Friday, 31 December 2010

2010 - My year in photography

Well, here we are at the end of another year and I've managed to keep-up doing some photography in my free-time.  Here are the highlights, with some more detail below:
  • Photographed both leopard and wild dog in Botswana - both lifetime ambitions!
  • Treated myself to the new Canon EF 70-200mm F/2.8 L IS II USM Lens
    lens - mini review below
  • Created a Facebook page
  • Have over 140 followers on my Twitter account
  • Earned over £320 in microstock, 160% of my £200 target
  • More prints available for purchase on Photobox
A huge thanks to friends and family whose positive encouragement has helped me tremendously.

Happy New Year!!!

Botswana/Zambia - October 2010

In October, I was lucky enough to go to Botswana, as well as pop into Zambia to see the Victoria Falls.  You can see more of my photos on my Facebook page, but here are a couple of shots I'm happy with (except for the cropping on the first!):

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM

I've had the 70-200 F/4 non-IS lens for several years and it's been a great travel companion to some amazing places like Costa Rica, Namibia and the Arctic.  It's light, relatively small and can generate superb quality images.  However, it had its drawbacks for wildlife photography, predictably being lack of image stabilisation and only an f/4 maximum aperture.  In wildlife photography, making the most of light is essential as it's often in low-light when animals are most active.  In fact, I'd hired the soon-to-be-replaced Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM Lens
for a couple of the trips (from the excellent

The new Canon EF 70-200mm F/2.8 L IS II USM Lens wasn't cheap (I got it from Jacobs for £1700), but it's an amazing lens.  The improved depth-of-field has been great and four stops of IS incredible.  I use it on a EOS 40D, so am not really doing it justice, but in terms of an upgrade for wildlife photography, I couldn't recommend it highly enough.

Facebook Page

As part of trying to build a social media precence, I've created my own Facebook page, allowing a wider audience to see some of my photos.  It's early days at the moment, but something I hope to develop next year.


Twitter is great and on numerous occassions, it's alerted me to something going on in London which I've popped out to photograph  Feel free to follow me to keep-up with my photographic expolits...


Well, my foray into microstock continues and it's not been too bad a year, beating my £200 annual target to earn £321.21.  Of course it's not enough to give up my day job, but with a portfolio of between 60 and 100 photos on four main active sites, it certainly helps contribute towards near equipment.  Here's the summary for 2010:

ShutterStock* $142.36
iStockPhoto* $188.82
StockXpert $15.28
Dreamstime* $50.06
DepositPhotos* $20.80
BigStockPhoto* $03.00
TOTAL ($USD) $420.32
Fotolia* £41.00
TOTAL (£1=$1.50) £321.21
% of £200 target160.60%

My most popular images for sale at

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Sigma News: New Firmware 1.01 for SD-15

Sigma have released a firmware update for the SD15 D-SLR, which adds some new features:
  • Adds the selected function of Quick Set
  • Improves the display quality of the Color LCD monitor
  • Addition to the Key Sound cancellation function
Detailed instructions here.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Nikon News: New online Nikkor lens selection tools

Nikon have launched a couple of innovative tools on their website to help you in your selection of next Nikkor lens:

Nikkor Lens Simulator - allows you to compare different focal lengths, with FX / DX lenses / bodies

Nikkor Lens Positioning Map - an innovative visual representation of Nikkor's lenses, by maximum aperture and focal length, allowing you to select and compare ones you're interested in

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Nikon News: Updated Firmware for D7000

Nikon have updated firmware for the D7000, to Version 1.01.  Bright spots were sometimes noticeable with live view mode or movie recording of especially dark scenes or subjects.  Occurrence of this issue has been reduced.

More details here.

Canon News: updated firmware for 550D / Rebel T2i

Canon have updated its firmware for the 550D / Rebel T2i, to version 1.0.9, which fixes a phenomenon in which tone jumps become noticeable in some images, depending on the shooting scene, when shooting with the Auto Lighting Optimizer settings (Low / Standard / Strong).

More details here.

