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  • Andrew JK Tan

Insights on photographing a Worse Case Lifestyle Themed shoot

Now what is a worse case lifestyle shoot ?

Well , it is one where I faced all the conditions listed below at almost every shoot location:

1. tripod can't be used due mainly to space constraints

2. no additional light sources , I can only use what the video crew has setup

3. cannot delay and/or interfere with video crew's workflow / filming priority

4. client does not prefer too much staging of Passion Ambassador (subject)

5. shoot locations may have super low light conditions

6. shoot locations (especially indoor locations) can be super cramp

7. shoot locations can have very high dynamic range lighting conditions

8. ocassionally no clear line of sight to photograph subject

9. extreme time constraint , as the window to shoot is dependent on filming workflow

10. photography not allowed when audio is being recorded during filming (silence on set)

11. most of the time photography is done in parallel to ensure no delays to filming schedule

In summary , produce the images required with just a DSLR with a lens attached. No flash , no tripod , no other help and don't disrupt filming.

In this blog , I am going to share behind-the-scenes images , my final images and my insights on how I overcame the many constraints that I had to face while photographing what is known as Pick-Up Shots of the subject.

Pick-Up shots in this case is about photographing appropriate scenes of the subject during filming with no disruptions.

Subject - Passion Ambassador : Ho Kun XIAN

Singapore's #1 Professional Gamer , Street Fighter Champion.

He is sponsored by RAZR , Twitch , Red Bull and many others.

Video crew in the process of setting up lights to film XIAN our Pro Gamer as he plays on his PlayStation Console which was hooked up to the large screen LCD TV monitor

Even with multiple lights , I had to use ISO2000 as I wanted to use a fast enough shutter speed of 1/250s to allow me to freeze the action & minimise motion blur from shake at the long focal lengths when I zoom in.

Some results from this scene. In the 1st shot , I tried to show how fast his fingers were moving as he controlled his fighter and executed the fighting combinations using the PS console.

Shutter Speed was at 1/20s , shot @60mm focal length , hand-held of course.

Tip 1: shoot off burst shots to increase success rate of face being tack sharp and only fingers / hands with motion blur when shooting at very low shutter speeds.

Tip 2: shooting in RAW would be good for extreme lighting conditions but in this case I shot in JPEG FINE* to save post production time , so I normally do a 2 shots bracket to ensure I "nailed" the exposure

XIAN practicing at home which was a very simple 1 room HDB flat which had serious space constraints for both videography & photography.

I wanted to capture XIAN with his facial features and the computer game that he was practicing on. I also wanted to avoid all the distractions in the background.

So the decision was to shoot at 35mm focal length , a wide open aperture and as close as possible to XIAN together with a view of the screen in the composition. The window & door opening provided the natural lighting which I felt created a very interesting portrait. I did not pose him , when I was in position , I shot off a few shots and waited for the moment which resulted in the shot below.

Tip 3: I prepare myself for full composition flexibility by bringing lenses that provide me focal length capabilities from 20mm to 400mm , in addition I used a 2 body setup & Zoom capability on at least 1 DSLR to ensure speed and not miss any key moments.

One of the challenges was the fact that I did not have too much flexibility to pose XIAN , the Director of the film crew was the one that did the posing and decided on the location.

I had to try my best to capture "PICK-UP" shots that were reasonably appealing and in-line with the video concept & story of the Director (by guessing & eavesdropping on director's requirements when he communicates with his crew.

Tip 4: Shooting RAW AND with good exposure accuracy are keys to

ensuring sufficient shadow & highlights recovery.

For the shot directly below due to strong backlighting, even if I used my flash it would not have worked as I had shoot from a distance and not block the video camera's line of sight.

Tip 5: Learn & use Digital Blending skills (which is a key strength with digital photography) when the RAW file dynamic range bandwidth is insufficient. Learning how to shoot multiple shots with bracketing and "zero" misalignment between shots (to ensure easy & fast blending) is key.

Sure, some of you will say that the image below could be captured with proper strobe/flash technique .... yes, absolutely true but I had the constraint of not being able to use flash. Almost all the time I had to photograph at same time the crew was filming so as not disrupt the overall scheduling and cause delays.

At Maxwell market filming XIAN and friends having a meal. As you can see the crew did not even set up lights , so I had to go along with ambient light too.

For me using Bracketing & Blending techniques were the way to go for me to produce the shots I wanted.

Tip 6: Even if RAW format was used , Bracketing for high dynamic range scenes becomes a very important and useful back-up just in case the RAW captures did not capture all the data needed. Bracketing 3 stops apart was needed to get sufficient dynamic range data for the stall signboards

The last few images that I wanted to share in this blog was to show the importance of the photographer having alternatives & hand-held capabilities of capturing scenes below with minimal distortion , without a tripod and just ambient light.

Tip 7: Knowing your DSLR's capabilities & using them appropriately is critical as it impacts greatly what the photographer can produce and the overall quality level of images.

I am very fortunate that my workhorse and reference DSLR the Nikon D850 is able to capture & produce the image files that I needed & most importantly with the quality required given all the constraints that I had faced.

I had to

- shoot fast (when bracketing hand-held with minimal to zero mis-alingment between shots)

- shoot with high ISOs

- AF in very low light

- handle extreme dynamic range scenes

- and do it all with JPEG FINE* which saves me a ton of time during post production.

Yes, the Nikon D850 to me is the ultimate all-rounder DSLR in my arsenal.

Location : Pub called Nineteen80 - a really cool place for drinks and relaxing with some 80's music , location reminded me of the movie "Real Player One".

Hope you enjoyed the insights and found them useful as this latest sharing is definitely different from my other blogs with no real "wow" shots to blow the reader away. This is real "work" for me as a photographer.

My photography experience and applying what I have learnt from photographing other genres helps me greatly. In addition sufficient post processing capability especially digital blending skills and using the right photography hardware helps me to produce the images required and gets me through the toughest shoots.

So my sincere advice to all photographers out there:

1. don't just stick to one genre , photograph more genres.

2. Practice photography under worse-case conditions.

3. Learn the specific skill sets needed for a particular genre

4. Apply and add to your own skillsets, it can only help make you a better photographer.

Till the next blog , happy learning , always remember - "Get out of you Comfort Zone" to learn more.



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