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Years ago, when mirrorless cameras came out, I wasn’t the skeptic that many pros were.  They seemed to fit a niche for the hobby photographer who needed something light and easy to use at the expense of resolution and pro features.  The fit a gap between plain point-and-shoot cameras with which you couldn’t change lenses, and full on DSLR rigs that offered resolution, lens changes and such but were cumbersome to carry around.

Well that final DSLR quality has done me in on family trips and casual shooting.  I’ve grown tired of hauling a 5D MKII, 17-35mm lens, 50 prime, 100 macro, and 70-200 L-series glass around on family trips and casual shoots.  With my iPhone’s camera quality being sufficient for 90% of what I encountered, I usually just snapped and processed images on it instead of carrying my big gear anymore.

Sony a6000 with lens. Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Sony a6000 with lens.
Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Well, now mirrorless tech has matured to the point where I feel the investment is worth it for myself and the business.  Here are three reasons why I’m using Cyber Monday 2014 to score a deal on a Sony a6000 with 16-50 kit lens  (Click link if you’re interested in the same deal):

1. Weight – My current Lowepro backpack with DSLR gear weighs roughly 10-15 lbs, depending on what gear I’m hauling at any given time.  Add a tripod capable of holding a DSLR with a 70-200L lens, and it goes up even more.  I’m 36, I have a five year old and a baby to keep up with, I walk a lot on family outings.  I’m tired.  I need something compact, lightweight and easy to store when not in front of my face.  A point and shoot or mirrorless camera fit the bill for such uses.

2. Functionality – Shooting cars, or anything for that matter, becomes less intuitive and spontaneous the more gear you bring to the shoot.  Photographing detail shots of collectible vehicles in an auction preview area is a hassle (and a liability) with a tripod and big camera set up.  Being able to handhold a camera and quickly change angles and camera settings helps with creativity.  It also makes you less of an asshole for all the other people waiting around to view the vehicle you’re diligently photographing.  BUT, having the functionality of lens changes, a camera flash hot-shoe, tripod mount, and exposure bracketing were things I wanted in a handheld set up.  The lens changes allow me some creative freedom over a point and shoot rig, even finding old vintage lenses to adapt to the current Sony mount to play with some vintage or DIY lens effects.  The flash hot-shoe means I can throw on my Pocket Wizard or other remote flash sync unit and shoot studio strobes for portraits, action, and car beauty stills.  This means I can use the camera on paid shoots and get just as good of lighting but with a smaller camera kit.  The tripod mount I require so when I’m doing beauty stills, I can shoot multiple exposures, but being able to use a smaller, lighter tripod will keep my kit as a reasonable weight.  Exposure bracketing helps in many situations, one of which I run into on a sunny Concours and need to tone-map layered exposures together to retain both shadow and highlight detail in a single final image.

3. Wifi image sharing – Honestly, it’s not as much of a sell as the reasons above, but being able to slingshot images I capture to someone’s phone nearby, is pretty handy.  For personal use, sending my wife an image we just shot at Disneyland so she can forward it to the Grandparents would be neat and save time later in the hotel downloading, processing and emailing images out.  From a business standpoint, I’m hoping I can slingshot images from the camera to a client or art director at the shoot so they can preview images, without having to look over my shoulder at my camera screen.  I tried this with a technology called Eye-Fi years ago, and I never got it setup to reliably work on location, so the 8gb Eye-Fi memory card is still just sitting here unloved on my desk.

For a very informative review of the Sony a6000, visit Steve Huff’s review page here.
For a plethora of mirrorless camera reviews and articles, Steve Huff has his whole library here.

And, again, click this link if you want to take advantage of the Sony Alpha a6000 Interchangeable Lens Camera with 16-50mm Power Zoom Lens 2014 Cyber Monday deal on Amazon.com.

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What has two thumbs, drinks Dr. Pepper, and has perfect color vision? THIS GUY! Read on to learn how to test your color vision accuracy.

One out of 12 men and one out of 255 women have some form of color vision deficiency. Because of this, it’s not uncommon to see more female digital techs in the publishing and retouching industries. Statistically, they have more accurate color vision.

So a few days ago, when a fellow photog posted a link to X-Rite’s online color hue vision test, I had to give it whirl to see how my manly eyeballs stacked up. This test is an online version of the Farnsworth Munsell 100 Hue test which has been used by the government for decades to test color vision aptitude.

In the online quiz, you’re challenged with organizing four different color chip swatches by hue. You attempt order the fine hue gradients correctly, between the two fixed hue chips on each end of the swatch. It takes about five minutes, but it’s fun, and informative. A score of zero is good news in this case, meaning you have perfect color vision.

Ryan's perfect color test results!

