Time to look at another great photography gift, the Spyder Cube. This handy cube will help you set black and white points in your image as well as accurate colour by providing 18% grey white balance targets. In the video I explain how it works and how to use it with an image in Lightroom.
Monitor calibration is critical to a good photography workflow so in today's video review we take a look at the Spyder 4 Pro monitor calibration tool from DataColor.
Nik software's heads must be spinning right now wondering what hit them. One moment they're on an all time high because Google just bought their company and the next the internet is filled with photographers all clearly somewhere in the 7 stages of grief about it. Check out the comments on Nik's announcement post: http://education.niksoftware.com/2012/09/17/google-acquires-nik-software/. Here are a few highlights from their comments and from Twitter:
1. Shock and denial
Comment on Nik's post: This is terrifying. You make the best plug-ins in the business. I am scared.
2. Pain and guilt
Comment on Nik's post: You just ruined my day. Sorry to see this happen to a good product line :-(
3. Anger and bargaining
Comment on Nik's post: It would be helpful to have a statement from you or Google or GooNik or Nikoogle as to what this means for your products.
4. Depression, reflection, loneliness
Comment on Nik's post: I guess this is the beginning of the end, after 12 years of using your plug-ins, probably time to move on.
5. The upward turn
Comment on Nik's post: I was planning on upgrading my complete collection, but I’m glad I haven’t done so yet. Time to look for a replacement.
6. Reconstruction and working through
Comment on Nik's post: Oh well. Snapseed was great while it lasted. Time to find an alternative app I guess.
7. Acceptance and hope
On Twitter @chrismarquardt: I see it as an opportunity to do more education around how to get great b/w conversions without the help of NIK
Ok so that's all very entertaining but seriously, should we be worried? Well I'd say yes - worried. But not necessarily in despair, yet. So far we've not seen a response from Google or Nik describing what will happen to Nik's existing product line. All we have to go on is Google's previous track record. Sadly that hasn't been so good. The recent google acquisition, Sparrow, immediately ceased development. And before that Picnik, the web based photo editing software - was also closed down. Certainly the future looks very bleak for Nik's IOS products.
No doubt we'll see improved photo editing tools in Google's own products like Android and Google+ but what about Nik's existing product line? At the very least it seems likely that talent within Nik will be at least partially distracted into Google products. It seems like Google likes to acquire companies for the talent rather than the products. If that's the case here I believe it'll be the end of the very best plug-in products on the market - products I use very regularly. But perhaps part of the deal with Google is that the Nik plugins will go on. Or perhaps I'm just in stage 1 myself.
Those of you looking for good alternatives should look at Topaz Labs and OnOne Software. This is a huge opportunity for those guys and if they're smart they'll think about offering discounts or cross-grade deals.
[The attached picture, by the way, is one of my old black and whites which I just recently re-processed from the original RAW using Silver Efex Pro and got a very pleasing result in a fraction of the time it originally took me with Photoshop]
It's good to go to a shoot with an idea of what you want to achieve. Pre-visualising a shot is a valuable skill and can lead to some amazing work, especially for a technically skilled photographer. But it can also be a straight jacket. You leave the shoot with pictures that you hope will give you the raw (pun intended) materials to make the pictures you pre-visualised. So when you click through those pictures you're looking for signs that they've got the characteristics you wanted. You reject shots that don't support the idea in your head. If you're very diligent you'll process the winners at this point, publish them and archive away the shoot.
But sometimes, if you can make the time to go back to those pictures 1 month, maybe 2 months later you'll find gems in there that you didn't see before. You'll look at the pictures with different eyes. You won't have that pre-vis straightjacket on any more and hopefully you'll be able to look at the pictures with a clear head - seeing what's good and bad in each on its own merits. Once you can do that you're free to take those RAWs in directions you didn't intend and a whole new kind of art can appear. Some art is made, some is discovered. Most is a little of each.
Above is an example from my recent work. I've been getting as much practice in as I can with portraiture and studio lighting. I attended (rather than taught - for a change) a lighting academy run by Will Cheung, editor of Advanced Photographer magazine, and run by the company that organises my own workshops, Welshot Imaging. We shot 4 different models during those two days - you can see my "keepers" from this workshop in the Gallery - and this shot above was one where we were set up for a dramatic type of light. On the day I saw it as black and white without realising quite what I had in mind. I processed the images from the workshop during the following week and published all the winners. This shot never made the publishing cut because it just didn't look right and I didn't know why.
I've shot a few more model sessions since then and on a whim I was looking back through previous shoots and suddenly it struck me what was wrong here. This was clearly a film noir shot and I'd missed out some of the glow and lighting emphasis needed to make that work. A little tweak in Nik Color Efex Pro and Lightroom and voila - a shot I couldn't see before is now something I'm pretty proud of.
I've noticed a flurry of similar products appearing lately that turn an iPhone into a shutter release for your SLR. Here are links to a couple of them. The first, ioShutter, is being promoted by the excellent Photojojo which I encourage you to subscribe to. The second is a recent Kickstarter project by the name of Trigger Happy Camera Remote. But let's back up a moment. The equivalent Canon product is the TC-80N3 which allows you to not only remote trigger your camera but also program a number of shots to be taken on a timer and set the duration of bulb exposures - it's sometimes called an intervalometer. Useful stuff but the typical price here in the UK is £120 or $135 in the states. Honestly that's *way* over priced for what it is.
So the prospect of turning a camera phone into an intervalometer is intriguing, first because the "brains" of the gadget can be provided by the phone which should make construction much simpler and cheaper but also because the phone should make the interface easier, prettier and allow it to do more. I first saw the Kickstarter project and I was impressed by what a good idea it is but when I saw the price they were asking my first thought was that the creators were smoking crack. They want $70 for the Trigger Happy Camera Remote when it launches (or $50 if you get in on the Kickstarter funding). ioShutter is even worse - they want $70 just for the cable and another $10 for the app.
But hold on a minute - wasn't this idea meant to replace the complex bit of this gadget, making it simpler and cheaper? See the thing is, I've already bought an intervalometer and I didn't pay £120 for it. I didn't even pay £50 for it. I paid about £20 for it on Amazon. Just try searching for "TC-80N3" on Amazon and you'll see a load of extremely affordable alternatives to the Canon version. There are Nikon equivalents. Mine was made by a Chinese company called Yongnuo and yes it's a cheap knock-off but it's pretty solidly made. It works reliably and it's a *fraction* of the price. I've been delighted with it. Here's one for just $15 on the US Amazon store - it's identical to mine, clearly a rebadged Yongnuo.
The ioShutter and Trigger Happy Camera Remote guys think Canon and Nikon are their competition but they're wrong. Their real competition are these cheap knock offs. So tell me, how much do you want to pay? $70 or $15? I don't care how much prettier the iPhone version is, that's a no-brainer.
But that's not all!
There is another option - Triggertrap Mobile costs $10 for the app and then $20 for the cable+dongle, so $30 for the lot. Still more than the Yongnuo but when you see what you get it's *really* worth it. The Triggertrap app does all the intervalometer stuff plus you can trigger your camera for time-lapse, distance-lapse, motion detection, sound, magnetism, vibration and even facial recognition. For $30. Sign me up - I already placed my order.
I love Kickstarter and entrepreneurs. I usually want to support them and I've backed quite a number of Kickstarter projects but I am getting mightily sick of the price gouging that goes on with photography gear. I've not used any of these products yet but on what I've seen so far the Triggertrap leads the pack by a country mile. Hurrah for sensible pricing.