Twitter Adds Photos to News Feed

Yesterday Twitter announced the additon of photos to their main newsfeed. As a photographer I am greatly excited by this new release. I have always found Twitter a bit restrictive because you are forced to click through a link, and really who knows what is on the other end of said link.

 

First of the bat, I have noticed the photos look good. They actually look really good. I had tired of Facebook quite some time ago because of, among other things, the absolutely terrible image quality. As a pro photographer I work hard to produce great work, not to have it look bad in the end.

 

As an added addition, some of the sharing buttons are also being displayed in the feed. I can see this helping to speed up user interaction. They're great but they ain't no picture, sorry I'm a little biased on that front.

 

The only problem, how long until someone abuses this feature. Currently, I have images of spammers meeting in secret back rooms plotting on how to sell the latest cure all. With any progress there is always a drawback. I guess we will have to wait and see how well this latest update works out. For me personally, I see nothing but benefits and look forward to what's next on the platform.

 

 

What are your thoughts on the update?

Winnipeg Photography Locations: St. Vital Park

Winnipeg Photography Locations

 

 

The second in my series of Winnipeg Photography Locations, Why not do a guide to St. Vital Park? I mean why not? So here it is the second installment, I bring you St. Vital Park.

 

Photographers Guide: St. Vital Park

 

St. Vital Park in my opinion is one of the best parks in Winnipeg, if not the best park in Winnipeg. There is a massive duck pond in the centre of the park which is great as it gives the opportunity for many still water shots. There are numerous fountains in the pond but I generally try to stay away from these.

 

I find the park is best in the fall out of any other season. The main reason being the changing leaves reflecting off the still water of the pond can present some truly magical photographs. Bring a tripod and prepare for some long exposures. 

 

Since the park is bordered by the red river on almost all sides there is a great deal of water shots. Through most of the year it is pretty easy to photograph quite a few sunset and sunrises. I tend to stay away from the west bank of the park as the opposing bank has some sporadic development that does not generally photograph well. Apartment buildings and landscape photography generally do not mix well.

 

There are numerous trails that run throughout the park along the river banks. These are generally great for photographs in the fall as well as winter. The park is generally deserted in the early morning. I would recommend arriving early before the sun rises as, like I mentioned earlier, the sun will usually rise other the river itself (depending on the time of year). There are many opportunities for great shots, bring a coffee and be ready for some amazing sunrises.

What Is the Perfect Shutter Speed

The perfect shutter speed is 1/500th of a second in my opinion. The reasoning;

 

You can shoot long lenses at this speed.

 

 

It is adequate to freeze almost all action.

 

 

It sounds cool.

 

 

I said so.

 

In actuallity the best shutter speed is the one that gets the job done. Shutter speed is only a variable in the photographic equation, and just that.

Adobe Photoshop CS6 Review

I wanted to do a comprehensive review on the latest instalment of Photoshop, about a month ago. I had envisioned it being about more of the same tools, without justification of the added cost. This is however not the case, CS6 is honestly so much better than CS5, that I was actually shocked. So without haste I decided to use the program a great deal more before writing a review that I felt would be an accurate representation of the major improvements of this update.

 

Improvements

  • 63% More Features.

  • Numerous Speed Enhancements.

  • Innovative new tools, such as adaptive wide angle and better sharpening techniques.

  • Clean design that makes the image the focus rather than the interface.

  • New Interface for creating still videos.

 

Now from the beginning, the first major update is to camera raw. If you don't use camera raw, well that's just stupid so never mind..

 

Bridge is almost exactly the same, which is fine for me because I really didn't want any change. They have added a few plugins for social media sharing, but again almost identical. 

 

 

Camera Raw now has four new sliders that allow you to control the Highlights, Shadows, Whites and Blacks. HDR shooters should definitely take note, as HDR processing can be done right in raw. This replaces the old brightness and recovery sliders. The control is so much better I now barely find myself using the dodge and burn tool in Photoshop itself. Also, because camera raw uses side car files to the raw file there is no data loss, and you can easily apply duplicate settings to multiple images. 

 

I tend to process each image one by one because I'm extremely picky like that. In this case I am doing a simple two image pan so the settings have to be identical. Moving forward, I have run a photo merge command on the two images and they are now merged in Photoshop.

 

 

The crop tool has vastly improved to that of the previous versions. There is now a live view option that allows you to see the crop as you are making changes. The former version was frustrating as it seemed to take forever to get the proper crop on an image. 

