Get Organized #2….Your Computer

The other day I visited a friend’s office and was really shocked when I saw how his, or “her” (so as not to mention anyone by name), computer’s hard drive was organized. The simple fact was – it wasn’t organized at all! I consider my hard drive to be a huge filing cabinet, but I can only describe his (or hers) as a filing cabinet where every document and every file was placed into the cabinet’s drawers without using any order, any folders, and without a nametag on each drawer! Seeing this photographer look for a specific digital image to show me was an experience I found painful to watch.

As I drove home I realized that a lot of creative people are very bad at organizing things (our brains just don’t work that way!) but if you are a professional photographer, or just someone who shoots a lot of images, if you don’t figure out a system to organize your computer’s hard drive and its contents, eventually you’ll be buried under a ton of image files with no way of easily accessing any of them! If you’re a hobbyist photographer this can be extremely frustrating, but worse, if you’re a professional photographer this can be a kiss of death!

Luckily for me, when I got my first Mac almost 20 years ago, my Mac Guru at the time demanded that I start off by organizing my 256 MB hard drive so I could find things! I can’t tell you just how happy I am now that he required this of me – almost as happy as when my first photographic mentor demanded that I take my meter battery out of my first SLR and learn to use a hand-held meter instead! In fact, a few weeks ago, a bride whose wedding I shot in 2006, called to ask about some extra prints and, because of my Guru’s demand way back when, I found all her image files in less than 10 seconds – even though my current Big Mac has almost two Terabytes of files stuffed into its innards! Although I’m sure many of you have your own way of organizing the information on your hard drive(s), and I’m also sure that some of them are better than mine, for those of you who just dump stuff onto your hard drive without rhyme or reason – this one is for you!

Folders within Folders

My Guru suggested a system he called a “folder within folder” system and it has served me well. My system starts off with a series of general topic folders such as SS/Business, Correspondence, Images, Future Books, Finished Books, Stationery, Applications, Website, Ebay, Flying Models, RMC (Railroad Model Craftsman), and PopPhoto, along with the other standard folders such as “system” etc. To get them to appear in the order in which I want them to in my hard drive’s window, some have a number with a slash before their title such as 1/SS/Business, or 2/Correspondence, or 3/Finished Books or 4/Future Books, or 5/Images, etc. There are no individual documents shown on my hard drive’s opening window, nor even a folder that’s title is one specific assignment. But, inside each general topic folder, there are other folders and here’s where my system starts to shine.

For example, inside my “5/Images” folder is a second set of other folders that are titled “1996_Images”, “1997_Images”, “1998_Images” all the way through “2011_Images” and into these folders are other folders listing the date as a 6 digit number followed by what it was I was shooting (i.e. “100207_TopsfieldFair”). But, while this is all well and good, I must point out that while my system works well for the personal images I take it’s even better for keeping track of the assignment images I take so let’s look at that as an example.

Inside my “1/SS/Business” folder there are a set of folders that are titled “Estimates 1996”, “Estimates 1997”, “Estimates 1998” all the way through “Estimates 2011”. There are also a set of folders that are titled “Assignments 1996”, “Assignments 1997”, “Assignments 1998” all the way through “Assignments 2011” (although “Assignments 2011 has only one folder within it as I write this on January, 6th, 2011!). Repeating customers (thankfully there are a bunch) each get their own folder but within those folders there are other folders each titled with a year (i.e. “1996”, “1997”, “1998”, etc.) followed by an upper case dash (“_”) and the company’s name (i.e. “2010/Lark” or “2009/MacGroup”).

In truth, as my business has grown, and the amount of images I shoot on each assignment has increased with the move to digital imaging, I can no longer store all these images on my internal hard drives.  Therefore, since I usually shoot 60 to 100 assignments each year for wedding studios other than my own, and considering that an assignment for any one of them usually runs between 12 and 20 Gigabytes of images because I shoot a raw and a jpeg file of each image, their images are stored on two, mirror image, external hard drives. However, regardless of where the images are stored, each studio has a folder titled with the studio’s name and in each studio’s folder are a folder for each assignment using the same 6 digit ID number (the date), followed by an upper case dash (“_”), followed by the catering hall, hotel, or country club where it was photographed. This means that the same organizational system I use for my own assignments is the one I use for theirs. Using a similar system for all my assignments makes things easier to remember!

