Rocky Mountain School of Photography » David Marx Thu, 30 Oct 2014 21:41:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Finding Inspiration on Google+ Images Tue, 16 Apr 2013 19:58:10 +0000 READ MORE >]]> Google+: A Central Hub For Photographic Inspiration


Remember the old adage that “knowledge is power?” If you spend ten minutes per day looking at images from those who have truly mastered the art of landscape photography, wedding photography, macro photography, etc., then your own photographic skills will rise. Spend ten more minutes each day reading an article or watching a video tutorial from someone at the top of their craft, and your ability to craft a compelling image will skyrocket.

It’s easy for me to suggest that a few minutes of research time each day is all that it will take for you to become a better photographer. I am comfortable dishing out this advice because it matches my own personal experience and because I see it repeated again and again amongst the students who attend my photography workshops. Until recently though it was hard for me to point to a single website where I can consistently find the best photos, the most informative articles, and the most inspirational video tutorials.

In the past, I had to bounce all over the web to put in my twenty minutes of daily photographic research time. I used to jump from site to site, or blog to blog, each day to find my daily inspiration, but now Google+ acts as my central hub for contemporary photographic inspiration. Unlike other social sharing platforms, Google+ is designed to foster meaningful conversations between individuals who share similar interests. As a learning tool Google+ is the place to be right now for those with a serious interest in photography.

Reading, Sharing, Creating

It helps to draw distinctions between three distinct types of online social activities to understand the value of a social layer like Google+ as a learning tool. On a social network you can:

• consume content from others.

• pass along things that you found engaging or that your peers shared with you.

• distribute your own original content.

For serious photographers the breakdown of activity looks like this:

• viewing images from inspiring contemporary photographers.

• re-sharing and commenting on content that you the find compelling.

• posting and sharing your own images, videos and articles with the world.

Google_Wallpost_Screenshot-2It is up to you to choose which type of activity best suits your needs each day. There is no rule that says you must add something into the information stream everyday. I know a lot of aspiring photographers who do not want to share anything of their own yet but who are delighted to watch a daily stream of incredible images from the world’s best artists. For these photographers consuming photographic knowledge, without adding anything of their own into the pool, is an excellent use of their daily research time.

I know other photography students who delight in sparking up meaningful conversations with those who inspire them. For these artists just watching what others share online does not provide enough engagement. These students have questions that they want answered by those who inspire them. On a friendly open network it is possible to interact with anyone if you are polite and if your questions / comments add something of value to the collective conversation.

Finally, there are photographers like me who feel the need to share my work with the entire network. I share images, videos and words with the hope that my content will inspire or inform someone else. When someone posts a good question or an insightful comment on one of my posts, I feel compelled to answer it.

Sharing inspiring content supports my mission as a photography instructor, but there is no rule that says I must post something of my own making everyday. There is no rule that says I must answer every comment immediately. I do what I can to add something meaningful to the collective stream of information, but when I have nothing to say, I am happy to just sit back and absorb inspiration from others.

That’s my advice for those just dipping their toes into the Google+ pool. When you are new here, find some sources of inspiration and then sit back and watch what they do for a few weeks. Spend some time tracking down the artists whose images, and words, speak to you first.

As your comfort level with this social tool rises you might begin to ask questions and add comments to the posts that you find particularly insightful. If your comfort level with this public forum reaches the point where you feel the need to distribute your own work, then please leap into the social sharing game with both feet. But when you are getting started here, there is nothing wrong with just using Google+ as a source of daily inspiration without sharing a single word of your own.

Where Can I Find The Most Inspiring Photographers On The Google+ Network?

In the Google+ world, subscribing to someone’s news feed is called “following” or “circling.” When you add someone into one of your circles you are telling the platform that you want the ability see anything that this person publicly posts. When I tell Google+ that I want to circle an inspiring artist like my colleague Tim Cooper, it is a one-way street. Circling Tim does not force him to follow me back nor does it expose any of my private information to him.

So the big question becomes “who should I follow here?” Fortunately there are three ways to find great sources of inspiration on the Google+ network. Each method has its own unique value and all are worth exploring.

