Category Archives: Photography

Take a Stand, Start Taking Steps

Take a Stand, Start Taking Steps

photo by Gevon

Like many other photographers, I sometimes grab the zoom lens to make shooting a job easier.

But in the middle of job, and many times after, I question whether I actually did make the job easier.

So which is it?

You see, a zoom lens makes it easy to make a photo at a variety of distances without moving much.  That’s convenience with a price.  One of the prices of owning a zoom lens like a 24-70 f/2.8 or a 70-200 f/2.8 is a hefty price tag many times well over $2,000.

Another price is the weight of such lenses.  Yes the quality of the glass is impressive, but carrying the two heavy lenses is actually a greater weight than carrying four small prime lenses, also f/2.8.

In order to get the aperture to f/2.8 in a zoom lens, manufacturers have to make the physical size of the lens larger in addition to the diameter of the glass.  So where a prime lens might accept a 55mm filter, a zoom lens would be closer to 72mm to 77mm.  That variation in glass diameter goes a long way for weight.

Depending on the project at hand, I have two different setups that I’ll typically use.  We’ll call this setup A and setup B.

For both project setups I’ll be using a Nikon D800 as the example.  The only things changing will be the lenses.

Project Setup A

This setup might be for an engagement session where I know that I’ll be moving around a lot but the couple will be walking further away from me.

I bring the 1.7x extension because the 1.7x has better clarity than the 2.0x for the newer Nikon lenses. Sometimes I also bring my Nikon 105mm Macro lens, but it’s rare that I need it for portraits.

Project Setup B

This setup is when I want to challenge myself, I’m shooting landscape or street photographs or want the stunning bokeh and quality of simple prime lenses.

The extension was a hand-me-down from my grandfather and it happens to work with all the older Nikon lenses, which is a beautiful thing.  Auto focus does not work when using the 2x extension.

The Challenge

At this point you may be wondering why I am telling you all of this.  Why share my zoom vs prime configurations.

Well, you see, we need to challenge ourselves more.  We need to move our feet more.  We need to think outside the zoomable box.

We need to decide when to take steps forward and back.

So now it’s time for me to challenge you.

If you’re the type of photographer who tends to lean more towards the zoom side of lens choices, but happen to also own a prime lens.  Remove the zoom and slap on the prime.  Go for a photo walk and start practicing with the single focal point again.

Next time you have a job to shoot, use the prime and make it magnificent. Enjoy the process of thinking, moving and shooting.

Plan ahead of time and know what prime lens(es) to bring with you.  Make magic and make it awesome.

Thanks for reading and happy shooting,

Scott

By The Time I Was 32

By the time I was 32 my life was in a direction I could have never predicted.

All my life I have been dealing with color blindness. It’s subtle, not severe. However, it’s still an obstacle to adjust to.

As a photographer, color blindness has no advantage or benefit. Only more struggles and confusion. So I adjusted. I found a way to deal with not seeing perfect color. I used tools and asked for help.

I had no idea I was dyslexic until I was nearly finished with high school. Never in a million years did I think that I would write for a living. In fact, I first went to college for music before deciding on photography as my career path.

But somehow I wound up a full-time blogger for a WordPress development company. Somehow I wound up self-publishing multiple eBooks and getting published by other companies. Never in a million years did I think people would read my words, however they might come out.

But people do. People read words written by a dyslexic writer.

…and they enjoy it.

For what it’s worth, my eBooks were published by Flatbooks and Peachpit Press.

In high school I was bullied. Badly. So bad that I was nearly to the point where I could have really hurt someone back. Hurt them far worse than how they hurt me. I was struggling. I was keeping it in. I exploded, but it was minor, and could have been worse.

I now don’t care what others think or say. I learned lessons, grew thicker skin, and grew up — far past it all.

I am now successful where I am, in my job, in my life. I have a family I love and I’m surrounded by people who love me back.

I take pride in my work. I put my energy into my photography and other things I enjoy doing. I care about others.

I never bully.

I am 32

June 9, 2014 is when I turned 32. It’s an interesting age, and not one that many talk about. Usually people talk about 13 for bar/bat mitzvahs, 17 for licenses, 21 for drinking, 30 for milestones and so on. But I’m 32 and I have been through a lot. I have dealt with a lot. I have grown a lot.