For my own studio’s assignments, whenever I get a call from a potential client for an estimate, I take down the pertinent information using pen and paper while talking to them on the phone but the second I get off the phone that new, potential client gets their own new folder in that year’s “estimates” folder. This new folder I generate is titled with a 6-digit ID number that is the assignment’s date (i.e. “010511”) followed by an upper case dash (“_”) followed by the client’s last name (i.e. “Smith”).

Every document I generate for that new client is titled with a 6-digit ID number that is the assignment’s date (i.e. “010511”) followed by an upper case dash (“_”) followed by what the document is (i.e. “Estimate”). If I am lucky enough to get the assignment, the client’s folder (i.e. “010511_Smith”) is moved from the “Estimates 2011” folder to the “Assignments 2011” folder and as the assignment progresses everything from that assignment goes into that folder. When the assignment is photographed all the images from the assignment go into a folder titled “010511_Images” and when my client makes their selections from that assignment they go into another folder titled “010511_Selects”.

While all of this may seem like a big PITA (a Pain In The A_s), once you get into the swing of things it’s pretty easy to follow, and when Debby Jones called me about some wedding pictures from her wedding in 2006, within 10 seconds after I went into the “1/SS/Business” folder, then the “Assignments 2006” folder, then the “120406_Jones” folder – there they were!

Because this post isn’t about taking pictures but storing and accessing them instead, there are not many pictures with this post but I found this one in my 100207_TopsfieldFair folder that was in my “2007_Images” folder that was in my “5/Images” folder! As I mentioned at this posts beginning, you might have another way or a better way to organize your hard drive(s), but if you don’t have a system yet maybe me showing you mine might give you some ideas to build on. Good luck and good shooting.

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Posted on January 8, 2011 at 9:11 am by Steve Sint · Permalink · 3 Comments
In: Uncategorized

On Using Photoshop

Many photographers who read my articles, blog posts, and books think I have an intense dislike when it comes to using Photoshop. This is simply not the case and they misunderstand my feelings about it. While it is true that I hate the time it takes to use Photoshop to correct simple mistakes that I can correct in the camera before I take a picture; I am totally into using Photoshop if I must use it to correct a mistake that couldn’t be avoided or if I can use it to create something unique. The dictionary definition of “unique” is: “1. Being the only one” and “2. Being without a like or equal”. Sometimes these definitions can satisfy both fixing a mistake and/or being unique! In truth, I’m already moving away from being in love with the picture of the bride’s flowers in color against a black and white background (even though I still sell that image to many bridal couples). I feel this way (and it is only my opinion) because, like the photographs of the bride and groom toasting while superimposed on a goblet or the couple dancing while superimposed on the sheet music of their song from the yesterday’s wedding photography, it is already becoming an over-worked cliché!

Regardless, I often shoot wedding and/or family photographs in public parks and, because I like to get my subjects far off a background so as to throw the background out of focus, other people using the park often wander through my background. Since these wanderers have as much right as me to use the park and they usually, purposely, try not to be in the background I’m using, I never say anything to chastise them for their wandering! But, when they are in my background, I am aware of them and often time my photographs so the extras on the set are hidden behind my subjects when I push the button. What follows is a series of 5 images that starts with just such a wanderer walking into the background from the left while obliviously talking on the phone, then disappearing behind my subjects, then reappearing on the right side of my subjects, and then the wanderer is gone.

As is often the case, even though there are similar images after she’s gone, the very best image in this burst of images is one in which she just reappears to the right of my subjects. In the print for the wedding album I used Photoshop to remove her, take care of a shrub that was dying (on the right), and remove three leaf clusters that had fallen to the ground on the lower left side of the picture that bothered me. All three of these fixes could be classified as “ mistakes that couldn’t be avoided” and they, as a group, are in the first 5 images shown below. But, the couple liked the final album image (number 6 below which is the middle one of the first five after it was retouched) so much they wanted it for a large canvas print to hang in their new apartment. To make this image more unique I borrowed a technique taught to me by one of my wedding workshop attendees at the Maine Media Workshops.