 

I now have adjusted my curves levels and added some contrast to add some punch. I shoot in raw so this is always a requirement. Now to go over the new adaptive wide angle tool. 

 

 

This new feature is great as it allows you to use wide angles on subject you normally would not due to distortion. You can still preserve the wide angle look and you are able to straighten any crooked lines. This is especially helpful when shooting interiors, to give that "big" look to a room.

 

Adobe has also added a content-aware move tool. Personally I do not use this, but it works great if your photography demands that you have to move trees around or something.

 

 

 

Conclusion

Adobe Photoshop CS6 looks better, it runs faster, and there is numerous improvements for the working professional. This program has easily paid for itself within the first month I upgraded. Anything that makes my workflow easier is fine by me. 

 

 

 

Robert Lowdon Photography is based in Winnipeg, MB. Please feel free to send any inquires to  info@robertlowdonphotography.com

Manfrotto Q2 L Bracket Review

I decided to start doing some reviews on the gear I use. It allows me give some insight to anyone thinking of purchasing the said item, and I get to practice my sick product shot skills (approvingly pats self on back). So without any further ado I present the Manfrotto MS050M4-Q2 L bracket product review.

 

My first impression: Why did I not buy one of these camera brackets sooner! Anyone who uses longer lenses to shoot from a tripod is well aware of the downfalls of regular mounting plates when shooting from a vertical framing position. The camera will start a slow decent downwards, making longer exposures troublesome. The last thing you need when photographing difficult subject manner is the camera fighting against you.

 

Probably the best advantage is the speed in which one can change from a horizontal position to a vertical one. I originally went with a Manfrotto plate quick release system because of the speed at which the camera can be attached to a support, and the stability it provides. Combined with the Manfrotto L bracket, setup just becomes faster overall. Changes are easily made, when working with changing light situations. This is essential for anyone trying to capture that perfect light before it is gone.

 

The Manfrotto L bracket weighs in at 322 grams, which is ridiculously light for its size, without sacrificing durability.  The bracket is constructed out of magnesium and is capable of supporting 15kg. Retailing for $149, the bracket seems expensive but the value provided is well worth the money spent. 

 

Unfortunately, it isn't all sunshine and rainbows, as there are two downfalls I have noticed when using this product. I find the Nikon intervalometer I use seems to constantly wrap around the bracket which an annoyance. A simple clip on the bracket would have completely eliminated this problem. Secondly, the bracket comes with an Allen key for adjustment which fits in the body. This is great, but it would be a lot better if the adjustments could be made by hand.

 

The Manfrotto MS050M4-Q2 L bracket is a definite buy for anyone serious about their photography. It is a simple item that pays for itself in about 5 minutes of use.

 

 

 

Robert Lowdon Photography is based in Winnipeg, MB. Please feel free to send any inquires to  info@robertlowdonphotography.com

How To Photograph Events

When I think back to all of the events I have photographed in the past one word comes to mind - Fun. There is always lots of action and people enjoying themselves. I always get a lot of enjoyment out of any event I photograph. Seriously, I love photography, events are basically parties, and I get to see the smiles on clients faces when I deliver their images, there is no real downside in here .

 

Events can be a monumental task to photograph. There is often poor lighting, and there is always a lot happening at once. One of my staples is get right in the middle of the action. The photographs I take look like I am about a foot away from the subject, and that is because I am. I move through the crowd and disappear into the background as any good observer would. My clients expect me to document the total event and that is exactly what I do. The photographs need to show the spirit of each event and exactly what is happening from moment to moment.

 

Speed is the key for any good event photographer. You have to be ready at any and all moments to get the best photographs, and your shooting abilities need to be technically sound. Relying on the camera is the wrong idea, as automatic settings will almost always yield poor results. I always talk to my clients about how they are paying for the photographer not the camera. True, I use high end professional equipment, but these are all just tools to produce high quality images my clients expect. 

 

Now the most important part is file delivery. Seriously who wants to wait two weeks for their images? Let’s be honest here, massive amounts of editing time is just an excuse for poor photography. If the images were taken properly in the first place, they wouldn't need a ridiculous amount of editing time. I have images ready for clients within 24 hours of the event, and if required, can be ready in as little as One Hour. Files can be viewed online through my website, downloaded, shared through social media and prints can be purchased as well. The files can be accessed through mobile devices.  To my knowledge, I am the only photographer in Winnipeg to offer this service. 

