UPDATE: I have since sold off all of my Sony gear and moved to Nikon. As with any DIY project, unfamiliarity with tools and process can lead to damage so this post should be construed as theoretical advice only. If you are at all uncomfortable or inexperienced working on DIY electronics projects, please reconsider doing the job yourself. By using this website, you agree to indemnify Sung Park ("the Company") for any and all claims, damages, losses arising out of using the information in this website. The materials on this site are distributed "as is" and appear on the site without express or implied warranties of any kind, except those required by the relevant legislation. In particular the Company makes no warranty as to the accuracy, quality, completeness or applicability of the information provided.
I've put my main A7rii body through a lot this past year, and apparently my somewhat acidic skin doesn't help much. A big chunk had come out of the thumb pad area on the back of the camera body, which proved to be incredibly annoying.
Thankfully, unlike the mark 1 A7 bodies (which had the rubber portion integrated into the back plate), Sony made the smart decision to make the rubber portion a separate part number that is surprisingly cheap at about $35 plus shipping: https://www.encompassparts.com/item/10855597/Sony/X-2591-929-3/Grip_Assy_(795),_Rear
Important: It appears that the back plate and rubber grip is slightly different on the A7ii versus the A7rii. Make sure that you order the A7ii rubber grip part, not the A7rii one as there appear to be subtle differences between the two. The A7rii has more magnesium alloy bracing on the back plate, whereas the A7ii does not seem to have the alloy on the back plate. Also the A7ii grip rubber seems to be attached with a few dabs of epoxy based on the photo I was sent, whereas the A7rii grip rubber does not have epoxy and instead is held on with 3 plastic tabs and the two screws. Perhaps the magnesium alloy on the A7rii back plate offers enough stiffness that the plastic tabs are able to hold it in position better?
Here is a pic of an A7ii back plate with integrated rubber grip alongside an A7r2 rubber grip. If you look closely at the A7ii back plate, you'll see that the rubber grip is held on with semi-permanent plastic rivets that appear to be melted or glued to attach the grip. If you compare it with the A7rii back plate later in this post, you'll see they are different as the A7r2 rubber grip is attached via a couple tension clips and screws and is not permanently mounted to the back plate.
Here is the new A7rii grip rubber compared to the tatty old one:
And now the teardown.. First though, I'd like to say that do no try to attempt this unless you are comfortable working with extremely delicate electronics. Basically the steps are as follows:
1) Remove bottom plate, tripod mount plate, and battery door
Remove side screws on both sides (a couple are hiding under the usb/hdmi port covers)
Remove EVF cup, four screws that hold the piece below it in, as well as the adjustment screw. I'd recommend holding the adjust knob with your finger as you unscrew it as it probably isn't a good idea to torque against the internal stop of the adjuster.
And now the hardest part, and the part where it's easy to screw things up - remove the LCD. You also need to remove the two plates covering the ribbon on the arm, and if you want more slack, loosen the dab of glue holding the LCD ribbon onto the pivot arm. I did not completely disconnect the LCD ribbon as just removing the plates gave me enough slack to remove the back plate of the camera, but proceed with caution if you are doing this yourself as you can easily damage the fragile LCD ribbon in this process. To clarify, when I did this repair, I kept the pivot arm attached to the LCD screen, and just removed the pivot arm + LCD screen assembly from the back of the camera body.
Once you have the LCD and pivoting arm off, very very very carefully remove the back plate of the camera. There should be almost no resistance at this point. If you meet resistance, then STOP. It means you are snagging something vital, or haven't removed enough of the screws.
The reason why you have to remove the back plate is because the rubber grip is attached to the camera back plate from the other side with two screws. As you can see, the ribbon is still in place, so I've carefully positioned the rest of the camera on a little pad to keep it from moving around. Aside from the two screws, there are three very small tabs that hold the grip in. You have to lever the old rubber grip piece out, and the new one in, and then snap the little tabs in carefully because otherwise the new grip won't sit flush.
And then re-assembly is the reverse process again taking care not to bend anything vital. And now my A7rii feels good as new for only $35, and I've avoid the $250 minimum cost to bring it into a sony service center.
