Rocky Mountain School of Photography » Equipment and Software Thu, 28 Aug 2014 21:06:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Flossing with Keywords Tue, 22 Apr 2014 16:00:07 +0000 READ MORE >]]> Dentists know a thing or two about healthy teeth and you may have heard Dr. Molars say, “You only have to floss the teeth you want to keep.”

As photographers using image editing programs like Aperture, iPhoto, Lightroom, Photoshop, etc., this anecdote could apply in some ways to our image file organization…meaning, “You only have to add keywords to the files you want to find.” It’s an easy task to do each time you edit or add image files and if we integrate the task into our everyday workflow, finding any file you want becomes a piece of cake. Yes, you’ll be able to find that “needle in a haystack” from images taken yesterday or years ago without much effort.

Some folks might be asking, “What’s a keyword?”

The describes a keyword as:
A word used as a reference point for finding other words or information…as photographers that information is keyword metadata attached to image files.

People use keywords when they type into the Google search box to find web pages, for example. It’s no different here, except we’ll be adding the keywords in our image organization software so we can search for our photographs.

It’s certainly easy to find your photographs if you just started taking pictures, and taking the time to add keywords might seem unimportant at this point. That will change over time, however, and become much more challenging as your library of images becomes gi-normous…it will I promise. So, why not make adding keywords a “good habit” right from the start?

If you’re someone like me who had previously added thousands of images into my photo library, adding the appropriate keywords to all those files might seem like a daunting task and it certainly would be if you tried to complete the whole task in one sitting. If you approach the task in smaller bites you’ll be done before you know it. For example; try adding a few when you’re looking at existing files to do a certain project or how about when you’re downloading a cool movie or music from iTunes…you get the idea.

Getting started is simple, but there’s a few things to consider now so the keywords you’ll acquire over time are easy to manage as well.

  • The camera/lens and exposure metadata is already written to the image file when you take the photo and is searchable, so it would be redundant to add any of this information as keywords. The industry also calls this specific type of metadata “EXIF data” or Exchangeable Image File Format data…now you can really impress your photography friends!
  • When you are adding keywords always separate the words with a comma and then a space between them (or they will be considered one keyword). Good keywords: big, Martha, dog - Not so good: big Martha dog…Martha might get a little upset if she found out and not because her dog is big. You get the point!
  • Keep it simple whenever possible and use one word descriptions that have meaning to you. These could be adjectives, verbs and/or nouns that will help in your search when you need to find a photo.

Adjectives: cute, blue, round
Verbs: running, blowing, blurred
Nouns: waterfall, boy, Kevin, cloud

Here’s a good list of keywords for the image on the left:













Keywords can be added to image files in nearly all image editing programs these days including Aperture, iPhoto, Lightroom and Photoshop, although the convention in which they’re added might be a little different. For example, in iPhoto the placeholder for keywords is labeled “add a description”:





In Photoshop’s Bridge organizer the place holder is labeled “keywords”:







In Lightroom, it’s in the Library Module and since most folks are using this program as their “go to” editing software, let’s look a little more closely at adding keywords in this program.

When you open the Keywording panel in the Library Module there are a few places to add the words. These are labeled Keyword; Tags, Suggestions and Set.

LR_Library Module


Keyword tags1. Tags is the place to type in and add your keywords to one or more image files that have been selected in the grid mode.





Keyword suggestions2. Suggestions is a list of recently used keywords that are continually updated with the most recent words that you have added. You can click on these to add keywords to one or more image files that have been selected in the grid mode.



Keyword set3. Sets are a group of keywords. You can create the group (as a preset) or use what LR has when it was installed. These are words you frequently use to describe images like winter landscape, wedding, food or even the names of relatives in your family.



Keyword_ListThe Keywords List panel in Lightroom is a reference for all the keywords you’ve added over time. This is “the place” to edit your growing list of keywords…meaning organizing and deleting words. It’s also another place to add a keyword to other photographs although it’s not the most convenient or logical place to do it.










Once the image files have one or more keywords (metadata) attached, they are now searchable using the text filter.  In Lightroom, this is located above the image display window in the Filter Bar. Just type in a keyword and “Bing Botta Bang” and there’s the images you were looking for…Wahoo!



Want to learn more from Doug Johnson?

Visit his profile page and check out his RMSP offerings in 2014!


Want to learn more about using Lightroom?

Join RMSP instructors on one of these upcoming workshops:

Lightroom for Photographers in Ronkonkoma, NY
Lightroom for Photographers in Minneapolis, MN
Lightroom for Photographers in Missoula, MT







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What’s That NOISE? Part 2 Fri, 11 Apr 2014 22:25:22 +0000 READ MORE >]]> In the last post I covered the most widely recognized cause of digital noise in your photographs and solutions for removing and minimizing this problem. Now I want to cover two other causes and how to combat the different noise that results

Cause #2: Exposure

Didn’t see that one coming did you?

We love digital photography because we can fix our mistakes on the computer after the fact.  e all underexpose our images from time to time and lighten them later but this isn’t really any different than what’s going on when you’re shooting at high ISO’s. By underexposing your images you are dropping the signal closer to the level of the noise and by lightening it in Lightroom or Photoshop you are boosting both the signal and noise similar to the way your camera would have done by shooting at a high ISO.

In fig 5 I overlaid two pictures of the same subject. On the left is a photo taken at the proper exposure and on the right is a photo that was underexposed by 2 stops and then lightened. You’ll clearly see a crosshatch pattern much like the effect of shooting through a screen door.  This is really unpleasant and easily avoidable.

Fig 6

Solution #2

Um…don’t underexpose your images!  Okay, that one is obvious and I know that it’s consistent with your goals anyway.  The crazy thing is that many photographers, when first starting out, have been told to intentionally underexpose their images.

Try to get the best exposure possible and beware of what will happen when you shoot at high ISO’s and underexpose…screen door city!

Cause #3: Long Exposure

The process of creating long exposures produces a whole different type of noise and requires another approach to eliminating it.

Every time you take a picture, your camera charges your sensor while the exposure is being made.  The longer your exposure the longer the sensor receives the charge.  As you may have guessed, the sensor heats up when it’s being charged so longer exposures result in the sensor getting hotter.  By using really long exposures (let’s say anything longer than 8 seconds for older cameras and 15 seconds for newer ones) your camera’s sensor starts exhibiting noise due to this heat.  This is often called thermal noise and, as you might expect, more heat = more noise.

As your sensor heats up, different pixels on your sensor start to “fail.”  This looks like specks of false color that are most apparent in the mid tone and dark areas within your photo (see Fig 6).

Fig 7

Newer cameras do better at long exposures than old ones but every camera has its limit.  The fortunate thing about this type of noise is that it’s predictable and repeatable and that makes it easy to remove.


Solution #3  Let your camera do the work!

There’s a setting in your camera, called Long Exposure Noise Reduction (Long exposure NR) that you want to turn ON.

Here’s what it does. Say you take a 10 second exposure. Your camera will operate normally during that 10 seconds but then it will take a second exposure for 10 seconds with the shutter closed creating a Dark Slide. For both exposures the sensor was charged for 10 seconds and in both cases it produced the same thermal noise at exactly the same pixels; in the photo you took and the Dark Slide that your camera took. Then your camera goes through a process called dark slide subtraction in which it identifies the pixels that failed in the dark slide and fixes those exact pixels in your photo.  Some cameras differ in the way they do this but the process works like magic and there is no equivalent in computer post processing that comes close so be sure to use this awesome camera feature.

Turn it on and leave it on, it only goes through the process on long exposures.

BE WARNED! You’ve got to remember that this feature is on so that you don’t think your camera is broken the first few times you use it.  Remember that your camera is taking a second “picture” after it took yours.  If your exposure was 30 seconds long then the dark slide is also 30 seconds long. That means your camera will prevent you from doing anything (like hitting “play” to see your photo) for those 30 seconds and then a few more while it performs dark slide subtraction. You’ll be standing there in the dark thinking your camera is broken but it’s just doing its job. In fact it will tell you so on the top of the camera.  It will say something like JOB or NR on the LCD. Let the camera do its thing and don’t turn it off during this process.  When it’s finished, prepare to be amazed with your gorgeous image, free from thermal noise.

BE WARNED #2.  Long exposures eat up batteries and you’re taking two of ‘em for every photo.  Be prepared to go through batteries quickly!

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Using Photoshop CC to Prepare a Picture for Photo Lab Printing Mon, 17 Mar 2014 23:13:09 +0000 READ MORE >]]> In my last post I described the process of getting a single image ready for photo lab printing using Lightroom 5. In this article, I am illustrating the comparable process using Photoshop CC. Note that all the steps can also be accomplished with most older versions of Photoshop as well as many versions of Photoshop Elements. So no matter which edition of the photo editing program you have, you should find some information to help you correctly prepare your favorite image for printing.

