life's better with a tablet. Period.
This article illustrates 4 key points for why you should be using a Wacom tablet in your photography work.
* Improved workflow
* More precise adjustments
* Faster processing of images
* More ergonomic interface, reduction of mouse-related problems
Any photographer interested in keeping their processes moving along in an efficient manner, should be considering adopting the use of a Wacom or other branded tablet as their primary user interface.
Having the ability to fully customize a wide variety of features to each and every application, not just Photoshop or Lightroom, gives the user so much more ability to get the job done quickly and with less stress.
Sure there is a learning curve with this new equipment, but that is the case with every new camera body, flash, computer etc. Once the user has decided on the most effective settings and gone through them a few times, they will be wondering why they hadn’t switched much earlier.
Having used a mouse and keyboard since the dawn of time, I was amazed at how much faster I can go through a batch of images with a tablet and stylus. I can accomplish complex tasks faster and more precisely. This means I make fewer mistakes. Mistakes that necessitate me undoing my work and having to start over. On a side note, even if I am working in a different sort of software that has nothing to do with image manipulation, I still find myself picking up the stylus instead of the mouse. It’s just that much more agreeable to my frame of mind. It makes want to use it.
More precise adjustments
Having the ability to adjust not only things such as brush sizes on the fly but also, brush pressures, angles, tonalities and so much more is such a blessing. I personally, find that these adjustments are now so quick that I rarely use the keyboard except for those times when I need to enter information. With two buttons on the stylus that can be programmed to take on a number of responsibilities in addition to the plethora of settings on the tablet buttons and radial menu, the ability to precisely affect the images becomes a pleasure and not an annoying task.
When I used the mouse I found that I needed to move the mouse in a way that seemed rather clumsy. Metaphorically, it’s almost like reverting to using candles to heat a room instead of pressing a button on the thermostat. Having learned to write with a pencil at an early age, like most people, using the stylus/tablet combination is like picking up that pencil again. It’s familiar, comfortable, ultimately usable. The fine control available when using the Wacom with its stylus will make you more of an artist than a technician.
Faster processing of images
From start to finish the fact that the user can work in a more intuitive manner alone speeds up the processing. Instead of an operation requiring 3 or 5 steps, it may only require 1 step. This means that things like resizing images for export, copying and creating multiple layer copies etc. can be done in a third of the time that it used to.
Used in conjunction with the Actions feature in Photoshop, for example, a user can get things done so much quicker than in the past. We are truly living in an amazing time, to quote photographer Joel Grimes. There are countless videos online that give you instruction on how to speed up your workflow using a tablet. I would recommend that any new user look for a few videos, but ultimately you won't become used to the tools unless you practice using them.
More ergonomic interface, reduction of mouse-related problems
Using a pen-like interface for most people is a more intuitive approach to working with files. Yes, using a mouse has become the “norm” for computer interfacing over the last 30 years or so, and touch screen technology is quickly overtaking, but there is something rather artist-like when one uses a precise tool such as a well-balanced stylus and tablet to do the job.
Holding the stylus as you would a fine pen, with access to the programmable buttons, you feel well connected to the image on the monitor. The hand can move freely. The wrist is not fixed in a position that invites discomfort with repeated use. Repetitive strain injuries are also significantly reduced. This combined with the variety of available stylus tips, and surfaces for the Wacom product line, you are able to truly work like an artist would on paper or other media.
A Danish study of some 3500 Danish workers revealed that using a mouse in their daily work, increased their chances of pain and strain by a factor of 4, even if they only used the mouse for half of the computer time. Another study, again by Danish scientists, revealed that workers using a mouse in their jobs for more than 30 hours per week had up to 8 times greater chance of developing forearm pain, and double the risk of neck pain. Shoulder pain also increased significantly as a result of continued usage.
The Wacom line of tablets, for example come in a variety of iterations. There are the basic versions for a relatively small investment all the way up to the Cintiq line designed for production studios that will set you back a pretty penny. Available through camera shops, online at various suppliers and of course there is the used equipment market of which I'm a huge fan.
Whichever way you go, it's best to do a lot of research beforehand. I would not recommend purchasing equipment that is designed for travel if you are never going to do location work, nor would I suggest buying a large tablet if you have a tiny work desk. Look at your situation and your style of work then find out what is available to fit your needs and budget. Ranging from around $90 to well over $2400, there is a tablet that will work for you.
That's it for me, the next step is yours.
Instagram posts a perfect fit
If you are like me, you use Instagram to share the joy of your work. One thing that was bugging me, and may be bugging you too, is not knowing how to get my images to fit the Instagram format.
This video sorts that out once and for all.
Hope this helps you too.
Show your product as it really is
While sales catalogues have all gone online, that's both good and bad.
Good, because you can reach people who in the past would never have heard of your product or known you exist because they hadn't received your printed catalogue.
Bad, because you can not be held responsible for the quality of the image they are looking at once online.
The problem here is that each monitor or screen a person views your product on, may display your product as being a different colour or hue. This could backfire when the client puts the product in their hands. We unfortunately can't control that,
but what we can control is the production of the images at the outset.
Here is how you can do that.
The first important control is how we light our product.
Since light has a different colour depending on the type, and to a point, the age of the light source, using the best lighting is essential for a successful product photography setup.
Shooting products that are rich in colour and texture requires lighting that is daylight balanced at about 5500 degrees Kelvin. These are available as simple LED bulbs which are then diffused through a white paper, silk, bedsheet (pure white) or photography umbrella.
Avoid trying to bypass this accuracy by using a cloudy day, because as the sun moves across the sky and indeed as the seasons change, the colour of the light changes. This in effect changes the colour of the product you are photographing.
