Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese: Tangled Up in Tanner

On a scale of one to ten, I’m probably about a 6.5 when it comes to Bob Dylan. Define one as “Dylan is the single most visible/still living manifestation of hyper-steroidal Boomer nostalgia and must be destroyed,” ten as the level of obsessiveness practiced by the singer-songwriter’s personal scourge A.J. Weberman, who literally coined the term “Dylanology” and famously dug through Robert Zimmerman’s trash for clues. Dylan wasn’t having it; in Weberman’s indelible telling: I’d agreed not to hassle Dylan anymore, but I was a publicity-hungry motherfucker… I went to MacDougal Street, and Dylan’s wife comes out and starts screaming […]

Cameo Chart & Rail System

At Cine Gear Expo 2019, AbelCine was demoing their new Cameo Chart & Rail system. The chart was originally released back in 2013, but what is new, is the chart system which is driven by motors to move the chart forwards and backwards with an accurate distance measurement displayed on an iPad to accurately calibrate … Continued

The post Cameo Chart & Rail System appeared first on Newsshooter.

Writing for TV vs. Film: ‘Mad Men’ Scribe Shares Her Secret

‘Mad Men’ writer Semi Chellas tries her hand at directing with ‘American Woman,’ which premiered at Tribeca.

Everybody knows the basics: On February 4, 1974, Patty Hearst was kidnapped. She spent weeks blindfolded in a closet. Her captors, who called themselves the Symbionese Liberation Army, threatened to kill her if she didn’t submit to their doctrine. Months later, she would help the SLA rob the Hibernia Bank in San Francisco, wearing a beret and toting a machine gun.

Few, however, are familiar with what happened behind the scenes. This is the subject of Mad Men writer Semi Chellas’s directing debut and Tribeca premiere, American Woman.

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Cine Gear 2019: Shot On Cooke. “A Motion Gallery”

If you are a painter and you want to learn from the Masters you have to study those who came before you. Cinema is no different. It is an art, albeit a very technical art form, and to build upon the shoulders of those who came before you than you need to have seen their work. With Cooke’s new #ShotOnCooke online video gallery directors, cinematographers, and everyone really can learn the characteristics of Cooke Optics.

The brainchild of Cooke’s Director of Sales – Europe, Carey Duffy, #ShotOnCooke has been designed as an insightful, educational resource presenting professional content created with Cooke lenses from around the world, championing great cinematography and highlighting interesting case studies. The website is not a simple collection of film trailers, it goes far beyond the surface visuals and offers a unique opportunity for education, by showing the lenses in the different context they are used and the technical information needed to deconstruct the shot for yourself.


#ShotOnCooke is broken down into five main Genres: Commerical, Feature Film, Music Promo, Short Film, and Television. Each genre has sub-genres based on the Cooke lens used like Cooke 5/I, Anamorphic/I, Anamorphic/I Full Frame Plus, Anamorphic/I SF, Mini S4/I,  New Panchro Classis /I, S4/I, S7/I, and Vintage Speed Panchro.  This is helpfCookeul because you can search specifics reducing the amount of time looking for the lens or example you want to see.

If you would like to put forward an example of a production of your own or recommend one of a colleague or client for consideration please email


The post Cine Gear 2019: Shot On Cooke. “A Motion Gallery” appeared first on ProVideo Coalition.

Facebook Responds to Photographers’ Pushback Against Nudity Ban

Facebook Responds to Photographers' Pushback Against Nudity Ban

On Wednesday, June 5th 2019, the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) announced that Facebook would reconsider its controversial policy on nude images posted to its social network. As it stands, nudity on Facebook may only be depicted in paintings or sculptures, not in photographs, artistic or otherwise.

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What’s Your Gear Backup Plan?

Our Canon C200 is our main A camera on most shoots. It’s relatively large, heavy and expensive though. We can’t afford to have two of them so we have a spare.

I recently found myself in a position that I didn’t want to be in. The camera system that I had brought to cover an event decided at the last minute to die. I use a lens adapter with this camera that had previously given me some challenges, making my camera behave weirdly, so I exchanged it a few months ago. The adapter on the camera had functioned perfectly since then, about four months ago.

