As I write this controversy is swirling over Adobe Systems abandoning Creative Suite to focus on Creative Cloud. Even if this is solved by the time you read this, there will come a time when you’ll have to face a decision about whether or not to upgrade your software. There are two different schools of thought on software upgrades: one approach suggests that if a program is working, why spend money to upgrade? The reason behind this philosophy is that sometimes upgrades create more problems than they solve. A second viewpoint is to always upgrade to the latest version—no matter what. The thinking is that since change is inevitable that you should upgrade to the newer version to minimize or eliminate future problems. How Adobe has handled Camera Raw over the past few Photoshop upgrades is a testament to that theory. Over the years I’ve changed from an upgrade-regardless person to a more cautious approach. I may prefer to have the latest version of everything being used on a daily basis but now will wait weeks (months, years?) all the while listening to the drumbeat of grumbles from early adopters. That’s why I’m waiting to see what happens with Adobe’s new policy.
Here are a few ABCs of web design to keep in mind when working on your site. A) Add something new each week. This is doubly important for blogs because search engines look for regular activity; the more and regular activity there is, the higher it will move the site in rankings when people look for photographers. B) Bigger is not necessarily better. Large file sizes cause a page to load slowly and, as I mentioned before in this column, the longer it takes, the more likely a person visiting the site will bail. Big file sizes also means it takes longer for a search engine spider to crawl your site. C) Colors should be simple, avoiding a strong graphic or photographic background. What works in print doesn’t always look good on a backlit monitor. A site’s focus should be on your photographs, not its design.<
Mary and I have fond memories of using early generation Bowens monolights; they were our first really “good” lighting system when we set up our studio in 1982. We loved shooting with those big, black, paint-can-shaped 800B monolights because they were inexpensive, dependable, and powerful. From what I can tell from my tests of their two-light Gemini 400Rx Kit that continues to be the case.
In this test, Joe Farace tackles a higher-end LED light source that he adapted to still photography work. In it you will find technical sidebars outlining how we will test LEDs for the still photographer in the future. We offer this somewhat tech-heavy review as both a close look at this unit and a primer on LED output and LED lighting, which, as Joe states, will become increasing important, and prevalent, in studio and location work for the still shooter.—Editor
Pro shows are a great time to catch up on the latest in lighting gear and trends, so we asked Joe Farace, who does lighting equipment tests for us here at Shutterbug (type Joe’s name in the Search box at www.shutterbug.com to see the wide range of gear he’s tested) to roam the floor at the WPPI show to see what’s hot. His report covers new equipment that caught his eye there but, while there’s plenty to read about, this is not intended to be a full report on what’s new in the category. Some of these products will be covered in future issues, with promised updates from Joe. Also, the show was a few months back, so most, if not all the gear, you read about here is available now. Check our web page news for new products and developments, and follow our in-depth lighting test reports that appear regularly in Shutterbug.—Editor
Alien Skin Software’s Exposure 5 is powerful monochrome conversion software that lets you produce accurate film simulations while adding a range of creative effects. Wrapped up in a redesigned and easy-to-use interface, Exposure 5 can also be launched as a stand-alone application, which can be useful in a workflow that doesn’t support plug-ins. This latest version includes controls for emulating color or black and white so you don’t have to switch between modes or, as in previous versions, separate plug-ins. It’s all one happy family.
LEDs may represent the future of studio lighting but a number of the currently available options come with a caveat or two for the new professional or aspiring pro. Some LED solutions are affordable but may be too physically small for efficient use in a studio, or they may be large enough but too expensive for the shooter who just wants to dip their toes into the LED waters. Measuring 14x7.5x2.75” and costing less than $200, Flashpoint’s 500C LED Light appears to be a good solution for the LED newbie who wants to see what all the fuss is about.
During the year I look at thousands of websites, selecting the ones that eventually appear here, and one of the most problematic design aspects I see is the Contact page. Believe it or not, some websites don’t have one! More than once this year I found a photographer with huge amounts of talent and no way to contact them about appearing in Web Profiles. Some sites have requirements that all data, including a phone number, must be provided before contacting the photographer. If a potential client wants you to have their number, they will call you. I prefer not to have visitors jump through too many hoops to contact me but had to implement an “enter the text” form—Captcha, a free WordPress plug-in—because spam robots overflowed my mailbox. The bottom line is your bottom line and you should make it easy and convenient for clients to contact you.
Photogenic Professional Lighting is one of the classic names in portrait lighting and has been making studio equipment for more than 100 years. A lot has changed in technology since 1903 but one thing that hasn’t is Photogenic’s manufacturing their lighting gear for studio or location portrait photography here in the USA. I chose the AKC55K 640 WS Soft Box Portrait kit for this review because it was a 2-light system that includes a soft box on a boom, something beginning portrait photographers sometimes overlook because they think this particular lighting tool is too expensive and too complex to use. My experience with this kit demonstrated otherwise.
All You really need to take a picture is a camera and a lens, but if you decide what you really want to do is make a photograph, a few extra tools come in handy. Any one of the imaging tools in this month’s column will make creating a photograph or making a portrait easier and, in some cases, better than they would be otherwise. For the pro or aspiring professional anything that increases productivity by streamlining workflow while improving the quality of the product delivered to the client translates into making money too, not just photographs.