Question #44: 3 questions in 13 minutes and 13 seconds

Let's try something different this week! I did a live Q&A on my FB Page today and put the video on YouTube. I'll be doing more of them so please join me on FB if you can!

Elizabeth Gray: "Hi Valerie, I meant to ask you this in Vancouver but forgot. How often do you use the wide angle and tele converter for you X100T? Are they easy to swap in and out on the fly? Would you recommend them as an alternative to one of the interchangeable lens Fujis?"

Susan Goudge: "Hi Valerie! I want to work on getting some shots with motion blur with people on the street--can you advise what settings to use to get this effect? Thank you!"

Monty Montgomery: "I believe you have said you use single point focus mode. If the subject is off-center you will focus and recompose and take the shot. How does that work for you when you are shooting from the waist level? Do you change the focus mode to zone or are you skilled enough that you are able to focus and recompose using single point? Thanks."

Question #43: About Sunbursts

Bonjour! I decided to restart the Q&A blog posts. I put them on hold for a long time because of my Street Focus podcast. I answer listener questions in a monthly Q&A segment and thought that redundancy would not make much sense. I'll try to answer different questions here, but they may cross over on occasion as well. I was also busy writing my first street photography ebook :)

So this week, I want to talk about sunbursts!

Recently someone commented on one of my silhouette pics by asking if I used a sunburst filter. I must admit that, being somewhat of a gear minimalist, I had never even heard of a sunburst filter and wondered why anyone would use one when you can achieve sunbursts without a filter. So I investigated further... There are indeed such things are Star Effect Filters that you can put in front of your lens. They even come in 4 point or 6 point options.

But why? First, a sunburst is quite easy to achieve without the added expense of a filter by simply setting your camera to a small aperture (big number ;) ideally start at f/16). And, wouldn't the use of a filter reduce the quality of the lens? 

Does a star effect filter make the sunburst more 'perfect'? Again... Why? Is perfection so important that we need to alter everything to try to achieve it? Are we even wired to respond to perfection? Or rather, aren't we more likely to respond emotionally to imperfections. As a street photographer, I certainly don't look for perfection. I photograph everyday life, it's raw, it's not perfect and it's often those imperfections that make the photograph special.

Okay, but people buy those filters so they must be really awesome. I looked further and saw one great example where such a filter would be very useful: Night street photography. I can definitely see its use to create a star effect on street lights. 

I usually try to capture a sunburst when I shoot a silhouette. It's an added challenge and it looks cool. I really never even paid attention whether it has 4, 6 or more points... For one thing, the sunburst is never the subject of my photograph. I look at it as an added bonus that makes a good shot a little bit more interesting. 

As I was doing a Google search on the filters, I stumbled upon many tutorials on how to add a sunburst to an image that doesn't have one in the first place... Yikes! Don't even get me started... Call me a purist if you wish. I find it much more fun and challenging (and so much faster) to capture it in camera than spend my precious time making one up in PS. But hey, post processing is an art and I know many amazing photographers who enjoy that part of the craft and do it very well. I admire their PS skills, I'm in awe with what they can do with the tools. But it's just not for me, and that's probably one of the reasons why street photography and I are such good friends.

Conclusion: Maybe my first reaction towards using such filters was a bit strong, they are just another way to create 'in camera', no different than using a creative focus lens or even a toy camera. It's all good, especially if it makes the photographer go out with his/her camera more and make pictures! I may just have to try a star effect filter some day :)

Here are a few of my sunburst pics, they are 'au naturel', no filter or PS magic applied.

  A Roman evening f/16  ©Valerie Jardin

A Roman evening f/16  ©Valerie Jardin

 A New York morning f/16  ©Valerie Jardin  

A New York morning f/16 ©Valerie Jardin 

 Yes, once in a while I also photograph the natural world in my own backyard :) f/18 ©Valerie Jardin 

Yes, once in a while I also photograph the natural world in my own backyard :) f/18 ©Valerie Jardin 

Street Focus


This blog has been a bit quiet lately... I've been traveling a lot and teaching photo workshops. I also started hosting my very own podcast Street Focus: An Ongoing Exploration of Urban Photography. I invite you to listen to this new weekly show which is part of the popular TWiP (This Week in Photo) network. The podcast is free for download on iTunes and you can also sign up to receive it via email (the audio is available on the show notes each week).

Every three weeks I answer listener questions and run a photo contest, so do not hesitate to send your questions for the show!

Also, I've added some workshops for 2015: A weekend of street photography in Paris in January, a week in Rome in April and a week in Paris in May. I hope to meet some of you during a photo adventure in 2015! To read my latest newsletter you can click here. To receive updates, please sign up here.


Question #42: About My Camera Settings

Q: "Valerie, I love your photographs, there's a timelessness attached to them and very French if I may say so! These are in the tradition of the great French photographers of the fifties. One thing though, I'm dying to know what your settings are if you shoot Raw or Jpegs out of the camera. Hoping you will put me out of my misery. Best wishes." Alan Thomas.

A: "Thank you for the nice compliment Alan, made me blush! :)

As you probably know, I shoot almost exclusively with the Fuji x100s. I love its simplicity and user-friendly dials. I shoot RAW because I like the control it gives me. I don't spend much time in Lightroom but I like consistency and control in my B&W conversion. I don't use presets, I adjust each slider in seconds and the job is done. I have used the JPEG setting on many occasions and the fun filters. I have often set the format in square high contrast B&W with yellow filter and got great results that didn't differ much from the adjustments I make to my RAW files. Basically I shoot RAW out of habit more than anything else...

I shoot in Aperture Priority most of the time. A dial I use a lot is exposure compensation, which is very conveniently located on the x100s (not the case for every camera where you have to go into a menu to change it!) 

My two cents: It's not about shooting Raw or Jpeg, full manual or auto, it's really about learning to see and know how to use your camera to tell your story. I see a lot of bad imagery shot in full manual mode and quite a lot amazing photography shot with camera phones. Vision is still the most indispensable element to produce good photography :)

I hope this answers your question. Happy shooting!" Valerie

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