer filter. But this greater resolution is apparently difficult to perceive because color cameras have such superb resolution.
Fstoppers did a detailed comparison of the Leica Q2 in monochrome mode and the mono-only Leica Q2 Monochrom, which costs $700 more than its color cousin. The reviewer could not perceive the sharpness benefit of the mono-only version.
One of the other things that Leica claims about the Monochrom is that the new camera will produce better, sharper, and crisper details. The removal of certain filters means that details will be much clearer in the Monochrom. In our testing, we haven’t found this to be the case. In almost every scenario, both in ‘real-world’ and controlled scenarios, the details and clarity between the two were pretty much identical. There is no noticeable change in how much detail the Monochrom captures when compared to the original.
Personally, I strongly prefer cameras that have movable screens, interchangeable lenses, and built-in flash, and I would love to see more cameras (especially high-end ones) offer all three features.
About the author: Alan Adler lives in Los Altos, California. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. He has been an avid photographer for 60 years. He is also a well-known inventor with about 40 patents. His best-known inventions are the Aerobie flying ring and the AeroPress coffee maker.
If you’re a wedding photographer who has had a change of heart about your chosen path in this industry as lockdown restrictions and subsequent client cancellations continue, you are not the only one. It’s never too late to make a career change!
It would be surprising if being confined to your home for prolonged periods didn’t make you contemplate your current life and work choices as well as future plans or goals. I think it is safe to say that most of us have gone through this process in some shape or form.
Some photographers used this quiet period to modify their existing business strategy to be ready for the post-pandemic world, some paused their business and turned to any available work opportunities to support their families, while others, like myself, were faced with the somber realization that this may not actually be the career we want for our future even when weddings eventually resume.
The wedding industry follows seasonal fluctuations in bookings where certain periods of the year are busy and booked for most full-time wedding photographers in that region, followed by quiet periods where fewer weddings take place. This makes it complicated to plan personal life events, especially for photographers who want to start a family or already have children.
It’s an emotionally charged job that requires the photographer to deal with anything that may be thrown their way before, during, or after the wedding, and forces them to maintain a sense of alertness throughout the year. It’s not just a technical or artistic job, it’s certainly a social and physical one, too. Having said that, it can be a highly rewarding profession for the right person but it can equally slowly encroach upon your health and personal life if you are not careful.
If you don’t have what it takes to sell your personality to potential clients during a consultation or if your presence at the wedding causes discomfort to others, a good portfolio will only get you so far for so long. You are the face of your business and your personality is an important aspect of it.
I believe that is one of the reasons why wedding photographers, such as myself, begin to unintentionally blur the lines between what is considered personal and what is professional life. Being so emotionally involved in a job can cause distress when it comes to resolving clients’ issues or demands, setting boundaries regarding communication, or sacrificing your own family life and mental or physical health.
In the pre-pandemic world, I thoroughly enjoyed the highs of this business but I already had an inkling that it would not be something I dedicated the coming decades of my professional life to. Physically, I could document a full-day wedding with no visible problems but underneath, I often suffered from headaches which were exacerbated by the lack of mental breaks during a wedding day. I generally had to keep the day after the wedding free with no appointments or shoots because I needed it free just to recharge. This cycle had the additional side effect of hurting my personal relationship: I would lose more quality time that I could have spent with my partner either shooting or recovering.
Lockdown brought this issue to the forefront for me and I was forced to deal with the situation at hand instead of brushing it under the carpet and letting yet another wedding season come around, which would leave me dissatisfied with my work and the responsibilities I take on. I believe that there are moments in our lives when we already know what we need to do but we just seek that extra push to make the change which can be daunting because it’s taking us to unfamiliar territory.
Personally, what made me more comfortable about my choice to leave the wedding industry was seeing that I am not the only one who feels this way. Lisa, a U.K. wedding photographer whose real name has been changed to protect her privacy, revealed to me that 2022 will be her last year of weddings. During the pandemic, she realized that they are not as profitable for her when broken down into hourly pay and evaluating that against the time she is forced to spend away from her family, even taking into consideration that she is one of the highest-priced photographers in the area. The cancellations and postponements during the pandemic left her scared to rely on weddings as a dependable source of income, while a shift towards family shoots offered the flexibility she was looking for.