[Note: The Save As screens are from a Windows computer. If you use a Mac, your Save As screens look different but all the same choices are available.]

Select a Picture

To begin, select an adjusted master photo from Bridge. This picture should be one you have already worked on to enhance its exposure, contrast and color to make it look its best.

EysterKathy_01 Bridge Masters

You can crop your image to improve its composition, too, without having to use a specific size at this point. But if you plan to order a specific proportion for your print later (such as 8×10), you may want to keep that in mind. Also decide the print dimensions you want and the resolution you need. In this example, I want an 8×12 inch horizontal print at 300 ppi resolution.

Rafferty Spring 2012

Save a Copy

To protect your original master file, make a copy of the adjusted picture. Working on a copy is important because you will be resizing the image and changing the original number of pixels. In the future, if you decide you want to print the same image at a different size, either larger or smaller, you would open the original master document and create new copy for that print. So your master edited photo remains unaffected.

Save the copy as either a PSD or a TIFF file because these do not compress your picture. When you name your copy, include the print dimensions for future reference. In my example, I call the picture “daisy blue 8×12” because I plan to order an 8×12 inch print size.

EysterKathy_02 Save As PSD

Size the Photo

Now you need to change the size of the picture to match both the dimensions of the paper you want it printed on as well as the resolution necessary for the best quality. Using the Image Size command seems like the logical choice. However, Image Size does not allow you to set an exact dimension. It only fits the photo into a box of the size you specify. This could result in your picture being smaller than your intended size, creating a unwanted extra border around the print instead of the image extending all the way to the edge of the paper.

A better way to change the size and resolution of your picture is to use the Crop tool. After you select the Crop tool, check the Options bar at the top of the screen below the menus. Here you tell Photoshop the exact dimensions and resolution you want for your picture.


EysterKathy_03 Crop Tool Options

In the Options bar, change the Preset drop-down list from “Ratio” to “W x H x Resolution” for “width x height x resolution”. Photoshop remembers your choice here, so it will be the same the next time you select the Crop tool.

Type in the dimensions you want for the print size. Photoshop uses the unit of measure that you have set in preferences. The default unit is inches (in) or you can specify centimeters by adding “cm” after the number. I type 12 for W, 8 for H and 300 for resolution in the appropriate boxes. (You might consider using 200 ppi if you are creating a print larger than 16×20 inches.)

The last choice is “Delete Cropped Pixels.” You can leave this turned on or off. When you save the final print file as a JPEG, Photoshop deletes any preserved pixels.

Adjust the sides of the cropping box to suit and press the Enter or Return key to apply it. Depending on the original size of your file, the picture may either shrink or enlarge on screen to meet your size and  resolution requirements.

Sharpen the Image

Changing the size of your image changes the number of pixels in the file, either deleting extras or adding new ones. As a result, important edges lose their crisp appearance. In addition, the printing process also softens these edges slightly. So to return your picture to its best appearance, you need to sharpen it.

To begin, flatten adjustment and other layers into a single layer using Layer > Flatten Image. Then duplicate the background layer by pressing Ctrl+J (Windows) or Cmd+J (Mac). Applying the sharpening to its own layer lets you easily adjust or delete it if you need to.

From the Filter menu choose Sharpen > Smart Sharpen. The initial size of this window offers a very small preview. It’s best to be able to see lots of your photo at 100% magnification. So drag a corner to resize the box and get a much larger preview.

Within the preview window click and drag to a part of the image that has important details that need to be properly sharpened. Adjust the sliders and click OK when you are satisfied. (See this Adobe video for more on using the Smart Sharpen filter.)

EysterKathy_04 Smart Sharpen small


EysterKathy_05 smart sharpen big

Convert to the Appropriate Color Spac

Last, you need to be sure the image file is in the correct color space for the photo lab. All labs can understand the sRGB color space. A few professional labs can also interpret Adobe RGB correctly. Check with your lab ahead of time to see what they prefer. If you can’t find this information, use sRGB as it is the safest.

To be sure your photo is using the right color space (or profile), from the Edit menu choose Convert to Profile. At the top is the current (Source) color space of your picture. Next is the new (Destination) color space you want Photoshop to use. Click the drop-down list and select “sRGB IEC61966-2.1.” You can leave the other choices at their default settings and click OK.

EysterKathy_06 Convert to sRGB

Save the Photo as a JPEG File

Now your picture file is ready to be saved. It has the right dimensions and the correct resolution. It has been sharpened and converted to the appropriate color space. From the File menu, choose Save As. Select a Prints folder on your desktop (to make it easy to locate your file for uploading). Include the print size in the name and change the file type to JPEG. Click Save.

EysterKathy_07 Save As JPEG
Photoshop displays another window of JPEG Options where you specify the amount of compression applied to your picture. I recommend using Quality 10; this provides a small amount of compression that does not have a detrimental effect on your image and usually cuts the file size in half. Also be sure to set the Format Options to “Baseline (“Standard”)” and then click OK.
Now your photo is ready to upload to your favorite photo lab!

EysterKathy_08 JPEG Options



Want to learn more from Kathy Eyster?

Visit her profile page and check out her RMSP offerings in 2014!

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The Crop Factor Explained Mon, 21 Oct 2013 23:34:12 +0000 READ MORE >]]> Teaching in the Career Training, Workshops and Photo Weekends programs for RMSP I get a lot of questions. (Bring ‘em on, I love questions!)  One equipment-related topic seems to be more of a stumbling block for new photographers than any other.  At some point we’re all told that our lenses are going to perform differently from camera to camera.  Friends, camera store employees and magazines throw around words like crop factor and explanations are given, but many people still are left scratching their heads.

I’m going to try to break it down for you in hopes that it will clear things up.  Hold on tight because it’s gonna seem like math class for a while.  If nothing else, enjoy the pictures of the cute kid.

Here it goes…

Before the days of digital SLRs, lenses were pretty straightforward.  A 100mm lens was a 100mm lens.  Nowadays the same lens will behave very differently based on the camera on which the lens is mounted.

This phenomenon is commonly called Crop Factor or Field of View (FOV) crop.  To understand what’s going on we first need to review a few basics:


Field of View describes the amount of your scene a given lens takes in.

  • A wide angle lens takes in large amount of the scene.
  • A telephoto lens takes in a very narrow part of the scene


How your Lens Works…well kind of.

Your lens is a cylinder that focuses light inside your camera, which is probably not a surprise to you.  Being a cylinder, your lens projects a circle of light onto the digital sensor in the back of your camera (upside down and backwards of course, but that’s for another article).  This is called the image circle. (fig. 1)


Figure 1


Film and Digital Sensors

Your digital sensor sits inside the image circle just as your film did back in the day.  The lens and your DSLR camera body were designed based on Film SLR dimensions and the need to cover a piece of 35 mm film with the image circle.  The image circle was projected onto the film so that most of the circle was recorded by the rectangular piece of film. A full frame digital sensor is the same size as a piece of film (approx. 1”x1.5”) and, as a result, takes in the same amount of the image circle. (fig. 2)


Figure 2

Digital Sensors and Their Sizes

A full frame digital sensor doesn’t alter the field of view of the lens because it fills the image circle in the same way that a piece of film did. Not all digital sensors are the same size, however, and this affects the Field of View that your lens takes in.

The two most common sensor sizes are “Full Frame” and APS-C or “crop sensor”.  An APS-C sensor measures roughly .8”x.5 inches, or half the length and width of a full frame sensor.  The image circle projected by a given lens remains the same on all cameras but the APS-C sensor takes up a smaller area within the circle. When placed inside the same image circle, the APS-C sensor will take in significantly less of the image circle than the Full Frame sensor.  (Fig. 3)


Figure 3

So by using the same lens on a camera with an APS-C sensor you will get an image with a Field of View that is narrower than with a Full Frame Sensor. (Fig. 4)  This is due to the fact that the smaller sensor records less of the image circle.



Figure 4

Crop Factor

Here’s another way of thinking about it…as your sensor gets smaller it will result in an image that appears like it has been taken by a lens with a longer focal length because the field of view is getting more narrow.  This change in the Field of View of your lens can also be called your effective focal length.  To determine your effective focal length you must first know the crop factor of your sensor.

Knowing the crop factor of your camera is pretty straightforward; specific cameras have specific crop factors.  Below are some common cameras and their associated crop factors.