Canon News: updated firmware v1.2.3 for 7D

Canon have released Version 1.2.3 of its 7D firmware, fixing the following:
  • a phenomenon in which the settings of the Speedlite Transmitter ST-E2 revert to the default settings when both the camera and the ST-E2 are set to auto power off.
  • a phenomenon in which the Macro Ring Lite (MR-14EX, MT24-EX) and slave flashes do not sync while shooting wirelessly.

 More details here.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Canon News: Updated 60D firmware 1.0.8

.Canon have released updated firmware for the mid-range 60D.  Version 1.0.8 is a maintenance release and corrects potential overexposure when using built-in/external flash with the following lenses:
  • EF 300 f/4 L IS USM
  • EF 28-135 f/3.5-5.6 IS USM
  • EF 75-300 f/4-5.6 IS USM
  • EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM 


Thursday, 16 September 2010

Nikon News: new SB-700 Speedlight

Nikon have launched a new Speedlight flash, the SB-700

  • Versatile I-TTL (intelligent TTL) Speedlight compatible with FX and DX format SLRs, and the Nikon Creative Lighting System.

  • Multi-step power-zoom: covers a wide 24-120mm angle of view.

  • Intuitive operation: the large, easy-to-read LCD screen and conveniently placed controls make it easy to adjust settings.

  • Guide number: 25(EVEN)/28 (STD)/30 (CW) (FX-format, ISO 100, m, at 35mm). Maximum guide number: 38 (STD, FX-format, ISO 100, m, at 120mm).

  • Centre-weighted, Even and Standard illumination patterns can be selected to match the shooting situation at hand.

  • High-speed recycling time: approx. 2.5 seconds when using NiMH or alkaline batteries and approx. 3.5 seconds with lithium batteries.

  • A:B mode for quick wireless control: allows control of the light ratios of A and B group Speedlight units.

  • Firmware can be upgraded via the storage media in the attached camera.

  • Automatic thermal protection system: warns of excessive heat build up during high intensity firing and delays recycling time if necessary.

  • Automatic filter detection: Speedlight automatically adjusts the attached camera’s color temperature settings according to the color of the filter being used.

  • AF-Assist illumination: covers focal length of 24-135mm*. Compatible with Multi-CAM3500 AF sensors.

  • More details here.

    Nikon News: new 35mm and 200mm prime Nikkor lenses

    Nikon have launched a couple of new Nikkor lenses.

    AF-S NIKKOR 35mm F1.4G

    • Professional, wide-angle FX-format lens.
    • 35mm focal length (DX equivalent: 52.5mm) with fast f/1.4 aperture.
    • Outstanding optical performance: boasts an aspherical lens element for superior resolution and contrast.
    • Bright Viewfinder image.
    • Nano Crystal coat reduces ghost and flare.
    • 9-blade rounded diaphragm opening for super-smooth bokeh.
    • SWM (Silent Wave Motor) for quiet and accurate autofocus.
    • Durable weather-sealed magnesium body.
    • Detachable hood and soft case included.

    More details here.


    • Professional telephoto lens.
    • 200mm focal length (DX equivalent 400mm) with fast f/2 aperture.
    • Vibration Reduction II (VR II) stabilization system with Normal and Active modes. Lets you use shutter speeds that are up to 4 stops slower.
    • Nano Crystal coat reduces ghost and flare.
    • Three focus modes: instant manual focus override (M/A), manual (M) and instant auto focus override (A/M) that prioritizes autofocus even when the focus ring is in use.
    • Closest focusing distance: 1.9 m.
    • Three ED (Extra low Dispersion) and one super-ED glass elements ensure high resolution and superior contrast.
    • SWM (Silent Wave Motor) for quiet, accurate autofocus.
    • Durable weather-sealed magnesium body with meniscus glass to protect the front element.

    More details here.
  • Nikon news: D7000 mid-range DSLR launched

    Nikon have launched a new DLSR, the D7000.

