Tuesday, March 19, 2019

500px: The New Hotness

500px: The New Hotness

500px: The New Hotness



An overnight success 9 years in the making, photo-sharing site 500px didn't really take off until last year. Since then, it's been capturing a lot of professional (and want-to-be professional) photographers away from Flickr.




The early-adopters that have made the switch have been posting some amazing photos, which tends to attract other great photographers, creating a righteous circle that should lead to more growth for the site.  Right now, the smaller community means that it's easier to get your photography noticed.

500px: The New
500px is just getting started, but Flickr's best days may
be behind it.

While Flickr has a lot of options, 500px goes for more of a minimal approach.  You can't do as much with the site, but fewer options means a leaner interface with more room to show off the photos, putting them font and centre, which is what many people find attractive about the site.  Each photo is given a "pulse", which is a metric of how popular a photo is based on how many people "like" it.  A photo's popularity automatically declines over time, so it's easier to get your new photos on the front page.

500px: watermark photos
The simple interface of 500px lets the photos do the talking.

One new feature of the site is the ability to sell your photos easily.  Photos for sale on 500px come as either an HD digital download or as a canvas print.  The system is very limited currently - you can't set your own price, you can't sell different resolutions, you have to meet the 500px standard size constraints, and you can't dictate license terms.

You can sign up with 500px for free, and upload up to 20 pics per week, or pay $50/year for their "Awesome" account.  That lets you upload an unlimited number of photos and track image views with Google Analytics.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Flickr-ing Out

Flickr-ing Out


Flickr-ing Out
Flickr has been one of the best places to find great photography for the better part of a decade, which makes it ancient by today's internet company standards.  But I'm starting to wonder if it's getting a little long in the tooth.

When was the last time Flickr came out with a new feature that really blew you away?  It seems like the only news coming out about Flickr is bad news.

AllThingsD is reporting that Yahoo, Flickr's parent company, is preparing for another major round of layoffs that are "likely to number in the thousands."  There's no word yet on if any of that will hit Flickr, but this follows shortly on the heels of the layoff's of Flickr's support staff back in January.  It's never a good sign when the people who interface with the public get let go because they're the people most often pushing for improvements based on the input they get from the public. 
 
According to Compete.com, Flickr traffic is down 18% since it's peak last summer.  Where did everyone go?  Google+ opened to the public in September, and apparently, a large percent of photographers online are starting to call it home.  Facebook has more images overall (though I would hesitate to call most of it 'photography'), and 500px is the new cool kid on the block.

Still, according to Thomas Hawk's math, Flickr brings in over $50 million annually, which would make it 2% of Yahoo's total revenue (at $2.3 billion annually), and that may below.  I can't imagine a desperate company, like Yahoo, killing off a decent part of their portfolio.  However, I can imagine them selling it...


Saturday, March 2, 2019

How to Choose Your First Professional Camera


How to Choose Your First Professional Camera


How to Choose Your First Professional Camera

If you’re in the market for your first camera, you may feel overwhelmed by all of the possible options. A high-quality, professional camera is an investment--and not an inexpensive one. The good news is that most cameras on the market today are of good quality, so you’re not likely to select one that simply doesn’t work. The trick is finding precisely the right camera for your specific needs so that it will serve your photography business (or hobby) for years to come.

With such a wide range of options when it comes to models and features and accessories, how do you narrow the field? It’s easier than you think if you understand what you want and need before you start shopping. You’ll be better able to zero in on the models with the features you need, without feeling distracted and overwhelmed by the many others that you don’t need. Here is what you need to know before you begin your search.

Know the different camera types


There are many different types of cameras, ranging from simple smartphone cameras to high-end digital versions. If you’re looking for your first professional camera, however, there are two major types you should investigate.

DSLR


Your First Professional Camera


DSLR, or digital single-lens reflex cameras, are what most people think of when they picture a professional photographer snapping away on a photo shoot. These cameras are composed of two distinct parts: the body of the camera and the lens. They also feature a mirror, or “viewfinder” of sorts, that allows you to preview the image before you shoot it.

When it comes to DSLR cameras, the right lens makes all the difference in image quality. The better the lens, the better the image. Since lenses are interchangeable, it’s easy to customize the image output and quality by experimenting with different lens types (more on lenses in a bit).

For most beginning professional photographers, a DSLR camera is a safe, simple choice with adequate functionality to meet their needs.

