We’re having a blast talking with some of the best photographers in our midst, and we hope that you’re enjoying these Q&As, too. Next for your weekend reading: You may know him as LordV, DGrin Macro Artist-in-Residence aka Brian Valentine, bringer of bugs. Brian is a generous tutor, having written numerous detailed photography tutorials for DGrin and other photography forums. With his guidance, many aspiring photographers have learned to take pro-level macro shots of water droplets, flowers, bugs and anything hiding right under our noses. He’s been in our sights for a long time, and we hope that you find his work fascinating, inspiring, and as educational as we do.
Photos by LordV Macros
You’ve had a past life as a PhD Microbiologist, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. How did you go from microscopes and petri dishes to teaching the world about macro photography?
This was a coincidence of events with the first affordable DSLRs coming onto the market, and me having plenty of time as I had already managed to take early retirement. These combined with an interest in gardening and my background in microbiology naturally seem to lead to me trying macro photography.
Where do you find your subjects? What are your favorite macro subjects and why?
I take nearly all my shots in my own garden. Because I have koi pond, I have not used insecticides in the garden for many years and it turned out to be a small haven for insects. Although they do not have universal appeal, I enjoy taking photographs of insects the most – I think because it requires hunting skills as well as photographic skills to pull it off.
How long have you been honing your macro skills? Do you do other types of photography?
Have you developed any new techniques recently?
I started macrophotography in 2005 with a Canon 300D DSLR and a Sigma 105mm macro lens.
I still do the normal “family” type photography, but not with any skill. I don’t think I can claim to have developed any techniques, but rather may have simply found how to apply various techniques to macro photography. So I think I have helped popularise the use of focus stacking to increase the depth of field in macro photographs.
Macro photography opens you up to a whole new world of interesting behaviours and the diversity of species. What is the most unexpected behaviour or detail that you have found through your photography?
I think the oddest thing was finding mummified aphids with a circular porthole cut into them. I was able to find out and photograph them being parasitised by very small wasps.
What challenges would you say are particular to macro photography?
The main challenges are due to the magnifications you are dealing with. This amplifies any camera movement so camera stabilisation, high shutter speeds or use of flash is required. The magnification also leads to very small depth of field in your photos and you often end up trying to balance depth of field vs diffraction softening (the lack of sharpness that happens when you use smaller apertures.)
Which macro lenses do you use and recommend?
The best all-round lens for macro is a prime lens around 100mm focal length. I have yet to come across a bad macro lens made by a major manufacturer so Canon 100mm, Tamron 90mm, Sigma 105mm, Canon 60mm EF-S (to name a few) are all optically excellent. Longer focal length macro lenses not only cost a lot, they are harder to handle hand held, more difficult to get higher magnifications with and are in general slightly less sharp than their smaller cousins. I’d only recommend getting one if you will be shooting very nervous or dangerous subjects, or if you really do want the lovely background bokeh they can give.
With a 1:1 macro lens of 150mm focal length or less you can get to 2:1 magnification or higher using a full set of extension tubes (68mm). The ultimate high magnification lens is the canon MPE-65 which goes from 1:1 to 5:1 magnification without additions.
Is there a “starter” set up that someone might use to test the macro waters?
One alternative is to start off with a set of extension tubes (e.g. Kenko) and use them with a prime lens you already own, around the 40mm to 85mm range. The only major disadvantage is the loss of infinity focus.
An even cheaper alternative is to use lens reversing techniques: You can reverse either a kit lens, or say a 50mm lens, directly onto the body using a reverse body coupler. This can give suprisingly good results but suffers from the problem of losing aperture control. You need to preset the aperture of an autofocus lens whilst the lens is mounted normally, set the aperture in Av mode, press the DOF preview button and remove the lens whilst keeping the DOF preview button depressed. This leaves the aperture set on the lens until the next time it is mounted normally but does result in a dimmer viewfinder. If you try this, you can get around this problem by using an older, manual lens which has an aperture control ring.
Lighting is very important for this type of photography. Are there any special considerations the blooming macro shooter should know?
Natural light is fine for macro shooting up to 1:1 magnification but past this, keeping your subject lit becomes increasingly difficult. I tend to use natural light where I can for flowers and often larger bugs such as butterflies and dragonflies. I prefer shooting natural light on slightly cloudy days as this avoids the high contrast and ugly specular highlights you can get with full bright sun.
Typical camera settings I would use for handheld work would be:
- camera in Tv mode
- shutter speed 1/200th
- aperture around F6.3 to F11
I normally dial in some negative Exposure compensation (around -.3 or -.6) to avoid blown highlights but this does vary with camera body. Obviously, if you have a static subject and some form of stabilisation (e.g. tripod or bean bag) you can drop the shutter speed.
Flash has a number of advantages for macro work: you can always get enough light with small aperture values that are often used to get reasonable DOF, and it helps provide very high, effective shutter speeds (the flash duration) which helps stop motion blur (on either you or the subject). It becomes a necessity for most shooting above 1:1 magnification, simply because there is not normally enough light.