If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments below, or email me at email@example.com
Also, if you found this post useful and it helped save you a couple hundred bucks sending it into Sony service, a donation of a few bucks is always appreciated via paypal.
Quick post from a recent commercial shoot
Just a few shots of Dani using my new backdrop from Gravity Backdrops.
Shot with my Nikon D850, with a combo of the Nikon 85mm f1.8g and 24-70 f2.8g. Lit with an elinchrom rotalux 100cm with double diffusion on an AD600, and a paul c buff PLM umbrella diffused as fill powered by a godox AD200.
A couple weeks ago, I made the perhaps foolhardy decision to switch from my tried and true Canon 5d mark IV system (2 bodies, 24-70L f2.8 II, 50L f1.2, sigma art 85mm f1.4, 70-200L f2.8 II, 16-35L f4 IS) to the relatively new Nikon D850.
I've since picked up the latest version of Nikon's 70-200 f2.8E FL VR, the previous gen 24-70 f2.8G (as I don't see the benefit of VR for what I shoot and the G is in some cases sharper), the contentiously debated 58mm f1.4G (as many feel that the much cheaper 50mm f1.4g is just as good), the excellent and super sharp 18-35g, 85 f1.8g, and lastly the 35 f1.8g.
I had been talking to my yogi friend about taking some photos with the new kit as well as my new Gravity Backdrops painted canvas backdrops, and here are the results. Still learning my way around post processing skintones on Nikon, but so far I am happy with the decision (though when my computer slows down to a crawl because of the massive RAW files I start to doubt my own sanity).
Can't resist zooming into the these 46mp full size RAW files - the level of detail is astounding!
Just recently switched to the D850 from my Canon 5d mark IV setup, and was curious to see how the files looked compared to my tried and true Canon setup. These were taken with the D850 and Nikon 85 f1.8g lens. Exposure was SS 1/250, f5.6, iso 100 from what I remember.
In particular, I was curious whether there was an acceptable amount of sharpness retained with the medium RAW file, as I often would rather shoot at that 26mp mode for web only work (and to double the shots out of my cards). I was also curious how the skintones would look. The images below are non-retouched, with only minimal global post-processing tweaks.
The TL:DR version is that the medium RAW files are totally acceptable for me, but the large RAW files are amazing. And as for skintones, I have to admit that I prefer the canon skintones out of the box - there is that trademark green tint relative to Canon's magenta tint. Personally I think it's easily corrected with HSL in the orange and yellow channel.
Updated: I was just told that the "Camera Portrait" profile in Adobe Lightroom CC is a better one for Nikon files. I've reprocessed the two uncropped images and I think they look a lot better.
On to the photos so you can judge for yourself:
This blog post will be split into two parts, this will cover the portraits I took over the course of my 23 days in Cuba. A separate post will cover travel tips and what I learned for anyone planning on traveling to Cuba in the near future (some tips will be particularly helpful to US citizens).
I didn't have a specific vision in terms of what I wanted to produce from my trip to Cuba. Aside from knowing that I'd want to take some portraits, I primarily wanted to avoid the typical images you see of Cuba; ie the street performers that essentially just pose with massive cigars and ask for CUC in exchange for photos. I wanted to capture something authentic from Cuba, but I didn't want to apply my own preconceptions of the country to the photos.
My main portrait kit was my trusty Canon 5d mark IV, along with the amazing Canon L 24-70 II f2.8 and Canon L 50mm f1.2. I ended up using the 24-70 for all of the portraits as I preferred to have the flexibility between framing a wide environmental portrait at 24-35mm and then a tighter shot at 50-70mm. For walking around, I decided to bring a small Sony kit; an A6500, Sony 10-18mm f4 lens (which was my most used street photography lens), Sigma 30mm f1.4 (super sharp), Sony 50 f1.8 OSS (used very rarely), and a Sony 55-210 kit telephoto lens. I ended up using the telephoto lens quite a bit for landscape shots.
Lighting wise, I brought two Godox AD200 "pocket strobes", two Godox X1T-C triggers (which also work on the Sony A6500 albeit without HSS or TTL), a manfrotto nano light stand, a Westcott Joel Grimes Collapsible 24" Beauty Dish in bowens mount, a Godox s-type adapter, a 51" Paul C Buff PLM white shoot through umbrella with diffusion and black backing, and a tripod that doubled as a second light stand when needed.