Mirrorless


Mirrorless cameras have entered the scene in the last few years, as an alternative to the DSLR. While they have most of the same internal components as their DSLR counterparts, as well as interchangeable lenses, they feature an electronic (or mirrorless) viewfinder, making the entire camera smaller and lighter.

A downside of mirrorless cameras is that their sensors are smaller than DSLRs. As a result, they aren’t as advanced when it comes to registering image depth or shooting in low light.

A note on brands


The bottom line is that the brand of camera you buy has very little impact on image quality. It all comes down to the quality of lenses and the artistry of the photographer behind the lens. While the two most well-known manufacturers are Canon and Nikon, one of the several other emerging brands may suit your needs at a lower price. Rather than getting hung up on a specific brand, try several models from each manufacturer to find the one that is most comfortable for you to use and that best suits your needs.

Set a budget


When it comes to professional cameras, “ballpark pricing” doesn’t really exist. DSLR cameras range from several hundred dollars to many thousands of dollars. The best course of action is to decide how much you want to spend and look for a camera within that range. You’ll find one. The key is to narrow down which features you can’t live without and which you can sacrifice to stay within budget.

Identify “must have” vs. “nice-to-have” features


The list of flashy features you could get as part of your new camera are nearly endless. Some are essential, while others you’ll probably never use. One feature that you’ll definitely need as a professional photographer is the ability to switch to manual mode. In automatic mode, the camera decides on shutter speed and light exposure for you. In manual mode, you control the settings yourself, giving you greater artistic freedom to take a variety of shots. Speaking of light, you’ll also want to double check the ISO, which is the camera’s sensitivity to light. A higher ISO will ensure that you can shoot in low light conditions without a flash.

Other features, like megapixels, might seem like crucially important concerns at first glance, but you should be aware that a huge number of megapixels won’t add to your image quality. Past a certain number of megapixels (around 20), there isn’t a noticeable difference in quality. Don’t be distracted by the “noise” of features you don’t really need. Instead, focus on the features that best suit your needs and will help capture the types of images you want to shoot.

Decide which lenses and accessories you need


Whether it’s interchangeable or permanent, the right lens will make all the difference to your photos. Here’s a breakdown of what you should know about lenses.

First off: focal length. It determines the angle that your lens will capture. Wide angle lenses cover a larger view, while telephoto lenses capture a narrow view. Next up is the aperture, which is the hole inside the lens that controls the light that enters the camera. The larger the aperture, the more expensive the lens will be, but you’ll also be able to shoot in much darker conditions.

There are plenty of lens options to choose from-- all with unique impacts on focal length and aperture. If you have a particular niche or style in mind for your photographs, you may want to consider a specialty lens like a fisheye, macro, or tilt-shift lens.

Know where to shop


There are many different outlets to purchase your camera, including online retailers and brick-and-mortar shops. The best course of action is to start with your online research and once you’ve decided on your budget, type of camera, desired features, and required lenses, to start comparing prices.

Keep in mind that you can purchase a gently used camera or even rent a particular camera before you buy it to make sure it suits your needs. Many local shops offer used cameras and rental options.

As you search for your first professional camera, remember that the only “perfect” camera is the one that is perfect for you. Don’t be intimidated by the many choices available. Take the time to understand what you need before you ever start looking. The choice will become much clearer when you’re armed with the right information
.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

7 Best Camera Apps for Your Smartphone


                  7 Best Camera Apps for Your Smartphone

Estimates suggest than more than one trillion photographs are taken each year, and more than 80% of these are taken with a smartphone. If you take a look at your camera roll, you’ll likely see that you contribute a decent amount to this trend. Thanks to constantly improving technology, most cameras embedded in your smartphones take high-quality photos. If you want to make these photos look even better, here are seven camera apps to try.

7 Best Camera Apps for Your Smartphone

Take Better Photos


The following apps allow you to do more with your smartphone’s camera, so you can get better pictures with every shot.

1) Moment Pro Camera App


If you want DSLR-like capabilities with only your smartphone, the Moment Pro Camera App is the way to go. With this app, you can shoot photographs in RAW with fully manual controls. This allows you to adjust ISO, shutter speed, exposure, image format, focus and white balance, just like you would on a DSLR camera. Shooting in RAW allows you to get better results out of photo editing. It also has an anamorphic lens option, so you can de-squeeze photos. It’s available on iOS (free with in-app purchases) and Android ($2.99).

