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Kayture’s photography secrets

Hey guys! James here. And with big, great news. You’ve probably read about it on Instagram : since the beginning of this year, we’ve been working on reformatting Kayture which is going to go global. So what does that mean? Kayture will not be limited to a purely personal fashion blog, it’s going to be so much more than that. Kayture is going to be a real global online fashion and social platform where you’ll be able to find a diversity of top quality, elevated and interactive content, all directed and supervised by Kristina’s creative vision of course. Not only will you be able to still follow her adventures on a daily basis, but you’ll also meet new people and get to read about different topics as we’ll soon post more than just one article per day. That means a lot of changes that we’ll reveal step by step but first that we’ll introduce you to… new contributors! As I’ve been part of Kayture since day one, it felt natural to be the first one ever… call it a Kaytributor!

To be totally honest, it wasn’t hard to find a subject for this article. I can’t even count how many times i’ve read comments or received mails and inboxes asking me « What camera do you use ? » or « What lens do you use to take Kristina’s pictures ? » . I would spend my days advising all of you if I had to reply to everyone, so I told myself : why not reveal in this exclusive article and on this unique occasion all the gear I use for shooting, why and how I use it? So here we go : in this first post, I’ll talk mostly about my own experience, the different cameras and lenses i use or used. I decided to start with tips on what gear to get for the very beginners, and if you guys are interested, I might write more advanced articles in the future.


My first camera

When I turned 18, I got myself a Nikon D90 and a kit lens, with litterally no clue how to use a camera, so I’ve just set it up on « auto » mode and started shooting random stuff. It was a bit frustrating at first, I couldn’t understand how others managed to get a blurry and creamy background, how to avoid movement blur when light was lacking, etc. When I started shooting for Kayture in 2011, I still didn’t know much about photography, but looking at streetstyle pictures on the internet motivated me to learn the basics of photography so that I could understand how to master my camera and take better pictures. I was tired of not controlling the result of my shootings, so I decided to ask my dad, who owned a Leica since he was my age. He told me all about how a sensor coupled to a lens could capture the light, gave me his old photography books and explained me the logic behind the 3 basic and most important settings : shutter speed, aperture and iso. Once you get that, you’re all set to start shooting manual! And that changes everything. That’s when I started enjoying photography, when I realized that my camera was not an automatic gadget that took pictures, but a complex tool that I had to understand and use properly to create the images I had in mind.

The most common misconception is thinking that buying a better camera will allow you to instantly taking better pictures. It’s a bit like thinking that buying a fancy car will make you a better driver. Sounds wrong, right? I personally first thought that a higher iso capacity was a direct indicator of a better camera, meaning better pictures (before even buying the camera). That was before I understood that the lower iso you can shoot with, the better, how ironic! The thing is, if you don’t know how to use a camera, taking pictures with an Iphone or a 30’000$ Hasselblad would make almost no difference.The fact is: you can’t control anything! Sure, one will be medium format and have an infinitely better lens, but that’s pretty much all it will change for you. Actually, you probably won’t even be able to take a well exposed picture with a manual camera if you have no idea about the settings, so the Iphone will be a winner because it does all the work for you! I truly think that you should only buy a « better » camera once you actually know the limitations of your current one, and need to invest in a body that performs better.

One other thing that I noticed (and I totally relate to that because I did the same) is that people usually ask me what camera they should us to get that look, when it’s actually the lenses that really make a difference. Yes, the look of the pictures are (mostly) determined by the lens you attach on your camera! I won’t go too far on that subject for now, but let me first explain what camera I use now, and why I made that choice.


My current camera : Nikon D800

I’m not going to talk too much about specs and other geeky details here. All I can say about my camera is that it’s a pro level one, that it costed me an arm, and that I bought it when I was doing studio work and commercial photography. Shooting with a full format sensor with 36 million pixels is quite something else than using an entry level D90, I have to admit. The main reason why I decided to invest in such a camera was of course the appeal of upgrading to full frame (to get full benefit from my new super sharp lenses), the huge resolution (hello pixel peeking), ideal for studio and non destructive retouching ( for commercial, beauty and fashion). So yeah, I did obtain way better results with a more expensive camera, but that’s because I realized the precise weaknesses of my old one, and knew exactly what features I needed to upgrade so I could control certain shooting situations better.
However, since I stopped studio photography and decided to concentrate 100% on Kayture, I honestly don’t really need such a camera. I could totally produce the same pictures with a D600, for example. Why? I don’t have to produce large prints, nor to do pixel peek retouching or anything like that. To be more clear : the pictures originally produced by the D800 are waaaaay larger than the ones we post on Kayture (Kristina has to resize them, otherwise they would be so heavy the pages on the blog would take ages to load). But now I’m so used to it, I know every little setting by heart and I don’t have to think anymore when I use it, so I wouldn’t change it for anything else for now. I’m just comfortable with that system, and it works perfectly for me.


So…what is the best camera for streetstyle and blogging in general?

First, you’d better choose a camera that fits your understanding of photography. You definitely don’t want to invest too much money in a camera that you won’t be able to use at it’s full potential. But, once you’re used to it, definitely get interested in cameras with a bigger sensor, better focusing system, better noise control, better dynamic range, and learn about white balance, exposure compensation, burst rate, focus mode (manual, auto, single, continuous,…) shootings mode (manual, aperture priority, …) etc. That’s when you start to enjoy shooting at it’s fullest!

