Wednesday, December 24, 2014

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Welcome to the redesigned site

You might have noticed the site has been a little wonky the past couple of hours as I redesign it a touch and streamlined it. I've now removed all ads on my blog, and cleaned up the sidebar.

The simplified design should be less distracting and gives me a little more room for the articles.

Please be patient as I resolve all the bugs, but as of this posting, I believe everything has been cleaned up.

More posts to come....

Friday, November 28, 2014

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Simple Product Shoot with 1 studio light and Adobe Photoshop


The set-up
You don't have to bust the bank to make your product shots look like you used thousands of dollars of lighting. You can simplify things by using one light, a scrim or bedsheet and some post processing.

This simple process is more about using Photoshop to control your lighting rather than trying to adjust your lighting in the studio. It's not uncommon for me to adjust all the lighting for hours in the studio to get the perfect shot. But much of my time is spent controlling reflections and other issues. By simplifying the process and breaking it down to layers, you don't even need to be an expert at Photoshop to get great results. In fact, there is no editing of the photos in tutorial other than merging the layers and being selective of the intensity.

Before you start though, you need to have some understanding of what you're looking for in your image and break it down.

With a wine bottle for example, generally I want to have a nice looking reflection along the sides and lighting the label. There's several ways to do this in the studio, but what I might do is set up two 6 foot lighting panels on either sides of the bottle, an on axis light in the middle with a grid aimed at the label. Mostly simple set-up, but does require additional equipment and modifiers and no guarantee of it looking quite right.

Breaking down the image to three simple shots.
Label shot on axis
So the process of using one light is much simpler by setting up my camera on a tripod with remote switch, I basically took three shots of my bottle from the sides with a single light panel/scrim (or a bedsheet) relocated to opposite sides, then I relit the front of the bottle with the strobe in front. I'm not overly worried about reflections with the front shot.

Next I bring all the images into photoshop in one file as layers. The order should be the darkest images below with the brightest on top. In my case I put the two side lit images below the label lit image.

Under the layer's palette choose the layer and select lighten. This will allow the layers to blend with each other and appear that you lit the whole scene with multiple light sources. However if you have lighted everything with the same power of light, it may look a little unnatural. You'll need to balance that with some creative choices and make adjustments in the opacity slider to give it an asymmetrical lighting appearance.

In my case I reduced the middle layer (or the right hand lit image) to around 40%.

The next step for me is to make the label look like it was spotlit to draw the eye into the image and bring some central attention to the important label. The image I initially took was very bright, but very even. This was easily solved by introducing a masking channel.

The masking channel allows me to selectively choose how I want the label to appear. In my case I wanted to have a spotlight like fall off, so I first made the mask black, then selected the white radial gradient tool (with background translucent selected), and painted my label in. You can certainly use a mouse and paint it in, but this tutorial is all about simplicity and speed.

I also wanted to have a little bit of light show up at the top of the bottle. I liked the little bit of light in the middle, so I also used the gradient tool to paint that back in.

Lastly but not least, as in all products that are reflective, you'll have some undesired reflection. Using the masking channel and a small brush, I painted out the reflections I didn't want in my image.

Final Result
I could have added a third effect such as a nice radial lighting effect from the background. This would be laid down as the bottom most layer, but ultimately it is up to you how you want to adjust your lighting effects. This can also be used to replace the need for gels as well. You can adjust each of the lighting layers colour settings and you can create different lighting effects within Photoshop for your product shots.

I should point out that my studio is very bright because of an overhead skylight if you saw in the set-up shot. So I did use an ND filter on my lens to kill ambient lighting and all the lighting was controlled by the single strobe. In my situation, I was using my Quadra Ranger, but any studio light or flash can be used for this set-up.

