Today’s Photog Tip of the Week is presented by Ann McRae, longtime Canadian Smugger, Pro shooter and Support Hero extraordinaire. If you’ve never received an awesome help reply from Ann, you’re missing out! Your histogram can make or break your image. Knowing how to read your histogram will dramatically help you get it right in-camera… which will improve the shots you take and increase your number of keepers. Here’s the scoop straight from a pro who knows.
What’s a Histogram?
The histogram is a graphical representation of the brightness of your image. It shows the amount of dark areas on the left and the amount of bright areas on the right, which means that you can make decisions about the settings you’re using to shoot a scene.
The histogram is your key to getting the very best possible photograph in-camera.
The good news is that almost every digital camera released in the last few years has the ability to display a histogram on the LCD. You may be surprised at the difference between the information in your histogram and the JPG preview of your images on your camera’s LCD. Many folks overlook the fact that the LCD screen is backlit, which makes the image look much brighter than it actually is. Watch the histogram instead and don’t be fooled!
Expose to the Right… but Not Too Much
The “ideal” histogram shows mid tones that are evenly distributed between the darkest and lightest points in the scene. But remember that a histogram is just a graphical representation of the data in the photograph, so there’s no real right or wrong!
The following two photos show properly exposed scenes but the histograms in the upper right corners look dramatically different:
In the above photo, there is a broad range of colors and therefore the data is distributed across the whole graph.
On the other hand, almost all of this above scene is bright white snow so most of the data is pushed to the far right. Kelso is properly exposed and you can see plenty of detail in his face.
Why You Should Get it Right
Don’t overexpose the scene. The histogram for this kind of shot looks like it has a big hump on the right, possibly even falling off the right side of the chart. Some cameras display blinking areas on your LCD preview image to warn you that your images are too bright. Data in the overexposed areas is lost and will simply be flat white with no details. Here those areas are shown in red:
Don’t underexpose the scene. A histogram with the majority of the information to the far left (dark shadows) is underexposed. When you do this, you run a higher chance that prints made from this photo will turn out dramatically darker than you expect. This is because you’re processing and editing your digital photo on a backlit monitor or LCD, which is much brighter than a physical print that is lit with reflected light. You may be able to pick out details in the shadows when looking at an image on a monitor, but those details will be lost in a print.
(Bonus: Find more technical reasons for exposing to the right explained over at Luminous Landscape.)
Here are two versions of the same shot with completely different exposures. See how the histogram sits in each one?
Histograms for Effective Post Processing
Of course, once you have a well exposed photograph you may still want to do some post production work to be sure that you are getting the most out of the data that you have.
Bumping the exposure, fill light and tone curve of this example image just a tad pushes the bump from the middle of the histogram to the right, and really does a lot to enhance the image:
Once again, watching your histogram really pays off. Learn to love it and use it!
Hey, Smuggers! You’re our light, our life and our reason, so it’s high time we turned the spotlight on you. Post a pic of “Smuggy” (the SmugMug logo) or SmugMugPro on our Facebook wall for a chance to be Smugger o’ the Week.
Where in the World Was Smuggy?
Back in ancient times (four years ago), one of our customers painted a sheep green for us, which sparked our incredible Where in the World Is Smuggy? contest. In the following weeks we were buried in a deluge of creative, adventurous and often hilarious photos featuring our favorite grinning green mascot.
History shall repeat itself. We’re bringing it back… with a twist.
(Don’t worry, no sheep were harmed in the making of this pic. He’s smiling!)
Post on Facebook and be our Smugger o’ the Week
Grab your cameras! This time we invite you to take a pic of Smuggy or SmugMugPro in exchange for fame:
1) Find our little mascot hidden like Waldo in the big wide world, construct your own* with artistic materials, or creatively model a piece of official SmugSwag: hats, t-shirts, straps, stickers, etc. In short, we’re looking for Smuggy himself or our SmugMug Pro logo.
2) Post that pic to our Facebook wall.
3) Each week, we’ll pick one and dub the lucky winner our Smugger o’ the Week. They’ll get their Smug Mug featured on our Facebook page for seven splendid days. And remember that by posting your pic, you’re giving us permission to use it on our FB page or for promotional stuff. You still own it and the copyright’s yours.
