Welcome to an exciting new way to take photographs. It’s not cheating; it’s another tool in the photographer’s kit bag, designed to make your hobby, or job, more efficient and enjoyable. Whether you are someone who just loves taking pictures or a professional where imagery is your income, 4K Photo is the groundbreaking new tool that will explode your imagination.
What exactly is 4K Photo?
A 4K Photo is a single frame grab taken from 4K Video footage – at full photographic quality. Specifically, the new technology allows you to take an 8.3MB still from the video and then print – up to A3! – with outstanding detail.
To give you an idea of the quality, 4K Video on a LUMIX GH4 camera is filmed at 30 frames per second – which is four times better quality than HD. 4K Photo can be used in all aspects of photography, from a street shoot (as it’s so discreet) to portraiture and weddings; there are no limits. Because where 4K Photo really comes into its own is when you do not want to have any shutter noise. This makes it fantastic for wildlife photography, too, because you won’t startle those birds you’ve been waiting hours for. Or for sports such as golf and snooker, where photography is not allowed until a player has taken their shot. And you can be like a ninja wedding photographer at the church, with your camera set up to film in 4K – then select your photos later from the footage. It’s like having an additional shooter, and all with no shutter sound – or wages to pay!
So, how do you shoot 4K Photo?
There are two mindsets when filming in 4K:
1) As a film-maker/videographer, you are filming video for yourself or your client, and you know that you can pull a frame at a later stage, perhaps to make into artwork for a DVD cover or packaging. Remember, this is a frame grab, which is entirely different to a screen grab.
2) As a photographer, you are filming in 4K Video purely to achieve the end result of a photograph – a 4K Photo.
Think of the 4K Video footage as your RAW file, from which you will be producing an 8.3MB JPEG. The huge bonus from a photographer’s point of view is that you can exploit the features from which, normally, only a film-maker would naturally benefit.
I don’t know of any stills cameras that can shoot at 30 frames per second! But the LUMIX GH4 does, in 4K Video mode. So, I can film for 10 seconds and have 300 frames to choose from! I can view immediately, on the back of the camera, to select the frame I like and save it as a JPEG; or I can choose the frame later on my computer and decide if I want to do any work on the image in post. Another feature I love is ‘Focus Peaking’, which is used when focusing in manual mode and shows what exactly is in focus – by highlighting those parts of the image with a bright colour.
Now, you are probably thinking that all this high-quality footage is going to use a mountain of SD cards. But because I find the most efficient way to shoot with 4K Photo is to film in no more than 10- to 15-second bursts, I am yet to panic about my SD cards overflowing. To put it into perspective, around a minute of 4K filming will use 1GB of your card – that’s 1,800 potential photos in a minute. Most of the time, I will get the images I want in about four or five seconds of filming. One further option you may find useful is Loop Recording – which is great if you want to keep filming and not replace the memory card, because it will continue by recording over the oldest content.
Taking a 4K Photo from video footage
So, having taken advantage of the new technology, you have now taken some amazing 4K Video footage and you’re bursting to get some 4K Photos from it, so that you can print them out. Because remember – yes, that’s right! – you can print up to size A3.
To get your 4K Photo from your footage is extremely easy and you have a couple of options on how your do it. You can view on the back of your camera, pause the footage and move frame by frame until you have the shot you are happy with, then simply save it to your card as a JPEG; it really is that easy. The other way is to import your footage into Adobe Lightroom and capture your perfect frame that way on your computer. Either way, you can then do any post work/editing you desire in Lightroom – or actually whatever other editing software you use, as you are now working with a JPEG. I use both methods as it gives me such flexibility.
My nine-year-old daughter is a massive fan of 4K Photo, she understands how easy it is to get a photo using the screen on the camera and, because we are now living in a touchscreen society, the LUMIX GH4 fits in perfectly, with its rear touchscreen. I only wish my other cameras had this feature! And for those of you who like to choose your own aspect ratio, you are spoilt for choice by a full selection of 16:9, 4:3, 3:2 and 1:1. So there is something for everyone, but remember that different ratios will have more or fewer pixels in them. Personally, I tend to use 16:9 for a couple of reasons: I like the look of it and it gives me the biggest file size.