Monday, September 15, 2014

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New Canon 7D Mark II - APS-C and dSLR still relavent? Opinion Review

Canon has finally announced it, and although it doesn't seem all that compelling of an upgrade I am compelled by it and the reasons might not be what you think.
First the new spec list:
  • 20MP Dual-Pixel AF CMOS Sensor (similar to the 70D sensor)
  • 10 fps continuous shooting with autofocus (Up from 8)
  • 65 all cross-type autofocus sensor (Up from 19)
  • 150,000 RGB pixel metering sensor (Up from 64)
  • Dual Digic 6 processors (up from the single Digic 5 processor)
  • Enhanced environmental sealing (apparently 4 times more sealing)
  • Dual slots Compact Flash (UDMA) and SD (UHS-I)
  • Built-in GPS (wi-fi optional - kind of what the hell on this one)
  • Larger-capacity LP-E6N battery (But possibly takes the older LP-E6)
  • Shutter speeds up to 1/8000th seconds (as all cameras should)
  • Shutter rated to 200,000 cycles (up from 150,000 on 7D)
For the past year I've been running two full frame cameras, the Canon 5DmkIII and the Sony A7. Both are similar in specs to each other, and despite much of rhetoric out there, they are also equal in image quality. As the internet explodes with trolls and Canon haters over this newly announced camera, I add my opinions and thoughts on this latest offering that seems to be incremental in features, and why someone like me who has made some moves to get away from the dSLR format to much more compact mirrorless cameras.

I'll also point out that Nikon also made their new announcement of the D750 which has it's pluses and minuses. Neither which should be of concern to Canon or Sony as it is targeted to a different segment.

My cameras are tools, and as such, each camera has it's specific pluses and minuses. In terms of what I'm running right now is a bit redundant in the image quality area. Having two full frames is a bit odd but why I have both comes down to functionality and ergonomics.

As much as I love the Sony A7, it just doesn't suit my professional needs in terms of speed, accuracy, long term use, durability, longevity and user experience. These are all things that my 5DmkIII provides and something that makes kind of sense for me to ditch the 5DmkIII for the 7DmkII.
Before you all say I should take my crazy pills in the morning before writing, I'll focus on the reasons why my 5DmkIII suits my professional needs over any mirrorless cameras (including Olympus, Panasonic and Fuji ones).

Speed
The latest feature of the new Canon 7D is 10 fps, 65 AF all cross points and iFCL metering assist are basically what puts all other speed systems to shame. Despite all the claims that are out there on the mirrorless side of things, even with the Fuji X-T1, there is no doubt in my mind that this combination will trump any speed requirements for a shooter. This includes wildlife, sports, action and event photographers. Although the -3 ev centre point does not sound all that impressive, the important thing will ultimately be tracking among the 65 AF points and the iFCL linked metering assist (a feature found only in the flagship 1Dx). iFCL tracking is very similar to a feature that is found on pretty much all Nikon cameras called 3D tracking. It's an important feature that uses colour metering information to link to the auto focus points.

Despite all the claims of fastest AF on mirrorless cameras, it still lags behind. My experience with all the various options have been pleasant but ultimately still has issues with accuracy.

The 10 fps is also impressive, but there are mirrorless cameras out there that provide faster. Yes they do provide faster fps, but they generally don't include AF accuracy to go along with that. Press the shutter, and the frames do not track the AF of a subject. Shooting subjects approaching you will not track the AF on those systems, while the new 7DmkII will certainly do that with no issues.

Accuracy
Mirrorless cameras these days claim speed and accuracy with their new AF systems. Canon certainly will say that their new offering is far superior to those claims. Bottom line ultimately will be when it has been field tested, but drawing from experience of using most of the systems out there, I'm pretty certain from the new specifications that the 7DmkII will trump them all. But regardless of that, what is accuracy to a shooter? Ultimately having things drop out of frame and easily return into frame is common with event shooters. I've seen enough online review examples of videos where people that tout the strength of one system's tracking by keeping everything in frame. Reality or at least from experience, people drop out of frame all the time and you need to get them back in the same frame and in focus. This is not a strength of even on sensor phase detect focus. Impressive as some systems like the Sony a6000 is (a camera I'd love to own), it will still hunt when things drop out of frame. Trying tracking an object on a neutral background and once something drops out of frame, the camera will lock or seek on the background.

An example of one of my associates who shoots an X-T1. He loves to shoot rodeos with it, however in the 600 shots that he might take on average with it, he'll get maybe about 25% of them that are in focus and accurate. He's not afraid to admit that this camera is not well suited for that kind of work and so he often will fall back onto his Nikon D7100 for that kind of shooting where he gets about 80% of the images in focus.