Similarly, photographer Chloé Grayson from Fox and Owl initially saw wedding photography as her dream career. That is until she had her first baby and her priorities and goals shifted. The long hours away when she was tasked with photographing weddings across the country conflicted with the gentle attachment parenting approach Grayson and her partner had adopted for their newborn. This wasn’t made easier by the pandemic when a flurry of postponement and cancellation emails came in, which caused financial loss, unpaid admin time that spanned across several months, and mental stress.
Looking into the future, Grayson is navigating her business in a new direction to focus on design work and smaller sessions or less intense full-day bookings, which is something that suits her as a family-orientated working mother.
Just like the two examples above, others are also seeing their career steer towards more frequent but smaller scale shoots. Nadine Boyd, also a U.K.-based photographer, has removed wedding photography from her website as she’s seeing out the existing bookings while transitioning to what gives her the most joy and job satisfaction: family photography. This type of work doesn’t require as much preparation nor does it take up the whole weekend, making it more manageable, especially for those with younger children at home.
The family aspect of this pandemic-induced career change should not be underestimated. Having to plan pregnancy around weddings can be difficult because jobs are booked at least a year in advance. Add pandemic postponements in the mix, and you have families waiting at least one or two additional years to have a child while they are obliged to finalize all of the bookings that have had to move their date due to COVID-19.
The time we were forced to spend at home under lockdown restrictions has given us the opportunity to examine our work-life balance and how we intend to navigate this in the future. It is not easy to make major changes in our professional life but knowing that there are many in this industry who feel just as unsure, whether they are wedding photographers or operate in a different photography field, can be a consolation to the rest of us.
There are many other reasons why photographers are reconsidering the future of their wedding business but the one thing that brings all these stories together is that this period of prolonged uncertainty has given us clarity about the changes we do want to make.
It may not have come as a surprise for those with ears to the ground in the mobile phone industry, but LG is officially walking away. Despite that, it does leave something of an imaging legacy behind.
As of July 31, 2021, it will be the end of an era for the company, as the drawdown will be completed by that date. It will continue to sell the remaining inventory — even after that date — but nothing new will come from here on out.
LG’s struggle to carve out a steady piece of the market and grow it proved daunting. With Chinese brands emerging as serious contenders to all established players, the market squeeze forced a rethink of what to do to stand out. That’s where phones like the Dual Screen G8X and V60 ThinQ, and — especially — the Wing, came out looking totally unique.
To my mind, one of the reasons LG lost its way is because it stumbled on the photography side. There were certainly other, sometimes related, reasons, but the imaging part of the equation was a major factor.
Charting a Path
It’s worth noting that it was LG — not Apple — that brought the first smartphone with a capacitive touchscreen to market. The LG KE850 Prada was announced in December 2006, a month before Steve Jobs famously unveiled the iPhone. It’s obvious which device had the bigger long-term impact, but it’s just one example of how LG was once ahead of the curve.
It was LG’s G Series phones that finally formed a cohesive structure and smartphone strategy for the company. Those devices were getting slicker, and eventually, some wacky ideas came out of them.
The G4 was among the first phones to offer a wider aperture at f/1.8, and LG started marketing the concept of low-light photography at the time in 2015. It was too early for a dedicated night mode that would use machine learning and emulate long exposure shots, but the die had been cast. This phone was also the first to offer a manual camera mode with controls over shutter speed, ISO, white balance, exposure, and focus.
A year later, the G5 was another phone of firsts. It made an attempt at being modular, with a removable battery and compartment that could work with compatible attachments. It never went anywhere as the device was mired in uninspiring design and software issues. But it did kick things off in other ways that lasted: It was the first to offer an ultra-wide camera (12mm equivalent) with an 8MP sensor and 135-degree field of view. While not officially the first “true” dual-camera phone, I would argue it was the first that was actually usable and impactful.
While Samsung jumped aboard that train with the Galaxy S8 in 2017, LG opted to take its manual photo features and apply them to video at the same time. It prioritized audio recording, using excellent mics to capture better audio than other contemporary phones at the time. Manual video also allowed you to record footage in 24fps with full control over composition. It marked the first time such a measure of control applied to shooting video on a phone without resorting to a third-party app. Plus, you could shoot in 4K at various resolutions, pioneering another staple feature.
You could even capture photos in RAW — something the iPhone wouldn’t allow natively until 2020. And even better, you could use both lenses in Manual mode, a feature Samsung took years to finally implement in its devices.
LG would double down on these features in the V30, adding LUTs to video footage to give it a different feel through a feature called Cine Video. This completed a steady run of pushing the needle forward to change how, when, and where users could capture images.
