Do you want some technique tips, some interviews from yours truly, and any other articles that don’t fit the rest? It’s here, come and check it out!

Shoot digital like you shoot film

At some point in photography, you need to refresh you point of view, try something new, see differently. I’ve tried that by starting to shoot film. I got a Canon AE-1 last Christmas, and shot only half a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus in the first 6 months of the year. I love the mechanical aspect of those old cameras, the fact that you must think twice if the shot is worth it, how to take it, how to expose… It’s less opportunistic, it forces you to push your craft further on. Digital cameras are much more comfortable to use, maybe too comfortable sometimes. I think it’s good to remember how things actually work and not rely on too much automation.

Electric stairs. Bucharest, Romania, 2016.

Electric stairs. Bucharest, Romania, 2016. I used there my “shadow measure” of the day. Get a print.

Well, I finished my first roll, enjoyed the result, even if it was not perfect. I then spent the end of the summer and the autumn shooting much more film for some personal photos and projects, trying different kinds of film (Kodak Tri-X 400, Kodak Portra 400…). It’s so fun. And also refreshing to not worry about settings. I usually measure once for the shadows, once for the highlights, and switch between the 2 settings depending on the scene. Either changing the speed or the aperture.

Then came this idea: why not trying to do the same with my digital cameras? Measure once, and keep it this way until the light changes dramatically. Film is much more forgivable than digital, but I have Lightroom, so… 🙂 And that’s what I’m currently doing. For daylight, I set my ISO to 400 (my favourite film speed, to keep it consistent), I measure once for the highlights, once for the shadows, and I’m good to go. I know how many stops there are between the two, with only 1 finger I can change my speed or my aperture. During the night, I crank my ISO to 3200 or even 6400, I measure once for the streets lights, once for the shops’ indoor lights, and I’m good to go. Easy, right?

Sometimes, it’s even easier. I’ve host my recent Oser flea market photo essay with the very same method. It was an overcast day, only 1 measure was needed, I could even forget the dials and focus on the content of my photos. Once again, content is the key!

Why bother? you could ask. My camera’s metering system works great! you could add. And I’d agree 🙂 Here are my findings after a few weeks:

  • I am much more focused on my work. I know what my settings are at any time. I’m the one in control.
  • Being even more content driver has helped me raise my keepers rate. I actually take less photos, but they are globally more interesting.
  • I get a consistent exposure. No more surprises because the metering system was spot instead of evaluative.
  • It helps me train to shoot film, I can make mistakes at no cost.
  • All of that results in less time spent in front of the computer, which is always a blessing!

The last point is very important to me. For example, the whole flea market set was processed in around 20 minutes, including the photos that are not published here. And the majority of the time was spent to straighten the photos, as they were taken from the hip. The exposure was spot on, +/- 1/3 stop, every time.

Oser flea market. Cluj-Napoca, Romania, 2016.

Old film cameras shot by a new digital camera used as an older film camera 🙂 I kept a single setting for the whole day. Cluj-Napoca, 2016.

Of course, it doesn’t mean I will never ever use my cameras’ automation. It is sometimes a great help, it would be stupid not to rely on if it actually helps me. But for my kind of photography, I feel that shooting with a modern digital camera like I would shoot film with an older camera helps me raise my level.

So there it is, a little challenge for you, dear reader: try to shoot digital as you’d shoot film with an old camera, for a few days at least:

  • Fix your ISO
  • Measure your scene, once for the shadows, once for the highlights
  • Forget all the other dials
  • Enjoy 🙂

And don’t hesitate to share a feedback of your experience!

Don’t be afraid of high ISO!

Pull & Bear. Bucharest, Romania, 2016.

Pull & Bear. Bucharest, Romania, 2016. Shot at ISO 6400.

Once again: don’t be afraid of high ISO!

Are you mad? My photos look like sh!t with high ISO!

Indeed, there will be noise, but noise in the digital world is not something fatal. It can be reduced, or even totally eliminated, in post. Plus, modern cameras offer higher ISO performance which are increasing at every single release. We’re reaching a point were ISO 800 is almost noiseless, and sensitivity values over 6400 are more than usable.

While our cameras capabilities are growing at a very fast pace, we’re still thinking as in the film era, or digital inception era, were anything over ISO 400 is a lot of grain, or a lot of noise. It’s not the case anymore. Softwares too have progressed quite a lot, with intelligent noise reduction algorithm that can reduce drastically the noise of a photo without impacting its content.

Because content is everything.

Way too many people judge a photo by its aesthetics, and unfortunately by its aesthetics only. How sharp, how much noise, etc. It’s often the same guys who are shooting brick walls and pixel peep. Aesthetics is of course a huge part of the photo, it’s even critical for studio/commercial photography, landscapes… but in the end, the content matters the most. For me, content is way above aesthetics.

