Internationally recognised for her dreamy, romantic and pastel-coloured wedding and fashion work, wedding and fashion-pro photographer Sandra Åberg seems to have found the perfect lens for her. “I’ve shot with Sony lenses for years now, including the FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA, FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA and FE 85mm f/1.4 GM,” she explains, “but for so many reasons, the new FE 50mm f/1.2 GM is the most amazing lens I’ve ever used. There’s the look it gives, its versatility and the way it lets me frame my portraits. I love the look of my 85mm f/1.4, but there’s something about being a little bit closer that makes a big difference for me. It gives me a bit more context and I get to be keep the kind of connection that I want.”
“Of course, the f/1.2 aperture is a huge benefit for the kind of images I want to create, too,” Sandra continues, “and it brings exactly the ethereal quality that I want. It creates this amazingly smooth bokeh around the subject, so that they’re framed in the middle of a beautiful softness. It makes everything feel light and airy, but keeps the human connection at the heart of the picture, centred on the eyes. Even at the widest aperture, it’s perfectly sharp where it needs to be.”
This all ties perfectly into the distinctive style of Sandra’s portraits, where her subjects are surrounded by light, and captured to look at their most beautiful. “Whether I’m shooting a bride or a model,” she explains, “I want it to look like she’s ‘the one’, and that she’s at the centre of everything. A big part of doing that is using backlighting, either with the sun or my own lights. It really helps highlight the subject and along with the precise focus I can get with this lens, it brings them forward and makes them seem almost iconic.”
To work with backlighting while retaining perfect focus and contrast, a lens has to be able to control flare, and for Sandra, the FE 50mm f/1.2 GM did a perfect job there too. “Before the sun was low enough to shoot, I actually made some test photos that were super, super, backlit by a very strong sun and it performed brilliantly,” she explains. “Then as we began to shoot properly around sunset it was picking up the subject’s eye time after time. Back in the day, it was never this easy, and if you wanted to shoot wide open, you’d really be expecting to lose many of them to bad focus.”
“And I don’t make it easy for lenses, either,” she laughs, “because I like to shoot through glass or fabric, or even leaves just to get rich bokeh in the foreground. People think I’m crazy, climbing into a bush, but when you’re able to shoot a f/1.2, those foreground elements can add all these extra layers of depth to a scene, and combined with a soft background it makes the subject so much more three dimensional.” Sandra shot through a variety of objects to add these layers to her images, including stream-covered glass, embroidered fabrics, and leaves, each multiplying the dreamlike quality, but not ever confusing camera or lens.
“As well as being fast and accurate, the lens is so quiet,” Sandra continues, “and because it uses electromagnets, there’s no clicking or clunking from gears which is great when I’m shooting weddings, or any situation where you don’t want to be a distraction. Even with regular portraits it can be an advantage and especially with people who’re less comfortable in front of a camera. They don’t want the added sound and I don’t want anything that breaks the connection between us.”
As well as loving the way the FE 50mm f/1.2 GM helps deliver exactly the look that’s in her imagination, Sandra thinks it will change the way she works in future, too.
“With this lens, I’m definitely going to be able to play more,” she explains. “Switching to Sony from DSLRs has made focusing so much easier, and now with the new lens on a camera like the Sony Alpha 1, you can push yourself even further, working at the widest aperture with guaranteed success. Artists need that confidence that their tools can keep up with their vision, and shooting at f/1.2 used to be incredibly hard. So hard, in fact, that most photographers in the wedding industry would fear doing it. This lens lets you achieve that look with confidence, play more and be more creative. The amazing abilities such as the eye tracking in the Sony Alpha 1 combined with the 50mm f/1.2 makes the perfect dreamteam.”
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