At this particular shoot, I pulled my camera out of my backpack, mounted the lens adapter (Canon EF to Fujifilm X-Mount) and turned on the camera. Nothing. I double-checked that I had a charged battery (I had brought a dozen with me since I had planned on a long shoot), and the battery in the camera was freshly charged. I tried the power again. Nothing. Dead camera. I then tried removing the Canon lens and adapter and putting just the body cap on the camera body. Still dead. At that point, a million thoughts ran through my head. This was a run-and-gun shoot, and all I had was my mirrorless camera, a couple of lenses, batteries and cards and my gimbal. I hadn’t brought a backup camera. Or had I?

Straight Replacement

Ever since I’ve been shooting video for a living, I’ve always thought about a backup camera. Our A camera is the Canon C200. It’s a $7,500 digital cinema camera that, fully kitted out, can weigh as much as 25 pounds. Also, to be completely blunt, we can’t afford to own two of the C200s. The best backup plan is to always have two of the exact same pieces of gear. That way, if the worst should happen, you have a piece of gear that can seamlessly replace your main camera/microphone/light source or computer and you can continue working, finish the project and then deal with the fallout of what happened, how you might have prevented it and what your course of action is to repair or replace the item that hung you out to dry.

What’s Your Gear Backup Plan?
Me on a shoot, practicing what I preach. Note my A camera, the Canon C200 with our B camera, the Fujifilm XT-3 standing by to step in should our C200 fail.

Adequate Replacement

The next best plan of action that may be available to you is to carry a spare item. While it may not be the top of the line, unless you can afford an exact replacement for your main piece of gear, the item is competent to finish the shoot/edit/project and will get you over the finish line. It may not have all of the nice features, bells and whistles your “A” piece of gear may have, but the backup will save the day and get the job done.

For instance, our A camera is the Canon C200. Our B or replacement camera is the Fujifilm XT-3. Regardless of where I’m shooting and who I’m shooting for, whenever possible, I pack the Fujifilm XT-3 and a few Fuji lenses and some batteries. The Fujifilm is a $1,400 mirrorless camera and it doesn’t shoot the same Cinema RAW Light that the C200 does. It doesn’t have XLR audio inputs, built-in ND filters and quite as good of a picture. If I’m shooting an interview or some b-roll though, the XT-3 is generally good enough to pinch hit for the C200. It wouldn’t look as impressive to a client as the C200, but if the C200 malfunctioned or broke, most clients would be plenty happy that I had thought to also pack the XT-3. It can do a similar job and give us a similar end result as the C200. 

What’s Your Gear Backup Plan?
Our Fujifilm XT-3 has been a reliable piece of gear up until this point. I suspect that our third-party lens adapter may have caused the malfunction.

Possible Sort-Of Replacement

In 2019, believe it or not, you might carry a possible sort-of replacement for you’re A or B camera, and that’s your phone. I carry an iPhone 8 Plus. It’s not the most state-of-the-art iPhone on the market, but it shoots acceptable-quality 4K video in decent lighting. It has no microphone inputs, but I do have a Røde Video Me-L, which could possibly capture adequate sound, depending on the situation I’m shooting in. I also have a Moment wide-angle lens, filter adapter for the Moment lens and a Zhiyun Crane M as well as a tripod holder to attach my iPhone to a tripod. I purposely bought a 256 GB model iPhone, which means even at 100 Mbps, I can capture hours and hours of 4K video with the iPhone. It’s not ideal, and it’s debatable about how professional of a setup it is, but in a pinch, it could stand in for either my A or B camera and possibly save the day if the shoot was a once-in-a-lifetime, difficult-to-repeat event.

The Size/Weight Penalty

What stung me on the shoot I described at the beginning of this blog was the size/weight penalty. I normally bring a backup camera to every shoot, and in this case, I did. My A camera, for this shoot, was the Fujifilm XT-3. The plan was to use it on our gimbal with an Atomos Shinobi SDI monitor with my Røde Video Micro atop the monitor, and I was wearing a lavaliere microphone to record my own voice as I conducted interviews. I had a wide-angle lens mounted on the Fujifilm, which would allow me to place the camera and Røde mic within a couple of feet of the talent I’d be interviewing so I could record acceptable quality images and sound.

All I had brought to the shoot was a backpack, water, sunscreen, lots of spare batteries for my XT-3 and for the Shinobi monitor, a hat and a jacket for the evening in case it became cold. What I neglected to bring was my wide-angle lens, gimbal, phone holder and second Røde Video Me-L mic for the iPhone. My backpack was already bulging and really couldn’t hold anything else, so I made a conscious decision to not approach this project with all of the support gear needed to use my B camera—my iPhone—because of the weight and size penalty.

