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Tools

Slugline. Simple, elegant screenwriting.

Red Giant Color Suite, with Magic Bullet Looks 2.5 and Colorista II

Needables
  • Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
    Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
    Sony
  • Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
    Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
    Panasonic
  • TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
    TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
    TASCAM
  • The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    by Stu Maschwitz

Entries in Photography (61)

Friday
Jun272014

The Battle for All the Photos

Today The Loop broke the news that Apple will (or really, did long ago) cease development of Aperture, their pro app for photo management and processing.

The new Photos app will also replace iPhoto, giving users a more seamless experience on Apple devices. The app will allow you to edit and search your entire photos library in the cloud on any of your Apple devices.

“Edit and search your entire photo library.” Sounds great, although I suspect there are some asterisks. Can we add any photos to this library, or just ones we took with our telephones?

My last post was about how Adobe is using its Lightroom mobile apps to add mobile editing and organization (but no search yet) to Lightroom. Not for all your photos though—only those you choose to sync. But the default setting on the mobile apps is to automatically upload every photo you take.

John Nack, formerly of Adobe, now at Google, recently wrote about (and demoed) how Google is doing the same thing with Google+. Google clearly wants you to consider Google+ a home for all your photos, inasmuch as they can remember it exists or consider it anything but a mistake.

Each implementation is slightly different. Should the master photo file be on your computer (Lightroom) or in the cloud (Google)? Should you be able to add photos from anywhere (Google), or should this service be tied to a device/app (Apple/Lightroom)? Should you be the paying customer (Lightroom, Apple), or should advertisers (Google)?

The consistent vector here is this: All your photos in the cloud, available and editable anywhere, anytime.

Ubiquitous, non-destructive, metadata-powered photo management is going to be great, and three powerhouses are competing to do it right. So while some may mourn the discovery of Aperture’s long-dead body, I’m excited for the very near future of photography.

Wednesday
Jun182014

Lightroom for Your Camera

The Most Important New Photo App Has a Fatal Flaw

Adobe launched Creative Cloud 2014 today, and along with it several new mobile apps. Photoshop Mix lets you blend layers using a touch-optimized version of Photoshop’s powerful Quick Select tool. Line and Sketch are drawing apps designed to work with Adobe’s own stylus and ruler accessories.

But the one I’m most excited about wasn’t a surprise at all. As promised, Lightroom mobile is now available for iPhone. Like the iPad version, it’s free, but requires a Creative Cloud subscription. (The bundle of Lightroom and Photoshop for $9.99/month is now a permanent pricing plan, by the way.)

Despite having the exact same features, Lightroom for iPhone is a very different thing than the iPad version. Because this is Lightroom running on your camera.

I’m a “serious” photographer. I have cameras with red dots and and lenses with red rings. But I also take a ton of photos with my telephone. Having the power of Lightroom running on your actual camera is a major, important change to mobile photography. When you snap a shot, or, more likely, a series of shots on your iPhone, and then easily (even automatically) upload them to your Lightroom catalog, where you can then edit, flag, and now rate them, with all changes synced to your master catalog, you have a speed and power in mobile photography that will have you rethinking your iPhone’s role as a “casual” camera.

A New and Promising Workflow

Effortlessly getting your fresh iPhone snaps into Lightroom is great in a few ways. I started out wishing for nothing more than metadata management in a mobile Lightroom app, and I have productively used that functionality, but now I’m hooked on having the power of Lightroom’s editing controls in my pocket. Lightroom’s exposure, contrast, color temperature, clarity and shadow/highlights controls produce significantly better results than any other mobile photo editing app.

But the real power comes when you launch Lightroom desktop, and see all of your photos there, with their edits as nondestructive metadata. You can continue making your photos look their best, and the edits will be synced back to your iPhone—even those that Lightroom mobile can’t modify. This means Lightroom mobile is rendering the full Adobe Camera Raw engine, which bodes well for increased editing capability in the future.

iPhone photos thoughtfully processed in Lightroom can look shockingly good. Here are a few examples from my recent trip to Taiwan.

If you choose to automatically upload all your iPhone photos to Lightroom (the aggressive default when you first run the app), you could even dispense with syncing your photos to your computer the old-fashioned way (if it weren’t for pesky video).

The Fatal Flaw

Lightroom mobile is a work in progress, and it’s not perfect. I’d kill for user-created presets synced from desktop Lightroom. You don’t have control over where on your computer your uploaded photos are synced to. And when sorting through photos, you have to switch between flagging mode or star rating mode (new in version 1.1 for iPad as well), rather than having both available at once. You can’t even see both flags and stars at the same time, even though there’s plenty of space on the screen.

But the biggest flaw represents a fundamental misunderstanding of mobile photography. Lightroom mobile strips important metadata from your photos, including time/date and location. That’s right, Lightroom mobile kills one of your iPhone’s best camera features—the always-on GPS.

This means that if you edit a photo in Lightroom for iPhone, save it back to your Camera Roll, and then share it, the social media service you share to won’t know when or where the photo was shot. Apps like Facebook and Instagram use this info to make sharing better. If you’re more privacy-minded like me, maybe you use a personal diary app like Day One. Day One uses photo metadata to automatically create a journal entry with the correct date stamp and GPS location. But if you try this which a shot saved from Lightroom mobile, no such information is found, and the journal entry is created using the current time and location.