Camera Crop Factor
Nikon D5200, D7100 (APS-C) 1.5
Nikon D3s, D4, D800, D600 (Full Frame) 1
Canon 60D, 70D, 7D, Rebel (APS-C) 1.6
Canon 1Dx, 5D mkIII, 6D (Full Frame) 1


Determining your effective focal length is a matter of following the formula below.


Actual Focal Length   X   Crop Factor   =    Effective Focal Length


So if you put the same 100mm lens on a Nikon D800 and a D7100 you will get the following effective focal lengths


Camera                        Lens                        Crop Factor                        Effective Focal Length

Nikon D800                   100mm     x                     1                                                100mm

Nikon D7100                  100mm     x                   1.5                                              150mm


Okay, so how does all this affect you? When buying a new lens (you know you want one and it’s just a matter of time) you’ll need to consider the crop factor of your camera and the resulting effects on focal length.  A 24 mm lens will end up with an effective focal length of 36mm on most crop sensor cameras.



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Dragonflies – Guest Article by Steve Russell Thu, 18 Jul 2013 22:27:59 +0000 READ MORE >]]> _MG_5280It’s easy to miss them – as I did for years riding my bike fast around the local lake – and easy to dismiss them as they whiz by at breakneck speed. But up close, dragonflies have an amazing array of colors, and set against nature’s greens and yellows and oranges and blues they make stunning macro subjects to shoot – and you don’t even need a macro lens to shoot them.

Some dragonflies fly around most of the time and roost (perch) on tall grasses or bushes only occasionally. Others roost a lot and fly less. It is when they roost that we have the best chance at decent photographs. Catching them in flight can be done, but it ain’t easy.

IMG_5284My favorite lens for shooting dragonflies is a Canon 70-200mm, f/4, IS lens with a 1.4 extender. It is infinitely lighter than the f/2.8 version and since I always shoot at f/11 or f/16, the wider aperture of the faster and more expensive lens isn’t needed. The extender gets me a little closer from a distance (4-6 feet usually) and that helps because dragonflies can often be easily spooked if you get too close. The loss of a stop of aperture with the extender (from f/4 to f/5.6) doesn’t matter with the greater depth of field settings. The image stabilization (IS) is essential because there is usually so little time for using a tripod that all of my shooting is handheld or with the help of a used carbon fiber walking stick I got at REI to brace my camera against.

Ninety percent of getting good quality images of dragonflies is showing up. Just shoot and shoot and shoot and you will begin to learn the dragonflies habits and rhythms and where and when to find them. And it will pay off in spades with the most unique and color-filled images you can imagine.

Steve Russell
IMG_0595 IMG_5284 IMG_5694 IMG_5707 IMG_5947 IMG_6086 IMG_6137 IMG_6184 IMG_6559 IMG_6631 IMG_9374 IMG_9683 _MG_5280 IMG_0465 ]]> 0
Sweet and Easy Flash Exposure Tue, 09 Jul 2013 20:15:57 +0000 READ MORE >]]> JohnsonDoug_Flash PowderBalancing ambient and flash exposure in photography has perplexed humankind since its beginnings when flash powder (yikes!) was used to light things up in the early 1800s. These early pioneers had to rely on intimate knowledge of manual flash exposure to get things right.






 - ©BlitzlichPulverPhotography

With recent advances in technology like “Through The Lens” metering (TTL)  and onboard flash unit navigation for both TTL and manual flash exposure, it’s become relatively easy peezy to get sweet results.

We still possess all the power to control the flash output manually and I’ll discuss this later in this discussion, but with TTL mode technology, the flash and camera work intelligently together to balance the ambient and flash exposure for you. Whether you’re using the little pop up flash on the camera or more powerful models that fit in the hot-shoe, it’s good exposure made simple. If you’re a Canon or Nikon shooter, these hot-shoe flash units are affectionately known as Speedlites (Canon) or Speedlights (Nikon). A fun thing about the technology is now we don’t have to relish (pun intended) in front lighting our subjects the way onboard camera flashes do… we can now move our flashes off camera, still get great exposure results and produce much more dynamic light… fantastic!

I know what your thinking… if TTL technology is so amazing, why would we even consider manual flash exposure? Here’s some food for thought and why you might choose one over the other.

Our camera’s auto exposure modes; Program, Aperture, and Shutter priorities attempt to create good exposures by juggling our camera controls and do so very well most of the time. Well, the TTL technology compliments the camera system by working to balance the ambient exposure you create with the flash exposure automatically and it also does a fantastic job “most” of the time… and since the TTL system is attempting to balance both, we should think about the flash as a fill light.

Here’s a few variables that influence (positively or negatively) the TTL exposure as it attempts to balance the two exposures:

- subject reflectivity
- volume of the frame the subject occupies
- subject to background distance
- subject position within the frame
- available light
- strength of the backlighting
- camera exposure algorithms

The photographer has some influence on the outcome, but remember, ultimately the TTL system has the final say.

In manual flash mode the two exposures rest squarely on your shoulders. Just like manual exposure mode with the camera controls… meaning, you are the commander of both (ambient and flash). Like the flash pioneers I mentioned earlier, being proficient requires knowing a thing or two about Guide Numbers (flash power), the inverse square law and “The Rule” – “shutter speed has no affect on the flash exposure”. It’s not that difficult once you understand a few basic concepts of light and flash. Manual flash is also a bit more powerful at full power (1/1) than anything TTL can dish out.

There is this little helpful app (understatement of the century) we can now use to calculate manual flash power wherever we might be with our smart phones and that’s PhotoCalc by Adair Systems LLC. Here’s a screenshot and the icon to look for when buying.









So, now let’s discuss a simple workflow to maximize our results and we can simplify the process by thinking about and accounting for the two events (ambient and flash) that happen during the overall exposure.

In TTL Flash Mode                                           TTL Exp Mode1
JohnsonDoug_TTL Exp ModeJohnsonDoug_TTL Exp Mode1







1. Meter for the ambient exposure you want (brightness) and set it.
2. Use flash exposure compensation (FEC+/-) to create the flash exposure for your subject

In Manual Flash Mode
JohnsonDoug_Manual Exp Mode







1. Meter for the ambient exposure you want (brightness) and set it.
2. Use flash power, the inverse square law (flash to subject distance), aperture and or ISO to compensate the flash exposure for your subject.

Before you grab the camera and head out the door, keep these other little keepsakes in mind when your working:

1. The camera’s sync speed when metering. It’s the fastest shutter speed the camera will allow when a flash is used. For most cameras it’s around 1/200s
2. Smaller apertures have a profound negative affect on flash exposure.
3. In manual flash mode – “Shutter speed doesn’t affect the flash exposure” – So, think about it like this : use shutter to compensate for the ambient exposure and use aperture to compensate for the flash exposure. It’s helpful to remember this acronym: SAAF (Shutter – Ambient, Aperture – Flash).
4. Know and study your histogram on the camera… it is your 21st century light meter.

*Don’t forget the fresh batteries, bring your creativity and some flash filled fun friends and you’ll be a happy little speedliter or lighter.

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Anatomy of an Interior Photo Shoot Tue, 18 Jun 2013 15:43:42 +0000 READ MORE >]]> McLain_on-set_1As the 79 new students who are in Missoula for Summer Intensive will soon learn, lighting is what can make or break a photograph. This may seem obvious when looking at an image of a spectacular sunset or harsh light on a models face. In these situations, lighting is dramatic, impressive, and “in-your-face.”  It can also be achieved with little or no additional gear. On the flip side, to light a scene in a way that makes the light appear seamless, without distracting shadows, and makes the viewer assume that there was NO lighting gear used at all can be a real challenge.

Interior photographer and RMSP lighting instructor Jeff McLain recently found himself in San Francisco after being hired to create images for an interior designer. He submitted this interesting behind-the-scenes description of the shoot. If you’re like me, you’ll love this glimpse into the gear and process of a professional photo shoot. So, without further adieu, here’s Jeff’s recap. Take it away Jeff….

After a latte and a warm cannelle, I headed into the Castro District to meet my client – a 30-something interior designer who just finished her most recent residential project. We essentially were taking overall shots of a living room and a dining room and some vignettes. In the interior world – there is a distinction between interior designers and decorators. Designers often must create original pieces of furniture, draw it, work it up in AutoCad and send it to a builder to create. Whereas decorators are more accustomed to knowing where to shop and what to get to create a certain ‘look’ in a space. This client had created many of the pieces we were photographing as well as shopped for others. At one point I shot a wall-mounted lighting fixture for her. The fixture was from a popular catalog, but she had custom-designed the lamp shade. So, while there is a distinction between the titles – often the skills cross over.