Option 1: Join A Community That Shares Your Interests

Google_CommunitiesJoining a Google+ community is a great way to see photographs from artists all over the world. Google+ communities are a great place to discover new and interesting people. Most communities are open to anyone and they are a great way to find those with whom you share a particular interest. I am active in the Photoshop and Lightroom Users Community, the Landscape Photography Community, and the National Parks Community because these match my interests.

After you join a Community, spend a few days or weeks just watching the information stream. Whenever you see particularly inspiring work, check out the poster’s Google+ profile page. If you like what you see on their profile page and in their photo galleries, then consider adding them to one of your circles. Also consider adding the community moderators to your circles. Often community moderators are experts in their field and these are generally friendly people with a real interest in knowledge sharing.

Free advice about online communities: Please mind your manners and don’t share too much personal information. Remember that communities are meant to foster open conversation. When posting, or commenting, within a community be very polite. Be friendly. Be nice to others. If you are rude the community, moderators will kick you out. If your Google+ behavior is really abusive, then you can get yourself banished from the whole network.

Option 2: Use A Shared Circle To Find New Sources of Inspiration

My_Suggested_Photographers_Shared_CircleCircles are a way to group together those that you follow on Google+. You can control the frequency of posts that you receive from different types of people by organizing your contacts into circles. I have built a circle for members of my family, for example, and I have set the frequency setting way up so that I will automatically see everything that my loved ones post on my homepage.

Circles are a great organizational tool but they serve a second purpose, too. Circles can also be shared publicly. This is one of my favorite features on Google+. Thanks to circle sharing, you can add this collection of my forty favorite Google+ photographers into your news stream in a single click! Forty+ Photographers Whose Posts Consistently Inspire Me On Google+

Note: This link will not take you to my shared circle unless you are currently logged into your Google+ account.

Option 3: Build Your Own Circles

Connecting with the right folks is a continual process. I add new sources of inspiration to my circles everyday. Communities and someone else’s shared circle are just starting points. Eventually everyone uses the “”Find People” button to track down other friends, family members and additional sources of inspiration.

When you use the Find People button, Google+ uses the data that you have entered in your profile, and the list of who you have already circled, to suggest new contacts. If you are a GMail user, then the Find People tool will also search through your GMail address book to see if any of your email contacts are also active on this network. I don’t use the Find People box everyday, but when I hear about an artist or read an insightful article online, I often pop open this box to see if the content’s creator is also sharing work publicly here on Google+.

One last tip: “plus mentions.” Adding the +symbol and then a contacts name creates a hyperlink to another Google+ users profile page. Whenever I share content from another Google+ photographer, or talk about a colleague’s work, I try to add a plus mention that leads to them.

By adding this link I am making it easier for someone who reads my post to find out more about this photographer and if desired to add them into one of their circles. Using plus mentions, I can give credit to my sources and make it easy for those who follow me to connect with someone else that I think they might also want to follow.

Learn More About Google+

I hope that you found this guide useful. I hope that this advice makes it easier for you to start out your Google+ experience with the right connections. If you liked this article then please click here to find me on Google+.



Additional Resources


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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How to Set Up Your Google+ Account Mon, 08 Apr 2013 23:39:32 +0000 READ MORE >]]> Google+ Offers Us An Endless Pool of Inspiration

I have been teaching about the importance of the Google+ social sharing system for a year. I speak about Google+’s value as a educational tool in all of my photography workshops and at my Adobe Photoshop Lightroom software training seminars. The message that I try to deliver in my lectures, articles and video tutorials about Google+ is pretty simple: we photographers, like all artists, need to surround ourselves with a limitless pool of inspiration.

As artists, our skills will stagnate unless we continually surround ourselves with new influences. When we connect and learn from others –  when we spend time exploring new sources of inspiration -we gain knowledge and the quality of our art rises. Google+ offers an endless stream of inspiration and knowledge sharing. In my opinion, Google+ is the best place on the Internet right now to learn about new photographic techniques and to find others who are creating inspiring art.