I use standard flashguns (430Ex) mounted on a bracket with a diffuser. You can obviously use macro flashes but I would avoid single flash tube ones and ones where you cannot move the flash heads, which only really leaves the rather expensive MT-24Ex. Single tube macro flashes tend to give very flat-looking shots and dual tube macro flashes are rather hard to diffuse adequately.
Typical camera settings for full flash shots up to 1:1 magnification:
- camera in M mode,
- aperture f/11
- shutter speed 1/200th
- ISO 100/200.
Above 1:1 you may need to start opening up the aperture more if you want to avoid diffraction softening. I tend end up around F5.6 at 5:1.
Put the flash in ETTL mode, but remember that the FEC (Flash Exposure Compensation) will need to be adjusted depending on the shot brightness. I have to adjust mine down to -.66 for dark backgrounds or no close background and up to +1.66 for a white background from a normal setting of 0 FEC (note the normal setting for good exposure of a grey card may not be 0 FEC on some setups).
There are some situations where you may want to shoot mainly natural light but add some flash to light the subject a bit more – this often occurs if the subject is significantly backlit. Typical camera settings as for natural light shooting but with EC probably at -.66 and FEC set on the flash around -.66 to -1.
What tips can you give us for successfully focusing on such tiny subjects?
I tend to use the same focus method no matter what I’m shooting. I set the magnification I want with the focus ring with the lens set to MF and then focus on the subject by moving the camera towards the subject. If I’m hand holding or using a pole then once I’m near focus I gently move the camera back and forth by swaying slightly and take the shot as I pass through the focus point I want. If I’m resting the camera lens on something then I gently move it forward until I get the focus point I want. It does take a bit of practice doing this but you will get more keepers this way once you have mastered it.
With most bug shots they work better if the eyes are in good focus unless you are specifically trying to focus on some other detail.
Can you tell us more about Focus Stacking? What it is, how and why do you do it?
Focus stacking is not a necessity for macrophotography but it suits my preferred style of trying to capture sharp detail in shots. I use fairly open apertures to avoid diffraction softening of the image and focus stacking allows me to get the DOF I’m losing.
Here’s a step-by-step tutorial on focus stacking using one of the freeware software stacker programs.
I do however now use the commercial programme Zerene Stacker as it has many advantages over the combine series. It keeps low contrast detail, is better at reducing haloing and also better at aligning as it does do rotational correction as well.
There are a few basic problems associated with focus stacking, no matter what method you use:
#1 You need to be pretty good at focusing to get the overlapping DOF slices needed for a good stack. It does, however, sharpen up your focusing and can be good practice for focus bracketing a shot.
#2 Some focus stacks can look very unnatural due to the abnormal DOF which can flatten the image and also give rather odd DOF boundaries on the background. This is largely a matter of personal interpretation of a 2-D picture and what we normally use for depth cues. Problems like this can often be avoided by using incomplete stacks and careful choice of shooting angles to avoid sharp DOF boundaries. I often also cheat by doing what I call differential focus stacking by hand where I only focus stack the parts of the image I want more DOF in, often not stacking the background.
#3 Some subjects are almost impossible to focus stack if they are moving, although you might be suprised what you can stack if you get used to shooting quickly.
We hope that everyone reading this is a little inspired to go outside and see the world with new eyes. Whether you rent a new lens and try focus stacking on your own, or just cut a little more distance around your local honeybees, we hope that you all appreciate the big, big world around us… camera or not.
At SmugMug, we’re all about supporting your business and we love to help you succeed. Today’s guest post is by our longtime SmugMug customer and successful full-time professional photographer, Kathy Rappaport. She is CEO (Chief Everything Officer) at Flash Frozen Photography Inc. in Woodland Hills, California. For many years she kept her pencil sharp as an Accountant and honed her Marketing and Operational skills as a VP in Bank Management. She’s a QuickBooks Certified Advisor and consults with photographers on best business practices when she isn’t photographing families, children, dogs and women in lingerie (though usually not all at the same time). So, we were thrilled when she shared her tips with us, and we wanted to share them with you.
The US Small Business Administration says that 80% of small businesses fail in the first five years. So what are some good business practices for photographers so they don’t fail? Or better yet, so they succeed? Here are a few of mine!
1) Good Accounting!
If the reason you work is to make money, then you’d better track how much you make, how much things cost, who owes you money and how much you owe the government. My favorite solution is QuickBooks. It comes in Mac and PC Flavors and even Online and mobile editions now. My personal favorite is the Premier Edition (which is for PC) because you can track your costs and customers in detail. There are many good features to the program like customized invoices, sales tax tracking, customer tracking, inventory and product sales. It’s pretty easy to learn and maintain. Take care of your money and it will take care of you! There are other solutions, but, this is reasonable and comprehensive. And way better than a shoebox.
2) Good Pricing!
