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February 2011 Archives

February 1, 2011

Review: Kodak Professional Portra 400

A Perfect Film for the Hybrid Workflow

By Marianne Drenthe

Film is not dead. Brilliant technical advances in the forum of film creation have brought about Kodak Professional’s newest film, Portra 400. Kodak touts it as having the “world finest grain at 400 speed,” and I do believe that claim to be true.

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I trialed the Portra 400 film in the 35mm format. Kodak has always been known for their consistent and smooth reproduction of all skin tones, and I couldn’t wait to use this film in my comfort zone—children’s photography. I trialed several rolls of the brand new Portra 400 film using my trusty Canon EOS Elan 7 and a variety of Canon L glass, using manual settings for all my exposures. I shot with my favorite Canon lenses: the 50mm 1.2L, the 135mm 2.0L and the 24-70mm 2.8L. I hoped the combination of the L lenses with Kodak’s track record for smooth skin tones would prove to be a winner. It was.

The wait and see nature of film sort of forces you to finish the process of taking the photos—not to stop and check the back of the camera LCD after taking a shot and second guess yourself. I took photos of a variety of child subjects utilizing natural light. I took some photos outdoors (no easy feat in the Midwest December cold!), on location in my home and indoors at a client’s home. Once I finished shooting came the patience part. I sent my rolls off to Burrell Colour Imaging in Crown Point, Ind. (one of my pro labs of choice), and waited. Patiently. Their turn around was pretty good; I had proof images and scans in about a week.

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Interview: Catching Up with Jerry Ghionis

By Stephanie Boozer

This month, Australia-based photographer Jerry Ghionis graces our cover. We last covered him in March 2008, after he had transitioned from his large, bustling studio (Xsight) to a smaller, more intimate boutique studio. We caught up with him recently to find out how it’s been going down under. Here’s what he had to say.

Professional Photographer: Now that you’re two years in with the new boutique studio, how is life as a photographer?

Jerry Ghionis: It is going even better than expected. Even with the amount of traveling that I do between teaching and overseas weddings, I still manage to shoot about 25 weddings a year. A trend that I’ve noticed for my studio is that about 40% of the weddings I’ve been shooting are overseas and strangely enough, many of my clients lately have been fellow photographers. With the exception of a few amazing weddings that I photographed in Rome and New York, most of my clients are working professionals, mainly in the corporate world, who appreciate photography and are willing to pay for it.

Back in March 2008, you had published your first coffee table book and launched an online classroom called The i.c.e.Society. Is that project still going full steam?

I’m very proud to announce that in January 2011, we celebrated the third anniversary of the i.c.e.Society and that we now have over 2,000 members. The i.c.e.Society is stronger than ever and I’m really excited about some big changes coming up over the next year when we upgrade the site. We’re rebuilding it from scratch to be bigger and better, more intuitive, and to make it even easier for everyone to access all of the lessons that are available online.

Any new accolades you’d like to share?

Although I unfortunately didn’t have enough time to enter into the PPA awards [International Photographic Competition] this year, I’m proud to say that in 2009 I achieved diamond level Photographer of the Year for the third year in a row. I also received my Masters at PPA as well as Craftsman this year. Also in 2009, I won WPPI’s Album of the Year award for a record sixth time. And just last year, in 2010, I won first place awards in the traditional, contemporary and photojournalism categories at SWPP and also won wedding album of the year. It was a very big evening for me because I was named Wedding Photojournalist of the Year, Fashion Photographer of the Year and the Overall Photographer of the Year—the top award of the entire competition.

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©Jerry Ghionis

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February 14, 2011

Review: Craig's Actions and Beauty Bar

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By Stan Sholik

When my recent article “Two Paths to Retouching” went live in Professional Photographer magazine and online, photographers called, sent me e-mails and posted comments regarding other retouching software options. One of the most intriguing contacts came from Craig Minielly.

Minielly is a Vancouver-based photographer and author of Craig’s Actions. Craig asked me if I was familiar with his actions, because, using them, he was able to accomplish in less than five minutes what had taken me 22 minutes in Portrait Professional and 48 minutes in Adobe Photoshop CS5.

