Catalog Photos Like a Pro: ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 Review

The post Catalog Photos Like a Pro: ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

ACDSee software has been around since the earliest days of digital photography. For 20 years, it’s been competing with Adobe Photoshop. Today, with Adobe offering its top image-editing programs by subscription only, there’s more room than ever for alternatives. ACDSee offers a compelling subscription model of its own, but it also maintains a full suite of standalone products. Photo Studio Standard 2019 is among them, and I’ll review it here.

ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 - default layout

The default layout in Manage mode of ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019. You can move things around as you wish and close any panes you don’t need.

Aimed at keen photographers with growing photo collections, ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 is ideal for sorting, finding, and viewing photos. It also has a set of editing tools that will quickly make your pictures look good for the web or printing. We’ll look at all this in detail. To avoid wasting anyone’s time, this program recognizes and opens raw files but it’s not a raw editor or metadata editor – it’s a pixel editor. You have no control over how raw files are processed and can only save 8-bit files.

Embedding ACDSee metadata into DNG files

Preview of a DNG file. You can embed ACDSee metadata into DNG files, unlike other raw formats.

This review of ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 will include the following:

  • Starting up
  • Manage mode
  • Photos mode
  • View mode
  • Edit mode
  • Other features
  • Conclusion

Starting up

One thing that struck me immediately about ACDSee software was how quickly it opened. Sometimes I wait 2-3 minutes for Photoshop CC to start. There are technical reasons for that, like the plug-ins I have loaded into it and its sheer girth. Perhaps it connects to my Adobe account, too. Whatever. Photo Studio Standard 2019 opens in around 15-20 seconds every time.

Manage mode

Digital asset management (DAM) is the great strength of ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019. In Manage mode, the software offers all you need for sorting and locating your images. Like many people, you may already have your folders arranged chronologically. This is handy for sifting through them using the folder pane of ACDSee, but the software gives you lots of other ways to find pictures.

ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 - folder pane

Here, I’m using the folder pane in Manage mode to browse photos. I’m not the best organizer, but I do have most folders labeled chronologically.

Calendar pane

I latched onto the Calendar pane within minutes of opening ACDSee. Even if you have your folders arranged by date, it’s so quick to rifle through your photos month by month using the calendar. You can widen the search by choosing multiple months or use single days to narrow it. I used this feature straight away to dig out a few files I might’ve overlooked as potential stock photos.

Catalog pane

The ACDSee Catalog pane gives you several ways to find what you’re looking for: color labels, keywords, ratings, saved searches, categories, and auto categories. Of course, you have to add most of this info yourself to the images, but that’s easy using the software. Auto categories come from EXIF data, so you can filter results by the lens or aperture used, for instance.

cataloging photos with ACDSee software

There are various ways to filter photos in the Catalog pane, some of which rely on you having rated, keyworded, labeled, tagged, or categorized your photos already. In this screenshot, I’m looking at photos taken with a particular lens.[/

Map pane

ACDSee includes a Map pane. Drag your photo(s) onto the place where they were taken, hit Save, and the GPS coordinates are automatically embedded into the EXIF data. Cool! That wasn’t a feature I expected at this price point (Lightroom has it), but it does show how thorough this software is in what it does.

Embedding GPS coordinates into photos

Dragging a photo or several photos onto a spot on the map and hitting “Save” embeds GPS coordinates into the metadata.

Shortcuts pane

The Shortcuts pane offers a way of bookmarking files you know you’ll often need. It makes it that little bit quicker to find any special photos – perhaps a collection of your best-ever shots.

Image Basket

Another neat feature of Photo Studio Standard 2019 is the Image Basket. Normally, when I’m preparing a gallery for the web, I create a new folder on my desktop to work from. The Image Basket is a way of gathering original files together without having to copy them elsewhere.

Keywording in ACDSee

Keywords are an invaluable way of quickly finding what you’re looking for, but they can be time-consuming to add. ACDSee is ahead of Adobe in this respect. It’ll import any keywords you’ve added elsewhere to the IPTC data, but it has excellent keywording capability of its own.

Adding keywords to images

The ability to create large keyword sets of up to 250 is enough to satisfy any lexicologist. I wouldn’t normally need that many, but 40 or 50 isn’t uncommon. Adobe software is restrictive in this respect.

A welcome feature of the new ACDSee ‘Quick Keyword’ tool is the ability to use 25 rows by 10 columns of words (i.e., up to 250 keywords). In Lightroom, you can only have 9 keywords max per set – a source of frustration for many users. ACDSee has its own metadata field that is stored in the database rather than embedded in the file, but you can embed it into suitable file formats.

Photos mode

In Photos mode, ACDSee catalogs all images from the location(s) of your choice and puts them on display so you can scroll through them. Like the Calendar pane, it’s an easy way for you to search visually and find pictures. Hovering the cursor over a thumbnail brings up a larger preview with vital info such as image dimensions, file size, and folder location.

ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 - Photos mode

Photos mode on the daily setting. You can scroll through your whole database, but it’s still divided by daily, monthly or yearly headings.

View mode

Double-click on a photo in Manage or Photos mode and you’ll bring up a large view of the image in ACDSee’s View mode. Various viewing options are available as well as useful editing tools like Auto Light EQ™ and Auto Lens. You can rapidly scroll through files in this mode and tag images or add ratings, labels, keywords, and categories. It’s an extension of Manage mode if you want it to be. Clicking on Edit mode from here takes the open picture into editing.

ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 - View mode

View mode is the place to be if you want to browse large previews of your pictures. Double-clicking on any picture in Manage or Photos mode brings you here, too. You can also perform a few basic edits in this space or categorize photos.

Edit Mode

ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 has plenty to offer in terms of editing but something has to be sacrificed at this price point, and that’s parametric (non-destructive) editing. Photo Studio Standard is a pixel editor only, so you make physical changes to rendered images. You can still leave the original file untouched, but as soon as you finish editing and save a file, there’s no going back and tweaking your adjustments. This is more important if you’re in the habit of reworking pictures or if you edit extensively and want your work to be reversible.