 

All photography services from Robert Lowdon Photography are customer based and focused. I provide a custom service to meet each of my client’s exact needs. Clients get amazing images, Images are delivered faster than the competition, and my customer service is stellar. I constantly strive to be better than my competition in every aspect. The phrase "good enough" or "I'll fix it in Photoshop" have no place in this business.

Is Instagram A Good Thing

The Controvesy of Instagram Photography

 

I've asked myself this question numerous times and the answer is a resounding, Yes Instagram is a good thing. Instagram was designed for the average person to be able to take snapshots and add different effects. As a photographer I find it kind of hilarious that these effects mimic camera errors. I guess if mistakes are seen as cool now, sure why not have some fun.

 

I like the idea of Instagram because it shares the joy of photography in it's simplest forms. It brings the medium to the public much like the Kodak Brownie before it and the disposable camera after that. It is immediate and gives individuals a voice to express their lives.

 

Are Instagram Photos Art?

No, I'm sorry they are not. This is like asking if a coloring book is art. Instagram has a purpose, but it is very limited in creative control. If a person thinks that all photography is just pushing a button, well, I'll stay away from derogatory language on that one. 

 

Are Instagram Photos Worth Something?

This kind of makes me laugh a little, especially after the whole controversy of Instagram possibly selling its users images. There is a strong market for high quality images. However at this moment, last time I checked anyway, there is little to no market for blurry photos of cats and underexposed images of desserts. 

 

Clients want images that are going to sell their products. Commercial photography is extremely technical and requires a great deal of skill to achieve exceptional results. Instagram photography is simply not capable of producing quality images at that level.

 

There has been a giant push by companies selling "professional" photography courses in recent years that has created this myth that all photography is some how worth money. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but 99.9 of all photographs taken have absolutely no commercial value. It takes years of training, great skill and a merciless dedication to their craft before one is at the skill level required to sell their images. Furthermore, 90% of people who try to become a photographer will not make it. This is not my opinion it is a reality.

 

Of course, there is probably some crazy guy out there living in the desert, who was raised by wolves about to open some giant show in Paris documenting his "riveting" Instagram photography. "The blurred nuance of the cat's whisker in the image brings a shocking contrast of the feline world to that of humanities constant struggle in a barren environment", is what they would say. I imagine anyway.

 

So, use Instagram photos to document those great moments in your life, your family, and just all that great stuff out there. Have fun with it, because that's what it was meant for.  If you want to get into professional photography I say go for it, but please realize the difference otherwise you are only setting yourself up for a great deal of disappointment.

Winnipeg Photo Locations: Kings Park

 

Photographers Guide: Kings Park, Winnipeg

This is the first in my series of great locations in Winnipeg to photograph. As a photographer this represents my personal favourites list and what I think are some of the truly amazing green spaces that we have in Winnipeg.

 

Perhaps the greatest amenity of King's Park and it's photographic potential is the shear amount of water that runs around the park. The park is bordered by the Red River on three sides, as well a large pond runs through the centre. The abundance of resources gives the opportunity for a great deal of variety as a photographer. I am always on the look out for for varying perspectives and angles in my photography, and an environment that presents numerous challenges to photograph is always a great benefit. 

 

Kings Park presents forested areas, numerous trails, the Red River as well as a few rolling hills. The fact that all of this is combined in a prairie environment, never mind a city park, is truly remarkable. Oh and there is also several small bridges, a small descending creek, and a "Chinese" pagoda (why I don't know but there it is). 

 

 

Another absolutely great feature of this park is that it is relatively deserted in the early morning. When shooting long landscape exposures the last thing any photographer wants is people walking through the frame.

 
Recommendations:
  • Personally I recommend staying away from the pagoda. It is a standard shot and heavily photographed, not much originality here. 

  • Walk the trials. There is so much to photograph on the trails alone it is easy to spend hours in a small area.

  • Get a shot from the top. Shooting form the tallest hill down allows you to include water, the "hills" in the distance and the trees in the background.

  • Stay away from the Dog Park. If you're into photographing dogs then by all means. If you're not then stay away or be prepared for lots of people walking into your frame carrying plastic bags. And trust me, nobody wants to see what is in those bags.

  • Go to the Red River. It would be just dumb not to.

 
Photographers Benefit:

Perhaps the greatest attribute is the fact that Kings Park is surrounded by trees all the way around, and the centre is open. This means that you can take advantage of directional lighting from the sun throughout the year. Every photographer should know how important light is, and you can easily take advantage of it here. 

Photo Hacks: No Grad Filter

So you manged to forget a grad filter and what you are shooting requires one. You could HDR the image, but yuck who wants to do that. Not me.