Every 99¢ (or free) photo app gets this right. That Lightroom doesn’t is an embarrassing omission.

Just The Beginning

I have high hopes that Adobe will address these shortcomings. We’re only at version 1.1 of Lightroom mobile. It’s almost my go-to mobile photography app (competing with Mattebox, an awesome app that offers custom filter building and sharing, and that leaves my metadata alone).

With proper metadata handling, user presets, and the ability to customize where synced shots are stored, Lightroom mobile could become a must-have for anyone who uses their telephone as a camera, which is approximately everybody in the world.

Lightroom mobile is available on the iTunes App Store for iPhone and iPad. It requires Creative Cloud, which is $9.99/month for Lightroom and Photoshop. Or get a year of full Creative Cloud membership for $50 off from B&H until June 20.

Monday
Apr072014

Lightroom Mobile

Adobe has released Lightroom mobile, an iPad companion app for Lightroom that syncs with your desktop catalog via Creative Cloud.

Is it the mobile companion app to Lightroom I asked for two years ago? Not exactly. It’s both much more, and a little less.

Lightroom mobile is based on the rather remarkable achievement of running the entire Adobe Camera Raw engine on your mobile device. This, combined with the recent addition of lightly-compressed proxies to the DNG format, means that Lightroom mobile can accurately edit the full range of values in your raw originals, and then sync those adjustments back to your main catalog.

If the editing features are miraculous, the sorting and metadata features are, let’s say, streamlined. The only thing you can sync are Collections. I don’t use Collections as a part of my organization, which means I have to create them just for the purpose of syncing. You choose which Collections sync, up to 60,000 photos.

You can flag and reject shots. That’s it. No star ratings, color labels, no keyword tags. You can move/copy shots from one synced catalog to another though.

I’d suggested syncing the catalog, not the photos. I wanted organizing, not editing. Turns out, I love having the editing control. But it does come at the expense of speed and storage requirements. You can rapidly flip through shots and flag or reject them with a swipe. But as you do, Lightroom will be loading that whole DNG proxy.

Lightroom mobile lets you sit back on your couch and rapidly triage a shoot, flagging and rejecting shots easily. There’s more than enough editing control to make an informed decision of whether a shot is a keeper or not.

If you collaborate, it’s pretty cool to hand off your iPad to a colleague (or spouse) and ask them to pick their favorites. Keep the desktop version up as they do, with a filter for Flagged, and watch your screen fill up with their selects.

I wanted a mobile companion app to help me keep up with the endless task of sorting and organizing my main catalog. We didn’t quite get that. Instead, we got some organization and metadata tools, and impressive, if not as obviously utilitarian, editing capabilities.

I like Lightroom Mobile enough that I bought a new iPad with LTE so I could use it to its fullest. It’s super useful, even if it’s not exactly what I wanted. Which is exactly what a 1.0 should be. With that in mind, here’s what I’d love to see in future updates:

  • Lightweight syncing of my entire catalog. I don’t need DNG Proxies for everything, but a thumbnail would be great.
  • Keyword tags, and the ability to search/sort by them.
  • Reverse geocoding. Show me my photos taken near where I’m standing, or let me tag a photo with my current location.
  • Presets. The ones in Lightroom mobile are Adobe-supplied. I’d like to be able to selectively sync presets from Lightroom Desktop.
  • Collaboration. I’d like to be able to share photos with a collaborator and let them set metadata separately from mine. Let me, the agency, and the client all make our selects, and then allow only me to see how they overlap.

Lightroom mobile is a free download on the App Store, and requires one of several several existing Creative Could plans, including the Photoshop Photography Program at USD $9.99/month. It requires Lightroom 5.4, also released today. An iPhone version is coming soon.

Wednesday
Dec112013

How to Take Good Photos for Under $1,000

Yesterday was a big family Christmas-type day. We picked out our tree, hung the lights, and visited Santa. Usually we wait in line to see Santa, but on this day he was taking a break, helping to run the merry-go-round. My son and his friend were finishing up their ride when they spotted him. He came over to do the Santa thing. And suddenly I realized that Santa was happening right now, whether I was ready or not.

But I was ready.

I posted the photos that evening, and a few friends asked, in a flattering and kind way, how I always get such nice shots. And the answer is not a new one, but as I replied, I realized that it is a valuable one to repeat.

Christmas is coming. Here’s how to take some good photos.

Buy a DSLR

Step one is to put your phone away. Step two is to, for the time being, ignore all the excitement about mirrorless cameras. There are some great ones, but this is my advice, and I use an SLR.

Buy literally any DSLR. The cheapest ones you can get these days are crazy good. There’s the Canon Rebel line, and the Nikon D3200. Heck, buy a used one from a couple of years ago.

Buy the body only. The kit lens that comes with these inexpensive SLRs is not worth the plastic it’s stamped out of. If your inexpensive DSLR is not available without a lens, buy it and literally throw away the lens. Into a landfill. Directly onto endangered waterfowl. I’m serious.