What’s Your Gear Backup Plan?
This is the Røde Video Mic Me-L that I should have brought to the shoot so my iPhone could have recorded usable audio under breezy outdoor conditions. It was sitting at home in my audio bag, not doing me much good. Lesson learned.

Choice, Choices

I could have tried to shoot video with my iPhone alone, but knowing that the images would be jittery and not smooth, and that the audio would be unusable because it was breezy and I didn’t have a proper video mic with a windscreen, I was cornered. I failed to execute my backup plan to its full extent.

You’ll make decisions on which gear to bring to a shoot, and at times, you’ll be wrong, just as I was for this shoot. I had tested my Fujifilm XT-3 the night before to make sure all was well and it functioned perfectly, so in my mind, with a track record of the past six months, I took a calculated risk. So, to save weight and not weigh myself down for a long and hot day of walking around a huge event, I made the decision to not bring all of the gear I should have.

This was actually a great learning experience. Always bring what you need to execute your backup plan. If you have to pay the weight and size penalty by hauling around gear that adds extra weight and bulk, do it. It can be the difference between completing the shoot or coming back empty-handed. What’s your backup gear plan?

The post What’s Your Gear Backup Plan? appeared first on HD Video Pro.

Coincidences in Movies and Television are a Disaster…Unless…

Coincidences in movies and television can take you out of the story or leave you questioning the internal logic of events. So how can you use these random story beats to your advantage?

I think we all can agree that telling a fictional story requires a lot of prep work and planning. You want to make sure every aspect of your screenplay withstands audience scrutiny and makes it through the system to be greenlit and reach as many screens as possible.

If you’ve been writing screenplays or pilots for long enough, you’ve probably heard the “rule” about coincidences. Every story gets one, but the rest of the beats need to be earned. Screenwriter Anna Klassen sent out this tweet a few days ago, and it got me thinking.

Today we’re going to talk about those coincidences and how you can work them to your advantage while writing.

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Attempting to Define Street Photography

Attempting to Define Street Photography

When it comes to street photography, what counts, how would you define it, and why? Here’s a video that poses some potentially tough questions and attempts to define more abstract ideas that may have a fair amount of gray area regarding that very question.

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Costumes Beyond Blue Vests in Superstore

The NBC series Superstore playfully adds flavor through the array of costumes depicted throughout Season 4 as costume designer Alix Hester supplants dimensionality within each episode. As the seasons progressed, the understanding of the characters grows to provide depth in the clothes they wear to reflect their personalities and lives. The stand out episode entitled […]

The post Costumes Beyond Blue Vests in Superstore appeared first on Below the Line.

DJI Studio quietly releases new STORM drone

When it comes to new releases, DJI isn’t exactly known for being quiet. Unplanned leaks typically surface in various online communities a few days ahead of every official announcement. Even with speculation leading up to an event in the form of photos and product descriptions, the world’s top drone manufacturer hosts glitzy, high-end affairs for media and industry insiders to introduce its new products. The Osmo Pocket, for example, launched last December at ‘Good Morning America’s’ New York-based television studio in front of a live audience.

This is why it’s surprising that DJI chose to officially introduce a new professional-grade drone, through a provider, at Cine Gear Expo in Los Angeles. The four-day event, which took place from May 30th to June 2nd, attracted top-tier creators in the technology, entertainment, and media industries. What’s even more perplexing is that the video announcing the release of the STORM was uploaded to DJI’s YouTube channel back in January and remained under the radar until DroneDJ first discovered it.

Why has DJI been relatively silent about STORM, along with its DJI Pro service which was released last December after being available in Asia for close to two years? To start, the STORM is not for sale. The Verge recently confirmed that one company outside of China, Helinet Aviation, based in the U.S., claims to own one and is testing it out.