 

What you will need:

 

Anything that blocks light. Like your hand or a card.

Tripod (Don't even bother without one)

A cell phone with a stop watch will help.

 

Solution: You will want to do a long exposure in order to acheive this. Stop down to at least f16 or more. Your ideal exposure time should be about 2 seconds or more if you can do it. 

 

First you want to meter for the sky. Say your lucky and it is one second (this won't happen). Next meter for the land, subject or what ever. Perfect, it meters for 2 seconds (what an ideal scenario). 

 

Next you are going to block the area of the sky for a period of time while you take the exposure. Following our perfect scenario you will make a 2 second exposure in total. Setup with your clock in hand and place the card over sky portion with a slight over lap of the land. Cover the area for the first 1 second of the exposure. At that point move the card upwards in a sweeping motion, removing it form the image area (this will help create a more natural gradation).

 

Now this is not proper technique by any means. It will take a lot of tries before you are able to get acceptable results. But if you are stuck it can produce great results with a lot of patience, of course. Heck, pixels are free anyway. 

Photo Hacks: Reflector

A lot of people tend to think that you need some special photographic reflector. The fact is you don't and often a simple piece of paper will do the trick to get proper fill for your image. 

 

What You Will Need:

 

White Paper (The thicker the better)

 

For this you simply use the paper as close to the subject as desired to create flattering fill light. You are simply bouncing light to either lessen or eliminate shadow from your subject. Remember light fall off is exponential. By paying close attention to your subject you will be able to observe the effect that is being created. 

Photo Hacks: Gaffers Tape

Gaffers tape is extremely useful to have with you for any on site photo shoot. It has about a million uses and is non reflective (doesn't transmit light). But for some reason gaffers tape seems to be extremely expensive for what it is.

 

There is a solution, and I'm sure many fellow Canadians would be aware of it. Drum roll please; Hockey Tape.

 

As far as, I can tell Black hockey tape is almost identical to gaffers tape. At $3 bucks a roll you really can't go wrong.  You can buy a case for of 36 rolls for $64! One roll of gaffers tape is usually about $32. 

 

Expert Tip: When on site you should be taping down your electrical cords to eliminate any trip hazard. First off It's professional and never mind all the legal ramifications if someone trips and falls. More so, it is just common courtesy, no one wants to be responsible for someone getting hurt because of negligence.

Photo Hacks: Light Stand Weight

If you are a photographer who shoots on site a lot with studio lights, you are probably well aware of how much your gear weighs. You are also well aware when working with lights in an outdoor location of how easily they like to topple over. One swift wind and there goes your $1000 light.

 

Now for me, I'll be damned if im going to pay an exorbitant fee for a glorified light stand weight. Especially one that is simply a bag of sand. Never mind carrying said bag of sand to jobs.

 

The easiest solution: a 4 litre jug of water (or 1 gallon for our American friends). Fill the jugs you need with water before the gig. Empty them when you are finished. Easy and cheap. Plus if your thirsty after a long photo shoot they also come in handy. 

Photo Hacks: Snoot

 

Let's face it snoots can be expensive. Well basically any light modifier is. A simple way to create a snoot effect can be easily created with common household items:

 

What You Will Need:

 

1 Roll of Fabric Based Tape

1 8x12 Piece of Reflective Poster board Paper (Silver is better but white is often great)

 

Step One: Roll the paper into a tight cylinder shape and hold.

 

Step Two: Firmly grasping one end of the cylinder place pieces of tape on the interior folding over to cover the exterior of the cylinder.

 

Step Three: Release the opposite end of the cylinder creating a cone shape to the desired diameter of your strobe light and place tape to hold at that diameter. The open end should fit snugly of the end of your light source preventing any light leaks.

 

Step Four: Place four pieces of tape attaching your newly constructed "snoot" to your light source. 

 

You have now created a cheap snoot that you can use when in a pinch. 

Photo Hacks: Someone is in Your Way

So you have lined up the perfect shot only to have someone walk right in front of you at the perfect (or worst) moment. Having people in your way when shooting an event can be a constant annoyance for any photographer. You can get frustrated or you could do what any good photographer would do and deal with it.

 

Solution: Use that observer as a part of your framing. When you add an observer into the mix you are creating a photograph that tells a story. The photograph becomes more interesting. There is also an added context of the person who views the photograph feels like they are a part  of it themselves.

 

So much of event photography is just dealing with the senarios you are presented with and thriving in them. You have to react in seconds (often less).  After all you can't publish excuses.