Even at its peak, LG was fighting an uphill battle. And it wasn’t solely camera performance that necessarily painted it into a corner, but it did play a part.
One of LG’s long-standing issues was its seeming inability to improve the software on its phones. LG UX wasn’t the best of Android overlays, and while boot loop issues that plagued it in the past may have been largely gone in subsequent years, the devices weren’t offering anything dramatically different.
The LG G7 One was an exception as an Android One device that looked and felt like stock Android. And as LG initially nudged the industry forward with onscreen navigation buttons, it wasn’t able to parlay that into a lasting impression. Samsung did it soon after, and that’s what finally stuck.
The V40 pioneered the triple-camera array, albeit too late to stand out among the pack. The problem was that the software wasn’t good enough to help produce better photos. Google had software computation, Samsung had decent output, Huawei had outstanding performance, and OnePlus had improving quality. Tighter competition and less of a differentiating hook continued to push LG to the side.
In an era where camera performance and image quality figured so prominently as a selling point for high-end and mid-range handsets, LG struggled to make its own case. It stopped being the first to do things and followed trends instead. Its attempt at artificial intelligence input for its camera array never amounted to much in the way of innovative prowess.
That failure is particularly unfortunate because it’s the kind of thing that forces the industry to keep doing things better, especially in ways that make people better mobile shooters.
Standing Out in the Long Run
In the future, dual-screen, wing-style phones, and even rollable concepts will all have LG’s aura on them — the company looked to unveil a rollable concept after mentioning it at CES this year. There may, or may have not, been some sort of wacky idea around phone cameras in the engineering pipeline at the company’s facilities in South Korea. We’ll never know.
What we do know is that LG’s absence is a loss for the industry, particularly in markets where alternatives to Samsung and the iPhone are always good to have. It is even more so for mobile photography in North America, where the two biggest brands aren’t necessarily the ones showing the way on what’s possible with a smartphone camera.
As a professional photographer, you can imagine my surprise when I found that my favorite iPhone (possibly ever) was not the one with the best camera. In fact, the phone I am talking about the rarely-mentioned iPhone 12 Mini.
After taking the year off from photoshoots (due to the pandemic), I started up production again in the middle of February. Between the increased knowledge of the virus and my crew and I being vaccinated, I felt that it was time to come together and create again. This means creative calls with the art teams from ad agencies, countless emails, bids, and correspondence of the shoot details, not to mention the rest of life as it emerges from the year-long slumber.
It just so happened that as all of these aspects of the photography industry were re-emerging, Apple reached out and asked if I was interested in checking out the iPhone Mini. At first, I was a bit hesitant, as the Pro Max (first the 11 and now the 12) has been my way of life for the last couple of years. However, I love everything tech and agreed to give the Mini a shot.
Before getting the phone, I had a quick read over the reviews and press material, looked at the photos, and made a preliminary conclusion that the phone was actually not all that “mini” really, and thought it may be more of marketing hype to call it so. I have always wanted a smaller phone, but to really hit that sweet spot, this dream phone would have to have so little a footprint that it could be relatively forgotten about when in my pocket. Whether or not this was possible remained to be seen. I requested a Black phone as a bit of a throwback to my iPhone 4s (favorite iPhone ever) and decided that I would rock the Mini without a case, as I have always enjoyed the iPhone aesthetics.
A couple of days later, the box from Cupertino arrived with my iPhone 12 Mini in it and I eagerly opened it hoping for some kind of magic. The phone’s box itself didn’t seem all that small, and I worried that my suspicions of it not really being “special” due to its size were real…
And then I opened the phone box and saw it.
To be honest, I actually had a gleeful chuckle upon first holding the Mini. I hadn’t even powered it up and I already was in love with the thing. I did what probably every person that has held the Mini does first, put it in my pocket and walked around the room to see if I could even tell I had a phone in my pocket: I couldn’t. To be honest, a wallet and car keys are more noticeable than the Mini when walking around. Finally after doing my runway walks around the living room, it was time to power the thing on.
The function and feel of the phone are like any other iPhone 12 out there. The screen actually feels huge for such a physically small footprint. However, one thing that I immediately noticed and enjoyed was that I could reach the entire screen (all four corners while holding it in one hand). The size is perfect. I decided right then and there that I would use it as my “daily driver” for the upcoming productions and see how it held up.