Costa Rica: Dec 2-23
Marianne Wells Yoga School (www.mariannewells.com) hired me to document a two week long intensive 200 hour teacher training, in the small Caribbean village of Cahuita, Costa Rica. I booked a ticket leaving 12/2/16, returning 1/1/17, with the intention of spending the latter half of the trip traveling around Central America after the teacher training.
Once we all arrived to Cahuita via a 4 hour bus ride from San Jose, CR, I was struck by how raw and un-polished this part of CR is. Cahuita felt like a primordial jungle, especially at night when the sounds of the jungle came to life.
Yoga practice is an especially vulnerable time to take photos, so I made every effort to make sure my presence was rarely noticed. At times, I would put down my camera as a respect to someone that was discussing a particularly difficult topic in their lives.
I quickly became part of this tribe of beautiful, strong people, and it was an extremely beautiful, cleansing experience for me. It's struck me how much more powerful the experience was as a student in the training - I was often moved to tears just as an observer. These people came to the training as strangers, and through sharing their experiences I saw such pure love grow between them.
There were tears, but so much more laughter and enlightenment. I learned that these yogis were more similar to myself than I would have ever expected.
As the training progressed, I found that my favorite time to shoot in the yoga studio was about 6:30am, as the rays of the rising sun were able to selectively highlight teachers in golden light. I also found that as time went by, that the students saw me as one of their own rather than "the photographer", and wanted me to help capture the beautiful moments they had with their new lifelong friends.
After I left the yoga teacher training midway through December, I wanted to keep a bit of that calm with me. I've seen more sunrises and sunsets during that time then I have in the past 10 years combined. I had gone from eating a massive amount of meat and drinking like any good New Yorker to an occasional glass of wine, and an almost entirely pescatarian diet.
Nicaragua: December 24-31
I had originally been keen on going to Colombia to visit a friend that would be in Bogota during that time, but after talking to people about Nicaragua, the beautiful colonial architecture in Granada called to me. After some scheduling snafus because everyone was trying to go from Costa Rica to Nicaragua for the holidays and many bus lines were booked, I made it to Granada.
I wanted to capture genuine, gritty photos of Granada locals, so each morning I would get up with the sun at 5:30am, and ask people if I could take their photos as they started their morning rituals. I however wanted to use my control of off camera portrait light to really highlight people's features and personalities. This is a small sampling of the best of them:
Through various coincidences, I ended up falling in with a group of ex-pats and locals that worked or were connected to a yoga spa called Pure Nica (www.purenica.com). I ended up joining them for adventures in Granada, Masaya and Laguna Apoyo and they really made it hard to leave central america!
My dear friends Adam and Janelle (now the Stalkers) got married on Washington's breathtakingly beautiful Guemes Island. For many it was a weekend long event, waking up to a gorgeous sunrise on the east-facing beach while drinking coffee and eating eggos, and catching up with many familiar faces and good friends that were in attendance.
I wrote a long rambling version of this several months ago for clients, and this is a much easier to read version based on feedback from all my beautiful clients. If the question or answer is applicable to everyone, or primarily to women or men I will mark it as such.
General Prep Tips
- Drink plenty of water the day before and the day of the shoot - hydrating the skin is important
- Try to get enough sleep the day before. I realize that this isn't always realistic, but it makes a difference
What Should I Wear?
- How many outfits? Recommend bringing 2-3 different outfits.
- What types of outfits do you recommend?
- Simple, single color clothing with no prints, patterns, florals etc is highly recommended.
- Clothing with texture looks great in portraits: Chambray, denim, distressed clothing all look very good in portraits.
- If this is for a standard headshot portrait, they will be cropped around chest or waist level so don't worry about bringing different changes of what you're wearing on the bottom. Focus on your tops.
- Layering and accessories like scarves is always a good idea and is a fun way to dress up basic outfits
- Should I wear jewelry and eyeglasses? Avoid large pieces of jewelry as it can be distracting when it catches light from the studio flash. If possible I recommend not wearing eyeglasses, as the flash can appear in the glass from certain angles - however this is something I can easily work around if needed. Best case scenario if you want to wear frames in your portrait is if you have a spare pair of glasses without lenses in them.