Google+ is free and open to anyone. Google+ is a fabulous platform, but setting up a new account without any guidance can be a little tricky. So here is a step-by-step guide to the new Google+ user account setup process.

I must add that this guide reflects my tastes and opinions. Much of what I suggest here is purely personal preference. Throughout this tutorial I will recommend turning on, or turning off, certain switches because that’s the way that I like things to work. Once you are more familiar with the Google+ platform, I encourage you to modify or reject any of my suggestions and configure this tool to better suit your tastes.

I must also add that the screenshots and the steps involved in the setup process are ever evolving. The brilliant minds at Google are constantly working on improvements for the Google+ platform. Today’s screen grabs should be good for today–April 5, 2013–but by next year things are going to look different. Innovation never ends here….

Google+ Account Setup

The road to Google+ happiness begins with Google account setup.

Step 1: Google Account Sign In

image00Since Google+ is integrated into a slew of other Google products one account–one email address and password–is all you need to access dozens of products. If you currently have an account at Gmail, YouTube, Google Voice, etc. then you can use your existing email address and password to signup for Google+.

If you do not currently have a Google account then this is your opportunity to create a new identity. Your new Google account includes Google+, a free Gmail email address, Google Calendar, and 5GB of free online Google Drive storage space. You might choose to ignore these features but they are nice bonuses that come bundled with every new Google+ account.

Step 2: Add Suggested People

AddPeopleGoogle+ is all about creating connections. If Google’s database already knows anything about you then this screen is your first opportunity to follow the news from your friends, your family members or your coworkers.

You can skip this step for now if you want. You will have additional opportunities to connect with friends, family, etc. once your Google+ account is active.

Step 3: Google Suggested User Circles

FollowSuggestedGoogle+ is different from other social network. This is a place where you can learn from a global community of photographers most of whom you have never met. This is a place where you can follow the public postings–photos, videos, and articles–from photographers that live thousands of miles away, but when you are new here it is hard to know where to start.

To help you get started here, the Google+ site designers select small groups of experts on a particular subject and group them together by topic. This suggested lists of experts–the Google Suggested User Circles–are what you are seeing at this point in the setup process.

Adding a couple of the Google+ Suggested User groupings to your new stream is a great way to find some of the top-posters who share one of your passions. For someone like me, adding the Google Suggested Photographers Circle is a great place to start.

Step 4: Add A Headshot

ProfileNow it is time to choose your profile photo and fill in a little bit of information about who you are. You can add much more detailed personal information later, but your smiling face is important here.

My advice is to start out with a nice friendly headshot. Don’t be surprised if no one wants to connect with you if you choose a headshot that is too weird, too generic or blatantly offensive.
Success! Your Google+ account is active once you can see your homepage. There is still more work to do, but once can you see this screen you have successfully logged into the Google+ network.

Add Additional Biographical Information To Your Profile

Now that you have completed the basic account setup please take ten more minutes and add more personal information to your Google+ Profile. Add enough biographical information so that other Google+ users will believe that you are a real person. Do not share anything too personal like your home address or cell phone number, but the Tagline field is particularly important.

Fill in your Tagline with a very short description of who you are and what you do. You don’t need to fill in every one of the other fields, but I suggest adding something to the Introduction field, too. Leave as many of the other fields as you want blank, but if you are going to claim that you are a professional photographer, then you need to add something like your employment history, a link to your website, or a business name so that your claim sounds credible.

For photographers, the cover photo is extremely important since it will be displayed everywhere that your name appears. Google+ is doing serious photographers like me a great favor here. Google is giving me the chance to display my name, my job title / specialty (the Tagline), and my cover photo to an audience of millions.

ProfileSetupPlease upload a great cover photo because this is your chance to show off your favorite photograph whenever someone mentions your name! A great cover photo and a nice smiling headshot will help you create a lot of new connections.

Turn Off The “What’s Hot And Recommended” Stream

WhatsHotThe Google+ engineers didn’t want your homepage to be appear empty and lifeless. So that everyone would see something on their homepage all new users are automatically subscribed to the “What’s Hot and Recommended” news stream. The trouble is that “what’s hot and recommended” is usually pointless and trivial. Fortunately, it is easy to unsubscribe yourself from this silly stream of pop nonsense.