As negotiations progressed and I had to enter into legal contracts (NDA’s) for some of the productions, I used the camera on the Mini to photograph the pages and email them to the client on the fly. It performed perfectly. While the iPhone 12 Pro Max has the best camera I have ever used on a smartphone, the Mini’s camera is no slouch. It is enough to grab good snapshots and document life along the way. However, this is one area where I also think the Mini stands out as the phone to help photographers relax.
When I take my 12 Pro Max out, I want to use the camera to create and while it is fun and a mega-capable camera, I have found myself from time to time neglecting to take a camera out in place of the phone. With the Mini, this is not the case. In many ways, it has actually led to me taking my camera out more for walks and hikes.
On set, I actually kept the phone in my pocket for most of the photoshoots. Where I would usually take my phone out and keep it on the cart that holds my camera or hand it to my assistant, which was not necessary for the Mini. However, at two of the recent sets, I took out the phone to check on something and was immediately asked by the models from one shoot and celebrity from the other what phone I was using. People were genuinely intrigued to see what the phone was, so uncommon these days it is to see a phone this petite.
The first, which I touched on earlier, is that people cannot really tell how small it is by the photos or videos of it. You really have to hold it to understand how much smaller it is than what has become the average for smartphones.
This leads to the next factor: the pandemic has limited people’s ability to go to the Apple store and actually hold one. It is a perfect combination, along with the pervasive idea that a big phone is necessary, that has been tough to witness since getting it as I have really fallen for this phone — and I am not alone.
I knew that my friend Ted Forbes had one coming his way as well. Not wanting to affect his reaction, I asked objectively what he thought about the Mini without hinting my personal feelings. With a slight reluctance and excitement in his voice, he said: “To be honest, I love this thing.”
We went through and talked about our thoughts and found that he shared in common with me all the same reasons I was falling for it. Most of all was that it was the first phone in years where we could breathe easier and feel like we should walk with our cameras again. While we both love our iPhone 12 Pro Max phones, we find that we love the Mini even more. It really is a shame so few people are giving it the chance it deserves.
When I die I will no longer have active control over my archive. My will will outline that my negatives are left to any archive that may want them — depending on whether my career looks anything like I’d want it to, this may be one or two, or none. The main responsibility falls to me to do what I can while alive if I’m to enjoy being represented in the photography community by work that legitimizes me.
This means actively working to produce the best images possible while in the field, and on curating and presenting my work in a way that offers people something tangible, something they are hopefully not likely to send to a landfill.
Digital files are as durable as the systems they exist on. I don’t think there is yet an ideal solution for digital file management, which is one of the reasons I use film. This is its own discussion, but I do doubt that there are many people willing to trawl through hard drives of work doing the same thing that you hear about with families discovering shoeboxes/folders full of negatives and prints.
The distinction between those negatives and prints is significant. Just as I wouldn’t expect someone to sort through many digital files, I also wouldn’t want them to have to sort through my negatives. If I leave prints behind, then that is a clearer indicator that my authorial voice was involved and that their survival and storage indicate that in some way they represent something I am happy with.
Individual prints, or better yet publications, can be stored in more ways and places than a digital file. JPEGs on a hard drive or in a cloud are copies of copies, and presenting any of these with different screen settings or even print settings, without my input, will not be my vision. A darkroom print made by me, will not be replicated by anyone else. A digital print proofed and specified by me may be easier to replicate, but still will not really be “authentic”.
Most importantly, I can consider my physical prints “backed up” in many forms, and in many places, with a more secure feeling than a digital file. A USB in a sealed vault can still fail, whereas we still have documents dating back to the middle ages, ink still legible. If I have a successful print run and copies end up owned by many people, stored in many ways, then that one image has a better chance of survival long term than any digital solution.
Those same physical prints are of a quality that can be rescanned, reprinted, and even photocopied, which, while not ideal while I’m looking to profit from them, is still a means by which they may extend outwards for future enjoyment.
While the originals may no longer exist there is actually a sizeable amount of work that did seem to survive, in the form of the books and prints he had sold over the years. Certainly they aren’t original but they are unmistakably his work, out in the world, continuing onwards even when their master copy is in ashes. This sort of story is very motivating to me to get as much printed as possible and do what I can to sell, or even gift to friends, just to get them off of my negatives and out of my house. Knowing they are in filing cabinets, behind glass on walls, it’s more than an ego statement, it’s the solution to the existentialist issue of survival.