His name is Michael Brook (MichaelBrookPhotography.com) and, told with his permission, the technique he taught me is using Photoshop layers to both sharpen and soften an image simultaneously. Working in lab color mode (under the image menu/mode), he starts by making a duplicate layer and uses a combination of unsharp mask (in the sharpen menu under filters), and the lightness channel in the layers window under the windows menu to intensify the black part of the image (such as the eyes) and then he creates a duplicate layer of the background to which he adds a Guassian blur (under the filters menu under blur) experimenting with the amount of opacity (which is in the layers window next to layer) of the blur layer. The first operation (the unsharp mask) makes the image look crisp but adding the Gaussian blur to the second layer makes the highlights start to halo. When he’s satisfied with his results he goes back into RGB mode and ends by merging the layers together (in the layers menu under “merge visible”).

Finally, to make a centrally located subject literally pop off the paper it’s printed on I used the rectangular marquee tool to form a border around the picture about 1/4 to 1/2 inch in from the edges, then use the select tool to create the inverse of rectangular marquee and choose refine edge/modify/feather also under the select menu to soften the edge of the marquee. I finished up with using image adjust/brightness-contrast in the image menu to do what I can only describe as traditional wet darkroom printing technique called an edge burn and I’m done.

This entire process takes about 10 minutes and that means that on a typical 60 image wedding album doing it on every photograph would add about 10 hours to my post production time so it obviously isn’t for every picture. But, when I want to do something that cannot be accomplished in my camera, something that is not a cliché, and something that looks unique, this is just one of the ways I go about it! The last photograph shown below is a compilation of all these techniques. Hopefully, this will dispel the comments I often get that I hate using Photoshop – it’s just not true!

Happy Holidays to All!

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Posted on December 20, 2010 at 5:45 pm by Steve Sint · Permalink · One Comment
In: Uncategorized

Flip That Flash

Flip That Flash!

Disclaimer: If you are interested in purchasing any of the products mentioned in this blog post you can click on the Adorama link on the right side of this page. Doing so will NOT affect the price of the purchase in any way, however, a small percentage of your purchase price will be paid to this website and will help keep this blog alive and healthy. In fact, if you are going to buy any product from Adorama anyway, doing so by clicking through the Adorama link on this website would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

I envy the photographers who shoot night baseball games. Or night football games, or basketball games, or even hockey games! Why? Well, the players, the umpires, and the fans that have tickets (obviously!) must have enough light to see the ball, or the goal line, or the hoop, or the puck. So the field is flooded with light! And, if the game is televised, the amount of light provided for the TV cameras makes photography not only possible but also almost downright easy!

But pity the poor DSLR photographer. All this poor photog wants to do is have enough light to take a picture! Some photographers push their ISO setting up to – I don’t know – a million! – and just shoot away but whenever I’ve tried that my subject’s, more times than not, have black eye sockets (caused by overhead incandescent lights) and the results look pretty awful (caused by the very high ISO’s required) to me. Other shooters plunk down big bucks for 1.0, 1.2, or 1.4 lenses and then shoot pictures with their aperture set to wide open but I too have those lenses and whenever I’ve tried that I’ve found my fastest lenses are never as good wide open as they are when stopped down two or three f-stops, my depth of field is so razor thin wide open that a portrait leaves my subject’s ears out of focus when their eyes are in sharp focus, and the lenses needed are just too damn big, heavy, and expensive! All of the above has brought me to taking pictures using electronic flash, so much so that I’m now totally comfortable doing it.  And in turn, because no one solution to lighting is perfect, the more flash pictures I take, the more often I think about improving my “working with flash” technique.

I’m sure the Canikony DSLR camera company is happy about this. They want me to buy their flash units….They need me to buy their flash units (thanks Jack and a few good men) and I can understand and appreciate their point of view. When the available light level gets really, really low, when I must freeze action, when I must use a smaller f-stop to get sufficient depth of field to cover the depth of my subject, it’s just so darn easy to slip a flash into my hot shoe and blast away. The simple reality is that today’s shoe mounted flash units are so compact and convenient that using one when there’s not enough light to take pictures by the available light is a no-brainer for most photographers. But, I find this often reduces lighting to a matter of convenience instead of quality.

When I first started taking flash pictures in the stone age…J…I was only interested in having a sufficient quantity of light to make a photograph but the longer I took pictures using flash the more interested I became in the quality of the lighting I was using. So much so in fact, that I now believe that my flash photography technique is just as important as the camera and lens I choose to use. Sort of like a ying-yang thing, the camera and lens choices I make must work in harmony with the flash technique choices I make and all the choices, working together (in harmony!), result in photographs I (and my clients) seem to appreciate. There was a long time when I only worked with a single flash unit on my camera, then I added a second flash unit to the mix, and now I most often work with three, four, or more, flash units firing simultaneously. While I plan on going through working with one, two, three, and more flash units on this blog in the coming months (with occasional side trips when and if something else pops into my head) I have to start somewhere and that will be with using a single flash unit attached to my DSLR. So, now that you know my plan, let’s get to it!

