FotoKem’s New Site In Santa Monica

To further the company’s commitment to filmmakers in the Los Angeles area, FotoKem has expanded its creative post production services. Housed on the second floor of 1661 Lincoln Boulevard, just off the 10 freeway, above FotoKem’s premier mixing and recording studio Margarita Mix, the new facility provides a convenient location on the west side connected […]

The post FotoKem’s New Site In Santa Monica appeared first on Below the Line.

How Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ Changed How We Watch Movies in Theaters Forever

Everyone knows all about Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”, but few people know how it changed cinema forever.

If you’re like me, you love the movie Psycho. It’s a perfect film. It’s one of the first slashers and a movie Hitchcock made on a shoestring budget after the insane success of North by Northwest.

No one wanted to make a tawdry murder movie with the first scenes of a woman and man in bed…pre-marital sex implied. The horror! Lucky for us, Hitch was kinda sick in the head.

The movie, based on the book of the same title, was an insane gamble by Hitchcock, who was (and still is) possibly the most famous director of all time. His name was a brand. It turned out millions if not billions of people to the box office. His movies were must-sees. Social events.

But if Psycho had gone wrong? He’d have been written off instantly. He’d have squandered everything he worked so hard to get.

However, when Psycho came out in theaters, people lost their damn minds. The movie made millions over its budget and solidified Hitch’s place in Hollywood history.

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A Portrait Shoot with a Lensbaby Composer Pro and Sweet 80 Optic

I shot a full portrait session using a Lensbaby Composer Pro II with Sweet 80 Optic. Here’s how it went…

Helpful Hearsay

For years I had only delivered work for clients, something which is imperative for paying the bills. But what I found was that years of shooting for someone else had really stunted my creativity. Someone pointed out to me that I needed to shoot for me as well as my clients. They told me that it would help me stay at the top of my game and avoid losing my mojo. They weren’t wrong.

I’d heard from a fellow photographer that the Lensbaby system was brilliant for getting the creative juices flowing. Apparently they helped the photographer to see things that they would never have noticed before. The following video is a brilliant rundown of some of the new products that Lensbaby are offering at the moment and really helped me decide which one to go for.

The One

The Composer Pro II with Sweet 80 Lens seemed to be the perfect choice for me. As a wedding and portrait photographer, my 85mm prime lens is my current favorite and produces the least distortion. I wanted something similar which could provide me with more creative options in-camera. I paid £229 (~$280) for the Composer Pro II housing and Sweet 80 Optic in total.

Let’s Do It!

I organized a full portrait session in my cabin studio which, in hindsight, was probably a little ambitious. I’d never used the lens before, in fact, it arrived only a few hours before my subject arrived at my studio!

I’d spent the morning at The Southwold Flower Co. flower fields and picked some incredible blooms to add a pop of color. I had a few moments before my subject arrived to have a practice run.

It was much harder than I thought.

A Happy Byproduct of Experimentation

I actually really love this first image as it has a vintage, almost ethereal feel about it. It reminds me of some of the early photographs from the 1900s. Not completely in focus but full of character and a sense of mystery. While experimenting with the tilt function, I moved the sweet spot around. This was another challenge as it meant that it could be difficult to see where the focus point was falling. Especially hard if you are shooting at f/2.8 (which I’d attempted with this image and the reason it isn’t sharp).

The Not so ‘Sweet Spot’

The first thing I noticed was that getting that ‘Sweet Spot’ of focus right was tough. You select your aperture on the outer ring and then bend your lens to move the sweet spot around. The smaller the number (wider you shoot), the harder it is to see that sweet spot as it diminishes significantly. As you are focusing manually, there is no correlation between your focus point and the sweet spot. It takes some practice to get used to this as you have to really watch where your focal point is.

The larger aperture you go for (up to f/16), the less light is seen in the viewfinder. As a professional photographer, you know that the wider you shoot the more light is let in. But modern cameras and lenses don’t show you this as it happens. You would normally adjust your ISO and everything is still clear in the viewfinder.

When shooting wide with a Lensbaby, you have to make sure you don’t flood the scene with too much light. If you do, your image will be blown. If you are shooting at f/16, you’ll struggle to see your subject as the light is restricted in the lens. This means that you have to physically increase the light in the area or increase your ISO. This will then be reflected in your viewfinder.

Experiment with Depths of Field

This one was closer to the mark with the focus being on the little girl’s face. I had to stop down to about f/11 to make sure the sweet spot was on her eyes. Because of this, I then had to increase the ISO and up the power on the studio light.


