So I ordered a Canon EOS-M3 and electronic viewfinder while I was away on holidays. It arrived at my home the same day I got back! I have had a chance to play with it a little bit, but have really been too busy with some projects over the last little while to put together my hands on review.
Here’s a hint though! I like it, it really like it and think it is almost there!
I recently tried to update my YongNuo YN-E3-RT Flash Controller and ran into a few problems. It took me a while to figure it out but I finally got it to work. I thought I would share my experiences here because when I was searching for answers I couldn’t find them on line.
For those that don’t know the YN-E3-RT is a flash controller built by YongNuo that can be used in place of Canon ST-E3-RT radio flash triggers for either the Canon 600EX-RT speedlites or YongNuo’s YN600EX-RT flashes. The YN trigger sells for a lot less than the Canon one does and offers the ability to use rear curtain sync with both Canon and YN speedlites, something the Canon transmitter can’t do, and it costs about a third to a half the price of the Canon depending on where you purchase. It also allows non Canon shooters to use the Canon or YN radio speedlite systems albeit only in manual mode. I will be writing a more comprehensive review of this gadget a little later but first impressions have been good.
The first step would be to download the updater and the firmware from YongNuo’s site. Here is a direct link to the Englsih page for the YN-E3-RT where you can get the firmware and updater. Currently it is Windows only so if you are on Mac you will either have to use a Bootcamp install of Windows or find a Windows machine you can borrow. I don’t know if a virtual Windows install on OSX will work.
After downloading and installing the software on my HP Envy, Windows 8.1 machine. I ran the install which went without a hitch. I then unzipped the firmware file and selected it. I set the controller into firmware upgrade mode by holding down the mode button and turning it on, then plugged it into my machine via a USB cable (not supplied). The update software didn’t detect the controller but Windows did. I still couldn’t update the firmware. I tried closing the updater software, turning off the transmitter and then trying launching everything again. No joy. Next I tried a different USB cable, again no luck!
The next step was to try re-installing the firmware updater in administrator mode and again tried both USB cables with no luck. I checked my device manager and could see an unrecognized device but was unable to install drivers. If I had looked a little closer I might have figured it out. Instead I downloaded the updater and firmware to my Windows 7, 64 bit desktop PC. I Ran the updater setup and noticed that it also did a driver install. I set the trigger in firmware update mode, plugged it into PC and was able to update the firmware on my trigger.
I went back to my Windows 8.1 laptop and started looking around again. I opened explorer and went to the c:\Program Files(x86)\Yongnuo Trigger Updater\ folder and saw a driver folder I went into this folder and ran the dpinst_x64.exe file and it installed the appropriate driver. Set my YN-E3-RT to firmware update mode, connected via USB and it immediately recognized and would allow me to run the firmware update.
After doing all of this I went back to the main folder and opened the readme.txt file. In this folder were the instructions to install the driver as I added above. If I had read that first I would have been able to figure it out much sooner.
No where in the installation documentation that I read and downloaded prior to installing the updater does it say to run the driver set up program. In fact when the setup program for the updater finished running it asked me if I wanted to run the update software. I did say yes and figured that I would be able to update the firmware. Even being an IT Professional I would never have thought of going into the folder and reading the readme file. Had it popped up after the install I probably would have saved myself a little time.
It didn’t take me that long to figure out the problems, maybe 30 to 45 minutes, but my goal is to help anyone that needs to update it to actually do it in the 10 or so minutes it should take.
As I said earlier I haven’t played around with the trigger much since I have had it but the preliminary testing I have done, it has been solid with no issues. I have a few shoots coming up in the next little while where I was planning to give it more of a test.
Did you get a shiny new camera for Christmas? A new lens or piece of expensive photo gear? If so do yourself a favor and start using the lenstag.com service.
Recently a photographer friend of mine had his camera bag stolen from his vehicle with all his gear in it. Luckily the bag and all gear was found the next day dumped by a neighbors house. In this case he was very lucky but it could have been worse with his Nikon D800 going missing as well as several lenses and memory cards.
Lenstag is a free service with a web site and both Android and IOS apps. It is basically a free inventory or registry for all of you photo gear and more. But it does more than just the spreadsheet of gear and serial numbers that you may have.
To get started with Lenstag, you sign up for a free account and then you start adding your photo gear including the serial number. After each piece of gear is entered, you take a picture of the item’s serial number (this is where using the smart phone app really comes in handy). The picture is required to verify that you actually own the item and you have the serial number that is correct. Once the item is verified it shows up in your app with a green verified check mark. Verification can take a couple of days and you will get a email notification so be patient. I have also verified some gear that doesn’t have a serial number by just taking a picture of the item and specifying no serial number visible. I had to do this for my Lensbaby Composer Pro and the sweet 35 and Edge 80 optics.
