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
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.
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.<
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.
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.
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.
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.
A website has more in common with a daily newspaper than a studio brochure and photographers should constantly update it with new images and information about themselves and their services. That’s why having a blog—and updating it regularly—is a must these days. Your site’s overall design must also be reviewed and improved on an ongoing basis to keep it looking fresh. A website is like a living organism that must constantly grow and change in order to survive. When was the last time you updated yours?
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.
“Where ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and perhaps weigh 1.5 tons.”—Popular Mechanics, March 1949
The above quotation makes you wonder about the nature of predictions because a common fallacy is in believing that technology is always going to move in a straight line and not branch out to form a paradigm shift. Or sometimes people, as in the quoted magazine, just didn’t know what was going on in the rest of the world. Bell Labs’ John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for research on semiconductors and discovery of the transistor effect in 1947. Yet even today vacuum tubes are not dead and there is a booming if small market in analog audio components. And in our neck of the woods, witness Harman’s announcement of building a factory to make 35mm film cassettes. It might just be too soon to start chiseling film’s tombstone—or not.