With that being said, once you’re comfortable with the basics of photography and want to improve your streetstyle pictures, I would recommend a camera that performs really well at focusing (preferably a lot of focus points), because you’ll be shooting a moving subject most of the time. Also, choose a camera that’s not too heavy, and leave the the battery grip at home. Why? Because you’re most probably going to carry it around for a while, especially when you travel. Use a strap or/and a bag, and put some extra batteries in a pocket to make things easier. Finally, since you want to isolate the person you’re shooting from the distracting background most of the time, look for fast lenses, so you can shoot wide open and get a shallow depth of field. Talking about lenses, I bet you’re wondering which ones I’ve used, and still am using?


All the lenses I bought, and why I’ve sold most of them.

I first started with a kit zoom lens, the Nikon 16-85mm F/3.5-5-6, which I sold after a year of usage because I found it very limited and wanted to be able to create a shallower depth of field, and produce beautiful bokehlicious background. My first lens investment was the Nikon 50mm 1.4 G, which I used for a year after selling my zoom lens. I still use is regularly, it’s the lens I really learned photography with. Then I bought the Nikon Micro 105mm f/2.8, which I ended up not using that much (too specific), and the huge Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, which became my most used and favorite lens for a year or so. It was so versatile, so sharp, and so useful that I kept it attached to my body most of the time. But I finally got bored of it and sold it, buying the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 G and the brand new Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art.

I realized that I had a preference for prime lenses, but that’s really just a personal choice. However, primes tend to be better built, there are less moving parts (no zoom) so less chances to get damaged, it’s usually sharper, and with smaller minimum aperture (typically 1.4), which means shallower depth of field ! Over the years, I owned and used 6 different lenses for my DSLR, zooms and primes, but decided to only keep 3 of them : 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm. Why? Let’s breakdown my choices one by one.


Nikon 50mm 1.4 G – the all around lens.

This is probably the lens I used the most during my learning process. 50mm is the perfect lens to learn photography. It’s the focal length that is the closest to your eyes, so what you see is what you capture with your camera. I learned how to frame, how to deal with wide open aperture, and forced myself to move instead of zooming in and out like a lazy ass. I love it because it shoots pictures with a perspective that is close to reality (the pictures will look just like what you see), and it’s a really flattering lens for streetstyle, since there is hardly any distortion (except for portraiture when you get too close to the subject) and that you can shoot at a comfortable distance. However, I got quite bored of it after a while, and needed something more « fun » with a different perspective.

I would recommend this lens to every beginner, it’s a great focal length to start with, it’s super versatile, you can shoot easily in low light, and it’s usually the cheapest lens of all the focal range ! I’d recommand going directly for the 1.4, but if you’re really on a budget, go for the 1.8, you can find them for less than 200 $, and it will be the best bang for the buck out there!


Nikon 85mm 1.4 G – the bokeh king

The 85mm is my absolute favorite lens. It is razor sharp, even wide open, it produces out-of-this-world bokeh (out of focus areas), and is just perfect for beauty shots. I also use it for full body shots, but it tends to flatten the perspective a little bit compared to the 50mm. Anyway, this lens is a pure gem, the picture you’ll get thanks to this glass are simply dreamy, with a beautiful contrast and color rendition. It’s way sharper than the 50mm, so convenient for portraits! It’s the perfect match for the D800, since you can really benefit from it’s sharpness at it’s full potential. The only downside is that it’s really expensive. I hesitated for a while before getting it, but now it’s always in my bag!

If you’re a beauty blogger, definitely go for the 85mm. Also, I know that a lot of street style photographers, such as Scott Schuman from The Sartorialist, tend to prefer the 85mm to the 50mm, because you can shoot from a better distance (you don’t have to invade the person’s bubble) and can shoot without killing the spontaneity. It allows you to take more candid shots without looking like a total paparazzi. However, I would not recommand it as a one and only lens in your bag, because you’ll often have to step back in order to get your subject in the frame, especially indoors.


Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art – widen your perpective

This is the last on my list. I use is a lot, mainly because it’s sometimes crucial to have a wider point of view, especially when you travel and you want to capture a landscape or your surrounding. Be aware, wide angle lenses can distort the image if you get close to your subject. You’ll want to avoid taking portraits with it if you’re looking for classic appealing beauty shots. On the other hand, it can be a good way to add a certain mood and originality to the picture. But keep in mind that it’s not necessarily the most flattering lens. However, I know that a lot of fashion photographers use wide angle lenses to make models look taller and more slender, using the wide perspective of the lens as an advantage. I chose Sigma instead of Nikon because it’s less expensive AND more performant (sharper). I’m also waiting to replace my current 50mm by the new 50mm 1.4 Art by Sigma!

Anyway, 35mm is a really good choice for indoor photography, landscapes, or simply for when you want to fit more elements  in your pictures. I sometimes shoot full articles with the 35mm only because I personally think it gives a cool vibe to the pictures, and that it simply looks different from most of what you’ll see on fashion blogs out there, where everything is most of the time shot at 50mm or longer.

I’m gonna stop here because it’s almost 4 in the morning and I feel like I wrote way too much already. But it was really important for me to share with you all of this because I know a lot of you were interested, and I am glad if my experience can help/inspire some of you. Hope you liked this first artice, and please let me know if you’d be interested to learn more tips about blogging photography. Don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments what you’d like me to write about! Maybe a “what’s in my bag” or “photography tips”? I have so much more to share. 

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