Accuracy also comes down to metering. Canon is playing a little catch up here by also including AF linked spot metering in the 7DmkII (a first in models not the top of the line flagship cameras). Ah hah, you'll say, Nikon and mirrorless cameras have been doing this for some time now. Yes, and no. AF linked spot metering is varied in sizes on the Nikon, however it is there and it works accurately enough. Good work on Nikon, but they really need to make sure it doesn't vary in sizes across the various models. On mirrorless, the metering is a liveview, histogram based interpretation. Both Nikon and Canon have intelligent/smart metering processors that compares databases to the images you're trying to capture. It makes decisions that ensure perfect metering. Currently at least, none of the mirrorless models out there have intelligent metering. Most of them base their metering on histogram information alone, which tends to have consequences when you go to AF linked spot metering on those cameras. Even in AF Linked Spot metering, there is a 'weighting' that is considered, and with the new RGB iFCL sensor in the 7DmkII, the meter, the database, and the AF linked Spot metering, should provide the best balance of that feature without having issues with bad exposures.

Long Term Use/Longevity
Simply put, dSLR's ergonomics reign supreme here. Hand sizes vary and so should cameras, but reduce that camera too far down, you compromise the ergonomics which means shooters that might shoot 6-8 hours with a camera will really feel it.

Shooting running events, I know that a camera needs to be comfortable enough that I don't start to cramp up. Small cameras are appealing for weight, but try holding that up for an hour and it won't matter how light the camera is when your fingers start to cramp up. Even if you shoot on a tripod or monopod all day, the small compact mirrorless cameras will show its limitations in short order.
The other part of longevity is battery use. It's easy to just say, stick on a battery grip and be done with it. That adds bulk and weight, but does provide function for portrait orientation shooters. However I can easily shoot 6-8 hours on two batteries in a grip (usually end up using only half my batteries for around 6000 images), the same cannot be said with a mirrorless equivalent. Batteries are small because the cameras are small, and their capacity is pretty limited still. The 7DmkII has a new battery that ups the capacity of the already impressive LP-E6 battery. Although I can't imagine doing an 8 hour shoot without a battery grip, I can be certain that I'll likely never need more than two batteries in the field with a higher capacity 7DmkII battery.

Durability and User Experience
Some of this is subjective. User experience comes down to interface design both inside and outside the camera. The dSLR format is an old and tested format that works. Take for example attempts like Sigma's DP Quattro on their attempts to breaking that form factor. Like I mentioned before in long term use, the ergonomic design is so very important in the successful function of the camera. Mirrorless cameras are small, miniaturized and simplified. They are great when you're out hiking and not hauling 20lbs of camera gear, but reaching for tiny buttons and looking for shutter buttons that require a Captain Hook finger to press the shutter are not my ideas of perfect ergonomics. I love the Fuji cameras for their physical ergonomics, but their software interface is kludgy and unless you're a waiter/waitress who's used to everything on one screen POS interface, it isn't all that pleasant for the generic user. Olympus has made wonderful miniaturized versions of dSLRs but everything is way too small and access with larger hands.

As a UX designer myself, I'm always watching and observing how people interact with devices. Watching large people use mirrorless compacts is painful from a design point of view, and yet those that still use them, swear by them. I know for a fact that after several hours of use, that it would get weary for me, but then again, I also know that user experiences do vary and are very subjective (and are also subject to how they plan to use the camera). For example, I never thought oversized smart phones or phablets would be so popular, but they are.

Durability is another issue to be concerned about. The new 7DmkII claims to have 4 times better environmental sealing and of course is made on a strong and trusted magnesium chassis. For professionals or event shooters, this is something they can trust will hold up to their demanding requirements. Many of the compact mirrorless cameras claim some level of environmental durability, but in reality they are still delicate electronics that I wouldn't dare bump or drop. My mirrorless cameras have always been babied around my neck and close to me, while my dSLR comfortably dangle from my hip without too much worry.

Final Words
I don't know if I will be adding the 7DmkII to my collection or not, but I wanted to share my thoughts on the whole point of dSLR relevancy. With the growing popularity of mirrorless (CSC) cameras despite reports that it has flat lined in popularity, the question will come down for many users why they would still consider the dSLR.

The 7DmkII is not something that is marketed to keep people from going to the mirrorless system. It's targeted specifically for one segment and one segment alone: Professional and semi-professional action shooters that need comfort, durability and accuracy. The closest mirrorless system to that is probably the X-T1.

