Today’s Photog Tip of the Week is presented by cabbey, landscape & fine art photographer, and one of SmugMug’s back-end engineers. He’s usually up to his elbows in the code that sends your orders to the labs and your profits to your bank, but this week he’s sharing a tip for all you photographers who want to be sure you’re getting the best possible prints. It’s easier than it sounds, so take a look below.
But it looked good on my screen!
Let’s say you take a picture of your son and the camera does everything perfectly in terms of white balance and exposure. You used Ann’s tips from a few weeks ago to make sure the image is properly exposed, something akin to the image on the left below.
Next, you downloaded that image and loaded it onto your computer. But your computer’s monitor is NOT calibrated, and like many monitors your photo suddenly looks too red and way too bright. As a result, you saw that your image look a bit off, like the middle image below.
To correct this, you fixed it in Photoshop until it looked good again, back to looking like the original image. When you were done, you uploaded it to SmugMug and ordered a print… and received something that looks really dark and weirdly tinted a blueish green color (cyan here), depending on exactly what your monitor came from the factory like, it could be anywhere along the blue to green area of the spectrum:
Why did the lab ruin my image?
They didn’t! The problem is that monitors are generally made for office tasks, not photography. The manufacturers give you the brightest display possible with the most punchy red they can produce.
As a result, any time you process your photos on an uncalibrated display, you’re making your image considerably darker and turning down the red cast, skewing everything towards cyan. The third image above is what your finished photo actually looks like and the lab faithfully printed exactly what you sent them.
You’ll get better prints and happier customers the first time and every time without having to fall back on SmugMug’s 100% print guarantee. The top 3 correctable problems that land in our Help Desk inbox are:
1. The prints are too dark
“In my experience, most of the monitors I’ve calibrated, new or old, are about 2 stops too bright.” — Tyree, SmugMug Color Correction Hero
2. The prints have a weird color cast
“That was a white dress!!” — Unhappy Mother of the Bride
3. Their skin looks too red
“Why does my father-in-law look like a lobster?!”— Furious Husband
There is a great help page about return rates that shows what gets returned and why. The top 6 reasons are all solvable by using a properly color managed workflow.
How do I do it?
In general, you’ll need a colorimeter or spectrophotometer (fancy words, but they basically mean a special device you can put on your screen and plug into a USB port) and a piece of software which usually comes bundled with it. The software will put your monitor through its paces while you have the meter on it, then it uses the information to build an output profile for your screen.
With that resulting profile, any software that cares about a properly color managed workflow can properly display accurate colors on your screen. Since monitors’ color accuracy varies over the lifetime of the display, it’s important to update the profile periodically, at least every month or two. Most of the above programs will remind you when it’s time to re-profile your display.
I usually just kick it off and then go to lunch. When I come back, it’s done and I don’t have to worry about it for another couple of months.
Don’t forget that you can also get a calibration print right here. With that print in hand, you can bring the calibration image up in your editor of choice and see just how much closer a calibrated workflow makes it look on your monitor. The closer it is, the closer your images will be when you’re editing them.
Bay Photo Color Correction: One click to save them all
Pros can always print through Bay Photo, whose color correction services are always done by hand. It costs just a little more but it can save you time at your desk, or headaches if you just don’t feel like fiddling with your computer.
Find that option on the Set Prices area, in the upper right corner of the pricing box.
Go the bargain route
Most operating systems have a sort of “eyeball” calibration you can do that will at least get you started. They aren’t as accurate and they depend on your eyes making decisions, so be aware that this may not work for everyone.
On a Mac, use Spotlight to launch “Display Calibrator Assistant”. (Hit ⌘⃣–space to get spotlight, then start typing that name.)
Once it opens, just follow the steps:
On Windows, search in the control panel for “display calibration” and, again, follow the steps:
Welcome to the (accurately) multi-colored nirvāna that is a calibrated workflow! Remember that even if you don’t get everything set perfectly, we’ve got a 100% guarantee on every print order and our Color Specialists are always happy to help you out.
We made a few important fixes to our videos:
- Portrait-oriented videos stay upright and don’t get squashed.
- Full HD videos show the “Save Movie” option in the flyout bar (just like all the other available sizes).