Once your gear is verified, if it is ever lost or stolen, you report it as such on the lenstag service. Their rescue feature scans the web and reports images taken with your cameras serial number if that data is still in the exif data of photos posted. This is accomplished by users using the free lenstag Chrome extension.
In addition you can also help lenstag look for stolen gear. By installing the lenstag rescue extension in your Google Chrome browser when you view an image, it looks at the meta data in the image and compares it to the stolen gear database. If it detects an image taken with a stolen camera it alerts the service and helps in tracking down the stolen gear easier. Installation only takes a few seconds and is free. Doing this helps other users if their gear is lost.
If you are looking at purchasing used equipment, you can also protect yourself by doing a search on Google using the name of the gear and the serial number and you can add lenstag to the search string, like so, “lenstag stolen 1234569” or you can use the app and search the serial number directly.
If you are selling a piece of gear to another lenstag member you can actually create a transfer link to the new owner and they don’t have to go through the verification process again.
Another cool feature of the site is they give you an approximation of the replacement value of your gear. They include a replacement cost for used gear and the new replacement cost in USD. I was really quite surprised to see how much gear I own and there are some items (Light modifiers, bags, filters etc.) that are not listed there.
One thing though, for this service to really work well, it needs as many photographers as possible to list their gear on the site. Even if you don’t worry about theft, it it a good idea to list and verify your gear just in case. Getting the gear tagged as stolen as soon as possible helps with a speedier recovery of the gear. If you don’t want or need the service at least install the Chrome extension from the Chrome Web Store so that you can help photographers that have gear stolen recover it or check the serial number on the web site for any used gear you might be purchasing.
It is that time of year again when people are sometimes stumped about what gifts to get the photographer in their lives. Here are some ideas that are not what are on a lot of the other lists that you will find online but your photographer would probably appreciate receiving! These items can be found in virtually any camera store, most big box stores or online from Amazon. For some items I am including the Amazon Link.
We’ll start off with a very inexpensive gift that nearly ever photographer should keep in their bag! In fact I have a package of these in every bag that I own. Selling for under $10.00 a package of 2, they can save more than their value in protecting expensive camera gear. These sleeves basically slide over the camera and lens (can be used with up to a 70-200 lens) and protect them from rain. A package is small enough to fit in any bag. There is also a version available that can fit over a camera with a speed light attached. These can also work well in snow and windy, sandy conditions.
If your photographer lives in a cold climate like I do, trying to shoot in cooler weather with
gloves on can be a little bit of a challenge. Photographer’s gloves usually feature thumbs and forefingers that can expose the tips of the these digits for camera control. These flip off digits also usually attach via velcro or magnets so that they don’t keep flopping around and getting in the way. In addition there is usually some sort of gripping material on the palms and the fingers so that the camera doesn’t slip. I have a couple of pairs of these in my own bags. One pair I use is from LowePro and is a little thinner. I use these for cooler weather or underneath a heavier pair of gloves. The other pair I have is made by Freehands and is a little thicker and insulated with Thinsulate. I use these in cooler weather or in very cold weather with a heavier glove on my other hand. These start selling at anywhere from 30.00 and have seen some available for up to 200.00 for extreme cold weather.
Eventually every photographer will need a flash and not just the pop up flash on their cameras. The advantage of a stand alone flash unit is that they offer more power and probably a bigger feature is that they can be put off camera so that the light is not blasting into the subjects face. The Speedlites from the manufacturers are great devices but they can be costly selling for up to 500.00. The beauty about these YongNuo flashes is that they can often be picked up for anywhere between 60.00 to 100.00. Another thing about giving a speedlight as a gift is that you can actually build up the gift, adding components to make it a complete lighting system! YongNuo makes several other flashes so this is not the only option. Version 4 of this flash just released but doesn’t offer many more features.
These simple, manual only, speedlites are great for photographers that want to start using flash creatively both on camera and more importantly, off camera. They work with virtually any camera system and feature both optical and wireless remote triggering.
The nice thing about this gift idea is that you can build it up to quite an elaborate lighting system by adding a few components.
For about 40.00 you can add a pair of YN 603 II radio triggers, allowing for off camera triggering and remote camera triggering. For another 30.00 to 50.00 you can add a light stand and for about 30.00, 2 in 1 shoot through umbrella. With the flash, triggers, stand and umbrella you basically have a portable portrait studio. With a 5 in 1 reflector and you have cheap 2 light system (20.00 to 30.00).
When I first started writing this article I really got carried away and the section on these speedlites grew to be really long. I have edited it down to the basics and will soon post a more comprehensive article on the full YongNuo system.
