As folks may or may not know, I help moderate a photography forum over at http://www.rocktheshotforum.com/. A question was recently posed on the forum over my review of the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art Lens; specifically the difference in performance of the lens on a crop sensor camera, vs. the performance on a full frame.Read More
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In the wee-hours of the Friday night before a long three-day weekend, customers across the globe received an email from one of their favorite companies. Many folks, much like myself, probably shook the email off as another "Hey, look at the improvements we've made" email, and filed it away to read after they had returned from their Friday night festivities. This email, however, stuck me as odd. The subject line was simply...
New Pro Account Pricing
For those not "in the know", SmugMug is an image hosting service used by quite a few photographers in quite a few countries. The beauty of SmugMug is in its simplicity. You upload your photos and that's it. Getting into the nitty-gritty of SmugMug, you'll see that it's no real surprise why a lot of photographers like the service. You can protect galleries, watermark them, and track statistics. One of the more important features of SmugMug, however, is the e-commerce portion of the website tools. SmugMug allowed photographers, and content creators in general, to easily set prices and make sales of their photos and videos. Photos can even be printed through third-party print shops and shipped to the client with very little work needed from the photographer.
For seven long years, SmugMug was the go-to product for photographers who didn't want to set up their own commerce website and, until Friday night, had been one of the cheapest and most consistent options out there.
Now, I get that the "economy is in a bad spot" and that people need to eat, but up until this point in time, you've probably thought that the new pro account pricing mentioned in the email subject was probably something small, right? When I signed up for SmugMug, I paid $150 for their top-tier account. This got me all of the features of SmugMug and was pretty manageable. If you're not aware, Photography is not my primary source of income, and in a spot of full disclosure, I pretty much break even on income vs. expense where my photography is concerned. $150 was manageable. The unfortunate news from SmugMug, however, was that they were increasing their prices to $300 for new accounts, and $250 for existing accounts. The change won't go into effect for current customers until October 15th. In essence SmugMug doubled their prices overnight and, for a semi-professional photographer like myself, burned a bridge that may not be repairable.
It would be one thing if they were increasing their prices incrementally over time. I might understand a "$20 price increase, per year, over the next 5 years" type of deal, but for (what I'm guessing is) a large majority of photographers who don't make a living on photography (and even those that do) a price increase of almost double is really unacceptable. SmugMug Co-Founder Don MacAskill has been vocal about the change, stating that the price increase is due to a rising cost in storage and future development costs. Unfortunately, a simple twitter search will tell you that those "improvements" have been unfulfilled promises for a long time, and people are really up-in-arms about the price increase.
I want to believe that a company whose standing in the world of Photography is so big would have the foresight to really think this type of decision through, but it really gives off the impression that the higher-ups at SmugMug may have hit the bars before flipping the switch. I want to stand behind a company that I've supported for the last two years, but to be perfectly honest, I just can't. I've long-ignored the fact that not much has changed with their interface since I joined, and that the empty promises were just never going to get filled. I've stood by them, promoted them, and encouraged fellow photographers to sign up for their service. I've been the guy singing their praises on our photowalks and Google+ hangouts, preaching the joys and ease of SmugMug on our Facebook page. But I'm just not sure I can do it anymore.
So where do I go from here? I'll fend off the accusations that I'm just a butt-hurt photographer. I'll do a bit of research and begin letting my clients know that their photos are going to be transitioning to another service. Unfortunately, closing my SmugMug account now would result in a loss of money; I'm still tied into it until May of 2013, so everything will still be up there until that time. Most importantly, though, I'll continue to watch the fallout happen to a company whose actions have confused many and see how many people truly back up their words.
EDIT: I'll be switching to Zenfolio for the next year. If you're interested in signing up, and helping out, please feel free to use my referral code - TPN-48K-7BZ. I'd really appreciate it.
One of the bigger mysteries that I've encountered on my journey through photography has been the exclusive club that belongs to the strobists. Flash photography has always, to me, been whatever happens when I put my 580EX II on top of my camera, point it at the sky, and hope for the best. But that's the fascinating thing about flash photography: it's so much more than just on-camera flash.
Today I decided to play around with some of the equipment that I've picked up over the past year or so, and post the results in a small blog here. Today's "toy" was an off-camera flash mounted behind a 24" umbrella sitting camera left. For those of you that can't figure that one out, what it basically means is that I had the flash off of the camera (triggered remotely) behind a 24" white umbrella. This allows the light to be softly defused and spread out a lot more easily over the subject. The light was then placed to the right of the camera. I did this for a couple of reasons: My subject was lit from camera left, and I wanted to light his better looking side with the flash.
