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Remote shooting part 2


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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Remote shooting part 2

24 Nov 2020 7:04AM   Views : 369 Unique : 232


Yesterday, I spent an hour in a Zoom meeting taking remote pictures of Vampire Princess: it worked rather well, I think. Itís important that she is techie-minded, and understands what sheís doing with the Zoom link, so that I didnít really need to. Because sheíd shot remotely before, she was right on top of her technology, and had her Canon camera linked to her computer: all the controls were available on my screen, and I was able to adjust the camera with the aid of my mouse.

Yes, thereís a delay with everything, but with a good model Ė like Kay Ė it isnít a big issue. And the delay isnít great, in reality. Most people donít shoot terribly fast, in any caseÖ More thought, fewer frames is a pretty good maxim.


I shot at a rate of slightly more than one frame a minute, and thatís fine: I was learning as I went. And I feel that with several really good frames in the bag, my costs were well justified. But I would normally take rather more frames, with slight variations. For direct comparison, a one-hour shoot with VP in June, at an outdoor location, gave 141 frames, even after deducting walking time from cars to the location and back.

The wonders of modern Broadband meant that I had the RAW files downloaded around 20 minutes after we finished shooting. In some ways itís a disadvantage shooting with a strange camera and lens, of course: VPís Canon is rather different from my Alpha 7, though working with live view reduces the apparent differences.


VP was shooting in her bedroom, which has the advantage of black walls Ė at least, itís an advantage for my preferred sort of low-key work. Lighting was a single Rotolight, supplemented by a little daylight for most shots. With the camera on a tripod, the necessary slow shutter speeds arenít a big deal. Speedlights complicate matters, as you canít see the effect youíll get, though studio flash with modelling lamps will rock it (as they usually do).

My usual style of shooting relies on fine adjustments of camera angle and focus point: obviously, thatís not possible with a camera on a tripod. It was necessary to allow a larger Ďdeadí area all round the subject Ė though I caught myself out once or twice, and have sub-optimal framing in one or two shots.


A big issue could have been that I was shooting with an 18mp camera and a standard zoom, and Iím used to using a 42mp camera with an 85mm lens on the front. Did it matter? To be completely honest, not really. Most pictures succeed or fail on the basis of their content, rather than absolute technical quality: and while I reckon 24mp is where film starts to lose out to digital, once cameras reached 12mp, quality was usually perfectly adequate for any shot that doesnít require fine detail to be beautifully sharp.

One thing I missed until we altered the setup Ė if youíre using a relatively weak artificial light source like a Rotolight, itís important to kill all other light sources. The drama of our setup increased markedly when I saw that the curtains were open, as the daylight was providing a significant additional light source!

Would I do it again? Yes, I would. Should you? Very possibly: though you need to be sure what youíre getting in technical terms. The deal I had meant that I got RAW files rapidly, and with virtual links that worked well: I can vouch for the Zoom/Digicam combination. And itís worth being sure that your model understands what sheís doing with her kit, and that you are happy with whatís on offer. I know of at least one other model offering similarly sophisticated hardware and an incisive mind of the sort this needs at the modelís end to make it work.



dudler Plus
17 1.4k 1777 England
24 Nov 2020 7:08AM
Enjoyable and relaxed: though in one sense, I was trying to keep more balls than usual in the air, grabbing a few screenshots with my iPad along the way...
kaybee Plus
16 7.5k 26 Scotland
24 Nov 2020 7:57AM
I hate technology and technology hates me so I could never see remote shooting for me .......... yesterday I walked into an office to exchange information with somebody and her computer froze (I had a sheet of paper which still worked) -- that is how bad it is for me.
ZenTony Plus
5 4 1 United Kingdom
24 Nov 2020 7:57AM
I have absolutely no concept of how that can work John. Are you saying that you were able to instruct her on set up and that you were able, remotely, to use her camera ? Presumably the camera is fixed and there is little ability to move around quickly. Whatever; the picture in the gallery is wonderful and worth all the techy stuff. I am pretty sure it is not for me though. I would need a more physical contact ( not touching if you know what I mean !)
dudler Plus
17 1.4k 1777 England
24 Nov 2020 8:27AM
Absolutely, Tony. That was my principal reservation about remote shooting, because I adjust camera position and focus constantly. Putting a camera on a tripod to photograph a person is very unnatural for me, and i really value the physicality of holding the camera, adjusting it all the time!