Every photographer needs memory cards and extra batteries especially if they do some travelling. You can get memory cards in all price ranges and sizes. I recommend buying brand name cards and usually those considered pro models than the cheapest cards available. While cheaper cards may work they have a tendency to fail more often and not perform as well as the brand name cards. Stick with brands like Sandisk, Lexar, Transcend and Kingston. Look at their higher end cards for the best performance. I use either SanDisk Extreme SD and Compact Flash Cards or Lexar Professional CF cards in my
bodies. I don’t buy the largest cards available and tend to stick a couple of levels down from the largest. Right now I have a couple of 64 GB CF cards, a 32 GB CF card and several 32 GB SD cards and lots of 16 GB CF and SD Cards. All are kept in card wallets and they travel with me when I go away. I download all of my images every night when travelling (to 2 places) and then try and avoid formatting the card until I get home. Currently I have a couple of Transcend USB 3 Card readers that I use to download the pictures. So far these have been the best USB 3.0 card readers I have used and they sell for under 20.00. I keep one in my travel bag and one connected to my PC at all times.
Extra batteries are also something that a photographer may want and should have but doesn’t usually get on their own. When I am travelling I carry at least 3 batteries for each camera that I take. I always have at least 2 with me and can leave one behind at my room to charge if necessary. There is lots of debate as to whether or not 3rd party batteries are safe to use and ultimately the choice will be up to the buyer. I do and have used 3rd party batteries in some of my cameras but with my higher end camera bodies I don’t take the chance and do spend a little more and purchase the manufacturers batteries. The nice thing is that the same batteries work between 3 of my 4 main camera bodies and I have been adding a couple of batteries every year since getting the first one. My logic is on the higher end bodies there should be no issues electrically with the manufacturers own batteries. If you do decide to purchase 3rd party batteries, make sure you get a reputable brand. You can check for reviews on Amazon.com or on other photography sites.
Adobe Lightroom is basically the de facto photo organization and photo editing program for almost all photographers around the world, especially now since Apple has discontinued their Aperture software. Brand new a boxed (or download) copy of Adobe Lightroom sells for 150.00 in stores or on-line and despite what people say, yes you can still buy a boxed copy.
Two and half years ago Adobe made an announcement that made a lot of graphics professionals (photographers included) really angry. They announced that Adobe software would going forward be sold as a yearly subscription. For a monthly price 50.00 a month with a 1 year commitment you could get all Adobe Software to use on 2 computers with constant upgrades over the year. Many people and especially photographers didn’t like this as they only used photoshop and didn’t update it when every new version came out. When this was first announced Lightroom was not originally included in the program.
Last year after several temporary specials, Adobe announced that the new Photographer’s bundle would be a permanent package. For 9.99 USD per month, on a 1 year commitment, you can use the latest version of Adobe Lightroom and the latest version of Adobe Photoshop CC on 2 machines. This also includes the use of Lightroom Mobile for iPad and IOS (and soon for Android, I can verify) . For the price of two Starbucks Latte’s a month you can get the 2 most used programs by photographers around the world. I personally have been using the full CC since it was announced and couldn’t be happier.
While you can do a lot in Photoshop and Lightroom to edit and fine tune images, sometimes more complex editing can be time consuming and difficult. It can take a lot of time to get a photo just the way you want it. To the rescue come several plugins that can do all kinds of advanced editing on your images to enhance, add special effects, convert to black and white and do much more with a few clicks. I use several of these plugins my self in my workflow and get some results that I really like. While some people think plug ins are cheating, I disagree. I know that I can achieve a lot of these effects and looks in Photoshop myself but it may take 1 to 3 hours to get it the way I want. With a plugin I can use it and get myself 80 to 90% of the way there in 5 to 10 minutes. To me saving that time allows me to work on more photos in one of my editing sessions.
While there are hundreds and thousands of plugins, two of the most popular plug in suites will do almost everything a photographer would try to do. They are the Nik Collection from Google and OnOne Software’s Perfect Photo Suite 9.
The Nik Collection can be purchased directly from Google for 169.00 CAD (149.00 USD, I believe) here Nik Collection
Other plugins worth noting here are Perfectly Clear from Athentech and the many options from Topaz Labs that can be purchased as a bundle or individually. I have to say that Topaz has some very unique plugins that I enjoy using.
One of my favourite tools when I am editing is a Wacom Tablet. This is a USB tablet that lets me paint the edits onto my image and gives the me the ultimate control over my photo editing. In Photoshop, it allows or pressure sensitivity on brushes and brush strokes so works very much like a pen, pencil or paintbrush. When I sit down at my system to do a editing session I pick up my Wacom Inutos 5 Medium tablet with the optional wireless adaptor to work. In my travel laptop bag I keep my older Wacom Intuos 4 small tablet for use on the road.
There are less expensive options from Wacom and the difference is that the Intuos Pro line
offer more levels of pressure sensitivity (2048 to 1024) and tilt sensitivity. the Intuos line that is currently offered is similar to the older Bamboo line. If your photographer is also an artist these are great for digital sketching or drawing as well.