130611_Moore-1816My approach and style with interiors is clean, cheery and sunny, so that it’s showcasing the designer’s work more than doing anything too flashy with the photography. Mostly interior photography is about problem-solving and working with sometimes-complicated lighting scenarios and colors. Complicating things this day was the overcast sky – which meant I was going to be dragging the shutter and pumping a lot of light into the spaces to make it sunny.

My kit consisted of a Canon 5d Mark II body, 24 Tilt/Shift lens, 24-105 f4 and a 70-200 lens (of which I used for one shot of curtain hardware up high). I keep all my stands and scrims and soft-boxes in a couple long hard-cases that are meant to house golf clubs. My heaviest case is a Pelican case that I gutted the foam out of and filled it with A-clamps, Cartellini clamps, Superclamps, black Cinefoil, gaffer’s tape, hand tools, and gels (see thumbnail image). 2012_11-281In this case I also carry a soft gardening pad and work gloves. The pad comes in handy and offers some comfort for my knees when I need to get low and work on the ground. The gloves are ideal for handling hot lights, moving stands and coiling dusty extension cords.

The 24 TS lens is beautiful manual focus glass – but due to its wide angle, it can be tricky to use. I often find that if objects get too close, they look huge and distorted, so if I have room, I back up so that the outer border of the shot is throw-away and I can crop in to the center of the image circle – still maintain my perspective control, but lose any of the strange distortion that comes with this lens.

I brought two laptops and one Tether Tools Aero Master table with the intention of shooting into Lightroom, and a backup laptop with Phase One’s C1Pro. After the first few shots tethered, the ‘spinning beach ball’ showed up on one machine, so I switched to the other to get up and running without sucking up too much time fussing over the stalling machine. For most of the shots, I used two Profoto heads with Acute 1200 packs. One light was my ‘sun’ (and often shot productionat full power on the pack and placed outside shooting in to the space) and the other was a fill light bouncing into the ceiling inside. After each completed set-up, I would back up the raw files to a folder on a portable hard drive. Since my machine running Lightroom was acting up, I shot to C1 Pro.

Most of my exposures were around f11 with a couple at f16 and in the 1/8th of a second shutter speed range. At one point I used some prop flowers as a makeshift cucoloris to break up the light with some pattern. More often than not, I take extra exposures so later in post I can paint in slightly darker window scenes as needed, or if there are reflections on wall art, I’ll have my assistant hold some foam core and get clean plates for post-production later. Often if a lamp is close to a window, the long shutter and strobe lights make the lamp too ‘hot’ so I’ll get my assistant to gobo the light and paint those in as well. I’ve found that trying to pull some info from a darker bracket in-camera makes tones go towards dirty grey – whereas getting the extra shot at the hero exposure but with lighting tricks (or what I affectionately call “Jedi Lighting”) makes for cleaner pixels with which to work.  All of this is really par-for-the-course type stuff in this line of work.

I was longing for either a Toyo G view camera or, if I had my dream camera, a Linhof 679 medium format view camera and a digital back. But, alas, most of these clients nowadays are throwing the images on the internet and the big cameras start to feel like overkill when the end product will be twelve inches at 72 pixels resolution! Nevertheless, I hope to test out a Sinar arTec or LanTec camera someday for my architectural work. And the only other thing I wished I’d had was a 2400 ws pack and a fresnel to really pump more light in so I could shoot at ISO 100 and not 200! Work with what you got!

Nevertheless, the client was happy with the shots and we managed to knock out 7 set-ups with propping versions and extra exposures in six hours.

130611_McLain_01 130611_McLain_03 McLain_on-set_2 130611_McLain_04


Does working with studio lighting equipment interest you? Join Jeff from August 18 – 23, 2013 for his Intro to Studio Lighting workshop held in Missoula.





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Extending Your Depth of Field Wed, 05 Jun 2013 16:00:48 +0000 READ MORE >]]> Sometimes it is just impossible to get everything completely sharp within a photo, even if you stop down to the smallest aperture (such as f22 or f32).

This may be due to using longer focal length lenses (which inherently give us less depth of field), or it could be that you are trying to get something very close AND very far away sharp.

In this example of the Aspen trees, I was using a 200mm lens to visually compress the trees and remove unwanted background. This resulted in a composition where it was physically impossible to get all of the trees sharp. When faced with this type of situation the solution is to shoot several images each focused on different area of the frame and then use Photoshop to blend them together.

The image below shows the three separate images. In the first image, I focused on the front tree. For the next exposure, I focused on the second tree back. The last shot was focused so that the far tree was sharp. Each image was made at an aperture of f16 to spread out the depth of field.


Select the three images in either Lightroom or Bridge. In Lightroom choose Photo>Edit In> Open as Layers in Photoshop. In Bridge choose Tools>Photoshop>Load Files into Photoshop Layers.  The image below shows how your new document will appear with the three stacked layers.


Select the three layers by clicking one and then Ctrl-clicking (Cmd-clicking for Mac) on the others. Click the layer where I have it marked with an X.  Clicking in other spots on the layer will have a different effect. The image above shows all three layers selected (yellow) Choose Edit > Auto-Align Layers. From the resulting dialog box Choose Auto for projection. Un-check Vignette Removal and Geometric Distortion. Now that your layers are all aligned, Choose Edit>Auto Blend Layers. Choose the Stack Images option and check the Seamless Tones and Colors box as seen below.


Voila! Photoshop has blended your layers together and created a final photo that is sharp throughout. The image below shows the resulting image with the Layers dialog box. Notice that Auto Blend has masked out the necessary areas to create the final image.




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Sketching With Your Smart Phone Fri, 10 May 2013 15:00:50 +0000 READ MORE >]]> The smart phone – specifically the iPhone – has certainly caused a bit of a revolution and excitement when it comes to photography and as a professional I’ve embraced the craze, too. Some of my favorite images have been captured with this clever little device. Nowadays, we have the ability to shoot, process and share images with anyone in the world in the time it takes to brush your teeth. And it fits in your shirt pocket… its like a magician’s trick! But let’s not pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat just yet though. The magic can only take us so far, especially when we want to enlarge the file for print. Here’s the caveat, it can’t replace the quality you’ll get from taking the time to capture the scene with your DSLR gear. The iPhone’s 8mp sensor size is relatively small and there isn’t nearly as many pixels, so it becomes just point-n-shoot quality when we go to print. The zoom feature also makes the quality considerably worse because you’re using relatively less and less sensor the more you zoom in. Digital noise is another misfortune inherent in these little cameras and basically unprintable after shooting in low light (auto ISO takes over). Those favorite iPhone images could maybe be enlarged to 5×7, but going much beyond that and we’re looking for trouble.

Considering these limitations, I’ve started using my iPhone as a sketching pad preceding the act of “hauling” out the big gear when I think the composition might be important. Sketching can be loosely defined as a preview of the possibilities. Perspective and framing is just one advantage of sketching.


With the explosion of smart phone applications that mimic what post processing software can do for with our DSLR files, now not only do I use it for composition, but also for sketching what a close up, panoramic or high dynamic range (HDR) image might look like. I would have never thought my little phone could become such a valuable tool for my serious photo work!

Even the default camera that comes with the phone is fairly rudimentary and I’ve found third party apps that control exposure and focus (among other things) much better at these basic camera functions. ProCamera by Jens Daengen is my first choice for capturing any image on my phone.


ProCameraAll of us close up photographers using our DSLR camera’s know what kind of time and energy it takes to set up and shoot a macro shot whether the composition ultimately works or not. We’ll, why not try one with the phone first to see if you even like it?  Unfortunately, the lens won’t allow you to focus as close as a true macro lens or extension tubes will. The subject will not be sharp after hitting the shutter, but all you’re looking for is the sketch to see if the composition is worth your time…awesome!



Pro HDRHDR software has also created a buzz in the photo world, and now with your iPhone and Pro HDR by eyeApps LLC, we can now capture and render highlight and shadow detail from high contrast scenes by processing more than one exposure. It’s a common occurrence shooting landscape scenes or building interiors with outside views. Pro HDR is the app that can accomplish this and the results are surprisingly good, but not without significant limitations. Higher contrast scenes require a broader range of exposures than the app will allow to create a realistic interpretation. And the jpeg file format won’t produce great results compared to the image quality captured with a raw file on your DLSR and processed with a computer application like HDRSoft’s Photomatix.



AutoStitchA panoramic perspective is a blast to shoot and process and the merged files are capable of producing big beautiful wall prints. The workflow also requires patience, time in the field to set up and capture, and merging all the files on the computer requires time and energy. It’s worth it if the scene is good, but sometimes after all of that we realize the final output isn’t worth the high cost of printing and displaying it “big.” With the simplistic setup, capture and processing capabilities using a pano phone app like Autostitch by Cloudburst Research, we can now sketch it first to see what the possibilities are like from our DSLR. What an enormous time saver!