    • 16.2 megapixel DX-format CMOS image sensor
    • High ISO (100-6400) light sensitivity - extendable up to 25600
    • EXPEED 2: Nikon’s advanced image processing engine
    • Durable design with magnesium alloy top and rear covers
    • Twin SD card slots: SDXC compatible
    • Razor-sharp 39-point AF system

      More details here.

      Canon News: High-end G12 and SX30 IS PowerShots launched

      Canon have launched a couple of high-end compact cameras, the PowerShot G12 and PowerShot SX30IS, replacing the G11 and SX20IS respectively.


      • HS System
      • High-sensitivity 10 MP CCD
      • 28mm wide, 5x zoom lens, Hybrid IS
      • 7.0 cm (2.8") vari-angle LCD, Electronic Level, OVF
      • Front Dial, Full Manual & RAW
      • HD movies, HDMI
      • High Dynamic Range mode
      • Smart Auto
      • Multi-Aspect Shooting
      • Extensive accessory system

      More details available here.

      SX20 IS

      • 20x wide-angle (28mm) zoom lens with IS
      • 12.1 MP CCD
      • 2.5” vari-angle PureColor VA LCD
      • Smart Auto mode with Scene Detection Technology
      • DIGIC 4
      • Motion Detection
      • Face Detection
      • Enhanced i-Contrast
      • HD movies (720p) with HDMI output
      • Hot shoe for external flash

      More details here.

      Saturday, 4 September 2010

      Richard Waters Photography Facebook Page

      I've launched my own Facebook page, where I'll upload my favourite photos. 

      So far, I've added photos of my home city, London, UK. Over the coming weeks, I'll start adding wildlife photos too.

      Please do have a visit and if you like what you see, feel free to 'like' my page, so you can find out about future updates more easily.

      Thursday, 26 August 2010

      Canon News: Clutch of new lenses

      Canon have upgraded some of their 'big dog' white lenses, a new 'not-sure-who-will-buy-it' L-series zoom, the two extenders and also a fish-eye zoom too!  They're also on the case updating the 500mm and 600mm f/4 lenses too (Due December 2011)...

      Canon EF 300 f/2.8 L IS II and 400 f/2.8 L IS II

      As a wildlife photographer, these are the most exciting lenses.  I've hired the 300 f/2.8 L IS for trips to the Arctic and Namibia and would struggle to fault its quality.  Well, it's been improved alongside its closest brother, both with new design and materials meaning a welcome weight saving too.

      300mm f/2.8L IS II

      • 300mm f/2.8 high-performance super-telephoto lens
      • Part of Canon’s acclaimed L series
      • Durable, rugged and lightweight
      • 4 stop Image Stabilizer
      • Enhanced image quality with SWC coating
      • 3 IS modes
      • Quiet and fast autofocus 
      More details here 

      Due Late August 2011

      400mm f/2.8L IS II

      • 400mm f/2.8 ultra-high-performance super-telephoto lens
      • Part of Canon’s acclaimed L series
      • 4 stop Image Stabilizer
      • 3 IS modes
      • Durable, rugged design
      • Enhanced image quality
      • Quiet and fast autofocus 
      More details here.

      Due Late August 2011

      Canon EF 70-300mm f4-5.6L IS USM

      • High performance telephoto zoom lens
      • Part of Canon’s acclaimed L series
      • 4 stop Image Stabilizer
      • Two UD elements
      • Highly resistant to dust and water
      • 8 blade circular aperture
      • Quiet & fast autofocus
      • Compatible with a tripod collar 

      (If this tickles your fancy, you may also want to check out one of the 70-200 L IS lenses (there's a new f/2.8 version, or the f/4 one), alongside a 1.4x extender)

      More details here

      1.4x III and 2x III Extenders
      • Extends the master lens focal length by 1.4x/ 2.0x
      • Outstanding image quality
      • Highly resistant to dust and water
      • Improved communication between lens and camera
      • Optimised lens coatings
      • Compatible with L-Series telephoto and telephoto zoom lenses
       More details here.

      EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM

      • Circular or full frame Fisheye zoom lens
      • Part of Canon’s acclaimed L series
      • Durable and rugged design
      • Quiet and fast autofocus
      • Full-time manual focusing
      • Easier lens cleaning 
      Due late July 2011.

      More details here.

      Canon News: EOS 60D released

      Canon have finally released the replacement to the Canon 50D, in the form of the 60D.  It's trying to squeeze inbetween some very similar siblings in the 550D and 7D - and borrows features from both. 

      Features include:
      • 18 MP APS-C CMOS sensor
      • Advanced creative features
      • Vari-angle 7.7cm (3.0”) 3:2 ratio LCD
      • Full HD movies
      • DIGIC 4
      • ISO 100-6400, H:12800
      • 5.3fps shooting for up to 58 JPEGs
      • 9-point cross type AF System
      • iFCL metering with 63-zone Dual-layer Sensor 

      Unfortunately, it looks like the featureset does NOT include weather-sealing, or a magnesium body (it's plastic).  There's also no micro AF lens adjustment, although it's possible it will be included in revised firmware before its launched, as people are rightly kicking-up a fuss that it isn't included. 

      Here it can be ordered, or price compared to its nearest siblings:

      Some more details here.

      Sunday, 22 August 2010

      Canon News: Trio of compacts released

      Canon have released three new compact cameras.  I've always found Canon's range of compact cameras bewildering and this hasn't helped!

      Canon PowerShot S95
      • HS System and f/2 lens
      • High-sensitivity 10.0 MP CCD
      • 28 mm wide, 3.8x zoom lens, Hybrid IS
      • Lens Control Ring, Full Manual and RAW
      • 7.5 cm (3.0") PureColor II G LCD
      • HD movies, HDMI
      • High Dynamic Range mode
      • Smart Auto
      • Multi-Aspect Shooting
      • Optional Waterproof Case

      More details here.

      Canon PowerShot SX130 IS

      • 12x, wide-angle (28 mm) lens with IS
      • 12.1 MP sensor
      • Smart Auto and Easy modes detect 28 scene types
      • 7.5 cm (3.0") LCD
      • HD movies
      • Smart Shutter with Wink Self-Timer
      • Shooting modes include Miniature Effect movie
      • Hints & Tips
      • Full Manual control
      • i-Contrast 

      More details here.

      Canon IXUS 1000HS / PowerShot SD4500 IS

      • 10x optical zoom with IS
      • Compact, stylish metal body
      • HS System, 10.0 MP CMOS sensor
      • Full HD movies, Dynamic IS
      • 7.6 cm (3.0") PureColor II G LCD
      • Super Slow Motion Movie
      • Smart Auto and Smart FE
      • Shooting modes, Best Image Selection
      • Wink Self-Timer
      • Hints & Tips

      More details here.

      Thursday, 19 August 2010

      Nikon News: new Nikkor lenses

      Four new lenses from Nikon:

      AF-S NIKKOR 85MM F/1.4G

      • Fast f/1.4 aperture
      • Newly-developed optical system with 10 elements in 9 groups
      • Incorporates Nikon’s exclusive anti-reflection Nano Crystal coat, drastically reducing ghosting and flare
      • Dedicated Silent Wave Motor (SWM) to ensure quiet and accurate focusing
      • Magnesium body and sealing against moisture and dust 
      More details here

      AF-S NIKKOR 24-120MM F/4G ED VR

      • 5x zoom lens for FX format D-SLR photographers
      • Excellent value and performance in a compact package for adventurous photographers everywhere
      • Second generation Vibration Reduction system (VR II)
      • Design uses Nano Crystal coat, two ED glass elements and no less than three aspherical lens elements to maintain bright, high contrast images
      • Very discreet autofocus performance with instant Manual override possible in M/A mode
      More details here

      AF-S NIKKOR 28-300MM F/3.5-5.6G ED VR

      • Huge 10.7 zoom ratio makes it the ultimate ‘walkabout’ lens.
      • Two ED and three aspherical elements to effectively manage the risk of aberrations that can occur with super-zoom lenses
      • Second generation Vibration Reduction system (VR II)
      • Can focus as close as 50cm at all focal lengths for added flexibility
      • The Silent Wave Motor (SWM) was designed specifically to deliver quiet and accurate AF operation across the extended zoom range with intuitive manual override
      More details here

      AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300MM F/4.5-5.6G ED VR


      • 5.5 times zoom ratio offers flexibility by drastically extending the telephoto reach
      • Incorporates high quality ED and new HRI (High Refractive Index) glass elements to help deliver crisp images, even under harsh lighting conditions.
      • Second generation Vibration Reduction system (VR II)
      • Weather sealed mount, which prevents moisture and dust infiltrating the lens or camera sensor
      More details here

      Nikon News: D3100 DSLR launched

      Nikon have launched a new entry-level DSLR, the not-that-snappily-named D3100:

      Features are as follows:
      • 4.2 megapixel DX-format CMOS image sensor delivers lifelike images with vivid colors, reduced noise and smooth tonal gradations.
      • EXPEED 2 image processing engine provides enhanced movie recording, high-sensitivity performance and maximum image quality.
      • High ISO (100-3200) light sensitivity - extendable up to 12800: features an Auto ISO setting and is manually extendable up to ISO 12800 using the Hi2 setting. Enables faster shutter speeds, significantly reducing the risk of blurred images when you shoot fast-moving subjects or take pictures in low light.
      • GUIDE mode: quick and easy-to-use in-camera assistance. Asks you about the picture you want to take and automatically optimizes settings for superior results. Sample images appear on the display to show you what will happen to your image if you apply the suggested settings.
      • D-Movie – full HD (1920 x 1080) movie clips: record beautiful high-definition (HD) movie clips with sound. The camera’s large image sensor and high ISO sensitivity offer exceptional image quality. NIKKOR lenses can be used to obtain cinematic effects and you can make simple edits of your clips in-camera by deleting scenes or saving specific frames as still images.
      • Live View with Scene Auto Selector: makes it easy to compose images using the LCD monitor. Scene Auto Selector will select the best mode for the scene and subject you want to capture, and Fulltime servo AF (AF-F) mode keeps subjects in focus without the need to press the shutter release button.
      • Large 7.5 cm (3-inch), high-resolution LCD monitor makes it easy to view essential camera information, and a pleasure to review and edit your photos and movies.
      • Razor-sharp 11-point Autofocus system offers fast and precise autofocus coverage across the frame. Four AF-area modes, including 3D-tracking AF, deliver sharp results, whether your subject is off-center, moving fast or completely unpredictable.
      • Active D-Lighting automatically retains details in highlights and shadows for stunning images with natural contrast.
      • Picture Controls lets you set the look and mood of your images before you shoot. Choose from six settings: Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Monochrome, Portrait and Landscape.
      • Extensive in-camera editing functions let you edit and enhance images and movies in the camera. Offers techniques such as Red-Eye Correction and Quick Retouch, as well as a range of Filter Effects.
      • Dual Integrated dust reduction system: Image Sensor Cleaning and Airflow Control systems keep dust away from the camera’s image sensor for clear, spot-free images.
      • Lightweight body and superior ergonomics: a secure grip makes the camera comfortable to handle. Dedicated controls for frequently used functions like Live View, D-Movie and shutter release make it a joy to operate.
      More details here.

      Thursday, 22 July 2010

      Canon News: Revised firmware for EOS 7D

      Canon have launched revised firmware for their popular cropped-sensor EOS 7D.  Verion 1.2.2 fixes the following:
      1. Fixes a phenomenon in which the set aperture moves when shooting movies in manual exposure mode using some Canon lenses (such as macro lenses).
      2. Fixes the AF point-selection behavior of the C.Fn III-7 (Manual AF pt. selec. pattern) custom function when set to [1].
      3. Fixes the AF point display for the viewfinder electronic level when shooting in the vertical position.
      4. Corrects misspellings in the Spanish and Thai menus for applicable products.
      It's available to download from here.

