Ditching The Mirror!

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Fujifilm X-T1 with ZEISS Touit Lenses; 12mm f/2.8 and 32mm f/1.8 :: shot with the Nokia Lumia 1020.

Wow… it’s been an awfully long time since I last posted something here on the blog.  Sure, I have my reasons – but that doesn’t really matter.  But just for the record, I wasn’t in jail or anything.  Smile  I just took a little break.  I’m happy to be back to blogging as well as diving further into photography once again.  And actually, that’s what I’m writing about today!

Not only and I jumping back into creating images, I’m also simplifying things quite a bit in terms of gear.  Why?  I don’t really need that much.  I’ve transitioned from shooting DSLRs to mirrorless cameras.  “What?!” you say?  As I’ve professed here many a time, the camera doesn’t make photographs and that’s still just as true to me as it was the day I first wrote about it.  The camera is a tool though and it’s important to choose the proper tool for the job you’re going to be doing.  Now, before someone starts a war over Nikon vs Canon vs Leica vs Fuji etc, hear me out. 

I’m looking to pack light and travel light, yet still carry a camera body and optics that give me the most amount of control for the photographs that I make.  That’s the reason why I’m “Ditching The Mirror” and selling off my DLSRs for my new camera: the Fujifilm X-T1.  It’s smaller, lighter, offers the versatility of using interchangeable lenses, and has probably the best APS-C sized sensor to this day.  If I were running and gunning, shooting sports or action or some other subject in which I needed to fire off a gazillion frames per second you could bet the farm that I’d have a DSLR.  But the bottom line is that I don’t. 

Since I just received this new beauty, I’ll reserve my comments and thoughts until after I’ve had a chance to really put it through it’s paces.  I am demoing a couple of ZEISS Touit lenses for this camera as well – the 12mm f/2.8 and the 32mm f/1.8.  I’ll let you know what my thoughts are on those as well.  First impressions?  I’m thoroughly happy with my choice to go with Fuji and I’m excited to go out and make some photographs. 

That’s a wrap for today – hopefully there are still a few readers out there!  Have a great weekend and don’t forget to make time to get out and shoot!

Best,

Stephen

Assignment: Covering A Deployment

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At first I thought this was going to come about back in July of this year, but things have worked out a little differently.  Tomorrow I am heading out for a six month deployment aboard the USS Sterett (DDG 104).  Part of my duties involve being the Assistant Public Affairs Officer and Command Photographer.  I will be extremely busy working on projects like the cruise book and other media-related items.

I am looking forward to the trip, although I will miss my family and friends terribly.  It’s hard to beat getting paid to travel the world, take photos, and shoot video.

I hope to visit some great places (some of which I have been to before, and some I haven’t) and be able to experience new things and get some great photographic opportunities.

That being said, the blog here will be a little scarce over the next several months.  I will update when I can, but it will only be when I am in port and able to get WiFi somewhere.  I will post images and experiences of how some of the gear I use has held up.

Thank you to all my readers and I hope that you enjoy sharing in my travels and adventures until I’m back at home again.

All the best,

Stephen

Stephen Zeller Photography Gets A Makeover

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I have completely redesigned my website for Stephen Zeller Photography, including a new logo which I had mentioned about a week ago.  I wanted to do with a design that could be consistent with both my website and blog.  This was important to me for fluidity and consistency with the design and function of the site and provides a completely custom user experience.

I used WordPress for the back end, which is great because with the jquery slider on the home page and Lightbox in the portfolio pages my site is completely functional and viewable on the iPad – something else that was very important to me.  I loved the look and feel of my Flash site, but didn’t want to miss out on potential clients who may be viewing my site on their iPad or iPhone.  With as many people that are using the iPad, that’s a huge slice of the viewership pie that I didn’t want to pass up.

Please feel free to browse around the site and tell me what you like and don’t like.  I would be grateful for your thoughts on the design and overall functionality.

Also, if you’re looking for a great WordPress site, check out my buddy Don Giannatti and his WordPress Themes for Photographers.  Don is a great designer and web guy and he can get you set up and running.  He’s also looking to strike up a deal if you happen to have an iBook laying around.

That’s it for today.  I have a busy week ahead getting ready for a BIG assignment coming up.  More on that later on this week.  I hope you had a great weekend and got a chance to get out and shoot.

Also, have you had a chance to check out The DSLR Workshop yet???

BlinkBid Version 6 Mini Review

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You might remember this review that I wrote awhile back, about an awesome program that I began using called BlinkBid.  Hands down, it’s the single most effective piece of business software I use aside from QuickBooks.  Why?  Because I can create estimates, invoices, track usage licenses, manage contacts, and more.  What makes it so special?  It was created by creatives, for creatives and it’s highly photography-centric.

Just recently, they released version 6 which provided some really incredible upgrades to the program.  You can read the entire list of improvements right here, but I’m going to touch on a couple that I value most as a working photographer.

Export to QuickBooks!
Yep, that’s right – you can now export data to QuickBooks so that you don’t have to manually enter your financial data any longer.  BlinkBid exports that data in a format that QuickBooks can understand and you can easily import.  This is a HUGE timesaver for photographers, who mostly scoff at the thought of doing business-related activities to begin with.