These three portraits came out really well and I’m super pleased with them. The first was at f/5.6 and I had to walk backwards to make sure the focus was on her eyes. I love how her quiff and the bottom of her hair and some of the butterfly go out of focus.

Hit and Miss

I’m really pleased with how these came out! The only thing is that her eyes are slightly out of focus on the portrait on the first and last images. I used f/4 and as this sweet spot is much smaller, thought I could step backwards and get it over her eyes. I’d failed to notice that the lens was slightly off-center from a previous shot I’d taken where I’d taken using the tilt function. The portrait in the middle came out beautifully although I may crop in so the hand is lost out of the frame.

Playing it Safe? Or Getting it Right?

I went with f/11, knowing it would make the sweet spot larger. This way I would have more chance of getting her face in focus. I also stepped as far back as my space would allow, maximizing the chance of it being in focus.

If I’d had time to practice, I may have found a way to get to f/2.8 and the sweet spot in the right place. However, I didn’t have that time and thought that I managed pretty well considering it was my first time! In any case, I’m really happy with how this turned out.

My Absolute Favourite

This one has my heart. I went with an aperture of f/8 and I WISH I had gone with f/11 or f/16 to get the orange dahlia completely in focus. It is still my favorite image of the afternoon though and I’m so pleased with the distortion from the flower and below. What it does to the sparkles on her collar and the texture of the velvet dress is lovely, all while keeping her eyes in pin-sharp focus.

The Wild One

This one was a real risk for me. I had asked my talented friend from Alfred Dubois Millinery to create the headdress and had used another incredible flower from The Southwold Flower Co. to set off the little birds we’d added at the last minute. I decided to go for it and shoot at f/4 and back up as far as I could go. You’ll notice that the sweet spot is over the eye closest to the camera and not quite over the other. To be honest, I’m not even worried about that because I am over the moon with the rest of it. When I asked for the headdress to be made, I hadn’t factored on this level of distortion so wasn’t prepared for it to be so out of focus. However, I really like how it’s turned out. The level of bokeh at the top and the bottom of the image really sets it off for me. How funny that it is nothing like the image I had in my head when we set it up!

The Verdict

So I may have been over-ambitious in my planning of a full portrait session. This much is true. But I think it worked!

This portrait session, shot with a Lensbaby Composer Pro II with the Sweet 80 Optic, went VERY well. The lens has so much creative versatility, I’m already planning to shoot on location with it. I WANT to put it on my camera and go on an adventure to see what it unearths. There is no question that I am going to have to use it a LOT to get to grips with how it works. But I am so excited to do just that. The whole reason I bought this lens in the first place is because I had lost my mojo. In a single session, it has reignited my passion for photography and made me want to get out there and shoot.

I would say that for that reason alone, it’s worth every penny.

About the author: Haleana Knights is a UK-based photographer specializing in wedding, lifestyle, and portrait photography. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Knights’ work on her website, Facebook, and Instagram. This article was also published here.

Cardi B: I Was Sexually Harassed on a Magazine Photo Shoot

Rapper Cardi B says that as a younger artist, she was sexually harassed by a photographer while posing for a magazine photoshoot.

In an interview with We TV, the 26-year-old musician shares how during the shoot, the photographer started trying to get close to her. And after telling her, “Yeah, you want to get in this magazine?” the man allegedly exposed himself.

Cardi B says she was furious and that she grabbed her things and left the set. But when she told the magazine’s owner what happened, her story was met with indifference.

“He just looked at me like, ‘So? And?’,” the rapper says. “When I see the #MeToo movement, there’s girls from the ‘hood I know that went through the same type of treatment. […] It happens really every day.”

But thanks to her fame now, Cardi B no longer experiences this type of treatment, noting that she would “put you on blast on [her] Instagram,” which boasts 51 million followers.

After the interview aired, Cardi B received a mix of support and criticism, including from some who accused her of making up the whole story.

The rapper then angrily took to Instagram Live to fire back at those critics.

“When is there going to be a #MeToo movement in the urban world, where this s**t really be happening?” she says. “Lie about what? What I got to lie for? N****s really try to take advantage of girls.”

Photographing the Stunning Wildlife of South Georgia with David Yarrow

British fine art photographer David Yarrow visited the island of South Georgia in the southern Atlantic Ocean to photograph the “mind-blowing” wildlife scenes found there. His trip and creative process are captured in this new 4.5-minute short film, titled “Yarrow: The Virtues of Monochrome.”