“My camera is paid for and I love to shoot so anyone who pays me something is my client.” Well, just because people pay you doesn’t make you a professional. A Professional has a business license, insurance and charges money for their products and services. You have to have good accounting to figure out good pricing. A good place to start is to figure out how much a fair hourly wage is for your skill level. Then multiply that times three or four. Why? Your camera will need replacement, your lenses will surely need service, your cost of business (like insurance, props, gas, supplies, your phone, printer , software, internet) are a part of price you charge. Don’t forget some of your time is spent on editing and finishing your work. You need to include saving for your future. Your retirement, taxes, and replacing your equipment. You can add up your costs and figure out a daily/weekly/hourly rate plus time to arrive at a price that will keep you in business.
3) Good Customer Service!
I hear over and over from some so-called professional photographers that it’s not necessary to call customers back or that they wait weeks to deliver work. If they have some miscommunication they send an email. The best thing you can do is be omnipresent to your clients. Respond NOW. Call if there is a problem. Knock their socks off and they’ll tell their friends. Disappoint them and they’ll tell the world. Underpromise and overdeliver. Find something special to say thank you. Maybe an extra print from the merchandise selection of your SmugMug catalog. Even a handwritten greeting card says you care.
4) Have a Good Plan!
Don’t just have an idea and implement it right away. Think about it. Plan it out in the form of a business plan. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Plan your marketing efforts, your customer service initiative, and your business goals. Make a calendar and a task list. Plan out the amount of money you want to make, how to get there and budget it out. It’s like taking a cross country trip without having a road map if you do things by the seat of your pants.
As a solopreneur, you shouldn’t do it all. You do need to get legal advice and accounting advice. You can get contracts online, but, they might not be right for your situation. Same with accounting. You should never take everyone’s advice when it comes to accounting and taxes. They are really personalized. Find out what kind of entity you should be. I hear S Corp and LLC all the time as advice but they really might be wrong for you and cost you big time in the tax department. You might have some graphics skills, but, a good printer and graphic designer will present your work to make you stand out. Maybe you even need to hire someone to train you in how to do something so you can do it properly instead of guessing. I don’t know the first thing about HTML and having an expert handy makes me sleep better at night knowing that everything is right.
6) Do Things the Official Way!
Don’t be a scofflaw. Get your location permits, business license; your DBA, carry liability Insurance, your Sales Tax License, your tax Identification number. Go to your local chamber of commerce or accountant and see what you need to do to be a real business. Not having those things can cause you to have penalties, interest, fines, or expensive legal and accounting fees. If people pay you to photograph, then the end result is you have a business. The IRS says you have to file a tax return if someone pays you as little as $400.00.
Practice your craft. Up your game. Take care of yourself. In your marketing plan you should be out there meeting people both inside and outside the industry. Learn about business just as much as you spend time learning about the latest lighting techniques. Up your game and keep improving and learning. Read good business books. You will never know everything, but don’t stop adding to your bag of tricks. Challenge yourself to reach for the stars. I know you can do it.
From the first moment we saw Corrie White’s incredible, alien macro images we were floored. A lot goes on under our very noses, including the strange and beautiful shapes created by droplets of water. Corrie taught herself how to photograph these teeny, fleeting sculptures and found so much success, she’s written an eBook teaching others how to do the same. We asked her a few behind-the-scenes questions about her experience in a small, small world, and she’s giving away a copy of her eBook below. Keep reading to see how to enter!
Photos by Liquid Drop Art
What inspired you to start capturing liquid drops? Were you a photographer before trying drop photography?
Years ago, I stumbled upon the Liquid Sculptures of Martin Waugh. I was fascinated with them and kept going back to marvel at his beautiful works. In early 2009, I had some free time and decided to give these a try for myself. I found I had a knack for doing these manually and the rest is history. I have always had a love for macro photography and started on this with a Sony DSC-H1 point and shoot camera many years ago. I found this very limiting and got an entry level DSLR. In 2008, I acquired a Canon EF f2.8 100mm macro lens, which was essential for my water drop photography. So basically, I was more of a “snap-shot” type of photographer before the water drops.
How much experience did you have with strobes before you started photographing droplets?
I had never used any external flashes before I did water drop photography. Indeed, for the first half year I used my camera pop-up flash for my water drops. I knew nothing about Flash Exposure Compensation and soon learned why I was getting those cool, but annoying light trails on my drops
How exciting was it to discover The Three Drop Splash – a new drop structure? Will it be
named in your honour?
I was so ecstatic when I saw the Three Drop Splash appear on my little screen. I did a little dance! Something entirely new which had never been done before. I was really very excited. Will it be named in my honour? I can’t say, but I really don’t think so. Martin Waugh has the distinction of taking water drops to a new level with his two drop collisions. I personally think anything after this is after-the-fact and secondary. What you see currently in the water drop world are extensions of his creations. I’m just happy to have discovered some new shapes in a world where it’s hard to come up with something totally unique.
What type of publications and sites tend to purchase your work?
The interest in my water drop art is very diverse, anywhere from photography magazines to children’s magazines. There is a lot of interest from the science world, especially in the field of Fluid Dynamics. One of the most memorable compliments came from a Professor at MIT who said they brought a tear of joy to his eye and shared the work with his students.
