So a while back I sold all my professional DSLR equipment and now shoot exclusively with the Fuji X-E1 with 18-55 or 35mm f/1.4 and the original X100. I love using both and in different ways. So when I was approached to provide photography for a new hotel build I wondered would I be able to pull this off with such little equipment, can I get away with virtually all natural light shooting and small focal range of 18mm (27mm full frame) to 55mm (82mm). Well a famous photographer from Seattle once said “if you want to improve take risks”.
So I decided to jump in with both feet and so far so good, I still have so much more work to do on the site this is more like a small section of my journey on this project so far. The project will progress to working with food, salons, a second hotel and possible more but for now this is where we are.
So back to the technical side firstly the idea of shooting this complete hotel commercial requirements is not as mad as you might think, there is only me …. no huge team, no post processing techs, or photoshop skills, no lighting crew or even an assistant …just me, so I need equipment that performs well, it needs so shoot well in natural light, it needs to have excellent white balance setup. It needs to produce large high resolution files, it needs to be a great low noise high ISO performance and lastly it needs to be light and compact to move freely with me.
So with th e above in mind the decision to tackle this job with the Fuji X system seems like the right thing to do. So how was the reality.
I had to shoot in the evenings and overnight in order to cover the range of light situations, and accommodate for guest intrusion. I planned to shoot the bulk of the work over 3 evenings. I arranged my gear and headed if for the first evening intending to shoot completed bedrooms and bathrooms wide and details. On arrival it was clear the situation was changing. The rooms were not ready and the client rightly so was a little stressed with the situation as guest were arriving the following evening and the requirement for photography was not really the priority for that evening. Realising the relative need to help I advised this was not a problem and could spend some time shooting detail shots of the rooms and return the following evening of rather wider shots. I spent the evening shooting details in bedrooms, bathrooms and the dining area. A few hrs later I was heading home to review in detail the results so far. I have to say I was some what concerned about the problems I was having with mixed light and the white balance. I felt I need to check that I could rescue the white balance problems in post processing. Eeeek
Blessings in disguise come to mind the first set of images had terrible colour cast and I was not able to correct in post. I felt sick. I needed to solve the problem and fast. I checked camera settings, twice I could not work out why this poor white balance and colour case from the tungsten lighting was so bad. I knew very well it would be a challenge but was not expecting quite such a problem. I returned later that evening to the hotel for secret test shots. After an hour paying with speed light gels flash set ups and different camera settings the problem was solved. It seems that the setting “vivid” has a different white balance performance it makes sense now, a warmer look but at the time I as these rooms are mute greys, blacks and golds I chose this setting to try and keep some atmosphere. Switching to “standard” instantly solved the problem and the white balance even with natural and tungsten mixed lighting was spot on massive relief and smile other than now having to explain this to the client and reshoot everything I had shot that evening needed shooting again. The correction to the camera settings also revealed that I could shoot exclusively natural light. This was a great help in terms of the speed in which I could progress the shoot and get results in the ever shrinking time frame the client was having.
The next morning I called in to too my client, being completely open and honest is the best policy, I explained the whole story, I would shoot everything again, I showed the client the results thank fully they were blown away with the the image quality and fully recognised the difference in colour and tone difference in the two different white balance settings.
I spent the following two evenings shooting what I could, due to the building work still going on I seemed to need to shot areas the client wanted as they became finished and on the fly. It was a situation that was a little challenging but we needed to get images to press and website companies, and as is often the case with job like this, everything is running later than expected and curve balls being thrown in all directions.
But sticking with the general plan, shoot list, builders and client requirements a suitable set of images was created. The client was happy. I was happy, I was also happy that the Fuji managed to put in a fantastic performance. One the white balance was sorted I was able to shoot freely, ISO 800, f11/16 and long exposures most of the time and the resulting image quality turns out just fine. I now think I would not have been able to have provided as good results with the Nikon set up. The white balance would have been just if not more difficult with my D300s and the noise at ISO 800 would have been poor. Changing from the 18-55 to the 35mm for the details was a delight no need to change camera settings, I would have had to make colour adjustments with the Nikon when changing lens this drove me mad in the past. I was able to shoot all natural light shots. No need for complex off camera flash set ups. Sharpness with both lenses is spot on. For me after a little hiccup at the start has been a great shoot.
There is plenty more we need to do, food, two rooms that are not complete yet, boardrooms and private dining set ups etc but now I have every confidence in the Fuji X series equipment. It’s performed better than I expected and out performs yet again my Nikon equipment. I still need to tweak some images and balance settings in post and the images in this blog are virtually straight from the camera so needs some work but it shows you the capability.
I will continue to blog this assignment and show the results as images are released.
For now my conclusions as simple. I think the DSLR is dead !!! Mirror-less is the future, and for a few of us early adopters willing to risk pro work like me. Using and trusting in this equipment like Fuji and in my case definitely Fuji X system the future is very bright. I will leave you to make you own minds, for me and my clients its working just fine with great results and the more I push the challenges for the Fuji the more I learn and the better the results for me and my clients.
More over the next few weeks. Check out the website that is evolving Poets House