Bid Consultant
This feature is a BIG one.  The folks at BlinkBid got together with a couple of industry consultants, Suzanne Sease and Amanda SosaStone, and came up with a system for giving you accurate usage quotes.  Now, the program won’t tell you what to charge in terms of a photographer’s fee, but you can certainly count on the data to provide quite accurate usage fee quotes.  This is big if you’re getting into or working on the commercial/advertising/editorial side of the business.  What you used to have to go to several pieces of software to accomplish, can now be found under one roof.  And it JUST. PLAIN. ROCKS.

Here’s a screen shot of the Bid Consultant window that pops up:

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So if you’ve been thinking about buying some invoicing software for your photography business and you don’t want to enter in all the items manually, then you need to give a seriously hard look at BlinkBid.  It’s an incredible program that will help save you time and effort that you can put into doing something more fun – like shooting!

Oh yeah, and be sure and tell Lou that I sent you.

Review: Pro HDR app for iPhone

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One of the things that I love about carrying around my iPhone is always having a camera with me – and a pretty damn good camera at that.  One of the things that has always been a burden to cell phone cameras though is that dynamic range of the sensor has been pretty limited, therefore making it hard to capture cool scenes that have a lot of contrast.  If you’re an iPhone user, I have great news for you – you can kiss those sensor limits goodbye.

Pro HDR is an app that was recently made available and it takes advantage of the iPhone by way of blending multiple exposures together to create a cool photograph of a scene that has a lot of light contrast.  For a mere $2.00, you can be on your way to creating some excellent images with your iPhone that were not really possible before.

If you have an iPhone 3G, I’m sorry to tell you that you’re outta luck on this one.  The app requires an iPhone 3Gs or an iPhone 4 and iOS 4.  Sorry new iPod Touch users, but if you have a brand new one there is no support for your device as of press time.  I would imagine that there will be support for iPod Touch users soon, as it now has a camera.

Coast Guard Cutter

I really love how simple this app is to use.  I can either operate it in Auto Mode or Manual Mode, giving me control over the exposures I choose to blend together.  From there, Pro HDR handles all the rest of the work and blends and aligns the images together to create the HDR image.  Once that process is complete, I can tweak brightness, contrast, saturation, warmth, and tint from within the app.  I can also choose to save it at full resolution or at a smaller 3MP resolution.  I can also choose to save my original captures if I so desire, in order to edit them later.  Pro HDR also features a Library HDR mode which enables the user to import images from their library to process as an HDR photo.

5-Inch Gun

The folks who developed the Pro HDR app chose to stay on the conservative side of HDR processing, which will likely appeal to more users.  While I’m a fan of the surreal look of some HDR work, there are others who aren’t and I think eyeApps was trying to capture the largest part of the market they could with the app.

Cutter at Sunrise

Performance-wise, the Pro HDR operates seamlessly on my iPhone 4 and I have yet to have the app crash on me.  That’s something I really appreciate these days – more than most people know!

Here’s the direct link to the app in the iTunes Store, so be sure and check it out.  It’s got all the screen captures of the app there, so I didn’t bother to post them here.  Pro HDR is WELL worth the $2.00 and all you’ll have to do is skip a half-a-cup of Starbucks to be able to afford it!

What’s In A Photo Credit?

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There are a lot of folks out there who shoot for free – and not because they aren’t good enough to be getting paid for their work.  But they do so for the thrill of seeing their name in print or online, otherwise known as a photo credit.  While this can be good, it can be seriously detrimental to the photography industry and I strongly caution those who choose to do this to proceed carefully.

The problem with photo sharing sites like Flickr is that unsuspecting photographers are approached by people who would like to use their image(s) in exchange for a photo credit.  While the fact that someone wants to publish their work is great news for the new photographer, it becomes a problem for the industry when the use of the photo(s) will help generate income for the person or business who is asking to use the image.

Do I think that photo credits are helpful to someone who is starting out in photography?  You bet I do – with a couple of stipulations. First, if I am shooting something for free or letting someone use my work for free then I require that I am able to get something out of it as well.  If it’s a photo credit, then I require a link back to my website so that not only will viewers know that I am the photographer who created the image, but they can also quickly and easily take a trip to my website and see more of my work.  Second, if the person or organization that I am shooting or providing images for are going to use them to generate revenue, then free is off the table.  If they are going to make money then so should I – and so should you too!  I also try and do pro bono work for organizations that I have some type of personal connection with or strong feelings toward their cause.

A photo credit in the right location can help to get your name out there as a photographer, so it’s not always a bad thing.  If people search your name in Google and find all sorts of links to photos taken by you, it helps with your ‘street credit’ and gives them a little more confidence in you.

I don’t get paid for my work that I shoot for the Navy (other than my salary) but I get credit for every single image.  The shot above was published by Fox News as well as several other local news sources around the Country.  That’s certainly not a bad thing at all!  It goes right along with what I said in the previous paragraph.

Shooting for free or letting someone use an image for free in the right setting and at the right time is a good thing.  Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you should never shoot for free.  However, don’t start out shooting for free all the time as then everyone will come to expect that you’re the ‘free photographer’ and will get upset when you try to hand them an estimate or an invoice.

Put a limit on what and when you shoot for free and you will not only be benefiting the photography industry as a whole, but yourself as well.