The Simply Studio System
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
If I were opening a photography business tomorrow, I'd be pretty tempted to incorporate the Simply Studio system into my business. In fact, even though I'm already up and running, the software is tempting just because of all the things it handles for a photographer. The idea is simple: Professional photographers tend to be good at photography and less interested in business. But the successful ones? They nail the business part, as well. So the idea of a single application—this one is cloud-based—that can handle everything from studio management to the tracking of expenses and invoices, email marketing and even the proofing and delivery of image files—well, that's pretty darn appealing. I especially like that it's a business program that's designed specifically for photographers, so all of those little things that make what we do unique, well, they're baked right in to the Simply Studio system. Whether you're a budding baby photographer or you've got a booming wedding business, you might want to take Simply Studio for a test run. It looks like it's got a lot to offer for photographers who may not naturally care to spend a lot of time on the business side of things, but who still understand just how important it is to do well. Available configurations start at just $200 per year, making this a business expense that offers a lot of bang for the buck.
Don’t Get Hurt In The Studio
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
I almost hurt myself in my studio yesterday. For years I've been using Speedotron studio strobes, and since day one I've been aware of their massive power and the potential dangers that lie therein. One thing my aging Speedotron packs don't do is respond well to the hot-swapping of plugs. In fact, I make it my policy to always turn off the power and discharge any residual electricity; on old enough packs you have to do this manually, while most newer packs dump the charge automatically. You do this to ensure that the device is benign once you start plugging things in or pulling them out. But yesterday, during a portrait session, I was chatting with my subject when I decided to remove the hair light. Well, I wasn't paying attention to what I was doing (because of our conversation), and rather than turn off and then unplug, I did both of these things simultaneously. Luckily, the consequences weren't so dire, but the effect was lasting: With the plug in my hand a few millimeters from the socket, when the power turned off the flash discharged and a loud "bang!" like a gunshot rang out. Next was a faint burning smell and then the realization of what I'd just done. The socket on top of my pack was singed where the bolt of electricity had arced (visible in the picture above) and I tried to regain my composure as I was reminded of just how powerful—and dangerous—many of our tools can be. So today, I'm here to remind you all that there are lots of ways we can get hurt taking pictures. We can drop cameras on our toes or knock stands over on our subjects or shock ourselves with our high-voltage strobe equipment. The point is, don't do what I did and lose concentration, putting yourself and your subjects at risk. Take your time, concentrate on doing what you're doing in the safest manner possible, and follow best practices for staying safe in the studio and out. For more insights on studio safety, take a look at a Tip I wrote last year on this very site. It's all about staying safe in the studio, so you'd think that after writing about exactly this issue I'd have followed my own advice. Murphy's Law gets me every time.
Adobe Enters The Hardware Market
Monday, June 23, 2014
Not only did Adobe announce major upgrades to its Creative Cloud suite of photo editing software last week, the company also took an unprecedented step. After a few decades selling software exclusively, Adobe is now getting into the hardware business. The new Adobe Ink and Slide are tools designed to turn an iPad into a tablet—a market until now that has been dominated by Wacom. For $199, photographers can now do their digital editing via stylus and ruler right on the screens of their iOS7 iPads. It'll be interesting to see if this is just the first step into the realm of hardware for this software giant, or if it will ultimately be considered a small misstep in an otherwise stellar product history. Time will tell, and I can't wait to find out.