Hit up the gallery of entries and view all the pics submitted so far.
Get Your Smug Stuff
Our blood flows green. What about you? :D
* We hope this goes without saying, but while we know you love SmugMug, we ask that you don’t damage or deface property for this contest. Gracias!
With all of our recent great giveaways and guest posts we had a ton of stuff happening under the hood, too. Here’s a few!
- We fixed the “Back to Gallery” link in Share > Get a Link > Gallery Links > Slideshow when you share galleries of Collected photos. It directs you to the proper gallery now, not the source gallery.
- Picasa users: The URL in the uploader confirmation link is fixed. Additionally, if you were asked to log in, the plugin will let you continue as expected. More on uploading from Picasa.
- When using our Quick Share feature to Like a photo, we’ll post the single-image lightbox link to your wall for all viewing styles except our default SmugMug style. For that, we’ll post a gallery link.
- We tightened up the Smart Gallery rules so that Rules that have no matches won’t return bogus results.
- Some customers were saying that they were having some trouble getting Arrange > Sort > By Date Taken to work. This is now fixed.
- Your homepage video player won’t automatically log you out of your account.
The SmugMug family
Today we’re kicking off a new series of posts aimed to help you get the most out of your SmugMug account. Whether you’re new to the family or are one of our most loyal fans, we hope you’ll pick up a handy tip or two in this series!
Privacy Controls When You Want Them
Lots of you love to share full-res files with friends and family, but free ‘n easy may not always float your boat. If that sounds like you, check out these awesome image protection features bundled with your account.
- Disable originals - Stop access to seeing and downloading your full-res photos.
- Site-wide password -Lock it down so only certain folks can see your site.
- Gallery privacy – Protect your galleries or hide them from view.
- Disable external linking – Stops your photo from appearing on blogs and forums.
- Stop search engines – Keep your site out of search results.
- Turn off printing – Removes the Buy button from your gallery.
For Power Users:
- All the above features
- Right-click protection – Foil image theft with a customizable popup message.
- All the above features
- Watermarking – Put your name and logo on all your display copies.
Image Protection Strategies
- Remember that Right-Click Protection is just a deterrent and using that alone won’t stop image theft. Instead, we recommend you use a combination of the above features to get the best results. Example: Disable originals, turn on Right-Click Protection and apply a watermark with your link on it.
- If your photos have showed up on sites like Facebook without your permission, this can be a great thing! In case you missed it, check out this recent post from guest blogger Andy Marcus about how image sharing (combined with watermarking) helps his business get ahead. When fans share your watermarked pics, you snag more clients.
- If you’re managing your files with a program such as Lightroom, Aperture or Bridge, it’s a good idea to put your name and copyright information into the metadata so all of your info stays together.
- They can pay for your photos! Pros: Consider creating a default Pricelist so that any sales you make earn you a profit.
- Lastly, if you don’t want folks using the Share feature you can always disable that in your Gallery Settings. As the logged-in owner you’ll always see and be able to use that button, but they won’t. Win-win.
For quick reference, just bookmark this page. It lists the easiest ways to make sure your images are as safe as you want them to be.
Keep your eyes peeled for more tips to help you get the most from your ‘Mug!
Importing images into Lightroom can be a chore. What is a benign process when you shoot a few hundred pictures in a portrait session can become unwieldy when you come home with 15 CF cards full of files from a big event.
First, consider that Lightroom has always imported from only one card at a time. The standard process is as follows:
- Insert CF card .
- Configure the Import options and hit “Import.”
- Wander off with the intention of coming back when its done.
- Forget you were importing for an hour and then realize it.
- Wander back in and go back to step 1.
Repeat 10 or 15 times. And 8 hours later I’m good to go. A whole work day and I’ve not edited a single photo yet. Ouch.
This just does not work for me. I’m a ballet photographer and work routinely involves shooting several thousand photos of a single performance that need to be quickly imported because the next performance is 2 hours away and the cards need to be cleared and ready. That is some serious file management and little time to do it.
So what does the enterprising photographer do?
