iOS & Mac reviews Reviews

mac stuff for photographers

macphotography.jpgIf you’re a photographer and you use a Mac, chances are you’ve probably already heard of the vast majority of these, but it’s still a pretty good list so I really ought to link to it before I lose too many readers.

The Ultimate Mac Setup for Photographers is a nice collection of apps that you’re bound yo find handy when it comes to your digital workflow on your Mac. (and I nicked the image on the left from their site – credit where it’s due!)

There’s a couple of things I use that aren’t on there at all, surprisingly. First of all, in ‘Organizing and Editing’ (damn their American spellings!) they’ve tragically forgotten Photo Mechanic which to my mind is by far the best organisational tool for professional photographers. Of course, I’m biased because I don’t use Bridge, Aperture, Lightroom or iPhoto.

I’m not a fan of what iPhoto does to my filing system. I think Aperture does the same thing, I might be wrong. iPhoto’s default system is to take your photos off your memory card and store them where it wants to see them, in a folder within a folder within a folder within iPhoto’s own folder in your Pictures folder. Then if you make edits to the image it stores another copy and keeps the original untouched (good move). I don’t like this because it ties me into using iPhoto exclusively so that at least all my photos are in one place – but that’s iPhoto’s place, and if I want to use other apps, it becomes messy. Which one do I edit? Where do I save it?

And what if I have other shoots in different places but I want to start using them in iPhoto? It copies them from where they are to it’s own folder again, creating more duplicates. No, I vastly prefer to have complete control over my photos. I use iPhoto only for the occasional calendar or photobook from Apple, or to create albums of images to put on my iPhone. That’s it. I realise I can now set iPhoto to not move/copy photos to it’s own location, but that’s by the by as it’s simply a consumer tool – it might be great for you, but it’s not for me.

Photo Mechanic, which I use, doesn’t have any editing capabilities, focussing just on organisation and tagging. I ingest a whole shoot into my computer from a card using the app – it adds my IPTC info to each photo as it arrives. Then I can tag using stars (1-5) or colours; view or edit EXIF and IPTC metadata; preview full screen; move photos around the computer; batch rename; all the usual organisational stuff. It can show me previews of my RAW files almost instantly, rendering a preview JPG from the RAW data without any latent interpretation of the data by the app – the settings I shot at are what it shows me so I can make a judgement call. I can also export images to a web-gallery automatically, with a choice of several different packages – I use the SimpleViewer package almost exclusively as it’s so simple and classic. Finally, the colour or rating tags I apply can be set to be recognised by Nikon Capture NX2, my RAW developer of choice.

Which is the second big omission in my eyes. They list Lightroom, Capture One Pro and Aperture, but no Capture NX2. I know Lightroom, Capture and Aperture are the big boys with the big marketing bucks, but Capture NX2 is the only software that can do proper justice to a Nikon RAW file, in my opinion. It’s the only RAW converter I’ve used where the image I saw on the LCD is exactly what I get on the screen when I open the RAW file up. Other converters apply their own baseline values to the RAW files which necessitates setting up your own defaults that match what you thought you were shooting at the time. NX2 also gives you all the controls you’re used to on your Nikon camera, such as the Picture Control and Active D-Lighting settings. It’s also up to a useable speed on my aluminium iMac (the first of the new line of iMacs that came out a couple of years ago).

Other than that, it’s a great list with a lot of great apps in there. Have a look and see if there’s something you’re missing out on.

Gear & gadget reviews How-Tos Photography how-tos Pictorial Reviews

hitting the street with the lumiquest softbox III

OWN_8822.JPG(UPDATE: February 2012; after I posted this I realised that some of the latter shots were a bit dark; the effect of the Softbox is visible but needed a bit more power, and it was underexposed overall. For many, many months, years in fact, I always meant to dig out the shots and lift them a bit in Photoshop but never got around to it.

So, I’ll just leave them the way they are and leave a note to myself as to why: it was very bright daylight and I wasn’t able to see the camera LCD clearly. I was gauging relative light ratios from the image but not looking at the histogram. If I had, I might have dialled in more power or opened the aperture a little.

Also, I’ve since invested in Pocketwizard Flex and Mini units which make outdoor flash triggering a breeze; Nikon CLS is very unreliable in strong daylight. Okay, on with the post.)

I got a LumiQuest Softbox III last week and wanted to put it to use straight away. Its main appeal to me is as a close in soft lighting source for portraits, useable handheld if necessary with no real awkwardness. I could use it at events to get awesome off-camera lit portraits anywhere, worlds away from the usual top-mounted flash look even when bouncing said flash off a ceiling. I could also use it as a soft fill against an umbrella key, or for moodier top lit shots, something I can’t quite do with the umbrella.