2) Halide


This app is currently only available on iOS devices (and the company warned about a rip-off version on Android devices in early 2018). It turns your phone’s camera into a premium piece of equipment. You can shoot in fully manual or auto mode. All photos are captured as RAW files to give you full editing control. With a recent update, you can shoot pets and other objects in portrait mode, and a feature called Focus Peeking allows you to see where your photo is in focus. It costs $5.99, which is a minor investment for a tool this powerful.

3) Open Camera


This Android-only app is available free of charge with no in-app purchases required. While this open-source app is not as sophisticated as others, it’s still loaded with features. Your photos will not contain metadata but can set the app to capture time stamps and geotags. You can choose between auto-stabilize and adjusting modes, color effects, ISO, exposure and more. The app also has a clever option to take a photo remotely with a voice command.

4) Focus


Another DSLR-quality camera app, Focus is available for free with in-app purchases on iOS devices. Highlights of this app include large aperture, real Bokeh, 3D lighting and more. This app leverages computational photography technology so you can edit the photo – including making adjustments to focus, aperture shapes and adding lights – after you have taken the photo. The app is easy to use and is a great substitute if you don’t have an iPhone XS or XS max. 

Enhance Your Photos


Many apps have been developed to help with the photo editing process as well. They range from free to subscription-based, but you don’t have to pay a lot to get decent editing capabilities.

5) Snapseed


Snapseed is one of the best free photo editing apps available on both iOS and Android. You can edit JPG or RAW files using any of the 29 tools. Beyond the basic functions that are included in most editing apps, this program also includes capabilities such as:

  • Healing: Removes photo-bombers and other unwanted objects
  • Lens blur: Adds Bokeh
  • HDR Scrape: Create the effect of multiple exposures
  • Double Exposure: Blend two photos
  • Face Enhance: Improve portraits


The app also has a unique “Control Point” or Selective features where you can select up to eight points on your photo to assign enhancements and then the app’s technology does the rest.

6) Afterlight 2


This app is billed as an all-in-one photo editor for iOS devices. Note, currently only the original Afterlight is available on Android devices. Underlying its simple user interface is a wide range of editing capabilities. From basic edits like color, exposure and sharpness to advanced modifications such as curves, selective hue/saturation, clarify and tone, this app will help you upgrade your photography skills quickly. They recently added dust and light leak overlays and are continually offering new filter packs from talented photographers. One of the best perks is that after paying the $2.99 for the app, there are no additional subscription or in-app fees.

Dual-Purpose


If you want one app that will help you take better photos and make them look better during editing, here’s our pick:

7) Adobe Lightroom CC


Anyone who knows a little about photo editing, knows that Adobe Lightroom is one of the main photo editing tools that professionals use. Now you can enjoy some of these capabilities on your iOS or Android mobile phone. Lightroom offers a powerful camera and photo editor in a single app. You can shoot in RAW and adjust shutter speed, white balance and ISO. The apps comprehensive editing abilities include one-touch pre-sets and advanced adjustments.

Before you post your photos online, be sure to watermark them. Watermarquee.com is a free online photo watermarking tool.



Saturday, January 12, 2019

Equipment that every Beginner Photographer Needs

Equipment that every Beginner Photographer Needs

Photography is a great hobby to get into, and it’s one that can even blossom into a fulfilling career if you’re dedicated to learning the craft. However, it’s not exactly cheap, and with the huge number of options available it can be confusing to know exactly what you need to get started.

That’s why in this article, we’ll be going over everything you need to get started in photography. While the list can seem a little daunting, don’t forget that sometimes you can get used gear for cheaper. Many people who are moving on to the intermediate level will be eager to get rid of their introductory gear, and that could bring your costs down significantly. Here’s what you need to get started.

Camera


Equipment that every Beginner Photographer Needs


The camera is, of course, the most important piece of your gear. A quality, yet affordable DSLR is your best bet here, and fortunately, these cameras are getting cheaper every day. You should be able to invest in one for around $300 to $500. Many times you can even save a bundle on a great camera by picking up a used one.

These cameras take great photos, and you’ll be able to get a wide variety of accessories for them, including interchangeable lenses to help hone your craft. Canon and Nikon are both popular brands which come in many different price ranges.

Lenses


Beginner Photographer Needs

When photographers take really cool shots that you can’t seem to make happen, part of that is likely thanks to their lenses. Of course, you also need to know how to select the right lens for the right situation, but picking up a variety of nice lenses will help you to figure out which ones are appropriate for each subject. Finding some tutorials can help you out, but don’t be afraid to experiment either.

