Hiyayaakko | Blog
I'm a Finland born photographer living in Japan. I take photos of people.
photographer, Finnish, cameraman, カメラマン、international, professional, 写真家, 写真, people, human, woman, Japan, Japanese, Jaakko Saari, ヤーッコ
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My friend presented me this beautiful box of Chinese tea. It tastes sweet.
I will serve this on my next exhibition day 7/18.

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Love is Black and White! 7/4 at Goodman

It was such a special day! I really felt moved by the beautiful people who came.
I had great time playing piano with my brother Ida-san. Music will come soon.
Also there was spontaneous session with two special artists. What a delight!
Thank you all for coming to this event. You made it so special.








Buying a Camera

As a professional photographer, the most asked question I get might be, “what kind of camera should I buy”. A friend recently presented me this question, and opportunity to consider.

I strongly believe joy of photography is never about the  camera. Araki said once that if taking a photo is like writing a love letter, any camera will do. When you have passion, you use whatever you have at your disposal, it doesn’t matter if it’s ballpoint pen or pencil.  There is a rumour that famous Japanese photographer Moriyama Daido has never even bought a camera, but used compact  cameras presented to him by his friends.


I generally recommend people to avoid buying too expensive gear, whether analog or digital. The friend I mentioned was wondering whether he should get one with full frame sensor or not. Indeed it’s tempting and  I have been weak for this temptation too. Seeing the specs of latest and greatest full frame cameras crop sensor feels like a compromise. Same thing happens with film rangefinder cameras, Bessa for example seems like a cheap clone of Leica, lacking the same historical magnitude and “properness” of the “real thing” despite the fact that they use same mount and can even use same lenses.

It’s tempting to think that having such great (or even legendary!) camera at your disposal might inspire you to take more pictures. This is a common illusion. I would propose that having too expensive camera might kill the very joy of photography; guide you to the wrong track. Eric Kim wrote excellent piece on GAS, Gear Acquisition Syndrome.  Please read it before you invest money into expensive camera.

But for sure in world of digital photography, there must be a difference in image quality of cameras? There are, and each camera has their own feel what comes to colour reproduction and fidelity. But no matter how you put it; all digital cameras that are sold nowadays have a ridiculously good IQ. Heck, even iPhone can take photos that have ridiculously good image quality.

But… for sure cameras are beautiful objects with stunning cultural value? Especially that Japan Camera Hunter Leica M3 which is in perfect mint condition, or perhaps some brass showing underneath.

Well, let me ask you this, are you willing to take that mint camera with you when you go hiking? A bear might eat it! You might accidentally pee on it. Or what if it gets stolen? Will you be able to replace it? In the contrary to urban legend, even professional photographers do occasionally drop their cameras.

Instead of keeping it with you, would you be more likely to leave the expensive camera in it’s padded expensive box, tucked in the safe corner of your bookshelf?


I do not know the answer to that question. But I have borrowed my friend’s rare copy of Leica M6 with a brand new lens, protective UV filter on it and all. It was some sort of rare collector’s edition. My friend didn’t want me to use a neck strap because the strap might scratch the camera.

As you might expect I did not take very many pictures with the camera. I was afraid to even point my eyes on that thing for too long.

I would like to approach the problem from purely practical standpoint.  What will you shoot and in what kind of lighting conditions?

Digital Camera Recommendation

It seems like the megapixel race has calmed down somewhat during the past years but I’ll write this; digital camera megapixel count and actual resolution are different matters. Often a camera with smaller megapixel count might even do better and achieve a better image quality. This was the case with EOS50D. The increased megapixel count versus the previous model EOS40D worsened the image quality somewhat and caused some softness to the images. I would even argue that images taken with my X100 allow to be further enlargements than ones with my 50D despite the fact that 50D has larger sensor. I would argue that megapixel count is a minor factor to consider, unless you plan to make very large prints.

Fujifilm Finepix X100For someone new to photography, I would recommend Olympus Pen series, or other mirrorless cameras that allow you to change optics, such as Fujifilm. Having at least one prime lens (a lens with fixed focal length) is a great way to get accustomed to good photographic techniques such as zooming with your feet and getting more connected with your subject. Prime lenses are also sharper. Normal lens range (50mm) is a good starting point.