Basically, versatility and portability!

For a long time I’ve wanted to have the confidence to walk up to strangers and ask permission to shoot a portrait of them, totally for free, just because I think they look very photogenic. Missed lots of potential opportunities that way, so I decided to take the Softbox out for a walk along Putney Embankment last week. It was a sunny afternoon and I told myself the worst that could happen was people I asked said “No.” and that’s fine because there’s loads of other people to ask.

As it happens, everybody I asked said “Yes.”, but I was pretty selective, and I didn’t ask that many people in the end – the thing is I seemed to have chosen the time of day that a lot of mothers were out taking their babies and children for walks, and I didn’t want to bother them! And there were a lot of joggers out too and I thought leaping into their path with a huge camera and flash might put them off their pace.

I’d done some test shots first (since deleted, should have kept them to give you a laugh). I kept the SB-800 on 1/4 power, triggered via CLS from the D200, which was in manual at ISO 100, around f/4 on average (to give my auto-focus a bit of a chance), and whatever shutter speed got the background roughly one stop underexposed.

iOS & Mac reviews Reviews

QuadCamera – my all new favourite iPhone camera app

I’ve got a new obsession on my iPhone, and it’s name is QuadCamera (made by Takayuki Fukatsu and available on the iTunes App Store here, currently £1.19 but apparently it will go up in price after the next update). It’s basically a software application of the popular Lomo Supersampler cameras, one of which currently resides in a drawer somewhere in my flat, shamefully underused, probably because I can’t be bothered to get the film developed every time. It’s not exactly the same as the photos are all the full aspect ratio of the camera, whereas Supersampler takes a ‘slice’ and fits them all on one 4×3 35mm film frame, but it’s an extremely slick and stable (so far) piece of software nonetheless.

It’s also, and more importantly, really good fun! I’ve not bothered with the maker’s other Toy Camera apps for the iPhone because Nevercenter’s CameraBag (App Store link here) has fulfilled all my other iPhone camera effect needs, but just a few minutes play with QuadCamera has me completely sold. It can take either 4 or 8 photos and the settings screen gives you very simple options to choose the duration of the gap between shots (1/4 sec up to 3 secs), the layout of the final image (2×2, 4×1, 4×2 or 8×1), whether it shoots in colour or B&W and whether it displays the resulting image (which is saved to the Camera Roll whether you choose to view them immediately or not). Handily, the shooting interface displays whether you’re in mono or colour at a glance, but not the image number or layout options you’ve selected.

Each individual photo taken is in the standard aspect ratio and has that ‘Lomo look’ applied with distinctive vignetting. The colour versions are slightly desaturated and contrasty, whereas to my eye the B&W look a little flat – I’ve done a little experimentation and I think you actually get better B&Ws if you take your photos in QuadCamera and then open the saved image in CameraBag and apply either the Mono or 1962 effects.

To top it all, they’ve even thrown together a “quick and dirty experimental” desktop app for Mac and PC called QuadAnimator that takes a QuadCamera image and converts the individual frames into an animated GIF. Very pleasing!

Gear & gadget reviews Reviews

the right kit for the job

At this very moment I’m heading away for just over a week on location on a film called Vivid. I already shot some days on it last weekend in London but the bulk of the action takes place in a country house in Dorset, which is where we’ll be based.

When it comes to packing for a trip or a holiday I’m a big fan of lists, and lots of ’em! So, I knew what I’d have to take for the shoot but for one reason or another I only got round to actually putting it all in bags last night. I thought someone might be interested in what I’m taking and how I’ve packed it, so I’ve put together a ‘short’ essay on the topic…

iOS & Mac reviews

fun with Poladroid

OWN_2258-pola.jpgGrass & Water beads-pola.jpg

Yesterday I mentioned an iPhone app called Camerabag that applies filters to iPhone photos. Today I happened across a free app for Macs and PCs called Poladroid.

You drag an image from your computer onto the application (which is represented by a lovely icon of a Polaroid camera) and it makes that whizz and whirr sound and produces a Polaroid-styled JPG which actually has to develop. Once finished it saves in a location of your choice (which you can set up in Preferences). There’s even a setting for randomly grittying up the image, which sometimes results in a lovely smudgy thumbprint somewhere (see the photo of the grass). As with many photography apps these days, there’s a Flickr group of users as well.

The effect and the realistic texture of the frame is better than the effect used in Camerabag, but as it’s a desktop app you can use it on pictures from your ‘better’ cameras which makes up for the lack of spontaneity an iPhone app engenders. However, the makers of Poladroid have announced they’re working on an iPhone version too, which could be a lot of fun. 🙂