Negative Fill - What is it and does it actually do anything? by Hannah Couzens

One question I am asked regularly on my intro to lighting workshops is regarding the use of reflectors. Many times I see my attendees have their minds blown when we add just a simple reflector into the scene and how this unassuming piece of material or foam board can dramatically change our shots.

Reflectors are easier to understand and the concept of bouncing light back into a scene is much easier to understand. It’s the negative fill which has people asking me, does that actually do anything? We'll hold tight my friends because I am about to show you just how much a big black V Flat will actually change your images!

If you are one of the many people who wonder why on earth with a ‘five in one’ reflector there is a black side (for me it’s gold but let’s not go there!) then I hope I can help you understand the power of negative fill. 

The difference which will enhance your portraits is when you learn about light shaping and how to create dimension using shadow and light. You may wish to flood a high key image with light but what about if you still wanted to keep some structure? 

Negative fill (basically anything black) will act as the reverse of the reflector. It will suck the light out of the scene. At first you might think why would I want to do this but think about where you want your shadows to fall. What if you want soft light on the face so you use a huge light shaper but then you also want deep shadows on the opposite side of the face?  Inverse square law is a lesson for another day but for now, consider using negative fill.

Try placing your black flag on the opposite side to where your large soft light source is and move it closer and closer to your subject. You should start to see the shadows become more intense the closer you move it to your model. You will see the reverse with a reflector.

Below is an example from one of my workshops. The light setup is exactly the same in both shots. A large softbox behind, a beauty dish overhead and a reflector underneath. The only thing which has changed are the large flags on the left and right of my model.

These images are straight out of camera, nothing has been altered or retouched so you can see just how much of a difference those white and black flags make.

Look at the difference around the shoulders, cheeks and across the chest on the shot with the negative fill. Both flags are positioned to the side of my model's face remember so that is where I expect to see the impact.

        Negative fill to the sides creates more definition to the shoulders, chest and cheeks.

        Negative fill to the sides creates more definition to the shoulders, chest and cheeks.

  With the white reflectors in place you can see just how much light is bouncing around instead.

  With the white reflectors in place you can see just how much light is bouncing around instead.

You may prefer the image with the white reflectors, or you may prefer the image with the black flags. It is all a matter of personal taste but this post isn’t about getting you to choose, it’s about trying to show what impact negative fill can have, even with so much light bouncing around from this high key set up.

I hope that helps a little. I would encourage you to experiment with negative fill. It is one of my favourite, low budget methods to shape light.

First Shots with the Canon 5D Mark IV by Hannah Couzens

I know it's not usual for a photographer to wait a few days to use their new camera but this time I had good reason. The first being that I was about to teach two lighting classes where I needed to tether to my TV and the new 5D IV needed a faster USB 3 cable which I hadn't yet purchased but the other reason being, I really did love my 5D III and I wasn't sure I was ready for our breakup.

Canon 5d mark IV

Canon 5d mark IV

I do not hide the fact that I am not your usual gear geek. I am certainly not someone who has to have the latest kit just because. I purchased my 5DIII back in July 2013 and it's been an absolute workhorse. When I think about what I've put it through and how it has never once let me down, it's no wonder I feel so attached.

The reason I finally made the upgrade was due to a rainy afternoon in February. Some photographer friends and I decided to check our shutter actuations..........mine was 257,513!!

Whilst there is a lot of debate about how long these things can really go for (and I do not doubt that this beast could carry on for a long time yet) I guess now would be a good time to make the change.

Once again, this isn't a review. If I am honest I haven't even scratched the surface of what this camera is truly capable of and I haven't touched any custom functions as yet. This is a straight out of the box, 'let's see what you're made of' type of post.

Unfortunately my website likes to compress and destroy images but the quality is immense with the 5D IV

Unfortunately my website likes to compress and destroy images but the quality is immense with the 5D IV

My first observation was the weight. At 75 grams lighter than the 5DIII it's around 10% lighter. That might not sound like much but I'll take it! 

Secondly IT'S TOUCH SCREEN!!! This was really weird and at first I wasn't sure if I liked it. I can now safely say that I love it. Not only does this seem to speed up menu selections but you can also scroll back and forth in playback mode with a swipe of a finger plus you can pinch and zoom into your shots. I must add that you can lock the screen if you are not a fan of this feature but after you get over the weirdness, it really is very cool.

There are still 61 focus points on the IV, the only difference being that the coverage has been extended vertically. 

The 5D IV gives us 30.4 megapixels which isn't a huge increase from the 5D III's 22 Megapixels but you know, that's fine with me! Realistically as a portrait photographer, I do not need to enlarge my images to the size of a bus very often and I will re-frame or switch lenses where possible to avoid cropping into my shots. I shoot several clients per day and I do not need the hassle of huge files from more and more megapixels when I just don't need them.

hannahcouzenscanon5dIV

I have to say that the combination of the sensor in the IV paired with the 85mm 1.2 is unreal. The detail is immense. 