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On display in the Helinet booth at Cine Gear will be the DJI STORM – the X8 drone made by DJI to seamlessly carry the industry standard DJI RONIN 2 gimbal. This drone is the only one in America. Cine Gear will be your chance to see this beast in person and grab some photos! @djiglobal @djipro BOOTH B106 in the B-Tank 📸: @robgluckman_photography Helinet Aviation is the worldwide leader in aerial camera movement with solutions including Helicopter, Cinejet, Learjet, Moviehawk and Drone platforms led by world renowned Aerial Coordinator Kevin LaRosa II @k2_larosa Helinet Production Group: @k2_larosa @chad_daring @broby_thimpson @jfburton2 @aexandraalejandro @michaelfitzmaurice @fad2blk @dronepilotmike @cameronfitzmaurice @jaredslater @scherbas @bruno_04cl7 @airborneimages @bentonward @joe.kocsis @paddymoynahan @robgluckman_photography @jip_01 @steve_koster @insdangraming @tj.millard @mrsteelefpv @stingersswarm @helinetaviation @helinetmoviehawk @cinejet #philpastuhov #jasonlafargo

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How does a production company obtain access to this new-and-improved rig that can carry the heaviest, most advanced payload yet? It appears that DJI may be planning to offer the STORM for rent, packaged with the DJI Studio Custom Aerial Cinematography Service that includes a van and and professional crew. Comparable heavy-lift drones in its class, such as the xFold Dragon X12 start at $30,000.

Some STORM specs:

  • Comes equipped with eight propellers
  • Max speed: 49.7 mph (Sport mode) / 37.2 mph (GPS mode)
  • Operating temp: -10°C/14°F to 40°C/104°F
  • Flight time: 8-15 minutes
  • Max Payload: 40.8 pounds

Compared with DJI’s professional-grade Matrice 600, which starts at $5,000 and can carry a payload of around 5.9kg (13lbs), the STORM can handle up to 18.5kg (40.8lbs). This allows cinematographers to place and easily maneuver more sophisticated cameras on its DJI Ronin 2 PTZ gimbal including Arri and RED models.

U.S. representatives for DJI have not confirmed if more STORM models will be made available in the near future, stating they will have to check with Shenzen, China-based headquarters.

Ecological Destruction and Aesthetic Nightmares: Venice Art Biennale 2019

Although it starts just days before Cannes, the Venice Arts Biennale is routinely ignored by film journalists. Perhaps it’s because of the (incorrect) presumption that the yearly film festival sweeps up the important material, or perhaps it’s the weird art/film world divide. But key film figures routinely make their presence known at the Biennale: when I first attended in 2007, José Luis Guerín represented Spain with an installation-based riff on In The City of Sylvia, while Tsai Ming-Liang screened It’s A Dream for Taiwan. Meanwhile, a figure then best-known in the art world, Steve McQueen, shared two filmed works in […]

Instagram Influencer Fined After Bragging About Off-Roading on Protected Land in Iceland

Instagram Influencer Fined After Bragging About Off-Roading on Protected Land in Iceland

A photographer and influencer has been heavily fined by authorities after driving his car into a protected geothermal area of Iceland before getting the vehicle stuck. Following the incident, he uploaded photos of himself posing in front of the car to his Instagram page.

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Steven Spielberg is Returning to Horror for New Streaming Service Quibi

The legendary director’s roots in horror may surprise you almost as much as his future plans with Quibi.

According to Variety, Steven Spielberg is writing a horror series for Jeffrey Katzenberg’s new mobile streaming platform Quibi, and it will only be viewable at night. Plot details are under wraps, but like all Quibi shows, it will be broken up into 7-10 minute chunks.

The unusual thing about Spielberg’s new series is that you’ll only be able to watch it at night. According to Variety, a clock will start counting down the hours and minutes until nighttime, at which point the show will become available on Quibi. A second clock will start counting down the hours and minutes until the show disappears…until the next night.

Never heard of Quibi? It’s a new streaming platform, backed by Jeffrey Katzenberg, former head of Dreamworks Animation, and Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay. The two of them have already raised $1B in financial backing for the new service, which is scheduled to launch on April 6th, 2020.

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What Are the Key Elements of Mise En Scène?

What Are the Key Elements of Mise En Scène?

A great visual film is an amalgam of layers created by lighting, composition, art direction, costuming, makeup, and texture. These combined elements create what is known as Mise En Scène, which essentially means “visual theme.” Its creation begins with writing a screenplay that illustrates not only the action and dialogue, but also details (within reason) certain visual elements including the specific time period, essential descriptions of settings, and even character costumes and props. The explanation of these elements helps a Movie Director, Director of Photography, Art Director, Costume Designer, Makeup Artist, and Actors understand the tone of a film. Let’s dive into the essentials of Mise En Scène — an important and foundational part of film theory.

