How to Stay Inspired with your Photography

The post How to Stay Inspired with your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nisha Ramroop.

How do you keep creating when you feel uninspired? This is one of those questions that plagues photographers at all levels, at some point in their lives. Here are a few tried and true tips that have prevented some from giving up.

1. Start a project

At some stage in your shooting life, a photography project is highly recommended. When stuck in a creative rut, setting yourself a clear and defined focus or theme helps. Projects require a commitment out of you and are a great way to push yourself.

Depending on the magnitude of your project you can either set a timeline or forego it. Some timelines are built into a project, for example: a 365 project with a common theme or a 52-week portrait challenge. Other projects can be life long, such as shooting long exposure beaches in different countries or a specific location over a number of years.

The best part is that your project can be as small or big as you want – ranging from strange and faraway places to the comforts of your back yard. There are endless possibilities.

During the course of your project, do not forget to challenge yourself often. If you find your project is getting routine or mundane, this is an indication that your progress/learning has stopped or is slowing down. If this happens you could very well end up back in your previous uninspired state. Make your project challenge you, while keeping it fun and celebrate your skill and knowledge progression.

2. Do something outside your comfort zone/genre

One of the greatest things about photography is that there are so many genres, with different skills to explore. Landscape photographers and studio portrait photographers have distinctive skill sets. Street photography versus macro photography, each comes with their unique challenges.

When you love capturing moments in time, traversing an area outside of your norm can help you see things anew. Even within the same genre, each photo experience can be diverse. In landscape photography, for example, you have sub-categories such as long exposure, astrophotography, nightscapes and seascapes to name a few.

If you have hit a creative wall in your genre, try learning something new to you. Creating new work encompasses shooting outside of your comfort zone or even editing differently.

As a creative, you can even try another artistic avenue other photography! It may sound unrelated, but doing something else like painting or drawing can give you a whole new appreciation for light (or maybe it will just remind you why you shoot and not draw or paint).

3. Consume less, do more

Inspiration is everywhere. Looking at other people’s work in person (exhibitions) or online (photography websites, social media) is a great way to probe yourself. Asking questions like, “how can I do a version of that?” or “what will it take to recreate that lighting?” Save anything that inspires you with purpose. Images that get you excited about creating or planning a future shoot. Browsing other people’s work can be a double-edge sword though.

On the plus side, you can use it to gauge either how far you have come or what is left for you to learn. It can inspire you to try something new and challenge your skill level. The recommendation is to do this in spurts and not too often for too long, as you can start comparing yourself to the point of getting discouraged. Consume enough so that you are inspired, move to the planning stage and execute. More doing/creating is what will actually move you to a better place mentally.

Once inspiration starts to overwhelm you, take a step back. Reference the images that you want to learn from and actually attempt it. In this case, failure is an option as it shows you that you need to read, research and try again until you get the final output that you desire.

Important note: while you can learn from your attempts, do not set yourself up for failure. Too often trying to recreate the entire image can be senseless. A better approach may be to determine what about the image inspires you (lighting, subject, processing). Choose one or two elements you want to experiment with and make it your own.

4. Get constructive feedback

Posting your images on social media might seem like the best place to get feedback – it is not. While it may be a great way to share your image (and boost your ego), it is not the place where you will learn what you can do to improve. If you are feeling uninspired, constructive/positive feedback will do you good. Keep in mind that in order to improve, you have to also be willing to deal with critique.

On most photography forums known for good feedback, you will find that the other members here know how to give feedback in a non-offensive, positive way since they also seek feedback for themselves. Additionally, you can also streamline what you ask for. Is it the lighting? The composition? Exposure techniques? These questions will help your viewers hone in on the area you are having the challenge with.

Conclusion

If you find yourself at a plateau with your creative work, there is no right time to try to come out of it. Make the effort to break out of that uninspired space by committing to do something different. Challenge yourself outside your comfort zone or start a project.

Looking at your peer’s work can definitely be inspirational, but more than that, do something today and get feedback on it. These are great ways to push through the mental blocks.

Share with us something that has worked for you on your photography journey in the comments below.

The post How to Stay Inspired with your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Nisha Ramroop.

Tokina announces new 100mm F2.8 1:1 macro lens for Sony E mount cameras

Tokina has announced the FiRIN 100m F2.8 FE Macro Lens for Sony E mount camera systems.

The lens is constructed of nine elements in eight groups and features a nine blade aperture diaphragm. It features 1:1 maximum magnification, has a minimum focusing distance of 30cm (11.8in), uses a 55mm front filter thread and includes a printed magnification scale on the extending lens barrel to add an extra visual queue when composing shots.

The lens measures in at 123mm (4.84in) long by 74mm (2.91in) diameter and it weighs 570g (1.3lbs). The Tokina FiRIN 100m F2.8 FE Macro Lens is listed for pre-order at B&H for $599. Included in the box is the lens, front and rear lens caps, a BH-533 lens hood and a manual.

Review: Sigma 40mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens

The post Review: Sigma 40mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

Sigma occupies an interesting and somewhat unique space in the photography industry. They are most widely known for their lineup of third-party lenses for Nikon, Canon, and Sony cameras. Sigma also manufactures other gear such as flashes, filters, and even their own digital camera bodies using their home-grown Foveon image sensor.

While Sigma lenses have always been quite well regarded by amateur and professional photographers, their recent series of Art lenses have really given first-party manufacturers a run for their money. With optical performance that meets, and in many cases, exceeds lenses made by most mainstream camera companies, Sigma has really started to make significant inroads in professional imaging products.

The latest example of this is their outstanding 40mm f/1.4 Art lens.

Sigma 40mm f/1.4: 1/180th second, f/1.4, ISO 720.

The story of this particular lens actually begins a few years ago with Sigma’s 18-35mm f/1.8 Art lens for APS-C cameras. That was the first iteration of what what has become a very successful strategy for Sigma: producing lenses with superior optical performance, even if it means selling them at a higher price than consumers are used to for a third-party company.

Sigma have since fleshed out their Art series of lenses with a variety of focal lengths, in both primes and zooms. Many photographers and videographers have started to take notice, and Sigma has since branched off into a line of Cine lenses specifically designed to meet the demands and challenges of video.

This lens is so big several people thought I was using a zoom.

Enter the Sigma 40mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens (Nikon, Canon, Sony) – designed with features photographers want and videographers demand.

Its optical path and lens elements fit the mold of what their other Art lenses offer, while its all-metal construction and gear-based focusing make it well suited for video. While I’m no videographer and can’t speak to how this lens functions in that regard, I can say for sure that it is one of the most astonishing photography lenses I have ever used.

The price tag is a bit high, but the tradeoff is a lens with supreme sharpness – even at its widest aperture – and virtually none of the problems that plague so many other lenses.

Nikon D750, 40mm, 1/500th second, f/1.4, ISO 100.

As I was using this lens I thought back to my first lens, the humble Nikon 50mm f/1.8. When I got that diminutive piece of glass I remember shooting almost everything at f/1.8 because it looked so cool to have my subject in focus with the rest of the shot was filled with beautiful blurry bokeh. However, I soon realized that these types of shots were a bit problematic, mostly due to all sorts of optical issues like lack of overall sharpness, vignetting, and really bad chromatic aberration.

