This won't affect me too much because I am not really a CLS shooter. In some circumstances I use it. But when it comes to my off-camera lighting, I'm kind of a control freak and I prefer radio signals over pulses of light to trigger my flash. Still, this is interesting and a lot of use who do use Nikon's Creative Lighting System can begin to get excited. <drum roll/>
Pocket Wizard is announcing radio slaves that will do TTL. They are announcing support for Canon first but they say Nikon support is coming up in second quarter of this year. Check the link below for more info.
I've been using Pocketwizards for a long time now. I was using TTL mode for my flash at first but I ran into too many cases when that line of sight limitation would cause my lights to fail.
I also don't like that the color of the subject would change the output of my light with TTL. For example, I would be shooting pictures of a bride at a receiving line as she hugged each guest. The color of the clothes the guest would wear would affect the amount of light that came out of the flash. Woman in a white dress hugging the bride - not enough flash output. Big woman in a black dress - she got nuked. Some other time I will write up a post to discuss why this is the case. But if you know how TTL works then you already know why it happens. The point is, the lighting is not consistent when you use TTL. So I prefer to use manual mode. Since I use manual mode, CLS is not required and the pocketwizard radio slaves are all I need and more reliable anyway. So that is what I use.
The problem I have with Pocketwizards was that I also like using FP Sync to trigger my flashes at high shutter speeds. FP Sync requires pre-flashes communicate with the remote flashes. This would make another good blog post at a later date. Let it suffice to say that it comes in handy when you are shooting outdoors on a sunny day and you want a wide aperture for a shallow depth of field and also need some fill flash. In that case you need Nikon's Creative Lighting System to communicate with remoate flashes and the Pocketwizards don't speak CLS.
But that is changing now. With these new Pocketwizards you will get the reliability of radio slaves coupled with the Creative Lighting System. That means I can use the Pocketwizards, even if I want to switch to FP sync, giving me the best of both worlds. And that makes me happy. :)
1) adjust contrast
2) adjust saturation
4) save as JPG
You may soon get tired of producing the same images over and over. This is why I am continuously studying the photography of others. I am always on the lookout for new looks. When I see something I like, I ask myself, "Hmmm. How would I achieve this look in Capture NX 2?"
There are always things you can do with black and whites and duo tones. But I like to look at other styles as well.
I like the Movie Poster look that you have seen on the Twilight movie posters. I am going to try to create that with Capture NX 2. I'll post my attempt here. You can also go for a harsh, contrasty, desaturated look. Or play around with hue shifts. Change the eye color of your model.
You can also try a new subject of photography. Do you normally photograph birds? Try shooting a lingerie model. Try creating different feelings - drama, eroticism, innocence. Hire an athletic model to pose as if she is getting ready to run a race. Attempt to recreate that magazine from whatever magazine you have been reading. Consider macro work if you have never done it. Never done wildlife photography? Rent a big, expensive lens from lensrentals.com and spend a weekend at a wild life refuge in your state photography wildlife.
Don't have enough space in your house? Need location ideas? Call around to different buildings in your area and see if they will rent you a conference room for a few hours to use as a studio. Find a hotel with a swimming pool and see if they will let you shoot a swimsuit model. Or rent a room for some boudoir shots. The point is to change things up with different styles and techniques. And if you feel like you are running out of ideas, there is a place with a virtually limitless supply of images to inspire you. It's called the Internet.
Most of all, have fun.
I’ve used a few different image editor programs over the past 5 years that I have been serious about digital photography. I am constantly on the lookout for a new technique or a more efficient workflow. I have been through more tutorials, books, and podcasts then I can count. So I decided to use this post to talk about what I think is important in an image editor and offer some advice to help others make the right decision on choosing the editor that meets their needs and falls within their budget.
The contenders are Photoshop, Lightroom, and Capture NX 2. Actually, the first image editor I worked with was Paintshop Pro X. It was actually a decent editor for basic stuff but when it comes to serious editing, I didn’t consider it to be up to the task. That was too long ago for me to recount the exact reasons, so don’t ask. For this post, we are talking about Photoshop, Lightroom, and Capture NX 2.
The things that I consider important in any image editor that I use are the following.
1. Working with Raw files
2. Nondestructive Edits
3. The ability to make global adjustments
4. The ability to make local adjustments
5. The ability to change saturation, contrast, do curves adjustments, preferably with separate color channels
6. Sharpening and softening
7. A decent Printing model
Those are the features. Notice I didn’t say “layers” or “masking”. You use those features to achieve nondestructive edits and local adjustments. So those features specifically are not required, as long as I do achieve the results I want.