- Tips on suit jackets/blazers: Darker colors for jackets/blazers is in general best. Recommend against jackets/blazers that have a lining or are made from a thick heavy fabric as they can add bulk to a portrait. Fit is of course important with suits and blazers - so make sure the seam is hitting correctly on your shoulders
- Bring powder! By far the most important tip. Even if you don't normally feel like your skin is oily, the bright light of the flash will emphasize skin oil. Also, oil builds through the course of the day so if you're doing your shoot in the afternoon/evening, using some oil is definitely recommended.
- Minimize usage of products that have a highlighter in them: A "highlighter" is often used with makeup "contouring", and basically just makes specific wherever the makeup is applied shinier. They'll often come across with a slight sheen in the makeup.
- Go easy on blush: It's easy to put on too much blush for photographs as usually it's not as obvious under natural or lights in your home. The color-corrected nature of portrait lighting will show over-application of blush though, so everything in moderation.
- What if I typically don't use much or any makeup? This is completely fine - as retouching allows me to apply similar effects of makeup in post like smoothing skin and removing under eye shadows. If possible I typically recommend applying at least something around the eyes to bring them out.
If you have any questions of course feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org as we build out your portrait shoot! Again thank you for choosing me as your photographer, and I'm excited to work with you!!
First of all, thank you for choosing me as your portrait photographer!
I thought it would be helpful to put much of the pre-shoot prep information in one place, as it is my most asked question as the portrait session nears.
My most asked questions are:
- What should I wear? Are there colors/patterns I should avoid? What looks best?
- What should I do with my makeup? Is there anything that I should avoid wearing? Will there be a makeup artist available?
- Where and when should we shoot the portraits? Will you come to me or do we need to select a venue?
- Do you retouch the images (ie commonly known as "photoshopping" or post processing)?
Warning: this is basically a brain dump, so this is a lot of words and I can ramble.. you've been warned.
What Should I Wear?
In general, I typically recommend that you prepare at least 2-3 different outfits for the shoot. At the bare minimum I like to have people bring 1 casual outfit (which can absolutely be whatever you come to the shoot wearing), and 1 dressier or professional outfit. But if you want all of the shots to be professional/dressy outfits, of course feel free to bring an assortment of those.
You won't need to bring different pants/skirts as most of the time the portraits are waist up or higher (a traditional portrait or headshot is usually cropped around chest level or even tighter in some cases).
Avoid distracting patterns or designs. Usually solid colors work the best, in a complimentary color to your skin tone.
If you want to wear a white button-up shirt/blouse, it's often a good idea to bring a blazer or something to layer on top of it as a plain white button up can appear a bit flat in photos by itself.
If you're wearing jewelry, try not to wear anything that is super shiny as it can catch light from the strobes in a distracting way.
If you are wearing a suit jacket, I tend to recommend one that is not lined or avoid heavier fabrics as it can add a lot of bulk to the portrait. I guess somewhat obvious, but cut in the shoulders is critical with both fitted tops and suit jackets, so try and wear a top where the seam hits correctly on your shoulder.
Any Tips on Makeup?
If you are doing your own makeup, I have a few recommendations based on what I've seen out of many portrait shoots, and what tends to work well or not so well.
I won't go into too much detail, as I am not a professional makeup artist, but a few basic things that will help a shoot go smoothly;
Bring powder! I think this is by far my most important tip. People have all different types of complexions, but in general almost everyone that I've taken portraits of can use a bit of powder (both men and women). As the day progresses, and skin gets more oily, it can catch light in an unflattering way and powder is a quick way to reduce/eliminate that shine.
In fact I have started to keep powder on hand for both men and women to use, as it can be so useful in really perfecting a look straight out of the camera. All is not lost if you don't have access to it however, as typically I can correct for shine in post/retouching.
Avoid or minimize usage of highlighter (unless you have specified a shoot outdoors or in natural light). Again, I am not an expert in makeup but I've noticed that with the popularity of contouring, highlighter in powder or by itself has become pretty common. The vast majority of my portrait shoots are in the studio, using high powered strobes, and these lights are amazing at defining subjects in a flattering way. However highlighter tends to show up as shine in an otherwise perfectly exposed image. If you want to use highlighter, I would recommend using the bare minimum to complete a look as a little goes a long way in the studio.
