Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Rates Publications Pay Photographers

This article was originally published on March 13, 2013

A PetaPixel article recently detailed a new site named Who Pays Photographers?, up since March 8th, where photographers can now anonymously submit information on payment they've received for their work. Reviewing this information will hopefully give pros a more accurate idea what they can expect to receive for their shots before submitting them. In that sense, the site has the potential to become a major resource for photographers attempting to determine a realistic price for their work. It also can assist aspiring photographers in estimating earnings should they decide to devote themselves to photography as a full time career.

The website will almost certainly stir disputes between photographers and publications as shooters compare payments they have received to those reported by others. The website's explanation in its About section that "outlets play favorites and situations vary" probably will not go over that well with photographers who suddenly realize they have been paid less than their competitors. As an example, the PetaPixel article notes:
"... one user reports being offered $0 by an ESPN producer for a stock image. Although, to be fair, what seem to be ESPN’s official prices for work are outlined later by another user."
Who Pays Photographers? has a sister site named Who Pays Writers? that provides writers with similar information on payment for text submissions.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

NYC Photo Expo Arriving Next Month

Just a reminder that the NYC Photo Expo will soon be arriving.  It will be held from October 24th through the 26th at the Javits Center in Manhattan.  It's a great opportunity to check out new products and ask questions of the experts as well as to network with fellow photographers. Below is a summary of my posts from last year's Expo.

2012 NYC Photo Expo

After having skipped NYC's Photo Expo for the past several years, I finally went on Thursday to see the 2012 edition which runs through today at the Javits Center.  My only reason for attending this year was that I'm considering purchasing in the near future a Nikon D600 and wanted to first examine it and handle it in real time.

Aside from checking out a particular piece of equipment of interest, there's really no reason for me to attend these shows.  There's absolutely nothing there any longer for the traditional photographers.  Everything is geared to the digital enthusiast.

In the next few posts, I'll write briefly about my experiences with various vendors as well as their responses to the questions I posed.  My next post will concern Nikon's D600.  After that, I will write about two mirrorless cameras (Fuji ProX-1 and the new Panasonic Lumix GH3) that I consider above average in quality.  Lastly, I will mention a discussion I had with Speedotron's rep and a new metallic paper from Moab Papers.

Questioning Nikon on D600 Problems

In an earlier post, I blogged about problems users were reporting with the Nikon D600.  These problems included reports of oil, not dust, accumulating on the sensor and a black border that appeared along the edges of video recordings.  Subsequently, Popular Photography picked up on an item by LensRentals reporting unusual amounts of dust on the sensor's upper left corner on all D600's in its inventory.  LensRentals provided photographs to document its assertion.  It concluded that it might be the camera's construction that is causing the problem. 

"The D600′s shutter curtain opening seems a bit larger than the other Nikon cameras with a bit of a gap around the shutter curtain. It may well be the shutter movement is pulling dust onto the sensor."
As I am considering the purchase of a D600, I went to Photo Expo on Thursday primarily to check out the camera and get Nikon's side of the story.

Since the whole point of Nikon's presence at the Photo Expo was to promote its cameras to consumers, the rep I spoke with was understandably reluctant to discuss the camera's shortcomings, if any.  He took the position that he himself was not aware of any unusual dust problems and that if such problems did exist, Nikon would do a sensor cleaning at no charge as long as the camera was under warranty.  When I asked him if there was a problem with the camera's construction or if the dust problem were limited to a certain serial number range, he declined to answer. 

While Nikon's offer to clean affected sensors is fair enough, it doesn't make much sense to me to purchase a camera that I will have to ship to Nikon's Melville facility each time I use it.  The big question for me is whether the dust will continue to accumulate on the sensor after repeated use, or if it is only a temporary problem that exists while the camera is still relatively new.  Nikon did not provide me with any guidance on this issue.

I later spoke to another rep about the black borders surrounding the edges of the video.  The rep did not mind at all acknowledging this problem and said that there would be a firmware fix "very soon."  Apparently, Nikon's policy is only to recognize a problem once it already has a solution in place.

