Shooting lifestyle and fashion with the Ricoh GR

In this post I will talk of my experience shooting for a client using only the Ricoh GR II camera. This article covers the first shooting session and why I decided to shoot with the Ricoh GR II.

Crime London is a succesfull contemporary Italian fashion brand focused on sneakers design. Their shoes and accessories became quite popular among celebrities and the international jet set.

The goal for the shooting was to create lifestyle photography to be used in social media and involving the two founders of the brand. Yes, these two ladies are not pro models, they actually are smart and brilliant entrepreneurs who also happen to be beautiful!

The set was a beautiful villa in Costa Smeralda — that’s my usual kind of set, sometimes I shoot the villas, sometimes I shoot people inside the villas.

Ricoh GR II – Post produced DNG

On the first day I brought different kinds of cameras on the set, taking a couple of shots with the Nikon and then briefly switching to the Olympus Pen-F and finally to the Ricoh GR.

Different cameras allow a professional to interact with the scene in a different way. That’s very important and rarely addressed in the neverending stream of gear reviews.

Ricoh GR II – Hi-Contrast B&W straight from camera

As much as I love that camera, it soon became clear that the Nikon D850 was not a good fit for this set. The Nikon is big, heavy, it creates a barrier between the subject and the photographer.

Of course, it is perfectly usable for shooting people: c’mon, Lindbergh loved to shoot fashion with Nikon! But it all depends on the situation, on the people taking part in the project, on the flowing energies. My instinct told me the Nikon was dampening the flow of the experience and wasn’t a good choice for this dynamic environment.

Ricoh GR II – Hi-Contrast B&W straight from camera

So I moved to the Olympus Pen-F: smaller, it creates a smaller barrier between model and photographer, it allows for faster movement and direct interaction. There were two problems though.

First: I rapidly understood that my favorite focal of 28mm was the perfect choice for the set. On m43 cameras there is no high quality 28mm lens. I do own the Panasonic 14mm f2.5 and it’s quite a mediocre lens. The Panasonic Leica 12mm f1.4 is a stellar lens but it was too big and heavy for what I wanted to accomplish, so it stayed in the bag. I also don’t like 24mm: for me it has to be either 21mm or 28mm.

Ricoh GR II – Hi-Contrast B&W straight from camera

The other problem with the Pen-F was that the dynamic range was not good enough for shooting in that weather, with strong sun and deep shadows. I already worked with the Olympus in such a weather and the results were less useful than what I envisioned. In my opinion the Pen-F gives its best with low dynamic range situations, like the golden or blue hour or some pleasant overcast.

Ricoh GR II – Hi-Contrast B&W straight from camera

For these reasons I moved to the Ricoh GR II: it has a stellar quality 28mm equivalent lens and its dynamic range is very good if we keep the ISO low. And I knew I could keep the ISO low in this set.

I feel very comfortable working with flashes but this set was not very indicated for them. Integrating artificial and natural light requires careful reasoning and this was more of a guerrilla style shooting.

Ricoh GR II – Hi-Contrast B&W straight from camera

When I work I like to think of a couple of words or sentences that can define the working situation and set goals and use them as a starting point for decision making.

In this case I thought the words were dynamism, laid back and relaxed attitude, capturing pure beauty, lifestyle under the sun, flowing unrestrained energy.

Ricoh GR II – Hi-Contrast B&W straight from camera

Shooting with the Ricoh GR allows me to be inside the scene, to become part of it. It is so small and so light, it lets me live inside the action instead of feeling like an external element. It forms no barrier between me and the subject. I can talk to the models and at the same time create shots with every angle that comes to my mind, shooting inside the flow instead of stopping it.

Ricoh GR II – Post produced DNG

Imagine talking to someone and having to stop the sentence every couple of words for taking a big breath. That’s what we want to avoid when shooting people. We want to get to the point where the conversation is moving and flowing, with as few pauses as we can. At least, that’s my style and my thinking.