I soon got used to shooting my 50mm lens stopped down a bit. It’s the same with other lenses that I’ve acquired over the years. While they most definitely work while wide open, there’s usually some tradeoff.

The Sigma 40mm f/1.4 is a whole different beast entirely. Using it is an absolute joy because you can basically shoot whatever you want, any way you want, with total impunity.

100% crop of the image above. The sharpness of this lens at f/1.4 is incredible.

I should point out, before getting too far into this review, that the performance of this lens does not come cheap. At nearly $1400 this lens is almost ten times as expensive as an entry-level 50mm f/1.8.

However, this lens isn’t exactly aimed at entry-level photographers. It’s designed for people who want (as near as I can tell from using it extensively) no compromises in terms of optical performance. As a result, the lens is big, heavy, expensive, and not exactly the sort that you would take out as a casual go-anywhere addition to your camera kit. Although, if you prioritize outstanding image quality above all else, then this may be the lens you are looking for.

Sharpness

I don’t want the substance of this review to get lost in hyperbole or vain platitudes, but in some way, this Sigma 40mm f/1.4 lens really does operate at a whole other level in terms of sharpness. I’ve used sharp lenses before, but nothing quite like this – especially when shooting wide open.

I took this to an equestrian show with my family and just for fun. Then I shot almost exclusively at f/1.4 just to see what this lens could do.

I was consistently impressed by the results.

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, 1/2000th second, ISO 100.

In the image above, I focused on the horse’s eye, which was a little tricky since it was constantly moving its head up and down. The resulting images were much sharper than I imagined they would be. The f/1.4 aperture also gives a pleasing foreground and background blur, especially on the man’s plaid shirt. The 40mm focal length offers a field of view that’s wide enough to get plenty of elements in the frame.

To further illustrate the sharpness, the following is a 100% crop from the original. You can clearly distinguish individual hairs and eyelashes.

100% crop of original image.

Of course, this type of result really isn’t all that special. Plenty of lenses are quite sharp in the center, but what about the rest of the frame? I was curious to see how the Sigma 40mm f/1.4 performed in a variety of conditions, so I shot scenes like the one below to see how this lens would handle trickier situations.

Normally in a shot like this, the trees in the center would be sharp while the outer edges would be significantly less so. They would also have significant chromatic aberration issues on the branches around the perimeter.

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, 1/250th second, ISO 100.

Investigating a 100% crop shows that image quality is tightly controlled even around the edges. Individual branches are tack-sharp and clearly distinguishable, with no green or purple fringing whatsoever.

Granted this wasn’t shot in broad daylight, but I found results like this to be consistent in a variety of shooting conditions.

100% crop of above image.

Overall, I was highly impressed with the sharpness of this lens, especially at f/1.4. But then again, this is a $1400 lens. When you spend this much on a lens like this, you might naturally expect these results. If you want to save over a thousand dollars on a wide-aperture 40mm lens you could always opt for the Canon 40mm f/2.8 Pancake, which is a great lens and certainly worth looking at. However, in terms of sheer optical performance, the Sigma 40mm f/1.4 is a whole other ballgame entirely. It is well worth considering if you prioritize features like sharpness and overall performance above all else.

Foreground/background blur

Some qualities of camera gear can be measured objectively, while others are difficult to fully explain or describe without delving into a more qualitative realm.

You could put the Sigma 40mm f/1.4 lens up against similar lenses in a lab and come away with charts and diagrams that illustrate various optical properties of each one.

However, at the end of the day, there’s something about some particular lenses that either grabs me or pushes me away. I don’t know exactly what it is about this particular lens, but the out-of-focus foreground and backgrounds just look, as the saying goes, smooth as butter.

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, 1/180th second, ISO 1000

The way the bricks in the background slowly fade away while the clean mortar lines remain visible, and the smooth transition across the frame from in-focus to blurry, is far beyond what I’m used to on my usual gear. I don’t know if I quite know how to describe this and I don’t want to sound like a shill for Sigma (they did not pay me for doing this review, and I have no relationship with them whatsoever) but I really, really like the photos I was getting out of this lens.

Throw in some lights in the background, and you start to see even more to like with the Sigma 40mm f/1.4 DG HSM.

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, 1/400th second, ISO 1250

The clean, clear spots of light behind this bronze statue are nice and blurry without any of the onion-ring artifacts that are so common on a lot of other lenses. It’s part of what makes this lens so fun to use – especially knowing that when you take shots wide open, you aren’t losing anything (at least, nothing that I could notice) in the way of sharpness or overall handling of chromatic aberration.

Of course, there is some vignetting at f/1.4 but nothing that I would consider out of the ordinary, and well worth the tradeoff compared with shooting at smaller apertures. For example, here’s another picture of a purple magnolia flower that I shot at f/2.8.

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/2.8, 1/180th second, ISO 1800

This isn’t a bad photo, and the flower in the center is bright and sharp, which I always like to see on any lens. The 40mm focal length let me fill the frame with branches, buds, and other elements that add a sense of context. However, the scene is transformed into something almost otherworldly when shot at f/1.4.

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, 1/180th second, ISO 400

The corners are darker due to vignetting at such a wide aperture, but the rest of the image is almost entirely obscured in beautiful bokeh. The out-of-focus areas are blurry without being muddy. While the flower in the center is now a beacon of color amidst brown and yellow. I don’t quite know how to describe just what it is about the rendition of foreground and background elements that I find so pleasing on this lens. But it’s certainly something to behold and a lot of fun to have available at your fingertips.

Autofocus

If there is one area where this lens didn’t impress me all that much it was autofocus. It’s not that it’s bad, but it’s not exactly superlative either. I suppose I could best describe it by saying it simply gets the job done most of the time. I found that it couldn’t quite keep up with my own two kids when they were running around outside, but for most normal shooting conditions it works pretty well. Autofocus is quick and silent – so quiet that I had to hold my ear up to the lens to hear the gears turning – but if you’re used to the speed of a sports-oriented lens like the 70-200 f/2.8, you might find this is lacking too much for your taste.

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, 1/180th second, ISO 360.

I shot several dozen images similar to the one above, and the Sigma 40mm f/1.4 lens performed just fine. Most shots were nice and sharp, however, the movements of the horse were a trot – not a gallop – and in a mostly predictable straight line. My go-to gear for most daily shooting is a Fuji X100F and this Sigma lens is certainly faster and more reliable than that camera.

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, 1/180th second, ISO 800. Autofocus kept up fairly well with this remote-control helicopter.

Perhaps the best thing I can say about the autofocus on this lens is that it works about how you would expect. It’s not going to break any records for speed, but it’s reliable, predictable, and effective.

Handling

Similar to autofocus, the overall handling of this lens is something that I can describe in terms of how it feels, but I don’t know if I can accurately quantify it with numbers and hard data. Simply put, this lens is a beast. It’s big, thick, heavy, and feels like it could withstand a beating. Sigma claims it is dust and splash-proof. While I didn’t test this personally, given the overall build quality, I would certainly expect this lens to be able to withstand being out in the elements.