When having this conversation in the past with my peers, I’ve sometimes brought up the idea of simply destroying my negatives upon my death. This would mean that all that exists of my work is exactly what I’ve printed and put out into the world, not much more. I think this can be misunderstood — this isn’t some grand dramatic statement, but a means of restricting which parts of my legacy people can access.
I understand that in some situations where an archive of a photographer’s work has been “discovered,” the result is the publication of work based on different interpretations, as different people own the negatives and have different opinions as to the direction the legacy of a stranger to them ought to go in.
Destroying my negatives only makes sense if I’m able to maintain the quantity of prints that I’d like to. I’ve spent some time in lockdown donating some older work to libraries and friends in order to make space for my emerging projects. These are usually well-received, and it’s nice to know I am represented in those spaces. In making sure that this work shows me at my best, I am comfortable that my vision exists without the need for external control.
Once published, my work has escaped my orbit. I prefer for this to happen by my choice and in the way that I intend. I know that on the Internet there are some truly awful images attached to my name, early work which I wouldn’t consider publishing today. But there is also quality, and the harder I work the better that quality becomes, outweighing that early work which I hope is recognized for what it is.
Anything I don’t manage to print or publish by the time I die and lose that control I hope falls to the hands of someone willing to actually learn about the context the work was created in, rather than simply judging the images by aesthetic merit alone.
It’s an odd topic to discuss; after all, once I’m dead I probably won’t care about what happens to my legacy. The aspect of this that matters while I’m alive is that my photographs existing as physical artifacts allow me to use them in a way that photographers who exist only digitally cannot. I carry a selection of my prints, I frequently trade with other like-minded photographers, and I enjoy that community. Having spent a long time existing socially on a screen during the events of the last year while in a state of lockdown and isolation I cherish what those physical prints offer even more – they are their own thing, not a portal to all digital mediums.
There’s something very peaceful about having a photograph as its own thing, unchanging, a fixed point. I’d encourage everyone to feel that about their work – there are plenty of options for high-quality printing at affordable rates. Even if it’s just for you to own and enjoy, not to sell or give away, it will not be anything other than that photograph, and I think that can be enough.
About the author: Simon King is a London-based photographer and photojournalist, currently working on a number of long-term documentary and street photography projects. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can follow his work through his documentary collective, The New Exit Photography Group, and on Instagram.
Since the Alpha 1 made its way into the hands of YouTubers and reviewers, a flurry of videos has been released that compare Sony’s flagship against the Canon EOS R5. But is this really a comparison that we should be making?
Last week, Gordan Laing published a short 8-minute video where he shows side-by-side examples of the Alpha 1’s image quality next to the Canon EOS R5. Since both of these cameras are pretty new and both have similar megapixel resolutions, I can see why this comparison might be made, and actually encourage such a comparison.
Laing was generous enough to share the following three image examples of that image quality for your reference. :
You can see Laing’s full review with even more image samples here.
I think it’s fair to question how similarly-sized sensors compare to one another, so image quality and ISO tests make complete sense. I think the same could be done for a video test that compares the quality of the 8K.
But comparisons that throw the cameras against each other for in the field use case scenarios feel weird to me.
Around the same time Laing shared his video, Jared Polin published his that more broadly compares the two cameras, stating that the Alpha 1 is overhyped and overpriced when compared to the EOS R5 (written in his title and stated in his conclusion).
More recently, Tony Northrup published a video directly comparing the Alpha 1 and the R5 in portraits, sports, and wildlife.
I am not particularly focused on the results of the test nor the conclusions stated by either Northrup or Polin, but more wanted to point out that comparing the cameras to one another is a continued trend.
Whether or not comparisons are finding one better than the other is, to me, irrelevant. Polin says in his video that he intends to do comparisons like this because his audience is curious, and that’s fair. However, to me, I think it is important to properly frame the cameras before jumping ahead and answering that question.
Yes, general consumers are going to want to compare the EOS R5 and the Z7 II against the Sony Alpha 1 because all of these cameras are currently the latest and greatest that each company offers, so it’s natural to ask which is better. But it’s also the responsibility of journalists to remind readers and viewers that the EOS R5 was never meant to compete against a camera like the Alpha 1 (or vice versa) and even if it does well or poorly, comparing them without really thinking about product lines feels like missing a big step.
The R5 is not going to be the camera compared to the Alpha 1 in a year’s time. Both Canon and Nikon are expected to release their own versions of a high-end action photographer’s camera soon and when that happens, looking back at these comparisons of the R5 versus the Alpha 1 is going to seem very misplaced.