If you are OK with a fixed lens camera, there are great cameras such as later Ricoh GR and Fujifilm X100 series (get the upgraded models with S or T in them). I personally love my Fujifilm X100 and it’s hybrid viewfinder.

Those shooting bands in nightclubs (or black cats in coal mines) I would recommend SLR combined with a fast lens, at least lens with F2.8 aperture.

I would not buy a digital camera by Leica.

Film Camera Recommendation

Those who are into film photography get a real treat these days. Old film SLRs by Nikon for example are great cameras and they can found stupid cheap. (These are full frame cameras too, you know.) They also offer nifty features such as split image focusing using same technique as in rangefinder cameras.

Those looking for compact camera, I would recommend Fujifilm Klasse W, Fujifilm Natura, or Contax Tvs II.

Rangefinder cameras are also fascinating and there is huge appeal to them as they allow more intimate feeling of taking a photo. Leica’s M series are legendary cameras and if you have the money to get them, they will last you a lifetime. I personally love my Bessa R3m and I have nothing bad to say about it; for me it’s just like using a Leica. I have shot tons of Tri-X and Ektar with it.

Truth about film cameras is that there are a lot of them lying around someplace. Perhaps your father or mother has one hidden somewhere in the family cupboard. To experiment with these cameras can be exciting.


Spending time in gear forums and comparing different cameras is all time spent not taking photos. Think about buying a camera as long time commitment; as something that will be your special partner for long time. Use what you have, and take a lot of photos. No matter how great camera you acquire, you can’t take it with you after you die.

Kirsten Young on Depression

Kirsten Young wrote excellent piece about depression.  I felt a tremor in my body when I read this. Because for long time I have been feeling almost exactly the same.

Sometimes I need a break from people. Usually the people who I don’t yet know completely, but like, and with whom I want to hold some kind of friendship. I’m already tired of feeling anxious and sad and don’t want you to grow tired of me feeling anxious and sad. I’m sure you care and would be happy for me to confide in you, but I’ve confided in friends before and been burned and heartbroken in return. I can’t bring myself to take that kind of risk again. – Kirsten Young

People who suffer from depression know very well the reality of their condition. However, this illness is a very hard to understand for those who have not had it. Asking a depressed person to join a party is like asking a man with broken leg to run a marathon. It’s unreasonable request.

Only Us

don’t be ashamed
water also changes shape
and we are mostly water, you know
always we are hugging the river bottom
embracing each turn


Introduction to Camera Raw

Camera Raw in Photoshop is a very powerful tool. Sadly it is often ignored by photographers and photo retouchers.

In this tutorial I’d like to show you can import your images to Photoshop using this method, and do most of the heavy lifting while in Camera Raw. It certainly saves time to work this way, and I would argue that adjusting settings while still in Camera Raw will yield more accurate results than using adjustments within Photoshop.  Note: You can use all these settings also in Develop module in Lightroom; Lightroom deals with RAW images essentially the same way.

I will walk you through on how to import your RAW images this way to photoshop.

Go to File, Open and select the raw file just like you would open ordinary file in Photoshop. Please notice that by default “Camera Raw” format is selected in open dialog.

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Now, the following window might seem confusing for first time users of Camera Raw with so many tabs and sliders. But don’t let it fool you.  This is very efficient way to deal with RAW images.

In the title bar, you will see the Camera Raw version, and the digital camera model. Below the title bar there is a toolbar with buttons. My most used ones are the Zoom Tool (z), Hand Tool (h) (you can use space just like in photoshop for quick hand action), White Balance Tool (i) and  Crop Tool (c). Typical photoshop shortcuts work, space for Hand, Alt/Option modifier for Zooming in and out and so forth.

I used the crop tool to get better feel of the image and get closer to the man. Please notice that can re-adjust cropping it any time non-destructively simply by hitting c.

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Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 9.05.23 PMOn the upper right corner you see the mighty histogram and important data of the image provided by camera such as f-stop, shutter speed, ISO and the lens focal length and range.