The key elements of Mise En Scène are:

  1. Composition
  2. Production Design
  3. Lighting
  4. Costuming
  5. Hair and Makeup
  6. Film Texture


One of the fundamentals of Mise En Scène is the framing of a shot and it can be determined during the storyboarding phase of a film. A Storyboard Artist will work closely with a Director and sometimes the Writer of a film to visually draw, illustrate, or graphically design storyboards of each scene in a screenplay. It is during this phase of pre-production that the framing, compositions, and camera movements can be determined before shooting. Some Directors like to work in very steady and traditional wide shots, medium shots, single shots, and close-ups. They want story to take the lead over style and don’t want the compositions to interfere with the acting and dialogue. However, some Directors prefer more kinetic and even frenetic shots and choose to shoot hand-held, Steadicam, or on jib and dolly. Perhaps shots with more movement are desired for a more fluid and active tale where style and story are equally expressed. Regardless of the style of the Mise En Scène, it can be determined during the storyboarding stage and then created on set with camera angles and moves.

How silly would Star Wars be if not for the original and historically inspired costumes of the Empire and the Jedi. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory would not have the same visual impact if Gene Wilder were dressed in jeans and a T-shirt instead of his classic and recognizable purple velvet long coat, patterned silk vest, and his Bell Topper hat. These costume choices are all about adding to the value and mood of Mise En Scène.

Production Design

Think about the movies you’ve seen. Each one has its own visual merits partly created by the setting you see captured within the frame of each shot. If you’re watching a period piece like Gladiator, then the story can’t stand on the costuming, props, and lighting alone. It must also exist in the time period that showcases a believable backdrop — in this case, Ancient Rome, filled with gladiatorial training camps, the Colosseum, rural fields of grain, and ancient Roman architecture. It’s the art direction, scenery, and backdrops that give Gladiator its sense or realism and three-dimensional quality. When creating your own film, it’s important to ask yourself, where will my story take place? Does the setting, created by the art direction, strengthen the Mise En Scène? It’s important to producing a believable story that connects with viewers and you can do that with the proper locations and production design.


Once your setting is determined, locations are locked in, and production design is constructed, all of that needs to be lit in a way that elevates your intended Mise En Scène. Let’s cite the aesthetic of the feature film Drive, lit by Newton Thomas Sigel. The night scenes are lit in what I like to think of as “Neon-Noir” (not to be confused with “Neo-Noir”). The night scenes feel like the dark and lonely inner world of Ryan Gosling’s portrayal of the Driver. That is the true depiction of smart Mise En Scène. The rich contrast and bleeding colors of Sigel’s cinematography represent not just the tone of the world in which the characters reside, but also the inner workings of the main character, who is somewhat of a lost soul trying to find peace and love in a chaotic Los Angeles. Mise En Scène represents the inside and outside of that world.


Can you imagine how little sense the world of The Dark Knight would make if not for the elaborate, artistic, and comic-book-inspired costumes worn by Batman and the Joker? Or how silly would Star Wars be if not for the original and historically inspired costumes of the Empire and the Jedi. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory would not have the same visual impact if Gene Wilder were dressed in jeans and a T-shirt instead of his classic and recognizable purple velvet long coat, patterned silk vest, and his Bell Topper hat. These costume choices are all about adding to the value and mood of Mise En Scène. Now, that’s not to say that the costuming for your film has to be as elaborate and theatrical. In fact, many straightforward stories that are less fantastic and more rooted in everyday reality still make sure that their characters are wearing costumes that strengthen the tone and quality of the film. In a film like Back to The Future, Marty still wears “character” costuming and his signature puffy red-orange vest, denim jacket, and patterned button-down shirt are now an iconic Halloween costume. His character starts in everyday clothes that became part of pop-culture zeitgeist. Regardless of the costuming you choose for your characters, just make sure that they make sense within the Mise En Scène of the world you’re creating on screen.

It doesn’t matter if a movie is some grandiose, science fiction blockbuster or some small, independent character piece that takes place in genuine locations – it’s about using compositions, production design, lighting, costuming, hair and makeup, and film and video textures to envelop the audience into a world that is believable, captivating, and fluid.