Have you ever been commissioned to shoot a specific drop image?
Not for any monetary value. I have been asked to do certain abstract images, but they are very difficult, especially when I need equipment I don’t have available to me. Right now I am trying to find time to create an Amanita mushroom which will be a difficult, but fun project. I much prefer to work in an uncontrolled atmosphere with colours and shapes that I like.
What kind of droplet images are on the horizon for you to try? Any tantalizing new equipment or materials you want to experiment with?
I really don’t know what the future holds for me with respect to my water drops. Is there more undiscovered territory with them? I will certainly see what’s possible and test the limits. I may try multiple valves, but that is becoming commonplace and I prefer to find the unique. The possibilities are endless and I would like to find more surprises in the liquids.
Say someone had only $200 to invest into trying this kind of photography. How would you
recommend they do it?
I always suggest that before people go out and spend lots of money on electronics, to first try
out a manual set-up to see if you like this type of photography. You only need to spend a small amount of cash on a flow regulator from an aquarium supply store, or an IV drip contraption, to start out. Use your DSLR with manual controls, a regular lens with zoom, your pop-up flash, and see if this is what you want before you take it to the next level. It’s a great hobby, especially in the cold winter months. Be careful, though – you can get hooked!
Buying a macro lens is a good investment if you like macro photography in general. Buying an electronic timing device can be useful for much more than water drop photography. I am familiar only with Mumford’s Time Machine, but it will do time lapse photography, ballistics, and many other types of photography. I would like very much to do some time lapse experiments in the near future.
What have you learned from droplet photography?
I have learned that within each of us is a creative spirit. I have found mine in liquid art photography. It is an exhilarating, relaxing and very rewarding experience. I find a great satisfaction that so many people have been inspired by my water drop work and the techniques I use. They have expressed gratitude that I have shared my experiences with them and although some say I should keep some of my methods secret, I find the opposite to be a richer experience. “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” rings true for me and I am honoured to see others experimenting with my methods.
Win the Ultimate Guide to Water Drop Photography eBook!
Corrie has generously donated a copy of her eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Water Drop Photography, to one lucky person. In it you learn step by step what you need to take arresting droplet images, as well as basic flash and camera principles to help you stop motion – essential for any photographer who is looking to freeze a moment in time.
To enter, simply post a comment below with a winning caption for this image:
What does this photo say to you? Post your entries below and we’ll announce a winner in this space on April 29th, 2013.
Get creative, get learning, and set your curiosity free!
UPDATE: The winner has been chosen! Congrats to Holly Gordon with the caption “Bobble Head Water Drop.” We’ll be in touch with Holly with the prize, and thanks to everyone who entered!
If you’re like the rest of us, you’re constantly looking for a way to maximize your time behind the camera and shrink time spent at your desk. While it’s important to keep your photos safe, secure and organized, you don’t have to blow your entire evening doing it.
Here’s few features built in to your account that will help you shave a few valuable seconds off of your photo-flow.
1. Quick Settings (All)
Did you know that once you find that “sweet spot” of Gallery Settings, you can save it as a template? This way you don’t have to click each line to set specs on every. single. gallery. Set it and forget it! You’ll find all the Quick Settings you’ve saved in a handy dropdown bar on the gallery creation page.
How it’s done: Open up any gallery’s settings page and make sure that the settings are to taste. Scroll to the top and click the menu bar under “Quick Settings” header. You can give your current set of settings a descriptive name from this space, apply a Quick Setting, or apply a Quick Setting to multiple galleries at once. To delete a Quick Setting, simply highlight it in the bar and click the “delete template” button that appears.
Things to note: Gallery titles, gallery descriptions, keywords, the category/subcategory, NiceNames, and themes don’t get carried over by Quick Settings. You will need to set these manually for each gallery.
2. Smart Galleries (All)
Smart Galleries automate the photos that are included in your gallery. You create a set of rules to follow and we’ll listen, pulling in the photos that you’ve specified. Pick from a variety of options, like by keyword or date uploaded. The gallery will automatically Collect new photos that you upload to your SmugMug account that follow those same rules.
How it’s done: You’ll find your Smart Gallery settings in your Gallery Settings, under “Make This Gallery Smart.” From there you’ll be able to add rules that fit your requirements, tweakable to taste.
Things to note: Freshly-uploaded photos may take a little time to be included in your galleries, but they’ll get there. Please be patient! If you really can’t wait, open your Smart Gallery rules and hit the “Click to Refresh Preview” button to pull them in. Don’t forget to save your changes.
3. Lightroom plugin (All)
We talk about the SmugMug plugin for Lightroom a lot, but we really do think it’s one of the best inventions since lens caps. It’s free, it’s easy, it automates so much of your digital workflow… pro or not, for everything you shoot. And so many smart photographers are already loving Lightroom to process and organize their photos.
How it’s done: Download the free SmugMug plugin and install it according to instructions. You can edit, organize and even sync your SmugMug galleries right through Lightroom’s modules. When you’re ready, publish your photos and upload to SmugMug with a click. Business SmugMuggers, remember that you can sync, edit and republish your clients’ Event favorites, making sure your wires never get crossed.