Dragging the “What’s Hot and Recommended” frequency slider all the way to the left will unsubscribe you from future updates to this news stream. The existing posts will not immediately disappear from your homepage, but over time they will slip away as new posts from people you care about get added to your homepage news feed.

Controlling Email / SMS Notifications

Unfortunately, what most of us first experience when we set up a new Google+ account is a slew of unwanted emails or text messages. The following steps will show you how to eliminate these unnecessary notifications and remove some of the clutter from your email inbox.

Step 1: Open Up The Google+ Settings Menu

SettingsDid you notice that little gear below your headshot near the upper right side of the screen? Clicking on that little gear symbol will open up an important Google+ Settings menu. (There is also a “take a tour” button in this menu that might interest new Google+ users.)

Step 2: Turn Off All The Excess Notifications

The Google+ designers don’t want you to miss anything. From the factory, this social sharing tool is set to immediately email or text message you about everything that happens online that involves you. While I respect the designer’s goal–that you should be keenly aware of everything that is happening online–the results are completely overwhelming.

PreferencesScreenMy advice is to disable the email / text notification feature for all but the most important activities. To protect my reputation, I want immediate notification whenever somebody mentions me in a Google+ post. If somebody says something nice about me in their post, then I want to say thank you. If they say something nasty about me, then I want to know so I can respond appropriately or report the post as offensive material.

PreferencesScreen2In addition, I want to be notified whenever someone tries to tag me in their photographs. I want to know if someone is posting a photo and claiming that I am in it, but I don’t need to get an email just because someone added me to one of their circles. Notification about things like mentions or tags are important so I can protect my privacy, but I really don’t want an email or a text message every time that a stranger tries to invites me to their goofy online event.

AccountSettings-1So many notifications, but only a few that are actually useful.

Step 3: More Privacy Preferences

AccountSettings-1The last set of switches in the Google+ settings menu are about privacy. Google+ is a social platform that encourages public information sharing, but not everything is meant to be shared publicly. Some of the switches at the bottom of the Google+ settings menu help you control what is and what is not available to the public.

My choices and your choices may differ here. For the type of photography that I teach, I have no problem sharing information about exactly where I shot my photos. I love the way that Google+ takes the GPS data that I have embedded in my images and uses that metadata to display my image’s location on a Google Map.

I find the integration of my photography and Google Maps fascinating. I believe that sharing GPS data along side my images supports my mission as a landscape photography educator, but this not the choice is not appropriate for everyone else.

If I photographed sensitive wildlife nesting sites, rare archaeological digs, or houses of the rich and famous, then I definitely would not want to make this type of GPS information available to the public.

Likewise, be cautious with the Enable Location Sharing preference switch. Do you really want to broadcast your whereabouts to everyone who follows you on Google+ or is this type of information something that should automatically remain private?

Now Connect With More People

MarxProfileGoogle+ is all about social connections. The Google Suggested User circles are a good start, but only a handful of the top-posters make those list. Now it is time to use the Find People button to connect with friends, family and others who share your interests. Google+ will use the data that you entered into your profile and the list of people who you have already circled to help you find new contacts.



Learn More About Google+

I hope that you found this step-by-step guide useful. Again, there are no rights and wrongs here. The important part is to get your account setup, to protect your privacy and to find some new sources of inspiration.

If you liked this article please click here to find me on Google+.

Additional Resources


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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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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Intro to Google+ Tue, 26 Feb 2013 16:00:01 +0000 READ MORE >]]> icons_gPlusPhotography is meant to be shared. We photographers need a supportive community to inspire our work and our best images deserve an appreciative audience. When we connect with peers and mentors, we can learn new photographic techniques and surround ourselves with new sources for inspiration.