- Anamorphic videos wont be squished out of their original shape when played.
- Metadata like camera type is now reported correctly, along with video length and dimensions.
Two improvements in video sharing:
- Our Get a Link feature for video embeds will use our updated API to deliver smooth, buttery videos on iDevices.
- You can just copy the URL of your video from the gallery and drop it into your blog. We’ll automatically embed the best-sized video for a proper fit.
And a few other fixes:
- Smart Galleries will better update content when you upload new photos that match your Rules.
- Some homepage slideshows were presenting thumbnails of images, but they’ll display the normal-sized pics now.
- You can get short smu.gs link for your gallery right from your Share or Owner Share button. If you use our dedicated link shortener, we now give smu.gs links for SmugMug and Dgrin domains and bit.ly links for everything else.
- If you don’t have any Printmarks set up and toggle it to ‘Yes’ at the gallery level, we’ll now prompt you to create one instead of displaying an empty space.
- You may also notice that when you change a gallery’s name or NiceName in the gallery settings, you’ll see the URL preview update more quickly than before.
It’s hard work making the best photo sharing site on the planet, but we sure love what we do. Since we’re growing bigger each day, there’s three openings we hope you can fill:
Smuggers love our trademark smooth, stretchy interface and all the beautiful features scattered ’round your galleries. But this stuff doesn’t happen overnight and we’re still seeking out capable front-end Sorcerers to bring the experience together.
Our Marketing team has hit the ground running and it’s high time they snagged their own designer. This tasteful, techie talent will know just how to turn their ideas into HTML and CSS gold.
If you love helping your peers and have been itching for your own tights, now’s your chance! Our incredible customer service is famous around the world and we don’t take that for granted.
View the full specs on these spots (and more) right here on our jobs page.
Think you can help? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and let our HeadHuntress know you’re up for grabs.
Do you know all those times when you’re out shooting and you run into another photographer? You sneak glances at their gear to see if they measure up to what you’ve got (or because you covet thy neighbor’s glass.) Don’t worry, we all do it!
Now we’re letting you do it shamelessly and without fear of getting caught. Let’s see what SmugMug’s House Pro Andy Williams of Moon River Photography puts in his bag. Read all the way to the bottom — you may just win something…
I’ve owned lots of gear, but my collection has actually shrunk over the years and now I only keep and carry what I actually use.
Let’s start with the bag itself. For years and years, I’ve been using the Crumpler Farmer’s Double and I still love it. It’s my bag of choice for a day trip or short outing. Look for it used, because Crumpler doesn’t make it anymore.
For longer trips, I’ve recently settled on the Kiboko bag from Andy Biggs’ Gura Gear. I’ve had the opportunity to try a whole lot of bags – top of the line models from Lowepro, Crumpler, Tenba and Think Tank – and I chose the Gura Gear bag:
It’s super light, made from the same fabric used in America’s Cup sailboat sails! It’s less than half the weight of the big bags from the other guys, and when you carry it all day that makes a big difference. It holds plenty: two bodies, plenty of glass, accessories and more. You can even put a 500mm f/4 in it!
The suspension system is awesome, it rides well, and you feel like you’re carrying much less weight than you actually have. And, it hides when you don’t want to use it. This bag will easily swallow up 35lbs of gear with room to spare. Everything about this bag screams attention to detail – the way the suspension system tucks away out of sight when you’re not using it, the built-in raincover, the zipper pulls that are glove-friendly. They’re out of stock most everywhere right now, but Andy Biggs assures me that he’s got some really cool stuff in store for his fans really soon.
As a landscaper, this is without a doubt one of the most important pieces of gear I own. I recently started using the newest carbon-fiber kit from Really Right Stuff, their TVC-23. Expensive? Yup. But the stability of this rig just can’t be matched by any tripod I’ve used (including the top of the line Gitzos). It’s super strong and super lightweight at only 3lbs. I pair this tripod with the Really Right Stuff BH-40 ballhead which also supports the lenses that I use regularly (up to 300mm). I do own the larger RRS BH-55 ballhead for when I need to support a 400mm or 500mm lens. For years, I was using the Gitzo 2530, and what I like about the new RRS ‘pods is their stability, and the way the head comes together with its “Apex Lock” system. It is without a doubt the sturdiest, lightest tripod I’ve ever owned.