As a photographer (and an IT Professional) I am very paranoid about the storage of my images. If I am travelling I want to make sure that I have my images backed up at least 3 times if possible and when I am working in my home office, I want the same for my main system. When travelling I use my laptop (and my memory cards) as 2 different methods of storage and I also use 1 or 2 external travel hard drives. When I am travelling, every night I download my files from my memory cards to my laptop, then I also make copies to each external drive I have. If I have a safe in the roommy drives and used memory cards get stored there. If not then I keep the cards with me while out. An external drive get’s stored in my computer bag and another is left in a drawer in the room. When travelling cards are on my person, a hard drive in my computer bag and another in computer drive with my laptop. Neither of these bags ever really leave my sight.
In my home office, I store all of my images on a Drobo Raid device connected to my PC. This is then automatically backed up to another USB Raid drive and then this automatically backed up to a series of External Hard Drives that are stored off site at a relative’s house. Call me paranoid, but I have seen far to many failed hard drives on client systems that have photos that have never been backed up. Speaking of backing up, despite everyone’s best intentions, I find that it is not an automated process it doesn’t get done.
So giving an external hard drive is a good option. Look at getting a 1 or 2 TB drive (a smaller ruggedized one, if they are using it with a laptop and travelling) or consider a Network Attached Storage drive. For several of my clients, I have used Western Digital My Cloud drives which offer basic automated backup to a drive that is attached wirelessly to the clients network. When they add photos to their PCs the photos get backed up to the drives. I believe that there are other options but these are basic level back up drives and everyone should have something similar in their homes.
If your photographer is more tech savvy, you may want to consider a more advanced diskless NAS device. This would involve purchasing the enclosure separate from the drives. You would then add the drives wanted in the configuration needed, set up the raid and connect to the network. If you are not tech savvy I would suggest finding an IT professional that would set up one of these devices for you if that is the way you want to go.
One word of advice, plan on using the drive more for backup and archiving rather than as the primary drive unless the end user has a Mac with a Thunderbolt connection and a thunderbolt drive. While USB 3 is fast, I still don’t think that it is fast enough for serious photo editing.
Did you know that most LCD Monitors and laptop screens are set way too bright for proper photo editing. Usually the first time a photographer notices this is when they try printing (or worse yet, send an image out for printing) and it prints or comes back too dark! When sharing files online this isn’t really noticeable because of the fact that most screens aren’t properly calibrated. So if someone posts a picture from a monitor that is too bright it will look fine on another monitor that is too bright.
I personally love printing my images, whether it is on my own printer or sending it out to a lab for a larger print on canvas or metal. I want to make sure that my prints come out as best possible. Because of this I run a reasonably priced Dell Ultrasharp monitor that is calibrated using the Spyder 4 Pro system from Data Color. This is a device that I can place on my screen and using the included software have it read the color and allow me to make adjustments to get printing and editing just right! It can be even used on a laptop or a tablet or phone. Once calibration is done and loaded into the video card the device sits on my desktop and reads the ambient light to tell me if it is too light or dark to do photo editing in.
X-Rite also makes the Color Munki product that does the same thing and I hear that they are very good. I have been using Spyder’s since version 2 so I continue to use theirs.
As I said in the previous tip I love printing my photos. If I’m printing for my own use or smaller prints for clients, I use an Epson R3000 Printer. I really love this highly rated printer as it prints on all kinds of paper stocks and can print images up to 13″ x 19″ in size and 13″x 39″ if you are using roll paper. This printer has 9 different ink cartridges, including one black one, specifically for printing Black and White on matte paper. While it is a little more expensive to change all of the cartridges on these printers the final output is well worth it.
Canon also offers some really nice high end photo printers like the Canon Pixma Pro 10 and Pro 100 models.
These are not your 100.00 all in one printers. These are designed to print archival quality inks on high end paper stock to make your photos look their best.
Both the R3000 and the Pixma Pro 10 are pigment based ink jet printers. This means that there are colour pigments in the ink that tend to adhere better to the paper and prevent the image from fading over time.
While these printers are fairly expensive, if you are looking at getting excellent quality photos printed, they are a great way to start. There are slightly lower priced units that are also very good like the Epson Stylus R2000 and some of their Artisan series of printers.
The R3000 is actually a unique Epson product as it falls both in their Pro series of printers and in their consumer series of printers. I believe that this printer is soon to be replaced with a newer model (SureColor P600 I believe) so there are some very good prices on them. I am seeing them advertised on Epson.ca for under 550.00 CAD.
While your photographer may still be working with the kit lens that came with the camera, one of the best ways to improve the look of photographs is to invest in some good glass. Like anything else you get what you pay for but when it comes to lenses in photography that is very true. And while camera bodies come and go, good glass can stay with a photographer through 2 to 3 camera body changes. Give a good photographer a good camera with excellent lenses and you will see excellent images. Shoot the same camera with cheaper lenses and the photos will stil be excellent there will be something about the image that detracts from it.