So the next time your on the way out the door to do some serious photography with your beloved DSLR, don’t forget your little phone camera and do a little sketching!


I will be teaching at our upcoming Photo Weekends in Cheyenne, WY  in May and in Missoula, MT in October.

You can also join me for one of these Workshops in 2013:
Basic Photography – Cheyenne, Wyoming
Basic Photography – Missoula, Montana
Death Valley National Park – Stovepipe Wells, California
Flash Photography – Missoula, Montana
Grand Teton National Park – Jackson Hole, Wyoming

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Two Elements to Better Macro Photography Mon, 22 Apr 2013 16:00:34 +0000 READ MORE >]]> RizzutoTony-3205I thought that title might suck you in and now that I’ve got your attention I want to tell you about my favorite accessory for macro photography.  It doesn’t matter if you are brand new to macro and want to buy some gear or if you’ve been shooting for years and already own a macro lens.  This accessory doesn’t have any performance drawbacks, it’s relatively inexpensive and I never leave to photograph without it.

Some call it a Multi-Element Diopter, some an Achromatic Filter and others a close up lens.  Very confusing but really it’s just a high quality filter made up of two elements that allow you to get really close to your subject and still focus.  Think of it the same way you do a pair of reading glasses…you know, the ones you put on when you can no longer hold your book close and still focus on the words.

Don’t confuse this with the inexpensive close up filters made of a single piece of lower quality glass.  This filter is made of two pieces of high quality glass and doesn’t degrade your image the way the cheap ones do.  Spend the extra money; you’ll be glad you did.

The cool thing about this gadget is it can be used with any lens 70mm or longer.  Put it on your telephoto lens and get really close to that Dahlia or stick it on the front of your macro lens and magnify things beyond life-size!  It’s that easy.  Put it on, get close and focus.  (One word of caution, it will make your low quality lenses look even worse so use it only with your higher quality lenses.)

How do they work?  As you get closer to your subject it gets bigger in your viewfinder (and on your sensor).  The problem is that you can get close to something to make it big but that doesn’t mean that you can focus on it.  A Multi-Element Diopter lets you get closer than normal (to make something big) and still focus (to make it sharp).

Actual Size Life size Plus-2 Plus-5

There’s one SMALL catch; once you put it on your lens you’ll loose your ability to focus on anything that’s not close.  Kinda like looking across the room at something through your reading glasses.  No biggie, put it on only when you’re going to shoot macro, after all it’s a macro accessory!

Much like your reading glasses Multi-Element Diopters come in different strengths.  And much like your glasses they are “rated” in diopter strengths.  Simply put, as the number gets higher you can get closer and still focus, resulting in more magnification.

RizzutoTony_DSC1850 20x30 RizzutoTony__DSC3863 RizzutoTony__DSC1512


I know that by now you might want a little shopping advice so I narrowed the list down to two that I’ve used and love.

Canon 500D Close Up Lens (+2 Diopter Strength)
Marumi DHG Achromat (+3 or +5 Diopter Strength)

So, grab one, put it on your lens and start getting close!


If you are interested in learning more about macro photography and want to learn to create big images of tiny subjects, I will be teaching a Macro Photography workshop from June 30 – July 5, 2013. Hope you can join me!



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How To Upgrade To Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Thu, 21 Mar 2013 16:44:33 +0000 READ MORE >]]> The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 upgrade process often frustrates existing Lightroom users. Sadly, the official Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 installer disk that you purchased at the store or downloaded from Adobe online provides minimal instruction about the entire upgrade process. This lack of guidance often creates confusion because there are multiple steps involved in the Lightroom upgrade process.

Many users do not understand that each version of the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom application is a unique stand-alone entity. Installing Photoshop Lightroom 4 does not automatically erase, remove or modify an older version of this software from your computer. Hopefully, this step-by-step tutorial will ease the transition for existing Photoshop Lightroom users.

Step 1: Back Everything Up

Upgrading to Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 should not harm your computer or your photographs. The odds that something will go tragically wrong are very slim, but it is always a good idea to create a complete backup of your entire system before undertaking any major software change.

Step 2: Download the Latest Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Installer Package

Life will be easier if you start the upgrade process with the most recent version of the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 software installer package. Installing an older version (Lightroom 4.0, 4.1, or 4.2) will do you no harm, but you are not getting the most up-to-date product.

DownloadThere are two ways that you might have acquired the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 installer package. Option 1: you downloaded the Lightroom 4 installer package from Adobe’s website via the Internet. This is the recommended method. If you received the installer package from Adobe’s website then you are ready to proceed with the installation process!

Option 2: you purchased the Lightroom 4 software in a box with a DVD. If your installer is on the official factory DVD then sadly you are not ready to proceed. You are not ready to begin the installation process because that DVD is not the latest dot version of the Lightroom software. The days of boxed software installers are passing away.

If you look closely at that official Adobe DVD you will see that it says “Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4.0 installer.” Installing from this disk will do you no harm but the installer package that it contains is no longer up-to-date. There have been at least three .x updates to the Lightroom 4 program since that boxed DVD was pressed and packaged.

PackageThe serial number that Adobe supplied within the boxed packaging is very important so please don’t throw it out, but the software on your DVD is out of date. Save yourself the hassle of installing Lightroom 4.0 and then needing to download a dot update and leave the DVD alone.

Rather than installing the upgrade package on the DVD, please visit and download the latest version of the Lightroom 4.x installer. You can download either the 30-day free trial version of Lightroom 4 or you can download the latest program update installer. Both download options are identical, and the free trial or the updated installer will work just fine. After the software is installed you can key in your serial number no matter how or when you purchased the product.

Step 3: Install the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Application

InstallOnce you have the latest version of the Lightroom 4 installer package, you are ready to install the Photoshop Lightroom 4 application. You will need to launch the installer package that you downloaded from and let it do its thing.

Install SuccessDuring the upgrade process you will need to agree to Adobe’s End User Licensing Agreement and you may need to give the installer permission to add new information to your hard drive. If the installer asks for guidance be sure that you install the Lightroom 4 application on your internal hard drive. Apple users should install the program into their internal Macintosh HD > Applications Folder. Most Windows users will want to install the Lightroom 4.exe into the Programs Folder on their C: drive.



Installing Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 from David Marx on Vimeo.

Step 4: Upgrade your Older Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Catalog to the new Lightroom 4 Format

Once the new software has been successfully installed you should find a new Photoshop Lightroom 4 alias (Mac) or shortcut (PC) on your desktop. Double-clicking this icon will launch the application and give you the opportunity to key in your serial number.

Now Lightroom 4 needs to upgrade a copy of your older Lightroom Catalog(s) into the new Lightroom 4 format. If you do not upgrade an old Catalog then you will start all over with a blank database and an empty image index. The software needs to know where your old Lightroom 3 or 2 Catalog is currently stored. If your old Catalog is stored on an external hard drive, then make sure that this disk is online and available to your computer. Once you have helped the program locate your old Lightroom Catalog (your old .lrcat file), then Lightroom 4 will automatically make a copy of your old index and attempt to covert the new copy into the Lightroom 4 format.

The Adobe engineers have been quite careful here. Upgrading an existing Lightroom version 3 or older Catalog does not alter the old .lrcat file. Lightroom 4 always makes a copy of your older .lrcat file at this phase of the upgrade process so that you can go back to using an older version of the program should any trouble occur. To distinguish between the old version of your Catalog and the new one Lightroom appends “-2,” or “-3” etc., onto the end of your existing Catalog’s file name.

Once the Catalog upgrade process is complete you could go back and manually delete your older .lrcat files. I would urge you not to delete anything, though, until you are completely convinced that Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 is working well and until you are sure that you are deleting the right .lrcat file. Leaving a copy of your old Lightroom 3 Catalog on your hard drive will do you no harm. Lightroom Catalog files take up very little disk space and having your old Catalog might be useful if you encounter unforeseen troubles.

Upgrading an Older Lightroom Catalog into Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 from David Marx on Vimeo.

Step 5: Set Your Preferences

Once you have successfully upgraded your old Catalog into the Lightroom 4 format, you should immediately visit your Preferences Menus. The upgrade process is not complete until you set your Lightroom 4 Preferences! In the Preferences > General Tab, please tell the program to load your upgraded Catalog as the new default.

Failure to complete this step often creates confusion. Users who skip this phase of the process are often asked to upgrade their old Lightroom Catalogs again. Those who skip this critical step often complain that Lightroom 4 repeatedly asks to upgrade their old Catalog and eventually these users create a complete mess of needless extra .lrcat files.

