Monday, June 11, 2007
Douglas Kirkland - For Art & Glamour
Douglas Kirkland has been at the top of fashion photography for more than four decades. In that time, he has always embraced new ideas and technologies.
Today, some 30-plus years later, Kirkland is still a student. Early digital cameras intrigued him for their capabilities as learning tools in the classroom. “These early cameras weren't much good for serious photography because they were very low resolution, but they were wonderful learning tools because they offered instant feedback,” he says.
The Canon EOS D30 marked Kirkland's first attempt to truly work with digital capture. “The camera had good resolution and shooting capabilities and I could use it in the studio and on location.”
From the D30, he moved to the EOS D60 and eventually all the way to a Canon EOS 1Ds. “When I travel, I carry the 1Ds and a [Canon EOS] 10D. The 10D gives me a lightweight camera while the 1Ds has the full-frame sensor and the very high resolution.”
As a practical matter, Kirkland shoots almost everything in JPEG. “I haven't been convinced that I get enough of an increase in quality to make for the hassles of shooting RAW files,” he says. “I tend to shoot a lot of photographs at a time and the RAW files are just too difficult to deal with quickly.”
That's not to say that he never shoots RAW. “There are times when the exposure might be a problem and I'll want a RAW file for the flexibility that it will give me.” He adds with a slight chuckle, “Everyone wanted more resolution and bigger image files, and now that we can make these really large RAW files, they're not entirely sure they like what they had wished for.”
Kirkland is also wary of the much ballyhooed ability of the LCD for judging exposure. “With digital cameras just like with film, you have to be careful with your exposure and you can't judge it on that LCD. You're way too influenced by the light around you. If you're out on a bright day, the screen will probably appear dark, while if you're in a dark studio, the screen will look very bright. There's no substitute for using a meter to be certain you have the exposure right.” Of course, Kirkland calls up the histogram to check exposure from time to time, but he finds that it slows down the pace of his shooting.
Much has been said about being able to review images as you go with a digital camera. One would think that a photographer like Kirkland would utilize that capability as much as possible while shooting. Not so.
“I don't want a bunch of people gathered around a computer screen looking at all of my shots as I go,” he says. “I keep as much secret as possible as I'm shooting. Basically, I treat the digital images like film. I'll review a shot for exposure before I begin a session and do the same at the end of the session, but other than that, I don't want a bunch of other people quarterbacking my photography.”
Kirkland retells a nightmare scenario that he had heard: “A colleague was photographing a movie star and the star was fascinated by the ability to see the images as they came up. The photographer let her look, and before long, she was insisting on seeing all of them and pointing out images that should be erased immediately.” Without some careful attention to establishing boundaries, it's easy for the technology to wrest control from the photographer.
Kirkland is almost completely digital now. He uses a film camera in special situations when he has a request from a client, but those requests are becoming less and less frequent. Instead of insisting on an original transparency, clients are asking for a selection of images on a CD. Kirkland sums up his conversion to digital very matter of factly: “I'm working in the real world and I'm making a living with this stuff and it works for me.”
What else can anyone ask of their gear?
To see more of Douglas Kirkland's photography, visit his website at www.douglaskirkland.com.
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