I have a couple of lenses that I own that when I am looking at a series of photos, I can immediately see what the lens the image was taken with. Specifically my Canon EF 70 -200 F2.8 L lens. There is something about the images taken with this lens that I can just see looking at my images. Combine it with a high end body like my 5D MKIII and I can really see the difference and I don’t own that many really cheap lenses.
A couple of lenses that should be a staple in every photographer’s bag especially for Canon owners are a 70-200 and a 50mm F1.4 or Canon 85mm F 1.8, Even if your photographer has a crop sensor camera, I often suggest getting full frame lenses in case they ever upgrade to a full frame body in the future.
Lesn purchases does depend a lot on what the photographer typically shoots. For example for someone with a Crop Sensor body (Canon rebel series or XXD series and the 7D series 0nly) that shoots landscapes I would suggest a good 10 -20 or 12-24 mm ultra wide angle lens. If they shoot sports and portraits I would recommend a 70-200mm lens or the 85mm F 1.8.
For Canon shooters there are a couple of lenses that really stand out even for the budget conscious. For example the EF 70-200 F4 L series is a beautifully sharp lens and can generally be purchased for around 800.00. Also very nice is the EF 50MM F 1.4 at about 400.00 and the 85 MM F1.8 at about 650.00. Another decent zoom at the wider end is the EF 17-40, F4 L at around 800.00.
These lenses are also ideally for full frame camera owners. Also look into options from Sigma, Tokina and Tamron. Some of their newer offerings are getting fantastic reviews and they are starting to challenge the big manufacturers in quality.
One lens I can think of for Nikon shooters ( and I wish Canon had one) is the Nikkor 28-300mm VR Zoom. This appears to be a great all around lens for Nikon shooters. Canon doesn’t have one in their line but I have been looking at the Tamron version of this lens as an option for a single walk around lens for both my full frame and crop bodies.
If your still not sure then a great option is to purchase a gift card for their favourite Camera Store. This way they can pick up whatever they want.
So these are just a few ideas of gifts that you can get for your own photographer. A little long winded but some ideas for all price ranges and not just what you typically see in most of these lists online. I hope that this helps in putting a smile on your photographer’s face this holiday season.
If you have any comments or suggestions please feel free to leave them in the comments below.
The best way to go out and improve your photography is to practice and shoot a lot! This helps you learn your camera and practice making images. Then when you are done, analyse your photos carefully! How do you think the image stacks up? How do you know if you are getting better as a photographer? This is where your visual library comes into play!
Put simply, to develop and build your visual library, you have to look at lots and lots of other photographs! Think of it as experiencing lots of different situations. This will help you in analysing your own images.
I spend an awful lot of time at 3 main sites on-line looking at pictures. The primary site I use is http://500px.com. This site truly has some of the best photographs I have ever seen from photographers (amateurs and pros) around the world. I often find myself spending any where from just a few minutes to an hour or more, just looking at photos in the popular category on their home page. I also keep an eye on what other photographers I follow on 500px, like as photos and also comment on themselves. When looking at images there, I try to determine what I like about the photo. How did they do the composition, where is the light coming from, and what is it about the photo that I really like? Ask yourself if they followed some of the basic composition rules or did they break them and how does it work? You can also search the site for images in a specific category or by keywords. I often tag images as favourites so that I can go back and look at them again. I also look at images that I am not to fond of then and try to determine why I don’t like them. You can sign up for a free account there and like and favourite images as well as follow and comment on photos. Even if you don’t plan on uploading images, having an account there is well worth it. They also have apps for IOS and Android devices so if you find yourself with a little downtime somewhere you can pull out your phone or tablet and look at some pictures. If you sign up for an account or already have one please consider following me at 500px. http://500px.com/SKennedy.
Another of my favourite sites is Google + (http://plus.google.com). Google + has really been embraced by photographers all over the world because of the way images are displayed and the tools they offer for photographers, unlike Facebook that really makes a mess out of some images. With the recent addition of communities in Google +, you can join one of these groups and see the images that others post there. Again look at the images closely and see what you like and don’t like about them. You can also interact with people that you “circle” and even ask just how they took the image. Again Google + accounts are free and if you join or have an account be sure to add me to your circles. https://plus.google.com/u/0/+StephenKennedy/posts
The last primary site that I use is Flickr, http://flickr.com, although I feel that it is not really as relevant as it once was. They still offer groups there so if there is a type of photography that you are interested in, you can look at images in the group’s pools. Like the other two sites, you can like images, favourite them or follow other photographers and see what they are shooting and uploading on a regular basis. My Flickr page is at http://www.flickr.com/photos/sysguy/. You can also sign up for a free account here.
Both Google + and Flickr also have free apps for smart phones and tablets that allow you to view images, comment and mark images as favourites.
There are other sites that I also spend time looking at images at (like Instagram and others) but the three above are my primary sources for building my visual library.