Manual focusing happens with gears, not electronics, so you always have a smooth tactile experience when turning the focus ring. There are no hard stops as you turn the focus ring, but after about 160° of travel, there is a soft click indicating you have reached the nearest or farthest focusing limit. There’s a single switch on the side that alternates between Autofocus and Manual focus, which I found to be simple and effective in regular use.

Image stabilization is nonexistent. However, I didn’t miss it much. With such good image quality at f/1.4, I could use fast shutter speeds without the need for stabilization. Video shooters may have this lens mounted firmly on a tripod, so the lack of image stabilization may not be a mark against it.

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, 1/2000 second, ISO 100.

Despite being such a heavy lens, I didn’t find it difficult to carry around for general shooting. At 1300 grams, it’s almost as heavy as my 70-200 f/2.8 which clocks in at 1540 grams. The Sigma 40mm f/1.4 packs all that heft in a much smaller package. Because of this, I didn’t feel the weight as much as I thought I would, but it’s the type of lens that will certainly strain your arm over time. I really liked shooting with a battery grip on my camera to help balance things out a bit.

Conclusion

My thoughts on this lens can perhaps be best summed up with this photo:

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, 1/1500 second, ISO 100.

I don’t think I could have gotten this shot with any other lens, and it’s a testament to the quality and engineering that went into this Sigma 40mm f/1.4.

I focused on the flower just to the left of the sun as it peeked over the horizon and it’s sharp as a tack. Zooming in to 100% reveals a level of sharpness and detail, as well as an almost complete absence of chromatic aberration.

That was highly impressive.

100% crop of above image.

This is one of the best lenses I have ever used, and well worth the price if you value image quality above all else. It’s big, heavy, and not exactly easy on the wallet. But what you get for the price is a lens that is sturdy, reliable, and exquisitely sharp at all apertures – especially wide open.

If you’re looking for a lens that offers outstanding optical performance first and foremost and is designed to meet the needs of demanding photographers and videographers, then I don’t think I can recommend the Sigma 40mm f/1.4 Art highly enough.

The post Review: Sigma 40mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

Seeing into space: Cosmic Microscapes with photographer Neil Buckland

A slice of meteorite, sandwiched between two linear polarizers.

Neil Buckland is obsessed with detail. For more than fifteen years, the Seattle-based photographer has been doing stitched landscape photography composed of dozens of images, captured on everything from Micro Four Thirds cameras all the way up to medium format. These days, he's become enamored with a new type of landscape - one that is very, very small. It also happens to come from space.

"I've always been fascinated with abstract photography of ordinary things," Buckland says. "There's beauty everywhere, and I especially love using macro lenses to reveal more detail than I can see with my eyes - an extension of seeing more detail is capturing more resolution, more clarity, more information."

When it comes to his newest work, which he's titled Cosmic Microscapes, the objects of Buckland's abstract photography are anything but ordinary. They're impossibly thin slices (i.e. 30 microns 'thick' - human hair averages 90 microns) of formerly space-faring objects that have crashed into Earth over the millennia. And though most of these slides are around 0.75"x1.5" in size, Buckland is making prints from them that are around 12 feet wide and even larger.

By rotating the polarizers, Buckland can alter the visible colors seen through the sample.

I had a chance to sit down with Buckland in his studio in south Seattle to discuss not only how this project came to be, but also how he manages to produce these images – and this insane amount of detail – on a fully custom-built rig.

'The depth-of-field is 3.5 microns thick'

It all started when Dr. Tony Irving of the University of Washington first came to Buckland's studio three years ago to have meteorite slices photographed for a scientific presentation. At that time, Buckland didn't know what this project would grow into.

Buckland's rig is almost entirely custom-made for this specific purpose.

"The first time I looked at [the slide], I thought, 'okay, nothing special,'" Buckland said. Then, Dr. Irving used two linear polarizing filters to pass cross-polarized light through it. "What is this magic? With the cross-polarized light, you get these crazy colors you never knew existed," Buckland said. The colors tell scientists a lot about the chemical composition of what they're looking at – but they also happen to be stunningly beautiful.

Buckland started out using a standard macro lens on a Pentax K-1 DSLR, and while this served him well enough for Dr. Irving's scientific presentations, one thing led to another – and another. He soon bought a Venus Optics 2.5x-5x macro lens, but that also wasn't enough.

Buckland must make incredibly fine adjustments to ensure precise focus across a 1.5" specimen.

After months of tinkering, Buckland found what he was really after: a 10x microscope objective, mounted to his camera via a custom-made adapter, with the camera on a custom-made reinforced metal mounting base that weighs in at around 50 lbs. Despite the concrete construction of his studio building, Buckland couldn't work with a lighter stand. "My biggest, heaviest tripod was useless," Buckland said. "A UPS truck would pass by and I'd see the camera live view shake like crazy." And when you're using Pentax's Pixel Shift technology at this level of magnification, you need absolute and complete stability.

This is because a 10x microscope objective is more magnified than you might think. "I'm only seeing 2 millimeters square of the slide," Buckland said, which is about what you'd see looking through the microscope with your own eye. "But I want to see the whole thing," Buckland said, and so he captures 300 to 400 2x2mm tiles and stitches them together. The capturing process can take up to 4 hours per slide, and focusing alone can take an hour or so. The depth-of-field is only around 3.5 microns(!), so precise calibration is necessary to ensure the whole slide stays in focus throughout the capture process.

Buckland takes a break from lining up his camera to pose for a portrait.

"I've looked at these slices my entire career, and no one has ever really been able to see more than one or two millimeters of the thing at a time [with this detail]," said Dr. Irving. "When you take a slide and you look at it as a geologist, you move it around. But when you move, you lose the context. So there is a practical aspect that these images make for an enhancement of scientific study."

The images already look amazing on a 65" OLED monitor in Buckland's studio, but of course, on the digital display you can still zoom in to see greater detail – and just keep zooming. But then you're moving around again, and losing context. So how do you avoid that? You make prints. Really, really big prints.

Seeing the whole picture

Neil and his pup, Brian, next to a print in his studio.

As referenced earlier, one of Buckland's specialties is stitched panoramic images of vast natural landscapes. The creation of these images was largely inspired by Thomas Hill's early paintings of what would become some of the United States' most treasured national parks.

"I'm obsessed with detail. When I make these giant landscape prints, I want you to stand in front of them and feel like you're there," Buckland said. "With this custom rig, I can do that with a micro subject – not just giant landscapes." Thus, the name 'microscape' was born.

Here's a sampling of some low-res images of Buckland's meteorite work (and you can see far more here).

After spending anywhere from 6 to 10 hours capturing, stitching and cleaning up a meteorite image, Buckland selects a relatively small crop for a final print. His Canon wide-format printer is limited to prints 44 inches wide, so for a 12-foot-wide print, he has to divide the image into strips. These are then painstakingly cut and mounted together, with careful attention paid to a lack of visible seams between the strips. And even though they're enormous, the detail isn't exactly lacking.

After all, prints that large can often fall apart when you're too close - they're meant to be viewed at a distance. "That doesn't work for me," Buckland said. "I want you to get really, really close to my prints – you can't get too close, because your eyes won't be able to focus at that point." Dr. Irving said that, aside from the educational advantages, "if you have the time to stand in front of it, you can really appreciate it – like all art."

