After first trying out the WD My Passport Wireless Pro as a solution to backup photos and video while traveling (click here for the full review of the My Passport), I thought I would try the competition – the Seagate Wireless Plus. The main issue that I had with the WD My Passport is that […]
If you’re a travel photographer or just someone who wants to keep your photographs safe and secure while you’re in the field, one of your biggest challenges is copying and backing up your travel photographs and travel video as it’s captured. My top three travel photography backup challenges are: Copying camera photo and video files […]
One of the biggest announcements at Photokina 2016 (for me anyway) was the long awaited release of the Sigma ART 85mm f/1.4. I have been holding off buying a Canon / Nikon 85mm for years waiting for Sigma to release the ART version of their 85mm, so as soon at it was announced, I pre-ordered […]
Bose Companion 20 Review: Desktop Computer Speakers for Photographers and Film Makers Audio Monitoring
When I was setting up my new office, one of the highest priority items for me was a high quality set of desktop computer speakers. After a lot of listening to different systems, I eventually chose the Bose Companion 20 Multimedia Speaker System. Click the link to find out why.
Nikon AW1 Review – Waterproof Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera | by JP Danko | blurMEDIA Photography | Toronto Commercial Underwater Photographer | So this morning my natural light underwater photography tips article came out at DIYPhotography.net (click here to check it out), then this afternoon I see that Nikon has just released the Nikon AW1 Waterproof Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera. Talk about timing huh! I am totally stoked about this camera! Waterproof Camera Housings vs. Waterproof Cameras There is already a good selection of waterproof point and shoot underwater cameras on the market – but a point and shoot is not suitable for underwater commercial photography. Until now, that leaves professional underwater photographers with a DSLR inside a waterproof camera housing. The thing I hate about underwater camera housings is that it is damn near impossible to change camera settings once the camera is sealed inside. A native waterproof camera like the Nikon AW1 Waterproof Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera does not have that problem – all the controls are right there and accessible. Underwater camera housings are also very expensive. At a price point under $1000 the Nikon AW1 already costs less than most underwater camera housings! Another huge problem with a DSLR inside a waterproof camera housing is seeing through the viewfinder to frame shots. As a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, the Nikon AW1 does not even have a viewfinder – and without an underwater housing in the way, it should be much easier to see the view screen to compose shots underwater. Nikon AW1 Sensor Format The Nikon AW1 underwater camera uses a Nikon CX format sensor. On paper, this is a big disappointment as the CX sensor is only marginally larger than point and shoot sensors, which should mean higher noise, poorer low light capabilities and generally lower image quality than the approximately four times larger APS-C sized sensors used in other mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras, like the Sony NEX series or Fuji’s X series. Underwater Lenses for the Nikon AW1 Nikon is releasing the AW1 Underwater Camera with two dedicated underwater lenses. There is a 10mm f 2.8 underwater lens (27mm equivalent) or a 11-27.5mm f/3.5-5.6 underwater lens (30-74mm equivalent). With the first lens, Nikon hit the nail on the head – by far my favorite lens for underwater photography is a Canon 28mm f2.8. Dive Depth for the Nikon AW1 The Nikon AW1 is only rated to be waterproof down to a depth of 50 ft (15m), which is an obvious restriction to scuba divers. But that depth is more than adequate for underwater lifestyle photography. In fact, as an underwater commercial photographer, I rarely go down more than 10 ft, maybe 30 ft maximum – and there are many reasons why I usually try to stick as close to the surface as possible (read my article “Natural Light Underwater Photography Tips” at DIYphotography.net for more details). More Information on the Nikon AW1 Waterproof Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera Check out the official Nikon announcement here. Read the Nikon AW1 First Impressions Review from DPReview here. Would You Buy This Camera? Would you buy this camera to use underwater? What do you think of the real world performance of the Nikon CX format sensor? Is a maximum dive depth of 50 ft a restriction to you? Leave a comment below!
eMotimo TB3 Review for Time Lapse Photography | by JP Danko | blurMEDIA Photography | Toronto Time Lapse Photographer | In this week’s column at DIYPhotography.net, I have a detailed eMotimo TB3 review, including a eMotimo TB3 review of build quality, ease of use, customer service and some sample footage shot with the eMotimo TB3. Click here for the full post at DIY Photography. In the mean time, here is some sample time lapse photography footage shot with the TB3: About The Author JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand. To see more of his work please visit his studio website blurMEDIAphotography, or follow him on Twitter, 500px, Google Plus or YouTube. JP’s photography is available for licensing at Stocksy United.