It should be noted however that not all lenses are created equal. The ones in camera kits are typically lower in quality. Purchasing just the camera with no accessories and then investing in better quality lenses that you really want will likely serve you better than a kit. Here are some of the more popular varieties that you might want to pick up.

  • Fisheye Lens (For panoramas, artistic photos, and skyscapes.)
  • Macro Lens (For up-close photography, think flowers and butterflies.)
  • Telephoto Lens (Far away shots, good for nature watching and sports photographers.)
  • Wide angle lens (Good for landscapes and architecture shots.)
  • Wide Aperture Lens (Good for portraits and night time shots.)

While lenses can be expensive, the good news is that you don’t have to buy them all at once. Instead, pick up the type of lens that corresponds with the type of photography that you most want to pursue, and then you can slowly add more lenses to your kit later as you can afford them.

Lights


watermark creator

Good lighting is a requirement for good photographs. Unfortunately, natural light situations are not always accommodating, and you may need some external light sources in order to capture your art on film. There’s a lot of ways to do this, and in order to choose the correct lighting, you’ll need to decide what kind of photography you’re looking to do. The idea is to go for bright, natural bulbs that produce a light that is not overpowering. However, you also need a setup that fits the situation.
Lightbox Setup

If you’re looking to photograph products or small still life scenes in a studio, then a lightbox might be the way to go. This is a tiny, confined area that allows you to adjust the lighting situation to your liking. It’s of course only good for a limited number of applications though.

Manual Flash


If you’re filming outside then a manual flash is likely the way to go. This solution is lightweight and easy to carry, and that makes it good for photos where you’ll need to be quick to get the shot. If you’re doing action shots or wildlife photography in poor light conditions, you may want one of these.

Continuous Lighting Kits


These are studio style kits that are used mostly for video or still life photography. You’d use this if you plan to be shooting a series of photos or videos in one location, and you want to be able to set up the perfect lighting situation. If you were a Youtuber or a portrait photographer, then you’d likely want to invest in this equipment.

Tripod


free watermark creator

Shaky hands are no good when it comes to taking great photos, and a tripod is a great way to get things just right. There are several options for this, and you’ll likely want to invest in full size as well as a tabletop version for when space is limited.


Photo Editing Software


Like it or not, the beauty of most photographs actually happens long after they’re taken. Investing in a good photo editing suite can take your photos from meh to wow! While an editing program won’t make you a good photographer, it can help you to bring out the best in your pieces.

It will take you some time to learn how to master photo editing, but there are plenty of free tutorials online. Adobe Lightroom is the most popular option here, and you’ll be able to get plenty of help if you go with this option.

For simpler needs like watermarking your photos before you post them online, check out Water Marquee - it's free!

A computer


Odds are you’ve already got one of these. Most decently new computers should be able to run photo editing suites. However, Lightroom is actually a web app now, and that means that you can use it to edit your photos from virtually any device including Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad, Android, and even Linux devices.

It’s important to remember that this is a basic list. Photography is an extremely varied art form, and the equipment that you need will depend heavily upon what type of photography you want to do. If you have some favourite photographers, then make sure to check the notes for their photos! Many of them will actually tell you what kind of equipment they’re using to get their shots.


Thursday, July 26, 2018

Why it's Important to Watermark your Vacation Rental Photos

Why it's Important to Watermark your Vacation Rental Photos

 
Scammers are having a field day – with your home!

One of the most successful, replicated, and continuing scams going around right now is vacation rental fraud. The process is simple enough – scammers locate a home on a listing website like Zillow, open an account on Craigslist, copy the images, write some text, and upload a bogus contact.

To unsuspecting travellers looking to cash in on a too good to be true deal, they unwittingly send cashiers checks, wire transfers, perform a PayPal transaction and in some cases even personal checks.

Once the scammer has the funds, they disappear like a Nigerian bank account of a long lost relative.

Craigslist is a great tool – for products


If you go to Google and type in “Vacation Rental Scams” you will receive somewhere in the neighbourhood of 3 million-plus results. The scammers are relentless and will stalk every single nook and cranny available to them to list “their” vacation property. Craigslist is the perfect venue for such a thing. No cost, no identification, no problem. Used by literally millions upon millions of people each day – Craigslist provides the perfect venue for scammers.

To be fair, Craigslist does have legitimate listings as well and it is because of this that Craigslist is reluctant to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Taking reasonable steps by watermarking your property photos is one method that can thwart and frustrate scammers out of targeting your vacation home.