While you are in the Preferences Menu, look through all the tabs and the Catalog Settings Menus to make sure that you have properly configured Lightroom 4 to suit your workflow.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Preferences Menu Setup from David Marx on Vimeo.

Step 6: Back Everything Up Again

If the upgrade process worked properly, you should now have access to all of the images and features that were in your older Lightroom Catalog. If everything worked you should have all of your old information plus the exciting new tools and modules that Lightroom 4 brings to the game. A clever photographer will take this opportunity to make yet another complete system backup so that they are ready if disaster strikes.


That’s the whole process. If all goes well it generally takes less than an hour to move from an older version up to Lightroom 4. The tools that Lightroom 4 offer are totally worth the effort. Once the upgrade is complete and you are confident in your backup plans, the fun of cutting edge image management and post-processing begins!


I will be teaching several sessions of our Lightroom for Photographers workshop in 2013. I’d love to have you join me in one of these locations:

Lightroom for Photographers – San Antonio, Texas (5/9—5/12)
Lightroom for Photographers – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (5/30—6/2)
Lightroom for Photographers – Chicago, Illinois (6/6—6/9)
Lightroom for Photographers – Cedar Rapids, Iowa (7/25—7/28)
Lightroom for Photographers – Nashville, Tennessee (8/1—8/4)
Lightroom for Photographers – Wichita, Kansas (8/8—8/11)
Lightroom for Photographers – Duluth, Minnesota (9/5—9/8)

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The RAW File Format Wed, 06 Mar 2013 18:53:39 +0000 READ MORE >]]> If you are seeking the ultimate in image quality, then your photograph’s long journey from the camera to a polished gallery print must begin with the right starting point. Beginning with the best starting point means shooting with a high-quality digital camera and top-quality lenses. It means paying attention to concepts like aperture, shutter speed and exposure when you are out in the field shooting. The “best possible starting point” also means capturing your original image using your camera’s most powerful file format.

Most modern digital SLR cameras can record new images either as unprocessed raw files or as processed jpeg images. Raw files from a Canon brand camera use the .cr2 file extension. Raw files from a Nikon brand camera are tagged with the .nef extension. Olympus digital cameras save their raw data in the .oly format.

The list of camera specific file extensions goes on and on because each different manufacturer has their own style of raw sensor data. All jpeg images, on the other hand, use the common .jpg extension. Unlike the camera specific formats jpeg is a universal standard.

Jpeg vs raw processor diagramThe differences between the two formats is far more significant than just the .xxx extension. Jpeg images are not the unaltered sensor data. The jpeg file format cannot store the kind of high-bit unprocessed information that a modern digital camera creates. All jpeg images have undergone some in-camera processing and some level of color compression. Simply put, modern digital cameras create far more photographic information than the jpeg file format can handle. This graph explains some of the changes your files go through in your camera to emerge as a .jpg file.


Bit Depth and Tonal Range Graphs in ColorBit depth is a technical term used to measure the diversity of information that a digital file can contain. For photographers, bit depth is a mathematical measure of the range of colors, or tones, that an image can display. Color digital images are made from a mix of red, green, and blue light. Mixing red and green light together produces yellow light. Combining red and blue light creates magenta light. In a digital image all of the colors in the rainbow are created through some combination of a red value, a green value and a blue value.

When the imaging experts of the 1980s established the rules for the jpeg file format they restricted this format’s bit-depth to just 8-bits of color information per RGB channel. This 8-bits of information per color channel restriction means that a jpeg image can contain a maximum of 16.7 million colors. 16.7 million colors sounds like a lot of color diversity until you compare it to the 4 trillion colors that a 16-bit file can contain! The larger bit-depth allows us to utilize a much wider range of colors.

This expanded range of color is the primary reason why raw files are always the superior starting point for serious digital photographers. Not only will the higher bit depth make raw files more colorful, it also makes them more flexible in post-processing. Converting a color image into a black and white is a perfect example of a post-processing scenario where we will need that extra flexibility.

When a full-color digital image is converted into a black and white photograph it goes from having three color channels down to using just one. When an 8-bit color image is converted into a black and white it can display only 256 shades of gray. The whole tonal range is reduced to just 256 levels of brightness.
Bit Depth and Tonal Range Graphs

Working with a 16-bit black and white digital image, on the other hand, gives us 65,536 shades of gray. There is a huge visual difference here. Creating realistic shadows in a black and white digital image require thousands of shades of gray. A jpeg file simply cannot contain enough information for good looking post-capture black and white conversion. To create great black and white digital images we need that wider range of tones, and the expanded flexibility, that only a raw file can provide.

Post-Processing Required

There is a catch to this advice. Working with digital camera raw files requires sophisticated image processing software. The math that the image processing software must execute is really complicated and performing these calculations requires good computer hardware. If your goal is to create top-quality photographs, then you will eventually need to master powerful image enhancement software like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and you will need to invest in a powerful computer.

If superior image quality is your ultimate goal, then these investments are totally worth it. There is a learning curve and it takes time to build up your image processing skills. But once you master the technology, once the tools make sense, then the whole digital photography process becomes more fun and rewarding if you start with a well-exposed and well-composed raw file.




David Marx will be teaching several sessions of our Lightroom for Photographers workshop in 2013. Consider joining him in one of these locations:

Lightroom for Photographers – San Antonio, Texas (5/9—5/12)
Lightroom for Photographers – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (5/30—6/2)
Lightroom for Photographers – Chicago, Illinois (6/6—6/9)
Lightroom for Photographers – Cedar Rapids, Iowa (7/25—7/28)
Lightroom for Photographers – Nashville, Tennessee (8/1—8/4)
Lightroom for Photographers – Wichita, Kansas (8/8—8/11)
Lightroom for Photographers – Duluth, Minnesota (9/5—9/8)

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Can Equipment Improve Your Photography? Sat, 23 Feb 2013 16:05:38 +0000 READ MORE >]]> I’ll be the first to admit that I love gear and I know that I’m not alone in that.  While I am certain that equipment is not always the way to better photography I do believe that there is one piece of equipment that will make you a better to photographer.

Most equipment tends to make us sloppy or lazy in our craft.  We zoom our lens instead of moving.  We set up our tripod at eye level instead of bending our knees.   We take hundreds of images on 32GB memory cards hoping we get a few good ones.  Sound familiar?  We all do it.

In our effort to make photography more convenient we are losing sight of how to be better photographers.  So if equipment isn’t the answer, what piece of equipment will help us become better photographers?  It’s cheap, it’s simple and it’s going to make you work…it’s a 50mm lens.  You may already own one, heck; you may have a zoom lens that includes this focal length.

It’s not expensive, glamorous or exciting.  You won’t see people drooling over one in catalogs but it will change the way you approach photography.  A 50mm focal length* records the world in much the same way that your eyes do in terms of perspective and angle of view, which is its biggest strength and greatest weakness.

In my view, photographs are interesting when they capture the world in a way that we can’t see with our eyes.  So then, why would I recommend using a lens that sees the world the way your eyes do?  Because it makes you do three things you need to do more: Move, Think and Work!

Put a zoom lens on someone’s camera and watch them; they often remain stationary and just zoom through their focal lengths until they arrive at a composition that is acceptable.  Switch it out with a 50mm lens and you’ll observe a progression.  First you’ll see a mixture of terror and frustration that is eventually followed by a significant behavioral change: The photographer starts to move!  They will change the height of the camera, the angle and distance of their position and their connection with the subject.  They will move with the concentration and intensity of a prizefighter; adjusting, reacting and repositioning as they photograph.  They will think more about the light on the subject or the background behind it.

Once acquired, this new approach will change your photography regardless the lens you use. Your sharpened powers of observation and new found approach to each subject will result in photographs that are interesting, compelling and unique.

*One note about focal length.  A 35mm focal length for those with APS-C sensors (“crop sensors”) will result in a 50mm effective focal length.  If you don’t own a camera with a full frame sensor use a 35mm lens or the equivalent on your zoom lens to get the effect of a 50mm lens.


You can catch Tony at one of our upcoming Photo Weekends in 2013 in these cities:
Las Cruces, NM
Cleveland, OH
Portland, OR
Portland, ME
Chicago, IL
Nashville, TN
Duluth, MN

Tony is also leading these Workshops in 2013:
Intermediate Photography
Macro Photography
Photography of People


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Choosing a Photo Inkjet Printer Fri, 15 Feb 2013 16:00:05 +0000 READ MORE >]]> You’ve decided to take the plunge and begin printing your own digital pictures using a photo inkjet printer. But how do you decide which model to buy? What are the important features to check out? In this article, I provide you with some guidelines to help you choose.

