Wedding and Street photographers Dominique and Liam Shaw of York Place Studios have become well known for shooting mould-breaking street-inspired, layered, no-flash, documentary wedding photography without the classic wedding cliché’s.
In this guest post Dominique discusses how the Fuji X-Pro2 helped to revolutionise their style of shooting and make their creative concepts a reality.
Why I switched to the Fuji X-Pro2
A little over a year ago I was becoming an increasingly frustrated wedding photographer.
Frustrated not by the weddings or clients themselves which, if anything, were becoming more and more diverse and exciting to be a part of, but frustrated because both I and my brother Liam felt that we were being held back in some part from the way we wanted to shoot by the equipment that was available to us.
We’ve used many different cameras over the years from Canon 1D’s and 5D’s to the Nikon D750 to the Leica M240, right back to our Film roots of Hasselblad’s, Bronica’s, Canon’s and Leica’s which still occasionally come out to play!
Whilst each of these cameras had different things each of us loved (and hated) about them we’ve always been firmly of the opinion that the camera is just a tool and that it’s entirely the photographer that makes the image, regardless of what gear they’re using.
Whilst overall we still believe that to be the case, a little over a year ago we were forced to slightly reconsider the depth of that argument.
The trigger for that change was the release of the Fuji X-Pro2. For a long time now we’ve been honing our own unique style of shooting weddings based on our love of Street Photography and, as we know, street photographers have long tended to favour a more compact camera body over using DSLR’s in large part due to their more discrete, less attention-grabbing style.
Whilst unlike street photography a wedding photographer is generally granted the privilege of having more or less free-license to photograph the people around them without their motives being questioned, the central issue remains the same: the moment someone knows that you’re taking their photograph, one way or another their behaviour inevitably changes.
Sometimes that change can be to the photographer’s advantage, but for that to work the timing of that change has to be to some extent under the photographer’s control – not pre-empted by the rather obvious site of a massive, clearly professional camera moving swiftly towards them…
So if we wanted to capture “real life” in the same way that we approach photographing on the streets, if we wanted to find those layered ‘streety’ images and to be able to fill the frame from edge to edge without losing the truth of the moment then we needed that same flexibility.
We needed the edge that our Fuji X-T1’s were giving us on the street (discrete, lightweight, live EVF, silent shutter) but without compromising on what to us were absolute essentials like dual card slots for instant backup, fast focussing and great low-light performance (particularly as we don’t use flash or additional lighting in our work).
At a wedding there are no second chances, we needed that all-rounder, that professional workhorse, that constant reliability that only the very best DSLR’s provided.
Enter the X-Pro2.
It’s a long time since we had been especially excited after reading the specs of a new camera but the minute we saw the early specs of the X-Pro2 we recognised that this had the potential to become our new favourite street camera.
We loved the ‘Rangefinder’ style, we were intrigued by the various modes of shooting, we were excited by that crisp EVF and super-fast shutter… in short this was going to be a fantastic upgrade to our regular X-T1 travel companions.
What we didn’t really expect as we packed two brand new rapidly sourced X-Pro2’s into our bags and set off on a street trip to Cuba was that they were about to become so much more than that.
Shooting on the streets over the course of those two weeks in and around Havana it became clear that this was no longer just a good street camera, this could be the breakthrough camera that would make DSLR’s redundant for us…
After shooting our first wedding with a combination of X-Pro2’s and Canon EOS 5D Mark III’s so many of those frustrations and limitations in what we could do immediately started to disappear.
During the day we found ourselves gradually favouring the Fuji’s and ended up putting the Canon’s away as we were being able to get so much closer to our subjects without them objecting and, armed with that incredible, crisp live EVF, we were finding that we had more freedom in exploring the subtleties of light and shadow around us: shots that would previously have been hugely risky to take during an important moment of a wedding were suddenly no longer risks because we could see exactly what they would look like in real time.
We were no longer weighed down by bulky bodies, lenses and batteries and with the rear screen could perfectly frame images above our heads or by our feet at angles where you simply can’t look through a viewfinder.
Not only that but using the screen suddenly we could hold the camera further away from our bodies and get us that extra step closer to the subject without them even recognising we were there.
It was only as the sun went down and the night drew in that we found ourselves automatically reaching for the Canon’s again, but it’s perhaps here that we really started to see the mirrorless ‘revolution’ truly come of age.
Where the X-T1 would have been searching indefinitely for focus in the dark conditions of the dance floor, the X-Pro2 was locking on instantly… in fact it was locking on where even the Canon failed.
The astonishing refresh rate in burst mode meant that we could shoot multiple frames of particularly fast-moving dancing and still see everything unfold in real time, even allowing us to adjust our position to keep up with the action whilst the shutter continued to fire.
The joystick controlled focus positioning meant that we could incredibly quickly grab the focus of someone well in the background and take the shot without adjusting our composition. On the rare occasion that the camera struggled to lock on, turning on the peaking feature made manual focussing a breeze.
In short, this wasn’t just a camera ready to begin challenging a traditionally DSLR centred wedding industry; for us and our style of shooting it was already walking all over it.
After a couple more weddings testing out the capabilities in various conditions (and now armed with an additional two X-Pro2’s with XF23mm F1.4 and XF56mm 1.2 lenses) we found our DSLR’s ceased to come out of the bag at all and it’s been that way ever since.
A year later, with many more weddings and street trips under our belts, the camera has been a joy to use and one that’s compact enough that we carry it everywhere.
The Fuji colours in camera are superior to anything we’ve used since real film (so good in fact that they’ve even helped inspire our video team to make the switch to Fuji!) and whilst there are of course always improvements that can be made with ever-developing technology, right now we wouldn’t even want to consider using anything else.
If we as photographers are truly to pursue our own style with zero compromise; to break barriers and create something unique and worthwhile then our tools must not compromise either.
A camera can’t make a photographer more skilled or creative, but it can remove some of the barriers to making the best of that creativity and that’s exactly what the X-Pro2 has done for us.
It may not be the right camera for everyone, but for us the frustrations are gone and there’s a greater synergy between the ideas in our minds and the practicality of shooting them. For a camera to do that is something very special indeed.