At the end of our shoot, we decided to play around with Ishana's braids and a hair flip. I put my Protofo B1s and B2's into Freeze mode to shorten my flash duration and we decided to see what the seven frames per second of the IV could get us. It's fair to say that we got some interesting results from that pairing!

Seven Frames Per Second plus the Profotos in Freeze mode gave us some great shapes.

Seven Frames Per Second plus the Profotos in Freeze mode gave us some great shapes.

Freeze Mode Profoto

There's a whole host of super smart technology within this camera. Dual Pixel RAW allows you to make micro adjustments to focus, bokeh and ghosting in post. I am not sure if I will really ever use this feature as I really need to explore how micro we are talking and indeed if it would really benefit me personally with my workflow. The increased file sizes for a real micro adjustment I think I can live without but I am sure to others, this could be a great feature and I may go back on this with further exploration.

My next shoot requires a shot from above. I know that my camera will be rigged to a boom arm on my ceiling to shoot down at my subjects. The built in WIFI & NFC technology will enable me to connect the camera to a smart device. I will then be able to view, focus and capture what I want from my phone using the Canon Camera Connect while the camera is up near the ceiling. Needless to say, this is awesome compared to hanging off a stepladder above my client praying it's focussed, framed correctly and that I don't fall on them!

As I always say, the camera is probably capable of so many things which I will never use. I am mostly a studio portrait photographer so the impressive ISO capabilities etc just don't really apply to me. You will find countless in depth reviews on the web, this is just my view on my new gear and how on it's first outing, I am already impressed.

hannahcouzenscanon5dIV

One thing I feel I need to mention is the price. I remember the outrage from pro photographers who were complaining about the price upon it's initial release. I would ask those pro photographers to go and add up their turnover since their last camera purchase. If the IV is going to repeat the performance of it's predecessor I am set to have many years of shooting without any problems from the one tool that I absolutely cannot do without. This is the type of investment in which your return is off the charts.

hannah couzens 5div blog

Whilst I will conclude and reiterate the fact that I am not one for the latest kit, as a full time working professional shooting thousands of frames per week and a business to run, I do need a trustworthy, reliable piece of equipment which will enable me to do my job.

hannah couzens photographer

With Canon's 5D series I have that confidence. The 5DIII was and still is an amazing camera. It has served me so well and now can finally enjoy it's retirement. The IV seems to also be an amazing camera so far. The question you really need to ask yourself is 'does this camera improve my workflow, my control over the camera and do the new features improve my experience as a user?' For me, the answer is yes so I look forward to exploring the features of my new workhorse and reporting back to you in more depth next time.

Canon M5 Review by Hannah Couzens

I use my camera every. Single. Day. I don't wish to think about how many frames I take on a daily basis. This means that after 8 months without a break, I was starting to question if I really wanted to take my DSLR over to Malaysia for my holiday. 

This was my third time to this fabulous country. Had it been my first, the 5DIII would have been coming without a doubt. 

I was very fortunate to be loaned a CanonEOS M5 get stated kit. This consisted of the M5 body, 15 - 45mm lens and EOS M Mount Adapter. 

Canon M5 Front

Canon M5 Front

This was the perfect opportunity to be brave and travel light! 

I decided to pack my 50mm 1.2 lens, my tiny Manfrotto PIXI tripod and go 'off duty' as full time photographer and embrace the lightweight mirrorless travel photographer lifestyle (even if all the way to the plane I was convinced I had left my bag somewhere!).

 

Canon M5 Back

Canon M5 Back

This isn't going to be a technical review. You can find those all over the internet. I'm going to share with you my thoughts on this strange new concept of traveling light and embracing mirrorless!

I decided not to read the manual. Firstly, I don't read manuals and secondly I wanted to jump right in and see just how easy this was to operate. 

After a 13.5 flight to Kuala Lumpur and some fun jetlag, we decided to head to the Batu Caves. This would be my first time taking the camera out. So far, so good. It almost felt like using a phone at first as I was getting used to the 'touch & drag' autofocus but it was really quite fast and surprisingly accurate. 

Batu Caves - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Batu Caves - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

At first I used the kit lens. I was always dubious of what the little thing would produce. I shouldn't have been. Below is a detail shot of the full res file. Impressive. 

Detail Shot of Above Image - Impressive Quality!

Detail Shot of Above Image - Impressive Quality!

My partner, Nate Zeman, did have all his usual gear with him including several lenses, filters, his 5DIII plus tripod etc. I have to say, I felt pretty smug holding the little M5 as we climbed the 272 steps in the 34 degree heat!

Halfway up the steps a family of Macaques were ready to mug any passing tourist. I decided to use the M Mount and attach my 50mm as I wanted to shoot at a lower aperture. One thing I hadn't considered - Crop factor. This was new. Now I effectively have an 80mm. 

Canon M5 W/ 50mm Lens

Canon M5 W/ 50mm Lens

As it goes, this worked in my favour as I was able to shoot this portrait of one of the Macaques. I was actually amazed how quickly the M5 focused, so much so the first thing I did was check to be sure it was as sharp as I hoped it was. 