There are a couple of tools under the “Repair” heading. The red-eye reduction tool is something I’d probably never have a need for, but I tested this with a public domain image. Works well – easy to use.

Correcting redeye in photos

With this close-up view, I found myself wishing the size of the adjustment would go slightly larger, as it barely covered the dilated pupil. But still, the red-eye has gone. Most portraits won’t be as near to the subject. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

One of the few glitches I encountered in ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 was a malfunction among the repair tools. I can get the Heal tool to work, and it does a nice job of blending the sampled pixels into a new area. But the Clone tool hasn’t worked for me even after a reinstall. I just get a blacked-out image. This appears to be a bug in the program, as it works flawlessly in other ACDSee software I have on my PC.


Under the “Add” heading you can insert text into your photos or a watermark (the Watermark feature is new in 2019). The default watermark is the ACDSee camera logo, but you can use your own graphic if you want. There are also borders, vignetting, special effects and tilt-shift choices here.

tilt-shift photo effect

The Tilt-Shift tool makes Manhattan look miniaturized.

Personally, I’d be most likely to use vignetting out of these, as it helps direct the viewer’s eye and is a useful photographic tool. It can be fun to add borders to your photos, too, which you can customize in this case with a wide selection of textures or any color you choose.

I counted 54 special effects in ACDSee’s collection, and each is modifiable in some way. Even the ones that don’t instantly appeal might work for you with some adjustment, so there’s a lot to go at. Among my favorites are Collage, Lomo, and Orton. The latter is great for creating a dreamy look.

ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 - Orton special effect

This is the Orton special effect, making a peaceful scene even dreamier.


Under “Geometry”, ACDSee provides rotate, flip, crop, and resize tools. There are some thoughtful touches among these tools, like the ability to control darkness outside the crop area. The Rotate tool also has a cropping feature, so you can level the picture up if necessary and correct wonky horizons.

When resizing, the default algorithm is Lanczos, but it’s worth experimenting, depending on what you do with your photos. Lanczos gives a sharp result when downsizing, for instance, but if you want to back off that a little and achieve smoother edges, try Bicubic.


ACDSee offers some powerful tools under “Exposure/Lighting,” not least its excellent Light EQ™ technology alongside traditional tools like levels and curves. Light EQ™ is similar to curves, only better in some respects since it treats highlights, mid-tones, and shadows separately. That’s only possible to a degree using curves without layers.

ACDSee Light EQ technology

Here, I’m using ACDSee Light EQ™ to adjust the tone of the image. By having the Exposure Warning switched on, I can ensure a good tonal range without losing detail in the shadows or highlights. As soon as pixels appear in red or green, I back off the adjustment slightly. I have the histogram showing the blue channel, as that’s the nearest to clipping at both ends.

The auto buttons in these exposure/lighting controls are also worth a hit every now and again. Personally, I find the auto setting in Light EQ™ tends to make things too bright, but it might provide a better starting point.

You can set your black and white points using eyedroppers in levels and also define the clipping limits under “tolerance.” (Don’t worry if this means nothing to you – it’s only one of several options.

I should mention, too, that ACDSee provides an Edit Brush and gradients with many of these controls, so you can apply edits to selected parts of the image.


Under “Color,” you’ll find White Balance, Color Balance, Convert to Black and White, and Color LUTs. The White Balance tool is excellent, though, like all white balance tools, it relies on neutral tones in the image to use as reference points.

You could also correct color using the Color Balance tool, especially in conjunction with the floating histogram. A good thing about the ACDSee histogram is you can stretch it out as far as you like for a detailed look at tonal distribution. There’s a hue/saturation tool alongside color balance.

Using the histogram - ACDSee software

You can make the floating histogram as compact or elongated as you wish.

“Convert to Black and White” is new to ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019. Based on the colors you know are in the image (e.g. blue sky), you can adjust their brightness to alter the contrast of the final result. This also lets you emphasize different areas of the photo. Good stuff! Contrast is also affected by the RGB percentages, which must always add up to 100. A high proportion of red usually creates more contrast in cloudy blue skies, for instance. Colorized monochrome images are possible, too, under Convert to Black and White.

ACDSee Convert to Black and White

Using the new “Convert to Black and white” feature, I’ve increased the brightness of cyan a fair bit to make the fire-escape steps stand out more. Then I’ve colorized the picture with sepia-like brown tones.

One of the best things in ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 Edit mode has to be Color LUTs. These let you alter the look of your photos (often drastically) via numerical color shifts. They’re like photo filters on steroids. ACDSee LUTs are good, but you can also download LUTs from the web and load them into the program.

Using color LUTs in photos

The lower half of this picture has the ACDSee “Turin” Color LUT applied to it. Look closely and you’ll see it’s darker with deeper blue windows and yet has a more cyan sky. You can use the Edit Brush or gradients on many edits.


Sharpen, blur, noise, and clarity all lie under the “Detail” heading. These are all pretty standard. The sharpen tool is like unsharp mask with amount, radius and threshold settings. Typically, you use a low radius for high-frequency photos with a lot of fine detail or a higher radius to bring out coarse detail across a wide area. A sharpening mask slider would be a nice bonus here if I were compiling a wants list. That would be quicker than selective sharpening with a brush.

Other Features

In case all the above isn’t enough, there’s more. For instance, the external editor feature in Manage mode lets you swiftly open images in other programs. Perhaps that will be Photoshop or it could be ACDSee Photo Editor 10, which would complement Photo Studio Standard well.

ACDSee also has a dashboard that gives you stats on equipment used, database size, and photo counts that show you how prolific you’ve been at various times.

ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 dashboard

The ACDSee Dashboard, indicating prolific use of a Sony RX100 in my case. There are numerous other stats available.