4. Easy Customizer (Power, Portfolio, Business)
If our 70+ default themes don’t work for you, our point-and-click Easy Customizer is your new best friend. It’s super-easy to add your own logo and color scheme and have it instantly applied across your entire site. You get a preview of your website at all times in the left pane, so there are no surprises once you hit Publish. Leave your code at the door.
How it’s done: You can access the Easy Customizer right from your homepage Tools button. Click around the many different options on the right, preview what you’ve done and then Publish to show the world! If you add any banner or background images via the Easy Customizer, you’ll find those in an unlisted gallery that we create for you, called “My SmugMug Site Files (Do Not Delete).“
5. Proof Delay (Portfolio, Business)
Busy pro? We know. Proof Delay lets you quickly upload your unedited proof images into your clients’ galleries and get their approval the night of the shoot. This means they can buy prints while they’re still excited, and you save time by editing just the pics they’ve bought. Happy client, happy you. What more can you ask for?
How it’s done: Open your Gallery Settings and scroll down to the “Printing” option. You can enter a number between 1-7 there, which will factor into the potential shipping time quoted to your client. Once your orders are in, you can replace the image in your gallery with an edited version, then release the order to the print lab. Read more here.
Things to note: Proof Delay doesn’t currently apply to digital downloads, so if you plan on selling those be sure that you’ve edited your images before enabling or pricing that option.
6. Assistant Passwords (Portfolio, Business)
Why not have someone else do your uploading and organizing while you’re away? Assistant Passwords are one of the many time-saving features included in pro accounts, designed to let someone else do your busywork for you. Your password and billing information is never revealed, but they can take care of all those little details while you’re out on a shoot.
How it’s done: Set your assistant password from the Privacy tab of your Account Settings. Make sure it’s different from the password that you use to log in. Read all the details about what your assistant can or won’t be able to do.
Things to note: Although there are several security measures in place to ensure your account isn’t compromised, Assistants by definition have the ability to make changes on your site. Be sure that person you let in the door is someone you trust to manage your photos!
We hope that we’ve introduced you to a few way that help you get more things done in your day. Share your thoughts and tell us what’s on your time-saving wishlist!
- How to create, edit and delete Quick Settings
- All about Assistant Passwords
- Smart Galleries and how they auto-populate your stuff
- Collecting photos and virtual copies
- SmugMug’s free Lightroom plugin
- How to use the Lightroom plugin
- SmugMug’s Lightroom webinar
- Intro to the Easy Customizer
- Intro to Advanced Customization
- The Dgrin customization forum
- How (and why) to use Proof Delay
Attention, Lightroom lovers! Today we have a great post by one of our friends, Matt Kloskowski, full-time Education Director for Kelby Media Group and a Tampa-based photographer. He’s the Editor of Lightroom Magazine, author of several best-selling Photoshop books and teaches Photoshop, Lightroom and photography seminars around the world. So we’re flattered that he hand-picked a few favorite ways for Lightroom-armed Smuggers like you to get their photos finished faster. After all, we’d rather be outdoors shooting in the sunshine than stuck at our desks. Wouldn’t you?
If you’re a pro photographer thinking about joining the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) and continuing your photo education, they’re offering a free 24-hour trial membership now. Try it out!
Hey everyone, Matt Kloskowski here with some tips on speeding up your Lightroom workflow. We’ve all heard the phrase “time is money.” Well, if you’re shooting weddings or events, you need to get through your photos and get them organized as fast as possible. Then you can get on to the good stuff of editing and getting out there to shoot more photos. So to help out, I’ve compiled 5 of my favorite tips to kickstart your workflow and keep you moving through Lightroom as quickly as possible.
Tip #1. Use Flags Instead of Stars
A big part of speeding up your workflow is identifying your favorite photos in some way. That way you can do something with them. Well, if you look under the photo menu you’ll see Lightroom has 3 ways of picking out your favorites. First there’s Set Flag. next, there’s Set Rating and finally there’s Set Color Label.
Here’s my thoughts. Ratings and Color Labels are really difficult to work with. Most people are familiar with the 1-5 star rating system but the main drawback is that it has too many choices. 5 stars is a keeper right? 4 stars probably means the photo is pretty good. 3 means it’s decent. 2 would be bad. and 1 star would be a reject that you throw away. Well what happens as you go through your photos and you come across something that isn’t a throw away or isn’t an absolute favorite keeper? You sit there and debate with yourself whether it’s a 2,3 or 4 star photo. Either way, it’s not your favorite so you’ll probably never do anything with it. But yet, you’re giving it too much time in the rating process. And inevitably, when something takes too long, we stop doing it.
So try this. Instead of using ratings, use the flagging system. This way, you get two choices:
- Flagged means you like it.
- Reject means you don’t and you want to delete it.