Photo Mechanic for Easier Photo Imports
Some years ago I bought Photo Mechanic solely because its Import tool was pretty darn good. Much better than Bridge. Of prime importance was the fact that it would import images from all mounted cards in order. If you had the card reader for the card, it would do the right thing. The rest of Photo Mechanic is inconsequential (and a bit ugly) with Lightroom, but this one feature makes worth the purchase price. I have 5 or 6 card readers, so I can really chew off a bunch of cards in one fell swoop using this little tool.
So for the past few years, I would use Photo Mechanic to import the files onto my Drobo and *then* run an Import in Lightroom to get them in and previews built. This was a two step process that had to be done serially as well: 1) import with Photo Mechanic 2) turn Lightroom loose on the big folder with everything.
Somewhere in the Lightroom 2 cycle I’d worked on a redesign of the Import dialog and as part of that I’d suggested the whole multiple cards thing as a way to speed our customer’s workflow. Sadly, we didn’t get it any of this for the release of version 2. So when Lightroom 3 was released, the first thing I looked at was the new Import dialog and if it could do what I needed. Unfortunately, no.
So recently, as I returned from another photo shoot with 12 cards in tow, I was all set up to dance the same waltz with the same klutzy partners.
But something clicked this time. Call it a Lightroom Epiphany of sorts, but all of a sudden I realized a possible solution had been sitting under my nose all this time.
Lightroom’s Auto Import Feature
Lightroom has this somewhat obscure feature called “Auto Import” that watches a folder and then imports any images therein. As I recalled, it was mainly Lightroom’s way of dealing with tethered capture before we had a dedicated module for such. Anxiously, I clicked on the File Menu to see if it hadn’t been deprecated due to the new Tethered Capture features. Huzzah! It was still there.
Giddy, I clicked on the Auto Import Settings and set it up to watch the folder I was going to use Photo Mechanic to dump them to.
From Photo Mechanic to Lightroom to SmugMug
So, I setup Auto Import and chose the import directory. So far so good.
I then went into Photo Mechanic and dumped all 6 cards to the aforementioned directory.
It worked! Photo Mechanic dumped all the cards to the directory and Lightroom then imported it and built a preview for each image. It took awhile, but not nearly as long as I was used to. And it did it in one fell swoop.
So, so awesome.
I did notice that at one point there were over 500 processes going at once in Lightroom – one for each import and preview build it was working on. But it didn’t seem to bother it much.
The result is that I’m in business more quickly than before. I was able to import all those cards and have Lightroom ready to edit, with all files imported and previews already built.
It’s a beautiful thing.
Since that ah-ha! moment, I’ve dramatically cut down my file management time, which lets me get to the important parts faster. SmugMug makes uploading directly from Lightroom dead simple with their integrated publishing service, so I can get photos into my galleries and start making money.
More on Streamlining Your Workflow
The Help doesn’t stop here. Check out these additional resources:
It’s time to step it up, wedding pros, and this is your chance! Photographer-gone-mentor Sandy Puc‘ and international Top 5 Wedding Photographer Jerry Ghionis are kicking off a 33-city tour to teach you how to make brides (and you) swoon with delight.
With Sandy’s inspiring, energetic approach to business combined with Jerry’s master marketing skills, you’ve got an unbeatable combination that no Pro should miss.
The Power of Passion Tour is a perfect crash course for both beginner and advanced photographers. Their intense, 5-hour seminars will give your business an edge, regardless of your experience in the industry. Get coached on direct and indirect marketing for your business as well as technical essentials like posing and light.
Here’s four reasons why you should go:
- You learn directly from the best in the wedding world.
- It’s only $99, PLUS Smuggers get an additional 20% off. (Code: SMPP11)
- Five hours of action- and info-packed fun.
- Because you love what you do and want to get ahead.
As a bonus, you may see a familiar face from Smuggy Central jumping in to share the fun. (Hey, we’re pros, too!)
Check out their list of cities to find one near you:
- Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, FL
- Orlando, FL
- Tampa, FL
- Atlanta, GA
- Raleigh, NC
- Nashville, TN
- Phoenix, AZ
- San Diego, CA
- Los Angeles, CA
- San Francisco, CA
- Sacramento, CA
- Portland, OR
- Seattle, WA
- Salt Lake City, UT
- Kansas City, MO
- Omaha, NE
- St. Louis, MO
- Louisville, KY
- Indianapolis, IN
- Columbus, OH
- Boston, MA
- Newark, NJ
- Philadelphia, PA
- Baltimore, MD
- Detroit, MI
- Chicago, IL
- Minneapolis, MN
Invest in yourself and register now. See you there!