As I said, I love shooting with the native 28mm and the 21mm through the adapter. Sometimes a bit more flexibility is wanted. The GR II has 16 megapixels so there is not so much space for cropping. With some care and post production skills it is possible to crop it down and simulate a 50mm both as framing and depth of field, if your destination is social media or you don’t need to print big.

In an ideal world, photographers can always choose to shoot with the right weather and time of day. Most of the times that doesn’t happen, because a photo session is often a team work where you have to balance the events happening in different lives.

Ricoh GR II – Post produced DNG

In this case, the time of the day led to a strong light that I sometimes had to balance with a reflector. I tried to keep it to a minimum but it was sometimes inevitable, like in the cover photo for this post.

Ricoh GR II – Positive Film straight from camera

That became my favorite shot from the session and the client also liked it. I wanted to create a composition that looked both casual and interesting. In this shot I used the flowing dress as a visual texture for the bottom of the picture (keeping the brand visible) and gradually bring interest to the model’s face.

Test shots for the previous one, before introducting the reflector.
I abandoned the idea of using this effect quite fast.
Ricoh GR II – Hi-Contrast B&W straight from camera

The reflector was positioned on the left of the picture, angled for opening the shadows on that side without taking away too much mystery from the eyes, which I wanted to keep dark for building continuity with the dark movement starting from the water and going up across her arm.

Ricoh GR II – Hi-Contrast B&W straight from camera

As you can see, most of the photos are straight from camera. With the Ricoh GR I usually like the jpgs enough and I just do minor edits to them.

Ricoh GR II – Hi-Contrast B&W straight from camera

I choose to work on the dng files when the jpg is not following my vision or when post production is needed for improving the image quality or simulating a different focal length.

The Ricoh GR II has amazing image quality if you keep the ISO low enough, but when you approach 800 ISO you must start being careful and considering working with the dng file instead. Unless you are ok with a softer look, and I definitely was, with this set.

Ricoh GR II – Positive Film straight from camera

The photos shot with the GR II have some film like quality — please allow me this overused definition — meaning they can be very detailed and still not clinically sharp.

The subtle difference between detailed and sharp is something that is getting lost in the current era of smartphone photography: since smartphones crazy small sensors can’t be detailed, software is used to simulate sharpness where there is not. The GR II combination of lens and sensor can capture lots of details, and without that sharp look that is associated to modern sensors.

Ricoh GR II – Positive Film straight from camera

I can’t say the Ricoh GR is the only camera I would ever need, but it is the camera I would pick if I could only keep one with me. I sometimes don’t like having only a 28mm equivalent, even if it is my favorite focal length.

One of the Olympus Pen-F shots, proving a long focal is sometimes useful: in this case I climbed a high rock an used a 300mm equivalent for getting the angle and compression I looked for.

There are times when zooming and compressing the scene makes sense, and in these situations I must use the Nikon or Olympus. But we can dream of a Ricoh GR II with a 28-85 zoom (and please dear Ricoh, since we are dreaming, some kind of sealing against dust).

Ricoh GR II – Post produced DNG

Shooting on assignment with the Ricoh GR is always interesting. Clients are sometimes puzzled by the fact that I keep the big cameras in the bag and use what seems like a compact point and shoot instead. Others love the concept and the results, as happened for this shooting.

Creating photography is all about living the experiences and using our knowledge and instinct — it’s a matter of how we apply what we know to what we are living, and how we decide to capture light as we move across the flow of events. A small and capable camera like the Ricoh GR is often the perfect tool for such a journey.

25 comments

  1. Andrea. Very interesting yarn about a capable camera in good lighting. I have shared this post with my 19 year old son @brianhendren who loves to borrow my Ricoh with his girlfriend to experiment with lifestyle and architectural photography. I still need to convince him to try high contrast B and W. I enjoy sports photography and hope to some day take my my GR2 to sports events to capture more intimate โ€œbarrier free โ€œ fandom shots to compliment my long lens action shots. Unfortunately the Ricoh is a poor performer indoors and basketball is one of my primary destinations.

    1. Hey Paul! Yes the GR isn’t the best for indoor, image quality from 800 ISO on is often not enough, depending on what’s the intent. It would really be great if Ricoh gave us a GR II with a modern sensor and no omre dust issues! Is your son also enjoying the GR?