      Wednesday, 7 July 2010

      Canon News: Revised firmware for Rebel T2i / 550D and ID Mk IV

      Canon have released firmware version 1.08 for the Rebel T2i / 550D and 1D Mark IV.  It fixes a bug in movie mode, where the set aperture moves unexpectedly when shooting movies in manual exposure mode using some Canon lenses (such as macro lenses).  Some Spanish and French typos are also fixed in the 1D Mk4 update.  

      Updated firmware available below:

      Rebel T21/550D
      1D Mark IV

      Sunday, 4 July 2010

      Microstock News: Crestock acquired by Masterfile Corporation

      Struggling Microstock site Crestock has been given a kiss of life by an established Canadian firm called Masterfile Corporation.  The press release gives more details.  Additionally, another link on Crestock's site makes some references to the problems which they'll now hope to resolve for contributors (e.g. not approving images in a timely fashion, or paying them!).

      Friday, 25 June 2010

      Microstock News: iStock release iPhone app

      Microstock player iStockphoto have just launched an iPhone application, available from the iTunes App Store.  It wont allow downloads (you probably wouldn't want them on your phone), but does allow browsing of the collection and for contributors, their all important stats!

      More details here.

      Tuesday, 22 June 2010

      Microstock news: Fotolia launches desktop-based stock photo app

      Fotolia have just launched an Adobe AIR desktop widget  - allowing you to search and buy stock imagery, video and vectors direct from your PC or Mac. 

      It's free and easy to install.  More information available here.

      As well as using this new application or going direct to the microstock site, there is one other way to get your stock imagery - via free Microsoft Office ribbon plugins.  Fotolia have one and so do iStockphoto.



      Sunday, 20 June 2010

      Microstock News: Stockfresh enters the ring!

      Peter Hamza and Andras Pfaff of Dream Group (who used to run microstock sites and stock.xchng) have just launched a new offering: Stockfresh.

      For buyers there are are on-demand and subscription options.  Try searching now in the collection to see if there's something you're after:

      It promises some impressive commissions for contributors - from 50%, alongside FTP uploads and only a $50 minimum Paypal or Moneybookers payout.

      Sigma news: Potential AF issue with recent zoom lenses

      Sigma has discovered that there may be an autofocus issue with some of its recent zoom lenses:
      • --- APO 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM
        --- Serial Numbers between 10633051 and 10972000
      • --- APO 120-400mm F4.5-5.6 DG OS HSM
        --- Serial Numbers between 10574001 and 10972000
      • --- APO 150-500mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM
        --- Serial Numbers between 10674301 and 10972000
       Details of how they'll help you get it fixed available here.


      Microstock news: Getty extends Flickr deal

      For a couple of years, Getty have had a relationship with Flickr where as they scan the millions of Flickr images, if Getty find something which fits with their requirements, they may invite the photographer to join the Getty collection (100,000 images have done so to-date).  In return, the photographer would earn commission on any sales.

      Now, a revised deal has been struck where Flickr members can nominate themselves for consideration.  Predictably, there are two sides of the debate - those that thinks it's an easy, accessible way for photographers to monetise their art... and others who think naive photographers are being exploited (the commission is  30% for Rm and 20% for RF.

      More details and an interesting Q&A with Getty available on BJP.  How to join in the process is described on the Flickr blog.

      Tuesday, 25 May 2010

      Canon News: 5D Mk II Firmware released v2.0.7

      Canon have released a minor firmware update for the full-frame 5D Mk II.  It fixes the following:
      1. Fixes a phenomenon in which the aperture exhibits abnormal movement when shooting movies in manual exposure mode and Aperture Priority AE (Av mode) using some Canon lenses (such as macro lenses).
      2. Fixes a phenomenon in which the exposure level shown in the LCD panel differs from what is shown in the viewfinder when shooting still images in manual exposure mode.
      3. Fixes a phenomenon in which the Wireless File Transmitter (WFT-E4 or WFT-E4 II) may not automatically power off when used for FTP transfers.
      These phenomenon only occur with the Version 2.0.4 and Version 2.0.3 firmware.
      The Version 2.0.7 firmware being released this time is for cameras with firmware up to Version 2.0.4. If the camera's firmware is already Version 2.0.7, it is not necessary to update the firmware.