What's next

A gallery visitor lingers in front of Buckland's more modest-sized 30 x 40" prints.
Photo by Nate Gowdy | Courtesy Neil Buckland

Dr. Irving continues to bring more samples to Buckland, who continues to photograph them in staggering detail. But Buckland isn't satisfied yet. In addition to a newly opened gallery showing in Seattle, Buckland aims to produce a traveling exhibition of mammoth prints to be shown at natural history museums and continues to tinker with his photography setup for even better results - including considering Panasonic's Lumix S1R and its 187MP high-res mode. But in the meantime?

"I just ordered a 20x microscope objective, which would probably quadruple the number of tiles - which is totally insane." Buckland said. "There's just no logical reason to capture that much detail!" he laughs.

So I ask, why do it then? He points to an enormous, stitched image of El Capitan at sunrise in Yosemite national park hanging prominently in his studio. "Why would you climb such a thing? Because it's there."


Neil Buckland is a photographer based in Seattle who specializes in nature, portrait and product photography. He also runs educational workshops, both at his REDred Photo studio and on location around the world.

Seeing into space: Cosmic Microscapes with photographer Neil Buckland

A slice of meteorite, sandwiched between two linear polarizers.

Neil Buckland is obsessed with detail. For more than fifteen years, the Seattle-based photographer has been doing stitched landscape photography composed of dozens of images, captured on everything from Micro Four Thirds cameras all the way up to medium format. These days, he's become enamored with a new type of landscape - one that is very, very small. It also happen to come from space.

"I've always been fascinated with abstract photography of ordinary things," Buckland says. "There's beauty everywhere, and I especially love using macro lenses to reveal more detail than I can see with my eyes - an extension of seeing more detail is capturing more resolution, more clarity, more information."

When it comes to his newest work, which he's titled Cosmic Microscapes, the objects of Buckland's abstract photography are anything but ordinary. They're impossibly thin slices (i.e. 30 microns 'thick' - human hair averages 90 microns) of formerly space-faring objects that have crashed into Earth over the millennia. And though most of these slides are around 0.75"x1.5" in size, Buckland is making prints from them that are around 12 feet wide and even larger.

By rotating the polarizers, Buckland can alter the visible colors seen through the sample.

I had a chance to sit down with Buckland in his studio in south Seattle to discuss not only how this project came to be, but also how he manages to produce these images – and this insane amount of detail – on a fully custom-built rig.

'The depth-of-field is 3.5 microns thick'

It all started when Dr. Tony Irving of the University of Washington first came to Buckland's studio three years ago to have meteorite slices photographed for a scientific presentation. At that time, Buckland didn't know what this project would grow into.

Buckland's rig is almost entirely custom-made for this specific purpose.

"The first time I looked at [the slide], I thought, 'okay, nothing special,'" Buckland said. Then, Dr. Irving used two linear polarizing filters to pass cross-polarized light through it. "What is this magic? With the cross-polarized light, you get these crazy colors you never knew existed," Buckland said. The colors tell scientists a lot about the chemical composition of what they're looking at – but they also happen to be stunningly beautiful.

Buckland started out using a standard macro lens on a Pentax K-1 DSLR, and while this served him well enough for Dr. Irving's scientific presentations, one thing led to another – and another. He soon bought a Venus Optics 2.5x-5x macro lens, but that also wasn't enough.

Buckland must make incredibly fine adjustments to ensure precise focus across a 1.5" specimen.

After months of tinkering, Buckland found what he was really after: a 10x microscope objective, mounted to his camera via a custom-made adapter, with the camera on a custom-made reinforced metal mounting base that weighs in at around 50 lbs. Despite the concrete construction of his studio building, Buckland couldn't work with a lighter stand. "My biggest, heaviest tripod was useless," Buckland said. "A UPS truck would pass by and I'd see the camera live view shake like crazy." And when you're using Pentax's Pixel Shift technology at this level of magnification, you need absolute and complete stability.

This is because a 10x microscope objective is more magnified than you might think. "I'm only seeing 2 millimeters square of the slide," Buckland said, which is about what you'd see looking through the microscope with your own eye. "But I want to see the whole thing," Buckland said, and so he captures up to 300 to 400 2x2mm tiles and stitches them together. The capturing process can take up to 4 hours per slide, and focusing alone can take an hour or so. The depth-of-field is only around 3.5 microns(!), so precise calibration is necessary to ensure the whole slide stays in focus throughout the capture process.

Buckland takes a break from lining up his camera to pose for a portrait.

"I've looked at these slices my entire career, and no one has ever really been able to see more than one or two millimeters of the thing at a time [with this detail]," said Dr. Irving. "When you take a slide and you look at it as a geologist, you move it around. But when you move, you lose the context. So there is a practical aspect that these images make for an enhancement of scientific study."

The images already look amazing on a 65" OLED monitor in Buckland's studio, but of course, on the digital display you can still zoom in to see greater detail – and just keep zooming. But then you're moving around again, and losing context. So how do you avoid that? You make prints. Really, really big prints.

Seeing the whole picture

Neil and his pup, Brian, next to a print in his studio.

As referenced earlier, one of Buckland's specialties is stitched panoramic images of vast natural landscapes. The creation of these images was largely inspired by Thomas Hill's early paintings of what would become some of the United States' most treasured national parks.

"I'm obsessed with detail. When I make these giant landscape prints, I want you to stand in front of them and feel like you're there," Buckland said. "With this custom rig, I can do that with a micro subject – not just giant landscapes." Thus, the name 'microscape' was born.

Here's a sampling of some low-res images of Buckland's meteorite work (and you can see far more here).

After spending anywhere from 6 to 10 hours capturing, stitching and cleaning up a meteorite image, Buckland selects a relatively small crop for a final print. His Canon wide-format printer is limited to prints 44 inches wide, so for a 12-foot-wide print, he has to divide the image into strips. These are then painstakingly cut and mounted together, with careful attention paid to a lack of visible seams between the strips. And even though they're enormous, the detail isn't exactly lacking.

After all, prints that large can often fall apart when you're too close - they're meant to be viewed at a distance. "That doesn't work for me," Buckland said. "I want you to get really, really close to my prints – you can't get too close, because your eyes won't be able to focus at that point." Dr. Irving said that, aside from the educational advantages, "if you have the time to stand in front of it, you can really appreciate it – like all art."

What's next

A gallery visitor lingers in front of Buckland's more modest-sized 30 x 40" prints.
Photo by Nate Gowdy | Courtesy Neil Buckland

Dr. Irving continues to bring more samples to Buckland, who continues to photograph them in staggering detail. But Buckland isn't satisfied yet. In addition to a newly opened gallery showing in Seattle, Buckland aims to produce a traveling exhibition of mammoth prints to be shown at natural history museums and continues to tinker with his photography setup for even better results - including considering Panasonic's Lumix S1R and its 187MP high-res mode. But in the meantime?

"I just ordered a 20x microscope objective, which would probably quadruple the number of tiles - which is totally insane." Buckland said. "There's just no logical reason to capture that much detail!" he laughs.