But first, with due deference to Sesame Street, a momentary rant brought to you by the words “vertical” and “horizontal”!

Why did tech writers have to change the perfectly descriptive words “vertical” and “horizontal” to “portrait” and “landscape”?  Are all “portraits” vertical? NO! Are all “landscapes” horizontal? NO! Is it that tech writers think average people are too stupid to understand the definition of “vertical” and “horizontal”? Possibly. Or even worse, are they so involved with their own self-importance in making up new age speak that they think they must rename things with words that have a less than perfect meaning just to use different words that are less than perfectly descriptive? Must we now rename all “doorways” with the word “portal” because it sounds more…more…high tech? Phooey!

Now, back to our regularly scheduled blog post.

There’s a major problem with placing a flash right over the camera lens in your camera’s hot shoe: it results in lighting that is akin to a punch in the nose. It’s a flat, featureless, lighting that makes subjects look like cardboard cutouts! Still, a single flash on camera is the most compact way to take flash pictures. Now I can understand why coal miners put a light on their helmets. They are working in the literal (not proverbial) darkness of a coal mine and they want their light to shine on whatever they are looking at. But like a coal miner’s helmet light, a flash in the hot shoe can create passable (though very boring) lighting, but this is only true as long as the camera is held horizontally! Changing to a vertical composition moves the flash to the side of the lens instead of over it and this resulting flash position makes your lighting quality head for the dumpster!

Can we never shoot a vertical image with a flash in our hot shoe? Woe is us. Woe is us! What can we do? What can we do? Actually, quite a few things but I want to focus on just one today!

One way to eliminate the most glaring fault that the lighting a flash in a hot shoe creates when shooting a single light, vertical image is to use a swing bracket. To prove this to my wedding workshop class at the Maine Media Workshops I set up two side by side comparison photos. Now look at the two vertical photographs below. The left vertical image is shot with a shoe-mounted flash while the right one is shot with a swing bracket mounted flash. The subjects are two of my students (thanks for posing guys!) and, when I present a program on light modifiers to a camera club or a class, I often joke that the shoe mounted flash vertical image created lighting that was so terrible it made the male subject’s eyes cross (he’s such a card – the joker!).

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At first glance most people notice the large distracting shadow created by the shoe-mounted flash’s position in relationship to the subject and the camera lens’ point of view. This shadow is basically eliminated when using a swing bracket because with the flash swung over the camera the shadow that’s so distracting in the shoe-mounted vertical flash photo becomes almost completely hidden by the subject’s heads. You can still see a touch of the shadow behind the male subject’s head (subject right, camera left) but the female’s hair blocks it entirely. But, if you look at the lighting on the subject’s faces there are more important differences worth noting. In the vertical image using the shoe mounted flash, because the flash unit is no longer over the lens but to its side instead, the light from the flash creeps under the subject’s brow into their eye sockets and that looks unnatural. Next, again because the flash is next to the lens instead of over it, the flash’s light creates a shadow on the side of the subject’s nose and that too looks unnatural. Although I’ve just pointed out three glaring deficiencies when shooting a vertical with a shoe mounted flash, even if I didn’t, you should be able to see the differences just by looking at the two pictures!

To see what a swing bracket looks like when the flash unit has been swung for a vertical picture look at the two pictures below that illustrate the flash’s position in a vertical composition when it’s mounted on a hot shoe versus mounted on a swing bracket. Also, note that if you want to use a flash bracket but still use dedicated TTL auto-flash both Nikon (the older SC-17 version shown) and Canon offer TTL cords that can connect your DSLR to the flash mounted on the swing bracket. The current Nikon TTL cord for their SB800 and SB900 flash units also includes an auto focus illuminator and is called the “Nikon SC-29 Dedicated TTL Coiled Sync Extension Cord, with Male / Female ISO Hot Shoes & AF Illuminator”. It sells for $ 73.95 at Adorama. The current Canon cord is called the “Canon OC-E3 EOS Dedicated TTL Off-Camera Shoe Cord” and sells for $ 69.95 at Adorama. Adorama also sells its own in house version of the cord called the “Adorama Off-Camera eTTL2 Coiled Flash Cord (extends to 3′) for All Canon EOS Cameras – Heavy Duty Version”. The Adorama cord sells for only $ 34.95 but I have no hands-on knowledge of this cord (nor the Canon OEM version for that matter) and some of the reviews of the Adorama product are sketchy. The reviews plus the facts that I prefer manual flash and I’m a Nikon user make it hard for me to recommend these last two products whole heartedly but still, in the case of the Adorama cord, a $ 35.00 savings is still $ 35.00!