You can create PDFs, PowerPoint files, slideshow files, zip archives, contact sheets, and HTML albums straight out of ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019, too. There really isn’t a lot you can’t do.

More new stuff

ACDSee also introduced AutoSave and Auto Advance features in 2019. AutoSave does away with the “do you want to save changes?” dialog when you move onto another image. Auto Advance is good for rating, labeling, or categorizing photos, as it moves onto the next image automatically once you’ve clicked.

Also new in 2019 are customizable keyboard shortcuts, support for HEIF files (used on later iPhones), and print improvements that let you adjust for differences between what you see on screen and what your printer produces.


As much as I understand the benefits of SaaS and subscription software models, I think there will always be a market for standalone products that consumers can update when they want.

ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 is, first and foremost, a great photo organizer. I’ve never seen better. It’s quick as a browser – doesn’t hold you up – and it gives you workflow choices. There are lots of nice touches to make tasks easier. It’s not especially advanced as a photo editor, but you can achieve a lot without layers, 3rd-party plugins, and even Adobe’s unassailable repair tools.

If like me, you prefer taking photos to organizing them, ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 is the ideal way to get your collection under control. It drills into your database from several directions and helps you find any picture. Many people will want to supplement the editing capabilities with other programs, but you won’t find much better than this for photo management.

Disclaimer: ACDSee is a paid partner of dPS

The post Catalog Photos Like a Pro: ACDSee Photo Studio Standard 2019 Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Glenn Harper.

Review: Seagate 14tb Ironwolf Disks for all of Your Photographs

The post Review: Seagate 14tb Ironwolf Disks for all of Your Photographs appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sime.

Which Hard Disk For Photography

The Seagate 14TB Ironwolf hard disks

Recently I was offered the opportunity to try out a pair of the Seagate 14tb Ironwolf hard disks. If you have read any of my previous articles about storage, drives, and NAS (Network Attached Storage) for photographers, you’ll know one thing about me; I consider spinning media hard drives to be either “Dead or Dying from the moment they’re powered up.” This is mostly true.

These devices have what is called an MTBF (Mean Time Between Failures) meaning they can’t just spin forever. While reviewing disks is great, I wanted to find a good use for the pair of storage monsters aside from saying, “yes, they work just like a disk should!” (Which they do, but…)

So, after thinking about having to move house, and how much room I wouldn’t have, I found the PERFECT use! Physical down-sizing of my NAS.

Works well for small spaces

I primarily use a Synology DS1517+ as my main NAS, and a cute little DS216 as my backup. Well, I did until December!

I had to close my office for renovation and move everything into a nook that is only 106cm wide and about 137cm deep. This move meant I had to custom re-make the top of my stand-up desk (I’m getting old, it’s a necessity!), and the shelf for my working storage. My working storage includes my directly connected Promise R8 and my G-Technology 8TB main image drive, as well as my NAS that I use to deliver client images. It also includes backups of all of the computers and devices in the house, as well as for media that streams to the TV. The 1517+ simply wouldn’t fit along with everything else on the shelf.

So, I thought “I need to downsize, but maintain the storage space on my NAS!” Enter stage left, the behemoth Seagate Ironwolf 14tb disks.

I wasn’t joking about the super-small office space!

And my “Storage Shelf”

Spin rate

The Seagate units are a regular 3.5″ internal hard drive, like what you’d have inside your desktop computer. They spin at 7200RPM and have a 3-year warranty. That MTBF thing I was talking about earlier, the 14tb Ironwolf disk is rated at 1 Million hours (Yes, I said that in a Dr Evil voice!) Which is quite a while! (Before you whip out your calculator, that’s 114.155251 years)

So, if you turned the thing on and left it spinning in a controlled environment, not doing anything, it’d be rated to last that long.

Real world, this isn’t how it goes; we read and write to these disks over and over, and they can get jostled around and sometimes even unexpectedly powered off (Dad! What does this switch do?!)

Synolgy Seagate 14TB Ironwolf Review Photography

Setting up the Seagate Ironwolf 14tb disks

Moving swiftly on, out came the pair of Seagate Ironwolf 4tb disks and in went the 14tb disks. No mess, and no fuss. The Synology NAS is very well made and easy to work on.

I wanted to have some level of protection (fault tolerance) using the two disks, so they’re set up using SHR (Synology Hybrid Raid) which gives me 1-disk tolerance. It pretty much halves my space, but essentially means that if something goes wrong, it can go wrong twice before I cry to the sky and ask nobody in particular “WHY?”!

I worked in I.T. long enough to see grown men (and women) cry when disks failed. It isn’t pretty. So, backup! (You’ve been warned.)

I’m finding the disks nice and quiet, despite being only 15cm to my left. They have not skipped a beat (remember that bit I said about dead or dying disks) to date (They have about 100 years before that nasty MTBF rating even gets close!)

I happily leave the NAS on 24/7 as I’ve found another location for my other network attached storage box, which means the two can sit quietly at night talking to each other via the internet and sync my important client data! Great!

The new 14TB IronWolf drive also supports Seagate’s leading IronWolf Health Management (IHM) software. Designed to operate on enabled Synology DiskStation NAS, Asustor NAS, and QNAP NAS when populated with Seagate IronWolf or IronWolf Pro drives, IHM improves the overall system reliability by displaying actionable prevention, intervention or recovery options for the user.

These specific disks aren’t exactly inexpensive due to their size, but you can get them from 1tb to 14tb based on how much data you produce and need to store and share.


I can’t give a hard disk a rating out of 5 as I typically do, not for at least a year of spinning. However, based on my other Seagate disks, these new ones will do just fine! Also, the Synology DS units are five stars all the way!


The post Review: Seagate 14tb Ironwolf Disks for all of Your Photographs appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sime.

