28 January Q&A answers, part III

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Continued after the jump from part II

Kai: Is there still a genre of photography (except wedding) where one can earn a living? 🙂
Depends very much on your definition of ‘a living’. Even wedding isn’t great these days. But I suspect if you’re in the right part of the world (especially now given centralisation of marketing etc) – you can probably still make a very decent income shooting commercially. You’d have to be at the absolute top of your game, though. There’s probably something still possible in fine art if you know the right gallerists and they’re willing to promote you. Education has become tough to impossible because of the sheer number of people doing it, and the difficulty in proving you’ve got differentiating quality. There might still be money in youtube, but to get traffic on photography-related content it’s basically sensationalist clickbait. If we’re going to go down the road of moral decline, there’s also paparazzi, I suppose…

Hakan Lindgren: I might have asked you before, but I’ll try again as this subject still puzzles me. What should I do to achieve natural skin colours in my portraits? I have a Spyder Color Checker and make a manual white balance reading before I shoot, but the skin colours are still often slightly wrong.

Shooting black & white is nice, but editors of newspapers/magazines usually prefer colour portraits.
Most cameras are not calibrated to neutral – so if you have a neutral monitor and correct WB, then you’re going to be seeing the bias (‘house color’) dialled in by the manufacturer to make colors pleasing (but not accurate). Workflow II and III were developed for this purpose; use the included profiles III if you have one of the cameras that I have calibrated to neutral; use II if you need to make your own profile. I can also make you a custom profile if you can supply certain files (there is of course a fee for this). As far as I know – the only cameras that are individually calibrated to neutral/accurate absolute are the Hasselblads. Everything else is at best batch calibrated, and there are variances in the color filter array which can obviously cause shifts in color.

Terry B: Ming, over the whole of your photographic career (not just professional) when you you feel you were happiest, and why?
This may well be the most difficult question I’ve ever been asked. What is happy? Satisfied, pleased with the outcome…does not necessarily mean happy. Happiness almost implies a sense of complacency in that nothing more can be done to improve the outcome…but it is in the continual practice and belief that you can do better that we feel that sense of accomplishment at the result. Basically: no challenge, no reward. But challenge implies some degree of dissatisfaction, if not downright unhappiness. Let me take a step back and answer you tangentially: I’m happiest when I feel I’ve created something tangible. Not every photograph is a creation, just as not every object is a creation. Creation implies brining a sense of originality and adding something one’s own vision into the output.

Frank P: 1. Since a large part of your audience is in the USA or Europe, please share some links to your favorite Asian photographers doing interesting work that most of us are unaware of. Maybe something other than street work, which has run its course IMHO.

2. Which will be the next camera company to exit the marketplace?

3. What is your impression of the still unseen Zeiss ZX1 with its modified Android OS? Will an Asian camera company ever open up it’s UI? For that matter will they ever hire good UI designers at least once!?

4. Please share any “back of napkin” sketches of cameras you’d like to see. I have ideas too, I think having an open UI would be fantastic, we could share or sell our own versions…. imagine buttons with programable text, etc.

5. Why is it that Canikony can make an expensive pro camera for a few thousand sports photographers and not make a decent but reasonable small pancake lens for few hundred thousand serious amateur photographers?
1. Drawing a bit of a blank here if you exclude documentary type work…for some reason Asians tend to be better at this than other fields, or perhaps it’s just the limits of who I’ve seen.
2. Answered in a previous question
3. That’s three questions. Impossible to make a meaningful impression of something I haven’t seen yet, but my biggest question is why they didn’t make the lenses interchangeable given they already have the lineup/technology. I’d also be concerned about usability and speed given it has a fairly general purpose OS which means no dedicated FGPAs for image processing. All in all, success is going to depend on how fluid and seamless the experience is, as well as how easy it is to operate the editing portion of the UI on that limited size screen. If it’s unworkable, a large portion of the camera’s attraction goes out of the window entirely. I’d also be worried about longevity of that bent LCD.
3a. As for Open source UI? Probably not, because being on the other side of customer service – even with a closed UI, the amount of handholding that has to be done is just too much. People don’t read the manual but expect that the price of the camera doesn’t just include technical support, but photographic handholding and ego stroking. UI design: this is very much chicken and egg. Bigger market = more budget for UI/UX, but worse UI/UX = smaller market since less people buy. There was a revised UI on the cards for the next generation Hasselblad, but I have no idea how much of that will be implemented.
4. Too many, and honestly, there are ideas that might still happen so I’m keeping the IP under wraps for now. The one that I wanted to do but opportunity has passed would be much like an X1D, but with interchangeable mounts made to OEM tolerances and electronic communication, plus the kind of LCD magnifier Sigma uses against an iPhone-quality screen instead of an EVF. Not small, but very versatile. We get ‘close enough’ to this now, I think.