By the time I was 32:

  • I have traveled (and will keep traveling)
  • I started my own family
  • I found a job that I love
  • had three eBooks published
  • I own a house
  • I have a group of friends that I love
  • I have two beautiful cats

I have also lost two grandfathers, a father. So not everything is so peachy. But life is happening. I’m looking forward to the next milestone.

By the time I was 32

Thanks for reading,

Scott

An Open Letter To The Adobe Lightroom Team

adobe-lightroom-splashDear Adobe,

Adobe Lightroom is my favorite workflow tool for my photography.  Not only that though.  It is the software I use for 99% of my photo processing.  You have made it so extremely useful and efficient to stay organized and work my way through editing photographs.

No matter what other software I try, I always return to you.  But since version 5, and especially with version 5.6 our relationship has turned to the rocky side.  If there was a perfect competitor out there I’d break up with you in a heartbeat, but there isn’t one.  So we’re stuck together.

Our relationship isn’t monogamous and the many other photographers you’re married to also have similar complaints to those of mine.

My frustration really began with version 5.0, as noted earlier.  As soon as I upgraded I started noticing various speed issues.  After first opening Lightroom 5 everything runs smooth, but then it begins to slow down, further and further.   The upfront speed boost has degraded in Lightroom 5.6 and now it lags even with small JPG files created by a simple point and shoot camera.  That, my dear Adobe team, should never happen.  I can understand a slight lag with RAW images, but JPGS? Come on now.

I recently decided to vent my frustration on Facebook (yea I know), so I posted the following:

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is the best editing and workflow software I’ve ever used for photographs. It is also a pain in the ass. Damn you Adobe for not making it faster. 2.6GHz i7, 16GB of RAM, All files and caching on internal SSDs and you still lag? Really???

An Open Letter To The Adobe Lightroom Team

I apologize for the foul language, but I am at the end of my patience with Lightroom.

That’s right, here are the specs of my brand new MacBook Pro:

  • Processor:  2.6 GHz Intel Core i7
  • Memory: 16 GB 1600 MHz DDR3
  • Graphics:  15-inch (2880 x 1800) NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M 2048 MB
  • Software:  OS X 10.9.4 (13E28)
  • Storage: 1TB Flash Storage (ie., SSD)

I keep my catalog files, caching, smart previews and 1:1 previews all on the internal SSD drive of my MacBook Pro.  The photographs I am working on (at any given moment) are on the internal SSD drive.  Photographs that are no longer being edited (archived) are stored on an external Thunderbolt 2 RAID drive.

There is no reason for a RAW file to take over 10 seconds to load.  Or for a JPG image to take more than 2 seconds to load.   This happens with all plugin modules disabled as well, so it’s not that.  It’s also not Lightroom Mobile Sync.  I have also been through support and completely rebuilt my catalog two times due to a random error I was receiving after upgrading to Lightroom 5.6.

I mentioned already that others you’re married to also have similar issues.  I thought I would share some of the replies I received to my rant on Facebook.  Here goes:

It still lags on my new Mac Pro too. 8core 32gb ram and 1tb SSD

Just EATS RAM. I have 20gb and after an hour of editing I’m running less than a gb available. It’s all inactive!

Same here Scott. 2.7ghz, 16GB Ram here. As soon as I open LR it immediately grabs over a gig of ram according to activity monitor. And it is quickly up from there until my system grinds to a halt. Completely insane. I understand why PS is so slow and such a ram hog. It includes a lot of legacy code. But LR? There is no reason for it to run so badly.

I never had any issues until I started importing everything into LR now I run into all sorts of problems. I think what I will start doing soon is import into Bridge and do final edits in LR.

There are days that I wish I could meet Lightroom at the bicycle racks after school just so I could punch it in its laggy memory eating stomach. Today is one such day.

I also experience the issue in the develop panel as mentioned in the Adobe forums, but for the most part my frustration comes with simply browsing through newly imported photographs with 1:1 previews already created.  That means no edits, no lens correction, spot removals or anything whatsoever.  In fact, look at what onOne Software is doing with their new Fast Browse feature.  That’s the simple act of culling through photographs with no edits.  Amazing.