So I ask, why do it then? He points to an enormous, stitched image of El Capitan at sunrise in Yosemite national park hanging prominently in his studio. "Why would you climb such a thing? Because it's there."


Neil Buckland is a photographer based in Seattle who specializes in nature, portrait and product photography. He also runs educational workshops, both at his REDred Photo studio and on location around the world.

Ricoh GR III shooting experience: “Shut up and take my money”

'The best camera is the one you you have with you'. I think Ghandi said that. It's not true, of course - the best camera is the Pentax MX and unlike Ghandi I'll fight anyone who says different.

What is true – and what the author of that aphorism meant – is that the best camera in the world is of no use whatever if you leave it at home. Like many photo obsessives, I carry a camera with me at almost all times, even if it's just the 12MP camera on my phone. The cameras I tend to reach for when I leave the house now are a far cry from the gear I used to shoot with professionally. Gone are the days of carrying two Nikon D3S bodies and a brace of F2.8 zooms on my back, and my back is happier for it.

I'm much more likely to throw a Fujifilm X100F or Leica M10 into my bag these days, despite the inconvenience of fixed lenses. More recently I've been enjoying the versatility of the Nikon Z7 with its 24-70mm F4 kit zoom. But none of the cameras I just mentioned are really, truly, pocketable. That's where the Ricoh GR series comes in.

This is a composite image created from several Raw files from the GR II. I'll often shoot sequences like this on hikes, to simulate the effect of a much wider field of view. I downsized this shot for upload - the original is enormous.

Incidentally, this is the fire lookout hut where Gary Snyder wrote one of his most famous (and one of my favorite) poems. 'Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout'.

Ricoh GR II - stitched image from multiple frames.

I owned a Ricoh GR II for quite a while, and I loved it. The breast pocket of my favorite jacket still has a GR II-shaped shape crease in it, which I suspect is permanent at this point. While 28mm isn't my first choice of focal length, it's great for casual shots of friends, street scenes and general outdoor photography. The GR-series have always been fantastic cameras for hiking and cycling with thanks to their solid build quality and small size, and 28mm is perfect for quick trailside landscapes.

Fitting the GR II's relatively small 16MP files into my workflow ended up being awkward

The only reason I sold my old GR II (to one of my DPReview colleagues, in fact) was that I found myself working on projects that really needed the 24MP+ resolution available in contemporary DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. Fitting the GR II's relatively small 16MP files into my workflow - pin sharp as they undoubtedly were - ended up just being awkward, so off it went to a new home.

Had I known how long it would be until we saw a Mark III, I might have kept hold of it. But when the GR III was finally announced, it seemed to solve three of my main frustrations with the GR / II.

While I don't naturally gravitate to the 28mm focal length, it's a great focal length for scenes like this. And the GR III is so small that I can dangle it over a balcony without fear.

ISO 500 | 1/40 sec | F5.6

Firstly there's the resolution boost. 16-24MP isn't a massive leap, but it's enough to make a difference, and enough to make modest cropping an option. I tend to prefer 35mm to 28mm, and in 35mm crop mode the GR III outputs 15MP files – effectively the same resolution as the Mark II at 28mm. I don't shoot in crop modes often, but it is nice to have the option of cropping later and being left with a usable amount of pixels.

Secondly, autofocus has been updated to on-sensor phase-detection. This promises faster and less hesitant AF than the notoriously hunting-prone GR II.

Finally, the sensor in the GR III is stabilized. There's some debate about this point – why do you need stabilization to shoot at 28mm? Well, if you're shooting on a DSLR or most ILCs, you probably don't. Large, heavy cameras absorb moderate handshake pretty well. But with a camera as light as the GR II / III, designed to be used one-handed for grab-shooting, the (figurative) helping hand is actually very useful. I've found that I can safely hand-hold images down to around 1/10sec with stabilization turned on, which is turns out to be very valuable when it comes to things like capturing flowing water, or just keeping ISO low in darker conditions.

An APS-C camera with a stabilized, modern sensor that fits into a shirt pocket? Yes please.

I had held out a vain hope that the GR III might feature some kind of built-in EVF, perhaps of a similar kind to that offered by the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VI and its ilk. Realistically though, the minute that Ricoh told us that the GR III would feature IBIS, and would actually be smaller in form factor than the II, I knew there wouldn't be room for an EVF. It turns out there wasn't room for a flash, either. Oh well. I know a lot of photographers who were heartbroken by the loss of the latter, but it doesn't really bother me.

I was nervous to learn that Ricoh had redesigned the GR III's lens, but looking through my images I'm reassured to see that images from the GR III are at least as sharp as I'd expect from previous models. Bokeh isn't amazing, but opportunities for blurring backgrounds on a 28mm F2.8 lens are pretty slim unless you're shooting in the macro range.

Great bokeh? Not exactly. But considering the physics of a 28mm equivalent F2.8 lens, I don't care. The GR III's lens is impressively sharp at all apertures and focus distances, which is much more important to me in a camera of this type.

ISO 200 | 1/125 sec | F2.8

I'm getting ahead of myself. Picking up the GR III after using a GR II for so long I felt like I immediately knew the camera. Comparing them directly, it's obvious that Ricoh has tidied up the user interface quite a lot, as well as dispensing with some of the GR II's physical buttons, but none of the changes have really got in my way. For quick pictures I use the GR III in almost exactly the same way as I used to enjoy shooting with the GR II: in aperture priority mode, usually between F4-8, using auto-area autofocus.

The rear screen is now touch-sensitive, and partly as a consequence it is covered in a layer of highly reflective glass. This makes it almost impossible to accurately preview composition on a bright day, so I've taken to mounting an old 28mm optical viewfinder I had lying in a drawer, which gets me close enough. the downside is that with a finder added, the GR III is no longer quite so pocketable.

Perhaps the GR III's major achilles heel is
battery life

Another option for outdoor use is to increase the screen brightness (I have the movie button set to provide quick access to this setting) but there is a cost. Perhaps the GR III's major achilles heel is battery life. While you can eke out a few hundred shots per charge in a single session with minimal image review, if you're shooting at slower shutter speeds (where the IBIS kicks in) or working with boosted screen brightness, you're taking a risk without at least one spare battery in your pocket. It's not quite Sony Cyber-shot RX1R II-level bad, but it's bad. And like many small battery cameras, the GR III's battery indicator goes from the cheerful-looking full bars icon to the unhappy no bars red blinky icon with very little warning.

This shot demonstrates one of the major shortcomings of the GR III - it's virtually impossible to discern what's on the screen in bright light. I shot several versions of this scene at different exposure settings, and used an external finder for framing.

ISO 100 | 1/1250 sec | F7.1

Fortunately, the GR III is equipped with in-camera charging, via the (more or less) standard USB-C interface used by a lot of cameras and mobile devices these days. The GR II used a fiddly connector which looked like standard USB mini but wasn't. I have three of them, because twice I thought I'd lost my last spare. A full charge takes a couple of hours, but I've found even ten minutes plugged into an external battery pack is enough to get me out of trouble.