Add Functionality and Battery Life to Your Sony A7 with the MOZA Cage

MOZA sent me their recently released MOZA Cage for review, and while I’m slowly and inevitably getting into more filmmaking with my Sony a7R Mk2, I’m still a photographer first. I thought to myself, “How can I review this cage as a photographer.” After taking delivery, however, I found it quite easy! There are a few unique things you can do with this cage that make it perfect for certain types of photography, not just as a tool for filmmakers.

MOZA Cage Handheld Camera Gimbal Stabilizer

If you’ve never heard of the term Cage used in conjunction with cameras, in very basic terms a cage is just that. It’s a cage that you screw your camera into, and it provides you with multiple handle options, cable routing options, attachment options (think LED panel lights / microphones, etc.). Cages can range from very basic and a couple of hundred dollars, up to fully featured monsters that will see you shelling out more than a grand (USD).

But this one, the MOZA Cage is a mid-priced cage with many features of much higher end products. What stood out to me after I unboxed the cage was the build quality. Everything is really well made and works well, and after using the product for a few weeks on multiple shoots, it has given me no problems.


Still photography uses

When shooting video, it’s great to have a cage to help you hold your rig more steady. It’s helpful to attach a small shotgun mic or LED panel if you’re a run and gun interview shooter, or someone shooting an event, etc. But, that doesn’t really apply to us so much here on dPS, as we’re all about the still photos.

What appealed to me in the stills department is that the MOZA Cage has a sweet wooden handle grip included. And inside that grip is a 4800MaH battery that is used to power your camera! By way of comparison, the included NP-FW50 batteries in my Sony A7 or a6300 are 1020mAh. So, we’re talking about a unit that will power your camera for a lot longer than usual! (I won’t mention the Sony battery performance, except to say that I’d like more please, more batteries!) 


Longer battery life

So what does having more battery power do? It gives us the ability to shoot for longer. Obviously shooting film is the first thought, but I used the cage for time-lapse as well as some regular photography and it worked great. The wooden handle on the MOZA rotates so you can hold the camera down low to the ground by the top handle, while you have your screen tilted up to show you what you’re shooting.

The next little added bonus is that the MOZA Cage includes a shutter release in the handle, as well as a video stop/start. That shutter release worked really well for shooting from within the cage at weird angles and doing it with no contorted weird ergonomic photographer’s stance! (You know the ones haha)



The cage does have limited use for photographers. But if you’re thinking of trying your hand at shooting some video of your kids, or maybe doing behind the scenes on your next epic production, this cage could really increase your production value. It will give you many more options from a camera handling perspective, as well as those benefits listed for alternate photography uses. The MOZA Cage is $499 which, for what you get, is a great price.


Sony a7RMk2 in situ, ready to go shoot!


The MOZA Cage, Naked


The Sony a7RMk2 rigged into the MOZA Cage


Buttons on the MOZA handle unit

If you’re still shaking your head and muttering “Cage, what’s he talkin’ ’bout…cage!” Here’s a quick overview and a look at how you might set up your camera in a cage, be it this one or any other style cage.


In summary, I don’t really have anything negative to say about the MOZA Cage! From a photography/video convergence point of view, it’s a great mid-level tool that will work very well for you, from a pure photographic perspective. For alternate uses like long events, time-lapse and simply awkward shots down low (I found it particularly handy for these!) it works very well. The build quality, price and customer service were all very good (I did a secret squirrel customer service call with a question… yes, a little sneaky, but we need to know these things!)

Find out more or purchase the cage on Amazon.

The post Add Functionality and Battery Life to Your Sony A7 with the MOZA Cage by Sime appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Review : WD MyCloud Mirror Personal Cloud Storage

Some would argue that, these days, it’s just as important to backup our mobile (camera) devices for the very reason we backup our regular digital photographs. Here’s my take on doing just that with my review of the My Cloud Mirror.

Even though I have my camera with me most of the time, I still have my iPhone (or your Android or Windows thing or heck, even your Blackberry) with me about 99.8% of the time. That’s maybe more than most people as my 9 to 5 is social media and photography, so I tend to have the phone near, and as a result, I take a lot of photographs with the thing.

It’s the iPhone 6 Plus, it has a half decent camera and as a result I take a lot of photos, videos, time lapse sequences, slow motion videos, etc. The bottom line is, I use it to create a LOT of content, and I know a lot of you guys do too. The theme with my other storage and backup related articles here on dPS has been “don’t lose stuff when you don’t need to!” and really, the same goes for your phone. You use it to create memories, even if you can’t print those memories out at A1 size (23.4 x 33.1″), they are still moments that you might like to remember. (Or they’re just photographs of every coffee you’ve ever had and really, you should just stop that!*)


As ever, without slapping down a whole page of technical jargon that you really don’t understand, I shall explain the WD MyCloud Mirror in the easiest way I can. You unbox it, plug it into power and to your network, (Cat5 cable between your MyCloud and your internet modem / router) follow the configuration instructions, and within minutes (unless you really are very very bad at things with buttons and knobs) you will have a storage drive that is both connected to your computer on your home network / wireless, and you will have a storage “cloud” that is available to you on your phone (apps available in Google Play and iTunes app store) and via any internet connected browser.

Maybe the skeptic in you is saying, “but I still have to remember to actually backup my phone!” Actually, and you knew I’d say that, it does it automatically (make sure your app settings are right) so you can shoot on your phone, and have your photos automatically transferred to your MyCloud Mirror (you control if it does it all the time or only when you’re connected via Wifi to avoid crazy mobile data bills).


My ultimate test of the WD MyCloud Mirror was on a recent trip to Fiji for a photography workshop. I was using a Fijian sim card in my iPhone and had wifi at random hours of the day. I set the MyCloud app to upload my iPhone content when on Wifi, and that’s exactly what it did – seamlessly! My wife could navigate to a website back in Melbourne and see what I’d photographed on my phone, and show my boys where I was – it was great. Now, you can do that using a camera, card reader, and a laptop with wifi (or a hundred other ways) but for those moments that I simply whipped out my phone and snapped a memory, they were preserved and immediately available for others to see (or to not see, depending on your security settings, obviously).

