Everyone can take a picture, but as photographers (professional or aspiring), we have the skill set and the tools to create great images in any situation. We have the ability to turn the ordinary into extraordinary through photography. As the saying goes, the shoemaker’s kids have no shoes, and similarly, we often don’t put the same emphasis on images for ourselves and our family as we do for others and their families.
Personally I’ve always struggled with feeling like the “photographer” during personal affairs; I don’t feel right bringing a big DSLR, lens and flash to a family function, vacation or personal outing. Often this means that I either trust others to take pictures, or I take my own quick snaps with a point-and-shoot or with my iPhone.
My wife and I welcomed our first daughter Ava last March, and as a photographer, I know the importance of documenting those young, tender moments, and how impactful it can be to tell the story of childhood through photography. At the same time, I didn’t want to be “that Dad” who is always lugging around a camera bag. Quick aside: if that’s you, that’s perfectly fine, it just doesn’t work for me personally. I wanted to get great pictures of Ava on vacation, I wanted to be in the pictures myself, I wanted to capture happy moments around the house and I wanted to document her first Christmas. All the while, I wanted to leave the “big guns” in the studio.
With my mirrorless camera (I use the Fuji X-T1, X-E2 and the X100S), I can still take those great images while not standing out as a photographer. In fact, all of the images in this blog post are taken with my Fuji mirrorless cameras, and you probably didn’t know the difference
Creative Loop Versus Business Loop
Let’s back-up to 9 years ago. My story of discovering photography is not all that different from most photographers. I got into it because I loved the creative side of photography: the art, the composition, the lighting and the medium’s storytelling ability. We all start out in a “Creative Loop” that is a cycle of being creatively inspired, practicing, educating ourselves, learning and then gathering feedback.
Once you start out in business as a photographer, though, priorities often shift. As an entrepreneur, we have so many other aspects to think about outside of the creative process, such as marketing, pricing, branding, clients, workflow, customer service, and so on. We enter into the “Business Loop” that pulls our energy and attention away from the creative side.
For me, after a few years of being a professional photographer, I was becoming recognized, awarded, and known for my skills as a photographer. I became comfortable with my creative abilities and therefore much of my focus shifted to the business side of being a photographer.
In October 2013, I attended a workshop with world-renowned photographer David Beckstead where he taught his approach to light, shadows and composition. What inspired me the most though was David’s shooting style with his Fuji X-E1, and how it forced him to be purposeful, be intentional and slow down. From the moment I looked through the electronic viewfinder (EVF) and saw the ability to shoot in Black and White and see in terms of tone and mood. I was hooked.
Fast forward to today and I am now shooting 60% of my professional work with my Fuji mirrorless camera, and 100% of my personal work with it. Here are the 10 reasons that I love shooting with a mirrorless camera.
Mirrorless Photography Love #1: Intentional and purposeful photography
I photograph mostly with my Fuji camera set to B&W mode and my Nikon full-frame camera set to colour, so when I am photographing, I am intentionally choosing to create an image in colour or B&W as I shoot. It is almost as if I am post-processing my images as I shoot. What I love most about this process is that it makes me think about these things before I press the button and it makes me photograph with greater purpose.
Mirrorless Photography Love #2: More thoughtful photography
Admittedly, the processing and usage of most mirrorless cameras aren’t as “snappy” and quick as the high-end DSLRs, but I actually like that. My Fuji mirrorless cameras makes me more thoughtful and forces me to slow down and be more methodical about my compositions and timing. This has made me a better photographer with more intentional images and less “spray and pray” sequences.
Mirrorless Photography Love #3: Seeing light, tone and mood
The electronic viewfinder (EVF) in my mirrorless cameras opens up a whole new world of possibilities. You’re looking at a processed image as it’s happening, it’s “what-you-see-is-what-you-get”. This has several benefits:
- You can see the image as you are capturing it, which means you don’t have to review and look at the screen (chimp) afterwards.