The APS-C sized sensor can live on in the dSLR format and not be exclusively on the mirrorless format. Zach Arias posted an interesting video a little while back about why you don't need full frame, and I mostly agree with his points. But I also believe that dSLR still has it's important position in the market, and will continue to do so until still photography is either completely displaced by video, or mirrorless finds some magic way to address my specific concerns. Until then, I believe the 7DmkII is going to continue to challenge supremacy in it's specific segment regardless of all the haters and trolls that feel that this camera did not meet their expectations. To me, at least on paper, it sounds like a fabulous upgrade, and for all the right reasons for the market it is targeted for.

Monday, April 28, 2014

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What Photography Can Learn from the Near Death of the Graphic Design Industry.

Hello, I'm going to destroy an industry.
I'm going to take you on a journey into the past.

It begins with a recent field trip to a TV station I took my students on, in an industry not completely unrelated to photography.

We visited one of my former places of employment where our guide was a coworker who has worked there for over 25 year. He made a very interesting and complimentary statement where I was credited for bring computers into the studio for graphic design work.

I find it interesting to look back to the past and remember what it was like to be a pioneer in the field of design, but also what set the wheels in motion that almost destroyed the industry.

When computers entered the graphic design industry, it was a revolution that stakeholders like Adobe and Apple were hot to monopolize. Meanwhile, other competitors were also hot on the heels to enter into the computerization of commercial art.
“When computers entered the graphic design industry, it was a revolution that stakeholders like Adobe and Apple were hot to dominate”
Being a trained graphic designer before the advent of computers meant specialty work that was a well paid for skill (skills in details not unlike those of a watchmaker). But graphical user interface computers changed this which almost destroyed the industry in less than half a decade.

Example of a compact phototypesetter. Some of the
older models took up an entire room. These device's
exclusive purpose was to create typography
that would be imaged and then cut and paste
onto original artwork. It was limited by how many
fonts you could produce, and costly
to operate.
Computers in the late 80s and early 90s, for the most part, were out of reach of most people and were a novelty at first. It eventually became a production tool to replace labour intensive commercial art reproduction. Production designers was a specialized field within advertising and design who took the concepts of art directors and graphic designers, turning them into "Camera Ready" artwork. Many production designers relied on phototypesetters for the creation of typography for camera ready artwork. Even in the early days of computers, it was difficult enough for a studio to afford these massive phototypesetter. Some of these units were in the hundred thousand dollar ranges.

The Macintoshes from Apple started out at the $3,000 range and quickly went up to $6,500. In those early days of computers, they topped out at around $10,000 for the Macintosh IIfx. However this was appealing to many studios as they could easily outfit their production departments with a computer and a 300 DPI laser printer for under $20,000. The laser printer was another revolution by Apple. At introduction, the $7,000 Laserwritter II was the first mass market printer that produced stunning edge sharp graphics at 300 DPI. This printer not only made it possible to replace the limited and expensive phototypesetter, but also allowed for a typographic revolution in design.

I started out with photo mechanical transfers cameras (PMT) and photo typesetters, and spent many hours in the dark room working with all sorts of camera ready artwork and orthographic films. I hunched over light tables, cutting and pasting (stripping) typography and building artwork directly onto orthographic film. One thing I never forgot, was how much space all of this equipment took.
“This was very appealing to many studios as they could easily outfit their production departments with a computer and a 300 DPI laser printer for under $20,000”
I put hundreds of hours on a PMT camera like
this one.
Computers were still a ways off from replacing all of these industrial sized tools even in the early 90s, but it was certainly setting a new trend for those interested in opening up a new cost effective studio.

There was certainly a bit of denial from the industry over the emerging computer technology. We still couldn't do colour work on it, or create colour separations, an essential for colour magazine reproduction. The threat of computers wasn't much of a thought because of the quality of output. But it still set in motion the ideas of home grown studios or independent freelancers capable of delivering materials that 80% of the world could afford. Much like in photography just 10 years ago, digital cameras were just as limited by it's quality for 'professional' work.

Botticelli's 'Birth of Venus' was one of the
symbols for the Renaissance,
and adopted appropriately for
Adobe Illustrator 88 and still to this day
Desktop publishing in the 90s became a dirty word among professional graphic designers who felt little threat by them. Many small studios popped up overnight with a small investment in computer equipment. They could operate out of a home and fill the needs of small businesses with 'just good enough' quality flyers and materials. As computers improved, the prices of them also dropped, and in less than 5 years, the $20,000 average, dropped down to a $5,000-$6,000 investment.