Some specs for you to wrap your head around

  • Keep your content in one, double-safe place
  • Get abundant, dual-drive storage with access from anywhere
  • Save everything with twice the protection using Mirror Mode (RAID 1-default)
  • Easily transfer to and from Dropbox™ and other cloud accounts

You can use the MyCloud Mirror with the following

  • Windows® 8.1 or earlier, Windows 7, Windows Vista® or Windows XP (32 bit) SP 3 operating systems
  • Mac® OS® X Mavericks, Mountain Lion™, Lion™ or Snow Leopard® operating systems
  • DLNA®/UPnP® devices for streaming
  • Router with Internet connection

Supported browsers:

  • Internet Explorer® 8 or higher
  • Safari® 6 or higher
  • Firefox® 21 or higher
  • Google Chrome™ 27 or later on supported Windows and Mac OS platforms

What’s that about a mirror?

You may also have picked up on the word mirror in the name of the MyCloud, it does indeed have two disks in it and it mirrors your data. While you’re backing it up from your phone, you’re also making a redundant copy of it onto the second drive, so if disk number #1 should fail, disk #2 will still have all of your duck-faced selfies (be honest, who doesn’t love a duck-faced selfie). Here’s a picture of that happening, just perchance I’ve confused you with my techno-babble.

wdfMyCloud_Mirror (3)

In summary, I totally love the WD MyCloud Mirror (I have the 4/2 (mirrored) TB version). I can’t recommend it enough for those of you that are half serious about your phone photography, or even just half serious about storage and content access while you’re anywhere with an internet connection.

The WD MyCloud Mirror has been online for three months to test its reliability. It’s been online, and available all of that time, without a hiccup. I was sent the unit for test and review purposes, and will always give an unbiased opinion of a product. I award the MyCloud Mirror Five stars for simplicity in setup and usage, as well as (three months) constant reliability.

*there’s a good chance that sentence was about, and directed at me :) 

The post Review : WD MyCloud Mirror Personal Cloud Storage by Sime appeared first on Digital Photography School.

The Ultimate On-Location Storage Solution – ioSafe Rugged Portable SSD Review

That’s a big call really, isn’t it? “Ultimate on-location storage” what does that even mean, and do you need it? Well, dear reader, read on and we’ll get to the bottom of this relatively new, bomb proof storage device from

The aptly named Rugged Portable is an external solid state drive that connects to your computer via USB 3.0 to store all of your files – in my case, raw images photographed on location. We have the 1TB version on a trial and that’s going to be (much) more than enough for most photography adventures.


Transfer speeds via USB 3.0 are usually more than enough under the two circumstances I’ve used the drive. The first being to copy from my 32GB Sandisk Extreme Pro CF card via a Lexar USB3 card reader, through the Macbook Air and out the other side into the compact ioSafe drive. I also use a couple of Thunderbolt drives at home, and the noted difference between Thunderbolt and USB3 transfer speeds isn’t actually all that noticeable under real world conditions.

The second scenario was while shooting for an agency that’s recently hired me to be the photographer for a series of shoots. When tethered, and shooting on location, I find myself importing the images to my WD Passport Pro and running a second copy off to the ioSafe – Why? This client takes my CR2 files at the end of each shoot and the designer handles the processing and editing, so I unplug the WD and hand it to the producer and he takes it away with him until next shoot, the ioSafe comes with me. You’re still sitting there scratching your forehead?

Six of the shoots I’ve done so far for this client, four of them have been of scenarios I can’t recreate for one reason or another. If those images are lost by me between location (sometimes on set for two days, away from home and the comfort of backing up to my Promise R8 – yes, I love storage) and the client has a mishap – well, frankly, we’re stuffed. Obviously this is a worst case scenario, but these are the ones that we like to avoid!


Sure, you find a way to work around it – you’re a professional, and that’s why I think it’s nice to not have to “get around it” and to take as much risk out of your shoot days as possible.

When I say “if those images are lost by me” I’m hoping to never have a catastrophic failure that involves my gear melting down, drowning or being driven over, but human error involves dropping drives, spilling a glass of wine on your laptop – the list goes on.

I can see this drive being the perfect storage and transport for destination wedding photographers, commercial photographers travelling to shoot, pretty much anyone that really cares about their, or their clients’ images, between shoot and final delivery.

The ioSafe Rugged portable has some pretty impressive statistics and while I’ve not tested these personally* I know the ioSafe crew are pretty serious about their gear and have a data recovery guarantee attached to their products (more on that after the stats).


  • Crush Protection up to 5,000 lbs.
  • Drop Protection up to 10 feet
  • Immersion protection up to 30′ for three days
  • USB 3.0 SuperSpeed (like Superman, you know)
  • Data Recovery Service up to $5,000/TB
  • World’s best warranty
  • Mac or PC

Like I said, pretty impressive… But then, it’s not really impressive unless I test some of this stuff, right? (This was an afterthought and, now *I have tried some of them!)

Enlisting the services of Filmmaker and Educator, Lee Herbet of Capturing Passion We’re going to try show you what makes the ioSafe Rugged Portable the little beast that it is.

So, for some examples! In most of these examples I was either tethered shooting to the drive (crush test) or it was at least plugged in and powered up (water and drop tests)

1. Crush test

I’m on set, shooting the OutdoorTech van (Thanks to Blonde Robot!) when one of the directors glides in silently in his Tesla S… Clearly the Tesla has a great rear facing camera, but this one doesn’t have a front facing camera and well, you can see how that played out!

2. Submersion test

We’re back shooting some images for a water conservation company here in Melbourne, thankfully not into 30′ of water, but you get the idea!

