This is the first blog of my annual series for the Matsuri Festival (located in Phoenix, AZ) on street photography.
I try my best to go out to the same festivals every year. My goal to not only recap the event as best as I can for you all. Also, on a personal level, I get to analyze how my photography has improved and/or how my photography has changed differently at this event.
It is a way for me to improve my photography game in a casual setting. There is no pressure if I don’t succeed at trying out a new setting. And there is no pressure of having to deliver to a client. The client in this regard is myself!
This is why I always choose to promote going out to free events.
There’s movement (picture of stage performers).
There’s people (picture of group of people).
And there are inanimate objects (picture of…inanimate object?)
Off the top of my head, these are the three things you’ll definitely be taking pictures of at paid events.
Specifically speaking, these are things you would take pictures of at weddings.
So, to really get into the groove and know your camera, you’ll need a test environment like this.
For comparison, this is like testing out a Formula 1 car in a wind tunnel before it actually hits the circuit. It would be disastrous if they decided to do all their preliminary testing out on the track.
Or it’d be like an actor being given a script and being asked to perfectly deliver every single line on the script without practice.
It is imperative that you take the time and practice your craft.
This is the perfect stage for you to do so.
It is so perfect that I have considered doing free photography sessions and classes out here.
I would profit nothing from them and it would give newbie photographers an opportunity to work with a pro to get better at their craft.
The Event - Historical Information
With that thought out in the air, I would like to reinforce what the Phoenix Matsuri Festival is about before I begin writing on why I decided to take photos there.
All the information that I am about to reiterate can be found here: https://www.azmatsuri.org/.
The Equipment - What did I decide to haul with me to do some street photography?
This weekend I decided to haul with me my newly bought Canon 6D (hyperlink: https://www.usa.canon.com/internet/portal/us/home/products/details/cameras/dslr/eos-6d) .
The second camera I brought along was my very first DSLR – the Canon T3i.
I wanted to bring two DSLRs for one simple reason:
One camera needed to have the same set-up at all times.
This was my first time going out with the 6D, so I really wanted to compare what sort of quality I was squeezing out of it.
So, the T3i was the camera that had the same lens attached to it at all times. I had recently bought the 24mm f/2.8 Canon EF-S lens for my T3i. I took a few test portraits with it and the quality that I was able to squeeze out of the lens and crop body were astounding.
I will have a full review of that lens some time later. The review will have before and after pictures. The before pictures will be the RAW file without any edits. The after pictures will be with my edits added to them. I will leave this sentence here so that I can link it to you all later.
To be quite honest, going from the Canon 5D Mark III to the 6D was a bit staggering.
I didn’t realize how magnificent the 5D’s auto-focus system was until I jumped to the 6D.
Now, it’s worth mentioning that I haven’t tinkered with any of the internal settings just yet. It could be that I wasn’t on the right auto-focus mode.
It’s worth asking (from the reader’s perspective), why on earth is a professional photographer using auto-focus?
The Day - My thoughts on some of the images I took today
Let me walk you through my day now.
Usually my focus at Matsuri is to get pictures of the festival performers. This time around, I had my friend, Megan, model for me around the festival as well as cosplayers who wanted to get photos done.
Please feel free to go through all five of these pictures. A “tl;dr” is at the bottom of each. I explain my technique and thought process for each picture. I also explain my reasoning for editing the photos the way I did in post-production.
This isn’t anything special. Just a posed photo on a bland backdrop. But, what’s important is picking out this bland back drop because of the way I was able to manipulate it in Photoshop. If you aren’t editing photos, then your ideal location will be out in the sun. If you are editing photos via RAW files, then you’re going to want solid light (there’s probably a technical term for that, but I digress).
The image is much easier to look at because, for lack of better words, it is bland. It was easier to edit because, also for lack of better words, it was bland.
But that is important because this is the ideal workshop for when you drop this image into Lightroom or Photoshop. You can easily manipulate the parameters of shadows, highlights, exposure, etc. through a photo taken like this.
