I caught up with acclaimed portrait, wedding and boudoir photographer Kate Hopewell-Smith to hear about why she’s happy she switched from a DSLR to a Sony mirrorless camera. It turns out there are lots of reasons, but she’s narrowed it down to the top 5:
1. Eye AF
Kate now relies on her Sony A9’s Eye AF 90% of the time because it gets the most important part of her subject sharp. It also means that she doesn’t have to worry about moving the AF point, she can just let the system find her subject’s eye and track it while she concentrates on the creative side of photography.
Kate explains, ‘It means I can shoot wide open again – wasn’t worth it before. I would take 10 shots at f/2.8 on an 85mm lens and I’d be lucky to get one just or two perfectly sharp. Now I just take 3 or 4 and they’re all sharp.’
2. Tilting LCD Screen
The LCD screen has transformed the way that Kate shoots. ‘As a left-eye shooter, I always found viewfinders a bit awkwardly positioned and now, unless the ambient light is really bright, I rarely use the EVF to compose images. Instead, I tilt the screen and use that, it makes it easy to be more creative with my shooting angle. I’ll shoot from ground-level one minute and then I’m holding the camera at arm’s length above my head or around a corner.’
3. Focus Magnifier and Focus Peaking
Because mirrorless cameras work in permanent live view mode they can display a magnified section of the scene and focus peaking in the viewfinder or on the screen.
‘I love that combination. I set the focus peaking to red so I can see it easily. With that combined with the enlarged view, I can see that I’ve got the right part of the image sharp in tricky situations. For example, at a wedding when I’m shooting through backlit water from a fountain (like the image above), or moving foliage, and the couple are looking at each other so the Eye AF can’t help, I like to use manual focus. The magnified view and the peaking display give me confidence in my focusing.’
‘It also makes macro photography much easier. For example, I used to take around 20 shots of the inscriptions on wedding rings in the hope that one or two would be right. Now I can get the focus exactly where I want it every time.’
4. Full-time Live View
‘Seeing the exposure and white balance before you take the shot means you can get everything right in-camera. That saves time with post-capture processing.’
Kate and her husband, Brent, routinely work together on shoots, Kate shooting the stills and Brent the video. Before they start, they get their cameras together and make sure that they both have the same white balance set. Kate explains, ‘we always use a manual white balance setting, but we set the value by eye so we create the images and video that we like the look of.’
5. Silent Shutter
Thanks to its electronic shutter, the Sony A9 can shoot completely silently. According to Kate, ‘it’s ideal for those intimate moments during a wedding; when the father first sees the bride, or the bride and groom catch each other’s eyes. It also means I can shoot during the wedding ceremony – even in a silent Cathedral.’
‘One thing I would add though, it’s important to check the lighting before you shoot. If there are any dimmable LEDs you might get banding – that’s an electronic shutter issue rather than a Sony problem. But it’s easy to check, we just go around the room beforehand pointing the camera at any major light sources. Provided the shutter speed is around 1/250sec or higher, you’ll see if banding is likely to be an issue because of the frequency of the light. If it is, we use the mechanical shutter.’
After switching her Nikon kit for a Sony A9 system (available from B&H Photo Video and Wex Photo Video), Kate Hopewell-Smith has become a European Imaging Ambassador for Sony. She is also a director of both the photography school Training byLUMIERE and luxury destination brand byLumiere.