For traveling, and lightweight (like backpacking), I also have the Gitzo 1541 and a RRS BH-30 which is a super lightweight combo! I shoot lots of panoramas, and so a very important piece of my kit is the Really Right Stuff Pano Head, which I use for stitched panos in the landscape.
I admit I’m a bit of a glass snob. I’ll use primes when I can, but I do love a couple of zooms I own. Let’s go from small to big.
- First off, the Tokina 10-17mm fisheye zoom – super ultrawide on the full-frame 5DII and for really fun landscape videos on the 7D. Sharp and reliable! But… I do have my eye on Canon’s newly announced 8-15mm fisheye zoom though, and expect to be shooting with it this summer.
- Canon’s 24 f/1.4L Mark II – a fantastically sharp wide angle lens, I’m so in love with this glass that I gave up the supremely sharp Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 for it!
- For all-around use, I have one of the very first copies of Canon’s 24-105L and it’s a workhorse lens for me. If I’m out for a day and I can’t take a lot of glass, I’ll grab this.
- For portraits, I have a couple of excellent choices: Canon’s 50 f/1.2L and Canon’s 135 f/2L. Given enough room, I love shooting portraits with the 135L, it’s one of the sharpest lenses ever, bar-none. Love the 50mm 1.2 for it’s ginormous lens opening – and it’s my go-to lens for extreme low-light work.
- More reach? I’m not the first guy to say that Canon’s 70-200 f/2.8L IS Mark II is a favorite. I own it, have owned the prior model, and won’t ever be without it. Super sharp, great IS so you can shoot in low-light when needed. Fast on the AF. And yeah, I use it in the landscape, too.
- Recently, I’ve been using Canon’s newest zoom, 70-300 L IS. It’s not fast (f/5.6 at the long end) but boy is it sharp and what a convenient little package.
- If you’re wondering about birds and wildlife: I don’t own really long glass but when I need it, I usually rent a 500mm f/4L or 600mm f/4L from BorrowLenses. When I travel to Africa for three weeks this October, I’m doing just that!
No surprise here – I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark II and a Canon 7D. The 5D Mark II is a super landscaper’s camera, great performance, high pixel count, HD movies, and more. When I need a faster frame rate and a bit faster AF, I reach for the 7D.
Funny, I used to be a 1Ds Mark III snob… but I cannot for the life of me figure out why one would buy that camera body at nearly 3x the cost of a 5D Mark II. Sure, I’m awaiting the rumored 1Ds Mark IV like most Canon shooters, but the sane part of me says, “why”?
Guess what? I own only two, a circular polarizer and a neutral density filter. I use the CPL when I want to get the best sky possible 90 degrees or so from the sun. I will also use it in certain circumstances like fall foliage to get richer colors, and of course to lose reflections when shooting water. I love my 6-stop ND filter, to smooth out the water in a waterfall or running stream in daylight.
On my 5DII and 7D bodies, I add a Camdapter Hand Strap – super comfortable! I always carry my Infrared-converted Canon SD-980IS, camera manuals (you never know!), extra batteries, an intervalometer for timed exposures, a remote shutter release, headlamp, flashlight, shooting gloves for the cold weather, plenty of CF cards, lens cloth, lens cleaner, a mink brush, Giottos mini-Blower, The Photographer’s Rights, my business cards and a leatherman for when things go wrong.
After I shoot there’s plenty to do! I use Adobe’s Lightroom 3 (and SmugMug’s awesome built-in uploading), Photoshop CS5, Auto Pano Pro for my stitches, all on an Apple Mac Pro with two 30″ HP Monitors.
Win This MetalPrint
It’s not all work, and no play though. Now that you’ve gotten a close look at my gear bag, here’s your chance to take home something fun (note: Ts and Cs here). Comment on our blog post below and “Like” us on Facebook. One winner will be randomly selected on Monday, April 18 at Noon PDT to win a big and beautiful MetalPrint of this Mono Lake Tufa photo. You can see how it will look on your wall here.
Enjoy (looking into other photographers’ bags) photography,
UPDATE! We were totally blown away by the response to this giveaway, so we are sharing the love and randomly selecting THREE Winners!