3. Drop test

I’d forgotten to simply use my CamRanger with the 7.3m (24′) tall Kupo LookOut stand while shooting a lifestyle image… Watching this back almost reminds me of a Mr Bean sketch!

So, even though the shooting situations above were staged, the drive really did get run over, dropped, and drowned multiple times to make these short films. The footage was also saved onto the drive and the films edited together on location at my favourite cafe right after we wrapped the final filming. You can even see the drive data light flashing in the Tesla video as I was shooting to it just before it was run over!

In closing , do you need the ultimate on-location storage solution? Only your business requirements can answer that question for you, but if you’re after an easily portable SSD external drive for your photography, that will look danger in the face and laugh – this is it.

This drive leaves me nothing to complain about and so I give it five gold stars.

Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed my take on the ioSafe Rugged Portable!  –Simon

The post The Ultimate On-Location Storage Solution – ioSafe Rugged Portable SSD Review by Sime appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Syrp Genie Robotic Tripod Head Review

If you’re in the market for an ultra portable robotic tripod head that pans and tilts and is super easy to setup, you’ll be wanting to take a look at the Syrp Genie. The guys at Syrp have done their Kickstarter backers proud with a solid product that looks as good as it performs.

While it can’t pan and tilt at the same time, the Genie has a little trick up its sleeve to add an extra layer of motion control to its arsenal.

When you want to put the Genie on to a slider you won’t need any extra motors or cables to get things moving. The Genie comes complete with the linear accessory which utilizes a thin yet strong rope which you attach to either end of your slider. The motor inside the Genie will then pull the unit along the slider to add production value to your video recordings or time-lapse footage. You could even put the genie on a skate board or cart and then attach the ropes to trees or fences while it pulls itself through your scene.

While this might not be the most advanced method of motion control, you’ve got to love the sheer simplicity of the Genie, and with its built-in battery it really takes up very little space in your camera bag. If you’re off on a long haul flight and don’t relish the idea of packing lots of complex toys, you’ll appreciate the compact form of this device.

Syrp Genie Review - Gavin Hardcastle

Build Quality

I was really impressed with the build quality of the Genie and its accessories. The packaging was like something you’d expect from Apple and everything has a solid, ruggedness about it that feels reassuring. I had some problems with the battery on the first unit that I received so Syrp promptly replaced it and the second unit had no problems with the battery lasting as advertised.

Ease of Use

The Genie is about as easy as it gets. Time-lapse photographers will love the presets and how the time calculations are adjusted based on your input. The interface is really easy to navigate and pretty intuitive. I only had to refer to the manual on a couple of occasions. Setting up a panning shot is pretty easy but I found the tilt shots more of a challenge to get things lined up with the horizon and also struggled a little with the ball head that Syrp kindly included. Once you’ve done it a few times it gets easier.

Syrp Genie Motion Control Review - Gavin Hardcastle


My first impression of the ball tripod head that Syrp included was that it might not be up to the job. After putting it to some serious stress tests it turned out to be a very sturdy little head that can handle a lot of weight and some hefty abuse.

Syrp Genie Review Ball Head

The infra red transmitter stalk is a really cool addition for time lapse photographers who don’t fit into the Canon/Nikon mold and can’t connect up to the Genie with a cable. The IR transmitter plugs into the Genie and then sticks out of the side like one of those gooseneck desk microphones. The idea is that you point it at the IR receiver on your camera and it triggers the camera for time lapse shoots. I shoot with a Sony A7R so this was essential for me. I just wish the IR transmitter was a couple of inches longer so that I didn’t have to strap it to my lens with an elastic band. Anyway, it works and is much easier than fiddling about with a long IR cable.

The rope that you use for linear motion on sliders is really good quality and you can order different lengths to suite your needs.

Tech Support

I found the tech support from Syrp to be pretty quick and effective. When I had any big problems they jumped on it quickly and were patient when I was just being thick and didn’t get how things worked. I get the impression that even if I wasn’t a writer for dPS, I’d still get taken care of well.

Is it Worth the Price?

This is a tricky one and it really depends on your needs. Currently priced at $890 USD, the Genie cannot pan and tilt at the same time. It can only pan, tilt or slide. There are other robotic ‘motion control’ heads out there that offer more functionality for around the same price, but it’s kind of unfair to compare the Genie to more advanced units because they don’t have the built in battery and they require motor accessories in order to slide. With that in mind your decision to buy the Genie might come down to its two greatest features – simplicity and portability.

The Results

Here’s some quick and rough test footage that I shot with the Genie straight out of the box. Please watch at 1080p.

I am a confessed pixel peeping perfectionist. A snob of the worst kind when it comes to image quality and the finished product of a shoot.

My main use of the Genie was for shooting time-lapse sequences and I have to say that the results I got were not as smooth as I’ve had with other devices on the market. I don’t know if this can be fixed with a firmware update or if it’s down to a mechanical limitation of the Genie design. That being said, whether or not my obsessive ‘buttery’ motion requirements would make much of a difference once a finished video is butchered by the compression ogre from Vimeo or YouTube remains to be seen.

I suspect that for most time-lapse and video shooters, the motion of the Genie will be more than sufficient. I’m just a picky bugger.

Things I Love

  • Portability
  • Ease of use
  • The Preview Function (others could learn from this)
  • Build quality
  • Built in battery

Things I Don’t Love

  • Can’t pan and tilt at the same time
  • Not the smoothest results for time-lapse
  • The little bit of ‘play’ that makes the first few frames of your time lapse completely static. You can see this in the second clip of my test footage video above.

All in all, the Genie is a really cool product that I feel is ideal for time lapse beginners and budding cinematographers. When you factor in the portability and the ease of use, the Genie comes in at a very fair price point with excellent build quality. Time-lapse shooters that are looking for something more advanced will have to spend a little more to move up to the next level of production value. I give the Syrp Genie 4 out of 5 stars.

