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Three (different) bodies, one shoot: the Nikon Z 9, Z 7II and Z 6II are put to the test
Fashion photographer and Nikon Ambassador Ava Pivot on shooting sustainable fashion with the Nikon Z 9, Z 7II and Z 6II – all at once
Award-winning fashion and beauty photographer and Nikon Ambassador Ava Pivot, @avapivot, has had her images appear across the world in publications and exhibitions. For her recent cover story for European sustainable luxury magazine Luxiders, Ava used three separate bodies – a Nikon Z 6II, Z 7II and Z 9 – to tell her story. We sat down with her to talk about using multiple bodies on a shoot, what each one gives her and the importance of sustainability in the fashion industry.
Nikon Magazine: Hi Ava, is using different bodies on shoots something you would normally do?
Ava Pivot: Yes, I always have a lot of bodies with me. It’s a safety net, of course. To be honest, I’ve never actually had a problem with any of my cameras, but it’s always a good feeling to know you have back up. I sometimes have shoots where it’s just one body and one lens, especially on portrait shoots where there is limited space or time. But for bigger productions I like to have different options with me. I have the Nikon Z 6II to film with – sometimes I have another Z 6II where an assistant will be purely filming, too – and then there are the Z 7II and Z 9 for my stills.
Is there a big difference between the two bodies when shooting stills?
I find I concentrate on the Z 9 at times because it’s such a monster! There are low light situations where it really helps with ISO but, for me, when you have amazing daylight there’s really no difference between my stills on the Z 7II or the Z 9. I’m working in fashion so things are mostly planned out in advance, and I don’t need really fast bursts like a sport or wildlife photographer would. I’m in love with both bodies, though!
Does the size of the body matter to you?
I was always one for using big bodies. Big bodies and big lenses. And I work mostly handheld – I rarely use a tripod. Then I got a Z 6II and Z 7II when they came out and for the first month or so, I was unsure about them because I was used to feeling the weight of the camera. And then I learned how cool it can be to achieve new perspectives and angles because I can move the camera around so easily in one hand, and the eye AF will keep the images sharp. Interestingly, the size of the body sometimes matters to clients. I’ve had clients look a little nervous when I turn up with a Z 7II — it’s a small camera for a big fashion production. So, I also have the Z 9 so they can see this big camera, too! But when you show them the final output they realise why I use the bodies I use. I think some clients are still getting used to the fact that mirrorless has made cameras smaller, but just as powerful.
That must be common when shooting video, too…
Absolutely. Clients turn up and look for a huge cine camera and instead you have a Z 6II! There’s this wrong perception that big equals better, when of course the Z 6II takes amazing video. For me, because the Z 6II is not an expensive body, you can have three or four, one on a Ronin S, one on a Steadicam, maybe one handheld – and it’s so fast to just move them around and change angle if we see something different during a shoot.
What about lenses?
I’m deeply in love with the NIKKOR 50mm f/1.2 S! I like to have that always on the front of the Z 9 and then I might jump around with lenses more on the Z 7II. For video, I like to have the heavy 50mm f/1.2 on the Z 6II because it handles really well and is nicely balanced for handheld shooting. Normally I don’t have time to do the filming on my shoots and I have others who do it for me, but with this set-up it’s so easy to flick between video and stills without needing a whole lot of other equipment. Sometimes with the Z 9 I change between stills and video without telling the model, which can be really interesting in capturing moments. If you have a big Ronin cage, the models know it’s film and can react differently, so I always achieve more candid, unguarded moments when flicking to video from stills with my Z 9.
Tell us a little about this particular shoot for European sustainable luxury magazine Luxiders
Sustainability is such a big thing for the fashion industry right now. And it’s also important for me to think about what I can do through my work, so I’ve been focusing on working with sustainable designers and sustainable magazines like Luxiders. They work with a lot of designers and they’re interesting because their point of view on sustainability is that it can also mean beautiful design – they also plan the shoots in the most sustainable way possible.
Is it difficult to be sustainable as a fashion photographer?
Photography has always involved a lot of travel. I used to go to New York for two weeks, shoot and then come back to Berlin for three or four weeks to be with my children and then back off to New York for another week or two. And every time at the airport, I would meet at least one US photographer going the other way to do a job in Germany or Poland or France. So, I’m doing the jobs he could do in New York and he’s doing the ones I could do in Europe! It’s crazy. I realise it’s a difficult balance for many people. I’m in the process of moving my base so that I can be much closer to most of my clients and have a much smaller footprint for both travel and productions.
Has the technology of the Z cameras changed the way you work?
Absolutely! The new technology really opened my eyes to whole new ways of thinking. Even when I started using digital cameras, I was still using them like analogue ones! When I got my hands on the Z 6 with the automatic Eye Detection AF I first thought, “No, I don’t want that, I like to manually do my small focus point on the eye.” Then, of course, I gave the eye AF a try and I love it now. I find the freedom to move around the model’s body and get into new perspectives is so much easier without having to think about eye focus points. I used to get home from long, 14-hour shoots and every muscle in my body was in pain because of heavy cameras. Now it’s not like that at all, so it’s amazing.
Do you ever extract stills from video?
No, but I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently. Maybe it’s because I come from analogue photography that I’ve stopped myself doing it but maybe it’s a good idea for me to challenge myself with that, especially when the cameras are so capable. It’s often helpful for your creativity to go out of your comfort zone. Maybe my next shoot I’ll just film it and extract the stills from that. That can be my challenge!
Luxiders team credits:
Styling: Izabela Macoch, Casting Director: WhiteCasting, Make-up and Hair: Norbert Cheminel and Katrin Hohberg, Model: Ran Zhang, Photographer: Ava Pivot