      More instructions available here.

      Saturday, 8 May 2010

      Photography - My Top 5

      With manufacturers constantly dangling the latest 'gear carrots' in front of our noses (e.g. for me, it's the Canon EF 70-200mm F/2.8 L IS II USM Lens), tempting us to depart with our hard-earned cash, I thought I'd reflect on what things have actually improved my photography standard.  

      It would be great to hear your views too and the whole point of the exercise is that it doesn't have to be new gear, it might be an exhibition you visited, a book you read, another photographer, etc.  

      Here's my 'Top 5':

      1. Visiting Costa Rica.  I'd always had a passing interest in photography and enjoyed the outdoors, but it was on a trip to Costa Rica where it all came together so magically.  For such a small country, it's crammed with 5% of the globe's biodiversity in it and it's simply breathtaking.  I'd recommend an operator like Exodus, where you can more efficiently get around to the key sites and the local guide that supported our trip was exceptional.
      2. Asking for honest feedback.  It's great to hear compliments, but we're probably going to improve more with some honest, constructive feedback.  Although there have been plenty of times I've been excited about a shot (usually because of the story behind the shot), it's sometimes good (albeit sometimes painful) to hear what someone who wasn't there thinks!
      3. Photo magazine subscription.  Although there are tons of books that will promise to help improve photography, I find a monthly subscription to a magazine a great way to get regular 'bite-size' chunks of inspiration and guidance.  I'd recommend Digital Camera in the UK.
      4. Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Speaking of books, if I can't make the exhibition, I'll always hope that Father Christmas gets me the hardback 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year' book.  It's the world's best wildlife photography competition and the winning photos are incredible (except if it's a wolf in sheep's clothing!).
      5. Other people's photos.  Obvious enough, but before I head anywhere or snap a particular subject, I always check out Flickr to see what other people have done.  Not to copy directly, but to inspire me.

      So that's my Top 5 - not a whiff of a piece of gear! What would yours be?

      Tuesday, 4 May 2010

      Microstock: A guide to a simple workflow

      Microstock is all about selling lots of images, so it's essential to have an efficient workflow when submitting photos for approval, especially if you're submitting to multiple agencies.  Below is a brief guide to the tools/steps I use, but it would be great to hear of other recommendations, as I'd love to keep my uploading time down to a minimum!
      • Take great photos (the really hard bit!), ideally with perfect composition, commericial content and great light.  Definitely take in RAW format and with as low an ISO as possible.
      • Download photos to a computer and get ready to do the RAW conversion and then any editing.  I use Adobe Photoshop Elements 6.0, but for those with more generous budgets, Adobe have other products available:

        •  Do any necessary editing, which may include:
          • Cropping, straightening horizons and adjusting perspective
          • Removing any copyright/trademarks
          • Adding layers to adjust levels, saturation, etc.
          • Zooming in, then using the healing tools to remove spot marks
          • Sharpening
          • [adding keywords and captions, if possible - it isn't in Photoshop Elements 6.0 -grrr!]
          • Saving as a .jpg at the highest image quality
        • To help think about suitable keywords (essential otherwise buyers wont find your great photos), there are a couple of tools out there which can help.  I use the excellent tool developed by Yuri Arcurs, the legendary microstocker.
        • Rather than add keywords at each site individually, it saves a load of time to do this before submission.   I use Geosetter for this, if you can't do it in your editing software
        • Now for uploading... I use two approaches:
        Which tricks am I missing?!?

          Monday, 3 May 2010

          Professional Photographers - a new business strategy?

          Microstock is an opportunity for professional photographers, not a threat. In this article, using the simplest form of business strategy analysis (SWOT), I'll help you see why.

          What is Microstock?