First place, and the winner of the MetalPrint, goes to Darlene Buck. The two Runner Ups, and the winners of a free year of SmugMug Pro each, are Jordan Van de Vorst and Jenny Sipes. Congrats!! Katherine from our team will be emailing you each shortly with details of your prize.
Three things you’ll need:
Compressed air - We use air compressors from Home Depot (<$100) but the smallest compressor you can find is likely up to the task. If you don’t want to splurge on a compressor, there are the ubiquitous cans of compressed air available at any computer store. When using these cans always keep the can level and upright to avoid blowing its liquid propellant onto your lens elements. These chemicals can do weird and potentially harmful things to lens coatings, so please be careful. If you want to avoid chemicals all together, get a bike pump style canister that you pump up then use, or try a simple manual pump like a Giottos Rocket Blower.
Lens cloth - Our favorites are cheap, Promaster-branded microfiber cloths. You’ll notice that some types feel very slick and smooth against the glass and others gain some traction and drag more. We like the kind that has some drag and feels sticky against clean glass.
Cleaning fluid – You shouldn’t need any cleaning fluid except for the most stubborn and difficult cases. Again, we like the Promaster brand because it’s cheap and cheerful. The stuff we use comes in a clear plastic bottle with a pump atomizer spraying attachment.
Your lens is dirty. Now what?
It’s now time to touch the front element of your lens and clean it. If you are worried about rubbing the coating off, don’t be. We’ve never seen it happen, ever.
To clean a lens’ front element all you need is a set of lungs and a lens cloth.
1. Breathe on the lens enough to fog the whole element, then wipe the lens with a good amount of force in a circular fashion. You’ll likely be left with a smudge where your wipe stopped and some junk around the edge where the glass meets the body.
2. Make a little point with the cloth, breathe on the lens again and wipe the edge in one 360+ degree motion. Now you should be left with a mostly clean lens.
3. Now repeat the wipes, but with ever decreasing pressure. The last few swipes should be done very lightly. The trick is to buff the lens, which will pick junk up rather than moving it around forever. Keep rearranging the cloth so that you are using a virgin bit of material and not re-contaminating your almost-clean glass.
4. The final step is examining – and cleaning – both front and rear caps thoroughly before affixing them to your now-clean lens. A dirty cap will undo all your hard work in an instant, so examine both caps closely, blow on them from many angles with compressed air and only when you are certain they are clean can you affix them to your lens. If you use a UV filter, also make sure it is clean before you put it back on.
And with that, we’re finished. If you enjoyed that you should consider working for BorrowLenses.com – You could be cleaning gear all day long and getting paid to do it!
A few little things were just released:
- Our Simple (Java) uploader reports the real number of files that you actually uploaded.
- The SmugVault JPG previews show the correct orientation of your RAW files.
- Customers using IE9 to buy a Package won’t see the thumbnails vanish when they go to pick images.
The SmugMug Family
Categories for Unlimited Organization
- Do you have a lot of galleries?
- Are your viewers are having a hard time finding the galleries they want to see?
- Do you want to create “sub-galleries?”
We have a solution for you: Custom categories and subcategories! They will allow your viewers to find their galleries quickly and easily… and it’s already built in to your SmugMug account.
Three Customizable Layers
Your site is organized in a simple nested system, like this:
CATEGORY –> SUBCATEGORY –> GALLERY –> IMAGE
Your images get put into Galleries, and Galleries are placed into Categories. If you want, you can also add an optional layer between Categories and Galleries, called Subcategories. They allow you to subdivide a category (like “Weddings” or “Sports”) into smaller groups (Like “2011″ or “Spring Season”), so your viewers can easily find the pictures they’re looking for.
But remember that Subcategories don’t exist until you create them. We’ll get to that next.
Make Your Own Categories
You’re not limited to the default Categories that you see in that list. Feel free to create your own Categories and Subcategories at any time! Go to your Control Panel, and look under the Customize tab, then click on the Category or Subcategory link, whichever you’re looking to create.
Or if you prefer to do it on the fly you can also create them when you make new galleries.
Remember that empty Categories and Subcategories (ones that don’t have any galleries assigned to them) don’t appear on your site, to help to keep things tidy. Imagine if you had 50 empty Categories on your homepage!