Macaque - Batu Caves - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Macaque - Batu Caves - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

One feature which was really quite fun was how I could transfer the shot straight to my phone via wifi back at the hotel and put it straight out on to social media. 

Evening came and it was time to get those Petronas Towers at blue hour. I definitely had a challenge trying to find somewhere to shoot as I needed to be sure to fit them in the frame yet my 'travelling light' mantra meant I had to shoot down at floor level. 

Shooting Low is when the adjustable screen really came in handy!

Shooting Low is when the adjustable screen really came in handy!

Here's where I really found the articulated screen useful. I could position the camera on the ground and using the flip out screen, I could still see what I was doing and could control my exposure.

Petronas Towers - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Petronas Towers - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Petronas Towers - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Petronas Towers - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Canon M5 W/ Kit Lens and Screen Flipped Out

Canon M5 W/ Kit Lens and Screen Flipped Out

A trip to the Chinese temple and the Islamic Arts Centre would test the dynamic range of the M5. Again, I have to say, I was impressed. 

Thean Hou Temple - Malaysia

Thean Hou Temple - Malaysia

Thean Hou Temple - Malaysia

Thean Hou Temple - Malaysia

Joss Sticks - Thean Hou Temple - Malaysia

Joss Sticks - Thean Hou Temple - Malaysia

Thean Hou Temple - Malaysia

Thean Hou Temple - Malaysia

Thean Hou Temple - Malaysia

Thean Hou Temple - Malaysia

Thean Hou Temple - Malaysia

Thean Hou Temple - Malaysia

Dome Ceiling - National Museum of Islamic Arts, Malaysia

Dome Ceiling - National Museum of Islamic Arts, Malaysia

Another benefit which I hadn't considered was just how inconspicuous the M5 appears. Not that I would have felt unsafe with my SLR as in a city like KL, everyone is using one. There is something nice though about having a smaller camera which I could put straight into my handbag and having that feeling like I can blend in with everyone else. 

A quick flight up to Penang meant the beach would provide some stunning sunsets every evening. 

Schoolboy error 101 would occur on the first night. Good old air conditioned hotel room to ridiculous humidity causes for some impressive lens fog! No shots tonight!

OOPS!

OOPS!

Came better prepared the second night... No fog!

Came better prepared the second night... No fog!

Sunset in Penang

Sunset in Penang

I felt that a trip to Georgetown was where I was so grateful that I had the M5 and not my normal kit. In 35 degrees and 90% humidity it was seriously hot. I was so glad I could pull this little camera out of the bag to photograph architecture, street art or the various colours and lights of the night market. 

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Mosque in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Mosque in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Street Art - Penang, Malaysia

Street Art - Penang, Malaysia

Night Market - Penang, Malaysia

Night Market - Penang, Malaysia

A trip to the botanical gardens was where I have to admit that I cheated. We were fortunate to find some dusky leaf monkeys hanging out in the trees. My kit lens couldn't really get close enough. After he got his shots, I asked Nate if I could steal his 70-200mm. This allowed me to get so much closer to the monkeys than even he could due to the crop factor. 

IMG_1772.jpg
Dusky Leaf Monkey

Dusky Leaf Monkey

Dusky Leaf Monkeys

Dusky Leaf Monkeys

That's what I love about this system. With the adapter, any of our lenses will fit straight on to this little camera. 

Canon M5 Lens Mount Adapter

Canon M5 Lens Mount Adapter

I did find that I had to use the digital viewfinder when shooting with this lens as I couldn't hold it steady with arms outstretched. The M5 has a sensor and will switch the display from the LCD screen to the viewfinder automatically if you hold it up to your eye. 

Shooting with the 70-200mm

Shooting with the 70-200mm

I know this is technically cheating under this 'travelling light' rules but I couldn't resist seeing what the M5 could produce. 

Penang, Malaysia

Penang, Malaysia

Penang, Malaysia

Penang, Malaysia

Monkey Beach, Penang, Malaysia

Monkey Beach, Penang, Malaysia

After returning home to the UK, I couldn't resist taking a shot in the studio. I decided to bolt my 85 1.2 on the front using the adaptor and shot a few frames at the end of a shoot to see how it would perform. This is the only time I felt like I couldn't get used to the M5.

E38B4929.jpg
natasha2.jpg

There is something about the weight of a DSLR and that reassuring clunk when you hit the shutter. Whilst the image above was taken with the M5 and is very impressive in the quality department, I just can't imagine shooting a whole session with it. 

Overall, I absolutely loved the M5. I wasn't sure if I would regret not taking my SLR away with me but I honestly didn't miss it this time. The only time I felt I may have been frustrated was if I didn't have the 70-200 for the monkeys and would have had to be limited to 45mm with the kit lens or at a push 80mm with the crop factor of my 50mm. 

Would I take it again? Absolutely! I am a huge fan and a camera like this feels like it was made for travel photography or just for having something you can put in your bag which had the ability and control to produce some wonderful results. 

Would I recommend it? Absolutely. I will be getting one for myself very soon. 

 

Thank you once again to Canon for lending me the kit.