For a few years, I have been searching for the right social media platform to share my images, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom articles, and video tutorials. I have been seeking a place where I can get feedback on my images from a global audience. I have been searching for a social network where I can start up conversations with other photographers, discover inspiring new work, and share new Photoshop Lightroom image processing techniques. I have been on a quest to find the right place where I can publicly share what I create and absorb lessons from my peers.

As I have pursued this search, I have dabbled with Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and many more. Each of these social sharing sites caught my attention but none of these platforms offered exactly what I needed. Flickr has been my favorite photo-sharing outlet for many years, but this platform only allows its users to post photos. It’s great for photography but useless for sharing my articles and Lightroom video tutorials. Flickr, and similar sites, are great places to go looking at other people’s work but useless if you want to read, or watch, and learn.

Fortunately, my search has come to end now that Google+ is on the rise. Google+ is now the second most popular social sharing tool in the world and its impact on mass communication is just beginning. I don’t really care about the site’s global popularity. What matters to me is the way that it creates engaging conversations and opens avenues for learning amongst photographers.

In my opinion, Google+ is now the best place on the web for photographers to share their work, to form connections with other artists, and to learn inspiring new techniques. Google+ is new, but it is a mature platform created by web designers with a real interest in helping visual artists like us.

Google_Wallpost Screenshot

Let’s be clear: Google+ is not Facebook. Facebook is a great way to stay in touch with old friends and family members. Facebook is a good platform for connecting with people that you already know. Facebook is a good way to see snapshots of your distant nieces and nephews, and to occasionally watch someone’s funny cat video, but the platform itself is not designed to reward photographers.

The way that Facebook displays photographs is simply awful, in my opinion. There is no way for Facebook to completely hide the interface so that you can just enjoy an amazing image without any advertising or additional distractions. But the biggest problem is that Facebook is not designed to encourage public conversation.

Facebook is not designed to help you find and connect with a global audience of artists that you have never met. If I don’t know you then I should not be able to see your photos on Facebook nor should you be able to see any of mine. If I don’t know you then you should not be able to read my articles or watch my videos on Facebook.

This is the “closed social loop” idea. It’s great for staying in touch with friends and family, but it guarantees that this is the wrong platform if you are searching for inspiring work from other photographers. Facebook does me absolutely no good if I want to search for new artists and to see images from photographers that I have never met.

Google+, on the other hand, is an “open loop network” built around the concept of search. Google = Search! This is a platform for sharing ideas, and inspiring images, in a public forum. Unlike Facebook, Google+ is a great way to meet and discover new photographers, artists and thinkers without the expectation that they are your “friends.”

Most of all, I love Google+’s clean interface. I love the way that Google+ can display photo albums and slideshows without any advertising or sidebar distractions. Google+ is designed to display high resolution photos without user interface distractions. This is a platform that wants you to share big high-quality photos, instructional videos and concise articles. This is a platform that wants you to see great images, to learn, and to get inspired.

Google_Photo Album Screenshot



Google_Full Screen Image View Screenshot

I believe that this is now the best place on the web for photographers to see each others work and to start sharing ideas. Google+ is the platform that you need to connect with an ever expanding pool of others who share your passions and to join in the conversation – and all that you need is a Gmail address!

If you found this article useful then please add me to one of your Circles so that you can see the images, articles, videos, and photography advice that I share online everyday. We would love to connect with you so please add the Rocky Mountain School of Photography into one of your circles too!

Knowledge is power. Google+ is a powerful tool. If you want to use this platform, well then I strongly recommend reading both of these short books. A little guidance goes a long way.

What The Plus! Google+ for the Rest of Us
Google+ For Photographers



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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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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Winter Photography: The Right Clothes Make All the Difference! Tue, 12 Oct 2010 21:05:05 +0000 Winter Photography: The Right Clothes Make All the Difference!

Advice from David Marx

I am a winter sports and landscape photographer. Skiing and snowboarding photographs are my specialty! To do what I love, I need to spend a lot of time out in the snow and the cold. For photographers, winter is the most wonderful time of the year  – but you have to dress for success. It’s hard to shoot great photographs when your fingers are freezing. Frostbite and hypothermia are dangerous, potentially life-threatening, conditions.