The software evolved, and even though Macintosh computers were already revolutionary for ease of use, the philosophy also transferred over to the software developed for it. Adobe Illustrator 88 was one of the early design packages I used. The software was simple, and although it did come with a pretty hefty manual, it didn't take long for a motivated person to learn it and start making sellable commercial artwork. Something that my associates, spent countless hours at the drafting table creating with specialized cut papers, drafting tools, special cutting blades, french curves, professional gouaches, ruling pens, technical pens, etc... It really took very little mechanical skills when using Adobe Illustrator. The only saving grace was the quality of the printouts, but that would be short lived.
“...home grown studios, could now produce artwork that was no longer 'just good enough', but could now produce artwork that was National Geographic worthy.”
The introduction of the imagesetter (a giant version of the laser printer) would replace several devices in the typical design studio such as the photo typesetter, the PMT camera, and a UV Contact Printer. This device brought back production to a production studio, and continues to hold its ground to this day. The costs of these beasts are still quite high, but how it revolutionized graphic design, was how easily it interfaced with computers. The home grown studios, now could produce artwork that was no longer 'just good enough', but could now produce artwork that was National Geographic worthy. The access to this kind of technology was probably the final nail that first set the Desktop Publishing industry as the replacement to the old and dusty design industry. Designers panicked as it took off like a runaway train.

Modern imagesetters haven't changed much from their
earlier designs. Still large and bulky machines. Modern day imagesetters
not only print on paper and orthographic film like the early models, but
now can print directly onto metal or plastic plates that go directly to the
offset printing press. 
I recall participating in a graphic design equivalent Big Blue vs Human challenge. I was challenged to see if I could set and prepare a plate ready newspaper page with photos faster than the computer counterpart with a desktop publisher and imagesetter. I won pretty convincingly (I completed the task in under an hour while the computer counterpart took 6 hours). However, I certainly didn't deny the fact that technology was eventually going to replace what I could do by hand.

By the mid 90s, the industry had hit bottom. Anyone who had an interest in something graphic design related, could choose to take a 3 month desktop publishing course, or put that money towards a computer system and figure it out on their own. Printers were improving rapidly, and access to imagesetters were getting more and more affordable. Graphic design studios and ad agencies were all scrambling to deal with the rapidly changing environment. Many failed to keep up and were forced to shut down. It was just impossible to compete with home grown studios and maintain the high markups they used to ask for assignments.
“The Internet introduced the concept of electronic publishing on mass. Desktop publishers who basically dominated the small publishing industry, saw a new opportunity in Web design.”
But another major innovation was about to happen during the mid 90s that would take about a decade to mature and become one of the more important technologies to save the graphic design industry.

Remember when this logo was
on every computer desktop?
The Internet introduced the concept of electronic publishing on mass. Desktop publishers who basically dominated the small publishing industry, saw a new opportunity in Web design. But this also became an opportunity for graphic designers to also compete for the same kind of work. Over the course of 5 or so years, both disciplines competed against each other. With desktop publishers abandoning the traditional medias, it allowed graphic designers to return to small publishing, once again showcasing their skills and value.

Over the course of several years, it became apparent that a machine or software did not replace the training behind the skills of a designer. Although the 90s had educated a lot of poor or low quality desktop publishers, it also eventually seeded a return to well thought out designs that helped set businesses apart from their competitors. The value added service of a fully trained graphic designer returned to focus, and although I would be hesitant to say that it has done that completely, the corporate consumer certainly appreciates them over inexperienced self-taught computer operators.

The desktop publishers from the 90s evolved with the web. They got more training, and many with experience became graphic designers in their own rights. With the evolution of desktop publishing it eventually got reabsorbed back into the design industry. Instead of competing against graphic design agencies, it was welcomed back as a necessary skill set in for any graphic designer. In more sophisticated agencies, the traditional production designer merged with desktop publishers. The reunification of design skills was complete.
“Professional photographers today, compete against hundreds of amateurs who picked up a $600 set-up and do it on the side”
Although there is still a strong self taught industry out there, the most important thing that came from the past 20 years, is the public perception that anyone can just press a button to create. It takes training, experience, and knowledge to succeed.