Another way of building your visual library is to find a photographer that you like and follow them on social media, analysing their work and their postings. I follow photographers like Joe McNally, Moose Peterson, Peter Read Miller, Jeremy Cowart, Joey L, Colby Brown to name but a few. I follow most of these photographers on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ as well as their own websites.
By looking at 1000s of images, your own visual library will be developed and then when you get out and are taking pictures, slow down and think about what you have seen in other images and apply what is best for your situation. This can be a guideline as to how you want to take your own images. Then after you have taken your images review them comparing to what you have seen and stored in your own visual library!
After looking at lots of photographs you might want to go back and look at some of your earlier work as well to see how you have progressed. As I continue to build my own visual library, I look at some of my own earlier work and say to myself “What was I thinking when I took that?” This is actually a good thing, it shows that you have improved your own eye and helps you recognize areas where you may have been previously weak!
While you still have to take the time to learn via other means (shooting, reading, attending workshops), looking at lots of images and building up your visual library will help you visualize what you want your photograph to look like before you push the shutter button.
PS. Just a little bonus tip.. I also use the sites above to research areas and locations I will or may be shooting in. I search for the location I will be in and see what other photographers may have shot in the same place.
It’s not very often that a piece of software comes along that makes me change my photographic workflow. If I remember correctly, the last time this really happened was back at the end of 2007 when I tried Adobe Lightroom 1 for the first time and within an hour of playing with the trial I purchased it. At that time I said to myself why had I waited so long to try the software. Well this has happened to me again!
I had heard about Camera Bits Photo Mechanic software for a long time (in fact I downloaded a trial version in November 2012 but never installed it) so it wasn’t really new to me. I knew that sports photographers relied on it heavily and I had an idea that it was great for sorting pictures and adding metadata to photos. I really thought, why do I need this?
A little while ago I was catching up on some photography podcasts and in particular this episode of Photography Tips and Trips from KelbyOne. Starting at about the 15 minute mark, RC Conception basically went through a very quick rundown of Photo Mechanic as well as giving tips on how to set up a Wacom Intuos tablet to help with one click sorting. I was intrigued and the next day downloaded the trial version of Photo Mechanic and set up my tablet the almost the same way.
I had a card I had to move the images from onto my computer. Instead of doing a Lightroom import like I usually would have done, I used the ingest feature from Photo Mechanic to put the images in the folder tree that I normally would have with Lightroom. Next I opened the folder with Photo Mechanic as a contact sheet and started to rate the images in there using my tablet. The card contained all Canon Raw files so after I went through everything, I opened the Lightroom catalogue (I use several) I was going to import the photos to, imported the photos (in place import), then went to check my ratings… They weren’t there! I dug around a little further saw that I got caught by a simple little thing from the Photo Mechanic help files. I set Photo Mechanic up to write Raw ratings to XMP sidecar files (preferences, under files tab, always update XMP when changing color ratings) then I had to go into Lightroom and check the Automatically write changes to XMP (Windows > Edit Menu > Catalogue Settings, Metadata tab). Which is a setting that I believe should be turned on by default in Lightroom. This has both programs write the settings and the ratings to a small xmp sidecar file for each photo and allows for the two programs (as well as others) to work together. It is something that is turned on in most of my catalogues, I just forgot to do it with this one. I turned this on in Lightroom, synchronized the folder (metadata changes) and my ratings were there.
I chose not to use the color scheme for selecting that is the default for Photo Mechanic because I used the star ratings (1 to 5) more in Lightroom. I buttons to rate stars and added controls for back and next on my Intuos Medium tablet.
I did a few more folders that I had already imported into Lightroom and I was very impressed with how fast Photo Mechanic was at displaying the files. I love using Lightroom but when I am going through files for selections it has always driven me a little crazy with waiting for the standard previews to load when switching images. It is not all that slow, but waiting 2 to 5 seconds for the full display when switching between images especially with large files was a little of a slow down to my workflow.
I used the trial version for a few days and was sold on it for sorting my files. I purchased the full version when Camera Bits put it on sale for 20% off a a few days later.
I know that Photo Mechanic can do a lot more than what I am currently using it for. Not only can it keyword and change metadata on your images but it can be used to rename files and do more. A feature that I had heard about is called code replacement and is used by sports photographers. It allows you to type a small code For example a team color and number, b10 (blue 10), and have the software replace all instances of that in captions and other XMP data with a name that is a text file. I found a good tutorial here which also has 2 links to sites at the bottom of the article for other sites where you can get team rosters automatically for several pro teams and leagues.
I have been using Photo Mechanic to tag all of my pictures for the last couple of weeks but not all was well. Earlier today I ran into an issue where although I was hitting the button it wouldn’t tag the files but would advance to the next image. I little trip to their support forums indicated that this was a problem for some people and reverting to an older build seemed to fix it. It looks like they are aware of the problem and from the responses it also looks like it is a Windows 7 problem that has surfaced in the last two weeks and only with Raw files.