From there, it was all a matter of camera setup. For most of these shots, I shot around f/4.5, kept my shutter speed a bit low and my flash stepped down 1/4. This kept the photos from blowing out from the flash. I also exposed on the window that you can see in the background, especially seeing as how my subject was so dark. The rest of the small shoot will follow at the end. If you have any questions, or want to know more about settings, setup, or anything else, feel free to comment below
My wife and I recently travelled over 550 miles to Fort Wayne, IN to attend the wedding of two of her close friends from her time spent getting her Doctorate (did I mention my wife is a doctor?). It was, to say the least, quite the drive. We travelled through amazingly interesting Ohio (224 miles of cornfields) and most of Western Pennsylvania.
One of the more interesting things to happen that weekend was an impromptu shoot that occured when it was discovered that the happy couple had only hired their wedding photographer until 8pm. I mean, does the party even really start before that?!
Luckily I had my entire setup with me, and use this as a chance to get a little bit of experience in one of the avenues I've yet to attack: wedding photography. I've toyed with the idea, but desperately want to second shoot a few weddings before I feel comfortable charging people to be the primary shooter. People spend a FORTUNE on their wedding photos, and the responsibilities laid upon the photographer can be a lot to handle for someone with as little wedding experience as I have.
I selected a few shots from the wedding, and wanted to share them with my readers. These were my favorites, and some of the shots of which I'm most proud. The entire gallery can be found in a link at the end of this post. Feel free to leave your comments, questions or any other kind words in the comment section!
I recently got the chance to participate in a Photowalk. For those of you that aren't familiar with the term, a Photowalk is a group event where you get together with other photographers, be they amateur, pro, iPhoners, Androiders, Point-and-shooters or even just assistants, and you walk around an area and take photos.
Seems simple enough, right? Taking photos is really just the surface of a photowalk, however, and there is a lot more to the event.
Our particular photowalk took place in the Inner Harbor area of the city of Baltimore. We started near Pier V and made our way past the Convention Center, finally ending at Baltimore's baseball field, Camden Yards. We also got very lucky to be in the city during Otakon, which provided us with some excellent "characters" to shoot.
So what was it, about the idea of a photowalk, that makes it so appealing to all walks of photographers?
- For the ametuer photographer, there's a good chance that there will be a pro, or semi-pro in the group that is willing to offer advice and answer questions about all of the different aspects of photography. We were lucky enough to have quite a few photographers who had, at the very least, dabbled in some of the various aspects of professional photography, and those photographers were lucky enough to have people who were willing to listen to them ramble on!
- For the semi-pro and pro photographers, the photowalk can give them a chance to try out equipment that they might not own, or might not get a chance to use very often. Whether it be a macro lens, or a different type of camera body; a different brand or even a different style of camera, the photowalk can provide plenty of opportunity to embrace one's inner-child, and play with some new toys!
Most important of all was the bringing together of like-minded people who shared one common goal: Enjoy the fine art of photography and maybe even learn a little something!
I'm including a brief slideshow of some of the finer shots that I took at the walk at the end of this thread. Feel free to take a look at them there, or at our Flickr Group where many of the other photographers are posting their shots!
The official start of summer is mere weeks away. Schools are drawing to a close. Seniors are getting ready to graduate, and with that goes the majority of this photographer's work!
High School athletics have kept me pretty busy these last few months since I started freelancing for Owings Mills Patch, but now that the 4th quarter has ended, I find myself without a lot of inspiration or events to cover. Sure, there are still plenty of opportunities for Viewfinder articles, but it can be pretty darn difficult to find the motivation to wander outside, away from the air conditioning, and snap photos of the sights and sites of Owings Mills.
How do I find the inspiration to keep shooting? How can YOU make the best of the summer months?
- Take your camera with you, everywhere you go. This seems like a no-brainer, right? Chances are pretty good that you're not going to leave the house without purpose this summer, so having your camera with you at all times ensures that you'll be prepared to capture any moment that might surprise you during your endeavors.
- Branching off of #1, Don't be afraid to take a few risks. Recently, we (my fiancee and I) took a trip out on a boat. Tiny little boat, tons and tons of Chesapeake Bay, and a large sum of monies' worth of camera equipment. Seems like a recipe for disaster, right? With the proper precautions, and a little bit of spatial awareness, these points become moot, and allow for some great shots in places that wouldn't normally warrant photography.