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Disclaimer: If you are interested in purchasing any of the products mentioned in this blog post you can click on the Adorama link on the right side of this page. Doing so will NOT affect the price of the purchase in any way, however, a small percentage of your purchase price will be paid to this website and will help keep this blog alive and healthy. In fact, if you are going to buy any product from Adorama anyway, doing so by clicking through the Adorama link on this website would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

While I mentioned using a swing bracket above I can see why some photographers wouldn’t want to use one because they are big and bulky, especially so when you try to pack it away. See the photo of my much-modified “Stroboframe Quick Flip 350 – 35mm Flash Bracket” swing bracket below to understand this. But today there is a special breed of flash bracket that folds up so it can be easily stored in a camera bag pouch. The “Stroboframe Pro-Digital Folding Flip Flash Bracket for 35mm Film and Digital SLR Cameras” folds into a very compact piece for storage and sells at Adorama for $ 89.95. Adorama also sells two versions of  “Custom Brackets” folding flash brackets that also collapse into a small package for packing in a camera bag pouch. The “Custom Brackets Folding-S Short Camera Bracket” for Short Digital and 35mm Film Cameras or Cameras without a Power Grip and the “Custom Brackets Folding-T Tall Camera Bracket for Digital and 35mm Film Cameras with a Power Grip. Either sells for $ 79.95 and depending upon which camera you are using one of these three will let you flip your flash and stow your bracket away easily! Three pictures of the Stroboframe folding bracket are just below so you can better understand how it does its thing. Till next time, good luck and good shooting.

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Posted on December 3, 2010 at 1:42 pm by Steve Sint · Permalink · 2 Comments
In: My Favorite Things, Working with Flash

To Avoid Being Buried Alive!

To Avoid Being Buried Alive!

Everyone is always interested in the MP rating of the newest camera that’s introduced.
Photographers turn up their noses at a 12 MP camera as if it can’t possibly be worth anything once a new 16 MP camera has been introduced. But, honestly, this MP race is beginning to drive me nuts! Why does it drive me nuts you ask? Well, a jpeg from my 12 MP camera is between 4 and 6 MB. Choosing the midpoint (5 MB) between the two, means about 200 images takes up about one Gigabyte of storage on one of my 1 Terabyte hard drives. If I shoot a compressed raw file with a 12 MP camera each image is between 9 and 11 MB. Again, choosing the midpoint (10 MB), means about 100 images takes up about one Gigabyte of storage on one of my 1 Terabyte hard drives! If, as I do on every assignment, I shoot a raw and a jpeg of each image, 200 images shot that way takes up 3 GB of storage space. So what? Well, I’ll tell you what! One Terabyte (1024 Gigs) divided by 3 GB for 200 pictures is approximately 341, and 341 multiplied by 200 images is only 68,000 images (approximately). Since I shoot between 1000 and 1500 images on every assignment and taking a midpoint of 1250 images, I fill a Terabyte hard drive every 55 assignments! This is a sobering thought.

Want a more sobering thought? I put all my assignments on two (yes two!) mirror image 1 Terabyte hard drives! So what you ask again? Well, not counting the three 1 Terabyte hard drives that are already filled and stored away (I just counted them), I have a stack of seven (yes, seven!) 1 Terabyte hard drives sitting next to my current big Mac (see photo just below this paragraph to prove my point). Heaven help me if I switch to a 24 MP camera! Eventually, will I end up with a stack of one Petabyte (1024 GB) drives? Or, eventually a stack of one Exabyte (1024 PB) drives? Or, eventually a stack of one Zettabyte (1024 EB) drives? After a Zettabyte it’s a Yottabyte (1024 ZB) drive! Forgive the pun but that’s a yotta images! Obviously, as the MP rating of cameras continues to rise, this can become a major problem. But wait, it gets worse. Choose to save a jpeg as a tiff or a PSD format for an advertising image and that file is about 35 MB instead of 4 to 6 MB. Add in a few layers to make it glow (as an example) and a single high-resolution image can approach a Gigabyte! This problem isn’t only about storage space but consider the processing power you need to crunch big files too. It was a joke in the old days (a relatively short time ago) of Photoshop V.1, that if you wanted to add a gausian blur to a scanned image of a 4X5 chrome when working on a Mac Quadra 840 (the biggest, baddest, and fastest Mac offered at that time) you chose gausian blur and then went out to lunch while your Mac crunched the pixels accordingly. Is there any way out of this maddening MP, storage space, and processor speed rat race? Maybe there is.