Canon isn’t calling the EOS R5 its flagship mirrorless camera while Sony has dubbed the Alpha 1 as such, a first for a company that has been coy about never calling any of its cameras by that name in the past. The R5, like the 5D series before it, is not supposed to be top-of-the-line. The “5” series was always good quality, but a mix of consumer and “pro” features.
The 5D Mark IV was never compared to the Nikon D6 and the D850 was never compared to the 1DX Mark III, which is why repeated tests asking if or how the Alpha 1 beats the R5 or vice versa seem like they’re asking the wrong questions.
I get it: comparing camera tech is fun and exciting and I’m not trying to take that away from anyone. I’m just asking everyone to remember that these camera lines aren’t going to be the ones that should really be compared once all the companies in the game have fully fleshed out their offerings. Sure, that takes patience and patience isn’t exciting, but I thought this message should be out there nonetheless.
The Sony Alpha 1 is undoubtedly impressive. It’s the culmination of years of technology advancements across multiple camera lines that have converged into a single, outrageously powerful capture device. It also is a return to the idea that the best camera a company can make is not for the masses.
Time was, the most advanced camera that a company could develop was not one that would be for everyone. Back in the DSLR age, the Canon 1D and Nikon D1 (and other single-digit D series cameras) lines were cameras that showed the most of what could be done in technology to support the most high-end, discerning, working pros. And for the most part, that meant sports, wildlife photographers, journalists, and some studio photographers who preferred the larger, boxier form factor. That also meant at the same time that they were not the cameras for many professional photographers.
In the case of Canon, that’s what the 5D series was for. It filled that gap.
These top tier devices were so capable that their prices would be well beyond the average person and even many professional shooters. It wasn’t unheard of to expect to pay between $6,000 and $10,000 for one of these cameras. That was the norm. And that was ok because what those cameras excelled at were not made for nearly anyone. The average photographer did not need 10+ frames per second and robust weather sealing of those DSLRs, for example (and arguably most still do not).
However, as the market has gotten more compressed and the only camera segment that has remained somewhat constant is that of the higher-end, interchangeable lens body, manufacturers making mirrorless bodies have generally shied away from blowing the doors off the high-price cameras in lieu of trying to maintain or even increase sales volume.
While the Sony a9 and a9 II both touch on the idea of a pro-level mirrorless, the Alpha 1 is the first mirrorless camera to truly stand apart: this is a professional’s camera and not even a camera for most professionals. It is as niche as niche can be, and most who watched the live stream today won’t purchase it because they have absolutely no need for what it can do.
What wonders could be bestowed upon us if we were willing to pay for the technological creativity that would improve our creativity as we know it? We who call ourselves true professionals should demand true professional cameras with all the bells and whistles. Using prosumer equipment may work for vloggers and Instagram “influencers,” where less resolution is needed (and may actually be beneficial). However, isn’t it time we saw a flagship platform that elevated the art, inspired us, and opened our eyes the way that the legends of the past once did?
Many in the comments understandably took offense to what he says here. However, Sony has done just what Bunting asked for. The company has made that truly professional camera with all the bells and whistles that would actually hurt the productivity of many vloggers and influencers and even many working professionals because it’s just too much camera. It might hurt to hear it, but this isn’t a camera for the majority of us.
The Sony Alpha 1 is a return to a true “pyramid” structure of devices. At the very top is the premium, most expensive, most powerful device a company can make that really only a few thousand people around the world have any need for. Below that is the a7R IV and the a9 II: cameras that are incredible in what they can achieve and still outperform much of what many successful photographers will need. Below that, the a7 III and the a7c, and so on down the pyramid.
The Alpha 1 is designed to show us the absolute best so that consumers have faith in a brand, and who will seek the product further down the pyramid that is best suited to them. It really makes no sense to sell the top of the line camera to the masses like Canon and Nikon currently do, so I fully expect both of them to come out with mirrorless cameras that exceed what the EOS R5 and the Z7 II both do. If we don’t have a camera like the Alpha 1, we don’t get to see what else is possible. The next great innovation from Canon or Nikon only comes because each of these companies keep pushing each other. We got the Sony Alpha 1 because the EOS R5 exists, and so on, and so forth.
So for those who are complaining that the Sony Alpha 1 is too expensive, I’m sorry: it’s not. It’s priced exactly where it has to be, and if you think that’s too much to ask, then it isn’t for you.