Being a photographer, you will still naturally use your skills of composition, lighting and so on to achieve your photograph. Don’t think you are being turned into a videographer – you’re not! This is essentially using a new method to take a photograph. I by no means class myself as a videographer; I am purely a photographer.
Making use of your 4K Photos
Most of us agree that our work looks best printed out – and a 4K Photo is no exception. I have enjoyed results of jaw-dropping quality – so good that I have even sold a magazine cover that was a 4K Photo. Make sure you print out yours, too – make them into a book or, as I’m doing, add them to a gallery going up the stairs! The days of reaching for my smartphone to take an impulse photo are gone for me, as I now reach for my camera every time; a real camera to take real photos.
For those who wish to shoot with your camera tethered, perhaps so that you can show a client, or just to view what you are photographing on a larger screen, this is easily achieved. Panasonic Image is a free app that allows you to view and control your camera wirelessly from a device such as an iPad or iPhone. And because the LUMIX GH4 has its own built-in internet connection, you can be in the middle of nowhere and still view or control the camera remotely without requiring external Wi-Fi. With the Panasonic Image app, you can transfer images directly from the camera to your device, which is fantastic if you need to get photos online very quickly, or just want to back up some of your shots. All of which keeps your kit bag light and transportable.
As an example of using the the app and built-in Wi-Fi, try setting up a tripod and positioning your camera, set to 4K Video, in the garden. You can easily film the wildlife from the comfort of your kitchen, allowing the birds to carry on with their day and not be startled by a shutter going off – and knowing that you can select the perfect 4K Photo frame grabs at your leisure.
People have been asking me about the new technology – what else do they need apart from a compatible camera? What accessories will help or enhance the taking of 4K Photos? I always answer that, especially with portrait photography, the best accessory is your own fantastic personality! The portrait sequence I have here to illustrate the subject is of my friend, the photographer Dave Wall, and was taken from a 15-second 4K Video. Because Dave was waiting for the sound of a shutter and the flash of lights, he started to pull faces – so the end results are fantastic!
I will say, however, that if you are looking at using the 4K tech in a studio, you will need to consider your lighting. If you have standard studio lighting, use the modelling lights, or invest in a continuous lighting rig such as the Bowens Mosaic. Outdoors, you will of course have the resource of natural light at your disposal. As with all photography, you still need to compose and have your exposures set correctly to achieve great results. Also, I would say that it is worth investing in good quality, fast SD cards. For example, a U3-rated card, as these read at 90MB and write at 45MB per second, respectively. The last thing you want when shooting 4K Video is a card that is buffering and missing important information or frames!
In summary: the pros and cons of this new tech
The pros are certainly the ease of taking a 4K Photo. It’s fast and user-friendly, even to the point where my young daughter shoots in 4K and frame grabs her own 4K Photos in-camera. Does what it says on the tin! Also, note that you don’t have to own a LUMIX GH4; you also enjoy the 4K Video option with the LX100, CM-1 and FZ1000 Panasonic DMC cameras. There’s something for everyone there. But do get that Panasonic Image app – it’s free, remember!
The cons of this technology are pretty few, to be honest. Not being able to print larger than A3, though that’s not really a barrier as this is more than big enough for an album. The main con for me is that my family are nagging me more than ever to print out their 4K Photos, because they know how easy it is!
Ross Grieve is a freelance photographer operating worldwide, but based in his own studios in Cresselly, Pembrokeshire.
Setup: LUMIX GH4
Note: make sure your firmware is up to date – currently, version 2.2*.
1) Turn on your camera and switch to the Movie mode using the top dial, then press the Menu button. You will then see, in the top-left hand corner, a red video camera icon.
2) Once in the Motion Picture menu, you will see several options. Scroll through until you see 4K Photo; if it is off, select it to turn it on. You will notice your Rec Format changes to MP4 if you were filming in another format.
3) Within the 4K Photo menu, you can choose your video aspect ratio and turn on Loop Recording, if you so desire, by going into Set. You will see the amount of pixels displayed here, so you can choose what is best for you.
4) Your camera is now ready for shooting. It really is that easy with the GH4. Exit the menu and start filming in 4K Video to get your amazing 4K Photos.
*Version 2.2 at time this article was written. Please check your LUMIX G camera for latest version or click here to download latest Firmware