I hadn't tried them, so Craig sent me a link to download Craig’s Actions Toolkit and Craig’s Beauty Bar to test. Here’s what I found.

After I downloaded and opened the zip files I was confronted with a bunch of files and folders, so I went back to the Craig’s Actions website to the Tutorials ‘n Tips drop-down list in the menu bar to watch a video about installation. All you have to do to get started is find the actions (*.atn) files and double-clickon them. They then load automatically into the Actions palette of Photoshop CS2 to CS5 on both the Mac and Windows platforms.

I watched the tutorials to decrease the slope of my learning curve, and they are very well done with a nice sense of humor. They helped immensely in getting me started quickly.

I opened a copy of my original file and ran a number of actions that Craig thought I might use and some others that I was curious about. There are many actions to choose from, and some are duplicated in both the Toolkit and Beauty Bar sets. I settled on using BlemishBuster, which is found in both sets but with more options in Beauty Bar; ColorGenie Warm, Tinted Contacts Blue, and PowderPuff from the Toolkit; and Eye Color/Whites & Teeth, Lip Gloss and Lipstick from Beauty Bar.

I started with the BlemishBuster Strong from the Beauty Bar set. When you run any of the Craig’s Actions, the action flattens previous steps, sets up your Layers palette and blending modes, selects brushes, creates adjustment layers and masks if needed, and stops to instruct you how to proceed.

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This screen capture shows the steps in the BlemishBuster Strong action from the blue highlight to the bottom of the Actions palette. However, the only thing I needed to do was to brush over first the dark blemishes, then the light blemishes and press the action Play button a couple of times. The action handles all the rest automatically. Image ©Stan Sholik

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February 22, 2011

Pro Review: FireFly Sensor Cleaner

By Betsy Finn, Cr.Photog., CPP

On first glance, the FireFly sensor cleaner might not look different from any other device that shoots puffs of air onto your sensor. But don’t let that fool you. NRD, the company that designed this product, specializes in static elimination. In theory, the FireFly works much like those ionizing air purifiers that you can buy at the gadget store in your mall. When you have the FireFly unit turned on, any air that passes through the device will be ionized. And when you use the ionized air to clean your sensor, it’s basically neutralizes the static charge, allowing dust particles to “fall” off your sensor.

The FireFly sensor cleaner ships in two pieces, which I found allows for more convenient storage. The air chamber portion comes with a yellow rubber cap, which you can see is still on in the image below. It goes without saying that before assembling the FireFly, you’ll want to remove the cap.

 

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To assemble the FireFly, simply insert the air chamber unit’s connector piece into the appropriate receptacle on the other half of the FireFly, and then twist to lock into place. Once assembled, the FireFly looks something like a stage two rocket ready for takeoff.

 

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To use the FireFly, you will need to lock up the mirror in your camera, and place the camera body in a face-down position. This will allow gravity to take care of any dust that is dislodged when you begin cleaning your sensor. The directions that come with the FireFly recommend mounting your camera body on a tripod, but if you’re out in the field, you could always have your assistant hold it for you. Once the camera is in position, you simply depress (and hold) the power button on the air ionization device, and then squeeze the air chamber several times to send a few puffs of air onto the sensor.

 

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February 23, 2011

Book Review: "Marketing for Solos"

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By Betsy Finn, Cr.Photog., CPP

On the recommendation of a friend, I recently ordered a copy of the newly released book, “Marketing for Solos,” by Jeanna Pool. After reading the book cover to cover in a single weekend, I thought to myself: “this book could be really helpful to photographers!” As small business owners, we often find ourselves overwhelmed with various facets of running our business (usually a one-person show). In her book, Jeanna Pool cuts through the philosophical jibber jabber of marketing, and offers real world advice and practical suggestions for the solo business owner.

The tenets of marketing aren’t new to me. I came away from college with a degree in both Studio Art and Business Management, so I know the theories of marketing. I know what we all, as small business owners, should be doing to market our businesses. But I also know that, too often, we get caught up in the day-to-day operations of running our studios and forget to devote time to our marketing tactics.