In the winter, getting wet is dangerous. Moisture can soak into your clothes from the outside, as snow or rain, or it can come from the inside as you perspire. Either way, wet clothes are cold and uncomfortable. We need to dress right so that our core stays warm and dry. Working outside in the winter means dressing in layers and avoiding cotton clothing. “Cotton is a killer” when it gets cold because wet cotton fibers draw heat away from the body. Wool and fleece layers, on the other hand, maintain their insulation even when they are damp.

Exposed skin is a problem too when the thermometer dips into the negative numbers or when the wind begins to blow. The wind moving over exposed skin can create dangerous conditions even at relatively mild air temperatures. I bring enough layers to cover every inch of skin from head to toe when I go out shooting in the winter. I may not wear every item but I don’t go wandering around Yellowstone or Glacier National Park in January without enough clothes to cover my entire body.

Before I go into specifics about what I wear please allow me to suggest that you can save a lot of money on all of your winter clothes by shopping at and by monitoring the rotating deals at

In the winter, you want to plan your outfit from the top down starting with your head. I like to have two winter hats–wool hats,fleece hats, furry hats, even a balaclava–with me at all times. I bring two winter hats with me everyday so that I can wear one and keep the other as a spare in my camera bag. When the first one gets wet, I swap it out for the second one. If the wind howls, or the temperature plummets, then I’ll put on both hats!

I also like to have a scarf, or a neck gaiter, with me all the time. If I am going to stand around for hours shooting a winter sunset then I need to cover my neck and face with something that insulates and protects against the cold. A pair of clear ski goggles is a great idea too.

For my upper body, I like to wear multiple layers of synthetic, or wool, long underwear. My favorite base layers are the Patagonia’s Capilene 4 (Men’s/ Women’s) series fleece tops or the Icebreaker 320 Wool (Men’s / Women’s) undershirts. These tops are expensive but they are guaranteed to last for a long time. I have one Capilene top that I have been using since 1994. It smells terrible but it still keeps me warm!

I usually throw a Patagonia Puff Hooded Jacket or a Patagonia Down Sweater Jacket over top of my base layers. I love these puffy layers because they provide amazing warmth but are easily compressed. My down sweater, for example, is so easily compressed that I can stuff the whole coat into one of its pockets. With a coat this squish-able I can easily pack it away inside of my camera bag if the sun comes out and the day warms up.

On top of everything else, I like to wear a waterproof and wind-resistant ski shell. Storm grade winter coats can be super-expensive, but for photographer’s a simple jacket like the Columbia Bugaboo Parka is perfectly adequate. Don’t worry about all the fancy bells and whistles. Just find yourself a jacket that will fit comfortably over all your other layers and that will keep you dry if the snow starts blowing around. Don’t forget that the most important part of a good shell is a high collar and a deep hood that will stay up in a howling gale!

Like with ski shells, you can spend a lot more money than you need to on snow pants to cover your legs. If you have the budget then the Patagonia Powder Bowl Pants are rock solid, but something a whole lot less expensive like the Columbia Boundary Run Pant will do just fine. A pair of hunting grade wool pants will also make for a great outer layer. Who doesn’t love shopping at the Army surplus store?

I like to wear a couple pairs of fleece, or wool, long johns beneath my outer layers. I am fond of the Patagonia Capilene 3 Bottoms but any brand will do. I prefer two mid-weight bottoms over one super thick pair of fleece pants for the mobility but any combination of warm layers will work.

OK, time to share a little secret. To get great photographs, you need to find a better angle and often that means getting low. In the snow this means kneeling down which of course will freeze your knees. My secret is to wear a pair of carpenter’s knee pads over my base layers but beneath my snow pants. With my pads on, I can kneel down and shoot, or fiddle around with my tripod legs, without freezing! Of all my winter photography items, I think that a comfortable pair of knee pads are worth their weight in gold.