So I spent a few minutes, second guessed a couple swatch choices, reordered some color chips and submitted my results. Nice…a zero score! (see screenshot posted with article, for you doubters). So my valued clients, we may be working off different monitors and have different opinions of what Ferrari red should look like on your product photo. However, my calibrated graphics monitor and my newly proven eyeballs should carry some weight in the decision now. 🙂
(And for those wondering, Ferrari red has an RGB value of 211/34/50 and an approximate HEX #D32232.)

Leave a comment on your test experience! Post up those scores!
-Ryan

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A new program called creepy might convince you to stop geotagging your photos.

Type in a username from Flickr or Twitter and it will map out when and where all the user’s photos were taken.

It also works with the following photo hosting sites by pulling EXIF data:

  • flickr – information retrieved from API
  • twitpic.com – information retrieved from API and photo exif tags
  • yfrog.com – information retrieved from photo exif tags
  • img.ly – information retrieved from photo exif tags
  • plixi.com – information retrieved from photo exif tags
  • twitrpix.com – information retrieved from photo exif tags
  • foleext.com – information retrieved from photo exif tags
  • shozu.com – information retrieved from photo exif tags
  • pickhur.com – information retrieved from photo exif tags
  • moby.to – information retrieved from API and photo exif tags
  • twitsnaps.com – information retrieved from photo exif tags
  • twitgoo.com – information retrieved from photo exif tags

Even more creepy is that you can export all the data to .csv format and save it….like a stalker…or a good marketer scouring info on a client’s lifestyle habits, I guess.

Some people like geotagging, and we use it in conjunction with Google Maps to digitally “scout” locations before we travel there.  But we’re not too fond of making it easier for you to come kill us or wreck our photo shoot  minutes after we post a behind the scenes shot on Twitter.

You can avoid geotagging altogether by turning it off in your apps and mobile devices, or by using a scrubbing software like Geotag Security.

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The iPad 2 has been announced today, and while we’re not there to play with an actual unit, we’ve culled the interwebs compiling what new version features will be useful for photographers.

Cameras:
While we can’t find specific specs on the cameras, the iPad 2 comes with front and rear cameras.  The rear camera will shoot 720 HD, and the front will shoot VGA resolution, so we’re confident the camera sensors will be great.  This will allow for video chatting with the pre-installed “Facetime” app.  More importantly to us is the ability to capture locations while scouting and then edit them on the spot.  Now instead of sketching out a location lighting idea with a client on paper, we can work at the site with “Photo Booth” or some other other app to sketch in lighting locations, models, etc on a real image.

Processors:
The new version uses the new 1GHz A5 chip with dual-core processors.  The CPU performance will be twice as fast as the iPad 1 and up to nine times faster graphics processing.  This will be useful for photogs during editing and slide show presentations.

Storage and output:
Sadly the iPad 2 didn’t get the removable SD card photographers were craving, but there is a camera expansion pack and loads of on-board memory.   The iPad 2 also outputs at full 1080p with and HDMI output, so you can plug your iPad into your client’s flat-screen and really wow them with your portfolio slide show.  (The HDMI output requires a $39 adapter, and since the iPad 2 captures at 720p, I’m guessing it’s just up-scaled to 1080p)

Variety:
The iPad 2 will be available in many flavors and the 16GB WiFi version starts at $499.  You can opt for white or black cases.  It’s also available in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB variations, all with WiFi and some with 3G connectivity through ATT or Verizon (you have to choose just one).  None of the units will act as a wifi hotspot like the iPhone 4.

By far we’re most excited about the processing speed, the additional camera with high res video, and the HDMI output.  We see an improved work flow and more impressive client experience for photographers upgrading to the iPad 2.

What are your thoughts?  Notice any benefits or negative aspects we missed from a photographer’s view?

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For some time we’ve debated whether to use a contact form on our main website, like we do at whiteproductphotography.com.  Years ago, people weren’t familiar with them enough, so to use one would have seemed a bit stand-offish.  Now people fill them out on a nearly daily basis, so we’re interested in the pros and cons of using a contact form versus putting text-based contact info out there for clients to use.

Pros:
– A contact form can act as a screening pre-qualifier for potential clients.  Someone who invests the 30 seconds to enter their contact information and reason for contacting you has already shown you they’re serious about having a dialogue with you.  A contact form can screen out tire-kickers.

– Contact forms still make pretty good spam filters.  Putting your email address out there either as text or a “mailto:” hyperlink can quickly turn your inbox into a spam-infested mess.  Spam bots scour the net looking for uses of mailto links and text with the @ sign, hoping to get a viable address to send junk mail to.  Sometimes you can curb this by typing your email address as “myname[at]domain.com”, but you’re still forcing your client to manually enter the correct version into their email client before hitting send.  A contact form isn’t foolproof, as spammers have more sophisticated bots now, but it cuts down on the spam significantly.  More info below.