Stocksy United – A Photographer’s Review | by JP Danko | blurMEDIA Photography | Toronto Commercial Photographer | I recently began contributing to Stocksy United – the new(ish) stock photography agency that is headed up by Bruce Livingstone of iStockPhoto notoriety fame. Why I Contribute To Stock Agencies I consider myself a business owner first and foremost. Photography is a job that I really, really like doing, but in the world in which I live, like Zorba the Greek – “Wife, children, house, everything. The full catastrophe” – I need to earn an income or I cannot be a photographer. To that end, I see stock as a secondary revenue stream – a way to add potential income to commercial jobs that are already in the can (by selling “left over” images that were not licensed to my primary client). I also see stock as a way to create a potential revenue stream for personal projects – which in turn, allows me the freedom to photograph more personal projects. As an example, the image below is the first photograph that I contributed to Stocksy. It is a photograph that I took of my wife up at our cottage. At the time, I was practicing underwater photography techniques for an upcoming commercial gig that I had with three potential Olympic swim team athletes – and the images that I captured on my own time, now have the potential to generate revenue. Stock versus MicroStock Over the years I have dabbled in microstock, including iStockPhoto. It is pretty easy to have your work represented by the various MicroStock agencies, so the barrier to entry is relatively low. However, with microstock, I quickly learned that there was not much point in me spending wasting my time preparing – editing, keywording, uploading and curating my stock catalog just to earn a few cents when my photographs were sold. To be blunt – for me microstock is a complete waste of time. Stocksy – Good or Evil? I first heard of Stocksy from an article on PetaPixel – which was not overly positive, and which prompted this Tweet from industry guru (and I guy who’s opinion I really respect) – David Hobby: @petapixel re iStockphoto -> Stocksy: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. No thanks. However, a follow up article on PetaPixel by photographer Thomas Hawk describing his frustrations with Getty Images and Getty’s ridiculous deal with the devil Google (someone tell the devil – “Don’t be evil”), convinced me to take a second look at Stocksy United. Stocksy Application Process Originally, I sent in an unsolicited contributor application to Stocksy…to which I never heard back… However, totally by coincidence, one of my images was selected as an editor’s choice from my 500px portfolio – and out of the blue, I received an email from Stocksy, inviting me to apply to contribute. So, I re-applied and was subsequently accepted. Its totally true that “Chance favors only the prepared mind” – Louis Pasteur. In this case, a combination of my continuous hard work to promote my photography, and random events conspired to produce the exact result I was denied just a couple of weeks earlier. What I LOVE About Stocksy 1. The Stocksy Collection is Phenomenal As someone who buys stock for my side project PicturesByMom.com I have a good appreciation for how out of context, contrived, rote and just plain bad most stock photography is. The Stocksy collection is completely different. The images are artistic, captivating and vibrant – and I love being a part of that. (At Stocksy, you’re not going to find stupid photos of attractive young women photographed on white seamless with a set of headphones, smiling banally at you as they pretend to answer your customer service request.) 2. The Stocksy Editors are Fastidious In my initial submission to Stocksy, every single one of the images I submitted was rejected. All of them…no good….go away or I shall taunt you a second time. Now at first, you might take this as a negative, but I take it as a huge positive. I think the fact that the Stocksy editors are only going to accept photographs that are visually captivating and technically perfect makes the images that are represented that much more valuable. In fact, most of the contributors to Stocksy only have a fairly small number of photographs in their collections – but every one is a great image. I love that dedication to quality over sheer quantity. 