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Date: 05/03/2013 | By: Mathieu

Alessia: An Olympus OM-D E-M5 Portrait Session

E-M5, 1/1000, f/2 , ISO 200Voigtländer 25mm f/0.95
No processed version

Alessia: An Olympus OM-D E-M5 Portrait Session

Last weekend, my dear friend and great Italian actress Alessia Olivetti asked me to do a short portrait session as she needed to update her portfolio with new photographs. I seized the opportunity to work with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 coupled with the M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 and the Voigtländer Nokton 25mm f/0.95, which my collegue Marco Iozzo was kind enough to lend me for a couple of days. I love to shoot portraits with natural lighting, so we took to the streets of Turin to carry out the session.

I learned a lot about shooting portraits with natural lighting thanks to American/French photographer Stephanie Cornfield, a portrait photographer who photographs movie stars and directors. We worked together at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009. She showed me how to look for natural sources of light around me in every kind of environment, outdoor and indoor. I was amazed at how well she could work even in the dark corridor of a hotel.

For our session with Alessia, we decided to stay outdoors. It was sunny with some cloud cover, so the light wasn’t overly intense – the ideal condition for portraiture. The only accessory I brought was a collapsing circular reflector disc to accentuate Alessia’s face.

This was also my chance to finally test the 45mm, which is by definition the standard portrait lens made by Olympus for Micro Four Thirds. It is a great lens, especially considering its price. Sharp wide open, very sharp from 2.8, so it does the job very well.

As for the Nokton 25mm f/0.95, it is a fascinating lens. Its fast aperture brings back some of that creamy/smooth bokeh we are so used to seeing in full frame cameras. However, it is very soft at f/0.95 and f/1.4, and only becomes acceptable at f/2. It is a manual lens, so you have to be careful when focusing. I set the Function 1 button of the E-M5 as the magnifier, so I could quickly focus and shoot. The idea was to give a retro appearance to the photographs, so I processed them working with the Tone Curve in Lightroom 4. All photos were shot in RAW format and converted into JPG for the web. For some of them, I also upload the “flat” versions, converted from raw without post processing, so that you can see the natural rendition straight out of the camera (shot with natural profile and auto white balance).

Enjoy and let me know what you think!

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About the author: Mathieu Gasquet

Mathieu Gasquet is a professional photographer with French and Italian origins. Besides running his own video and photography studio 3Dit Lab, he is also the official photographer for the National Cinema Museum in Turin. You can follow him on Google+, Twitter or Facebook!

  • Mathieu

    You don’t need to turn off the IS but you must set the correct focal length so that the camera can stabilise correctly.

  • Stephen McElligott

    Hi Mathieu sorry for bothering you again, I just had one last question about focal length and image stabalization. Is it a good idea to turn off image stabalization on this lens on the OMD EM5? I remember someone telling me I had to do that with the 9mm fisheye manual lens by Olympus. It was a sort of cheap toy lens almost and I was told to turn off the IS and change focal length to 9mm in the menu. Just wondering if I need to do the same with the voigtlander? cheers.

  • Stephen McElligott

    Hi Mathieu and thank you for answering my question. I’ve never used it before myself but I like the subtle use of it here and how it does not look over cooked. Love it thanks again and have a good evening. Stephen

  • Mathieu

    Hi Stephen, I definitely used the golden side for some of these shots and that is where Alessia’s face has more yellow tint (picture nb 3,4,5 for example).

  • Stephen McElligott

    Hi Mathieu Gasquet, I’ve a Voigtlander on its way to me now for my em-5 and looking forward to using it. I’ve a question regarding your use of relfectors and was wondering did you at any point use the gold reflector to get that warm look on Alessias face in some of the photographs? I’m a Micro four thirds shooter and very much enjoy it but recently really want to get involved in portraiture and if you’re running any online tutorials I should know of please let me know. here is my website Thanks again for these wonderful pics. I also have the 45mm 1.8 and find it to be an extroadinary lens.

  • Mathieu

    Hi Gerd, I played around with the RGB Tone Curve in Lightroom (You need version 4 or 5). I was inspired by some tutorials on the internet, here are two good ones: one and two

  • Gerd

    Can you say something about the post-processing you applied. The difference between the processed and unprocessed photos is quite pronounced.

  • Mathieu

    There’s always something new to learn 😉

  • Justin Bonaparte

    Yes, there is a 4/3 mount 25/1.4 as well. It’s very nice, sharp and great color/contrast. :)

  • Mathieu

    Hi Justin, thanks for your comment. Yes the E-M5 is a great camera, I like it more and more every time I use it. Which PanaLeica 25 you are referring to? Because the one I know has a m4/3 mount. Or is there a 25mm for four thirds as well?

  • Justin Bonaparte

    Thanks very much for the informative review and images. I have been doing portrait work with Oly DSLRs, and recently picked up the EM-5. It’s an awesome tool. I’m currently using the ZD 50/2 and 4/3 PanaLeica 25 on it, no native m4/3 lenses yet. They focus slowly, but I’m a slow and deliberate shooter, so the focusing speed doesn’t really bother me. Even the 35-100 and 150/2 seem acceptable on it (although they look a little funny on the ends of the big guns, lol). I think I will stick with them for now; the 45/1.8 and 75 are tempting, but I’m satisfied for the moment. Thanks again.

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