Before wrapping up this letter I want to share something heart breaking.  I teach Adobe Lightroom to photographers privately and in a classroom setting.  When Lightroom lags, as it does daily, while I am teaching in either setting it doesn’t look good.  It doesn’t look good for me or for you.

So Adobe, my friend, my photo workflow love, I beg of you.  I’m on my knees asking with open arms and a huge grin…  Please find a way to speed up Lightroom in the next version.   For one, add scratch disk and performance control like what Photoshop has.  I am not a developer so I can’t really offer any other suggestions than that.  But I hope that you will take my letter seriously and look into it.  Because this is a serious issue that you and I have, and you have with other photographers.

Your loyal friend,

Scott

Street Photography eBook – Ambivert’s Guide to Street Photography

I would say for the most part, people puruseing street photography are extroverts.  That means that they are wired for the outgoing interaction that is typically associated with street photography.

But what many people don’t realize is that some of the best and most famous street photographers were introverts.

Here is a great video on introversion in photography from CreativeLive.

I consider myself a borderline introvert and extrovert, which is then categorized as an ambivert.  Since I show signs of both forms I feel extremely comfortable in certain situations and the complete opposite in others.

My love for street photography doesn’t get pushed aside due to my introversion.  In fact, I utilize my own skills and knowledge of myself to improve on my street photography, and enjoy it.

Street Photography, Introverts & Ambiverts

While I was writing Go Wider with Panoramic Photography I was inspired by TED talks and personal experiences I had about being an introvert.

You see, I love street photography but I could never understand how photographers could randomly walk up to strangers and photograph them.  So I taught myself a different approach, as an introvert.  But I’m not just an introvert.  I am with certain things, but not others.  So I call myself an ambivert.

Somehow this was the easiest book for me to write.  It could be that it’s because talking about being an introvert and ambivert is more natural.  But it could be that I just enjoyed it the most.  Who knows!

So I sat down and wrote about being an ambiverted photographer and eventually finished with my new ebook, Ambivert’s Guide to Street Photography.

I sent the ebook over to Flatbooks to gauge the interest and they loved it.

Here is the summary of Ambivert’s Guide to Street Photography:

The typical street photographer is an extrovert and doesn’t mind getting up-close and personal with random people on the street. But what about the introverted photographers that want to try street photography? In the Ambivert’s Guide to Street Photography you will learn how to enjoy street photography and handle the uncomfortable interaction that is sometimes involved with street photography, whether you are an introvert, extrovert or borderline extrovert, or an ambivert.

In the Ambivert’s Guide to Street Photography you will learn how someone who is introverted or borderline extroverted (or an ambivert) can enjoy street photography without the uncomfortable interaction normally faced with street photography.

You will read about how I came to realization I was am ambivert, what type of equipment you could use for street photography, and techniques that I use when walking around.

flatbooksamazon kindleApple iBooks

The eBook is now available in my photography ebook store and is also available directly from Flatbooks, Amazon or from the iTunes store as an iBook.

I hope you check it out.  Thanks for reading and happy shooting,

Scott

In The Darkness The Moss Will Grow

darkness-moss

Sometimes it’s hard to tell when something is man-made or Earth made. This mossy wasteland is actually underneath a man-made walkway at the Cape May Zoo. There are no zoo rides or attractions in the water. Only wildlife (not even part of the zoo). This water separates the caged animals from the open range animals like giraffes.

While all the tourists were walking by headed to see more animals, I stopped for a bit to admire the moss and stillness of the water. It was a bright sunny day so I decided work some post-processing magic to make it more dramatic.

In Lightroom I dropped the exposure and cooled the tone down. Then I used the select color enhancement tool and brightened the moss. To finish it off I used the brush tool to add sharpness and clarity to the trees, added a slight vignette and 16:9 ratio cropping to add the cinema look.

In The Darkness The Moss Will Grow…

Thanks for reading and happy shooting,

Scott

Ethics Still Exist In The Photography Business

Ethics Still Exist In The Photography BusinessI recently came across an article talking about the lack of ethics in the photography industry and as I read it I kept thinking to myself… “Is this person serious?”