That’s where Pool’s book comes in. More than just a book to read once and add to your library, “Marketing for Solos” is designed to help you work through some of the important cornerstones of your marketing plan. Pool walks you through how to determine or find your niche market, why you need to focus your marketing efforts on prospects with specific traits, and how to develop effective marketing pieces that will yield results. Additionally, the book focuses on strategically diversifying your marketing efforts so that you don’t end up with all your eggs in one basket.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Pool about how this book could be particularly useful for photographers. Pool said, “It's one of the only books of its kind that teaches the solo photographer how to market their business successfully. It can be really hard to market your business when you can't be in two places at once … [‘Marketing For Solos’] makes marketing manageable.” I also asked Pool what one most useful tidbit of information photographers might take away from her book. She said, “The biggest thing photographers need to do is pick a focused niche. It separates the successful photographers from those who are just ‘getting by.’”

I really took to heart one of Pool’s comments from the book: “Most small businesses struggle, fumble, and ultimately fail for one simple reason—lack of clients. And a lack of clients is a result of one thing—a lack of marketing” (p. 20). There are many artistically competent photographers whose businesses are walking a fine line between failure and survival simply because they don’t know how to market. Waiting for clients to fall into your lap is not an effective way to stay in business. You may be the one “doing it all” at your studio, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice when it comes to marketing. “Marketing for Solos” will help you to market yourself, and your business, in a way that is sustainable for the one-person small business.

“Marketing For Solos” is available at Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Marketing-Solos-Ultimate-How-Successfully/dp/0976996278) for $19.95. For more information about the book, visit Jeanna Pool’s website: marketingforsolos.com.

Betsy Finn, Cr.Photog., CPP, has a portrait studio in Dexter, Michigan (BPhotoArt.com); she shares tips and ideas for photographers at LearnWithBetsy.com.

February 24, 2011

Blogging SEO Secrets

By TJ McDowell

Chances are good that as a photographer, you’ve got a blog that you use to promote your studio, but if you’re not tapping into the power of Search Engine Optimization to bring in more blog readers, you’re missing out on the opportunity to show your work to a lot of potential clients. If your main website is an SEO-killing Flash website, having blog content show up in search results means that you’ll still get your studio name in front of searchers who are looking for photographers. Even if your main website shows up in search results without help from your blog, you can still use your blog to target hundreds of additional search terms that you wouldn’t be able to effectively target on your main site.

Keywords In Post Title And Page Name

Knowing which keywords to target can seem like a guessing game at times, and in some ways it is. If you follow one guideline though, you’ll start to see good results over time. What you want to do is to choose a keyword phrase that includes location-specific words. The location you choose for your keywords could be as general as a city, or it could be as specific as the name of a park. It’s completely up to you. Some keywords get more traffic than others, and you can use the Keyword Tool in Google AdWords to get a general feel for how much traffic a term gets. With some of the smaller locations, like a church or reception venue, the terms won’t get enough traffic to even register with Google. You’d be surprised how quickly the low-volume searches can add up, though, so don’t think of low-volume search terms as irrelevant. Once you have your keywords picked out, include them in your post title. I have my Wordpress blog set up to generate my page name from my post title, so I don't have to worry about changing my page name manually. If your blogging platform doesn't use the right page name automatically, you'll have to set your page name yourself to include your keywords.

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Post Frequently

If you’re going to be targeting search terms with lower volume, you’ll need to post more frequently to bring in the kind of traffic that brings regular bookings. Posting frequently with easy-to-rank keywords is a great way to get in front of searchers even in a crowded market. If they’re even considering SEO, most of your competitors will be going after the high competition keywords because that’s where they think all the traffic is. They’re skipping out on the low-hanging fruit because they may not even realize people are including very specific locations in their searches. The more you post on specific locations, the more you bring in traffic that no one else had even thought about targeting.

Interlink Posts

Aside from increasing the number of posts a user visits and the average time spent on your site, interlinking posts can also do wonders for improving the ranking of your blog posts in Google. Adding a link from one post to another can be a little tricky at first—at least if you’re doing it correctly. After a while, it becomes almost second nature though, so stick with it. The key when linking to a post is to fit the link in naturally with the rest of your content. As you get better, you’ll be able to include the link in the middle of a sentence, so the fact that there’s a link in the sentence won’t make the sentence seem awkward. The other trick is to have your keywords included in the link text. So for example, if you’re writing a post on how to prepare for a session, and you’re linking to a previous post on clothing choice, your link text may be “how to choose outfits.”