Now for my hands, I like the Outdoor Research Meteor Mitten system the best. This is a mitten system which means that there is a waterproof over mitt and a removable fleece liner. Not only does this system feature an inner and an outer mitt but the inner, the fleece mitten, is built with a trigger finger flap so I can still work the camera! I usually pack a disposable hand warmer in each shell too so that my hands stay toasty all day. Here are some other choices for quality mittens:

Did you notice that I picked mittens over gloves and that almost all of my mitten choices give you some thumb dexterity? I wear mittens when I go out shooting because they are always warmer than gloves. This is important when you are standing around in the cold for hours shooting star trails or the northern lights. Likewise, thumb dexterity is critical when you need to adjust the settings on your camera in the cold. Someday the camera companies may figure out that it is a lot easier to turn a knob with mittens on then it is to press some stupid tiny little button. Until then though go for a trigger finger system so that you don’t have to expose your entire hand to the elements just to work the camera.

Finally for my feet, I get to talk about one my favorite pieces of equipment in this post. In the winter, traction is crucial! A nasty fall can break bones or destroy valuable equipment. Save yourself a hospital bill and strap a pair of Yaktrax Pro Traction Cleats for Snow and Ice on under your winter boots!

Above your Yaktraxs I definitely recommend wearing quality snow boots and a good pair of wool socks. Tennis shoes are totally useless in the snow and most hiking boots have very little insulation. Your toes will freeze in the regular shoes if you stand around in the snow for long periods of time. For quality boots, the Sorel Caribou Snowboot is always a popular choice.

These days I am wearing a pair of LaCrosse Alpha IceMan Boots and I really love them. For years, I wore snow boots that were way too big. Boots that were a size too big felt comfortable in the store, but when I would walk around they pulled my socks down. I have finally learned that snugger boots are just as warm and they end up being a lot more comfortable when you are walking around searching for that perfect foreground.

I hope that this advice will help you get out and shoot this winter. Good luck and always remember that warm and dry is the way to be!

David Marx

P.S. When I am not out skiing, I lead photography workshops in beautiful places! Here’s a slideshow of student images from the Yellowstone in Winter Photography Workshop that I led last year for Rocky Mountain School of Photography.

RMSP Yellowstone in Winter 2010 Student Slideshow from David Marx on Vimeo.

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Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 is Now Available: Where Should I Buy the Software? Thu, 10 Jun 2010 22:29:00 +0000 READ MORE >]]> Life is all about choices and software purchasing is no different. To get your copy of Lightroom ®, you could buy the product directly from Adobe, you could purchase the software from an online retailer, or you could pick up a copy at your local computer box store. So does your choice make any difference?

The answer is both yes and no. The software is the same no matter where you purchase the product as long as you pick up a legitimate licensed copy. So in a sense it makes no difference where you buy the software, but the price that you will pay does vary depending upon the source. I often see software prices advertised online from sketchy retailers that seem just too good to be true. Some of these “discount software” sites may be legit, but I am going to stick with retailers that I know and trust.

Without going to sketchy sources, how can you save money on this purchase and get the product from a reputable source? Well, first, students and faculty, with valid identification from an accredited academic institution, qualify for deep discounts on Adobe products. If you meet Adobe’s Educational Purchasing requirements then this is definitely the way to go. Nobody gets better prices than qualified students. [Hook them when they are young and you have a customer for life. It's a very clever marketing strategy that works for software and cigarettes!]

If you don’t meet Adobe’s educational purchasing requirements then I suggest shopping for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3, and other Adobe software, at Amazon’s everyday price is usually a few dollars lower than Adobe’s online store and Amazon often offers discounts and special bundled pricing. Bonus: Amazon Prime member’s can get their software with free second day shipping, or overnight delivery, for just $3.99!

There is another reliable, legitimate, way for anyone to save on Adobe software purchases and other useful services. Members of professional organizations like the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) or the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) qualify for a 15% discount on all Adobe purchases plus hundreds of other benefits. There is no entrance exam to join either group. You don’t have to be a professional photographer or a Photoshop expert to join either.