The article talked specifically about a group of photographers that I know personally. These photographers aren’t just full-time shooters. In fact, many of them put aside their photography (shooting) business to teach other photographers instead.

For example, one person mentioned in the article is a very successful photographer who had many clients when her only job was photography sessions. At one point the photographer started to write a blog that educated other photographers about business and marketing. When that website picked up the photographer slowly downsized her photographer business with the intentions of educating photographers as her full-time job.

Now the photographer has a second website which is an online course for photographers to learn how to improve their photographs businesses.

Does that make her less of a photographer? Less of a person? Less of a business person? No. It makes her smarter. The photographer took what was obviously doing very well and went with it. Improved it, and is making a good living from it.

Does being a part-time professional photographer who make it unethical to teach other photographers?

Let’s move on to me now.

I’m a freelance professional photographer. I don’t have tons of clients and don’t take on every photo job that comes my way. Instead I work for Photocrati teaching other photographers about photography, about their business, SEO, marketing and websites. Does that make me less of a photographer? Heck, I’d prefer making photographs because I love it rather than accept money for it. But I also have bills to pay so I went with a job which I also love (working at Photocrati was the 2nd best decision of my life) and still take on paid photography work here and there.

I’ll ask again, does being a part-time professional photographer who make it unethical to teach other photographers?

What about the rest?

There are tons of photography and photo business educators that will host in-person classes only to leave important information out. That’s unethical as people are paying to learn. However, to say having a sales pitch at the end of a free webinar (on the Internet mind you) is unethical is just flat out wrong. It’s part of marketing and business.

So when someone says there is no ethics in the photography industry because someone is teaching someone else about the photography business and not shooting full-time… well – it just makes no sense.   Wouldn’t you want a teacher who has time to teach you?

I think the bigger question is where the ethics are when someone has to complain about another photographer finding his/her area of expertise and succeeding at it. Where’s the sense of community and support? Stop the jealousy. Stop the hatred and move on.

If you would like to learn from some of my favorite photo business educators, please check out the following online courses:

Each of these courses include all the information you want and leave nothing hidden. I work the same way with my education. So of course please also join me at the Photocrati blog for articles that I write about the photography business.

Thanks for reading and happy learning,

Scott

The Nitz Strap – Wrist & Shoulder Straps

Nitz StrapOne day my friend Chris Nitz decided to start a camera strap brand.  He documented the entire process through Facebook and I really wanted to be a part of such an amazing mission.

So I reached out to Chris to become a beta tester and to help him get set up with the website.

A few months later and the first products are ready.  At the moment you can buy a Nitz Strap with paracord but eventually they will also be available with nylon rope, which is also really neat.

Nitz Strap Wrist Strap

Each of the straps are woven and crafted by Chris, by hand.  The materials are sourced in the United States which makes him one of few camera accessory companies 100% US based.

I am not one for shoulder straps all the time, so I have used the wrist strap.  The beauty of the paracord Chris uses is that it’s soft and breaks in more overtime.  There are tons of color combinations to choose from, although he is only offering select colors through the website to make it easier on himself.

Nitz Strap Holding

The goal is to eventually offer any color option, and in the meantime he does take custom orders. For example, The Photo Frontier has their own line of straps specific to their branding colors.

In addition to colors, the Nitz Strap is available in multiple weave styles, including the The Thin Line which you see in my sample photos.

There are also multiple hardware choices so whether you want the strongest or lightest connectors or semi-permanent versus quick release.  For mine I went with the Push Clip so I can quickly remove the strap when my camera is on the tripod.

Nitz Strap

As you can see, the strap very stylish but it’s also extremely lightweight and has multiple functions.  One of the beauties of paracord is that if you were hiking somewhere and an accident happened where you needed rope, you could theoretically un-wrap the strap and use the rope for whatever you need. Paracord is extremely strong and is meant to hold bodyweight.

My friend Gevon wrote up a great review of the strap for The Phoblographer, so please give that a read.  Gevon also provided the photos of me you see in this article.

Definitely check out the Nitz Strap website to learn more about the straps and to pick one up for yourself, or as a gift for your favorite photographer.

