Wednesday, 18 February 2009

New Canon Tilt and Shift Lenses

A couple of new tilt and shift lenses revealed by Canon:

TS-E 17mm f/4 L

TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II

Sunday, 15 February 2009

London - a Winter Wonderland

A couple of weeks ago, London had the worst snow in 20 years. Frankly, it wasn't a lot, but as the centre of London tends to be a few degrees warmer than the surrounding countryside, it was rare for it to settle as much as it did. The night before Londoners used the snow as an excuse to stay at home, I managed to get out with my tripod and camera. Most shots were a write-off, as there was so much snow blowing into the lens, but a couple of shots made it - and I'm pleased to say they've been accepted on Alamy.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Microstock Tip - using keywords

All the microstock sites rely on keywords in order for an image to feature high-up in a search query. So, the more comprehensive and relevant the keywords are, the more likely the file will be found and therefore viewed and hopefully purchased.

I've recently found a great keywording tool - it allows you to search for similar images and extract the consolidated keywords from images you select. Using this, I've been able to find a few obvious extra keywords. For example, my best-selling image at the moment is:

Previously, I'd used the following keywords to describe it:

- Deer, Antler, Stag, Wildlife, Nature, Animal, Mammal, Autumn, outdoors, wild

But now, I've added: hunt, doe, buck, male, forest, antlers, brown, fall, game, grass,trees, woods, season, hunting, park, large, roebuck

Time will tell how useful it's been, but although a tedious job, it's a no-brainer to give it a go.

p.s. On Fotolia*, they won't allow you to update the keywords after the first submission, to "avoid keyword spamming". A shame, frankly!

Saturday, 7 February 2009

New faster Canon TS-E 24mm??

Rumours are there will be a new Canon lens out in the next couple of weeks - a replacement of the TS-E 24mm f/3.5L, this time faster at f/2.8.  Never used a tilt and shift lens myself, so can't really comment!

For me, I'd be more interested in them replacing the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS L with better IS and zoom mechanism (and slightly faster, but not heavier!?)... or bringing out a replacement to the 400mm F/5.6 L, with image stabilisation.

Microstock Industry News: Snapvillage Snuffled

Last year when I first signed-up to a few microstock sites, I wasn't sure which would be successful.  Pretty soon though, it became clear that snapvillage wasn't doing as well as the others - hardly any views for my photos logged and no sales... I soon stopped uploading new images to the site.

Well, it looks like my experience may have been a microcosm of some wider issues at snapvillage.  Its owners have now decided that snapvillage will be subsumed into one of their other stock brands, Veer and the new service will be called Veer Marketplace.  More details here.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Alamy Approval

Well, some good news from my new friends at Alamy. My first four photos have passed their Quality Control process, so they're now up and available to license!

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Taking good Microstock photos: Part 1

If you'd like to have a go at microstock photography, there are three things you need to consider before you take a shot:

  1. Is the subject likely to be of commercial value?
  2. Is the camera setup to take the shot at a suitable quality?
  3. Is the composition suitably different to stand out from the crowd?

Let's look at each in turn...

1.) Is the subject likely to be of commercial value?

It's obviously in your best interest to only upload photos that have a commercial value. Luckily, the microstock agencies feel the same way, so they provide a load of useful advice to help you work out what's popular*:

You can also search using words which would describe your shot and compare the competition (this search is from Shutterstock*):

Finally, check that you're legally allowed to take the photo - there are an annoyingly large number of buildings, trademarks and such like which you can't use without permission - I recently found this with the London Underground sign, for example.

2.) Is the camera setup to take the shot at a suitable quality?

Some simple setup points can mean your shot will be in with a chance of being accepted and minimise the amount of editing required:

  • Shoot in RAW at the highest quality setting- preserving all of the detail in the image and allowing non-destructive editing of things like exposure and white balance later on
  • The lowest ISO setting you can use, avoiding noise (or grain) in the shot
  • Use the best quality lens you have available
  • Clean the lens and sensor
  • Use a tripod, cable/remote release and mirror lockup in low light conditions (or instead of a remote/cable release, put the camera onto a short self-timer)
  • Check the horizon is straight! (Although you can straighten it in Photoshop, you will then lose part of the photo)

3.) Is the composition suitably different to stand out from the crowd?

Chances are, the shot you're about to take isn't unique - others will have taken shots of a similar subject. So, as in step 1, check to see what others have done, then either build on their ideas, or even try something completely different. I'll cover composition in more detail as another topic in the near future.