3. Stocksy Respects its Artists Get this – after my initial photo submissions were rejected, I received a note – from a real person – explaining why they were rejected, and what I could do to improve! Ya – genuine feedback from a stock agency – crazy eh?! On top of that, I sent in a question to Stocksy support – and ka-boom – a response, from a knowledgeable real person, right away. Bonus Points – Stocksy is Based In Canada Ok – this probably doesn’t matter to most of the world – but here in Canada we have a perpetual second place syndrome – so as a Canadian photographer, its nice to be a part of a Canadian company competing on a global scale. What I Don’t Like About Stocksy Stocksy requires exclusive artistic content. Meaning: If you submit an image to Stocksy, you can’t also submit it to another agency. You can’t even license it privately. Stocksy is the sole outlet for that image to generate income. I don’t like limiting my ability to earn income – and granting Stocksy exclusive distribution rights definitely ties my hands. However, I find that I am self-curating my catalog into a set of images that are Stocksy material, while others are more suited for some of the other stock agencies that I contribute to. The same is true for images that originate from commercial gigs and are subsequently licensed to a commercial client. I always have a pile of “left over” photographs that were not licensed to my primary client – which I can then consider for submission to Stocksy. Show Me The Money!!! Alongside the quality of it’s catalog, Stocksy’s claim to fame is that it is an artist owned cooperative and pays out the “highest royalty rates in the industry”. That is great news for artists – god knows we’ve seen a big enough erosion of our rates over the last few years! Right now, its to early to tell just how profitable my involvement with Stocksy will be – but I am pretty optimistic that there is money to be made. What Do You Think of Stocksy? Would you contribute to Stocksy? Are you a contributor? Are you making money?
Photo Gear – 35mm f1.4 Lens Options For Canon Nikon and Sigma | by JP Danko | blurMEDIA Photography | Toronto Commercial Photographer | For my personal work, I absolutely love photographing people with a Nikon D800 or a Canon 5D Mark III. It is just so easy to crank up the ISO and shoot ambient light, hand held, pretty much anywhere – from bright sunny days, to indoor birthday parties (or you know moonlight if you really want to push it). Of course, I do add strobes once in a while, but the freedom to capture high quality photos with just ambient light is very liberating, especially when you’re trying to photograph people (read -kids) who don’t wait for you to go set up a couple of strobes. I mean, before I started using a Nikon D800, to capture good quality, evenly lit, photos of people indoors, I used to set up a couple of strobes across from each other in a room, and bounce them off the ceiling to light the whole room with high quality, pretty, even light. Now, I usually just crank up the ISO and shoot ambient. Of course, shooting low light (ie indoor) ambient is not always ideal. The ambient light isn’t always the best quality, or from the right direction (especially noticeable because it is often too dark in the eyes), and there are all sorts of white balance problems – but overall, for quick and dirty snapshots – its just so easy. Full Frame Prime Lens Options for Low Light Photography My favorite lens for the Nikon D800 is the Nikon 50mm f1.4 G AF-S. A 50mm prime lens is perfect for almost all situations. Its small and light. And its also cheap at only $439 (from Adorama). I bet 90% of the photos I take are somewhere between f/1.4 and f/2.8 – low light and really shallow depth of field – which the Nikon 50mm f1.4 is perfect for. I love the Nikon D800 – Nikon 50mm f1.4 G combination so much, I almost never bother to change the lens. However, on the occasions where I do want a different focal length, I almost always want a wider angle photo. Examples of Full Frame Prime Lens Low Light Photography Low Light Photography Example 1: This photo is a great example of how low light photography can look completely different than flash photography. I snapped this photo in a dim banquet hall using only ambient lighting with a Nikon D800 at ISO 6400 at 1/125 and a Nikon 50mm f1.4 G lens wide open (at f/1.4). The purple glow is from the stage lights, the key light is the overhead dim room lighting, which is conveniently bounced off of the white table cloth for a nice fill light (although I still had to manually brighten her eyes in post). I did have to manually adjust the white balance because auto white balance had no idea of what to make white with all of the varying light sources in this photo. Low Light Photography Example 2: Here is another example of low light full frame prime lens photography. This photo was taken with a Nikon D800 at ISO 3200 at 1/60 and a Nikon 50mm f1.4 G lens at f/1.4. The only light source is the ambient lighting in the room. I love the bright, colorful stage lights in the background, and the killer bokeh from shooting the Nikon 50mm f1.4 G wide open. Again, I did have to manually adjust the white balance and I brightened her eyes in post. Low Light Photography Example 3: As an example of just how dim the banquet hall was, here is the same scene taken with a cellphone camera. I think this also shows a pretty obvious difference between photographing low light scenes with a