Thanks for reading and happy shooting,

Scott

How Lenstag Can Help Identify Non Permitted Photo Use

I’m a big fan of Lenstag for multiple reasons.  For one, it’s a fantastic way to keep track of your equipment.  For another, it helps you find stolen equipment, find missing equipment and even helps sell equipment by transferring from one account another.

At one point Lenstag launched mobile apps to monitor your gear.  Then came something that was even more brilliant.  Because Lenstag has a huge database of gear and serial numbers, they launched a monitoring tool.  This tool is a free extension for Google Chrome.  It monitors your Internet browsing and others also using the extension.  As people browse the web, the extension is looking at the metadata of every image it comes across.  It then searches the Lenstag database and notifies the photographer if a photograph is found with the camera’s serial number.

Of course, this tool improves with every new user, so please install it and let it help you find your photographs used without permission.

The screenshot below is the email I received from Lenstag showing a bunch of domains using my photographs.  Some are mine, some are test sites for work, some are guest blog articles I’ve done and of course, some are content scrapers.  The ones that worry me are content scrapers.

How Lenstag Can Help Identify Non Permitted Photo Use

The next screenshot is the user interface you see when logged into Lenstag.  It allows you to see each URL that includes an image of yours.  As you can see, I pinpointed which domains/URLs are the content scrapers.

Lenstag

When you click on a domain, the expanded view shows some info on the photograph in addition to the URL of the photograph in use and the URL of the page in question.

Lenstag URLs

From here you can take the information provided from Lenstag and either let it be or take action, like using a DMCA letter.  Of course everyone has their own idea of which is good and bad.  My concerns are with photographs used without permission, so I take action against content scrapers.

I hope you find this helpful and head over to Lenstag to get your account setup.

Thanks for reading and happy shooting,

Scott

How Wedding Photographers Convert Visits To Leads

There is a proven method of attracting website visitors and converting those visits to leads for your business. However, there has never been an obvious solution for the wedding photography industry. So one day an idea hit me. I immediately went into my office and started writing the idea down. I then contacted my friends at Colorvale Actions to partner on the designs and now I’m happy to share there is a solution out there.

wedding-photographer-conversion-kit-socialWedding photographers can now purchase the wedding photographer conversion kit. It’s the perfect way for photographers to not only attract website visitors, but convert them to leads and potentially their next bride and groom.

The kit shows how to utilize a free product offering (templates included) a landing page and email marketing to convert the leads.

Over the years email marketing has proven to be far more effective of converting people to become customers, over social media. In fact, with 95% of all online consumers using email, there are far more than 3 billion email accounts. In addition, 91% of consumers check their email once a day.

As photographers, there is no reason avoid taking advantage of statistics like that. Imagine if your website had a dedicated page to attract visits with the intentions of looking for a wedding photographer. The bride and groom who visit that page could be faced with an opportunity to download a document that could help them plan their wedding.

The Conversion Kit has already helped many wedding photographers attract visitors, convert them to leads and then customers. Check out the official product page to read what others are saying.

Please take advantage of the detailed instruction and beautiful designs that are included by picking up a copy for yourself.

I hope you enjoy it!

Scott

GPS4cam & Pebble Smartwatch Sitting On A Wrist

gps4cam-pebble-integrationGPS4cam is software for your Android or iPhone which allows photographers to easily log GPS locations for their photographs. Using Adobe Lightroom or gps4cam’s desktop software, photographs can easily be geotagged thanks to the data captured via gps4cam.

Now photographers do not need a GPS device as long as they have a smartphone. Photographers do not need to find that new camera with GPS built-in because your gps4cam can handle the task for you.

To get started with gps4cam, open the app on your phone, choose a mode and start a new trip before you start shooting using your camera.

When you are done, simply end the trip and generate a QR code that you need to take a picture of with your camera in either RAW or JPG. The advantage of the QR code is that you don’t have to manually sync your phone’s time with your camera’s time

When you get to your computer, simply run your photos plus the QR code through the gps4cam desktop software. This latter will geotag all your photos with the appropriate GPS locations.

As you can see here, the photos have been geotagged. When you add these photos to a photo management software such as iPhoto, Aperture or Lightroom you can see them on a map.