Most notably, you’ll see that the lighting is “flat”. Neither the background or the girls in focus are stronger (in regards to light) than the other.
With that said, I also did some basic touchups.
Let’s take that philosophy from before and apply it here. Same bland background. However, this allowed me to manipulate the exposure so that it wasn’t too bright or too dark. It was a nice even point. At that point, I was able to manipulate the highlights and shadows to come out with the picture that we have now.
Now, let’s say that there was a light in her face that was brighter than the rest of the image. If you try to increase the exposure, the entire image, including that light in her face, would increase.
This is exactly what we avoid by getting control of your lighting situation.
And this is the counterpoint to those images above. This is still one of my favorite photos of the day, but I would have preferred if the sun was not shining on her.
One thing I will say and will continue to say over and over again in my blog posts: IT IS BETTER TO UNDER EXPOSE THAN TO DEAL WITH GLARING HIGHLIGHTS.
It’s okay to under exposure to a certain degree (you’ll have to test that yourself to see what you’re comfortable with editing in post production), but it is a nightmare to try to correct something that was far too over exposed.
Here is another excellent example of not getting the lighting situation down correctly. The photo still came out great and it is one of my favorite photos from the day, but I would have been happier if this were an overcast day.
You see the strong highlights in the background. This makes it a chore to highlight whatever is happening in the shadowy part of the image. Normally you can manipulate the highlights in the background so they aren’t that bright, but once you start to decrease the highlights too much, it’ll wash out the location of the highlights you’re trying to decrease.
But, the positive side of having these highlights was that I was able to photoshop some people out next to her!
And now I take you all back to the original concept of these five images: taking control of your lighting. This image is a perfect example of that. It seems a bit over exposed, but that’s what I was going for with this one. It was originally under exposed, but I wanted to highlight the group as best as I could.
From this image, I was able to photoshop some bars out of the background. I did some minimal Photoshop on them as well (e.g. added in some hair to their wigs).
Even though I was shooting at a low ISO and high shutter speed, I’m not too impressed with the quality of the photo.
It is a bit grainy and it seems a tad out of focus. I’m still happy with the end result, but I could be happier.
The Wrap-Up - So what did I truly think of the 6D and what was the best setup I used today?
I honestly should not write off the 6D just yet. I bought it so that I wouldn’t have to haul the 5D around everywhere. The 5D is my moneymaker and, with how busy I am, I have to make sure it’s in tip-top condition at all times.
I just felt extremely underwhelmed with the way it handles light.
There were certain times where I felt that I shouldn’t have needed to bring the ISO up higher or make the shutter speed slower.
But, with that said, my trusty T3i with my new f/2.8 24mm EF-S lens was an absolute dream to work with. My favorite photos came from the T3i at Matsuri. And that’s a bit troublesome for me since the 6D is, by all means, a better camera with the better lenses on it. So, I’ll have to go back to the drawing board next weekend during the Aloha Festival and take more photos until I get better with the camera.
Thanks for checking out the blog. I’d like to say that I am not the best photographer out there nor the most knowledgeable one. I still do not know all the technical terms for things. I commonly say, “Just decrease the brightness” when there are numerous ways to decrease the exposure on a DSLR.
I am welcome to your feedback. But, most importantly, I am open to your feedback in regards to reviews. Let me know what YOU’RE looking for. The one thing I hate about reviews is that people aren’t covering what they need to cover. If I’m not covering what needs to be covered or if you have a niche question that’s worthy of review, please, let me know.
For example, I have plans to go out and take the same exact pictures with my T3i, 6D, and 5DIII. It will have the same settings. So, it will give you a chance to truly see how each camera handles a situation.
Essentially, while I do work at a paid event or while I’m out doing street photography, I’m going to test my camera and myself to the fullest extent so that people have an accurate idea of what they’re interested in buying.