More time-lapse tips and info here:

The post Syrp Genie Robotic Tripod Head Review by Gavin Hardcastle appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Stellar Phoenix Mac Photo Recovery Software Review

The “click of death!”

I’m sure it’s happened to you at some point or other, a drive dies *click bzzt click bzzt click*  or a memory card stops working for some unknown, and entirely frustrating reason. I’ve used pretty much every memory card and hard disk on the market at some point or another, and have lost images to the “corruption demons” with a couple of them… Here’s how to get those files back!

Photo recovery software to the rescue!

simon pollock photography gtvone

It’s not always the fault of the card or the drive – a premature ejection like pulling the drive out of your computer / usb / firewire or indeed grabbing a card out of your camera while it’s writing a file – most of the time the file system (like a set of drawers on the card or drive) manages to put the data away before stopping, but sometimes, like my office floor, things are left everywhere and that’s when you encounter data corruption (very basically).

Stellar Phoenix Mac Photo Recovery 6 Mac

stellar phoenix photo recovery software review

What they say

Stellar Phoenix Mac photo recovery is a utility that recovers deleted, formatted, lost photos, pictures, songs, movies, and other multimedia files from Mac systems.

  • Recovers from Mac – Systems, External Drives, USB Drives, iPod and Digital Cameras
  • Supports a wide range of image, audio, and video file formats
  • Supports hard drives with capacities over 2 TB
  • Efficient Scan Engine scans the storage media faster
  • Also recovers Thumbnails of the corresponding image files
  • Compatible with Mac OS X 10.5 up to the Latest OS X Mavericks

What we say

After recovering from all kinds of old drives, CF cards (a 16mb one from a LONG time ago) including a 2TB disk, I am very happy with Stellar Phoenix Mac Photo recovery! It’s dead easy to use – you start it up, choose your drive and click recover… Sure, you can head into the advanced tab and recover only single file types if you wish, for example if you were after a set of CR2 files (Canon RAW) from a CF card, you could narrow your search down to just those files. Once scanned you can save the scan / found files information if you wish to restore the files at a later date.


I started this review a long time ago and, with the first version of the software, I had some minor issues – it called a CR2 a DNG and so on, which in the big scheme of things wasn’t a total fail, but could be very confusing… I was able to give this feedback to the creators, and with the new version there are no issues, and none of the previous bugs.

There are two versions of the software, one that simply recovers any of your media files and another slightly more expensive ($39 vs $49.99) version that also repairs corrupt jpeg files. I am using the regular version and I did encounter a couple of corrupt images, I hope to run through the same tests with the platinum version soon.

Recovery time was about average based on my previous experience (Yes, the photo at the top is me and yes, we’d just lost a 9TB storage array… long story) with a CF card of 16GB taking a bit over an hour and a 2TB drive via USB taking about a day and a half. In both cases I was able to successfully recover the data I needed.

Data recovery isn’t always guaranteed, I’m not going to lie – sometimes the pretty photographs just don’t want to come back. ever. I was able to recover everything I set out to recover using Stellar Phoenix Mac Photo software in this case.

Conclusion… Based on my time in I.T. and my previous experience with recovery software, I’m happy to recommend this software if you find yourself in a spot of digital bother.

For more on image recovery and back up see:

The post Stellar Phoenix Mac Photo Recovery Software Review by appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Merge to 32 bit – HDR technique comparisons

HDR is an often discussed and debated subject in photography circles. There’s much talk about “bad” HDR, or a whether or not one should even do it in the first place. I think a lot of that stems from what I’d consider to be overdone, over-processed versions.


Depending on the software used to make your tone-mapped HDR images you may be given an option to view and/or save a 32-bit version. Prior to Lightroom 4 we there wasn’t really much we could do with such a file so most photographers never bothered saving it. Now that LR4 and PS can handle a 32bit file it has opened up a whole new set of options for HDR, one that is a lot simpler, more photo realistic, and many would venture to say – better.

The problem with most overdone HDR images is that they are often:

  • too overly saturated, way past surreal into unpleasant looking by many accounts
  • too flat, the blacks are grey and the highlights are grey and muddy looking
  • too far into the realm of “surreal” or “artistic” where the shadows are now brighter than some of the highlights, and the highlights are darker than some of the shadows. It seems unnatural and many people reject it because their brain’s can’t even register it.
NOTE this is an example of what NOT to do, please do NOT make HDR that looks like this.

Please do NOT make HDR that looks like this!


  • perhaps you’ve tried HDR and been unhappy with the results
  • maybe you vowed never to touch it for fear of producing something that falls into one of the above areas. If that is the case I urge you do take a second look and see if this is more to your tastes.
  • the process baffles you and you just want a good final result without having to learn yet another software

Photomatix Pro has been one of the front runners for HDR tone-mapping software since its creation. Now they offer a new plugin for using that 32-bit image. I’m not going to get into the step by step how to use shoot your bracketed images or use this plugin (they already have that on their site here), rather a comparison of a three different methods of making HDR images and the resulting images.


Okay in a nutshell, this is how the plugin works.

  1. select your bracketed images in LR or PS
  2. launch the 32-bit plug in (and select a couple options) and it does its thing in the background
  3. take the resulting 32-bit image and finish it in LR or PS
Screen shot 2013-06-27 at 8.06.37 PM

Select bracketed images

Screen shot 2013-06-27 at 8.07.20 PM

Launch the Merge to 32-bit HDR plugin

Screen shot 2013-06-27 at 8.41.07 PM

And away it goes! How easy right?

That’s it!  No sliders to play with, no presets, no way to muck it up – the software just merges them together into one massive file with a whole lot of exposure data. Then you work the magic on it in Lightroom or Photoshop (or your favorite image editor) to lighten where you want, and darken where you want – with no loss of image quality or detail.