Mirrorless Cameras

In another post, I talked of the "death" of the DSLR.  To me, it's apparent that the direction the market is taking, at least for enthusiasts, is the mirrorless camera.  Even professionals now routinely carry an milc as backup.  I think we may be returning to the status seen in the days of film photography when the use SLR's was limited to professionals, and enthusiasts went with "prosumer" cameras.  Certainly, tourists wandering around Central Park no longer need the expense, weight and complexity of a top of the line DSLR in order to take high quality vacation photos. 

What's most interesting about this trend is that the best of the new milc's come not from the big players like Nikon or Canon, but from companies such as Panasonic, Sony, and Fujifilm who are all relatively new to the camera business.  This may be because Canon and Nikon have built their reputations and customer base on the SLR format and have too much invested to come up with viable alternatives in their own product lines.  Certainly, the Nikon 1 series is so compromised that it can only be seen as a halfhearted attempt at mirrorless design.

Although I'm not presently in the market for an milc myself (I'm extremely satisfied with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 I currently own and see no reason to replace it), I did stop to look at two excellent milc's while I was at Photo Expo last week.  Each of the two has gone in a different direction when it comes to design but both have resulted in great cameras.

First was the Pansonic Lumix DMC-GH3, which was announced at this year's Photokina as the successor to my current milc.  On the new camera, the designers have wisely not tampered too much with what was already a winner.  Although the Panasonic rep, who introduced himself as a designer rather than a salesman, thought it would be wise for me to upgrade, I didn't see enough major changes to warrant the move.  To me, the new design changes represent no major innovations, only incremental improvements.  The camera now resembles a mini-DSLR more than ever and will appeal most to those who are already familiar with DSLR operation.  The body has been made more rugged, although I don't know if the additional weight is really needed for this type of camera, and a PC synch terminal has even been added for use with studio flash.  I was also told that video has been improved, the camera has greater dynamic range, and there is less noise in higher ISO's.  There has also been a redesign of controls on the camera body.  All these features make the GH3 a worthy successor to the GH2 and I would not hesitate to recommend its purchase to anyone interested.

The other milc I checked out was the Fujifilm X-Pro1.  Although this model has been around for a while, this was my first chance to handle it and inspect it up close.  The camera design here is that of the classic rangefinders.  It has a retro look and feel I think is intended to appeal to film photographers who have used Leica's or the Mamiya 6, a film camera I own and still use regularly.  The camera's biggest selling point for me is the " hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder" that had originally been introduced on the X100.  I consider the ability to use an optical viewfinder to be a great advance over the standard EV in any shooting situation.  The other great advantage is the absence of an optical low-pass (anti-aliasing) filter.  With this removed, images are inherently sharper. 

My conclusion is that I will in the future probably go with the Fujifilm X-Pro as my next milc purchase.  I would hold off purchasing it now only because Fuji has yet to introduce its series of new zoom lenses and because by the time the new lenses are introduced Fuji will proabably already be gearing up to introduce a successor X-Pro2 model, though the reps I spoke with declined to discuss any such release at this time.  ("Even if I knew, I wouldn't be able to tell you.")

Speedotron; Moab Metallic Papers

My final stops at last week's Photo Expo were at Speedotron and Moab Papers.

I've used Speedotron black line since 1986 and have found it to be totally reliable.  Photographers like to say that once you get Speedotron, you'll use it forever.  The system is virtually indestructible and just keeps going year after year.  I have the 4800 ws, 2400 ws and 800 ws power packs along with four heads and a small fresnel spot.

My reason for approaching Speedotron last week was to get to the bottom of an argument I've heard among photographers for the past several years.  Some say that the older packs give out a certain number of volts or amps that necessitate using a Wein flash adapter in order to keep digital cameras' wiring from "frying," or burning out.  Wein itself says that its adapter is "absolutely mandatory for all high end and digital cameras."  The Speedotron rep with whom I spoke gave me his take:  If a digital camera has a pc sync terminal, its wiring is able to handle the voltage and no adapter is needed.  If a camera has only a hot shoe on top, its wiring is not up to standard (at least as far as Speedotron is concerned) and the Wein adapter, not a cheap substitute, should always be used to prevent damage to the camera.  That seems straightforward enough.