Go through your photos quickly and hit “P” to flag or “X” to reject. If you don’t flag it or reject it, then it stays unflagged which is that gray area that you’re just not sure about. But you don’t have to press a key to be indecisive – Lightroom just assumes you’re indecisive about the photo by leaving it unflagged. So your job becomes really easy! Flag it if you like it and think there’s a remote chance you’ll do something with it again one day. Reject it if you don’t. Then hit the right arrow key and move on.
Tip #2. Delete the Bad Stuff (and an easy way to do it)
Another way to speed things up is to keep your library as clean as possible and get rid of the bad stuff. If you followed the previous step and are using the Flag system, you should have some rejects that were marked with an X. A really simple way to delete them is to go up to the Photo menu and choose “Delete Rejected Photos.” Lightroom will delete all the rejects all at once so you don’t have to go back and get rid of them later.
Tip: When you try to delete a photo Lightroom will ask you if you want to delete it from the hard drive or just from the Lightroom library. Personally, I want me rejects gone forever so I delete them from the hard drive rather than just removing them from Lightroom.
Tip #3. Use Collections
Using Collections in Lightroom is more important than ever and probably one of the fastest and best ways for you to speed up your workflow. Photos that go into a collection are the photos that should be one click away and the photos that you’ll want to see most often.
To put it simply, think of a Collection as a photo album. Let’s say you have 2000 images from a wedding. You want to quickly show them to the bride/groom or family. Do you go through and show them all 2000 photos? No way. Instead, you’d create an album. Well that’s what a collection is. It’s a way for you to get to your favorite photos in just one click no matter where you are in Lightroom because the Collections panel is everywhere.
Typically, I’ll look at my photos in the Folders panel and go through them one by one. I’ll hit the letter P (for Pick) to flag photos as a favorite when I come across them. Then I can quickly sort to just see my picks by clicking the little flagged icon in the Filter strip just above the filmstrip:
Once I’ve figured out what my favorites are I select them all (Edit > Select All), go to the Collections panel and create a new Collection with a descriptive name (usually the last name of the bride/groom). Now, no matter what I do in the Folders panel and no matter what folder I’m looking at, I have a one-click way to get to my favorite photos from that event.
Tip #4. Use Collection Sets
Collections have an extra level of organization called Collection Sets that are key for events like weddings. Think of a Collection Set as a group of nested folders. If you put your picks from a wedding/event into a Collection, you’d have all the best photos from all parts of the wedding in one place (the Collection you created). The problem is that this Collection could be huge, so this is where Collection Sets come in.
You’d create a Collection Set (example: the top level folder with the bride/groom name) and then create Collections within the set for each part of the wedding (example: formals, church, reception, etc…). Here’s what a Collection Set could look like in Lightroom:
Tip #5. Use Smart Collections for the Long View
Collections are also smart: They can organize themselves automatically as you import photos into Lightroom. One example of this could be a Smart Collection to help organize your portfolio photos. These are photos that help get you new business as you update your website, so you’ll want to keep them close, easy to get to, and – most importantly – easily updated.
For example, anytime you edit a show-worthy image, put the word “portfolio” in the image title or give it a certain color flag or label. Because Lightroom’s Smart Collections are “smart”, you can set up a rule to detect that this photo meets certain criteria and have it placed directly into a “Portfolio” collection for you.
The best part about it is that once you set up your Smart Collection, Lightroom automatically does the rest.
Bonus Smug Tip: Get Them Uploaded Safely
Once your photos are all cleaned up and ready to go, you’re just a few clicks away from uploading them safely into your SmugMug website. The publish plugin is free, gets your photos seamlessly into SmugMug, and also lets you sync, make galleries and keep your online presence as clean and organized as your Lightroom library. You can also see and adjust your customer’s Event Favorites, republish, and even proof your orders all right within the SmugMug Publish module. Get it now!
What Lightroom tricks have shaved seconds off of your photo editing workflow? We’d love to know!
Sam Nichols is one of SmugMug’s longest-living Sorcerers. In addition to creating mind-blowingly amazing things for you (like our original browser uploader and a little iPhone app called Camera Awesome) he sets the bar pretty high for anyone coveting the title “Camera Nerd.” From large format to Leica, Sam has used them all. We asked him to stop coding long enough to open up his gear bag, and here’s what we found.
What’s in your bag at any given moment?
A Nikon D800e with something wide and sharp (Zeiss 21mm), something versatile and fast (35mm f/1.4) and something tight and isolating (Nikon 85mm f/1.4 or Zeiss 100mm f/2.0) with a solid carbon Gitzo tripod (GT3542LS). I have problems with chasing extremes and found that primes are the sharpest, have the widest apertures, focus the fastest, have the least distortion etc. Versatility be damned I want the best, so those are what fill my bag. I’m liking shooting the 21mm with high aspect ratio crops (6×17) or (land/buliding)scape shots using tighter lenses like the 85mm or 100mm to isolate a subject and compress the background.
The only thing I keep wanting to include but don’t is a 24 Tilt-shift lens. I miss Canon’s 24L TS-E mkII. I loved that tilt-shift lens but Nikon’s 24 tilt-shift offering is older, has less features and isn’t as sharp as the Zeiss 21mm or the Canon.