- Get out of your comfort zone. Personally, I prefer sports photography and people photography. In Owings Mills, there isn't a lot of the first type during the summer, and I'm too busy planning my own wedding to worry about other people's engagement photos. No Seniors anymore, means no more Senior Portraits and I just can't seem to convince people that it's a great idea to hire me AND take me along with them to be their personal vacation photographer. Shucks. What this means, is that I have to think outside of the box and be willing to take photos of things I wouldn't normally shoot. The summer provides a lot more hours worth of light, and can leave us with some absolutely breath-taking sunsets. Landscape photography also LENS itself to some excellent HDR shots which seem to be all the rage these days. Getting out of your comfort zone not only helps you keep that shutter finger busy, but it also expands your range and experience, which always helps to improve your technique!
While, at first, I worried greatly about keeping the rust off of my camera this summer, after reviewing this list I don't think I'll have any problems snapping shot after shot. What are some of the things YOU do to keep motivated to make great photos during the lull periods? Feel free to share in the comments below, and keep on snapping!
Well you made it through the title and, if you've decided to stick around for the post, congratulations. My name is Zach, and this is my generic, introductory "first post" in the newly created Local Voices section of Patch.com. My hope is that, through this blog, I can describe my adventures in learning this trade, share with you what I've already learned, and document the trials and tribulations of becoming a photographer.
To get the boring stuff out of the way, a little bit about me that you might not be able to discern from my bio:
I'm an IT Professional who has lived in the Owings Mills area for the last four years. In the last few years, I've also started dabbling in photography and officially threw my hat (or lens) into the "freelance" category about six months ago. There's a good chance that, if you've been a frequent Owings Mills Patch reader, you've seen some of my photos on the site. I also do some sidework in the engagement/family/baby/pet photo world.
What started out as a hobby has now become a source of income, which is great, because on top of all of this work, I'm also about 50 days away from marrying one of the most amazing women in the entire world; an adventure, I assure you, that continues to take me by surprise almost daily.
I really hate writing "introduction" posts on blogs. I can think of about a half-dozen other things I'd rather do than write intro posts. The worst part of that fact is that I've started a decent number of blogs and you always have to start them with that type of post. While contemplating this outlet, I really wanted to come up with a fun way to approach the introduction post and, considering the primary focus of this blog will photography-related,
I figured that a great feature would be a "What's in my bag?" type post! I won't go through everything, at least not this time around, but I will point out a few things I carry with me, eventually getting to everything in later posts.
I think it's important to note that, in my brief time as a photographer, I've tried to minimize the equipment that I carry as much as possible. I don't think most people realize how heavy a lot of this stuff can be if you throw it all in one bag and have to carry it around with you. That being said, I decided to weigh my bag, in much the same way parents weigh their kids' backpacks full of books, to determine how badly I was going to have back problems in the future.
My shocking conclusion? I carry around 18.7 pounds of equipment (See the image of my house scale for proof). This has been exacerbated as of late by the replacement of some of the lighter equipment with more professional glass (glass being the vernacular used by photographers to describe lenses). I also carry around a lot of ... crap.
As this is an introductory post, the obvious first piece of equipment to reveal is the actual camera with which I do all of my shooting. I learned the basics on a Canon Rebel XTi that I bought with my very first "big boy" paycheck out of college. After realizing that the Rebel just wasn't going to cut it if I wanted to continue to shoot for Patch, I decided that it was time to scrape together some money and upgrade my camera body.
Enter the Canon EOS 7D.
Some highlights from the 7D? This bad boy sports a Magnesium alloy, weather-sealed body. What does that mean? It means you'll probably see me outside in the rain and snow shooting photos of the dedicated Owings Mills high school atheletes. Inside, there sits a Dual DIGIC 4 image processor, housing 19 mega pixels capable of delivering tons of color and sharpness to the finest details of the images.
My favorite part about this camera, however, is the fact that it's capable of shooting 15 still images per second. Shooting that quick almost allows me to put together a flipbook of photos taken over a few seconds. It's blindingly fast, and always gets a great reaction out of the crowd when it sounds like a machine gun going off!
I'm really pleased with this camera. It's a small disappointment to not have a full-frame sensor (I'll go into what that means in a later post), but the build quality and technology are amazing. I continue to learn new and exciting features while using this camera, and have a pretty good idea that it'll be my go-to device for many years to come which, naturally, will my make future wife pretty happy.