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!