Previously, collected images were stuck in the mud: They dropped into your galleries and were segregated when you opened any of our Arrange tools. Now they should behave just like any other pic, so click, drag, nudge them to the front or whatever you fancy. Shuffle up and deal!
- Swap a photo using the Replace tool and we’ll remember its spot.
- Changing a previously-sorted gallery to “none” will move all virtual copies to the end of the gallery.
- Moving photos will place them neatly at the end of the receiving gallery if it doesn’t have sorting options already set.
We also fixed a bug that was causing a “Gallery not found” message after using any Arrange tool. You should land smoothly in the gallery now, no bumps or layovers to hold you back.
But that’s enough for tonight. We’ll let you get back to sorting and playing with your site.
Today’s guest blogger is Andy Marcus of incredible, lick-the-screen-delicious Fred Marcus Photography in New York. He’s been a Smugger since 2009 and we had the privilege of gabbing with him on the way to WPPI. Here’s what he says about SmugMug and how his Pro account has given their world-class business an edge in the digital age.
Photos by Fred Marcus Photography
Pro Features for Pro Photographers
We use SmugMug at Fred Marcus Photography because it’s one of the easiest and most effective tools to market our business. We’ve been around for 70 years and have made a name for ourselves, but I find that our venues are constantly being bombarded by dozens of other photographers vying for recommendations and attention, too. How do we stand out and make our studio the one that the venues remember?
After each event we create a SmugMug gallery for the venue so they can share and use them for their own marketing purposes. SmugMug has made watermarking our images so easy: I can upload high resolution files and be confident that no matter where they end up, our studio name will be on them. I would normally never share files that could be printed to our clients, but with watermarking it’s a win-win situation for both the vendor and our studio. They get great photos and we get the advertising.
Just the other day a popular wedding blogger got a link to our SmugMug site and shared more than a dozen of our images with her 2,000 followers. Within minutes of her publishing that story our website received dozens of hits from people curious about our work.
It has gotten to the point now where our vendors can’t wait to log onto our SmugMug site and see images of their events. The cake designers want their cake photos, the lighting and staging companies want the images we shoot of the décor and ambience. The florists want shots of the floral décor and bouquets and the party planners, coordinators and caterers want shots of everything.
Luckily for me and my staff all the functionality SmugMug builds into their “Share” button makes their wait very short. I can send our vendors an email containing links with just a few clicks of a mouse. SmugMug also generates easy embed codes for all our images, so I can show them off on a blog or a forum with no hassle. Not to mention the ease at which I can connect to a number of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.
I always like to be one step ahead of my competitors, and SmugMug helps me stay there.
- Andy Marcus
Recently the Mountain View Patch came to visit us at SmugMug HQ to feature us in the Startup Spotlight:
We’re not really a startup and are excited about entering our 10th year of profitable business! But old habits die hard and we still act like one: We’re nimble, hiring like crazy and we stay close to our customers.
Take a look to learn about our modest beginnings and how we’ve worked hard to be successful bringing you big, beautiful, ad-free galleries you know and love. Plus, find out how being stretchy can make or break you in this rapidly-changing digital age, and meet a few high-profile neighbors in SmugLand.
We’re tickled that we’ve come so far through the years. Of course we couldn’t have done it without you: our friends, fans and family!
News flash! We’re doing another giveaway on Facebook for an awesome, versatile and sturdy Lowepro Pro Trekker 600 AW bag and a genuine box-framed print by our superstar pro, Andy Williams. That’s a $700 value winnable with just a few keystrokes:
The 16 x 20 print is high-quality art paper mounted on masonite for durability, then set in a glass-free black wood frame. It’ll look faboo on any wall. (Full specs here.)
To enter: Visit our Facebook page and post why you need a new bag for your loot. We’ll pick a random winner on Monday, 3/7 at noon PT.