I don’t care how much noise there will be, if I’m in a situation were the light is low, I’d rather shoot at high ISO and get some noise than do not get the shot. And with that, get a photo with a fantastic content. Because that is what will be the differentiator in the end: have something that strikes the viewer. No one will be amazed by how low is the noise on your photo… rather what striking figure it represents. Most of the most influential photographs taken are grainy (“film’s noise”), and no one cares. Content is everything.

That said, it doesn’t mean one should not care at all about getting the best image quality possible. Of course. When I can use tripods and longer exposures for my low light shots, I go for it. There is no point of introducing noise, except for… aesthetics motives, of course 🙂 But I don’t limit myself and it doesn’t bother me to crank the sensibility to ISO 6400 when I need to, and solve the noise problem with Lightroom.

I often see photos in low light situation were the photographers tried to use a very low speed to avoid getting over ISO 800 for example. The result? A blurry photo that can’t be saved in post. The can reduce noise, but we can’t (yet) reduce blur efficiently. I’d rather crank the sensibility by 1 or 2 stop and get a correct speed.

Run! Bucharest, Romania, 2016.

Run! Bucharest, Romania, 2016. Shot at ISO 6400. Get a print.

The noise problem doesn’t really exist.

One interesting thing is that the people who complain the most about noise are the same people who don’t actually need the highest quality possible. They shoot family photos, export them at lower resolution and share them on social networks. Of course, the photos are only looked at 100% in Lightroom (or the software of your choice). And guess what? Resizing a photo to a lower resolution actually reduces the visible noise on the photo! Unless you actually use your photos at 100% size, the noise that got introduced while shooting with a high ISO will at least partly disappear by itself. Last but not least, don’t forget one thing: the social networks you share your photos on will compress again your photos and destroy it anyhow. Facebook and Flickr are experts for that. So why restricting yourself?

Summing up: give it at least a try.

TL;DR? Let’s sum it up:

  • Modern cameras have high ISO performance that are incredible, and are getting even better.
  • Software noise reduction algorithms are getting better and better.
  • Content is the key, do anything to get it right.
  • Don’t pixel peep.
  • Noise may not even be a problem for you.

And that’s it. Don’t overthink it. Just go out and shoot, low light situations won’t bother you anymore. Don’t limit yourself.

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Long legs on the Hit the Streets podcast

Long legs. Prague, Czech Republic, 2016.

Long legs. Prague, Czech Republic, 2016. Get an original, signed, limited edition fine art print!

Another great success for Long legs! After being selected for the WeStreet 2016 book, Long legs has now been featured as one of the winners of the LIGHT photo challenge organised by Valérie Jardin in her awesome podcast, Hit the Streets!

Valérie Jardin is a french photographer living in Minnesota, USA. She is one of the top street photographers, one of those I check their photos everyday searching for inspiration. It’s such a big deal to have her pick one of my shots! Besides her photography skills, she is also a renown instructor and hosts the brand new Hit the Streets podcast. My street photographer friends, it is definitely THE podcast to listen to!

Just go and listen the latest Episode 09 of the Hit the Streets podcast for a Q&A episode, and be careful around minute 29, things are getting very interesting there 😉

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Publication in the WeStreet 2016 book!

Thats’s incredible, just incredible.

I will be part of the 2016 edition of the WeStreet street photography book! From 12000+ photos submitted, only 150 have made it in the final book.

WeStreet 2016 book. Photo by David Monceau.

WeStreet 2016 book. Photo by David Monceau.

Edit: The WeStreet 2016 book is now available for sale.

And among those 150 photos, not 1… but 3 are mine!

My hopes were quite low to make it with only 1 photo when very big street photography names started to submit proposals such as Tatsuo Suzuki, Damon Jah, David Mar Quinto, David Monceau, just to name some of those awesome photographers that participated. All known and renown street photographers with tons of awesome shots. And I’m very excited to be publicized next to them in the WeStreet 2016 book.

I’d like to thank the curators, Steven Gonzalez, Arek Rataj, Philip Cleminson, Marie-Lou Chatel, Stefan Rademakers, Sandra Jonkers and Willem Jonkers, for their work and the awesome opportunity offered to me today. It’s my very first publication in a real, hardcover book, at an international level. How cool is that?

It has also been the occasion to meet, virtually for now, with extraordinary people. I hope we’ll be able in real life soon, too 🙂

So, what are those photos? Two of them are not a surprise, in a way that if one of my photos should have been selected, it would have been one of them. The third one was more unexpected.
Long legs. Prague, Czech Republic, 2016.

Long legs. Prague, Czech Republic, 2016. Get a print!