Hair and Makeup

Hair and Makeup are essential in a movie and when you think of a film like Grease, the hair and makeup echoes the look and feel of the 1950s. Pomade-greased hair for the men and hyperbolic rouge and eye makeup for the women were part and parcel to bringing those characters’ looks to life and showcasing them in the hair and makeup styles of the era. The same goes for the fictional, politically charged world of a film like The Hunger Games. Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) has a look that can be considered gaudy, filled with bravado and flare. Her character dons the look of cotton candy hair and burlesque-style makeup. Her look is ironic in a world where children are forced to fight to the death. In contrast, Katniss Everdeen’s hair and makeup are often subdued, basic, and rural. Her look represents the life she leads: that of a country girl who hunts and lives off the land. However, when she is put on display by the totalitarian Capitol of Panem, she is made to look theatric and warrior-like. Her hair and make-up transform with her character development through different phases of her arc in the film. That is a pure personification of Mise En Scène.

Film Texture

Movies can have any number of final looks that can start with the type of film stock or video camera selected and end with the post-production effects and filters used before a final movie is screened. Traditional Directors of Photography who may still shoot on film will select different film stocks that offer fine, contrasty, or grainy textures. In the world of video, it’s best to shoot the best quality video you can afford and then choose a fine or grainy look in post-production. Take, for example, a movie like filmmaker Michael Mann’s Collateral starring Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx. Cinematographers Dion Beebe and Paul Cameron shot that feature on the CineAlta HDW-F900. According to a quote by Cameron from an article written by Jay Holben called “Hell on Wheels” for The American Society of Cinematographers, “Using HD was something Michael (Mann) had already settled on by the time I came aboard,” recalls Director of Photography Paul Cameron, who prepped Collateral and shot the first three weeks of principal photography. “He wanted to use the format to create a kind of glowing urban environment; the goal was to make the LA night as much of a character in the story as Vincent and Max were.” Often, the latitude (or the array of sensitivity of film stocks or HD cameras) is taken into consideration when shooting a film or video. How film or video reacts to light is important and should be considered before shooting.

The point of understanding all of this is to note that Mise En Scène embodies almost everything that appears before the camera. It includes all of the ingredients necessary to help audiences willfully suspend their disbelief so they can enjoy a film. It doesn’t matter if a movie is some grandiose, science fiction blockbuster or some small, independent character piece that takes place in genuine locations – it’s about using compositions, production design, lighting, costuming, hair and makeup, and film and video textures to envelop the audience into a world that is believable, captivating, and fluid.

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BCN Retail report: Japanese camera market still in decline

Graph: BCN Retail

Analyst firm BCN Retail, which collects daily sales data directly at on- and offline points of sale, has published data (Japanese) on the camera market in Japan for the fiscal year from April 2018 to March 2019. With almost all big manufacturers based in Japan, the domestic market is an important indicator for global trends and unfortunately, things have not improved from previous years, according to the numbers.

At 37.3 percent of all units sold, Canon remains the market leader, but Nikon has been able to increase its share, according to BCN, thanks to improvements in compact camera sales, and now stands at 26.7 percent. Sony is a solid number three at 13.1 percent but can rely on the highest average per-unit price. Olympus and Fujifilm follow on the next positions with 6 and 5.8 percent respectively.

In terms of units sold, these numbers are bad news for almost all manufacturers, though. Canon is down 1.3 percent year-over-year, Sony 6.6 percent, Olympus 13.8 percent and Nikon even 15 percent. Only Fujifilm has been able to increase the number of units sold—by an impressive 19.4 percent.

The picture slightly shifts when looking at revenue, though. In money terms, Fujifilm’s sales increased by only 0.6 percent. Sony, however, managed to expand sales by a whopping 14.5 percent, thanks to a focus on high-priced premium models in its camera lineup.

At the other end of the spectrum, things do look pretty dire for industry giants Canon, Nikon and Olympus whose sales value went down by 11.4, 28.5, and 21.3 percent respectively.

NYWIFT: Power Player Breakfast Terry Lawler

The New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT) is hosting the Power Player Breakfast season finale on June 14th at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz with NYWIFT’s Executive Director emeritus for over 20 years, Terry Lawler. Lawler will hold a discussion about how she got to where she is, what it has been like […]

The post NYWIFT: Power Player Breakfast Terry Lawler appeared first on Below the Line.

What Shooting Film Taught Me About Black-and-White Photos

Clients often ask whether they can have their photos in black-and-white. My reply is always that I’ll do black-and-white versions in the gallery if they work — if they help the image shout “look at me”.

