Opportunity knocks.

NEWS! My next project is being kickstarter-funded. And I am very excited to be able to tell you about it.

Kickstarter, as you may know, allows a business idea to take place without the investment capital: the public funds it. In return, people who fund it get benefits like funder pricing, extras, and so on.

And mine—wait for it—is a printed version of my new book. This checklist reference book:

A printed version is exactly what we all need. From beginner to pro, all sorts of tables, guidelines, checklists, and more. Here’s the table of content:

Interested yet? Now imagine this on thick stock paper, one sized, with a ring binding at the top, so you can flip it to the page you want; and it’s a 4×6″ sizem so it fits easily in your camera bag, even in your jacket pocket.

Want to help me, and at the same time get lower prices or extra benefits? Then get in nowwww.kickstarter.com/projects/1117812792/the-ultimate-checklist-booklet-for-photographers

Lost in…


“Lost they get, things in translation”,

as Yoda might have said, in a galaxy long, long ago and far, far away where they all had human-type vocal cords and all spoke English. And all breathed the same oxygen/nitrogen mix.

So… to your camera. Assume that you shoot in RAW or JPG format—which is the case for almost all cameras today. Let’s assume RAW.

When you translate that original file to what you see on the screen, you are doing exactly that: interpreting and translating that RAW file. And translations and interpretations always bring inaccuracies. They will rarely if ever improve your file; they may decrease the quality (and often do). When I say never improve, I mean that you cannot get extra information out of a file by interpreting it. You can’t pluck a bald chicken, as the Dutch saying goes.

When you import into Lightroom, you can change the translation. In the DEVELOP module, bottom right, you get CAMERA CALIBRATION options like these, for example:

All those are just different ways of interpreting the RAW data. “Portrait” is a little less sharp with more emphasis on skin tones; “landscape” sharper, with more greens. And according to Adobe’s best reverse engineering of what Canon or Nikon do, when you select thatsetting on your camera.

Now let’s get to the point.  Some people say “Adobe’s DNG format rocks: it is the standard”. Lightroom offers you the option to automatically change the original file into a .DNG upon import.

Here’s the problem with that, in my view: by doing this, you are throwing out the original data (this goes squarely against the face of non-destructive editing) and trusting Adobe’s interpretation of it; what’s more, you are trusting Adobe’s interpretation of it more than you are trusting your camera’s maker.

And then when exporting, you will in most cases once again make a translation, this time from DNG to JPG or perhaps TIFF, or directly to your printer driver via the printer profile, if you print directly from Lightroom.

And each translation brings with it the danger of misinterpretation. Like that game where you whisper into the ear of the person next to you, who does the same with the person next to them, etc, and by the time it comes back to you, “my mother is wearing a red coat” has turned into “why are the ancient Greeks developing antiserum in the library?”

It is nice that DNG is a standard, but it’s not a generally accepted one yet, and the advantage of that move to standard is not worth throwing away the original data that your camera produces. So until cameras themselves produce DNG files (as indeed some already do), my advice is: no, do not convert your files to DNG upon import. Leave them in your camera’s RAW format.


Manual power

The nice thing about setting flash power manually is that it responds to very simple math. Like the inverse square law. Andthat the common shutter speed, aperture and ISO numbers we know are all a stop apart. They lead to tables like this:

SB910/900 or 600/580EX flash. Zoom set to 35mm. Flash held at 2m (6.5’) from subject. Flash not modified.

So if you have a high-end Canon or Nikon flash and you set the Zoom setting to 35mm, when you set your camera to f/16 and ISO value to 100, you get a well exposed picture at about 2 metres (6.5 ft) distance.

A modifier like an umbrella generally takes around 2 stops, so the same table will hold at one metre (half the distance is 4x more light, i.e. two stops more, which would cancel the umbrella’s 2 stops less).

Simple math. And the rest follows simple math, too: increase ISO and you need less power, and open the aperture and you also need less power. As per the table above. A table that can save you a lot of time.


A useless^G^G^G^Gful trick

So I can take pictures like this, one by one:

…and on on. Using a tripod, so the only thing that varies is me (I used a self timer).

And then I can use Photoshop or the GIMP (the latter is a free equivalent) to do things like this very easily:

Or even this:

OK.. so a cool trick. You do this with layers and masks. Hellishly complicated user interface, but once you know the silly UI, the process itself is very simple. It’s the only thing I have the GIMP for.

So. Why would I think this is useful, other than for fun?

I don’t. But you can also use it the other way. Instead of replacing the wall by me, replace me by the wall. And now you can perhaps see a benefit looming.

No? Think on. You are at the Eiffel Tower. Or the Grand Canyon lookout point. Or whatever tourist attraction you can think of. What do you see? Tourists. Right. It attracts them: that’s why it is a tourist attraction.

But not in the same spot all the time. So all you need to do is the same I did here: take a bunch of pictures. Say 10-20 of them. So that you have each spot of attraction at least once without a covering tourist. Then you put them into layers—one each—in PS. And then you manually remove tourists. Or if you have the extended or Cloud version, you go one further: you use function File > Scripts > Statistics.   Choose “median” and select the photos. Now you end up automatically with an Eiffel tower without tourists, a Grand Canyone without other onlookers, and so on.

Cool? Yes, that warrants four backspaces and a “–ful”, in my opinion. And those of you as experienced as I am in IT (I am avoiding saying “as old as”) know that ^G (Control-G) is a backspace.

So there.




This is what f/22 looks like (at the usual outdoors flash setting of 100 ISO and 1/200 sec):

“You know the day destroys the night
Night divides the day, tried to run, tried to hide
Break on through to the other side”

(Jim Morrison, John Densmore, Robbie Kreiger, Ray Manzarek/The Doors)
[Read more: The Doors - Break On Through (to The Other Side) Lyrics | MetroLyrics]

This was a normal day, and daytime (i.e. not evening). So with f/22 it turns dark. The flash, fired by means of Pocketwizards and set to manual, 1/4 power) is handheld by the subject, photographer Valerie.

Remember: Flash makes your camera a light shifter.