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Canon (and maybe the other manufacturers too) has started to become aware of this. The last two versions of Canon’s great “G” series cameras, the G11 and the G12 are down to 10 MP from the G10’s 14.7 MP. In fact, the more I shoot digitally, the more convinced I am that there are other metrics of image quality that are at least as, if not more, important than MP count when searching for ultimate image quality.

The choice of which sensor size to invest in is a critical step in determining which DSLR camera will work best for you. Given equal pixel count, a larger sensor will have larger pixels, and this is a definite advantage. To grasp this concept this let’s simplicate the numbers to make things easier to understand. Photons are individual beams of light; they are really teeny tiny and now picture in your mind’s eye that an individual pixel is a little bucket into which a huge number of photons fall. First an apology: I first read the “bucket” analogy somewhere on the internet, and I think it’s perfect, but I can’t for the life of me remember where I read it so my apologies for not attributing the “bucket” analogy to the original person who wrote it. Now for the simplicating part: Let’s say a single pixel in a point and shoot digital camera can accept 10 photons. But, a few of the photons bounce off the edge of the bucket and bounce into the pixels next to it. A pixel into which the errant photons bounce has its information degraded by the bouncing photons. Obviously, if a pixel can accept only 10 photons, and three of the photons are bouncing in from hitting the edge of adjoining pixels the image that pixel can produce is degraded by a large percentage. Now, let’s say a DSLR sensor, with much larger pixels, can accept 100 photons in each pixel. If the same three photons bounce into a pixel from adjoining pixels they have a much smaller effect on the pixel’s image making capabilities. The term for what all the photons falling into the pixel makes is often called the “signal” and the term for the errant photons that bounce into an adjoining pixel is what “noise” is. The end result is; larger pixels create a cleaner signal, and a cleaner signal means less noise, which in turn, offers the ability to capture images at higher ISOs and/or have the ability to be upsized by a process called interpolation without creating artifacts.

There are two metrics by which to measure pixel size. One way to compare a camera’s pixel size to each another camera’s pixel size is via a metric called MP/cm² (megapixels per square centimeter). DPreview, under their “specifications” pull down menu lists each camera’s MP/cm² (megapixels per square centimeter). Looking under any camera manufacturer you’ll see that their smallest, most pocket sized, digital camera might have 50 MP/cm² while their DSLR with the biggest sensor might have 1.4 MP/cm². The lower the number before the MP/cm² metric is, the bigger its pixels are and the better the camera’s image quality will be.

The other metric that can be used to compare the size of one camera’s individual pixels to another camera’s can be found at dxomark and looking under their “camera sensor/compare sensors” menu. This website offers the size of each pixel measured in microns (the symbol for a micron is “µm” and it equals 1 millionth of a meter) and in this case the bigger the µm number the better. For example, when comparing two 12 MP cameras; the Nikon D300 has pixels that are 5.42 µm while the Nikon D3 has 8.4 µm sized pixels. I don’t know whether the measurement is the diagonal of a square pixel, the diameter of a circular pixel, or some other measurement of a hexagonal pixel on a Fuji sensor nor do I think it matters. Regardless, I do know that a larger µm number holds the promise of better image quality, a cleaner signal, and less noise.

Almost always, given any two cameras with an equal MP pixel count, the lower the MP/cm² number is or the higher the µm number is, the better the camera’s image quality will be and that’s a fact!

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Posted on November 17, 2010 at 3:33 am by Steve Sint · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Tools & Organization

Rubber Bands, Velcro, and Tidbits

Rubber Bands, Velcro, and Tidbits

After reviewing the post I put up last Sunday, I realized I left out a couple of bits of information that I wanted to add and there is one item in my gear kit that I have updated and I want to mention it too.