cellphone camera versus a full frame DSLR camera and a fast prime lens. I don’t care what kind of “artistic” Instagram filter you try to throw on that photo – its still going to look like a crappy cellphone snapshot. Wide Angle Prime Lens Options for Low Light Photography Besides 50mm, I find that 35mm is by far the most usable focal length. If I look through my Lightroom catalog, the huge majority of my photos are taken at a focal range between 24mm and 50mm. Whether I’m shooting with a prime or a zoom, I kind of always end up shooting wide to normal. Occasionally, I get up to 85mm for portraits, but I almost never shoot with a telephoto longer than that. If you think about it, that makes sense. Most of my photos are of people. And most of the time, I’m pretty close to them, with no opportunity to back up and shoot telephoto, even if I wanted to. When I shoot wide angle, I tend to be indoors, where space is limited and I need to shoot wide to frame the scene. Knowing that I use a wide angle lens primarily indoors is also helpful to confirm that I need a really fast wide angle prime lens, specifically for shooting low light indoor photos. The option is there to go down to a 24mm prime, but really 24mm is getting a touch too far into the murky waters of wide angle distortion – 35mm is really the sweet spot. 35mm f/1.4 Full Frame Prime Lens Options For Canon Nikon and Sigma Ok – so – a 50mm f/1.4 costs somewhere around $500. But, a Canon 35mm f1.4 Lens is $1,500 – and a Nikon 35mm f1.4 Lens is $1600! That is a big difference in cost! Then, there is the Sigma 35mm f1.4 Lens – a professional quality 35mm f1.4 full frame prime lens for $900. That is a pretty substantial savings. As a pro photographer, I learned a long time ago that it is a bad idea to make photo gear decisions based on cost – its just better to by the best equipment for the job. But in this case, its pretty hard to argue with a lens that costs that much less than its competitors. And even better than just the price point – the Sigma 35mm f1.4 lens has been getting fabulous reviews. Here are a couple: Canon Rumors – Review – Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM by Justin VanLeeuwen DPReview – Review – Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM by Andy Westlake Sigma vs Canon and Nikon? I’m still sitting on the fence. As a professional photographer, cost is not the most important factor – especially for a lens. At the same time, the cost differential is pretty substantial – so its hard to ignore the Sigma. What Would You Buy Any preference? Are you dedicated to Nikkor or Canon lenses – of do you think the Sigma 35mm f1.4 lens is a serious competitor? Leave a comment below!
Adobe Creative Cloud Review Our photography studio upgraded to Adobe Creative Cloud about a month ago and I thought its time to offer a quick Adobe Creative Cloud review of our experience so far. An Adobe Creative Cloud membership gives users access to all of the applications available with the Adobe Creative Suite CS6 Master Collection, plus a few others such as Lightroom 4 and Adobe Muse. Out of the Adobe Creative Suite CS6 applications, we use Photoshop CS6, Lightroom 4 and Acrobat X Pro all the time. We also use Premier Pro CS6, After Effects CS6 and Media Encoder CS6 on a regular basis. Now that we have access to them, we will probably also use InDesign CS6, Adobe Audition CS6 and possibly Adobe Muse (only available with Creative Cloud) on occasion. Costs In order to outright purchase the core applications we need to run our studio (Photoshop, Lightroom, Acrobat, Premier Pro, After Effects and Media Encoder), we would have to invest in Adobe Creative Suite 6 Production Premium ($1,899), plus stand alone copies of Lightroom 4 ($149) and Acrobat X Pro ($449) for a total cost of $2,497. Or upgrades of all of the above would cost $653 in total. Its a little convoluted – like trying to decode a cell phone plan – but Adobe has a buying guide that compares the various products and suites available, so you can figure out specifically which collection you’d have to go with to meet your needs. Alternatively, Adobe Creative Cloud costs $49.99 per month ($74.00 per month if you don’t want to commit to a whole year at a time). Or you can upgrade at $29.99 per month for the first year. A summary of the available Adobe Creative Cloud plans is here. So, at full price, we could pay for just over four years of Adobe Creative Cloud for the price of Adobe Creative Suite 6 Production Premium, Lightroom and Acrobat ($2,497/$49.99 per month). Or, as an upgrade we could pay for about a year and a half of Adobe Creative Cloud ($29.99 per month x 12 months + $49.99 per month x 6 months = $660). One big big big money saver would be if you have a mixed computer studio as Creative Cloud apps can be installed on both PC and Mac. If you wanted to install Creative Suite on your desktop Mac and your laptop PC – you would