In the Darkroom

Back in 1986, when I got my first SLR, I only shot black-and-white film. I forget why. Perhaps the color was too difficult to process. But growing up, I was lucky enough to have a darkroom at home, it wasn’t equipped for anything complicated.

When I started, I photographed a lot of trees and landscapes with only the odd portrait here and there. I noticed that sometimes the fantastic photo I would see in front of me as I clicked the shutter, would actually emerge as a rather disappointing black-and-white print in the developing tank. Other times, some pretty mundane shots actually looked far more interesting in black and white.

Seeing the B&W in Color

This was the first signpost to me — that some photos shout “look at me” in B&W while others shrivel into a dull wash of faded grays.

The limitations of using film mean you can’t “spray and pray” (shoot a hundred shots in the hope that one of them will turn out to be great). With only 36 photos on each roll of film, every photo is at a cost. So you need to quickly find out what will work and what won’t. If you’re shooting on black-and-white film, that’s about developing a vision of the black-and-white version of the scene in front of you.

This was a little frustrating at the time. But when I was thinking about black-and-white recently, I realized it taught me a lesson I’m still using now.

The Luxury of Digital

With the luxury of digital, photos are far cheaper. Theoretically, it doesn’t matter if I know what will make a good black-and-white photo. But of course, converting every single image takes time, as does evaluating every frame, comparing B&W and color versions. So that instinct about what makes a good black-and-white is still a valuable skill.

Most of the time I look at a scene to photograph and I have a pretty good idea already.

Shooting the image of my children at a playground below, I knew instantly that I would convert it to B&W.

I saw the rather messy green ground was dominant in color, and the lines of all the playground structures and shadow would be simpler in black and white.

There Has to be a Reason

So, for me, there has to be a benefit to converting to black & white.

Something that’s missing in the color version, or something that’s ruining the color version. Some factor that means the image is improved or strengthened in B&W.

Not Everything Looks Better in Black and White

That’s a controversial opinion by the way. I’ve found that a few photographers think that black-and-white is the purer form of photography. But for me, life is in color and sometimes that is the important part of the story of an image. Equally sometimes it’s not.

With this mother-and-baby image below, I think that the warm haze from the setting sun and the green highlights on the trees behind are important in giving the warm summery feel to the scene. In black and white it feels to me that something significant is lost.

Different Versions, Different Results

When I was shooting this quick image of my son scowling in front of the stone wall, I certainly was “thinking in color.”

I was drawn by the wooden door color – one of my favorite colors. He was supposed to stand in front of the door for me but was characteristically uncooperative. However, on my computer, I then saw the texture of the wall and door and this is another reason for converting to black and white. The monochrome throws the texture into the forefront, and when converting for this I like to add a little contrast to emphasize this.

The Coherence of the Scene

When black and white emphasizes texture though, sometimes the scene can seem less coherent.

In this landscape image of the Island of Colonsay, I feel that the subtle colors of the Scottish landscape and the feeling on the evening light is lost in the black and white.

The buildings are also more lost within the landscape of the middle ground of the photo.

Advantages and Disadvantages

And color can be key to the photo. In this wedding shot, we really want to see the colors of the flowers in the bouquet.

The colors and flowers selected by the bride are an important detail of her wedding.

But although lacking in this detail, the advantage of the black-and-white version is that the composition becomes more strongly defined as the shapes of the window and light patterns on the floor become clearer when you can’t see the different tones of the window and floor.


Similar to the wedding image, this snapshot of my son running along the York city walls has strong compositional elements.

But in this case, it really only works in color for me. The daffodils are completely lost in black and white, and the grass no longer provides a nice green sandwich around the stone wall. Instead, we are left with a lot of greys and shapes and a much more confusing – and therefore boring – photo.

This is the danger of converting everything to black and white, you make what was a reasonable photo into a mundane photo.

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And Sometimes, Who Knows?

These photos from a family trip to Scotland were certainly shot in color in my mind — the first one (the color version) was featured on the Italian Vogue website.

But as I started writing this post I thought it would be interesting to see the monochrome versions of these. And here’s the thing: I can’t decide which one I prefer. The simplicity of black and white can be very pleasing, but so is the subtle gradient of a color hue.

So sometimes, I don’t know! Who is to say which is “best”?

About the author: Ellie Cotton is a family and commercial photographer based in North West England. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Cotton’s work on her website and blog. This article was also published here.