Month: November 2019

Sony A7riv review: My 5 tips on custom settings and documentary photography gallery

November 25, 2019

I will admit, I am a late adopter with new tech. I like my workflow, it works. I work well with it. So when I recently dove deep and got the Sony A7r4 mirrorless system in an extremely busy shooting time for me, I didn’t have much time to sit down and study. I just had to trust…and shoot.

 Armstrong Park, Zack Smith Photography - Sony A7r4, 135mm 1.8G ISO400, f1.8, 1/250 while walking…yes…

Armstrong Park, Zack Smith Photography – Sony A7r4, 135mm 1.8G ISO400, f1.8, 1/250 while walking…yes…

A new school Review: 3 days with the Sony A7rIV

If you want to really know a camera you have to spend significant time with it. Having never really worked professionally or personally with the new Sony A7riv, or any mirrorless for that matter, there was a bit of a learning curve. I had a few days to watch some Sony videos and a great Tony Northrup tutorial as I waited for the right Sigma MC-11 converter to come in. (Yes, I ordered the wrong one…I even ordered the wrong batteries!)

Without the right converter, I could not use any of my Canon lenses, but luckily I received the Sony 135G 1.8 with my body order and was able to shoot with that all weekend. I probably wouldn’t take just a 135mm lens with me on a street walk or festival, but it’s all I had as I then had to adapt my “lens vision” to 135. I started to see and anticipate subjects and backgrounds in the relationship of 135mm. It was different, fun, and allowed me to see my weekend in a whole different way.

My 5 tips on what to set for documentary photography in the Sony A7riv

  1. Set your Date and Time as well as Copyright Info (SETUP 5 5/7 menu) – get your metadata right!

  2. Display Rotation (PLAYBACK 4) – turn “off” I like to have my verticals full frame, as well as my horizontals

  3. Custom Buttons (C1 – C4 set in Custom Operation 1, in purple camera2 mode)

    • playback custom key C1 – I set to Rating. I love rating my images in the field!

  4. Live View Display (Display/auto Review – set ON) – this way you can see how your exposures look in real time. Great for event and documentary photography.

  5. Turn sound/beep ON. This might just be me, but I love to hear when I am in focus! I can turn off in quiet moments!

 Louisiana State Museum and St. Louis Cathedral, shot with the Sony A7riv and 135mm 1.8G - ISO160 / f2.8 / 1/6400

Louisiana State Museum and St. Louis Cathedral, shot with the Sony A7riv and 135mm 1.8G – ISO160 / f2.8 / 1/6400

Event and documentary photography with the Sony A7r4

When you first get a new camera or lens it’s always good to take it out somewhere that can give you all the action you need to take it for a thorough test spin. I was able to shoot in Baton Rouge at the St. Aloysius Parish Fair during a day of blue skies, colorful rides and music…and a hell of alot of DUST. I highly recommend not shooting in a dusty environment the first time you get a mirrorless camera – the anxiety I had every time a kid ran by me kicking up dust was enough to make me almost put the camera away! That big sensor…with no shutter out there to protect it…and in the open! Yes, you get my point!

Luckily I just had the one 135mm lens so I never had to change. (More Documentary Blog Posts Here) Here are some photos and descriptions of my settings from Saturday. I found that using the Continuous Shooting HIGH+ / AF-C / Tracking: Expand Flexible Spot / Face-Eye Priority in AF with HUMAN subject detection – when doing casual documentary style, available light photography, worked just fine. If you are unfamiliar with these settings, take them one by one and try those settings out. When figuring out what settings to use on your camera for documentary photography, I chose these. Below are my exposure settings. I did some light, very light, Lightroom adjustments.

 ISO500 1/320 F5.6
 ISO500 1/640 F5.6
 ISO200 1/2500 F5.0
 ISO100 1/2000 F1.8
 ISO100 1/500 F1.8
 ISO100 1/800 F1.8

On Sunday I took the Sony and my 135mm out to the French Quarter to shoot the gorgeous afternoon light as well as some music and food at the Treme Creole Gumbo Festival. I found that my settings from the fair the day before worked well here as well. The Sony did well tracking subjects side to side at the fair, and did equally well when my daughter was running towards and away from me. I also liked the way the RAW files retained superior dynamic range from the shadows to the highlights.

 ISO100 1/3200 F2.2
 ISO100 1/2500 F4.0
 ISO160 1/2500 F3.5
 ISO400 1/80 F4.0
 ISO400 1/640 F2.2
 ISO400 1/1000 F1.8

I was able to equalize them a bit in Lightroom without the image having that over-HDR effect. You can see this result in the middle top image of the two guys on the bench. Photographing food with the Sony was a little tricky in my opinion as I really captured EVERYTHING in that one gumbo photo. I didn’t realize how much oil showed up in the photo, something I didn’t see with my eye. I am just starting to get used to the system, forcing myself to use it in professional situations and trusting my instincts and tech savvy in tandem!

Studio Portrait Gallery and Sony Ar7iv Strobe Tips next week!


New Tech Update: New gear and portrait photography during Halloween in New Orleans

November 5, 2019

Me….using my Canon Camera Connect before family portraits on Halloween. I am agreeing with the app.

Me….using my Canon Camera Connect before family portraits on Halloween. I am agreeing with the app.

What better time to try out some new gear than at the greatest portrait holiday ever? Yes you guessed it, Halloween. I don’t know about anywhere else, but in New Orleans we take Halloween seriously. Wether you are going to the store at 6am or picking up your trashcans at 6pm, if it’s October 31st you better be in costume.

Halloween is a feast for the senses, especially for a portrait photographer in New Orleans. Everywhere you go there are some of the most amazing costumes and everyone is acting out their favorite superhero, or not so super super hero right in front of you. What better time to try out some new gear!

Hands on with new gear at Photo Plus and Sony

I recently got back from a trip to Photo Plus in New York where I go to try out many new products from some of the leading photography brands in the world. I had always wanted to attend a photography trade show but my schedule wouldn’t allow. When I found out that Sony was having their Creative Space right across the street, I could’t say no.


I got to try out the new Sony cameras and shoot at a few of their setups and scenes as well as hear first hand from Sony photographers Miguel Quiles and Brooke Shaden about their creative workflow. I also got to visit the Lensbaby booth at Photo Plus and get some hands on shooting with the Omni Creative Filter System. I liked this pack so much, I bought one and had to try it out for Halloween!

Creative portrait photography and storytelling made easy

I love how easily the lens filter system fits my lens, and the magnetic holders allow you to adjust your selected filter to go hands-free so you can create! Trust me I love my prisms and Get Fractal filters (see more on How To Shoot With Prisms) but I do like how you don’t have to constantly hold them in front of you. Kudos to Lens Baby for thinking of this magnet system.



After getting used to the prism filter and the other two (you can see which one I like more..) I decided it was time to unleash them on haunted streets of New Orleans.


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