Picture-Perfect Portraits with the Alpha 7R IV
Kenton Thatcher is a leading advertising and portrait photographer who has been in the business for over 18 years. Originally from London, but now based in Lisbon, Kenton is known for his iconic images and unique ability to inspire and energise his subjects worldwide.
© Kenton Thatcher| Sony α7R IV + FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM | 1/3200s @ f/6.3, ISO 320
“I'm not really a tech guy,” confesses the advertising pro, “I just want to do my job as a photographer – but I do love innovations. And I’ve been shooting long enough to know when something is impressive, which is why I got excited when I got to test out the α7R IV for the first time.”
Referring to a recent project he was working on with the α7R IV, Kenton continues “advertising is sometimes a little bit of a show, so when I was shooting portraits for this recent project – and knowing what the α7R IV’s sensor is capable of – I decided to frame a little wider than usual, to give us some choices when it came to the backdrop. Now, the head of the model was only occupying about a third of the frame. But when I zoomed in on her eye, and showed the client the quality it made their jaw drop.”
© Kenton Thatcher| Sony α7R IV + FE 85mm f/1.4 GM | 1/200s @ f/4.0, ISO 100
The level of detail that the α7R IV’s 61-megapixel sensor affords, says Kenton, puts it in the same quality bracket as medium format cameras, but with a host of advantages on top of them, mainly in terms of speed.
“Don’t get me wrong,” he explains “I used medium format bodies for years and they have their place, such as for more static work in the studio. But whereas with medium format you often get this fraction of a second’s delay – a sort of disconnection to the subject – with the α7R IV there’s none of that.”
© Kenton Thatcher| Sony α7R IV + FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA | 1/200s @ f/2.0, ISO 100
“There’s so much more you can do with 35mm cameras, in terms of their speed and where you can use them,” Kenton continues “and so when you combine the huge resolution with the speed of the α7R IV, it’s really a breakthrough for the format. With some lower-resolution 35mm cameras in the past, I’d always want to know exactly the final format, how the picture was going to be used, and what’s the crop going to be like so I could give clients maximum resolution – but I don't need to worry about that anymore, because the α7R IV just gives you so much flexibility.”
Shooting more and more of his images with the lifestyle look that clients now request, Kenton reveals he’s only able to do so because the α7R IV lets him work in ways that no medium format camera can compare to.
“Photography goes in trends,” he explains, “and in the last five or six years, lifestyle has really come to the forefront – and not just in advertising, but weddings and portraiture, too – lots of environmental shoots, with movement and shallow depth of field. That combination used to be very tough and many shots would be out of focus, but the α7R IV’s Real-Time Eye AF has been a game changer. It really locks on and holds the eye so well that I can personally run around with the subject. So, in some of these shots, I’m shooting at 10fps, in full resolution, and she’s turning her head, and I didn’t really miss one shot. That feature will change your way of shooting, completely.”
© Kenton Thatcher| Sony α7R IV + FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM | 1/200s @ f/9.0, ISO 125
As much as the technical aspects of the α7R IV have impressed Kenton and his clients, it’s handling that often makes the difference to working photographers, and there the camera hasn’t disappointed either.
“There have been some nice handling updates from the α7R III,” he explains, “for starters, the grip. It looks very similar to the III, but as soon as you put it in your hand, it feels much nicer. And I love to shoot with the vertical grip, too. The balance it gives you is brilliant, and even if I put on a big chunk of lens like the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 GM, it feels rock solid in the hand.”
© Kenton Thatcher| Sony α7R IV + FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA | 1/400s @ f/2.2, ISO 200
On top of that, the ability to personalise menus has been a huge benefit to Kenton’s shooting.
“The camera has so many functions,” he explains, “that what I do is just set it up to use the settings I need the most, and that lets me work in a much more intuitive way. Working fast is so important, that you need to be at point where you don’t even think too much about what you’re doing. It's like driving a car. When you’re learning to drive, you're conscious of going into first, second or third, but after a while you don’t even think about it – and it should be the same with a camera. With the α7R IV, it is.”
"Photography is my tool of communication. I have learnt so much from life having a camera in my hands and listening to my subject’s stories, than in any book I’ve read - but then again I’m dyslexic.."