Photoshop, Lightroom, and Capture NX 2 have all of those features and more. The question is, which one do I bother with?
If you need to merge images for HDR or Panaramics, then Photoshop is your tool. The others don’t offer that. Ditto for composite images. So if you want to create the type of digital art that involves dropping images on top of each other then you need Photoshop. Also, if you need the ability to add text to your images (such as a copyright message or watermark) then Photoshop is what you need. However, with great power comes great responsibility. (I always wanted to say that.) Photoshop is powerful, which is a nice way to say there is a lot there to learn. And you pay for that power. If you have the money and the means to learn all of its features, then why not get Photoshop. There isn’t anything that will have you saying, “Gee, if only I had Lightroom I could …” Nope, there is really nothing you can’t do with Photshop. The other tools basically took what Photoshop offers, and streamlined those features for Photographers. So unless you need Photoshop, you may be better off saving money and going with another tool. With that out of the way, let’s look at the others.
Lightroom is different from Photoshop in that its user interface is designed with the Photographer’s workflow in mind. You get separate modules for the Image Library, Editing, Printing, Slideshow, and a module that generates web sites. If you know you want to generate websites then Lightroom might be the right tool for you. However, there are some other things to take into account.
Lightroom uses a “catalog” file that stores a reference to each photo. The catalog also stores a thumbnail image and any edit step you perform on each image. My concern is that this one catalog file holds every edit step to thousands upon thousands of images. I hope you have a good backup strategy. Because if that baby goes you will be up very late re-editing all of those images.
However, the advantage is that you can work on the thumbnail image even if the original file has been moved. The reason I like this is because I can store all my files physically on an external USB drive. When that drive is not connected, I can still edit the image in Lightroom. I just can’t export the image or print it, which is fine.
Also, as I said, Lightroom has a good web site generator. You can even find templates online to change the look of the sites. It is fast and it has an awesome library model for managing metadata for the images. But again, that meta data is stored in the lightroom catalog and is not accessible by other software. iPhoto, anyone??? I don’t have a mac so I can’t comment on that. Maybe they did something to give iPhoto access to that stuff. I doubt it though, as iPhoto would also have to read the all the edit steps for ever image and render the final image to display it. That would require an unprecedented amount of cooperation between Adobe and Apple.
My preferred editor is Capture NX 2. It cost less than half the price of Lightroom, which means you can spend that other two hundred bucks on a Nikonians Acedemy workshop to learn how to use it. It stores the edit steps as XML data inside the raw image without changing the actual raw data. This “decentralized” model means that one corrupt file won’t blow away thousands of image edits, which is what you risk with Lightroom. I also like the versioning scheme. The sharpening tools are very good and its raw converter was written by the guys who invented their raw format. If you shoot Nikon raw, you can’t go wrong with Capture NX 2.
What I like most about Capture NX 2 is that it knows enough about the Nikon raw format that it uses camera settings that are ignored by Lightroom and Photoshop. For instance, let’s say you have your Picture Control on your D300 set to Vivid because you are doing landscape and you know you want that color and sharpness to pop. Capture NX 2 has a Picture Control area that loads those settings and applies them during the conversion to an RGB image. Lightroom, however, ignores them and only uses white balance. This means that your workflow actually begins behind the camera, not after importing an image into the editor. Saving you thirty seconds on one image is nice. If you have two thousand images to touchup, you just saved about 17 hours.
Capture NX 2 has some really great tools to make your workflow efficient, such as the HCL editor, and the Control Points, which use U Point technology. A simple way to explain control points is that they use color and “texture” to select objects out of the photo. If the picture is of a boat and you want to select that boat, you just drop a control point on it and Capture NX 2 selects the boat. Awesome!
You will find Capture NX 2 to be slower about certain things than Lightroom. For instance, if you want to apply metadata settings to multiple images, there is more work required in Capture NX 2 since it doesn’t use a centralized catalog. It is faster to create database records in a catalog then to add the meta data to a raw file and re-save it.
Currently, I use Capture NX 2 almost exclusively. While I like the library module of Lightroom better than the browser window for Capture NX 2, my main concern is editing. And there are other browsers out there if I need a better one. View NX, Bridge, and Photo Mechanic are all examples. I don’t have Photo Mechanic but will probably purchase it in the near future. It also generates slide shows and websites. I still use Photoshop if I need to apply a copyright watermark. I’m hoping Nik Software will add a feature to the next version where I can apply copyright watermarks right from Capture NX 2 or View NX. We will keep our fingers crossed.