Photo Hacks: Flash Speedlight Modifier

One of the simplest and most effective ways to achieve flattering photos with a speedlight is to bounce the flash. You usually never want to directly illuminate the subject as the light is harsh, unless of course you prefer "The Deer in Headlights Look".

 

What you will need:

 

1 White Business Card (the more reflective the better)

1 Rubber Band (optional)

 

Generally on Nikon speed lights there is a space between the wide angle diffuser and the strobe and the top of the flash gun. Simple solution: use a business card. 

 

Step 1: Point the flash head upward

 

Step 2: Fold over the the to bottom corners of the card in the portrait aspect several times. Repeat this back and forth until you are able to remove the corners. 

 

Step 3: You should now be able to place the card in the slot between the wide angle diffuser and the strobe itself. If your speedlight does not have this you can use a rubber band instead.

 

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Shooting The Moon Quite Literally

So this is the question: How does one photograph the moon? 

 

To achieve a decent moon shot more often than not you are going to need a long lens capable of projecting the moon into a larger area of the frame. For instance, this was shot with a 300mm lens and only fills up a partial area of the frame. You may want to use a longer lens or photograph the moon at ideal times.

 

You should pay attention to moon rise and set as during these times the moon will appear larger in the sky. When you photograph the moon you also want to always make sure that you are retaining the detail and not over exposing. The moon should never look like a white orb in the sky. 

 

Perfect exposure is ideally 1/250th of a second at iso 200 with an aperture of f11. Of course, exposing for the foreground will be different and you should look to make adjustments depending on what you are looking for in the final image.

 

Questions?

 

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What Do Your Website Images Say About Your Company

In 2011 web commerce sales amounted to $763,200,000,000 worldwide. The fact is that 97% of all retail consumers first looked online before considering a purchase. Yes that includes online and in store purchases. I'm going to say this again, 97%. So this begs the question: How are you presenting your products and services to potential customers? Are your product photos adequate? I can assure you your competition will take every advantage they can, and bad photography will turn off almost every customer there is.

 

Proper product photographs are an investment that can increase sales, increase customer engagement, and present your company professional manner. How many of us have looked online for a restaurant only to see badly taken photographs with a cell phone. Now let me ask you a question, did you eat there? How about that pair of jeans, did you visualize yourself wearing them? Now finally, are your potential customers taking you seriously? These are all important questions to ask when establishing or rejuvenating your brand.

 

Great product photographs tell the world that you are open for business. They inspire customers to purchase your products. They let the world know who your company is, and what you do.  Presenting your product and/or service in a professional manner is essential now more than ever. It is a fact today that companies who take their online presence seriously will excel and companies who do not will be left behind. That is the nature of business.

 

What bad product photographs have you seen and what was your reaction?

Should Photographers Be Licensed

"On second thought maybe this wasn't the best place to take the wedding photos..."

 

I ponder this question quite a lot. It seems like every day through my travels, I hear another horror story about some “photographer” losing someone’s images or ruining another person’s wedding. As a working full time professional it quite frankly angers me. Not because of lost business to these, let’s say individuals, who sell their services at a ridiculously low rate, but the damage they do to the industry as a whole. Mainly the title loses value and soon it starts to not mean anything. For instance, if I buy a wrench am I now a mechanic, or if a buy a stethoscope am I now a doctor? The answer is of course, No!

 

I look at other industries that previously had the same issues that the photography industry is now going through and I see that after licensing was brought into effect the industry has been cleaned up to a certain extent. I am not sure that a license would be a definite solution to the problem, but in my thinking it would at the very least be a start.

 

Personally, it took me 8 years to reach a level where I was comfortable charging clients for my services. I also have a certification in professional photography from a reputable college, have been published numerous times and have built a solid reputation for my work. More so, if you want to be a professional you have to be willing to work harder than most could possibly imagine, to obtain a high level of skill. And of course, the learning and dedication never ends. In my thinking a good photographer always wants to deliver the absolute best images they can, and trust me there is nothing better than the look of amazement on a clients face when you exceed their expectations.

 

Currently it is a buyer-beware market. I advise all customers to do their research about their photographer prior to hiring them. Any reputable photographer will be able to answer your questions in an honest and straight forward manner, present previous samples of their work and give names of previous clients they have worked with.

 

Have you had a bad experience with a photographer?  You do have options.  You can contact the Better Business Bureau to file a complaint, as well as, the Consumer Services Branch of Manitoba.

 

If you have any questions you can contact me here or leave a comment at the bottom.