You can have some galleries in Subcategories, and some directly in a Category. They’ll sort themselves in the appropriate boxes on your site like this:
Look here to see all the details about using Categories and Subcategories.
Moving Galleries from one Category to Another
You can move existing galleries to different categories or subcategories from your Gallery Settings. Categories are under Essentials, and Subcategories are found under Extras.
You can move several galleries at one time, using the Multiple Galleries tab at the top of the page. Just be careful: Selecting All will move all of your galleries to the one Category and Subcategory that you choose. There’s no “undo” button, so just be sure that this is what you want to do!
Arranging Your Categories On Your Site
Did you know that you can change your homepage to display categories instead of all of your individual galleries? It’s just a simple mouse click in the upper right corner of the display box.
Note that you can also switch between auto-sorting your Categories or arranging them manually. In the upper left corner of your display box, you can change from “most recent” to “position”. That will allow you to arrange your galleries in any order you wish. Under the “position” link are several simple sort options, as well as some quick moves. You can organize your category, subcategory and gallery display pages in this way.
Enjoy organizing and don’t be shy about sending us an email if you need help!
This week’s Photog Tip of the Week comes from Support Hero, print specialist, Lightroom whiz and studio photographer, Tyree Phillips. Lots of Pros love to shoot in the wild but sometimes the idea of getting a client comfortably into your space can seem a daunting task. Here’s some guidance to help you get your gigs off the ground.
Start them off at ease
Whether your client is a family, model, high school senior or musician, the most important skill a photographer can possess is how to speak to your client. This process actually starts long before the shoot, beginning with the very first contact you have with the client.
Making them comfortable before the shoot goes a long way to ensure the session will go smoothly and great images can be shot. When you first talk with your clients, listen to what they are saying and tailor the conversation to their needs. Present your product in a concise but informative manner. This isn’t about selling yourself to the client; they’ve already contacted you to book the session! Make them comfortable so they know they’re in good hands.
So, how do we do this? I have found the more you can describe the session to the client, the more at ease they are when they arrive at the studio. Taking away the unknown or the mystery of the photo session helps put the client at ease because they now know what to expect.
Find out a little about the client and what their interests are. Use this information to place the client at ease. You can ask them to think about their kids, spouses, pets or anything else they have said to you. You’ll notice a relaxed client with a natural smile and body language which will make for a more natural looking and less posed image. These little things can really make a difference in your images!
Having a shoot list is a great way to go. This is nothing more than a outline for the session and should include the number of changes or ‘looks’, how long each look will be photographed, the types of poses, and props to be used, if any. This helps to keep the session moving and on track in terms of time.
You’re the director
When the client(s) arrive, I like to take them through the studio and show what happens when strobes fire. Some folks won’t be used to this so it is a good idea to let them hear and see the strobes and get used to the environment.
Usually wardrobe and backgrounds are discussed before they walk in the door, so the studio should be set up and ready to go for the day of the shoot.
Once the client enters the set, direct them with simple commands. Commands like tilt your head, chin up or down, rotate, smile, and show me teeth, are commands that are understandable to most folks. Go over the commands you plan to use when the session starts. The client doesn’t need to remember them, but they will perform better if they are made aware of the types of commands you plan to use.
You would think photographing musicians that are used to being on stage would be a breeze, but they can be most difficult subjects to photograph away from the stage setting. Having props on the set from guitars or saxes to a full blown keyboard rig or drum kit helps to put those clients at ease.
Clients like models that are used to being in front of the camera respond to visual poses. I find myself posing them by doing the pose in front of them, and then they can visually copy the pose. You can have fun with this because the client will surely laugh at you posing… but it takes away their anxiety, makes them less self conscious and you’ll get the shot you were looking for.
Always tell the client they’re doing well, even if you’re not sure they are. Use adjectives like “great”, “wonderful“, “gorgeous“, “very nice” or “awesome!” to make the client feel good about what they’re doing. You’ll find that by staying positive, any apprehension they have decreases.
Developing good communication skills keeps the session light and fun and – most importantly – ensures the client’s experience is enjoyable. The images will be great and they’ll book you again.