First off, I’m a big fan of rubber bands. Some of my equipment has them semi-permanently wrapped around them to hold another piece of equipment in place. This started when my Hasselblads were my money cameras. Most of my lenses had a rubber band over the lens’ barrel and I would pull the band over the PC cord tip to hold it in place. Now that I use as DSLR as my money camera, the one I use in my flash bracket has three wrapped around its body to hold my PC cord in place. I guess some things never change! In truth, the Nikon PC outlet is threaded and there are PC cords available with a threaded tip to keep the cord secure but they were difficult to thread them into place tightly when I tried to use them. And, as an added bonus, rubber bands are a lot less expensive! See photo that follows. Disclaimer: I don’t make anything if you buy a bag of rubber bands at Staples.

I used to have a few bands wrapped around each of my Nikon flash units to hold my fill flaps in place too. But, I needed two hands to put the fill flap in place and two hands to take the fill flap off. Furthermore, the bunch of rubber bands made my flash units slightly wider and made them a tight fit in the section of my camera case where I packed them. Finally, when I was disgusted with how long it took to get a fill flap on and off I realized that all my flash units already had a patch of peel and stick Velcro on them because I often stuck a radio slave onto the flash units. That being the case, I recently added a strip of Velcro to each of the custom fill flaps I showed in my last post and took the rubber bands off the flash units (which made them easier to pack in my case as an extra added benefit!). Like many of the custom things I do to my equipment everything is a “work in progress.” I try out an idea and often, after using the idea for a while I figure out a better way to do it. So, the rubber bands around my flash heads are a thing of the past and I now hold my fill flaps in place with Velcro. I thought you should know that. See the two photos that follow. Disclaimer: I don’t make anything if you buy a roll of peel and stick Velcro at Home Depot.

As people who have read my portrait book (Digital Portrait Photography: Art, Business, and Style) already know, and people who will read my upcoming wedding book (Digital Wedding Photography: Art, Business, and Style) will soon know, I am a sucker for every light modifier that comes on the market. Although I’m also into DSLR cameras and great lenses, if you want the truth, often times I’m more interested in lighting equipment. In fact, I think photography is all about light and, since I have to take and/or make photographs whenever and wherever my clients pay me to do so – whether there is beautiful, available light or not, I believe that light is the real game. So, it should come as no surprise to you, that whenever a manufacturer comes up with a unique product that helps me use or control light better I’m always one of the first ones to put my money on the table! This being the case, when Gary Fong introduced his Fong Dome (my slang nickname for his product) I bought two of them.

Although Gary probably made a gazillion bucks selling them, after using them I began to feel the product was a great idea that was poorly executed. The plastic material they were made of was too hard and it didn’t stick well to my shoe-mounted flash. It was large and bulky to pack and more times than not (if it was bumped into) it fell off and I ended up scrambling around trying to pick it up off the floor while wedding guests danced around me. Lastly, over the few years I used it the plastic it was made of seemed to become more brittle (exacerbating the “it fell off problem”) and worse the color of my two domes started to change from pristine white to a yellowish magenta one. Phooey! Gary must have heard about these problems from a lot of photographers because his next version included a Velcro strap to hold the darn thing on. But, even though it might stay on better, I was really unhappy about the color shift of my original ones so that time around I passed on the second version.

So, to recap the problems I had with the first version were three fold: 1. It fell off, 2. It changed color over time, and 3. It was bulky to pack. A short time ago he introduced a third version that solved more than just the “it fell off” problem. The newest version is collapsible and made of a sticky, rubbery, material that seems to stick to my flash head like Crazy Glue sticks to skin (although not permanently). Since it solved all three problems I had with my first version I put my money on the table and bought one. As of now, I don’t know if it is better than my free Soup Dome. As of now, I don’t know if the sticky, rubbery material it’s made of will stay sticky and rubbery. As of now, I don’t know if it will not change color over time. However, primarily because it fits into my smallest shoulder bag easily, it’s the light modifier I’m using and I thought you’d like to know that. I’ll keep you posted. See the two photos that follow. Disclaimer: I don’t make anything if you buy a collapsible Fong Dome.

 

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Posted on November 12, 2010 at 6:56 am by Steve Sint · Permalink · 3 Comments
In: DIY, My Favorite Things, Tools & Organization, Working with Flash · Tagged with: , , , ,