First, I want to make a distinction between an office inkjet printer and a photo inkjet printer. While you can print pictures on photo paper using an office inkjet model, you will generally get better quality and longer lasting results using an inkjet printer that was specifically designed to print images. Among the advantages of a photo inkjet printer are individual ink cartridges, more paper choices (size and surface) and more permanent ink. If you already have an office inkjet, you may want to start learning the printing process with it. But when you’re ready for more control over your results, consider a dedicated photo inkjet printer.


When you go shopping for a photo inkjet printer, there are three characteristics to consider:

• Size
• Ink
• Computer connection


The most fundamental question you can ask before you start shopping is: How big do I want to make my prints? You may also consider how much space you have available to set up a printer.

Size refers to the largest sheet of paper the printer can accept. If the printer uses roll paper, then size refers to the width of the roll. This characteristic effectively divides photo inkjet printers into four groups:

• Letter (8.5” x11”)
• Tabloid (13” x 19”)
• Wide format (17” x 22”)
• Floor standing (24” – 64” wide)

There are inkjet printers that make only 4×6-inch prints, but these models often cost as much or more than a letter-size printer that can make bigger images as well. So I don’t recommend 4×6-inch printers for serious photographers.


Letter (8.5”x11”) printers are an inexpensive way to get started with making your own prints. They don’t take up much space and can produce outstanding results if you don’t need anything larger than an 8×10.

Tabloid (13”x19”) printers are probably the most popular size. They allow you to make prints bigger than an 8×10, yet don’t take up too much space on a desk or table. Some have additional options such as the ability to print on roll paper (for long panoramic prints) or printable CDs or DVDs.

Wide format printers (17”x22”) can make prints up to 16×20 easily. Some models have more than one paper tray to allow easy swapping between media. Others use roll paper for less waste. But a wide format printer is just barely a desktop model. You need a big, sturdy surface to hold one of these units.

Floor standing (24” and up) printers (often called “large format” by printer manufacturers) are designed for producing large prints in large quantities. They are production level machines using rolls of paper to cut down on paper handling as well as cost. While you can print on sheets of letter-size paper with floor models, you must load the paper by hand, making the printer much less efficient to use. (Some photographers “gang print” multiple 8x10s on a larger area of paper and cut the prints apart later.) You also need a lot more physical space to set up one of these printers, which needs a special stand to support it.



Once you’ve decided on how big you want to print your images, your next choice is the type of ink the printer uses. There are two kinds: dye or pigment. Dye ink is liquid color; pigment ink has tiny solid pieces of color suspended in liquid. Dye ink has a slightly shorter expected life before fading than pigment ink does, and dye ink costs a little less than pigment ink. Historically, dye inks were able to reproduce a wider range of colors (called color gamut) than pigment inks, but this difference has largely gone away with modern ink formulas.

When you choose a printer, you’re also choosing one of these types of ink. You can’t swap dye for pigment (or vice versa) if you’re using the printer manufacturer’s inks. The nozzles that spray the ink are designed to work with either liquid or solid colors. Using pigment inks in printers with nozzles designed for dye would mean lots of clogs. (There are third-party companies that make alternative sets of ink, but again you waste ink and time switching between dye and pigment on a regular basis).

After you decide on the type of ink you prefer, you also need to decide how many different colors of ink you want. Over a decade ago, the first photo inkjet printers used only four colors (cyan, magenta, yellow and black). Today’s models usually have a minimum of six up to twelve different colors. The additional colors (such as lighter versions of cyan and magenta) help with reproducing subtle changes in tone, such as across a sunset sky, or printing more vivid hues (such as red or green). Some printer models forgo one extra color in order to include a “gloss optimizer.” This is not an ink color but a clear coat printed over the whole image to make all parts of the image equally “shiny” when printed on glossy paper.

Also consider the size of ink cartridges the printer uses. Cartridges with a larger capacity mean the ink costs less per milliliter. This is one of the advantages of the bigger printers; they usually accommodate bigger cartridges so you change them less often and the cost per print is lower. If you expect to make a lot of prints, then cartridge size should be a factor you consider.

Black & White Printing

If you intend to make black and white prints, then you want to pay special attention to the number of black inks that come with the printer. Better quality b&w prints come from using more than one black ink cartridge. Many photo inkjet printers now include two or three black inks to produce monochrome prints: black, medium gray and light gray (the names vary with the manufacturer).

Some companies tout four black inks but this is misleading. A few printers have two different types of the darkest black ink, one for printing on glossy papers and a second black ink for printing on matte surfaces. Some models have both photo and matte black ink cartridges loaded in the printer at the same time, the source of the “four blacks” statement. This is convenient because you don’t have to manually change the black ink when you want to print on a different kind of paper. (Note that this glossy or matte black swap applies to color prints as well.) But the printer is still using only three blacks when it makes a print.



Computer Connection

While you contemplate print size and type of ink, don’t forget to check how the printer model you’re considering connects to your computer. These days you can choose between a wired or wireless connection. All printers provide a USB connection standard. (You may have to provide your own USB cord.)

Some printers are available with wireless connectivity. If you make use of a smart phone, tablet or other mobile device and want to be able to print from them, look for compatible mobile printing technology included with the printer.

A few wide-format (17” wide paper) and floor-standing printers (24” wide paper rolls or bigger) may have an option for Firewire connections (useful if you have a Mac). More often, these large printers come with an Ethernet connection. Ethernet is a larger “pipe” that can carry more data at once, so it speeds up the process of transmitting your image file to the printer. Ethernet is most useful for networking multiple printers shared among multiple computers.

While there are many other technical specifications, such as resolution and print speed, advertised by the printer manufacturers, these numbers are difficult to use for making reliable comparisons between brands. Each company employs different methods to measure print speed or count ink droplets, so referring to these characteristics is not actually helpful. In the end, any photo inkjet printer on the market today can produce great color images that will look outstanding when displayed on your wall or in an album.

Additional Resources:
Choosing a Photo Printer by Amadou Diallo
Factors to Consider when Choosing a Small Photo-Quality Inkjet Printer by Andrew Darlow

Images from


Kathy Eyster will be teaching two sessions of our Basic Photography workshop in 2013. Consider joining her in one of these courses:
Basic Photography in Missoula, MT – May 4 – 10
Basic Photography in Missoula, MT – August 10 – 16
She also teaches the printing segment of our Summer Intensive course which runs June 3 – August 16, 2013

Kathy is also instructing an upcoming PHOTOfocus course on February 23-24.
Understanding the Basics of Adobe Lightroom 4

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My Backup Plan: Building a Reliable System That Protects My Digital Photography From The Inevitable Wed, 09 Jan 2013 19:07:51 +0000 READ MORE >]]> Total Drive Failure WarningNothing electronic lasts forever. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is a wonderful image management tool, but it is not a backup system. Adobe Photoshop CS6 is amazing but it is not an image protection tool either. The thought of losing all of my digital images terrifies me yet I know that accidents happen and I know that my computer’s hard drive will not last forever.

I know that drive failure is inevitable and that when a disk fails that all of the photos that it contains might vanish. The real question is not “when will my hard drive fail” but rather I need to ask myself “what steps can I take right now so that I am properly prepared for my primary hard drive’s inevitable demise?”

The experts at the American Society of Media Photographers suggest that professional photographers adopt a “3-2-1” backup strategy. They define the core goals of their robust, and redundant, strategy this way:

  1. We recommend keeping at least three copies of any important file. For every photograph that is stored on your primary [working] drive we recommend keeping at least two additional copies on some other type of backup device.
  2. We recommend storing these backup copies on at least two different media types to protect against different types of hazards.
  3. We recommend that one copy of each file should be stored offsite and stored offline.

Moral: it takes multiple copies of your images, stored on multiple devices placed in multiple locations to truly be prepared for a major catastrophe.

After much thought, I have finally found an inexpensive solution that meets all of these goals and suits my needs. It has taken a lot of experimentation but I have finally pieced together a rock solid backup system that requires nothing more than two external hard drives, a high-speed Internet connection, and some simple software. My current backup system protects all of my digital images and it costs less than $2 per day!

Part I: Preparing the Hardware for On-site Backup

I needed to purchase a pair of new three-terabyte external hard drives for the on-site portion of my backup system. On-site here means for the backup copy that sits on my desk right next to my computer. Before I explain more about the backup system let me point out that I have been shooting digitally since 2003 and that I am currently storing almost 100,000 images on my computer’s primary [working] drive. To meet the “3-2-1” backup strategy goals I need additional copies of every one of these 100,000 digital images on my backup disks. I needed to buy a pair of three-terabyte external disks because I have already amassed a fairly large image library on my computer’s primary storage drive. If your image library is much smaller than mine then you do not need to invest in such large external disk for your backup system.

