How To Shoot A Zombie

First of all show up this Saturday for the Toronto Zombie Walk taking starting at Nathan Philips Square. If estimates are correct, we might see 10,000 zombies on this year’s walk. That’s a lot of shooting.

Peter West Photo-1-21-XLSo how do you shoot a zombie? Peter West Photo-1-181-L

First dress right. Here I mean wear really sturdy shoes. Hiking boots won’t be out of place as you’re going to walk…a lot even if you don’t move from Nathan Philips Square. Second don’t over dress as you’re going to get warm carrying your gear and moving from shot to shot. If it rains (and it looks like it won’t so far), wear hight rain gear. If it’s cold put a pair of really light gloves in your packet. (You’ll thank me for this one!)

As for equipment, you do what you think best, but I don’t bring my camera bag. It’s just too much weight on the shoulder especially after five or six hours and since it’s bulky you’ll keep banging it into the zombie hordes. You don’t want to do this to your equipment or to the zombies.

If you’ve got a choice bring your most robust cameras. For example I’ve got a complete Olympus pen setup with three bodies and six lenses and an external flash and I love the images I get with this really light and street-worthy setup but for shooting zombies it can’t compare to my Nikon setup with a D-300 and D-90 bodies with an 18-270 on one and a 12-24 on the other with one external flash with an external battery pac on my belt if it’s an overcast day (the flash bangs up the light in the faces).

2010 To. Zombie Walk (1 of 1)Why the Nikons and not the Olympus? While the Olympus Pens can produce an image as good, if not better than the Nikons (sacrilege I know but they do), the Nikons can shoot all day long with their external battery pacs and the Olympus Pens cannot. Also use at least 16 gig cards that are as fast as you can afford. I prefer 32 gig cards as I can shoot most of the day without having to change.

It’s that simple. When it comes to shooting rapidly over a long period of time the heavier and more robust Nikons are the way to go.

Now if you’re just shooting casually then anything will do as you’re in a very target rich environment.2010 To. Zombie Walk (1 of 1)-4

So again how do you shoot a zombie?

First get in their face where they can see you. 99% of all zombies will perform for you if they see you’re a serious photographer.  Bared teeth (where there are teeth) and bloody hands reaching out make for some great images.

Don’t waste time. Shoot on “P” (program mode) as depth of field isn’t as important here (and if it was you’d be shooting in aperture mode) as getting the shot right the first time. Crop in camera exceptionally close and run your autofocus on single point or all points and continuous focus depending on what works best for you and your camera system.

I tend to shoot on single point as I am filling the frame with the person’s face and I want my focus to lock in right away.

Now as to whether to shoot JPGs or RAW?

This is a serious consideration when shooting a couple of thousand zombies in one day. RAW is great as you can do so much with it when it comes to exposure and special effects.

But some cameras (most) will shoot faster using JPG mode as compared to RAW. But you don’t want to be shooting in high speed mode either as you’re just going to fill up your hard drive with tons of duplicate images which you’re going to have to edit in post. Ugh! So if you’re camera can handle the size, shoot RAW so you’ve got tons of data to edit.

Peter West Photo-1-578-X3Here’s my post setup.

I’ve got a MacBook pro with 8 gigs of RAW and a solid state and regular spinning hard drives plus I’ve got two external drives. I will manually download images off the memory card and put them on one of my external hard drives and the internal spinning drive in the computer.

So now I’ve got my images (RAW or JPG) in two separate places plus the memory card. Then I’ll remove the card(s) and put them in a safe place as I fire up Lightroom 5 and I don’t import the images but just add the image information to the LR catalogue without moving the actual images themselves.

From then on I only use Lightroom to do anything with the images as LR is a database and it goes nuts if any other program moves the files.Peter West Photo-1-31-L

So once LR is ready to go I go to the Library module and I rate my keeper images. With any luck I can get 1500 – 2000 images down to 700-1000 in the first pass.

If I’m in a real hurry I can batch process all these images and if they were not shot as JPGs, make them into JPGS of suitable size (100 kb for online display to full resolution for downloadable prints on my SmugMug gallery at Peter West Photography and I’m done as I offer all my Toronto Zombie Walk images to the zombies for free.

If I’ve shot in RAW and there are a bunch of really good images (say about 200) I’ll take the time to edit them in LR using NIK’s excellent external editors or my newly purchased Alien Skin Exposure 6 editor or Seim Filter’s really great presets (I own them all!)

Since you’re working with lots of colours it’s really nice if you’ve got a Passport Checker to shoot the colour squares and create your own camera profile for running in Lightroom. Plus calibrate your monitor.

You can see by my images that I like special effects and using external editors. When it comes to zombies, I mean why not.

But here’s a comparison of two separate images of two zombie girls.  On the left I processed it with a warming effect and on the right it’s the same two girls processed using a gritty filter setting. Quite a difference in tone and mood?

The most important thing? Get out there and have fun with your camera.

Peter West Photo-1-222-XL

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