    2. Brian enjoys the GRII but tends to gravitate back to his DSLR. I need to convince him to take control over the Ricoh and shoot in Manual. My camera club (Scarborough Camera Club) has assigned members a task to present images in sepia or other tones. I may shoot with the GRII. Any suggestions?

      1. Which dslr is him using? Just curious. The GR works quite good in full auto if the scene requires no special attention, but shooting it in M or TAv modes is giving much more flexibility.

        I don’t shoot (nor like) sepia very much, but I think you could do some experiments shooting the GR in bw and then changing the tint to sepia, blue or some other monochrome, using some app maybe? That way the tonal values will be pure GR and only the colors will be changed. I would probably follow this route ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. THINK I AM IN LOVE! WOW! That is with your photos first then the owners! You really need try RICOH GXR W different lenses, might be answer your needs. Go to Jean Perenet and check what he does w his. He just Ricohs and Leica X2. Thank you for explaining what you do in your articles. You continue my education. Got say this, how can u concentrate w subjects like this!

    1. John ๐Ÿ™‚

      I have been interested in the GXR but never decided to buy it — still considering it though. Too bad Ricoh abandoned the experiment. Insta360 took the modularity into the action camera world and people seem to appreciate it. Maybe there is still place for a second take on the GXR concept, I would love to see that!

    1. Thank you Christian. I think this kind of posts could bring some balance the blog, complementing the reviews and the posts where I try to deal more with the theory than the practice. I hope you will also find the next posts to be interesting!

  3. Hi Andrea,
    Your pictures seem to live from within. This is a quality I only seldomly see and it immediately tore me into your work more than a year ago when I just searched for reviews on the GR. What I truly appreciate in this BTS post is that you not only share the magic with us but also explain your thought process behind (like when you describe why and how you used the reflector or talk about the importance of being โ€žin the sceneโ€œ) – it is those sparks that ignite me and make me want to become better in my own photography. I sincerely thank you for that! All the best!

    1. Thanks so much for your beautiful comment, Rainer! They are words that make me happy and inspire me to write more posts — interesting ones, hopefully! Good luck with your adventure in photography — taking photos is a fascinating way for interacting with reality and learning about it and about ourselves. All the best to you ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Hi Andrea! Thank you for this post. I bought a RICOH GR2 mainly after reading your in-depht review and I’m in love with this camera! I mostly love the straight from camera shots, since I’m only an amateur and I don’t want to spend hours post producing my photos.

    Is it possible to know how did you set the BW and positive filters for this shooting?

    Currently I’m using the BW HI Contrast filter with Contrast – 2 Sharpness 7 and Vignetting OFF

    and Positive Film with saturation 4 contrast 6 and sharpness 7 (again vignetting OFF)

    …but I feel I’m missing the best setting somehow.

    E.g. I love the grain you’re able to obtain with your straight from camera shots but I’m missing it with my settings and no post-production (even at ISO 800 as far as I remember…)

    THANK YOU!

    1. Hi Metteo! Right now I have the Positive Film set to +7 +7 +3 and vignetting to weak, but I usually change it a bit depending on the situation, because the saturation level is often excessive and so I bring it down some steps. The colors inchange the some vignetting, depending on the scene.

      A cool feature of the GR II is that it can do effects bracketing, so you can have the camera saving one or two extra images set to some other effects, for a total of 3 jpgs and one dng (if you want) for a single shot. Very handy!

      About the grain: the GR has no grain setting for color effects, so I sometimes add it in post, right on top of the original jpg. For the cover photo of the shooting I used Lightroom with Amount +37, Size +25, Roughness +50. A secret for believable “film like” photos is to shoot with small aperture (f4 or so, I used f5 for the cover shot) and keep the Sharpness low in the effects. This will produce a very detailed photo without digital sharpening artifacts. Add a bit of well calibrated grain and you are all set.