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February 25, 2011

Review: Photorecovery Software

By Betsy Finn, Cr.Photog., CPP

It’s a photographer’s worst nightmare—the dreaded “ERR–” message. And it only happens after you’ve wrapped up that once-in-a-lifetime photoshoot. At one point or another, we’ve all scrambled to find a way to recover those images that would otherwise be lost forever. And that’s where Photorecovery Professional 2010 can help.

In addition to restoring many different types of files from your memory cards, the professional version of Photorecovery includes Digital Media Doctor, which you can use to test the performance of a specific memory card (i.e. how well it reads/writes).

Now, that sounds great in theory, but how well does Photorecovery actually work? I ran several tests with different media cards to find out. My first test involved a CompactFlash card that had malfunctioned during a studio shoot. The camera gave me an “ERR–” message, and the card was unable to be loaded or recognized when inserted normally into my computer’s card reader (inserting this card into my computer has even caused the system to freeze up). Using Photorecovery, I started a sector scan of the 4GB card at 11 a.m. It completed, with errors, around 6 p.m. that evening, and Photorecovery failed to recover any data. I then ran Digital Media Doctor on the 4GB card, which unsurprisingly, did not pass any of the tests. While it might be inferred from these results that the software is to blame, I’m more prone to lay the guilt on the card being completely corrupted. I have sent it out to the manufacturer to confirm this, and I’ll update this report if I hear otherwise.

 

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Screen capture of Digital Media Doctor while running diagnostics on the corrupted 4GB compact flash card.

Since my first test only proved what happens when Photorecovery is unable to recover data, this next test shows what Photorecovery can recover. This time, I used an 8GB CompactFlash card that has been in use at my studio for numerous years. Photorecovery completed diagnostics on the 8GB card without any problems. When initially viewed using my computer’s file browser, the 8GB card did not show any files present, but Photorecovery was able to recover image files (both .jpg and .nef, Nikon’s raw format). I started the scan at 9:26 p.m., and it finished at 9:44 p.m., recovering 760 files.

 

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Screen capture of Photorecovery scan at 85-percent completion, 655 files recovered so far.

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Pro Review: Fundy Software (Album Builder & Workflow)

By Betsy Finn, Cr.Photog., CPP

If you’re like most photographers, you prefer to rely on Adobe Photoshop for the bulk of your image retouching and album design workflow. But you may have noticed that Adobe Photoshop doesn’t exactly make your workflow all that efficient—at least on its own. Fundy Software has designed several products that work within Photoshop to help you streamline your retouching and design workflow. In this review, I’m going to look at two products available within Fundy’s Pro Studio Pack that can enable you to speed up your editing, and also your album designing.

Both Workflow and Album Builder run as palettes within Adobe Photoshop, and work harmoniously with other Adobe applications such as Bridge. Let’s take a peek at Workflow first . 

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The Workflow panel, once installed, can be placed anywhere you would dock a typical Photoshop Palette. The panel has several sections: Get Started, Image Navigation, Action Control, Recently Used Actions, and Personal Action Buttons. To get started using Workflow, you first click the folder setup button. A setup window will open (see below) that allows you to customize how Workflow will operate.

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While you can simply select a folder to process, I found it easier to select my files in Bridge and process from there. You can specify how the files will be saved (e.g. 4x6 proofs, web copies, full sized PSDs), and even run an action when each file is opened and again before each file is closed. I have an action that creates a retouching layer on every file I retouch, so Workflow was the perfect way to automatically perform this action on every image. Once you click the Process button, Workflow will begin loading the selected images sequentially for you as you click the Save and Next button. Depending on what settings you enabled during the setup screen, various sized copies of the file will be created in the appropriate subfolder as the edited image is saved.

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About February 2011

This page contains all entries posted to Professional Photographer Magazine Web Exclusives in February 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

January 2011 is the previous archive.

March 2011 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.


 
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