Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Scanning by camera

There was a discussion recently on a forum I visit about using your camera to scan film originals, because (good) scanners are not as available as they used to be. It all got very complicated and detailed, using medium format large sensor cameras and so forth. But it got me thinking and wondering how my Nikon D700 would perform.
I photographed two negatives, one a 6x4.5 black and white (which I had actually neglected to scan when I did have an Imacon high-end scanner) and a 35mm color neg. I used as my light source a light box (fluorescent tubes), which really you should not do because of the limited colour spectrum, and set the white balance to auto. The results were surprising, surprisingly good, that is. The B&W fared better, because, I suppose, of the larger sized original and no colour problems. Whereas the colour neg with it's orange mask was a mess once I inverted it to get a positive. It took a heck of a lot of meddling around in photoshop to get anything reasonable. But I'm left with the impression that if you had medium format transparencies in your archive that you wanted to have files of, it is not impossible to get reasonable quality by using your camera. (Just don't use a lightbox).
Here are the images:

Thursday, 23 February 2012

My constant companion

Today, I had to bring my old dog, Pips, to the vet to be put to sleep. In honour of her, here are two pictures. She always seemed to be laughing at me.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Nikon J1 and V1

It is only a few months since Nikon released the new CX format J1 and V1 cameras and already Alamy has accepted them into it's recommended camera list. These are, for Nikon, a major step forward. They have a completely new size of sensor, CX, joining it's DX and FX formats. The size is smaller than the micro four thirds sensor, but apparently gives comparable image quality. It is an interchangeable lens system with four lenses initially available. They are extremely small, the J1 being 106mm x 61mm x 30 mm and the V1, with it's electronic viewfinder, slightly taller. That's about the same size as the Olympus EPL-1, before you add it's (optional extra) EVF.
The fact that they got onto Alamy's recommended camera list so fast must mean that a considerable number of contributors are using these and passing QC with no bother. It certainly heralds a major move towards smaller cameras with DSLR capabilities by the major manufacturers, a very welcome move. In the 1990's I possessed a beautiful Contax G2 35mm film
camera with it's range of Zeiss lenses. It was fully automatic. I found the image quality of it to be the equivalent of the 6x4.5 medium format and since I sold it to enter the digital field, I have been dreaming of a replacement. This Nikon 1 system may well be it. Although, on second thoughts, I want Zeiss auto lenses.
Read the review here.

UPDATE: 5th April - I've just been checking Alamy's Recommended Camera List to see if Canon's G1x has appeared on it yet, and imagine, to my surprise, Alamy has removed the Nikon J1 and V1 from it. This has to mean that, as more uploads came in from contributors who are using these cameras, there have been enough rejections to make the QC people change their mind. Don't quite know what to make of it - very interesting!

Keywording Images

Because it happened to me today, I thought that this would be worthwhile mentioning. I was looking for a few images that I had property releases for, to add them, when in the new version of Manage Images I clicked on "Images - On sale, more details required". Four images appeared and it transpired I had no details in the Essential and Main Keywords sections. They had been annotated long ago in the Old Manage Images days. Human error of course, but I believe that those images would not have appeared in searches. A minor cautionary tale, but it might be worth checking out those categories in Manage Images.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Magnum Photo Agency

Two years after the apocalypse that was called the Second World War ended, Magnum Photos was founded. The world's most prestigious photographic agency was formed by four photographers - Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger and David "Chim" Seymour - who had been very much scarred by the conflict and were motivated both by a sense of relief that the world had somehow survived and the curiosity to see what was still there. They created Magnum in 1947 to reflect their independent natures as both people and photographers - the idiosyncratic mix of reporter and artist that continues to define Magnum, emphasizing not only what is seen but also the way one sees it.
Arguably the greatest influence on photojournalism in the 20th century, Magnum continues it's work today. To view it's latest news and pictures visit On that home page there is a facility to sign up to Magnum's regular newsletters which always include a portfolio of fifty images by a specific photographer. I can highly recommend it.
Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger and David "Chim" Seymour - these have always been heroes of mine.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Fantastic ND filter

In my little studio I use a twenty year old Bowens Traveller 3000G flash unit. A power pack and three heads. Unfortunately, the lowest I can go per head is 1000 joules, which can be a right nuisance at times when you have to use diffusers to reduce the strength, thereby impairing the effect you wanted the lighting to give.
I receive regular emails from suppliers of equipment and bits and pieces that I have bought from previously, as everyone does. I always like to check them, just in case. One such email came from which I use for paper and inks, with an offer of a variable neutral density filter with a range of ND2(ND0.3) to ND1000(ND3.0) at a very cheap price.
 Having used filters extensively during my professional career as an architectural photographer, I know just how damaging they can be to the quality of an image. Nowadays, apart from polarising, Photoshop can emulate the effect of most filters, and of course, now that we're pixel-peeping, I don't like to put anything between the lens and subject. However, this filter, which is not branded, was so cheap I thought I would give it a go and if it wasn't any good, just chuck it away. Surprise, surprise, the tests I did showed no degradation and no colour shift. I am now delightfully playing around with my lights like never before, using this filter to allow me to stick to the lens' "sweet spot" as much as I want to.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Valentine's Day

Just because of the day that's in it, here's a schmaltzy picture to celebrate. Caption: A red heart shaped box of chocolates on a silky background for Valentine's Day. Apart from the obvious keywords, how about:  schmaltz, schmaltzy, kitsch, sentimental, mawkish, slushy.