Today, photographers are faced with a grim reality that their industry is no longer an occupation that is sustainable. With cameras coming on everything from your phones to your TVs to high resolution video cameras at street corners, it seems at least for this moment, that it doesn't take any skill to be a photographer.

On May 31st, 2013, the Chicago Tribune let go of
all 28 of their staff photographers. A growing
and troubling trend in publishing these days.
Newspapers (and magazines) all around the world are letting go of their photojournalists, and are crowd sourcing submissions from the over sharing public, rather than have staff photographers rush out to get the images for their stories. It should come as no surprise that with the web, media is disappearing quicker each year, and they need to find ways to keep costs down.

Professional photographers today, compete against hundreds of amateurs who picked up a $600 set-up and do it on the side. How does a professional photographer pit their $3,000 photo packages against a $500 price point?

Businesses are no longer hiring photographers to photograph their products or locations because they just ask someone internally to do it for them. They feel they are giving budding amateurs an opportunity to build their portfolios, while the businesses get those images for free.

Even fine art photographers are not completely immune to this. The over sharing public utilizes photo sharing websites, that gives access to cheap affordable fine art worthy prints without needing to pay high prices for a specific fine arts photographer. For example, it is much harder for fine arts photographer that used to make $700 from a $1000 print to compete against photography websites that offer photographers $25 to $50 on a $350 print that is delivered directly to a customer.
“Too often I hear the question asked by instructors about who wants to become a professional photographer, with the answer being negative and mostly demotivating”
It all seems very bleak for photographers these days. But I remind myself of what happened to the graphic design industry 20 years ago and expect a similar and necessary revolution for photography.

What can we learn from the past in the graphic design industry that will help a troubling photography industry?

So many places to share your life online.
Too often I hear the question asked by instructors about who wants to become a professional photographer, with the answer being negative and mostly demotivating. Although it's hard to disagree with that sentiment, it certainly comes off a bit defeatist.

Although many graphic designers did not survive the changes that computers brought into our industry, those that weathered the storm has come out into a time where they can now benefit from it. Photographers need embrace the same revolution and evolution of their industry.

Graphic Designers made the mistake by not reinventing themselves when computers first came out. They set it aside and only embraced it as a specific tool in the corner of their studios. It was a slow transition that required another new revolution in design (the web) for them to finally embrace and evolve from. Photographers need to embrace and accept that this is the way things need to be done.
“Graphic Designers made the mistake by not reinventing themselves when computers first came out.”
Don't get confused that a $3,000 per wedding photographer needs to drop their prices to $500. They need to embrace new techniques, and current trends to bring value to what they do. They can no longer hang on to the traditional ways and they need to understand that consumer needs are changing. I know many experienced wedding photographers who are taking lessons to be graphic designers. Why? Because they can design a custom photo album that no website could ever produce from an overly used template. These wedding photographers ask $5,000 or more just for designing the albums.

Would Andy Warhol use
Instagram? I think he would have loved
the Valencia Filter.

Just for fun here's a youtube video of
Mr. Warhol doing digital painting
http://youtu.be/3oqUd8utr14
If over sharing is what the public is doing and desires, then the pro photographer needs to be a part of that. They need to be plugged in to social media not just as a consumer, but as a participant. Want to show off how good of a photographer you are, then show off the skills by hash tagging, and tweeting about a wedding shot you just took a few minutes before you uploaded it. It is very similar to setting up a photobooth at a wedding, but now, it's live and open to the Internet to see it as it happens.

Instagram is a look that makes photographers cringe. Regardless of the trendy hipster effect it creates, it's a popular look that the audience loves to see. Pros needs to embrace it and make it part of their tool kit. Can they share a much better Instagram filtered version from their pro equipment? With wi-fi cards and wireless tether support in the latest cameras, they can and should. But the point is not to allow it to be just a trend, but a way to show how the photographer is skilled by taking that medium to the next level.

Like the web design, this is an opportunity for professionals to show off their technical skills. The web saved graphic designers because it allowed designers to show the value of good design over poorly executed web designs. Photographers need to understand that the Internet is equally their tool and not just rely on their cameras.