      It also helps to have some separation between focal plane and background, but since you are shooting with a 28mm equivalent and f5, the DOF will be quite deep: to contrast this you must shoot with distant background. In the cover shot I am inside the beginning of the pool and I did put the second subject standing right outside the back of the pool, which helped adding some out of focus.

      To recap, the cover photo was shot at 1/1000, f5, ISO 100, Positive Effect (something around what I wrote before, I think with Sharpness around 3 or 4), golden reflector.

      I hope I’ve been useful! Thank you for reading and commenting the blog!

  5. Hi Andrea,
    This may be an odd question.
    I’ve been taking pictures, posting some online. Recently I realised, for me, it’s not enough. I want to be able to hold it. Allowing the weight/texture of the paper to add to the story – for it to become an object rather something digital. I’m not knocking digital.
    With the printed picture in mind, I’ve started thinking about the images in a different way.

    So, here come the questions.
    If you know your pictures will be prints. Do you approach it in a different way. Is there something conscious going on?

    I love the GR2 jpegs and want to capture them on paper. Do you make any in camera adjustments such as sharpness, saturation?

    I’m interested in your experiences and expertise. I see you have your positive film settings, they’re fairly high. Is this for a digital first mindset? a print or a good balance between the two?

    1. Hello Ian. When I shoot I usually know already if the photos will end up printed or just shown on screen, but my workflow changes only if I know that high fidelity in print is required. Otherwise I just pay attention in post and try to adjust colors so that nothing is killed by the different gamut range. At some point converting the photos to CMYK and doing some tests can be beneficial or even requred, but that’s a whole different matter. I don’t work with Adobe1998 and I shoot the GR and my other cameras in sRGB: that’s because most of my photos are being consumed on consumer screens and when I have to deal with high fidelity prints I may use RAW files if necessary.

      My advice would be to print some tests and see by yourself what pleases you. Different kind of papers can give a totally different perception and rendition. Find the paper and print service that creates something that fits your style and gives you good emotions, and then try to understand which settings are working better. Most of the printing services do a decent work pringing sRGB photos and adjusting them to the print media.

      My GR settings are a starting point, I can dial them down (or up!) depending on the scene, the light, the colors. Positive film effect gives rich reds but sometimes they are too rich, so in that case bringing saturation down is a must.

      Take care!

  6. Great photos and write-up! Could you share your settings for Positive Film Effect (Saturation, Contrast, Sharpness and Vignetting), and for Hi-Contrast B&W (Contrast, Sharpness and Vignetting). Thank you in advance!

    1. Hello Roc, I shared them in another comment here and also in the Ricoh GR II review I think ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank for visiting the blog, have a nice time!

      1. Hi Andrea, I checked the comments you referred to and found you set +7 +7 +3 and Weak for Positive Film’s Vividness, Contrast, Sharpness and Vignetting but you didn’t mention your settings for Hi-Contrast B&W explicitly. Could you share them as well? Thanks!

        1. Hi Roc, I checked and right now I have Hi-Contrast B&W with contrast MAX, sharpness 5, vignette Weak. But I often bring contrast to -1 and remove vignette, it depends on the scene. Have a nice time!

  7. If you bring the contrast down to 1, would the image of the Hi-Contrast B&W become similar to that of the regular Black & White effect? Are there other things special about Hi-Contrast B&W like grains and dynamic ranges different from the regular Black & White? Thanks.

    1. The Hi-Contrast B&W is applying a kind of grain simulation and also filtering or equalizing some color frequencies — I am not sure about which ones, the effect seems to change depending on the exposure of the scene. The Blue seems to be affected the most. That would be a nice topic for a future post! So, even if you lower the contrast of the Hi-Contrast down to -2 and bump the contrast of the normal B&W effect up to 9, the results will still be different.

  8. Hi Andrea,
    I like your photo with idea and concept of photography. Important that size does matter, ricoh gr is the tiny light enough to make work easier. Could you comment the different of panasonic 14mm and ricoh gr in term of image quality?

    1. Hello Jale, the comparison between Ricoh GR II and Panasonic 14mm f2.5 (on Olympus PEN-F) is the topic of the next post. I hope I can have it online in one or two weeks!

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