          Microstock is the business model of selling multiple copies of the same image at a price lower than traditional rights-managed images. That doesn't necessarily mean they're of a lower quality. It's a great response to a changing environment. I am one these 'evil' microstock contributors - my portfolios can be viewed at various sites such as iStock, Shutterstock and Dreamstime.

          What is a 'SWOT' Analysis?

          A SWOT analysis is a simple way to help you analysis the strengths and weaknesses of your business, as well as the external threats and opportunities within which you operate. Using a simple template (example), you can construct one for your own business, but below is some generic analysis about microstock. The aim is to turn the threat of microstock into an opportunity; and your weaknesses into additional strengths.

          THREAT - lower 'barriers to entry'

          It is essential, as any business should, that it reviews, understands and if necessary, adopts or adapts to the changing external environment. And the major change for photographers is with the advent of digital, the 'barriers to entry' have been demolished. This may be perceived as a threat to some of the traditional ways professional photographers may have made their living. Here are some examples of what's changed:

          • Professional level quality images can be taken using prosumer-grade cameras (and cameras are now better, e.g. image stabilisation, better low-light performance, etc.)
          • The cost of storage space has fallen
          • High-power post processing techniques are available in consumer software
          • The internet has meant the marketplace is now global in reach - marketing is cheaper and exclusive relationships are less relevant
          • Web 2.0 (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) promotes a virtual community of friends, fans and followers

          All of this means, it's much, much easier for anyone to enter the photography industry. And this isn't going to change in a hurry. So it's time to get used to a marketplace with a greater supply of images.


          Hang on a minute though, if we have a careful look at the 'doom and gloom' above, we might notice several opportunities which you might be able to exploit:

          • With better kit, can you now take higher-quality photographs than you used to?
          • The marketplace is now global, not just local/regional/national. And as the cost for others to publish reduces (e.g. via blogs), demand for cheap imagery will continue to sky-rocket
          • There are new photographers entering the market - what have you got which could help them? (see strengths below)
          • You can benefit from lower costs of storage and processing too
          • You could use Web 2.0 to find out a lot more about opportunities to sell your services?


          Which strengths do you posses, which new entrants to your market do not posses? Well, quite a few I'd expect:
          • You're good, possibly exceptional, at photography. That comes with many years of experience and can't be recreated easily
          • You have a huge library of images - a ready-made marketing portfolio
          • You know other professional photographers
          • You have a load of valuable equipment such as lenses, probably out of financial reach of the new entrants
          • You may be well-known and have a great reputation in your particular field
          • Depending on your area of focus, you're probably a patient person and a perfectionist
          Interesting, that's quite a few feathers in your cap, isn't it? But you probably think you have some weaknesses too?


          That's for you to think about. But I bet you can get around them!

          What now?

          You have four choices - denial, adopt, adapt, or a combination of adopt and adapt.

          1.) Denial

          Some are hoping that the new industry will just go away, or it's a minor, irrelevant, irritant. And some choose to cast microstock in a poor light (example). History would suggest this tactic will not last forever (e.g. the music industry denying digital downloads will be successful; .the US car industry not seeing a threat from the Japanese).

          2.) Adopt

          Why not join microstock? Rather than replace your existing work, perhaps it can compliment it? And if you think the quality of microstock is so poor, check out iStock's Vetta Collection for some reassurance. I'd also recommend Shutterstock as a site to consider signing-up to - with a royalty-free contract, you can sign-up to as many sites as you wish (although going exclusive may pay higher commissions).

          3.) Adapt

          Can you adapt the way you make money from photography to exploit the changing industry dynamic? Of course you can - here are some examples:
          • Hire my equipment out to local microstock photographers
          • Teach local microstock photographers how to be better
          • Use the Web 2.0 technologies to market my existing business and find new opportunities
          • Upgrade to the latest equipment allowing better use of low-light and new techniques in post-processing (e.g. HDR)
          4.) Adopt and adapt

          See 2 and 3 above.


          We're living in very exciting times - never before has the photography industry been under such seismic shifts in demand and supply. That isn't a threat - it's an opportunity.

          What do you think?