I have also found that I had to change the way I was rating photos with Photo Mechanic over the last day. I have purchased a 1 year account with the online Lightroom backup company called Mosaic. I will be doing a review of this service soon, but to keep things short, they don’t offer a lot of control of how your images get backed up and star rating is one of them. Marking everything that I wanted to further look at as 4 or 5 stars in Lightroom would have those files backed up to the cloud, which I am not ready to do just yet and may not have enough space with Mosaic. I switched to the default color tagging scheme (setting #2 winner alt) as my top color tag. I then had to change the labels in Lightroom for color flags to match. I saved this as a different Metadata Color Label set. Now when I have images that I have tagged and selected in Photo Mechanic they won’t automatically be backed up to the cloud via Mosaic until I am ready to have them done. When I am ready to work with images I switch the default color set for Lightroom color labels to my Photo Mechanic set and use the 4 colors I created for sorting. I left one color the same in both color sets in Lightroom so I can tag images purple and they show up using either color label set. Doing this is just a way of me being able to select a group of images and then change them to the Lightroom default color set if I wish.
So as of now my workflow is as follows. When I insert a card in my reader, Photo Mechanic starts up the ingest window and I point the images to the folder I want to place the photos in. I also add my additional copyright metadata at this stage. I then open the folder as a contact sheet in Photo Mechanic and sort the images into 3 levels of color and a trash color. I select only the trashed images and at this point I delete them. I then open Lightroom and export the images into the catalogue I want to use. Changing the metadata color labels set, I can sort the select the pictures in Lightroom and apply a star rating or set them as purple so that I can change the label to one of the Lightroom default colors.
So far this workflow has been great for me and has sped up the sorting and picking of my top images. I am even starting to use it to go back to folders I have already imported into Lightroom and redone the sorts there only because I do find it faster to do.
As I said earlier, I know that so far I am only using a fraction of what Photo Mechanic can do. I will continue to play around with it and read the manual and start putting more and more of this software’s power and features to use in my workflow.
It is not the program for everyone though! Unless you are shooting and having to sort lots of images while you would benefit from the software you likely won’t need it. It is a little on the expensive side at 149.00 USD and unless you need the time savings to sort the images you should be just fine with Lightroom. I shoot a lot of HDR 360 Panoramas both for business and pleasure and can end up with 20 frames per node and even more if I have reshot a “turn”. Using Photo Mechanic allows me to weed out the bad exposures prior to bring them into Lightroom. I also shoot a lot of bracketed HDR shots as well as doing a fair bit of sports photography so it is really worth my while and my cash to use something like this. I can see wedding and portrait photographers also benefitting from the tagging ability of Photo Mechanic. Die hard Photoshop users that don’t have Lightroom may also want to use this to sort, select and then edit images in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) or Photoshop.
I just may have found a solution to one of my biggest complaints about the Canon EOS-M Camera and I found it by accident! In my couple of posts on the camera I indicated that not having the ability to hook up a wired remote or intervalometer for time lapse drove me crazy! I would like to use this little camera for some time-lapse stuff as well as some long exposure photography! The camera can use a remote but it has to be an IR remote and can’t be wired one or the camera can’t be tethered or controlled via USB.
I had searched the web and had found something called the MultiCamIR Controller which is difficult to find because there is a camouflage pattern called MultiCam! I did find it on Ebay and that may be something that I look into down the road. It is not too bad price wise (around 75.00 CAN) but like I said I was going to wait a bit to get one.
With Aurora Borealis activity starting to pick up here, I was searching eBay for another wired Intervalometer for my cameras. I always like to have a couple of spares and I have been happy with the 15.00 ones I have been finding on eBay. While searching I happened upon an item that might help me with my EOS-M complaint.
I found these items that are IR Emitters that plug into the headset jack of a smartphone or tablet (Android or Apple) and you use an app to control the IR transmission. I only found one seller and they are located in Spain. The cost? 13.50 US + 1.00 for shipping. I already had one of the Android apps recommended (DSLR Remote Free) installed on both my phone and my Nexus 7. I have ordered one to try, but if it works I will likely have a couple more for backups.
The only thing I was thinking about was how would I mount my phone or my tablet so that it wouldn’t get in the way. I figured I would try a short mini plug audio extension cable! The seller has confirmed that any audio extension cable should work.
Hopefully if this device works as advertised I should be able to control my EOS-M for time-lapse and also to be able to do some extended HDR bracketing (5 exposures with 1 stop between each) with the little camera as DSLR Controller supports that!
I should get my order in 2-3 weeks so as soon as it shows up I will test and post about my results. If it works as advertised I have one less thing on my list of knocks against the camera.
If you are interested in trying one of these out you can find them on at this link.
About a year and half ago I was searching for some light modifiers via Google and came across a website and store that I had never heard of called Stobepro.com. I looked at the site and was pleasantly surprised to see that they were based in Calgary, AB. Not only did they have the modifier I was looking for, but looking through the site I found all kinds of gear that I had been searching at really, really good prices!