Likewise, for my backup system I saw no reason to invest in fancy RAID drives, Apple Time Capsules, or data duplication machines like the Drobo. Professionals running busy studios, or photographers with enormous image libraries, might need to invest in beefier hardware but a pair of ordinary “plain Jane” external drives are sufficient for my current backup needs. My backup drives do not need fast rotational speeds, stylish plastic housings, or the latest technological bells and whistles. There is no reason to spend extra money on eSATA, or Thunderbolt, external hard drives that are going to used solely for a backup system.

Getting the right hardware was the first step but no matter what you buy you still need to . Since I am a Mac user I needed to use Apple’s Disk Utility tool to prepare my new hard drives using the HFS+ (Mac OS Extended) file structure. Windows user will need to format their new backup drives using the NTFS file structure. Windows users working with hard drives that are larger than 2 terabytes might also need to convert their new disks to the GUID partition table before they can do anything else.

Along with formatting the new disks, I find that it helps me to keep their purpose clear in my mind if I give the new drives meaningful names. I like to give them clear names using my computer’s operating system before I begin configuring my backup software. Photographers tend to be wonderfully creative people, but simple drive names like “Backup Disk 1” and “Backup Disk 2” are all that’s required here.

Giving the new disks good names helps me to remember that these new external hard drives are for backup purposes only. These disks exist solely as a place to store additional copies of the files that l am keeping on my primary image storage disk. Hopefully, naming the disks something like “Backup Disk 1” and “Backup Disk 2” will remind me that I must never try to use these disks for any other purpose. These disks are for backup only.

Part II: Configuring the Backup Software to Make Daily Backups

Once configured properly, it is my backup utilities job to “clone,” or “mirror,” everything that I store on my primary disk over to one of the backup drives at least once per day. Good backup software can learn that its task is to copy all of the files from my primary image storage disk over to one the new backup drives everyday. The whole process should happen without my involvement. Once configured properly, I trust my backup software to copy all of my additions, alterations, and deletions from the primary drive over to Backup Disk 1 and Backup Disk 2 automatically.

When I add new photos into my image library, I copy them from my digital camera’s memory card to my primary [working] hard drive. I do not need to copy my new photographs from the memory card to either of the backup disks. Copying the new images from the primary disk over to one of the backup disks is my backup software’s responsibility.

If I decide to enhance one of my photographs using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop CS6, or any other program then I only work on the file that is stored on my primary storage drive. If my backup software is doing its job than all of the changes that I make should be passed along to one of the backup disks automatically.

When I decide to delete a bunch of lousy photo from my image library I delete the files from my primary image storage disk. My backup software will take care of removing these images from the backup drives at the appropriate time. The critical point is that I never go and mess around with any of the files that live on Backup Disk 1, or on Backup Disk 2, using my computer’s operating system or my image enhancement software. Only my backup software is allowed to make any changes to the files that are stored on my backup disks.

What software do I trust for these tasks? DM-image002For Mac users, Carbon Copy Cloner is my backup utility of choice but there are plenty of other solid options. Apple’s integrated Time Machine backup utility is a good option too for photographers working with OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion). Windows users can build reliable backups using third-party applications like Cobain Backup. There are lots of reliable backup utilities out there for every operating system. No matter what software you choose for this project, the goal–copy my files from the primary storage to a backup disk everyday–remains the same.

Part III: The Weekly Backup Drive Shuffle

Once my new external drives are properly formatted, and my backup software is all setup, I can let the software do its job. The first day I let my backup utility copy everything from the primary disk over to Backup Drive 1. The next day I disconnect Backup Disk 1 and run the backup job again only this time I tell my software to put the files on Backup Disk 2.

As soon as the second backup is complete I now have three copies of all my precious photographs! At this point, I have the original file on my primary [working] disk and an additional copy of this file on each of the backup drives. If my primary hard drive were to fail right now I would be upset but I now have multiple copies of images and photographs stored on multiple devices, so I should not lose anything!

Remember that “3-2-1” backup strategy? Well, right now I have achieved the “three copies on multiple devices” goal but if I keep all of these hard drives in my office then I am still putting my files at risk. Keeping both of my backup drives in the same room as my computer is still “putting all of my eggs in one basket” if something catastrophic were to happen to my house. To really gain some peace of mind, I need to store one of my backup drives far away from my office.

Now that I have two complete backup disks, I can start the “weekly backup drive shuffle.” In my world, Backup Disk 1 gets used for about a week and then I leave it over at a friend’s house. While Backup Disk 1 is stored at my buddy’s house I use Backup Disk 2 for my daily backups. A week or so later, I go over and drop off Backup Disk 2 and switch it out for Backup Disk 1. Switching the backup drives around each week is cheap and easy.

Storing one of my backup disks outside of the house adds an additional level of safety to my backup plans and it gives me a good excuse to go see my friends every week or so. If I wanted even more security I could pay to store the “off-site” drive in a bank’s safe deposit box. The important part is that by storing one of my backup disk outside of the house I am dramatically increasing the odds that my photos would survive a catastrophic event like a break in, a power surge or a house fire.

Episode IV: A New Hope

Online, so called “cloud” backup technology is in its infancy right now. This is a new frontier and there are still wrinkles in the system that need to be ironed out. Online backup holds tremendous promise, but it is no substitute for my pair of rotating external hard drive backup system.

The truth is that most of us do not have fast enough Internet connections to continually protect terabytes of data. Unless you have a fiber grade Internet connection then it will be
months of non-stop uploading to transfer a complete copy of your entire image library to an online backup account. Likewise, it will take weeks of non-stop downloading before you could recover a large image library from a cloud account following a major disaster unless you are fortunate enough to have a lightning fast Internet connection.

Although there are shortcoming to an online backup system I believe that cloud backup is well-worth my time and money. Continually storing one of my backup disks off-site adds a lot of protection to my backup scheme. Keeping a backup disk off-site, and offline, is good, but even with my weekly hard drive swap game there is no guarantee that my best images will survive a major natural disaster.

Fact: We live in a warming world where natural disasters grow more plentiful and more probable each year. The planet is not pleased with us and no place is truly safe from forces far beyond our control.

If a natural disaster strikes my hometown then I expect to loose my primary [working] disk and both of my backup drives. If I miraculously survive the catastrophe, and the world is not plunged into darkness, then I will eventually buy myself another computer. Following a Hurricane Sandy size disaster, I should expect that all of my current hardware will be gone but my online backups will survive.

In the end, all hardware is replaceable, but my most valuable images–those “once in a lifetime” family moments–they can never be replaced. Fortunately, companies like Mosaic Archive are making online backups for photographers easy and affordable. Mosaic even offers a “drive mail-in service” to get things started.

This is a great option. Basically, you create an account and then you ship them an external hard drive that contains copies of all your photos. They connect this external drive to their server and transfer in all of your data. Since the external drive is actual plugged into their server the photos transfer into your account at a much faster rate than they would through the Internet. In the end, you get the security of redundant cloud based storage without the need for months of continuous uploading.

In the end, what online backup really buys me is more peace of mind. It comforts me to know that even if all my local backup plans fail that my most precious images are still safely stored on multiple servers which are themselves backed up across multiple countries.


Is all of this completely paranoid? Yes, but the price that companies like Mosaic currently charge for online backups is so low that I think all of this is totally worth the effort. I have some photos that are of such personal value that each layer of additional protection is well worth the extra hassle and expense.

If all of this seems like a lot of effort then please carefully consider the dismal alternatives. If you have taken no steps to prepare for the inevitable, then what will you lose when your computer crashes? What will you lose when a power surge fries all of your hard drives? What will you lose if a flood washes through your home or a tornado touches down in your neighborhood?

Could you really re-shoot your favorite pictures or are those precious moments simply irreplaceable? Are you willing to sit back and wait for those images to vanish forever? There are no guarantees in life but I believe that the time and effort that I have invested in building, and maintaining, my backup system is time well spent even if a disaster never strikes.


David Marx will be teaching several sessions of our Lightroom for Photographers workshop in 2013. Consider joining him in one of these locations:

Lightroom for Photographers – San Antonio, Texas (5/9—5/12)
Lightroom for Photographers – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (5/30—6/2)
Lightroom for Photographers – Chicago, Illinois (6/6—6/9
Lightroom for Photographers – Cedar Rapids, Iowa (7/25—7/28)
Lightroom for Photographers – Nashville, Tennessee (8/1—8/4)
Lightroom for Photographers – Wichita, Kansas (8/8—8/11)
Lightroom for Photographers – Duluth, Minnesota (9/5—9/8)

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