Below you see the four bracketed images I’m using for this example. Notice that the darkest image shows lots of detail in the white wall on the right of the doorway, and the lightest image has tons of detail on the ceiling inside the building. I use the histogram and shoot in manual to make sure I capture enough range and generally bracket 2 tops apart (these are about 1 and 2/3rds apart as it was enough to get the range I needed) – notice I only ever adjust the shutter speed, keep my ISO low and use a tripod whenever possible.


Bracketed images shot in Manual mode on tripod

Below you see the 32-bit image as it first appears in Lightroom. It looks pretty contrasty (almost exactly like the second image above) but unlike using just a single image there is plenty of detail in ALL areas of this image, you just have to manipulate it out a bit!


Merge 32-bit image before Lightroom processing.

Here is the final version after doing some Lightroom magic.  I’ve used several of the sliders pulled to the max (see screen shot of my Basic panel below), as well as some Graduated filters on the edges (see screen shot below), a post-crop vignette, and several adjustment brushes to lighten and darken areas I wanted to control. Notice the white wall on the left is quite dark now, almost grey – however the highlights inside the house are still bright white. If you just darken all the highlights you end up with a flat, muddy looking mess. I’ve also darkened the wall outside intentionally to draw your eye inwards towards the brighter areas and the chair. If the wall was still pure white it would scream and draw your attention.  Notice how the image still has dark areas, light areas, and a good contrast range. All I’ve done is control the tonal values to retain detail where I wanted.


Final image after Lightroom adjustments

Basic panel adjustments in LR

Basic panel adjustments in LR

Gradient filters used to darken the edges of the doorway

Gradient filters used to darken the edges of the doorway

Now have a look at another version of the same bracketed image set, but this time created using the full Photomatix Pro software and LR adjustments afterwards.  It’s a much grungier look, which some people dislike. Personally I like this look and it’s not going too far for my tastes. There’s still pure black, and pure white in the image and it has good contrast – the tones have just been adjusted in a different way.

HDR done by tonemapping in Photomatix Pro

HDR done by tonemapping in Photomatix Pro

One more version, also tone mapped in Photomatix then split toned in LR

One more version, also tone mapped in Photomatix then split toned in LR


Let’s look at two more images as examples. I’ve used three different processes to get the final results in each set:

  • using just Lightroom adjustments
  • using the regular Photomatix Pro tone-mapping process
  • using the merge to 32bit method

Can you guess which is which in each trio?  No fair peeking at the file names!   Look over the three versions of each scene and tell me in the comments below which was done with what process.  How can be first to get it all right?  GO!








To revisit my original question – is merge to 32-bit the answer for better HDR? I think that’s probably still up for debate. It does however allow you to create a much more photo realistic result with relatively few easy steps, and less hassle. So if you fall into one of the categories at the top of the article I’d suggest you give it a try especially if you want to do tone control but not alter the look of the image beyond that of reality.

As always, give me your thoughts and opinions. There’s always many different options and opinions and no one solution is right for everyone.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Merge to 32 bit – HDR technique comparisons

TFTTF is New and Noteworthy

Oh look, Tips from the Top Floor is New and Noteworty! Not sure why, but hey, who am I to complain about visibitlity. And I’m pretty sure it has to do with your support and your reviews and ratings on … Continue reading

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Lowepro Passport Sling Camera Bag – Review

Since I’m a girl and a photographer, I’m a bag junkie. I have more camera bags than shoes!  I received the Passport Sling just in time for a busy two-week trip to Europe and decided to use it exclusively to carry my 5D MarkII with the 24-70 mm lens attached, extra batteries, CF cards and the few personal items. The Passport Sling immediately became one of my favorite camera bags!

Like most photographers I am always looking for that perfect bag for the job or situation.

I have a rolling bag for my everyday client shoots, a sturdy backpack for extra gear and flexibility, and everything in between. The one bag that I am the most peculiar about is my photo-walk bag. I need it to carry one camera with one lens attached and a few other necessary personal items – and the Passport Sling is perfect for that!

The Lowepro Passport Sling features a removable and fully padded camera compartment in the shape of box, that easily folds flat for storage. There are two pockets on the outside of the bag for maps, boarding passes or other quick access items. There is even a handy water bottle pocket!  I can also adjust the strap to whatever length I need and the removable sliding shoulder pad makes for carrying comfort.

Pictured here with the 5dMarkII and 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens attached.

And as if that isn’t enough terrific features, the bag has an expandable compartment on one end. It zips open to reveal about 30% more space to put extra items next to the padded camera compartment.  And being a girl and a photographer, I like more storage space!

Expandable compartment

I carried my new Passport Sling on daily photo walks from Amsterdam to Paris, day in and day out, for two weeks. It was comfortable to carry and fit all my photo needs. However, if you’re like me, your camera is mostly in your hand while you walk, and I liked it that this bag was not in the way. It stayed in place on my back and, better yet, did not look like a camera bag with all my gear safely stored inside.

The one thing I missed was the extra peace of mind from having a zipper on any of the exterior pockets which might help deter a pickpocket in the Paris métro during rush hour! Also, a separate zippered pocket on the inside would be nice.

The Lowepro Passport Sling inner dimensions are as follows: Camera compartment: 4.1” width x 7.5” depth x 7.5” height (10.5 x 19 x 19 cm) Expandable compartment: 5.1” width x 6.3” depth x 15” height (13 x 16 x 38 cm) Weight: 1.1 lbs. (0.5 kg)

Depending on the size of your DSLR, you could possibly fit an extra lens or flash next to it by using the padded divider. My 5dMarkII fills the compartment when it is stored straight down with the 24-70 mm lens attached.

The Lowepro Passport Sling retails for  74.99 US$ and is currently available with a 20% discount on Amazon. It is available in Black, mica (pictured) and Light Blue.

In any color, however, this thoughtfully designed, good looking, durable camera bag will serve you well in any photographic job or situation. Now I can shop for more shoes, and stop looking for camera bags!

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Lowepro Passport Sling Camera Bag – Review

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