What we are going for is a consistent lighting arrangement.
I would suggest purchasing a 3 to 4 foot long LED box light and mounting it to a light stand or a pair of LED lights in circular reflectors mounted to a stand. [see resources below]
This will give you a portable lighting solution that is predictable and easy to use at a moment's notice.
Situate your lighting so that it is about 5 feet from your subject and 45 degrees from it. [see diagram] What we are going for is a soft light to spread over the subject, not a high-contrast beam aimed directly at it. A large source of light (in relation to the subject) is the perfect solution. However, trial and error are advised because of all the variables at play in any given situation. Once you find the setup that makes your product look great consistently, record the positions and settings.
Keeping the viewer's attention on the product is essential.
What you put your product on or in front of plays a big part.
Ideally, a white background, such as a large sheet of white paper, a pure white wall or something similar is what we want. Rolls of white seamless paper can be bought from photography suppliers. [see resources below]
In order to achieve consistency here, you may need to light the background separately. Alternatively, if you have a powerful enough light setup, you may not need to. To avoid harsh shadows on the background, do not place the product directly against it. Experimenting with distances starting at about 3 feet is a good idea.
If you have a white wall, start there. If you are selling wedding gowns for example, look for a complimentary background. Coloured seamless paper is readily available too.
Setting your camera up on a sturdy tripod may be necessary to allow for longer exposure times if you are using LED lights. It's not as crucial if you are using flash.
Ideally, you will have a camera lens that has an adjustable view angle. Something around 50mm is great. Any wider than that and you risk distorting the product.
If you are shooting with LED bulbs, your exposure time will likely be around ½ second.
This is why the tripod is required.
At first, set your ISO to a low number. Let's say between 100 and 400 ISO.
The white balance should be around 5500 degrees, or daylight.
Aperture around f6.3 to f8.
Don't use a wide aperture (f1.4 to f4) if you can avoid it because it will limit your depth of field (focus) to a minimum and that may make your product appear out of focus.
Avoid a tiny aperture, (around f22) as this will require much longer exposure times and risk colour shifts and blurred images.
Assuming that you are shooting for the web, have your camera's image quality set at jpg/jpeg, and "fine". This will provide high enough quality, but moderately sized files. What we are going for are files that look great on a monitor of almost any size when enlarged, and load quickly.
Some people are guilty of uploading images that look great at 2 inches tall, but look horribly pixelated enlarged. Not good for sales.
The diagram below gives you an idea of a good starting point for locating your product in front of the appropriate background, and the lighting in relation to it.
In this case, the "diffusion" is a white piece of fabric (pure white), but it can also be a bed sheet or a photography umbrella. Keep in mind that light takes on the colour of whatever surface it hits or passes through.
With this information, and some practice, you can accurately create images of your products quickly and with good lighting and colour. People who visit your site will be assured that what they put in their hands is exactly what they previewed.
Please contact me if you have any further questions or suggestions.
For those of us in the Peterborough area, you can find a great selection of daylight balanced LED lighting at Jenco, on George street across from Del Crary park.
A huge variety of photography equipment can be sourced from Henrys in Oshawa/Toronto, or Vistek in Toronto or Ottawa. A great portable white background solution is by Westcott.
editorial portrait photography, my take.
I think that it makes complete sense that an editorial piece, whether online, in a newspaper or other media, comes with images of the subject of the piece.
Thinking of magazines such as Life, National Geographic and others, it seems natural to have a portrait alongside the text.
How one goes about gathering those images differs from one photographer to the next.
I'm not talking about the trash mags at the checkout line.
Those are basically sensationalism in my opinion and not really environmental portraits.
This image of John, who kindly took part in my motorcycle portrait project volunteered his time so I could make a few portraits of him in his shop. Each bike is a classic and lovingly and intelligently restored and maintained by him personally. Having already made images of 3 of his bikes, I knew it was a natural progression to shoot images of him.
Doing so gives the viewer a more in-depth look at his environment and helps to give a more complete understanding of his story.
I learned about John in the process, just through casual conversation and being interested. This is my approach to creating successful environmental images. I'm curious.
His interest in bikes lead to my interest in making cool images. I could go even further with this project and shoot some detailed table-top images of his tools, bike parts, dirty rags and all that sort of thing. It's all part of being in a creative zone which is never-ending. One image leads to another. It's a natural progression.
From here, I simply allow the energy from this shoot and the conversations with John to lead my next move. In fact, having met John, I have connected with another classic-bike fanatic whom I will be make a portrait of in the spring. Bill, labels himself as a Triumph restoration expert. He is a well of knowledge about these machines. His conversation reveals how connected he is to the brand. Any question regarding this part or that function etc. will undoubtedly produce a spirited response and perhaps even a story from his younger days as he ventured to this far-off place or that. Argentina springs to mind. (it's a long story)
Bill Edgar is a lover of old bikes that have character. I met him at a classic vehicle round-up in Lang over the summer, and after that I met him again in Lindsay at a British car/bike gathering. He loves talking bikes. Especially his 1947 Indian Chief in orange. I was scheduled to photograph his bike at the outset of this project, but low and behold on the very morning of the shoot, his bike would not start. Now we have re-scheduled the shoot for the new year, hopefully at the same location I had planned. It's because of Bill that I met John and because of John that I met Bill.
It's these connections that can make a tiny project blossom into something quite substantial and impressive. Next year I will probably post images of the project and I'm quite sure I will have more short stories to convey as well.
Photo-Artist working a personal vision.
For those of us interested in better marketing techniques, get this book.