I stopped by Moab Papers to check out the buzz I've been hearing for a while on metallic papers.  There was an interesting article recently in Shutterbug that explored the question in some depth.  I did see some excellent examples of metallic prints at Moab's stand.  Further, the rep told me that a new paper would shortly be in stores.  This will be called Slickrock Silver and will feature a "brushed" surface.  The examples of this paper I saw are certainly more attractive to me than the Slickrock Pearl which has a high gloss surface that does not appear particularly distinguished.

As I left the Photo Expo, I searched in vain for Adobe.  Why does the creator of Photoshop not find it necessary to attend an event such as this?  Does the company have no interest in answering its customers' questions regarding its software?

I didn't realize until after I'd left that I'd seen no sign of Kodak.  While this is understandable considering the company's current woes, it seems strange to a photographer who remembers when Kodak's presence dominated this event only a few years ago.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Comparison of RAW Processors

This article was originally published on February 4, 2013

Any photographer shooting digital knows the importance of RAW format. While a jpg is a basically a photo that has already been processed in-camera according to the manufacturer's particular specifications, RAW contains all the information that has been collected by the sensor. Since the data encoding method used in the production of a jpg entails the use of "lossy compression," some image data will always be irretrievably lost when shooting only in jpg format. While jpg's are generally satisfactory for most uses, a photographer who wishes to get the best image will process a RAW photo himself rather than let the camera do it for him automatically through the use of its own presets.

Given the importance of RAW images, it is essential for professional photographers to have access to software that will enable them to quickly and easily work with their photos in this format and, most essentially, produce the best images available. There are currently three major programs available: Phase One Capture One Pro 7, DxO Optics Pro 8 and Adobe Lightroom 4.

At the end of last month, dpreview published an excellent comparison of the three programs. The piece was well written by Amadou Diallo and methodical in its examination. Comparisons of speed, image quality, imaging workflow, output options and asset management were clear and to the point. I found it to be an extremely helpful article for any photographer trying to decide which software package best suits his/her needs.

Though the evalution given in Diallo's article shows all three programs to be fully functional and concludes: "You can create some great images no matter which one you choose," there are different features whose relative importance depend on the uses photographers have for them. For example, Capture One is particularly useful for photographers who shoot tethered in a studio. For most photographers, image quality is paramount. If I had to pick one feature of importance for myself in choosing which package to use, it would be highlight recovery, where Lightroom 4 comes out ahead.

Since the full versions of Capture One Pro 7 and DxO Optics Pro 8 are priced around $300 and Lightroom 4 is half that at $150, all of which are relatively modest by the standards of graphics software, many photographers may consider purchasing more than one program and then alternating their use depending on the particular task to be performed. I personally use both DxO Optics Pro 8 and Lightroom 4 and have found them both to be outstanding for RAW processing.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Wedding Ceremony -- Meiji Shrine

This article was originally published on June 4, 2011

The Meiji Shrine, dedicated to memory of the late emperor and his wife, is one of the most beautiful and peaceful areas in Tokyo.  One follows a road through a heavily wooded botanical gardens until one reaches the temple buildings themselves, a faithful reconstruction of the structures destroyed by bombing during World War II.

The shrine is also apparently the location for traditional Japanese weddings.  One weekend when I was visiting I was lucky enough to see such a ceremony.  I stood on the side with tourists and took these pictures from a distance as the official wedding photographer did his work.  I noticed the photographer was working with the best equipment available, including a Leaf camera back.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Drum Performance -- Harajuku

This article was originally published on June 3, 2011

There was a brief earthquake one Sunday morning while I was still lying in bed in my hotel.  The bed shook for a while, but that was it.  Afterwards, I left as planned to visit the Meiji Shrine in Harajuku.

Harajuku is a Tokyo neighborhood that tries hard to come across as counter culture, but really is so gentrified that it's high priced beyond any boho's wildest dreams.

At the entrance to the shrine, close to the Harajuku JR train station, a group of drummers were performing a benefit for earthquake/tsunami relief.  Aside from the discreet jar in my hotel lobby, to which I'd contributed as much as I could, the was the first sign I'd seein in Tokyo that any disaster had ever even occurred.