Monday, May 18, 2009

What brand to buy

Which is a better camera – Canon or Nikon? Which is a better printer – Canon or Epson or Hewlett Packard? Is Aperture better than Lightroom? These are questions I get almost every day. I use Nikon cameras, Epson printers and Lightroom. (I also edit in Photoshop CS4). Digital photography gets expensive when you feel you must have full featured equipment. The names mentioned are makers of professional equipment and software. So I would look at essential features instead. It is easier to edit a RAW file than even the highest quality JPG. So only consider cameras that have RAW file capability. Both Aperture and Lightroom are very, very different than the image editing programs that come free with computers. They both work great. And inkjet printers that use pigmented ink achieve a better tonal range in black and white. When making color prints the colors displayed are much more the way the camera file looks than those that use dye-based ink. So don’t buy dye-based ink printers. Those should be the real questions, not the brand.

© 2009 Paul Light all rights reserved

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Current Standards in Photography

I produce photographs for both art and commerce. The end point for each of these types of photographs is quite different. For art it is the print. For commerce it is the edited image file.

I still consider museums and galleries as significant. They now share their importance to display cutting edge contemporary art and historically significant art with exclusively online sites like Flickr, but I don't consider them irrelevant. It is a very different experience seeing a Jeff Wall or a Jerry Uelsmann photograph in a museum or gallery than seeing it online. The difference is somewhat analogous to hearing music on an iPod vs. hearing the same music in concert. A file must meet extraordinary technical standards to yield a good print. This standard is many times higher than what is needed to post an image on a website or send it as email.

Digital cameras have had a huge effect on all of photography. One of the places where this change is most evident is in stock photography. Stock photography is creating images intended for commerce rather than as art and then leasing them for usage in a wide variety of products from greeting cards to advertising. Distribution is generally done thru companies that may represent the work of hundreds or even thousands of photographers. Thanks to digital cameras work can now move quickly from the photographer to the stock agency to the stock buyer with little to no verbal communication between the 3 parties. Again the file must meet extraordinary technical standards. The print is irrelevant in this fast moving distribution system.

Editing work has never been more important. Everyone knows what a photograph is. Almost everyone has made photographs. This makes it much harder to make original photographs that show a sense of vision.

All text unless otherwise noted is ©2009 Paul Light. All rights are reserved.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Creating A Portfolio

A portfolio only serves a limited range of purposes and is a waste of time if the objective is not to show it to other people. It is a lot of work and is never done. A portfolio should begin with the 2 best photographs you have ever made. One should be the first photograph and the other the last photograph. These 2 photographs will change over time, but the 2 best photographs should always be the first and the last.

A portfolio of 2 photographs is too small and should be filled in with 8 – 98 other photographs. The bigger the portfolio, the harder to keep it linked together. It should be linked together by a clear common element. This can be a style of working and/or a common subject.

The more photographs you have to choose from the easier the editing becomes. Showing it to everyone who is willing to look at it is also helpful. Replace photographs often. The world keeps changing and if your portfolio remains fixed, it will eventually look dated.

Presentation is important whether shown as prints or displayed electronically. Where possible work with a graphic designer or web designer. It is unlikely that you understand presentation to the extent that a designer does. Most important of all – keep creating new photographs.

All text unless otherwise noted is ©2009 Paul Light. All rights are reserved.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Exposure Compensation

Exposure Compensation is a control on many cameras. It is a +/- scale with numbers at each marking. It is often designated with an icon showing both a plus and a minus sign. Some cameras use the designations of EV or +/-. The markings are -2.0, -1.7, -1.3, -1.0, -0.7, -0.3, 0.0, +0.3, +0.7, +1.0, +1.3, +1.7, +2.0. 0.0 is the recommended exposure. The others numbers are there, because sometimes with complex lighting shadows or highlights can be compromised by shooting at 0.0. This is very difficult to see on even the best camera monitors. Positive values make the subject brighter and negative values make it darker. With complex lighting taking a picture at 0.0, +1.0 and -1.0 can greatly improve the chances of getting an exposure that needs a minimal amount of color correction editing. With extra time an patience try 0.0, +0.3, +1.0 ,-0.3 -1.0 or other configurations. It is not possible to do this with every photograph since some subjects have movement or fast shifting light.

All text unless otherwise noted is ©2009 Paul Light. All rights are reserved.

Photo Inkjet Printers

Canon, Epson and Hewlett Packard make the best photo inkjet printers. Epson makes wonderful printers. They have become the industry standard. The printers I recommend are

Epson Stylus Photo 1400 13" $200

The ink used is dye based which yields lower quality colors and is more likely to fade over time than pigmented ink.

Epson Ultrachrome K3 pigmented inks provide better colors, but the printers cost a lot more

Epson Stylus Photo R2880 13" $600
Epson Stylus Pro 3880 17" $1300
Epson Stylus Pro 4880 17" $2000
Epson Stylus Pro 7880 24" $3000
Epson Stylus Pro 9880 44" $5000
Epson Stylus Pro 11880 64" $15000

A good alternative to the R2880 is the R1900. It does not use K3 ink but the quality is better than the Stylus Photo 1400 . The ink used is pigmented ink. It is available from Epson for $450.

It is important to use all of the above printers with the very best photo quality paper that you can afford. Some good papers to get started with are Epson Premium Presentation Paper Matte, Kodak Photo Paper Matte, and Staples Photo Supreme Matte. These are low quality papers, but all much better than general computer paper. Epson offers other higher quality papers.

Use pigmented ink and high quality paper if possible. This results in a better print.

All text unless otherwise noted is ©2009 Paul Light. All rights are reserved.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Adobe Photoshop CS4 Image Shrinking and Rotating

If you are using Adobe Photoshop CS4 and a Apple MacBook and when you open an image it begins to unexpectedly get very small and/or turn while you are editing, there is a solution and it is free. Go to

Adobe Photoshop CS4 Disable Canvas Rotation Via Trackpad plug-in

It’s easy to install and the problem will be gone.