“There are few places left in the world that you can find yourself immersed in such a spectacle of nature,” says director Abraham Joffe. “The staggering sight of hundreds of thousands of penguins and seals, encircled by a cathedral of mountain peaks and hanging glaciers would leave even the most jaded person in total awe.”

Photo by Abraham Joffe
Photo by Alex Ames
Photo by Alex Ames
Photo by Alex Ames

“Arriving [at a] final frontier, wherever it is, can sometimes lead to something of a brain freeze,” Yarrow says in the film. “It really is so visually intoxicating, that for you to interpret it in a way that embodies your character and your traits is quite a challenge, because you’re almost screen-struck by what you’re seeing in front of you.

“And that’s why probably in a year I only take four or five pictures that I think get above that threshold, get above that bar.”

Photo by Dom West.
Photo by Abraham Joffe

With a goal of capturing a single image that conveys a sense of depth and a sense of scale, Yarrow created this photo, which he titled, “The Breakfast Club”:

You can find more of Yarrow’s work on his website and Instagram.

The Problem with Camera Reviews by YouTubers

As for many other things, YouTube is a wonderful trove of opinion and information. This is certainly true for photographic interests. And a huge percentage of photographers are particularly interested in still photography, as opposed to videography.

And herein lies the rub. Many (or perhaps even most) of the YouTube content creators for photographic sites are actually video enthusiasts, though they claim to be still photography oriented. But in most cases they make an effort to appear to be more universal in their interests, knowing that much of their audience is oriented towards still photography.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with their interest in video — it is a legitimate aspect of photography today. That said, their views on equipment especially are always colored by their interests. The problem is — and this is the important point of this article — this bias is not always apparent to their viewers, and it does not represent the interests of many viewers.

A good case in point would be the reviews of the recently introduced Sony a7R IV. It is perfectly obvious to any interested observer that Sony’s primary design focus for this camera was to create a resolution monster, with all other considerations secondary. In that it would certainly seem that they succeeded. YouTube complaints were almost instant — limited video performance. But that is exactly what the camera is NOT about. The a7R IV is about as far from being a vlogger’s camera as any still camera could be short of a Kodak box camera, yet it is in that context that it apparently is being judged by some vloggers.

Complaints about flip-out rear screens accompany every video review about Sony cameras, yet, generally, the only operational need for a flipping screen for still photographs is for shots where the camera is held low, or for overhead shots above the crowd where a flip-up screen is invaluable — and most Sony cameras offer that. But vloggers want an articulated screen for self-monitoring while filming a video.

In summation, vloggers for photography often offer valuable insights on cameras, lenses, and accessories, but far too often do not represent the primary interests of the majority of their viewers. Every piece of equipment is examined primarily from the perspective of their potential use — for video — and not of the needs of many of their viewers.

I very much hope that the camera manufacturers recognize this bias and are not mislead by it, and the same certainly goes for all YouTube viewers.

About the author: Bob Locher certainly makes no claim to being a great photographer; rather, he considers himself to not be a very good one. He is not much of a speaker either, and does not have his own YouTube Channel, nor does he do Photographic Tours. But, he has been in the photographic hardware industry most of his life, fancies himself as something of a writer, has opinions and is not afraid to express them. He loves photography, values technical quality and is indeed a pixel-peeper. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Locher has written over 50 magazine articles as well as two books. You can find more of his work and writing on his website.

Image credits: Icons in header illustration by The Open Dept. and licensed under CC BY 2.0

DPReview TV: Fujifilm X-A7 preview

On paper the Fujifilm X-A7 appears to address many of its predecessor’s shortcomings, but do those improvements add up to a better real-world experience? Chris and Jordan head to Calgary’s awe-inspiring, fire-breathing Beakerhead festival to get a feel for how it handles.

Take a look at our hands-on with the X-A7 for even more information.

Also, subscribe to our YouTube channel to get new episodes of DPReview TV every week.

Sample gallery from this episode

All images are straight-out-of-camera JPEGs; this X-A7 is not running final firmware and should not be used to judge final image quality.

Fujifilm X-A7 pre-production sample gallery (DPReview TV)

This week’s episode features images shot with the X-A7 from the Beakerhead festival in Calgary, along with some colorful fall scenery. It all feels pretty apropos, given that October is right around the corner. All images are straight-out-of-camera JPEGs; this X-A7 is not running final firmware and should not be used to judge final image quality.