- You can see the exposure as you’re creating it, so you can more accurately fine-tune your exposure and get it right in the camera with more accuracy.
- In my case, where I shoot in B&W mode, it allows me to see that monochrome image as I’m making it so I am free from distraction of colour. It allows me to focus more on the light, tone and mood.
- When I’m shooting in colour mode, I can see the image in its “enhanced” state – with saturation, contrast, tone and sharpening adjustments applied. Sometimes I’m seeing an image better than what it looks like in real life!
Mirrorless Photography Love #4: Saves time
It’s obvious to see how shooting with a mirrorless camera, and an EVF specifically, will save you a ton of time on the back-end of your workflow. Shooting with greater purpose, while seeing mood and light more effectively and making exposure adjustments as you shoot, will result in more refined images right out of the camera, which eliminates a lot of post-processing work.
Mirrorless Photography Love #5: Low-profile presence
The physical appearance of a mirrorless camera is closer to that of a point-and-shoot instead of a DSLR. This is a good thing if you’re a photographer, like me, who wants to “blend in” with a crowd and not stand out.
Mirrorless Photography Love #6: Lighter and smaller
The smaller physical size also takes significant weight off of my shoulders and back, which I appreciate during a 12-hour wedding day. It also means that I can have a smaller camera bag. For the travelling photographer, you’ll appreciate the compactness as well.
Mirrorless Photography Love #7: Being a part of the picture-making process
This is highly subjective, but for me, the physical form factor of my mirrorless camera has a certain “feel” to it that makes me feel as though I am a part of the picture-making process. The raw, hard, mechanical and manual feel to my Fuji camera is so much more inviting and intimate. This inspires me to shoot differently and puts me in a different place creatively.
Mirrorless Photography Love #8: Improved autofocus
The benefit of not having a mirror involved in the picture-making process means that there is less to go wrong in terms of autofocus. The accuracy of autofocus in mirrorless cameras is significantly better than DSLRs because of this. Secondly, because the mirrorless camera doesn’t have to rely on a separate phase-detection AF chip to focus, the focus points aren’t limited to the center of the frame. This means that your autofocus points have great coverage and more flexibility.
Mirrorless Photography Love #9: Easier AF refinement
The EVF in mirrorless cameras means a whole new world of possibilities with regards to manual-focus. Specifically, split-image and focus-peaking are huge benefits that make manual focus and AF focus refinement much easier with a mirrorless camera.
Mirrorless Photography Love #10: More intimate subject engagement
The LCD screen on a mirrorless camera is the same as the EVF, and therefore you can use them both interchangeably without limitation. Being able to use the LCD screen has a huge benefit in that it allows me to engage and have eye-contact with my subject when it’s needed.
The Future of Photography
What does the future of photography look like? Is mirrorless a part of it? I believe so. There are three main reasons why I feel that mirrorless cameras and the mirrorless market will shape the future of photography:
The technological gap between the mirrorless line-up and the DSLR line-up is narrowing. Already there are so many reasons that mirrorless cameras are better for many photographers, as I’ve outlined above. The remaining areas where DSLRs have the leg-up on the competition are diminishing. My estimate is that within the next two to three years, the mirrorless technology will have caught up, and in six to eight years, the only real option on the market will be mirrorless cameras.
The attention that mirrorless cameras have been getting has done wonders for the photography industry. What I love most about it is that it’s no longer a monopoly, and competition ultimately fuels innovation. Every camera manufacturer needs to be thinking forward, and this will push the industry and the technology in a positive direction.
Lastly I ask – why not? Why shouldn’t mirrorless technology be a part of the future? Maybe I should ask this a different way – why do we need the mirror in cameras today? It’s an old technology that is clunky, outdated and unnecessary. If we can use the same sensors, have the same kind of processing power, have the same autofocus, and ultimately achieve the same kinds of images without the mirror, wouldn’t you just say that it’s one more thing to break or to worry about?
If the topic of mirrorless photography intrigues you and you’d like to further the discussion, I would love to talk! Please post your comment in the section below.