Go easy on blush. In natural light and varying types of light (say you did your makeup by window light and then come into my studio where you are light by slightly cooler temperature strobes) blush can be more or less intense. Again, like with highlighter, a little goes a long way when it comes portraits taken with studio strobes. If we are specifically doing an outdoor shoot with constant light sources, then a bit more is totally fine but in general we will be shooting indoors using strobe lights.
I tend to prefer shooting earlier in the day as oil tends to accumulate more on the skin towards the end of the day, and in general energy levels are higher earlier in the day.
Lastly, goes without saying that you should drink plenty of water and get some rest the day before the shoot as that often will do more for your complexion than hours of makeup.
Also, if you feel like you'd be happier with a professional makeup artist to prepare your look for the day, I can absolutely recommend one that fits your budget and needs.
Where and When Should We Shoot the Portraits?
If the shoot is in NYC, and you are coming to my studio in Chelsea (off of 24th and 7th and nearby most of the major subway lines) then we can work around any time of day - early morning, past midnight, etc.
If I am on location in SF and Seattle (or other cities, but these are the two other cities I tend to service the most), then I recommend a space that is at least 12-15 feet lengthwise (in general the more space the better), with at least 8 feet of width to work with, and the ability to close or shade the windows if we are shooting during the day. If we are doing a posed portrait for you, I prefer some privacy as it makes it much easier for you to relax and get into the shoot. I won't need access to electrical outlets as all of my gear is all battery powered.
As I mentioned in the makeup section though, earlier in general is always better as you will have more energy, and skin has a way of accumulating oil as the day progresses.
If we are shooting outdoors, in general I recommend avoiding shooting right around high noon and instead either in "golden hour" of around sunset and sunrise. But with the magic of battery powered strobes, we can light you perfectly in many different conditions so just inquire about what your preferences are. Keep in mind though that in some cases an outdoor shoot can be a bit more expensive if hiring an assistant is required to hold shade/reflectors/lights/beer/etc.
Do You Retouch the Images?
This topic is a popular and somewhat sensitive one for many, but in short, yes I absolutely do retouch images to varying degrees (almost all of the photos in my galleries have had some amount of retouching done to them).
My ideal for portrait retouching is an image that simply looks like the best photo ever taken of you, rather than an image where the instant reaction is "wow that was heavily retouched". So I take the time to reduce prominence of aspects of the portrait that may be less flattering, but I typically don't remove them completely.
My retouching approach is focused towards essentially bringing out the most flattering elements of the image. I typically will smooth the skin slightly to reduce the prominence of pores - important to note that I do not smooth skin to the point where pores entirely disappear as this can lead to an unrealistic doll-like appearance. I strongly believe that reducing prominence of pores is not "cheating" when it comes to making an image look better, as it is intended to selectively dial down the level of detail ("specularity" in photographer's parlance) that studio strobes and incredibly detailed high megapixel camera sensors are able to deliver. In real life, when someone is standing in front of you, no one can see the level of detail in your pores and such unless they were literally a couple inches from your face, so in essence retouching/smoothing skin is actually a better reflection of reality than straight out of the camera non-retouched images. Think of it as perfectly applied foundation :)
In addition to all of this I will do the baseline level of retouching like correcting for color temperature and balance, exposure, and some tasteful cropping to ensure we're focused on you the subject. I'll also decrease darkness under the eyes, increase the prominence of the irises so they really pop in the image, and remove skin blemishes like acne and such.
Also, if we find that there is an image that is absolutely perfect but perhaps a lapel is sticking out in an awkward way or we're shooting maternity photos and your belly band is showing through the material of your clothing, I can easily remove these things as not to distract from the image.
Again I will stress that this is something that I will work closely with you to dial up or down, as I want to make sure that people are 100% thrilled with the images I produce. I strive for people to leave my studio (whether it's my actual studio in NYC or on location in your home of office) feeling like we've worked together to produce the best photos anyone has ever taken of them.
If you have any questions of course feel free to contact me at email@example.com as we build out your portrait shoot! Again thank you for choosing me as your photographer, and I'm excited to work with you!!