– Contact forms can make it easier for a visitor to give you feedback about your site.  Rather than hassle with an email to let you know you have a typo on your About Us page, they can simply fill out the form and go on with their day.

– Contact forms can be tracked and analyzed.  A contact form can be used as a conversion goal in Google Analytics and other tracking programs, so you know how many people make it to your contact form and how many then use it.  You can also use contact forms to more easily send an autoresponder to the client, letting them know you got their message.  You can do this with incoming emails as well, but it usually involves creating a special email address to receive those inquiries and then autorespond.  Then you use your regular email address to further communicate with the client, which can be confusing.

Cons:
– Contact forms can look impersonal on an artist’s or small business site.  When someone is hiring you to perform a service, they may expect you to appear available.  A contact form can seem a bit corporate to some clients, and they’d really prefer to see your phone number, address, email and such on your website.

– Contact forms may not format right across all browsers.  This isn’t as big of a deal now as it used to be, but depending on your contact form platform and coding, some browsers and mobile devices may not display your form as you had planned.  If you’re a design snob and that one drop down menu simply has to be in a particular location, a contact form may not be for you.

– Contact forms are still a source of spam.  As mentioned above, contact forms can still fall victim to spam bots.  It’s a good idea to use a CAPTCHA image for clients to verify they are real humans, before submitting the form.  This can prevent most spam from making it through.

CAPTCHA

In our opinion, it would seem that the benefits of a contact form outweigh the negatives, and Radiant Photography will be converting to a contact form system soon.  But we’re interested in your thoughts.  Did we miss a pro or con here?  Do you use, or refuse to use, a contact form and why?

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We’re always on the look out for great used gear at great prices.  When you cashflow a business, you’re not in the habit of slapping down a credit card for the latest, greatest thing, so you have to get creative with sourcing gear.  Here are some tips and resources for finding good photography gear at great prices:

Ebay – Hands-down, our favorite place to find new and used gear.  Many Ebay retailers can offer new camera bodies and lenses at deep discounts since they don’t have the high overhead of brick and mortar stores.  Just make sure you’re buying from a reputable seller, and that your not buying grey market gear without a U.S. warranty.  If it’s used gear, warranties usually don’t matter as they aren’t transferable.  Ebay is also full of pros and hobby shooters unloading equipment at great prices, and we’ve never had a bad experience when we’ve done our proper homework.

Tip: Check the completed listings section for ended auction prices. This will tell you what the market will pay for your desired item and give you an idea of how high to bid.  Completed listings are also useful for setting competitive prices when selling your gear online.  We recently sold this 24mm prime lens, used for less than 40 frames on one shoot, for a $50 profit.

Canon 24mm f/2.8

Craigslist.org – Search your local listings for new and slightly used gear.  For more specialty items, expand your search to other metro areas and ask if the seller will ship the item.

Tip: Look on Ebay completed listings first to know how much your desired item is worth, then start negotiations with your local Craigslist contact at 75% of the Ebay price in cash.  They won’t have to worry about listing or shipping the item online or paying a percentage to the auction company or PayPal, and you get your item the same day for less than it would have cost you online.

Another tip:  Be patient and have cash reserves.  You never know when a good deal will come up on Craigslist.  If you’re sitting on cash, you’re in a position to get a great deal on some gear, while possibly helping someone else get out of some financial trouble.  Don’t be a vulture, but realize you’re in a position to wheel-and-deal if you have money and time on your side.

PropertyRoom.com – This auction site is full of photography gear (and other items) confiscated during police seizures and raids.  If it’s never claimed, it has to be auctioned and this is where a lot of gear ends up at great prices.  You probably won’t find your Canon 24mm TS-E tilt/shift lens or other specialty stuff here, but there are tons of consumer cameras, DV recorders, webcams, security cameras, memory cards and more.

ShopGoodwill.com – Goodwill stores on the corner are great places to find clothes, but their online auction site has some great camera gear too. Similar to police auction pickings, they have consumer cameras, lenses, printers and such.  The Goodwill site seems to have some interesting vintage stuff occasionally though, like Brownie cameras, old movie cameras, and vintage medium format combos.  If you collect bodies or like shooting film cameras, this may be a gold mine for you.

One last tip: Learn to set up auto-notifications in Ebay and RSS feeds in Craigslist.  You’ll be able to go on with your life and get emails when the items you’re looking for show up for sale.  This saves you a ton of search time and if you’re not in a hurry for that special piece of gear, you can rest assured that you’ll find the best deal possible when it lands in your lap.

Happy hunting!

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