London-based photographer Todd Antony told us that he received his first camera from his father at about 12 years of age, and that was it; Todd and his Canon EOS 650 were inseparable. Luckily, his parents were supportive of his passion, since there were lots of rolls of film to develop.
In high school, Todd Antony first experienced the magic of the darkroom -- something he still finds exciting. Next, he earned a one-year professional certificate at a trade university, still focusing on his craft, with a second passion that was rowing. This took him from home in New Zealand to England to compete for a season, and after an injury side-lined his athletic career, he asked himself, “What’s next?”
“Quality is in the subtleties and is subjective to a degree.”
On a trip to Prague during a New Year’s Eve celebration his passion for photography was reignited, and he decided it would become his profession. For three years, he worked as an on-board photographer on cruise ships traveling the world -- Alaska, Asia, Antarctica, South America, the Amazon, the Mediterranean, always a new day and a new destination.
Along with 2 to 10 other photographers he learned to ‘get out there and don’t be shy,’ meeting every sort of person and enjoying the amazing places where the ships landed. His passion for shooting on location and being outdoors was established.
Entering the Phase One Family - an investment
Upon his return to New Zealand, he ‘went digital’ with the Canon 1D, using Canon’s raw processing software. Then over the next several years, as an assistant to top advertising photographers, he began using Phase One and Leaf digital backs.
Having had the chance to use a wide range of products on the job, he decided to invest in a Phase One P45. The Phase One system gear was his first choice once he got involved in professional work. “It felt comfortable. Plus the vast majority of the guys I worked with shooting at the top end in the industry were using Phase One gear and Capture One.”
“Shooting medium format makes you stop and be more considerate about what you’re doing -- especially with my Alpa 12 Max 4x5 camera with ground glass focusing screen, and shift lenses -- that for me is fantastic. You have to stop and put up a tripod, think how you’ll compose the shot, and everything is so much more considered in your approach in general.
“For advertising assignments, I don’t use anything but medium format, because I want the file size and the sharpness you can get. It’s sort of a myth that megapixels is what counts. It’s not that -- it’s the sharpness gained from the size of the chip in connection with the lenses and tonal range of it, which gives you incredible clarity.
“Lenses are really important; the sharpness on the Schneider Kreuznach lenses, for example, is immense, for example on the Alpa body. It’s so far and above. Those lenses were designed for 4x5 cameras, so the image area is set up for that larger format, which means you end up primarily using the central area of the lens which is the sweet spot as far as sharpness in concerned. ”
As for his imaging processing application of choice, Todd has been a longtime Capture One Pro proponent. He told us, “Absence of problems is proof that it is good.”
In general, Todd keeps things pretty straightforward. Besides using Capture One Pro 7 for basic color adjustments and a small amount of sharpening, he finds that he doesn’t need much help with reducing noise (he’s generally shooting at a low ISO of about 50).
He uses the tethering function about 80 percent of the time, “if not more. It’s invaluable for checking proper focus and composition” (he’ll sometimes use the overlay tool, especially for ads).
Todd uses Sessions because that’s the method that works best for him; to organize according to specific projects. For example, he may be shooting five different elements of an image to five different folders within a session, and this method keeps all the components of a job clearly categorized. He also uses Sessions for his personal work.
“Bottom line: the fact that Capture One Pro 7 does what it does without any problems means you don’t have to worry.”
“With Capture One Pro 7, the new adjustment layers are really handy. I might use the masking layers to bring down the darkness of the sky slightly if my Neutral density grad filters haven’t quite nailed it, or subdue a highlight on the skin that’s too hot. I use layers sparingly, but it’s great to have them there -- very helpful.
In my experience it is reliable, period. I’ve not had a single problem, and, as a pro, that’s what you want so you can concentrate on the multitude of other things that are happening on a shoot.”
Shoot more, shoot better
Todd is always eager to take on new challenges. “In advertising, a lot of the shots are very technical, requiring you to combine numerous different layers and different locations. It requires you to know a lot about how cameras work in terms of perspective - the camera heights and angles and matching lenses and varied lighting scenarios, to bring everything together into one coherent, believable image.”
With his personal projects, he keeps it more straightforward, focusing on lighting and finding the right locations. But he still uses a medium format camera system because, “I still want the quality. For my own piece of mind, but also for when a prospective client is possibly viewing the work they’ll know that this is what they can expect.”
“In some ways, high quality means that no one is noticing anything at all about the technical aspects of the image, because it just feels right, natural.”
“For me, my personal work needs the same focus and attention, whether it goes to exhibition or not. You want the images to be the best quality. Even if someone else doesn’t notice, I want to walk away knowing that the sharpness, the density range and the color are the best.
Quality, Quality, Quality
“Quality is in the subtleties and is subjective to a degree. It all depends on what you’re shooting and what you’re trying to capture and in what style. It’s about knowing that if I’m at this location at this time, I want my equipment to back me up on the subtle things that others can’t put their fingers on, but they’ll know if it’s not right.
Every once in awhile you’ll see an ad that’s been produced, and from a technical standpoint you’ll see something specific that just isn’t right. The general public will sense that it’s not right, but they won’t know what it is or why.
“In some ways, high quality means that no one is noticing anything at all about the technical aspects of the image, because it just feels right, natural, so you can concentrate on the narrative behind the photo, as opposed to something that is jarring you out of the experience -- like how hitting the wrong note can take you out of the moment of the song.
Advice? Work more
Todd’s advice for someone getting started as a professional photographer: “Shoot as much personal work as possible because that’s what makes your technique and style evolve and develops your way of thinking and storytelling. The more you shoot, the better. It’s lots of work and it’s not something that you reach a certain point in your career and stop doing. Your eye and your style should be constantly evolving to keep things fresh as much for yourself as for clients.
“All that work will help you find your visual voice. Hopefully, art directors and buyers will want to see your personal work because it says something about you and then they’ll want to apply that style to an ad. They want to see coherent work -- both from a technical and a stylistic point of view, so they’ll know that you know what you’re doing.”