What is a watermark?


Watermarks are digital imprints overlaid on existing images. Generally, a watermark is unobtrusive and normally transparent (to not obstruct from the overall image)

Here is an example of a plain image with no watermark.

Why it's Important to Watermark your Vacation Rental Photos

Here is the same image with a watermark and no transparency.

it's Important to Watermark your Vacation Rental Photos

And this is a watermark with 20% transparency.

Watermark your Vacation Rental Photos

As you can see from the 3 images above, the last 2 have an indelible mark on them that is easily identified and virtually impossible to correct. In other words, you have now made it very clear to anyone who sees this image that you are the owner and can easily identify and flag content that is yours.

Always watermark


When we set out to create our website, the absolute first thing that we implemented was automatic watermarks. We handled this through coding on the site and would guarantee that the photos that were uploaded to our server were digitally stamped with our branded logo and provide some authenticity to the images displayed on our site.

Craigslist doesn’t have this feature and the scammers know and love this. If they can get their listings past the flagged bots, they are halfway through their mission. Now all that is left is to convince an unsuspecting Joe Traveler that this is the deal they cannot miss out on.

When you watermark your vacation home for rent images you provide a sense of “ownership” to them and give credibility to yourself and to your clients.

Work smarter – not harder


There are numerous methods to watermarking an image. If you are handy with Photoshop, you can even go so far as to write a script to automate the process a bit. For us, the easiest method by far that we found was Watermarquee.com.

Rather than go through all of the headaches of setting up watermark scripts, placement, sizing etc. Water Marquee made the process fluid and professional all in one session. The best part of the process is their batch execution handles everything regardless of the image size you upload. Simply point the logo (Ours is in PNG format) to the section of the photo you want, resize, set the transparency you want and press save. 15 photos take roughly 2 minutes to do. Upon completion, Water Marquee will even combine everything into a zip file for you for easy transport on your hard drive.

Ruin a scammers day


Scammers look for easy pickings. For what amounts to 10 minutes of time effort on your part, you can thwart and prevent a scammer from an easy target. Because Watermarquee is so affordable and easy to use, you owe it to yourself to try them out and take preventative steps to protect your vacation rental photos.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

How Visible Your Watermark Should Be


How Visible Your Watermark Should Be




All photographers who watermark their photographs must consider how opaque or transparent to make their watermark. No one opacity is right for every image or for every photographer. If you're struggling to find the right opacity for your watermark, here are some factors to consider.

Opaque Enough to Be Noticeable


Your watermark should be opaque enough to be noticeable. After all, the whole reason to have a visible watermark is so that it's seen. If no one notices your watermark, then what is the point of having a visible one? You might as well use an invisible watermark that's more difficult to remove.

Making sure people notice your watermark is especially important if you're using it to communicate copyright information, which some platforms strip from images' metadata. Without your details included in the metadata, a visible watermark is the only way to keep copyright information with a photograph. The watermark will only work, though, if it's seen.

It's also particularly important to make sure your watermark is noticeable if you're using the watermark for marketing purposes. If your primary goal in watermarking your photographs isn't to keep them from being stolen but to get your name out, you'll want people to quickly see your watermark when they look at your photos.


Transparent Enough to Not Detract


Your watermark, however, shouldn't be so opaque that it significantly detracts from your photograph. Even if you want people to see your copyright information or name, you also want them to appreciate the beauty of your pictures. If they're turned off from your photo work, it won't matter whether they see that you took the picture.

If you aren't sure whether your watermark is detracting too much from a photo, check whether you see your watermark or the image's subject first when you look at the shot. If the watermark is more prominent, make it a little more transparent.

Of course, looking at a photo that you've taken, edited and created a watermark for with fresh eyes can be difficult. You may want to ask a friend to look at a watermarked photo and ask whether they notice the subject or watermark first.

Visible but Tasteful


In short, your watermark should be visible but tasteful. Many photographers find that an opacity between 20 and 30 percent makes a watermark visible but not too intrusive, but this range isn't the only solution. Some photographers use higher opacities but place their watermarks in areas away from the subject. A few even make their watermark 100 percent opaque, and place it in negative space and match the color to a color in the photograph.

The percent opacity for your watermark will depend on its size and location. You'll need to experiment a little to find out what works best for your photographs and goals. If you'd like to try several different opacities, consider using Water Marquee. The platform makes it easy to create a customized watermark and adjust the opacity to any level that you'd like.