Surprise! Cluj-Napoca, Romania, 2016.

Surprise! Cluj-Napoca, Romania, 2016. Get a print!

Night call. Cluj-Napoca, Romania, 2016.

Night call. Cluj-Napoca, Romania, 2016. Get a print!

Not bad, isn’t it? Now, i’m ever more pumped up to do even better in 2017!

I’ll keep you guys updated on the availability of the book. Next to the printed book, a PDF version should be available. But trust me, photos look much better printed rather than on a screen! Until then, you can find all the selected photos on the dedicated Facebook group.

More publications

I am very proud to say that the past months have been a blast for me! Check out the latest publications I am part of!

About copyright infringement

A lot of people don’t know or understand that a photo found on the internet isn’t free to use or modify as they want, that there is an actual copyright on it. It’s more of a lack of education over the ownership of the photo, rather than being a thief. And some of them just don’t care.

As I get more and more audience on this website and on social network, I face myself more and more subject to copyright infringement. Some services like Pixsy (I use the free version) are really helpful to find “duplicates” of my photos. I then can take the action I feel are necessary. This article has been triggered by a short run on Pixsy 2 days ago to see how do I stand. It’s not that bad, but 1 case is very interesting.

Before I go deeper, just a reminder: every single photo I put on the internet is copyrighted, and also for sale, for editorial or commercial purpose, there.

Case 1: the personal blog

This is the most common case, hopefully. Usually, someone uses one of my photos as an illustration for a personal blog article. In this case this is obviously someone that thinks that internet = free. It’s already easy to get a huge and free movies and music collection with a tiny effort or searching, so when Google images gives you all you want on a silver plate, why bother? In this case, I won’t redirect the author to my licensing page, there is no point. However, I like to shoot him a mail or a comment in the article explaining that my photos are copyrighted, and that the courtesy would be to at least credit me and put a link to my website under the photo. I doesn’t always work, but it often does, and I like to think that I’m helping a bit the other photographers too.

Transfagarasan

Transfagarasan, Romania. Here, you get it in larger size.

Case 2: the commercial website

This case is for me more of a grey zone regarding copyright infringement. While usually, any commercial activity using my photos should pay for using them, I don’t necessary apply this rule at 100%. I’ll take as an example the small website of a group of amateur authors selling fan fictions of Dracula, that took my Transfagarasan photo for illustration purpose… in a gigantic resolution of 320 x 240 pixels. It’s a very small picture, amongst tens of others, on a marginal commercial site. While I could ask them to pay for it, there is just no point. I prefer to choose my battles and don’t want to spend time on such a small case. I’m just going to ask them to replace the photo with one with an URL to my website watermarked. If it’s such a problem, well, never mind.

There is however the case of a large Turkish blog (making money from advertising) that used the illustrating photo of this article (the one with the several presets on 1 photo) as an illustration for the fact that Nik Collection is now free. They obviously looked in Google Images for a photo of this kind, pasted it there and voilà. But it’s totally dumb as if they would have put a link to the matching page, they would have offered their readers, interested into Nik Collection, some free resources! Seriously, this is great “journalism”, right? I’ve sent them a mail, let’s see what their answer will be. I’ve also put a comment on the article, they dismissed it as spam… But for sure, I won’t let it go so easily!

Cheile Valisoarei, Alba, Romania.

Cheile Valisoarei, Romania. Don’t steal it, license it. Or get a print.

Case 3: the thief

The third case, my favourite. One of the largest regional online magazines from Romania has used one of my photos of Cheile Valisoarei as a headliner for one of their tourism article (click here if you want to see the article, but it’s just one more hit for those thieves…). Of course, without credit or anything. And even less paying the fee for editorial use. Being a high traffic website with so-called “journalists”, that should know what copyright infringement is. Or not, as they fall in the “journalists” category to me. Anyhow, that something that shouldn’t happen and that, by no means, seem to be a news to them. All their article are illustrated with professional grade photos, and I could bet none of them has been paid. I’ve sent them a mail giving them 3 working days to pay me the fee or I’ll contact an attorney. Let’s see what will be their answer. Of course, all the necessary screenshots were done.

So here it is. I’ll keep you guys updated on cases #2 & #3. #2 is not such a big deal, but I think there could be something interesting with #3.

Now, some will say I should watermark my images. I’ve done that already, and it doesn’t stop people to steal your stuff and “creatively crop” your photo. Or use a content aware filling tool, it works very well. Watermarking is more an advertisement than a protection, really. Of course all my photos have my data in its EXIF, but well, it’s so easy to delete (ask Facebook). So there is no real protection against bad usage. The only way is to educate people, and at my little scale, that’s what I’m trying to do. I encourage all the other photographers to do the same when they face copyright infringement.