“No RAW Please, We’re Reuters”

No RAW for Reuters freelancers anymore, we saw yesterday:


The Verge gets it right in this article. The policy, while somewhat understandable, is shortsighted, because:

  • A JPG can also be manipulated, so mandating “JPG” is no guarantee of an unedited image.
  • Some cameras, like my 1Dx, even allow editing of RAW pictures in camera to produce an edited JPG.
  • Now journalists have to get exposure and white balance right in camera, when shooting. As well as colour space, sharpening, contrast, saturation. These are in fact all set in camera prior to the JPG being made, so every JPG is a “manipulated RAW”. Why does it make a difference whether you do this manipulation in camera or in Lightroom? If you have to do it all in camera, you waste valuable shooting time.
  • [edit:]Now, journalists cannot “expose to the right”: a technique designed to limit noise and hence to obtain maximum quality.
  • Size. Often, news editors have requirements like “a 1MB file”. You have control over this in Lightroom, but not in camera.

A much better policy would be: do whatever you like, but if the JPG you send us was edited in Lightroom, make sure you include all the EXIF data (i.e. do not restrict that when making an export).


World Naked Bike Ride photographers: RAW, or In The Raw?

As for the ethics angle: sure. It is sensible to set limits to what you can do, namely:

  • Exposure, colour, colour space, and white balance adjustments are fine, but not to manipulate the truth.
  • Saturation, clarity, and vibrance adjustments are fine, but not to manipulate the truth.
  • Cropping is fine, but not to manipulate the truth.
  • Rotating is fine, but not to manipulate the truth.
  • Lens corrections (e.g. architectural corrections) are fine, but not to manipulate the truth.
  • Removing chromatic aberration is fine, but not to manipulate the truth.
  • Noise reduction is fine, but not to manipulate the truth.
  • B/W conversions are fine, but only with “standard” channel settings, and not to manipulate the truth.
  • Sharpening is fine, but not to manipulate the truth.
  • Not fine: vignetting, graduated fill, spot removal/the healing tool, adding grain, and any other change to the image, especially, of course, changes designed to manipulate the truth.

“Manipulating the truth” means changing anything that changes the facts. That can include removing or adding objects. Changing sizes and shapes to change positioning or distances. Making skies darker using graduated filters. Anything, in other words, that causes a photo to be interpreted in such a way that it does not reflect the actual truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Above all, it is important to have a clearly stated policy. Nothing worse for a photojournalist than to have uncertainty over what is, or is not, allowed.

And that, for the record, is my $0.02.

Ring a Ring o’ Roses

I talked about ring flashes recently, if you recall. This time, a few notes about the Orbis Ring Flash—a flash that is not a flash.

It is a flash modifier. An attachment with clever light guides, that makes your speedlight into a ring flash. In order to achieve this, your flash fits into the bottom:

Result: a ring flash. And a remarkably good one, with amazingly even light all around the circle:

This needs you to insert your flash into the unit’s base, then set it off using light- or radio-driven TTL, or some other way. You hold the flash in your left hand, while you hold the camera in your right hand, with the ring around the lens.

And this works remarkably well. See the characteristic halo, and the very recognizable ring flash light, shown by student Tony:

And again, as shown on my intern Daniel:

As said, this device contains incredibly clever engineering. To make it this even, the light paths have to be very cleverly engineered. And they are: whatever I tried, the ring always lit evenly.

From prior experience, I am sure the cheap knockoffs that seem to be around do not work nearly as well.

You can, of course, also use it off camera, rather than around the ring. It also works well when you do that, still providing better light than a straight flash. Like here:

I can see that this device is going to be a fixed part of my flash gadget bag. Thanks to David Honl of Honlphoto.com for sending this to me.

And, um, yeah… it is even good for shooting cats.

…including the donut shaped catch light that tells you immediately that this is a ring flash photo:

And I can tell you that this is a remarkably good device for shooting…

….you guessed it:

…cats! (Canon 7D with 100mm macro lens, f/5.6, 800 ISO, 1/125th, ring flash).



As I so often say, prime lenses are fun. They are often better than zooms, lighter, and faster. And they enforce compositional discipline.

Like the 85mm f/1.2 lens that I rented it from www.gtalensrentals.com (because when I can not afford a piece of equipment, or when I want to try it out, or when it’s something I would use only a few times a year, I rent.)

All shot handheld with the Canon 85mm f/1.2L prime lens.

What I love about this lens: The quality. It is ridiculously sharp. Its focus mechanism, whether engaged (manual focus) or not is ridiculously smooth, a real pleasure to use. No scratchy scrapy movement: smooth effortless “air hockey” gliding instead.