If you had to grab one lens in a house fire, which would it be?
A 35mm f/1.4 is my jams. I loved it on my Canon full-frame bodies, it was the 1st lens I bought when I switched to a Nikon D800e, and its the only lens I own for my Leica M7. Long ago I started with a Canon 28-135, tried zooms up the wazoo and primes to the horizon eventually settling on 35mm as the sweet spot. I found 50mm too ‘normal’, 85mm was too confining and 24mm was too distracting, 35mm was wide enough to be dramatic without being overwhelming, indoors and out. Its a fast focusing lens (except on the Leica, obviously) and I’m a sucker for thin depth of field. I’ve no complaints on the size either (85mm f/1.2 or 1.4 I’m looking at you). When we go out and I’m just bringing one lens, it’s the 35mm. If we’re going on a trip it’s the first thing in my bag unless there is some reason or limit such that I can’t. Mmm, my precioussssss.
Do you have any totally-indulgent, special-occasion favorites?
Film. I take out my Leica M7 with B&W on certain occasions. I also use a medium format 6×17 view camera which forces a dramatic perspective but my film favorite is my large format 4×5 field camera: a Toyo 45AX with Schneider 210mm f/5.6 and Xenotar 150mm f/2.8. In 35mm camera parlance that’s like a ~60mm which is quite sharp and a ~40mm f/1.0! Yes I know I said I don’t like 50mm, but holy poop, f/2.8 on a 4×5 camera has such a shallow depth of field and the lens creates really unique shots. I originally went to large format to force me to slow down and think about the shot. It was a great exercise and I still like taking it with me for the unique images it produces and the different mindset it puts me in while photographing.
Being me, I also tried out the 8×10 format, thinking that if Big means Awesome, then Bigger must be Awesomer. But it turns out there is such a thing as too much and 8×10 just meant heavier and more expensive. However, I’ll still be jamming this into my main kit for an upcoming trip to Utah.
If you could change one thing about DSLR bodies…
High resolution full frame bodies! What happened to high-resolution, full frame pro bodies like the Canon 1DsIII and Nikon D3x? I suspect the problem is that the majority of pro body SLR users use them for sports/event/action/wildlife where you want a high frame-rate which precludes higher resolutions due to bandwidth. Combine that with studio photographers being ‘ok’ with a prosumer full frame body since they don’t need the ruggedness of the pro bodies and demand for the 1DsIII and D3x begins to dry up. But it sucks to be part of that minority who wants all the functionality of the pro bodies but doesn’t care about frame rate. I’d take 3FPS if I could also have > 30MP!
With all this delicious gear you’ve got (literally!) in the bag, is there still something you wish you had?
Digital medium format so hard. There are three things I want above all else: broad dynamic range, smooth tonal gradations (read high bit-depth), high resolution. I don’t care about frame rate, high ISO performance, fast AF (accurate AF is still important), AF points, sync speed, shutter speed, etc. All of that is important for ‘action’. Digital MF crushes those 3 desires, especially with its 16bit files (Nikon and Canon max out at 14bit), give me a 80MP Leaf back and I’ll be your friend forever (maybe), plus I could use the MF back on my large-format camera. The only thing between me and a pile of digital gear is price of course — even the ‘reasonable’ 40MP Hasselblads are in the $20k+ area.
What do you wish you could improve upon?
Actually going out and taking pictures for the sake of taking pictures, and a follow up to that would be actually editing and sharing them. I have a lot of technical knowledge surrounding cameras and photography but I don’t get out very much to actually apply any of that to taking interesting pictures. Sure, I bring my kit along almost every trip we go on and that often results in Goin’ Out To Take Some Pictures, but usually it just means (really good) snapshots. I have the know-how, I have ideas, but for some reason I never find the time. I blame working at SmugMug sucking up all my time.
By popular demand, we’re launching a brand-new series of webinars to give you LIVE opportunity to learn step-by-step instructions on how to get the most out of your SmugMug site.
Why Should I Go?
You get info from our real SmugMug folks. Our email replies are fast, but this is even better.
Safe zone: Don’t be afraid to ask the most basic questions. We were all beginners once.
Experienced, expert how-to’s and we’ll show you to new ways to use features you already have.
They’ll happen regularly. Miss a session? That’s OK. Join us next time.
What, Where, How?
We’re offering two types of SmugMug webinars so there’s something for everyone:
1) SmugMug 101: The first Tuesday of every month. Perfect for newbies looking to get up to speed with their brand-new SmugMug website.
2) SmugMug Feature Spotlight: The third Tuesday of every month. We’ll spend one hour talking in-depth about a specific SmugMug feature.
All webinars are hosted by SmugMug’s very own Rocky Bowles and Seán Rogan. Together they bring almost 15 years as SmugMug users and Pro Gurus. They’ve been there, done that, and earned their hoodies.
We’ll block out extra time for Q&A, so come prepared with your questions!
Smug Tips, Photo Tips, Business Tips
We’ll be adding to our webinar schedule as we settle subjects, speakers and dates, so bookmark our Events Calendar and check it often.