For Lightroom users, you can use a different workflow if you want to. Instead of generating a QR code, you can use a GPX file to geotag your photos added to Lightroom. You can email the GPX file to yourself or simply store it in your dropbox.

gps4cam pro has a new integration with the pebble smartwatch allowing the users to capture GPS locations or switch modes directly from the watch and lots of other features.

GPS4Cam & Pebble

Previously I have reviewed gps4cam and shared how simple and awesome it is to Geotag photographs from any camera.

At the time I was using it with the Leica M9, which I no longer have. My Nikon D800 has the Eco Pro-F but whenever I use a camera without a GPS, gps4cam is my solution.

When the team at gps4cam reached out to me about their new Pebble integration I was intrigued as I’m sure you are since you are reading this.

For those who do not know what a Pebble is – basically it’s a smartwatch which was originally born through a very successful Kickstarter campaign. The watch uses its own operating system and is compatible with both iPhones and Androids. The operating system is light weight and designed for anyone to create watch faces and apps for it.  Please note that the pro version doesn’t exist yet on android at the time of this review.

When I received my Pebble I quickly installed gps4cam on it and started playing even though I wasn’t shooting anywhere. I wanted to get a feel for what the watch interface could do which would benefit me while out shooting.

Turns out that it’s quite useful in helping to stop looking at the phone to set markers and also to share coordinates with others if needed.

When you first launch the app on the watch it tells you to start the app on the phone. So my first thought was that I wish the app on the watch could start the tracking. Turns out that it’s against policies for developers to do that. Here is an explanation from gps4cam.

“It’s a requirement from Pebble in order to have a fair sharing between apps using Bluetooth to connect to the Pebble smartwatch. If an app uses constantly the Bluetooth connection between the iPhone and Pebble, other potential apps won’t be able to interact with the Pebble”

So that makes sense – although I still wish it was an option. Even if it wasn’t the default option.

While the GPS is going, the watch shows the time which is convenient since the Pebble in the end is still a watch.

If you name the trip (on your phone) then the name of the trip will also show on the watch. Otherwise will show the default unnamed trip titled.

One of my favorite things about the interface on the watch is that I can change the accuracy of the GPS. So instead of reaching for my phone while shooting, I can quickly click a couple buttons on my wrist and go from precision to energy saver if I notice my battery getting too low. Or vice versa if I need precision.

Going along with that – the watch app also shows the accuracy of the GPS so I know how close the coordinents actually are.

pebble-gps4cam

The watch shows elapsed time within 2 seconds of what the phone says after starting the tracking. That is actually the time from the last marker point or “geotag” done on the watch.

By default the “search” or “where I am” part of the watch interface will show the UTM, x and y zones and it defaults to kilometers with no way to adjust for miles. Now, I personally do not use UTM nor do I understand it fully. However, that search screen can be changed to longitude and latitude. After talking with gps4cam about this part of my review, they decided to change the default search screen to longitude and latitude which is far more common for photographers when geotagging photographs.

It’s also worth noting that the search screen also shows altitude with can be useful for hiking.

The Pebble’s middle button is used as a shot marker, or a way to set a geotag point manually. It’s a useful feature to help the gps4cam desktop software sync up the photographs. I use it whenever my location changes enough to warrant a marker. For example, if I am photographing the east side of New York City and my next photograph is on the west side of New York City, I will set a new marker. Using the watch instead of the phone will save the battery life of your phone.

As mentioned my only gripe with the interface is not being able to start or pause tracking from the watch. It’s not gps4cam’s fault for this, though, as they are following the rules set by Pebble. But man that feature would be useful!

Since my initial review of gps4cam, Adobe Lightroom has come out with a feature to import GPS data directly to your images. gps4cam is also now compatible with that, so sync up your Dropbox and import the GPX file(s) to Lightroom and watch the magic happen.

gps4cam instructions

I highly recommend that if you are a gps4cam user to pick up a Pebble watch. In fact, inside of gps4cam Pro is the ability to get a discount on the Pebble watch.  Why? Because your typical camera GPS isn’t also a watch.  Wearable technology can be a beautiful thing.

Thanks for reading and happy shooting,
Scott