have to purchase two copies (one for Mac, one for PC). If you were eligible to upgrade all of the applications you use – and considering that Adobe traditionally releases upgrades every 1 – 2 years, it would probably be more cost effective to purchase upgrades as you decide you need them. But, if you have to buy one or two applications as a new user, Creative Cloud becomes much more economical. Cloud Computing Cloud computing is by definition a subscription service. Generally, I HATE subscriptions (thank-you cell phone and cable companies). Like drug dealers, it seems that every company is trying to get their customers hooked onto a subscription by offering a free trial and then billing you every month until you remember to cancel. I have had subscriptions for movie streaming, online training, accounting apps, job management apps – even razors at one point. The reason businesses love subscriptions is that like drugs – once you’re hooked, you happily make your monthly payments until you finally make an effort to quit (usually years after the subscription has ceased to be useful to you). However, I know that I will be using an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription daily – unlike say…random accounting apps that I forgot I even signed up for but billed my credit card every month for years. Cloud Features I am not one to always use the latest and greatest. If it works – I tend to stick with it. I still use Microsoft Office 2003 (sorry Microsoft – but Word is Word is Word – even if its almost 10 years old). However, when it comes to the software that we rely on to make money – its a bit more important to always have the most recent and up to date versions. With, Adobe Creative Cloud you get access to 20 gigs of online storage. 20 gigs is an awkward amount of storage space. Its more than enough room for saving a portfolio and maybe a job or two that you are currently working on. But throw in a video and some Nikon D800 raw files and you run out of space pretty fast. Never mind fantasies of hosting your entire catalog in the cloud (we’d need a few terabytes). And, while you can technically share files stored on Creative Cloud (by setting the file permissions and sending an email link) – sharing isn’t managed. Meaning, you don’t know if your client has actually downloaded the file you shared with them, you can’t set password controlled access, you can’t set expiration dates and you can’t even share directories of files. We currently use Dropbox (free) and WeTransfer (also free) to share large files, but I was really hoping for something better from Adobe Creative Cloud. There isn’t a proofing gallery option either – so you can’t create a proofing gallery and share it with a client – which would be very useful. One nice feature is that clients can comment directly on photographs that you have shared with them. No more emails from clients along the lines of “I like the one with the guy doing the thing – but I hate the one of the other guy”. Finally, Adobe’s cloud storage is not synchronized with any local files stored on a physical computer. Meaning that you have to actively manage your Creative Cloud storage, which makes it much more of a pain to use – as opposed to a service like Dropbox which automatically synchronizes a local folder across all of your physical computers, and is available on your phone or tablet, and is available from the cloud via any web browser. Adobe is planing to update the storage and sharing features included with Creative Cloud in the future – but frankly its not that useful right now (sorry if I sound like a Dropbox fanboy – but I find Dropbox super useful). There are a few other features of Creative Cloud that photographers may find useful. You can host a website as part as your Creative Cloud storage. Not something that we intend to use, but I can see how it would be useful to some users. Adobe is also developing a Creative Cloud based Community where users can create galleries and share their work. I’m personally not that excited about having ANOTHER social media type outlet for my work – we already manage image collections on Facebook, Google+, 500px and Flickr – enough already. Here is video from Adobe outlining their vision for the evolution of Creative Cloud. Conclusion Essentially we decided to upgrade to Adobe Creative Cloud because we calculated that it would be the most economical course of action for out studio. It is important for our production software to be relatively current and with Creative Cloud, we know we are always working with the most up to date versions. Right now I am disappointed with the functionality of Adobe’s cloud storage – but hopefully we’ll get (a whole lot) more storage space, better sharing controls, password controlled client galleries and file syncing in the future (however, I’m still waiting for Blackberry to release Flash compatibility…RIM? RIM? Ahhhhh, never mind…).