You just spent $400 or so. I’ve bought many pocket cameras that cost more.

Buy a “Fast 50”

The oldest advice about photography is still the best. A “fast 50” is the cheapest, best lens. On your inexpensive DSLR, 50mm is a portrait lens, which means it’s good for taking pictures of people—which are the only pictures anyone cares about.

  • Canon’s 50mm f/1.8 is little more than $100. It’s made of cheap plastic on the outside, but on the inside it’s made of pure photolookbetterium.
  • Nikon’s 50mm f/1.8 is a little more expensive, but its ancestry traces back to some of the best stills lenses ever made.

Use Aperture Priority Mode and Shoot Wide Open

You just bought a lens with a large maximum aperture. That means that the little diaphragm in your lens can “open up” wider than most other lenses, letting in more light. So use it—shoot in Aperture Priority mode, and set your aperture to the smallest possible number. In the case of the above lenses, that’s 1.8.

Shooting wide-open will result in two things: First, you can shoot in lower light, and even capture fast motion like kids on a carousel. Second, you’ll get that wonderful shallow depth of field that mushes busy backgrounds into pleasing blobs of light.

Use Auto ISO

Today’s DSLRs can produce usable images at very high ISOs. The higher the ISO, the less light you need. High IOS images are more noisy, but noise is preferable to motion blur.

By letting your camera choose your ISO for you, and enforcing a wide-open f-stop using Aperture Priority mode, you’re instructing your camera to choose an ISO that will get you an acceptably fast shutter speed for whatever lighting conditions you face.

Manually Set Your Focus Points

The printed manual for your camera will be confusing and mostly useless, but do flip through it to find the part about controlling what part of the frame the camera will try to focus on. With this new shallow depth of field you’re enjoying, you can no longer allow the camera to guess at what to focus on, nor can you center-focus, half-press the shutter, and re-frame. You’re now like Maverick trying to get missile lock—do not push that button until the little box blinks on your kid’s eyeball.

Shoot Raw

Shooting raw gives you two wonderful gifts: It opens up a world of processing opportunities for your photos, which is great. But it also greatly limits the amount of futzing you can/must do with the camera itself. You can shoot all night with the wrong white balance, and it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to choose noise reduction settings, or “picture modes.” Just capture moments. Do that other stuff later.

Do That Other Stuff Later

Post-process your photos using Adobe Lightroom. Lightroom is about $100, and worth every penny and more.

In Lightroom, you’ll both organize and process your photos. If you don’t do either of these things, your photos won’t be good. Failing to process your photos means they’ll look mediocre. Failing to organize your photos means that no one will ever see them.

Shoot A Ton of Shots Like a Crazy Person

Yesterday I shot 367 photos. When I got home, I immediately deleted 147 of those. I wound up selecting 11 to share with friends.

Being selective like this is the only way to fool your friends into thinking you’re a great photographer. To support your new “spray and pray” method of shooting, you’ll want a couple of big memory cards, which will cost you about $30 each.

Use my Lightroom Presets

When I said that failing to process your shots means they’ll look mediocre, you might have panicked a little. That’s OK, processing raw photos to look their best is a deep subject. Lightroom’s “develop” controls are powerful, but daunting.

So don’t use them. Do this instead:

My Lightroom presets make developing your shots a “see and react” operation, instead of requiring you to be an expert.

You just spent the best $20 of your photographic life. #marketing

Get Backblaze

Now that you’re shooting several gigabytes every time you pick up your camera, you’re going to accumulate a frightening amount of data. Frightening, because the drive in your computer will fail someday—one of those things that’s not an if, it’s a when. A Time Machine or other local backup is good. An off-site backup is also necessary, in case of blimp attack.

Backblaze is a good choice for photographers because it backs up connected drives, gives you unlimited storage, and has fast upload speeds. Just install it and forget about it.

You just spent $50 for a year of Backblaze.

Actually do this.

Now that you’ve bought all this stuff, the only thing that remains is the habit of actually doing this stuff. Your iPhone camera is damnably good. Good enough that often you’ll be tempted not to schlep your big, heavy DSLR. If you succumb to this temptation, we’re right back to terrible photos, so here’s how to make sure you bring that big mirror-box with you wherever you go: buy a sling-style camera bag. I like the Slingshot series from Lowepro. You wear it across your back, and when you need to shoot, you flip it around to your chest, where the flap with your camera opens easily. It’s super handy, only a little dorky, and can actually be the difference between getting a shot and not.

You just spent $60.

Share!

Now it’s time to share your shots. Here are some rules of thumb:

  • Flickr is where you share flower photos with strangers. Period.
  • Facebook is, sadly, where real humans that you know will see, and engage with, your photos. Being humans, they are only interested in pictures of other humans. Never put a picture of the Eiffel Tower on Facebook. Only pictures of people.

Boom.

I’m sure you’ve been tempted to buy a camera that costs around $1,000, but the above items, which total well under a grand, will serve you better—and they comprise a real system for making, organizing, and sharing better photos.

Welcome to the world of people complimenting your photography by asking you what kind of camera you use!