A year and a half later I am still a very satisfied StrobePro customer (in fact I just came back from there).
Not only do they sell light modifiers, but they have a full range of strobes, continuous lighting, all kinds of light stands and other camera accessories.
Since discovering the site, this is the first place I go to if I am looking for something in particular. They just recently updated their website to cover all of the products that are available and they have all of the products set up in their show room.
Here is just a listing of a few products that they sell that I use continuously:
Triopo Travel Tripod and ball head (this is a great deal)
13’ Rotatable Boom Kit
27” Beauty Dish
Reflector Arm Holder
5×7 Collapsible Backdrop
60” Large Transparent Umbrella
I have been able to use all of the modifiers I have with my Elinchrom strobes as almost everything they sell comes with changeable speedrings.
Their line up of accessories doesn’t just stop at studio stobes and accessories, they also sell Yongnuo Speedlights for Canon and Nikon with a fairly large selection of modifiers and off camera flash triggers. These speedlights are a great way to start getting into flash photography and really learning about the light. They offer both manual and TTL versions of the flashes at way less than half the cost of the manufacturer’s own flashes. Learning with manual flash is probably the best way to learn flash photography and off camera flash photography. With the price of these speedlights, a photographer can get 2 speedlights, some radio triggers, a couple light stands and modifiers all for about the same price as 1 Canon 600 EX RT!
The quality of the products I have purchased have all been excellent and the price just can’t be beat!
So if you are looking at getting into studio or speed lighting, whether just starting out or adding to your existing kit, be sure to check out StrobePro’s site before buying elsewhere! Have a question? Jesse is more than willing to help you and answer any questions you may have about their products.
Last week during the Google+ event a new Nik Plugin was announced! Analog Efex Pro is a plugin that allows you apply filter effects to your images. The filters are designed to replicate old cameras. Think of them as Instagram style filters in a you can apply during your normal post processing workflow. Here is an image that I shot during the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photo Walk in early October that I applied an classic camera filter to and tweaked a little in the plugin.
Personally I am not a real big fan of using these filters (why do I want to make an image that looks great, look like it was shot with a toy camera) and it really takes the right image to use them. So at this point, I don’t know if it is something I will add to my worflow a lot anyway but I will go over some of my images and see if any are appropriate. However just having the option if I ever want to is nice.
The new filter will automatically be downloaded to your system if you already have the Nik Collection by Google installed on your system. It will also set itself up in your host applications like Lightroom or Photoshop so you really don’t have to do anything.
If you are don’t already have the Nik Collection by Google I would suggest seriously looking at it. While I use all of the plugins there are a few that I almost can’t live without and almost all of my images for print get run through the plugins. They are Color Efex Pro 4, Silver Efex Pro 2, HDR Efex Pro 2 and Sharpener Pro 3 (for printing). The other plugins that are included in the collection are Viveza 2 (for colour correction), Dfine 2 (for Noise reduction) and now Analog Efex Pro.
For the price of 149.00 for the entire collection you can’t really go wrong! Before Google bought Nik Software in the fall of 2012, many of these plugins cost more than that just for the single plugin! The Nik Collection plugins are used by Pro and Amateur Photographers around the world and are a valuable part of any photographers digital darkroom!
While I can use Photoshop to create most of the effects in the plugins, with the Nik Collection I can save a lot of time using and tweaking the presets to my own liking!
Just for fun!
A neighbour on our street has for years been building a haunted house in his garage to scare kids on Halloween Night! You can hear the screams from kids all night on Halloween as he and his scare crew get everyone going.
Bill starts his build just after Labour Day and finishes sometime around mid October. Then he and his family usually offer a week where the haunted house is open to people on the street to take a stroll through!
This year I have to say is one of the best that they have done! I got the opportunity to get in a few days early and get some shots and create the 360 Panorama below!
Some still images where I played with a little light painting and HDR!
Mummy in Cage
I Smell Steak
Shooting this Haunted House is always fun and I look forward to it every year!
If you are interested in the making of the tour and the photos here are the technical details:
5 – 360 Degree HDR Panoramas Shot with Canon 7D and Canon 8-15mm F4 L Fisheye lens @ 8mm and F8. Each Pano is 3 shots (-2,0,+2 Exposures) at each 90 Degree location so there are 12 individual shots per Pano.
Each location merged and tweaked in Nik Software HDR Efex Pro 2 software. Preset created for first image and applied. Photos saved as Tif files.
Each photo brought into Photoshop CC and tripod legs and levels retouched and removed.
4 Tif Photos for each Pano brought into PTGUI Pro and the 360 degree larger panorama files were stitched and saved as tifs.
Each full 360 pano file then brought into Pano2VR Pro and the tour created. Mirror ball patching for the Nadir done here.