Unfortunately there's no workaround for the GR III's autofocus system, which – sadly – is still pretty hopeless in low light. In bright conditions it's definitely improved over the GR II. I don't think there's any doubt about that. Autofocus is acquired faster and with less hunting, and the overall impression in decent lighting is that the GR III focuses about as quickly as a Fujfilm X100T/F. But take the thing indoors or – heaven forbid – start trying to shoot after dark, and it falls apart quickly. The obnoxious green AF light provides enough light for the camera to (eventually, usually) lock on, but it can take several seconds. No kidding.

Ultimately though, I'm prepared to forgive the GR III most of its foibles. The fact is that it's a fast, responsive (usually) camera with a great sensor, effective in-body stabilization and a sharp lens which fits into my shirt pocket. I started this article with a quote and I'll end with another - 'shut up and take my money'.

Time Management Tips for Photographers

The post Time Management Tips for Photographers appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

Photographers these days need to wear many hats. Not only do you have to shoot and edit your images, but you also need to spend time on social media, market to clients, and keep up with all of the day-to-day administrative tasks of running a business. It’s enough to give even the most organized person a headache. To top it off, time management can be something that creative people often struggle with.

As a creative person, who prided myself on my productivity until I started my own business, it’s taken me a lot of trial and error to figure out how to get the most out of my day without a ton of stress and overwhelm.

If you’re tired of feeling busy but not productive, here are some helpful tips.

Choose three priorities for your day

Most people don’t have a great sense of how long a given task will take them. They overload their calendar with to-do’s and then feel inadequate or frustrated when they don’t check them all off at the end of the day.

Of course, this tip will depend on what you need to get done. You may have a shoot day or need to spend the whole day editing, and therefore will be focused on one task. However, you’ll also likely have a couple of small things you need to complete in a day, like send an invoice and return a few emails or phone calls.

The point is that you should focus on three priorities a day, and tackle them in order of importance.

This tip is also known as The Rule-of-Three from the book Getting Results the Agile Way, and it’s meant to prevent you from running from task-to-task without a clearly defined outcome.

In the Rule-of-Three, you define three tasks to do in a day, three tasks for your week, and also three tasks for your month, and your year.

Start each day by defining the three things you will focus on and make sure to check in with yourself about staying on track. Pay attention to how long it takes you, and notice any patterns that emerge in working on certain tasks. That will give you more information to refine your time management strategies.

Time Management for Photographers-Darina Kopcok-DPS

Track your time

When you get started with trying out different time management techniques, be sure to track your time.

For the first year-and-a-half of running my photography business, I wrote down everything I did in a day in a small notebook, as well as how long it took me.

If this sounds like a super time-consuming and anal thing to do, it’s actually not. It really takes a second to check your watch and make a note consisting of two or three words describing your task.

Even better, you can use a time-tracking app like Hours Tracker.

The  information you get from tracking your time is gold.

If you find that you’re spending a lot of time on certain tasks that are not completely necessary, you can take steps to reduce the time you spend on them, or cut them out altogether.

For example, if you think you’re only spending a half an hour a day surfing the web, you might find you’re constantly going down the rabbit hole and that it’s closer to two hours.

Use an online calendar to schedule time blocks

One of the most effective ways to increase your productivity is to work in time blocks and schedule them into an online calendar like Google.

Organizing your schedule instead of working off a to-do list helps to apply discipline and order to your tasks.

You dedicate specific time windows to your tasks, thus making them a priority and the only focus during that time. It helps to minimize distractions and the mental burden of switching tasks.

Use an online calendar to schedule your tasks as non-negotiable events. If you’ve been doing things the analog way – writing out to-do lists or keeping a paper journal – you might find using an online calendar much more effective.

An online calendar can help you schedule meetings and send out notices to invitees. You can create recurring events in your online calendar, set up reminders, and you can access the calendar from multiple devices.

Make sure you schedule breaks into your calendar. It’s a really bad idea to sit in front of your computer screen all day without getting up regularly to stretch, eat a proper meal, or just take a few minutes for some R&R.

Time Management for Photographers-Darina Kopcok-DPS

Use a CRM System

There are so many apps and productivity tools to help people manage their time, projects and life better. You may even be using some of these already.

However, if you’re not already using a CRM (client relationship management) system, you can be missing out on a massively helpful tool that can cut out the necessity of having several apps for several different uses.

A CRM system is a client management and relationship building tool that will help you keep track of your clients and projects. You can do things like record the dates you last communicated with a client and set a reminder for follow up.

However, most CRM’s offer so much more, including accounting tools and contract writing capabilities.

I use and recommend Dubsado, which is a CRM system for creatives. You can create branded contracts you can send out for electronic signature, send an email directly from the user interface, and keep track of all your prospects and clients in a visually pleasing and easy-to-navigate system. It even integrates with your Google calendar.

If you’re using contract signature software like Hello Sign or Adobe, you can get the same function in Dubsado with all the other benefits for a similar price tag.

Other options are Nutshell and Insightly.

Time Management for Photographers-Darina Kopcok-DPS

Nix Multi-Tasking

The research is in: multi-tasking is way overrated.

Multi-tasking tends to be viewed positively, but the latest research shows that it is detrimental to your productivity and quality of work.

High-quality work is dependent on how much time you spend on a task and the intensity of your focus. If you can increase your focus, you can get done more done in less time.

Working on several tasks at a time overloads the brain. When you work on several things at once, you’re switching mental functions, which ends up being counterproductive.

According to Gloria Mark, researcher and author of Multi-Tasking in The Digital Age, the average knowledge worker switches tasks every three minutes. Once distracted, it can take nearly half an hour to resume the original task. That is 30 wasted minutes because you checked your email and responded to a message.

No wonder the average worker works for three hours out of a typical eight hour work day – even if they’re not constantly looking at Instagram or Facebook.

Put away your devices

So as you can see, one of the biggest ways to ruin your productivity is to constantly check your email and social media throughout the day. Those seconds or minutes can add up to huge amounts of time wasted and ruin your focus on the tasks on hand.

Put away your phone, close the browser window with your open inbox, and concentrate on the task that is in front of you.

Decide on a couple of times a day when you will check and respond to emails and Instagram posts and stick to it.

When I combined this with blocking my time, I was astonished by the result. I literally accomplished three times more in a day than I did when simply floating from task to task, responding to each text and email as I received it.

Time Management for Photographers-Darina Kopcok-DPS

Try the Pomodoro Method

The Pomodoro Technique is a hugely popular time management tool designed to keep you as productive as possible.

In this method of time management, you choose a task you would like to get done and set a timer for 25 minutes to work focused and without interruption.

You can do this for 25 minutes, right?

When the timer rings, take a short break that is non-work related, like stretching or having a snack.

Once you have done four “pomodoros,” you can take a longer break, like 20 or 30 minutes. Your brain will take this time to assimilate new information.

Set one day aside for errands and admin

This is another productivity hack that works wonders for some people. Have one day set aside in the week where you will attend to all of your personal errands or business admin or a combination of both.

There may be things that you do on a weekly basis, like meal prep or laundry, that can all be relegated to one day, allowing you to focus on business tasks for the rest of the week.

