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  • Writer's pictureGeoff Nichols

Fashion Photography in 2023

Out with the old and in with the new

Before we get into this week's blog, I thought I would introduce myself and let you know a bit about me. I'm a London fashion photographer with many years of experience. I shoot runway, editorial and commercial photography and work with a diverse range of brands and publications. I have photographed everyone from new face models to His Majesty the King (while he was HRH Prince of Wales), along with musicians and celebrities across the arts and entertainment industries. I love shooting fashion and beauty and have been published many times across the US and Europe. To see more of my work either as a fashion photographer or a beauty photographer feel free to visit some of the following sites:

So, onto this week's blog and the sticky topic of upgrading equipment.

Over the course of my time in photography, I've been privileged to be able to use a variety of cameras. I started out with a little Praktica 35mm SLR aged 12 and to this day I still have it, sitting on the shelf in my office, to remind me where it all began. It's a testament to just how well-built those cameras were that I can still load it with film and go out and use it and produce some excellent results. The only piece of technology on it was a needle indicator for the light meter, everything else was purely mechanical.

Since then technology has moved on – it's now relatively rare for commercial photographers to shoot solely with film because clients need to be able to see the images immediately. On most occasions, waiting isn't an option because as the saying goes, time is money. But like all things retro, it is making a comeback, just like vinyl audio is too. The likelihood is it will find a niche all its own once more.

In my time I've used the Nikon F5, Nikon D2 and D3S, Nikon D700, the D800 and 810 Pentax 645, Mamiya RB67 and RZ67, Hasselblad H2D, and H4D as well as many others that have advanced my photography and shaped me as a photographer. Some of them I have loved and some I loathed! I still have my F5 and it's one camera that I won't sell - it was and still is an amazing piece of kit

And it's in this vein that today's blog is written. Time is money and so it would seem is detail. In the world of commercial fashion photography, clients want to see their products presented in the best way possible. Now that doesn't mean that you as a photographer need to go out and get up to your eyeballs in debt, kitting yourself out with the best that Hasselblad or Phase One has to offer. That's fairly counter-productive but I am a firm believer in getting the best that you can comfortably afford within reason.

Before we go any further I should point out something. I am not sponsored by any manufacturer nor do I receive any 'freebies' or commission for anything I use. I have bought every piece of equipment with my own money and for that reason, I realise the importance of value for money and getting the best you can for your own particular needs. I have no brand loyalty as you will see and the views expressed are based on my own experience.

For the past 4 years, I've shot with the Nikon D850 and the Fujifilm GFX 50S. Make no mistake, these are both very capable and great cameras to use. The imagery produced by the D850 is really great and as for the GFX, well if I could afford to, I would keep it because its images are simply mind-blowing. So why, I hear you ask are you saying goodbye to two cameras, which on the face of it deliver such good results? Well, there are a few reasons but I will start with the one which for me is glaringly obvious. I am operating with two systems, neither of which have great capability when it comes to video. The majority of commercial brands now want stills and video as part of their campaigns so if I am only able to offer one part of the package. The likelihood is, that I will lose out to someone who is able to offer a combined package. Now while the D850 is capable of recording in 4K, it's only at 30fps which by today's standards is not great. And in both photography and videography, flexibility in your equipment is key.

Secondly, in order to maintain consistency across my brand, I need to try and match both the Fuji and Nikon in terms of how the imagery looks. Many people would argue that this can be achieved in post – well yes and no. It can to a point but even after some time and effort, it doesn't quite match. And as I said previously, time is one of the most valuable commodities you have. Apart from the fact that the medium format look is quite different from full frame.

From a brand aesthetic, I want both stills and video to be seamless and reduce my editing time from each shoot. If the client wants a really tight crop, I want to be able to do this without any detail suffering as a result. I want reasonably good low-light capability and af tracking that works 99% of the time with good accuracy. There is nothing more frustrating than being on location, thinking you've bagged some gems with the model only to discover later in post that the camera couldn't quite keep up with the model's movements and didn't quite nail the focus in the eyes every time.

Equally, I want to have a single system where I do not have to duplicate lenses and, in the case of Fujifilm GFX lenses, pay a huge premium on top. Then of course there is the weight factor. Hauling two different systems across London is no joke. Doing it for 5 days on the bounce during London Fashion Week leaves you feeling like you just got pummelled by some huge MMA fighter.

So what to do?

I've been a fan of Nikon for most of my photography career and have used their cameras for virtually all of it. Nikon has been leading the way for decades but the truth is that I think in the last few years they've started to veer off course. The advent of mirrorless cameras has put pay to their dominance in the pro photography market and others have taken the top spots. I know that many die-hard Nikon photographers will be reading this and shouting at me by now – what about the Z6ii, the Z7ii and the Z9?? Well, they're not bad – the Z9 is out of contention purely on price. Which leaves the Z7ii and Z6ii. On paper, these both look like great cameras but when you start to look at the alternatives, they do lose their sheen. The AF isn't quite as accurate and the video capability isn't quite as see the picture that's emerging. Sorry Nikon but I think it's time to admit that the time has come for us to part ways.

I started to look at one of the original driving forces behind mirrorless cameras – Sony.

Their research and continued improvements in the pro camera model lineup are second to none. Both their sensor and processor technology are hard to beat and couple this with firmware updates that improve performance and you have a system that is ideal for someone in my position.

The Sony A7r V is an astonishing camera. Not only because it has a 61mp full frame sensor but the technology packed into this camera now is breathtaking.

The AI engine alone is amazing but add to this the AF tracking system and you have a camera that has incredible technology and on top of which is more than capable of shooting video in its own right. In APS C mode this camera still produces images equivalent to a 26mp sensor. It can shoot 8K video at 25p and 24p as well as a host of other 4K and S Log options.

This camera by itself is an ideal fit for me but I have also operated on the principle of having a backup camera. Predominantly I will use the A7R V for stills with some video use but then I will also need a second body to use as a video camera with some stills capability. Enter the Sony A7 IV – a beast of a camera capable of producing commercial-level video work and with a full frame 33mp sensor. Having seen the footage shot on the A7 IV I am in no doubt that this is a no-brainer as far as having a complete system. 33mp stills on a full frame is definitely not to be sniffed at, considering the sensor is a relatively new BSI - CMOS type.

Using both of these cameras will allow me to produce visual content of the highest quality for clients while maintaining that seamless flow I have been after between stills and video. As an added bonus it will also mean a reduction in time and effort for me in post-production.

Luckily, it also means reducing the amount of weight I'll be carrying (my back is definitely going to like that!) and in terms of cost, the sale of both the D850, GFX 50S, and all of the lenses and accessories will more than cover the purchase of the Sony kit and still leave me with some money in the bank.

I know many people reading this will be thinking if only I could afford to do that. The simple truth is I was thinking the same way. I thought there was no way that I could get anywhere near enough funds together to move across to an all-new system. The reality however is very different. When you gather together all your current gear and look at its resale value of it, you might be pleasantly surprised. Don't be tempted to trade in as you won't get the full retail value – places that accept trade-ins are out to make money, which means giving you a much lower price on a camera or lens than you could sell it for privately. True, trading in takes the hassle out of dealing with private buyers but for the sake of a bit of work, isn't it better to get as much as you can for your kit?

There are plenty of groups on Facebook where you can sell photography kit but just be careful that you know the buyer is genuine. I generally sell my used equipment on eBay – yes I know they will take 12% of the final value but at least it's a lot less than most camera shops will take on a trade in price and there is security in selling through the site.

So 2023 is going to be a lot different for my fashion photography. It's going to mean a big change in what I do and in how I do it.

Watch this space !

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