Building a career in photography is not easy. It never was or ever should be. Like graphic design, it has evolved and gotten more complicated. What I teach in my college program is several times harder than what I learned almost 30 years ago. Today's professional photography like graphic design was, is equally harder than what it was 30 years ago.
“Building a career in photography is not easy. It never was or ever should be.”
Certainly the dark room and all the technical jargon that went along with understanding how a light meter worked, how to use studio lights or all the chemistry know how is part of the pro photographer's past. I'm not saying that this was easier than today's tool kit, but it has been replaced with a different paradigm in how we use the technology and equipment. Even though it seems that anyone can press a button and take a 'good' picture, the skill of making it a success still relies very much in the work put in by the photographer to market their skills.

What about the relationship between graphic designers and photographers? Even that has changed a lot in 20 years. I art directed many photographers over the years, but eventually took photographic control over that and these days also train my students to be hybrid designers that are skilled in commercial photography. The ignorance by past photographers of changes in their industry has fuelled an unnecessary hatred towards art directors.

The progressive photographers that evolved, learned to speak the language of designers, maybe even taken a course in it and priced their work more efficiently, all benefited and continue to work well with designers and art directors. Much like the blending of graphic designers and desktop publishers, photographers also need to communicate that their skills are still relevant and important in that industry. The successful photographers are able to communicate to agencies that they are required, and rather than have the agencies use their internal staff to do the photography, pay a decent fee to a photographer who isn't hung up on ownership or licenses but showcasing that they truly understand the needs of the agency through their skills and professionalism.

I do foresee, a public perception change where the cameras doesn't just take good pictures but the pro photographer is the one that takes good pictures. Meanwhile, photographers can't panic. They must learn to evolve and embrace the change in the industry.

Is that photographer winking at me or is he taking my picture?
I certainly don't imagine myself wearing heads up display camera like google glass, running around looking like an idiot at a wedding winking at all the guests. But even so, if that's where the technology takes us, I will certainly reconsider and should be embracing it. What is the most important point in the survival of the photography industry will always be about showcasing the photographers abilities, no matter what tools is in use.

-T

Friday, April 11, 2014

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Back to Basics - a New Journey, New(ish) Camera, and New Outlook...

Photograph Drifting by Terrance Lam on 500px
Drifting on 500px
Photograph Enchanted Morning by Terrance Lam on 500px
Enchanted Morning on 500px

In the past couple of months I've returned to the photography I love. Nature photography.

Part of this has been fuelled by my transition over the Sony A7 which I picked up late last year. I haven't really been reviewing a lot of products in a while because of my busy schedule and frankly when I did have free time, I wanted to just go out to either shoot, or to review what I've done.

Overall I love the Sony A7, and although this isn't really a review, I do mention it because it has really kind of started to change things up in my photography.

Part of it is certainly the size of it, which has making carrying it and a bunch of lenses a real nice change from the heavy bag full of my larger dSLR gear.

Those of you who have been following me for years knows my journey of multiple mirrorless cameras and know that this is the most obvious benefit.

I also did this in part to pair up a digital companion to my Leica equipment. Again fuelled by the idea of staying compact, the Leica came into my possession fuelled by being more compact and discrete. I spent a good portion of last year with alternative processing in digital photography, then entered into a period of alternative film processing.
A7 in the Studio

But ultimately was a return to nature photography. For me the Sony A7 has been a greater part of that return which isn't saying it's that much better than my other equipment, but it has given me some different options in the way I shoot and interact with both the camera and my environment. There are still some small annoyances with the Sony A7, but generally I've accepted that no matter what system I use, there are always compromises.

A7 for Nature Photography
I've also still continued to explore alternative digital processing in various forms. Some, a continuation from last years work, and I intend to publish how I do that.

I've been really enjoying the return to shooting for myself more and it's something I remind myself is why I do photography. However one gets to this point in their lives, it's a nice reminder to go back to the things one used to do, explore it again, and try something new with it.


Cotton Candy on Flickr

Thursday, April 3, 2014

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Posted in Arrangement, Art, Business

Fotodiox Vizelex ND Throttle - The Variable ND in a Lens Adapter! Quick Review

LATEST UPDATE:
The amazing team at Fotodiox and I walked through the issues I was having and we have identified it as being a defective copy that I have. They sampled the same lenses and did not find the issues I was having. It is possible that the chrome on one of the parts was too thick or maybe a machining error. Regardless. Fotodiox is sending out a new copy and I will hopefully put up a new review in short order.