You may want to have one day of the week put aside when you schedule all your meetings or medical appointments. Alternatively, you can do all of your admin like invoicing, accounting or even scheduling your social media.

To sum up

There are a lot of time management techniques and tools out there that can help you boost your productivity and reduce stress and burnout.

No all of them will work for you, but these are some of the more popular ones that you might want to try.

Whether you’re a hobbyist photographer or a pro, chances are you have a ton going on every day.

Finding ways to be more efficient can end up adding hours to your day and even help you sleep better.

The post Time Management Tips for Photographers appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Darina Kopcok.

How to Prepare Images For Publication – Part Two

The post How to Prepare Images For Publication – Part Two appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Herb Paynter.

In part one of this series, I presented the reasons why images printed in magazines and publications can appear lackluster, dark, and dull rather than detailed and vibrant as when printed on an inkjet printer. In this follow-up article, I address the unique requirements and limitations of printing presses and some ways to produce rich and detailed images in print.

Fine Tuning the Process for Print

Paper surfaces

The depth and detail that a press can reproduce in the darkest (shadow) portions of an image are limited by several print-related factors, with the paper grade (quality) being the biggest factor. Printing papers come in various grades, textures, and shades of white.

White is a relative term, and newspapers are a prime example. Newsprint isn’t actually pure white and the ink printed on it never appears black.

Printing inks

Newspaper inks are nearly in a liquid state as opposed to other forms of print. The tack level (stickiness) of these inks must remain very low since the newsprint paper composition is quite soft. Full-bodied inks printed at high speed would tear the paper apart. Instead of appearing as black ink on white paper, newspapers appear more like charcoal colored ink on light gray paper. This factor alone dismisses the visual contrast in pictures. Newsprint absorbs ink like a paper towel, which is why pictures in the newspaper lack contrast, punch and depth.

Magazine paper surfaces

Publication (magazine) presses fair much better. However, they still have limitations. Paper grades for publications are still lower quality than those of brochures and coffee table books because of the economy of the project. Most publication stocks are made from recycled papers in which many of the whitening agents and glossy coatings used in higher grade papers are absent. This results in less reflective surfaces and varying shades of off-white colors. While the recycled paper is good news for the environment, it’s bad news for print quality.

The challenge

High-speed presses must also reduce the tack level of their inks to keep these papers flowing through the presses. When the tack level goes down, so does the opacity of the inks, and when the tack level of translucent inks is reduced, the contrast in the images (and image detail) is also reduced. You can see where this is headed…

The creative solution

Thus the challenge is to maintain as much apparent contrast in each image as possible under less than ideal circumstances. Here is where the creative magic of contrast “compensation” enters the picture. Prior to the era of digital editing, this creative level of tonal manipulation was simply out of reach. While adjusting the overall contrast (white, middle, and black points) of printed images has always been possible, serious contour shaping was not. But within current digital image editing software, the entire internal range of tones can be tuned and cajoled with great precision. Success simply takes a clear understanding of the limitations and a good knowledge of the tools in the digital tool chest.

The Sun backlit the subjects in this photo causing the darker areas to hide significant detail. If sent to press without compensating adjustments, the printed results would have looked even darker and important detail would have been lost.

Pictured here are the settings that produced the civil war reenactment photo above. Information contained in the middle tones and shadow tones was recovered by powerful tonal adjustments available in each of the four software applications. Very similar settings produced very similar results. The panels (from left to right) include Adobe Camera Raw, Adobe Lightroom, On1 Photo RAW, and Alien Skin X4.5. Camera Raw and Lightroom produced identical results from identical settings for obvious reasons, while the development engineers from On1 and Alien Skin used unique routines and algorithms in their software to affect very similar results.

 

The secret to success in adjusting the internal contrast of an image is in developing a distinct visual difference between the whites and highlights and the shadows and black tones. This is best addressed within the six major tonal sliders provided by most RAW editing software (Lightroom, Camera Raw, On1 Photo RAW and Alien Skin’s Xposure X4.5) best address this.

Don’t let the term RAW scare you away. These editors can open and process just about all image file types (RAW, JPEG, TIFF, etc.). Each of these packages provides very similar tonal area adjustments (Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks) though each maintains a slightly different range for each. Additional controls to fine tune the tonal values include the Tone Curve adjustments of Highlights, Lights, Darks, and Shadows.

The beauty of all these controls is the fact that they are nonlinear, meaning they can be adjusted in any order and at any time during (and during follow-up) editing sessions. Using these editing packages, truly non-non-destructive image editing can be made to RAW, TIFF and JPEG image files.

Backlighting and a black cat provided a serious challenge in this image. These adjustments were needed even if the picture was not going to press.

Three aspects of tonal controls

Familiarize yourself with these three general aspects of tonal controls to prepare your photos specifically for the printing press.

One

Since camera image sensors capture very little shadow detail, digital images require significant internal contrast adjustments to the lower portion of the tonal scale.

Shadow tones of each image are the most challenging areas to print cleanly on press. Therefore, you must create a sharp distinction between the darkest darks (Black slider) and the three-quarter tones (Shadow slider).

Use the Exposure slider in conjunction with the Blacks slider to bring out all the detail in the darkest portion of the image. Reference the histogram to gauge the actual pixels that will print darkest.

Two

Lighten the middle tones and accent the difference between the quarter tones and the highlights.

Use the Curves tool to affect the middle tones while adjusting the Shadows slider and Highlight Slider to define the middle tones further.

Three

Reference the histogram again to monitor the lightest tones (White slider). White is a misnomer in the labeling of this slider as its influence is on the extreme highlight tones. Draw a distinction between the light tones and absolute white by using the Highlights slider and the White slider.

The Exposure slider and the Contrast slider play an important part in this tonal ballet. Choreograph these controls to achieve the best balance of internal tones and check your progress by occasionally tapping the “P” key to preview the composite effects of all your adjustments against the original image.

Seemingly lost detail in the darker areas was completely recovered by some severe adjustments to individual tonal areas throughout the tonal range. The image was recovered with only the use of the sliders shown. No further editing (dodging, burning, etc.) was required.

This article is hardly an exhaustive explanation of how to prepare images for publication inasmuch as it does not address the critical issues of color, sharpening, resolution, etc. But it will get you started on the most critical issues of tone sculpturing images for reproduction. In every example shown, ONLY global adjustments to the seven sliders was required to bring full life back into lackluster photos. The most critical aspect of post-production involves an image’s internal tonality.

Shape each image’s internal contrast specifically for the press and paper being printed. If you don’t, the printed image will probably hide shadow detail, lose their “snap” in the highlights, and produce muddy middle tones. Slight but deliberate accenting of the tone curve will produce significantly better images in print.

Working on images in these RAW Interpreter software applications provides amazing latitude in recovering both shadow and highlight detail. This example shows how On1 Photo RAW found significant detail in what appeared to be blown out highlights of a JPEG image.

Chasing light

At the core of the issue is light.

Everything about photography concerns light, and that includes viewing photos in print.

The reason images appear more vibrant and colorful on a monitor is because the background “white” is projected light, not paper. Images printed on paper will ALWAYS appear less vibrant. Paper is only as white as the light reflecting from it. The darker the paper and the dimmer the reflecting light, the less bright the picture appears. Images in print will never look as good as images on your monitor simply because reflected light cannot compete with projected light.