Let me add that as a professional photographer, I am proud to be a member of  ASMP. My membership in this organization helps support their educational efforts and their legal campaigns on critical issues like copyright law, orphan works, and the business of photography in a digital world.  ASMP membership qualifies me for membership in a group health care plan and it has brought me work! Likewise, I am proud to be a NAPP member and think that their magazine, website, and Photoshop World conferences are fantastic ways to learn about my favorite software programs. (See you in Vegas this fall NAPP friends!)

Where everyone learns Photoshop - National Association of Photoshop Professionals

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Recommended External Hard Drives Mon, 10 May 2010 16:12:18 +0000 READ MORE >]]> I am writing this post specifically for my students in the Rocky Mountain School of Photography’s Summer Intensive and Advanced Intensive 2010 programs. Thanks to external hard drives we now have a relatively inexpensive way for us to organize and transport our thousands of digital images to and from class each day. My external image storage system, which you are going to use this summer, is built with just two external hard drives.

You can read all about how external hard drives fit into my workflow here but that’s not the purpose of this post. This post is all about which external drives are most appropriate for our primary storage and backup disk needs this summer. If you were to follow the above link you would see that I use one external hard drive as my primary image storage and a second drive as a backup disk. The second disk is a mirror image of the first that my backup software (Mac / PC) updates daily.

While any type of external disk will work, I am recommending specific brands and models based on the following criteria:

1. Capacity: We need drives with lots of storage space because by the end of the summer you are going to have a large collection of digital photographs. If I were you, I would anticipate shooting 200+ Gigabytes of images this year. Buy big drives because a: sooner or later you will fill them, b: their actual storage capacity is always smaller than what is advertised on the box, and c: you always need to leave some empty space– system headroom– on any drive or its performance will diminish.

2. Connectivity: Here is the list of data transfer speeds from fastest to slowest; eSATA, Firewire 800, Firewire 400, USB 2.0, and finally USB 1.0. Please buy drives that utilize your computer’s fastest port. “Time is money.” Sitting around waiting for files to transfer over to your external hard drive is not a productive use of your time.

In my opinion, external drives that connect only via USB are way too slow for professional digital photography.

3. Rotational Speed: There is a spinning ceramic platter inside of most external hard drives. The faster that this magnetic disk rotates the better. Rotational speeds are measured in rpm. If possible please purchase a 7200rpm disk.

4. Reputable brand with a decent warranty and strong customer service track record: I am completely biased in favor of companies that have treated me well when I needed help in the past. Always remember though that no drive manufacturer will ever compensate you for your lost data when their drive fails. Hard drive warranties cover the hardware but do not cover the information that is stored on the disk. Once again we find ourselves in need of daily backups!

With these criteria in mind, let’s explore options for our primary storage disk. As I see it, you have two choices for your primary drive. If you are looking for top performance then I strongly recommend purchasing a RAID 0 (Striped) disk system. I am a big fan of the performance that a RAID 0 disk system delivers, especially when connected via eSATA or Firewire 800.

Please understand, though, that with a RAID 0 setup your risk of drive failure has doubled since these systems are built with two separate platters spinning inside of the same drive casing. If either platter inside that box fails then you will lose everything that the drive holds! Please don’t confuse a RAID 0 setup with a mirrored data protection configuration like RAID 1.

Primary (RAID 0):

I absolutely love my RAID 0 primary external disk, but it weighs about three pounds and it requires a separate power cord. If you are looking to travel lighter this summer then perhaps a pocket drive makes more sense. My favorite pocket drives weigh less than a pound and are about the size of an iPod touch. In addition, the best of these drives do not require a separate power cord!

Primary (Pocket Drives):

Now my primary disk is going to go everywhere that I go this summer. I am going to bring this disk to school everyday but the backup disk is going to remain on my desk at home.  The backup disk doesn’t need to travel with me. Since the backup is going to stay at home, I don’t see any reason to use a pocket disk for my backup. Instead I suggest using either a single high capacity hard drive or a multi-disk system like the Drobo for additional image protection.

Backup (Single Disk):

Backup (Redundant Disk Systems):

I hope that you found my advice useful. I will see you soon and please don’t forget that every external disk must be formatted properly before you put anything on it. See how to format an external drive for more details.

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