This lens is razor-sharp wide open, too, and has beautiful bokeh (the “creamy” nature of the blurry background):

f/1.2, 1/50th sec, 3200 ISO

What I like less: if his lens had IS (stabilization), that would be great. And if it could only focus a little closer… its closest distance is almost one metre/3ft.

You see, that startles Mau as well:

These shots were made at 1/200th sec, f/1.4, 3200 ISO in a pretty dark room. The kind of thing you can do with a prime.

Go rent this lens: since I returned it, it’s available. Warning, though, I plan to get it again for Tuesday’s corporate portrait shoot!



My oldest son Jason uses a Canon 6D with 24-104 f/4L lens, and I had the chance this weekend to play with it a little. Here’s a portrait I just made, of Jason, with the 6D and that lens:

Here my first impressions: Love it!

OK, that’s that.

But wait.. there’s more!

The 6D is basically a low-end full-frame camera. I have always said that full frame will prevail (the sensor is the same size as 35mm film, meaning bright, large, viewfinders, great high ISO performance, and very shallow DOF (“blurry backgrounds”) when you need. Full frame is the way to go, and the 6D does not disappoint.

So why is it “low end”? It isn’t, really. Of course in order to not cannibalize the 5D and 7D sales, Canon left off some things that the 7D, 5D, and so on do have. For instance, there are fewer functions available via buttons (White Balance and Flash Exposure Compensation are two notable missing functions that now need menu or quick menu access).  The frame rate is lower. There are no dual cards slots. The focus system has fewer spots than the 5D, 7D or 1D series.

Do these matter? Not really. I could live without them. This camera looks and feels great; the shutter is quiet even without the “quiet mode” engaged; build quality and sealing are good: I would be delighted with this camera.

There are many pro features included that I had expected Canon to leave out. Lens adjustment, copyright info;  all these are there. There are even all-new functions like built-in GPS and a pretty good working WiFi mode. The mode button locks. The Quick menu is the same as on the 7D, 5D3, and 1-series. (TIP: in this quick menu, set the joystick to move focus point without further button presses, and invert Av/Tv wheels in M mode).

Minuses? Well, for me these are minor:

  • The menus are not getting clearer (getting rid of the colours is not very clever).
  • The language in some of the new menus is atrocious (after setting copyright info, for instance, instead of a simple “OK”, I need to press MENU, whereupon I see “[OK] has been selected. The settings screen will close after saving the text entered”, then a choice of  ”Cancel” or “OK”.  Huh?
  • White balance and Flash Exposure Compensation (“FEC”) are only available via the quick menu. Of course for FEC you can use the flash itself.
  • The viewfinder is, I think, a 97% viewfinder, not a 100% viewfinder
  • We have the traditional 9 AF points in a diamond, rather than the 7D or 1D’s excellent AF system.

But as said, these are minor, and the pluses mentioned outweigh them easily.  Amazing camera – don’t we love the free market? Thank you, Nikon and Canon, for engaging in this eternal great arms race. I would be delighted to have a 6D as a second camera when shooting anything; or as my only camera if I were on a budget and could not afford a 5D3 or 1Dx. Great camera, right at the right time.



As those of you who read this DAILY teaching blog all know, I use both TTL flash (fired by “morse code” flashes of light) and manual flash – and in the latter case, I usually use Pocketwizards.

Like in this shot:

Where are they? Ah. Here:

You see: I “Lightroomed” them out in post. Sometimes that is the only way – and it is simple here.

I had six Pocketwizards. I just bought one more, bringing my total to seven. The new one is a PlusX, the new “low end model”:

I shall use this on the camera, leaving the six others free for use on lights.

Why simple?

The higher-end models have zones. And they do more stuff, in particular the TTL models. But more stuff means more things to go wrong, and TTL means reverse engineered TTL, and hence possibly even more things to go wrong; and funny little batteries are expensive and hard to find. So I am happy with simple pocketwizards.

And yes, these are compatible with -among others!- the old Plus II models. The first 4 channels of the ten equate to the four channels on the Plus IIs.

I am often asked “do you use Canon’s built-in TTL wireless?” No, I do not. I have a 600EX, but I would have to replace my 580EX and four 430EX flashes as well – a $1500 investment. No, thanks.

The best news? These new Pocketwizards cost less than half what the Plus II cost, and are more robust. So far: wholeheartedly recommended. (But, Pocketwizard, please include a hotshoe cable…)

TIP: if you use, or would like to use, flash creatively and well, buy my NEW e-book. Click on PRO FLASH MANUAL above: the world’s best full flash course in 123 pages for just $19.95!