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News & Insight

You’ve Got To Photograph The President, Do You Use 10 y/o Canon 1Ds Mark III or Canon 5D Mark III?

By Wendell Weithers on January 23rd 2017

As we enter into the new political season, so does the role of photography. A transition from the Obama to the Trump administration also means a transition from former White House photographer Pete Souza to someone new. However, photographs of the newest administration demonstrate something noteworthy: how we pose and light our subjects has great impact on how they are perceived, but perhaps the choice of camera doesn’t.

[REWIND: Photographing the President: The Work of Official White House Photographer Pete Souza]

When you compare the official portraits of the President Trump and Former President Obama, you can immediately see a difference. The portrait of President Trump is lit from below (though also from above with the giveaway being the shadow under the chin) and casts a shadow on the left side of his face. Combined with the fact that he isn’t smiling gives the portrait a serious tone. With this image reaching millions, it will undoubtedly be perceived differently by many. Where some might read this pose as strength and others might read it as intimidating, perhaps striking a tone consistent with the President’s personality in the political arena.

President Obama’s portrait is brighter and shows him smiling. This combination of lighting, smiling and posture, gives a warmer and more inviting tone to the image. However, this is balanced by the crossing of his arms, reflecting the formal mood and his position. This pose is typical for executives and influential people of high rank. And like Trump, this is consistent with how the president aimed to relate to the public at large.

That aside, it’s interesting and perhaps more than a little surprising to find out this current and new photos of President Trump was shot using a 10 year old digital camera, the Canon 1Ds Mark III that debuted in 2007, and paired with a 70-200mm IS f/2.8. Here’s the EXIF data pulled from the file:

In contrast with that, Obama’s photo which was shot in 2012, although 4 years older was shot with a Canon 5D Mark III, which is 5 years newer than the camera used to shoot Trump. It was paired with the venerable Canon 85mm f/1.2.

Understanding how to control the mood in an image is important for portraits. You don’t always want to strike the same note. When you do, your imagery becomes monotonous. Understanding who your subject is and the image that they wish to communicate is key to keeping your clients happy.

[RELATED: What It Is To Be The White House Photographer & What Gear He Uses]

Source: Fstoppers

Wendell is based in Atlanta where he shoots events, portraits, and food photography. He also supports his wife Andrea as she runs their cake design business, Sweet Details.

Instagram: Wendellwphoto

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Jacques du Toit

    The thing that bugs me about the photo is the Blue House. I thought it was meant to be the White house

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  2. Ed Rhodes

    Thank you for posting a neutral article that was just about the photography. Other photo blogs have presented this content in a very politicized manner. This is photo news first and foremost, and i find the reporting here refreshing.

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  3. Matthew Saville

    Ehh, been there, done that. Already photographed Trump ~8 years ago with my D300. The picture turned out fine, ’nuff said. :-P

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  4. adam sanford

    Also best press photo of Trump as POTUS so far is here:

    https://goo.gl/GSzxz4

    Either the photog couldn’t get wide enough to get everyone in the frame or he has a very subversive take on what’s going on: ‘With his pen at work at signing executive orders, the world careens on its side.’

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  5. adam sanford

    Also — no WB jokes? Was there a definitive white item he/she was gunning for, or what the WB choice solely based on best deorangeification?

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  6. adam sanford

    Pete Souza ftw.

    I await Trump’s selection of his personal photographer. He used a gentleman for many decades who’d I peg as competent, but I believe he’s too old for the gig now.

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  7. James Ogden

    I’d imagine they haven’t had much time to take a photo. That photo was posted after the inauguration, before he was even in the Whitehouse.

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  8. Cody Edger

    I’d probably use the Fuji X Pro 2 with 56mm f1.2.

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    • Wendell Weithers

      A Fuji taking the official Presidential portrait? That’s a headline. I’m sure it will happen someday.

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    • adam sanford

      Wendell, it 100% will happen. Non-CaNikon has been used before — I believe Pete Souza had an A7R II in his bag alongside all his Canon gear.

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