Our next Feature Spotlight takes place on April 16th, 2013 at 8:30 PM Eastern Time. We’ll discuss SEO and Branding, how it works, and how to make it work for you.
We’ve got all kinds of educational webinars planned for the future, too, and it’s not all about SmugMug. Here’s what’s coming upon the horizon, and you can click the links to register for each event.
- April 12, 2013 – 7:00 PM BST — UK and Europe! PhotoTraining4U & SmugMug
- April 16, 2013 – 8:30 PM EDT — SmugMug Feature Spotlight – SEO & Branding
- April 25, 2013 – 8:00 PM EDT — SEO with Jason Grubb
- May 7, 2013 – 8:00 PM EDT — SmugMug 101
Do you have a specific topic or feature you want to discuss? Tell us! We’re here for you.
Bored with shooting the same ol’, same ol’? If you’re like the rest of us, malaise is destined to happen eventually but there are lots of things you can do to breathe new life into yourself… and your camera. Here’s ten ways we recommend.
photo by Windermere Studios
1) Shoot something new
If you’re a portrait or a wedding photographer, you do the same thing all the time. Why not point that lens at something else: A sunset, people on the street, flowers in your garden, skateboarders at the park, the Milky Way? You may discover new ways to use your existing gear that you never would have thought of before.
And who knows! You may even end up finding a new niche.
2) Find a group to shoot with
Nothing lifts the mood like a smile, and there’s tons of that at a photo walk. Social sites like Meetup.com and Google+ are only two of many options where you can find like-minded photographers like you getting together to shoot something fun. It’s always inspiring to see what other people are using and doing, and you may end up making a few new friends, too.
Better yet, if you’re thinking about organizing your own photo walk, we have some tips for you.
3) Shoot a theme
Sometimes the way to stretch yourself is – yes, it’s weird – to limit your boundaries. Try taking pictures of just red things, a series only looking upwards, or any series you can think of with a common theme. You’ll find yourself liberated by the rules, grounded by great focus, and perhaps even seeing something new in the mundane.
Try uploading those photos into a single, themed gallery, too. You might like the result!
photo by Schmootography
4) Rent something new
With companies like Borrowlenses.com out there, it’s so easy to take your dream lens for a spin. From macros to mega-zooms, you can get anything you want shipped to your door and enjoy it for as little (or as long) as you like. Especially great for getting to use highly specialized lenses like fisheyes, which pack a lot of punch mixed up in with your regular portfolio offerings.
And did you know that Borrowlenses is part of our ClubSmug? They’re offering logged-in SmugMuggers a special discount on your next lens rental, so why wait?
5) Try a Daily Photo project
Daily photo projects aren’t a new concept, but there’s a reason why they’re still around. It’s pretty neat to take a picture every day, whether you frame it with a common theme or just take a picture of whatever you’re doing at a certain time each day. It may not be high art and you may miss a day here or there, but it still gets you thinking about shooting each day without the stress of your business or a client. It’s YOUR time, YOUR life. Enjoy it!
At the very least, they make fantastic time capsules. Going through your photo diary ten years later is priceless. Browse SmugMug’s Daily Photos community to see some great examples of Smuggers documenting their lives.
6) Take a break from shooting
At the other end of the spectrum, you may just need a break. Put the camera down but don’t get stagnant — go hiking, pick up a paint brush or a pencil, read a great book, take your kids to the park, or do yoga. Try new things that don’t flex your photography muscles, and you may find your creativity growing back.
photo by Schmootography
7) Take a workshop
Some people thrive in the formal education environment. Is that you? With the boom of digital photography workshops of all types, you’re bound to find a way to learn something totally new, and find the best environment for you, to boot. From one-day classes to week-long trips, you can take up a brand-new photo skill and actually get good at it in relatively short time.
8) Look at other people’s art
Taking an afternoon to the museum could be the best thing you ever did for your craft. Switch gears, stop stressing about creating your own art and take a look at what others have done before you. The timeless work of old masters or the trailblazing pieces of new ones will inspire, stretch and get your brain thinking in great new ways.
Similarly, take a look through photo blogs and social channels to see what other photographers are doing. You may be inspired to try something new in the format you’re already familiar with. No need to trek down to the art store.
Nothing gets the soul going like travel. Speak, eat, look, immerse yourself in new cultures and notice new things. And you don’t have to go far, unless you want to: You can experience a whole different side of your own town that you’ve never even noticed by volunteering at an organization, taking a walk to that park you’ve never visited, paying attention to local events and flyers posted on the street.
What’s around your next corner?
10) Enter a contest
Sometime a little friendly competition is just what you need to hone in and focus on your craft. Get the blood pumping with a photo contest where there’s a set theme and (if you like) a tasty prize. Just be sure to check the rules and be sure that the way the organizers handle copyright and ownership of submitted images is OK with you.
photo by Schmootography
We hope some of these methods work to breathe new life into your photo-passion. What are some things that you’ve done to rekindle your love for photography?