Saturday, May 24, 2008

I love the smell of Dektol in the morning

It's smells like a darkroom...

In the pre-digital age, as in from 1827 until 2004, darkrooms were a part of life to most professional photographers. Most I knew had a basic set-up somewhere. In 1995 I rented a nice office in a nice studio in Downtown Austin, and I had a ***real***nice*** darkroom. 8 foot sink, two enlarger areas, temp gauge on the water supply. Oooooooo

In 2004 I packed up my darkroom and it's in storage. Not forever, but just until I get a house with room to build a darkroom.

Very, very few places sell basic B&W chemicals and paper anymore, but Free Style in LA does, and so does Calumet, B&H still sells some as well, but NO ONE in Austin sells it. In fact, there is only one decent camera store left in this city. A city of over 1.2 million people, and only ONE camera store left.

How sad.

For my money - it's better to shoot & process real film when shooting B&W, especially for catalog or fine art.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Stock Photography Update


In April, SS announced a rise in subscription rates to image buyers, and on May 14th they announced a small raise for contributors, but only those contributors who were established and already making cash.

About the same time, it was noticed by several contributors a significant decline in downloads. Mine stayed steady with a sudden, and inexplicable downturn at the end of the month, with a slight rebound first week of May. Last two days have seen odd low numbers. Then today, it's back to "normal". All this goes against established patterns of new uploads equaling increased downloads.

I figured it was people leaving their design offices to go on long Holiday weekends. Guess not. Maybe trying to figure all this out is like trying to figure out the Universe itself at a quantum level.


These guys announced subscription plans beginning at the end of May. Given iStock's market share, I expect my sales with this company to begin rising.

123RF already has a subscription model in place. I'm still not seeing a lot of sales at this site yet.

Overall, I contribute to 8 microstock agencies, but I have fallen behind in my goal of shooting every other day and uploading at least 20 images a week. Bad weather has curtailed a lot of my proposed shoots, but hopefully I'll get on track this weekend. That plus less time to edit the shots I do have lined up on my hard drive.

Some have voiced their concerns on various forums over the slump in individual sales - a reply by an administrator at SS said they're having records numbers of downloads. So the cause is increased competition from new photographers who join the microstock agencies.

Meanwhile, an agency I was planning on joined has closed, Lucky Oliver. More of the smaller agencies may begin having trouble.

My goal is to continue, but also to implement the other half of my business plan which is to begin working with Rights Managed agencies more. I am earmarking about 25% of my images for RM now, but I have yet to join any except PhotoShelter. It's a cludge to upload images to PhotoShelter at this time, making the process of loading my gallery there a long and tedious one.

The bar is set a lot higher at the RM agencies - unlike the Royalty Free sites. Although consumer cameras are acceptable at places like ShutterStock, 123RF, and others, places like iStock, Getty, Gemini and others want very high quality images, with Getty going so far as to tell applicants they only accept images made with the higher end, pro-level cameras. Okay by me! I have plans to get a Nikon d300 this summer anyway!

The payoff at RM agencies is far, far greater. Which is why they demand higher quality. Seriously, how many photographers on, say, ShutterStock could get images past a real magazine editor? I have, it's not easy and you can't have a huge ego.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Even funnier if you say the caption with an oriental accent...

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Photo Shooting Table

Photographing glass, bottles or anything semi-transparent is easy with the right set-up.

Home build rig designed to allow me to photograph a piece of glassware, a bottle, or even moldy bread with the option of lighting from below to highlight a bottle's contents, with some added light from above to fill in the details of the item, with the option of placing a strobe head behind the paper and having it light up the bottle from behind.

It's made from 1/2" PVC pipe, and a lot of T's and Elbows. I have a piece of glass as the top, and I use a roll of high end vellum as the sweep.

Here, I have one strobe head shooting upwards to light up the table with a soft box set as a fill.

The image below shows how this all comes together to make a beer bottle "glow" and create a decent gradient as the background. I added a piece of black cloth to avoid lens flare from the strobe aimed upwards.

The rig ran me about $25.00 in PVC parts and the glue. I'll post some detailed photos of it, including dimensions for anyone wanting to make one for themselves. The key to this design is the rear cross support is well below the level of the glass top, to allow for some back-lit images without having a shadow appear in the images.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Campaign that wouldn't die!

All I gotta say!

I composited this image from some stock images... Apologies to Mr Christopher Lee (had to replace your head), and to vampire fans everywhere.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Funny Star Wars Parody

Hillary is perfect as Darth, and Bill as the Evil Emperor.

Friday, May 2, 2008

A rant

I’ve got to address this.

I hear way too dang many people mis-using the term "Footage" when talking about video.

The term “Footage” when applied to digital stock video is wrong.

“Footage” as it is properly used, applies to film, usually 16mm or 35mm, and is expressed in lengths, eg. 10 feet, 50 feet, one reel or two reels, etc. A reel of film is 1000 feet, or 11 minutes. Older movies, made from the beginning to the 50s, were timed in reels. If a movie was released at 10 reels, it was about 110 minutes long.

I know this because I not only worked in film during the 80s, I also have a degree in film making.

Video, either analog or digital, is expressed in units of time. Such as Hours:minutes:seconds:frames

(Hence the term, SMTP Time Code for video editing)

Film is expressed as footage, in the following units, reel:feet:frames

For example, a film clip in 35mm, running 33 seconds at 24 frames per second, is 50 feet.

A video clip of 30 seconds is just that, 30 seconds.

When I took a video class in college, we were fined each time we used the term “footage” when we referred to tape. When shooting film, the camera operator advises the director he has 120 feet left, this means the director can only shoot up to a minute and 20 seconds of the next scene. If they’re shooting HDTV, the camera operator can report “only a minute left on the tape”.

I just had to address this….

Maybe the perfect lens

When shooting for stock, or doing portraits, no lens is better than the old manual focus Nikon Series E 100mm lens.

I used one for many years, from 1996 through 2000, when I sold everything to get into digital. I regretted that ever since.

I just got another one from Ebay. It showed up today, and it's a newer version than the one I had years ago, but it's just as good.

Super sharp when it counts, and a good Bokeh. It's wonderful for portraits when you need the background totally abstract. Maybe it's a bit too sharp? The image of my daughter (above) was edited to remove blemishes on her face, as the lens picked up each and every problem she has skin-wise.

I'll be shooting product images again this weekend, and I'll see how it performs then as well.

I will label this lens as a perfect lens, especially for the money. It's manual focus, no CPU so even metering with a newer camera doesn't work, but with digital and a fast review, and a good working knowledge of the basics of exposure, you can nail the exposure quickly. I used the "sunny-16 rule" while testing the lens just now.