Smartphones As Photographic Inspiration
Friday, June 20, 2014
Since I seem to be writing about cell phone photography a lot this week, I'll continue that streak here. I'm sure there are folks out there saying, "Cell phone photography isn't real photography!" But I say it's just as real as any other kind of photography—or at least it can be. It doesn't matter if the device used to make a picture is a disposable camera. After all, are we more concerned about photographs or the devices used to make them? I know where I stand on that one. Anyway, the point is, simple as they are, point-and-shoot smartphone cameras can actually be freeing photographic devices. With them, we're able to forget all the technical concerns and simply concentrate on composition, content and creativity. So we "real" photographers can often learn a lot by studying the work of photographers who rely on these simple photographic devices. Start by visiting the web site The Muse, which recently published a list of 50 Instagrammers to follow. There are a lot of images in there that serve as inspiration, and a few that I would say also serve as cautionary tales. (Hint: the shoe gazing photos have been done a million times. You can, and should, find a better subject, in my humble opinion.) Notably absent from this list? Moi. Follow me at http://instagram.com/sawalich. Then, to see some more tremendous examples of what kinds of tremendous things can be accomplished with relatively rudimentary cameras, check out the gallery of winners of the iPhone Photography Awards via DPReview. You'd be hard-pressed to argue that these images are any less than those made with very expensive "real" cameras. Remember, it's not about the camera, it's about the picture.
Instagram Presets For Lightroom
Thursday, June 19, 2014
Want to get the Instagram look without a lot of hassle? Well, download Digital Photo Buzz's Instagram-like set of Lightroom presets and, with one click, you can re-create in your photos the black-and-white look of Inkwell, the mellow aged look of Nashville, or any one of 20 other funky filtered looks for your photos. I've written in the past about how to approximate these effects by various combinations of Lightroom and Photoshop adjustments, but the folks from Digital Photo Buzz have upped the ante by making the effects pretty much as easy as they are in the actual Instagram app. Just click a button, and you're done. Though, in fairness, Instagram did just add the ability to fine-tune those filters last week. I guess everything's regressing to the mean: the simple tools are getting more complex, and the complex ones are getting simpler. We photographers sure want it all. To read more and purchase the Lightroom presets, visit http://digitalphotobuzz.com/instagram-lightroom-presets-updated
An Off-Camera Flash For Your Smartphone
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
I use my smartphone as a camera for all sorts of purposes, so any apps or occasional hardware that will enhance the possibility that I can make better pictures... well, they get my attention. It's pretty rare that I write about hardware to enhance your phone, though. Mostly that's because I figure once you start carrying additional hardware, you should probably just carry a more capable camera. The beauty of the smartphone is its ubiquity: it's the camera you've always got in your pocket. So it's notable that today I'm going to suggest a little piece of hardware for you to augment your cell phone kit. It's called Nova, and it's a wireless, Bluetooth-triggered remote flash made especially for smartphones. It's not a flash in the same way a traditional strobe is a flash. It's a flash like the flash on your phone is a flash—that is, a relatively low-speed, low-intensity LED illumination that serves to brighten your subject a bit. Thanks to those low-power LED bulbs, though, the Nova is very compact, easy on batteries, and a much better way to add a hint of light to your cell phone photos than the one on the camera—er, on the phone—normally would be. Any time you can add some direction to your light, you're adding depth, shape and interest. And that's a great way to make better photos, even if they come from your phone.
The Next Update To Photoshop CC
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Photoshop is updating Photoshop CC tomorrow with new features, and the one that's got everyone excited is the new Focus Mask feature. Focus Masks make for easy post-production adjustments that require separating subject from background, and they're done automatically when the software determines a selection based on image areas that are in focus versus areas that are out of focus. It's yet another way to select subjects and backgrounds independently. While it's not perfect (one-click selections rarely are), with a little bit of fine tuning (courtesy of the "refine edge" tool) the focus masks really come quite close to perfection. It's a tool I'm pretty excited about. See how it works in this video released by Adobe Labs, and don't forget to download your Creative Cloud update tomorrow afternoon.
Funny Father Photos
Monday, June 16, 2014
Happy Day-After-Father's-Day to all you dads everywhere! In the spirit of fatherhood fun, here is a hilarious series of images made by photographer—and self-proclaimed "World's Best Father"—Dave Enledow. He photographed (and digitally composited, quite clearly) himself and his infant daughter in some pretty un-father-of-the-year situations. He's doing things like arm wrestling his baby girl, washing her with the laundry and generally ignoring her in some pretty funny ways. It's an entertaining series, and I'm guessing it's something he had a blast making. Though I wonder what mommy thinks? See the fun series—and be sure to read the hilarious captions—at the Today show web gallery.