Monday, 13 February 2012

What Alamy doesn't want

What has to be emphasised is that Alamy doesn't care whats in your pictures. From dog poo to celebrities - anything goes. If you think somebody, somewhere might some day need that image - go for it. But on the other hand, Alamy insists on digital excellence, so that a picture is not rejected by the customer because of perceived faults. That means that there are a few areas that are strictly no-no. These are:

Soft or lacking definition (SoLD). Because of the anti-alias filters on our sensors this is always controversial. Alamy knows the difference between that phenomenon and ever-so-slightly out-of-focus or slight camera shake. As an example of what can happen here's a story.  Six months ago I bought new an Olympus EPL-1 micro four thirds camera, complete with kit lens at a really good price. But I noticed that I was having to reject more than a few images due to SoLD. I reckoned that this couldn't be down to camera shake by me when I checked the IPTC data - my speeds were high enough, my f stop was f7.1, as always. I dug and dug on the Interweb and finally came across a site which had also found this and went to the trouble of testing three individual lenses. They discovered that the construction of the lens caused a wobble if used between 1/100 and 1/200 sec and thereby imparted camera shake to the image. The shake was really miniscule but to the trained eye (as in Alamy) it was noticeable. I bought a third generation lens at the same price as the original entire camera and the problem was solved. The manufacturer has never owned up to this fault, DPreview never caught it but it was noticeable when the image was forensically examined at 100%. You can be sent to the submitting sin bin for a month by Alamy for a number of SoLD submissions. Ain't worth it.
No sharpening should be applied to an image, except perhaps for the default Photoshop RAW processing. And sharpening artifacts can occur by other means in the processing, such as over saturation or colour removal at the Tif stage.
I only use the lens' "sweet spot" when shooting. Each lens on a 35mm style digital camera has a particular f stop at which the lens is sharpest, usually f8 or thereabouts, due to refraction  within the lens. This is, in my opinion, extremely important. So much so that my aperture setting is permanently set and the ISO setting at Auto for non-studio shots. My cameras are very good at noise - up to 1600 ISO is no bother when the exposure is good. (Nikon full frame 12MP D700 being the other camera). If I have a depth of field problem in the studio, I take a number of shots at different focus points and depth of field blend them in PS to achieve sharpness throughout the image, such as in this one:

Chromatic Aberration: All lenses give this to a greater or lesser degree, some saying that more expensive and prime lenses being better. Has to be removed. There are various tools and methods, which I'm sure you know. I tend to use Replace Colour , if necessary selecting the areas, so as not to damage other areas where those colours are integral.

Dust and smudges: You know all about this, but just to remind. Forensically examine the image at 100%, section by section, side to side and up and down and clone out any that exist.  If there are real things in the image that could be construed as dust, remove them. I know one guy who shot an antelope on light coloured ground on which stones were scattered, and it was rejected, much to his indignation. Birds in a sky are a famous example.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Introducing myself

I am a retired professional photographer living twenty miles north of Dublin city, Ireland. I worked in many areas of photography but mainly in advertising and design and latterly in architectural and the built environmental photography until 2005. At that time, I handed over the firm to Donal Murphy, my business partner, a truly excellent photographer, who has won many awards. View his site here:
I started submitting to in 2003, the stock library which currently (February 2012) holds more than 28 million images. My meagre contribution stands at about 5,600 images, but slowly growing. In the first few years of my participation I uploaded lots of travel pictures from many different locations and the money return was fairly decent. In recent years that has diminished through dilution by the number of photographers and the quantity of images, deals done with publishers (led down that dark road by Getty) and the ubiquitous worldwide recession. Of course, the prices offered by iStock and it's microstock lookalikes were a major hit in the pricing of stock images.
Many of my compatriots whom I know through various stock forums submit to multiple agencies as well as Alamy and also have their own portfolio sites where they market from directly, but I decided early on to stick to Alamy alone. Firstly I felt that my stuff was too generalistic in subjects and not particularly conceptual - actually a rag-bag of images, so the logical home was Alamy, which does not edit contributions for content. Secondly, I had had my fill over the years of the business of photography. I no longer wished to market myself or get involved in accounts.
So there it is - I am now a happy hobbyist, albeit with years of photographic experience in his back pocket.