But a change is interesting, like any other voluntary set of constraints that one can choose for making pictures. Using Zoom, the software Vampire Princess has allowed me to control the camera - see the screenshot of the parameters I played with halfway through the blog. There's also a visible histogram, and various other aids to working: a click with the mouse relocated the focus area. If i needed to adjust focal length or camera angle, she did it for me, quickly and accurately.

The 'standard' Zoom view remains onscreen, but the bulk is taken up with the camera's live view and the controls.

Roy - you need no technical expertise with computers: just an ability to click with a mouse. I was truly impressed with how easy the software and Kay made it. All I needed was Zoom: everything else happened her end. I'd be very happy to put you in touch!
4 31 1 United States
24 Nov 2020 1:28PM
The Techie in me is more intrigued by what you are doing then the photographer in me is with the images.
I suspect, however, that this method limits you:
1- The talent you shoot. They have to understand both the technology as well as photography.
2- Your options for lighting, backdrop, scenery. You are at the mercy of the Model knowing what you are looking for and seeing it at their home.
3- Your Camera's. You are at the mercy of the models camera/lens kit, although having used remote camera software myself having all the controls up front makes this easier.
4- The internet connection reliability at yours and the models home. This is more important than the actual internet speed.
5- The computer at the models home
6- Finally, the ability to communicate changes in camera position to the model and her ability to make those changes. I presume you shot with a Prime lens?

On the plus side, you are experimenting with a new way to shoot expanding your photographers tool bag.
I presume she uploaded the raw files to the cloud and then you downloaded?
Very nice.

4 31 1 United States
24 Nov 2020 1:33PM
"18mp camera and a standard zoom" Sorry, I missed this.
dudler Plus
17 1.4k 1777 England
24 Nov 2020 3:19PM
George, a lot of what you say is perfectly correct, but is only a part of the truth in a couple of areas, and I want to expand on what I put in the original blog.

First, you're quite right about all the techie side of things, and I've known Vampire Princess a good while, I know her competence, and I had some idea of her kit. And 18mp is enough, as is a kit zoom: not what I generally use, but I'll point out that Canon's current pro body is only 20mp. The results here in the blog are not the best images: one of those is my post in the gallery today. WE've discussed quality in various circumstances before now: and I'll say 'good enough' is good enough, even for me. (I've been watching a video about a Japanese art photographer who does defocussed architectural shots on a 10"x8" camera: there will be a blog about this in due course, but it is a bit mindbending.)

Limited options: yes, indeed. But I shoot pretty regularly (when not locked down) in models' homes, and I accept that there are always limitations. Annie Liebowitz can take truckloads of gear on location, and does great work. But Jane Bown (British newspaper photographer) took a camera and a couple of rolls of film along in a shopping bag and took portraits for the Observer (British Sunday newspaper of considerable repute) while a journalist interviewed the subject: having control over everything is not always the way to work. I'd shot at Vampire Princess's place in the past, and I knew that there was enough room.

There are models I wouldn't try a remote shoot with - the slightly scatty, the photographically unschooled. But with the right person, it's fine: and with practice, it could be really good.
4 31 1 United States
24 Nov 2020 5:03PM
I applaud your efforts to continue shooting.
Having been doing Zoom meetings with family since the Pandemic started, I know it is difficult to judge lighting conditions via Zoom.
Anytime any of us steps out of our comfort zone to try something different, it is reason to applaud.
I have no doubt you will go beyond "really good".
dudler Plus
17 1.4k 1777 England
24 Nov 2020 5:18PM
Zoom is only part of the system: the Zoom link includes live view from the camera, and there's a facility to allow review of individual images.

I agree that lighting and Zoom are often Not Good Friends!

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