Steve: How does a photographer in 2020 market themselves to potential clients? Ive found direct emailing gets ignored, word of mouth has got me some clients, but finding more is a real challenge here in the UK.
I think it’s probably market-specific to a degree, but it’s still direct referral. This is one of the reasons the pro market is increasingly difficult: the incumbent photogs are defending their shrinking turf, and the incoming people need to have access to be decision makers. I have typically dealt with companies where one person makes the decision; smaller jobs overall but without the bureaucracy and decision-making chain to keep happy. Moreover, with my experience beyond just photography, I find I have a lot more in common with the owner/founder usually than the marketing department…

Catpro: Will there be more updates to the CAMERAPEDIA section?
No. That and reviews were the biggest generators of entitled, demanding, unobjective poorly written emails from fanboys looking to justify their own choices. Since stopping both, I’ve woken up to a much more pleasant inbox. Sorry, but some people just can’t behave themselves…

Jules: would like to know once and for all if Zeiss Milvus and Otus are really that incredible and worth the price (e.g. Milvus 35mm 1.4). Specially since Z lens arrived. Thanks
Previously answered in part II

Tarmo: What have you learned from watch design that you can apply in your photography?
It’s actually the reverse: things I’ve learned about composition and the way people see in two dimensions can be applied to spatial compositions in three dimensions. Everything is still fundamentally texture, color, light/luminosity/contrast etc. There are some design elements I prefer not to use now because they don’t photograph well from a reflection management standpoint (e.g. convex bezels) but those are relatively minor considerations and if the design works better with it, I’ll still use it. I think if I’d started out designing first there’d be more flow in the opposite direction.

Marian K: You always seem to strive for using the most optically „perfect“ lenses. What is your opinion on older designs that are not technically and optically up to scratch? Do you see just flaws or do you see character in the way these lenses render?
Depends very much if they suit your vision or not – if they do, great; if they don’t, then the qualities of the tool certainly shouldn’t distract from the idea the image is intended to portray. Personally, my tastes lean towards much cleaner images so I tend to go with the most transparent lenses I can find that fit size/weight/cost considerations etc. That said, modern lenses are not without flaws too: every optical design is a compromise of sorts.

Jui Hsiang: hi Ming Thein, i have been visiting a few Filmmaking websites for the past two years. i was wondering, what in your opinion is the difference between Cinema lenses and Photography lenses as many photography lenses, e.g. Canon EF lenses are being used for Filmmaking as the EF mount has been adopted by certain Cinema Camera manufacturers. i observed that some Cinema lenses from Cooke and Leica and Zeiss cost in the tens of thousands. is there something significantly different in their design and construction that allows them to command such prices? also, would you have any experience with them and any comments about them – the most affordable of them (brand name Cinema lenses) would probably come from Canon and can also presumably be used for photography. besides doing photography, i have picked up doing video as a hobby and have noticed a convergence of some of the equipment.
‘Proper’ cine lenses were historically engineered for low focus breathing, longer focus throw for precise pulls, particular rendering qualities that are consistent across multiple lenses in the range etc. There are also particular mechanical qualities such as uniform sized housings for balancing on steadicam rigs and working with the same focus gear sets to minimise reset time. These days – modern stills glass is very nearly as good. And to be honest, most people cannot tell the difference visually…

Robin Nicol: Has Robin Wong quietly ridden off into the sunset?
He’s focusing more on youtube/video content now.

Mark Rustad: I thinking of writing an essay entitled “My Last Camera”. If it ran to book length, I was musing that “Brother Camera, Sister Lens: GAS in the Rear View Mirror” might work. Someday, hopefully many healthy years from now, your own feet will overlook a similar precipice. If you knew that 2020 would be the last year you could buy a FF DSLR or Mirrorless Camera and any 3 lenses what would you reach for. Further, where might your travel for two months and what types of images might you hope to capture that would best express who you were before…..
I thin it would be a very, very short book for me! At any given point, the equipment I own is and has always been what I need now and for the foreseeable future to make the work I want – else I wouldn’t have bought it in the first place. I use a Z7 body, 24-70/4 or 24-120/4 – either is fine; an 85/1.8S and an 85/2.8 PCE for my watch work. I don’t feel in any way the hardware is the creative limitation (and it has not been for some time), and I certainly don’t invest into a system in the hope that it will eventually give me what I want with some future magic release. So…I have what I need now, and I’m making the images I want already (see any of the nearly thousand photoessays I’ve posted here) – in short: I’ve already jumped off that precipice 🙂


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  1. Ming, you’re absolutely right that Corporate marketing and event photography are the last bastion outside of Weddings. The company I work for (~25,000 employees) still uses the same photographer and videographer for all our global internal and external events. The trick is getting those contracts. I think she’s been on contract with us for 20+ years.

    • Even then, I see a lot of this is now going in-house to marketing team or enthusiast staff drafted to provide ad hoc (and unpaid) services…one of my previous companies was really bad (exploitative?) at this.

  2. Dom Dibble says:

    Your reference to the answer on Otus lenses – shouldn’t that link to part II, not part I?

  3. Håkan Lindgren says:

    Dear Ming,
    Thank you for the reply! Is the Fuji X-T3 included in Workflow III?

  4. Mark Rustad says:

    MT. Thank you for the courtesy of a reply, both to my own musings, as well as the inquiries of others. I appreciate the “constancy” to be found both in your ever improving art and the clear, concise prose you employ to convey your sentiments and the varied rationales you apply to a wide range of issues within your now voluminous photo and blog postings. Your response (which echo’s of your earlier work related to “sufficiency”), therefore, though anticipated, is quite comforting–not because you do not push boundaries but precisely because those you have set are often inspirational to a mind such as my own. As Montaigne notes, “Every movement reveals us, but our judgments do so the best”. To which I would add “and is not each image we capture and create a reflection of our judgement”?Perhaps in my case it is. Thank you for helping this observer attempt to try and improve his judgement. Respect, M


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