For my first blog I thought I would address a common question that I get, where do I go to buy my photography gear. This is an important question to answer because camera sales people, while they know quite a bit about the gear in their store, really don't know everything they should. And remember that they are trying to sell you what they have in their store. If there is a much better product on the market from a brand they don't carry, the sales person is not likely to recommend it to you.
I normally do as much research as I can before I ever set foot in a store. The Nikonian forums have been a huge help for that. So I usually know what I am looking for when I go in. When I want an SB-800 Speedlight and the camera sales person tries to sell me a third party brand that costs $200 less to "save me money", I just walk away.
A lot of stores try to position themselves for the Professional Photography market when they really are not. One camera store in my area is guilty of this. They claim to be for the pro market. But they never have what I am looking for and always try to suggest some cheap knock-off. Sorry, but professional wedding photographers who use Nikon equipment normally want the 70-200mm VR lens from Nikkor. This one store never has that in and they always say the same thing, "That's weird. We usually have it. But have you seen this Tamron lens?" Well, maybe it's just bad timing by me. Maybe I just happen to show up everytime they sell out. Doubtful.
I live in the Chicago area so the physical stores I mention will be local to us and not much use to anyone else. But there are some online stores I use and anyone can use those. If you are reading this from outside of the United States then beware of international shipping rates though.
My absolute favorite store in the Chicago area is Helix. They are located on Racine, just off of Congress Parkway. They have everything. I have never needed something they didn't have and they never tried to sell me a cheap knock off. They are located in the same building as Speedotron. They have an online store but I think their search engine could stand for a lot of improvement.
Calumet is another great resource. I have not been to their downtown store but I know it is awesome. I go to their new Oak Brook location all the time. Sometimes they don't have what I want and they have to ship it over from their downtown store. I rent big lenses from them for wildlife photography. The downtown store has the best selection for lens rentals but they will ship it to the Oak Brook store for me. If you pick the lens up after 2pm on a friday and drop it off Monday morning you only have to pay for one day of rental. Sweet.
I have also been to a place in the loop called the Central Camera Company. They have a pretty good selection but don't go there if you are clostrophobic. They are essentially, one hallway, wide enough for two people. Both walls are lined with gear. The people are helpful and the prices are competitive. But it is really uncomfortable in there.
For some common items, such as a camera body or a speedlight, I have had success at consumer stores, such as Wolf or Ritz. But for the type of gear that consumers don't normally use, such as high end lenses and light modifiers, these stores typically turn up dry.
I do not recommend PJ's. They are the ones I was referring to who never have what I need but try to sell me a cheap knock off. They push a brand called ProMaster, which as far as I can tell, is some generic brand. They are always out of the Nikkor lenses I like but they have plenty of Tamrons. Not to knock Tamron, but there is a reason Nikkor lenses are expensive. I'm not the market they are going for and the guys at PJ's don't understand that. I once told them I needed a shoot-through umbrella and they had never heard of that. They said all their umbrellas were reflective. Looking more closely, I noticed that some of their umbrellas had removeable backs and converted to shoot-throughs. So they did have them. They give out bad advice and push low grade gear. So I normally avoid them.
For online stores you can find anything you ever will want at the following URLs.
And Calumet has a pretty good online store at http://www.calumetphoto.com
And of course, http://www.amazon.com has a pretty good selection with lots of customer reviews.
I don't get anything if you buy from those stores, by the way. I am just trying to provide some helpful links.
PJ's has an online store too. Again, I don't recommend it.
When buying Nikon products, watch out for huge price differences. If you think you find a D300 for a really low price, it is likely that camera is not coming from an authorized US Nikon distributor. If not, you may have problems with warranties and service if anything goes wrong.
If you need to buy software to edit your photos, I like to buy online directly from the company if I can. You can normally download the software and intall it right way. I bought Lightroom 1.4 and 2.0 directly from Adobe. I also bought Capture NX 2 directly from Nikon's website.
There are some items that don't get carried in stores and you have no choice but to order directly from the company. This is the case with Alien Bees, which is a brand of studio lights that I like to use. http://www.alienbees.com/
And I've had trouble finding a good Gimbal head in stores, so I recommend going online for that. You'll need one if you are going to use a big lens, such as 400mm or bigger. I don't have one yet but I will probably get the Wimberley II from here, http://www.tripodhead.com/products/wimberley-main.cfm.
But I am also looking at the Jobu, here. http://www.jobu-design.com/catalog/item/2588354/2040327.htm
In any case, those are places I like to use to get my gear. If you have any suggestings about other places then feel free to email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If I like them then I will write about them in a future post.