Thanks the wicked team at Fotodiox, and Bohus who personally called to discuss this.

I'm super stoked to put this through the paces and talk more about it.


BREAKING UPDATE:
I've identified an issue with the adapter that for at least one of my lenses does not focus to infinity. It also affects all other lenses in where the focus distance is completely incorrect (where 10 feet is normal but with adapter it shows it at 4 feet). I suspect that this problem is probably a minor issue where the adapter thickness is too thick by .5 mm. I've contacted Fotodiox and hope to hear back from them about this issue. For now this review will be redacted until further notice.

I apologize to my readers about jumping onto this without a thorough test (just very excited by this). I hope it's a simple issue that should be resolved with a thinner profile adapter.

Mounted onto the Sony A7 with the Samyang 14mm
One of the problem lenses at the moment with no ability
to focus to infinity.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

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My Student's work: Infographic Love - Showcase of Data Visuals: Ed's Infographic

Hello readers. I just wanted to plug my student's latest design assignment and have everyone check out the talented work by them on their infographic assignments. They will be updating a blog every couple of days with each of their own designs.



Have a look at this first entry by the talented and also fantastic photographer Eddie Morris:

Infographic Love - Showcase of Data Visuals: Ed's Infographic: Please click here for full-size Hello everyone, My name is Eddie Morris and this infographic was made in my Marketing class. ...

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

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Tip of the Day: Snapshots - Lightroom

ScreenShot2014-01-22at8.34.08AM-2014-01-22-08-41.jpgToday’s tip is a little known or under-utilized feature in Adobe Lightroom. This feature is extremely powerful, and in terms of version management, allows a users to do multiple edits and inspect the process at different stages.

Snapshots allows you to save a state of your workflow at any point during your workflow. You can start with an original and create as many ‘snapshots’ as you like.

ScreenShot2014-01-22at8.34.32AM-2014-01-22-08-41.jpg


Simply click on the + symbol on the panel located in the default left side of your develop module, then name your Snapshop, and hit create.


ScreenShot2014-01-22at8.33.50AM-2014-01-22-08-41.jpgYou can also add snapshots at any point of your workflow. By going through your History palette which is located underneath the Snapshots, select the point of editing that you were last happy with, and then proceed to click the + beside the Snapshots heading to lock in a state.


You can also at any point update a snapshot with any new adjustments if you don’t want to create too many snapshots. Right click over the Snapshot and select the ‘Update with Current Settings’ pull down. Because this does not take any real memory on your hard drive, I don’t necessarily find this a benefit, but it’s there if you like to keep the amount of states down to a minimum.
ScreenShot2014-01-22at8.47.54AM-2014-01-22-08-41.jpg

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

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Tip of the Day: Adjusting Camera Adapters

Today's post is another attempt to put simple short content into my blog. Ironically, I teach social media and one of the cardinal rules I often break here is the length of my entries (it also makes it very time consuming to write lots of content for it). I of course appreciate those readers that spend the time to read through my detailed and lengthy posts, but I also know for every 100 people that come to this blog, that maybe only few spend the time to read the latest entry.

This hopefully will start off some simple little tips and tricks of the day. No promises of how often they will be posted, but for now, here's the first on adapters.

Sony E mount to Leica Adapter 

One thing that is popular these days are lens adapters. Many of them vary in quality and price which often relates back to the fit of these products.

If you're lucky, some of these products are made from quality products, but regardless, I've often heard of people complain about how loose an adapter might fit or not at all. The later you can't correct easily, but the loose adapters are easy to adjust.

Other than the very best and most expensive adapters will not have that little slot as shown in the above image. Most people are unaware of it's function, but they are on every bayonet protrusion and designed for one specific task.

Apply light pressure and in the middle of the slot to bend the metal slightly for a tighter fit. 
Simply wedge a jewellers or eye glass screwdriver into the slot. As you push it in, the thinner lower part of the metal will deform. This creates a tighter fit with your lens.

Start small, and evenly on all the slots. Checking with your lenses to see how they fit. Once you've done that, there should be no wobbling lenses. You shouldn't need to do this often, but metals all shrink and bend from use and temperature. Simply repeat this on your adapters when you find a wobble.

It should be stressed that it is important to ensure the lenses are tight. If they are not, there's always a slight chance that your images are slightly out of focus on one edge of your frame.