The default tab is “Basic”. You might feel intimidated by so many tabs. But don’t be; most of the time you will use just few of them. I almost only use Basic and Detail.

In Basic, there is a drop down menu for White Balance. It’s good to compare “As Shot” and “Auto” and see the difference. There is often slight difference, but one of these provide a nice starting point.

In this case I used White Balance tool to sample some grey values from the grey train metal. This is great because the rectangle allows average sampling of several pixels.

There are also several presets for different lighting conditions such as fluorescent which is by the way the condition under which this image was taken. I fine adjusted the colour temperature by dragging the Temperature slider right. I ended up about 4200 Kelvin, warming up the image just slightly. I moved slightly the Tint for getting more greenish than purplish image; in my experience digital cameras often tend to produce images that are slightly too reddish.

Now, under these two sliders are base settings for exposure. For recreational purposes you can use “Auto”. This will affect only the sliders under it, not white balance or cropping. As you will see, the adjustments that Auto setting makes are usually way too harsh. Click “Default” to restore peace on earth.

With Exposure slider you adjust the main brightness of the image. I ended increasing the exposure about +0.55. It’s good to zoom closer with hitting z to see the impact this has on details. I increased contrast ever so slightly at about +5, Highlights  by +23, Whites by +15 and decreased blacks by -10.

I added Clarity by +8, Vibrance by +5 and Saturation by +5. I recommend to use the last two sliders sparingly as these will increase visibility of noise in the image. It’s good to zoom in to see the impact of these settings for finer details. These again are exactly same as in Lightroom’s Develop module.

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 9.16.41 PM

Now, let’s move on to the next tab Tone Curve, by clicking the curve button on right of Basic. This has two tabs, Parametric and Point mode. Point mode works like Curves inside Photoshop by adding points and manipulating them. I tend to use this since I am so used to this style. I add a slight film like s-curve to increase the “punchiness” of the image. I went back to the Basic tab to undo some of the Black adjustments since the curves are now doing the same thing.

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 9.25.26 PM

Now, before we move to the Detail tab, it’s good idea to enable Lens Corrections. This is super useful feature of Camera Raw. The software will identify the lens model and apply automatic corrections based in the profile. Especially this is useful for correcting lens distortions and aberration. The difference is quite huge.

There’s some chromatic aberration (aka. purple fringe) in the man’s cheek as you can see. This is typical for the Canon EF 135mm zoom lens I used.

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Let’s enable “Remove Chromatic Aberration” to eliminate it. BOOM!

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 9.32.51 PM

I left other profile options as they are since the result appears correct.

Now, let’s move to the detail tab. This is where Sharpening and Noise Reduction happens. I recommend not to go overboard with sharpening since too harsh sharpening might be impossible to deal with later. I like to add just a bit of crispness to the image.  Same goes for the noise reduction settings. I ended up using values something like this. I keep the image at 100% rather than going sub-pixel level when adjusting these. The colour noise reduction works wonders.

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 9.38.33 PM

The image is looking quite good.

The next tab HSL/ Grayscale allows some high quality B&W correction magic happen, again much like in Lightroom. This is, by the way my favourite way to deal with B&W mix in Photoshop.

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 9.44.37 PM

But since this time we are dealing with color image, we’ll leave “Convert to Grayscale” unchecked.

In Effects tab I added some Post Crop Vignetting, again much like in Lightroom.

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 9.46.50 PM

I left camera calibration settings as they are and moved on to the presets. It’s good idea to save a preset if you are working with super important project so you can preload the settings again, and of course if you are working with series of images. Saving a preset will save XMP file.

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 9.52.52 PM

We are basically done. From now you can click “Open Image” to open the image in Photoshop, or “Save Image..” to save the image in DNG (Digital Negative) or TIFF format. DNG is Adobe’s recommended way of archiving the images losslessly. If you don’t wish to open the image in Photoshop for further editing, click Done.

Opening the image from Camera Raw directly to Photoshop will result 8-bit image. To output 16-bit image, one must use “Save Image..” dialog from Camera Raw and save as 16-bit TIFF. I am not aware of a better way of achieving this. Please let me know if you are aware of it.

Here is the final image. I hope you enjoyed the tutorial.
Please leave a comment below.