Conclusion

Preparing images to print correctly is a serious challenge, but one that delivers an amazing result. If you want to test your image editing skills, it doesn’t get more challenging than this. The reward for all your print-editing efforts will last a whole lot longer than a post on the Internet and will be seen by thousands (if not millions) more than a print hanging in a gallery. People collect well-produced publications and display them for others to see.

Virtually all images deserve thoughtful preparation before presentation. The camera can’t evaluate tonality balance by human standards. Learning the reproduction habits and limitations of different devices and understanding how to best compensate for each will pay serious visual dividends.

Of course, the final challenge in preparing images for publication is converting the color mode from RGB to CMYK. Check with your publication about this matter before you arbitrarily choose CMYK from the Image/Mode menu. There are a number of workflows that publications use to produce their final files for the printer. I suggest you leave the color conversion decision up to the magazine’s production staff. The conversion process is a complex issue that deserves much more attention than I’m addressing in this series.

Please feel free to comment and question what you’ve just read. Life is a collaborative effort, and we’re all learning.

The post How to Prepare Images For Publication – Part Two appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Herb Paynter.

DPReview TV: Fujifilm X-T30 vs. Sony a6400

The Fujifilm X-T30 and Sony a6400 are two of the newest, most exciting mid-range mirrorless cameras on the market, and while they may not look similar at first glance, both include impressive features and performance specs. Chris and Jordan break down the differences to see which comes out on top.

Get new episodes of DPReview TV every week by subscribing to our YouTube channel!

Secrets of a professional photographer’s workflow: Brian Ach

Brian Ach is an editorial and commercial photographer.

As photographers, most of our focus is on capturing images—finding good material and getting shots with all the gear we’ve spent so much time and money accumulating—but what happens next? For a lot of us, we download the images to a computer and edit a handful that catch our eye, and then… well, there are more photo shoots to pursue. Maybe we’ll apply some keywords, perhaps mark a few favorites, but too often the photos we worked so hard to create are just dumped onto a hard disk and forgotten. We know we should do better, but who has the time?

Professional photographers, that’s who.

To learn how a pro handles this process, I talked to Brian Ach, who frequently photographs celebrity portraits, high-profile events, and glamorous autos for numerous clients. You may remember his work from his stint as Prince’s official photographer during the musician’s 2011 international tour (the photos he returned to after Prince’s passing in “Purple Reign: Photographer Brian Ach shares his experiences of working with Prince”). He outlined his entire workflow, from preparing to leave for an event through handing off final images and making sure everything is backed up.

Brian's outlined his entire workflow, from preparing to leave, through handing off final images and making sure everything is backed up

Although a professional’s workflow is different from that used by most photographers, there are aspects anyone can use in their own workflow to better manage their library.

A man of many skills, Brian shoots everything from rock and roll world tours to automotive ads. Shown here: Journey at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

Understanding Expectations

To get a sense of how Ach’s workflow may differ from most photographers’ approaches, I asked him to describe the types of high-pressure assignments that he encounters. In most cases, time is the number one factor at play.

“If I'm shooting an event for Getty or WireImage or AP Images, time is of the essence,” he said. “If you're doing the red carpet and don't have an onsite editor, you want to turn around your best pictures as quickly as possible and get them up on the wire so you can get placement and, basically, make money. From the end of the event, the goal is to have everything captioned and up on the site in two hours. That's the worst case scenario—you're really looking to do it quicker than that. Often it will be trying to get your top 10 or 15 pictures out in 45 minutes or less.”

'Always import your card immediately after you're done shooting.'

He noted that when shooting a big job like the Academy Awards or the Tony Awards, photographers are usually hard-wired via Ethernet cables to editing stations on site where editors send images out as soon as possible. Sometimes he shoots the red carpet as a solo photographer, where there may be on-site runners who collect memory cards every 15 or 20 minutes from each photographer to deliver to editors. And, of course, there are plenty of events where he’s responsible for everything.

“Usually when I’ve worked with Getty, it’s what they call a hired job,” he said. “I’m often the guy inside the party, which means I’ll have an editor on site. You have 1500 frames and you need to send them out as soon as possible because you want to beat everybody else and get the stuff out correctly.”

When shooting a high-profile event, it is essential to get your photos up on the wire before other photographers.

During the Shoot

Regardless of which type of event he’s shooting, Ach has developed a consistent workflow through years of hard-won experience.

“I do everything the exact same way every time, because once you have a workflow, you do it the way you do it,” he said. “If you change anything—you have to trust me on this—you will screw it up in a big way. Something will happen. It took me probably my first year-and-a-half to two years, no lie, just to get a workflow.”

Usually we think of photo workflow as the process that begins after you’re done shooting, but for Ach it’s earlier than you might expect: in his studio preparing to leave, formatting cards and making sure batteries are charged.

'I always keep fresh cards in my right pocket. Cards that I've shot on, I keep in my left pocket.'

“It’s very hard for me to separate out the workflow from shooting,” he said. “When I get to the event, if I know I'm shooting multiple cards I always keep fresh cards in my right pocket. Cards that I've shot on, I keep in my left pocket. Always. I've learned not to put them back in the bag, or put them in my jacket or anything like that. Right pocket, fresh cards. Left pocket, used cards. So after I shoot the event, I come back to the studio. Whatever is still in my right pocket I just put back in the bag.”

Celebrity portrait shoots are another high pressure assignment that Brian specializes in - he often has only a few minutes with his subjects to nail the shot. Shown here: Director and screen writer Christopher McQuarrie.

We’ve all received the advice that it’s best to capture photos correctly in-camera, but in environments like these, it’s even more critical.

“White balance and exposure are two of my biggest things,” he said. “Put a gel on your flash, create a custom white balance, and then get it right [before the event begins]. I don’t want to have to waste the time afterward processing it. It sounds so obvious, but it’s not if your editor has to tweak your white balance for every shot and you’ve got 100 shots and your red carpet photos are coming out slightly yellow. The editor may not have time to do it—they may need to just send it out.”

To assist editors, or for his reference later if he’s doing the editing, Ach will mark images during the shoot that stand out, using a camera’s built-in tagging or image-protection features.

'Go out and over-shoot everything and be brutal on yourself when evaluating'

“You can help your editor by tagging certain photos that are very good or very important,” he said. “You’re not trying to tell the editor how to do their job; you’re simply saying ‘here’s that photo.’ They can look at the previous 10 or 15 frames, or the 10 or 15 afterward, and pick whatever they think is best based on your recommendation.”

And how does one know which images rise above the others? “It’s training your eye," he said. "Look at books, look at everything and try to figure out what makes them good. And then go out and over-shoot everything and be brutal on yourself [when evaluating them].”

Ach mentioned he once shot New York Fashion Week events and had a day where he shot 17,000 frames. “Thank God I had an editor who was very good, and he was able to quickly whittle that down," he said. "It’s just pattern recognition, and knowing what the shot is and what’s good. And the only way you can get better at that is shooting a lot and looking at a lot.”

Not all of Brian's assignments involve models and celebrities.
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