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?