|Olympus E5 with Panasonic Leica 25mm Summilux f6.3 ISO 800 1/250 second|
I thought I'd write about some of the best things I've read, bought and done in 2011. The things that have really helped me along on my journey in this crazy profession/craft/love affair with photography. Maybe some of those things will resonate with you and you'll want to try them yourself. Maybe you already have. Either way, I hope you enjoy them.
Best Reads and Resources on the Internet in 2011
- 500 pixels: I've long been a user of Flickr and Smugmug and in fact I'm a Smug leader here on Vancouver Island. What I've found is that Smugmug is great for my business and showing images to clients, while Flickr is great for storing random images and for sharing with a general population of amateur photographers. But 500px is really an amazing place to look at amazing images. I find that I only put up my favourite images there, and images that have nothing to do with my work as a photographer, but rather my private efforts. But I also really love flipping through images on there and getting inspired. The level of work is so incredibly good.
- Kelby Training: I used to have a membership with Kelby training and dropped it in the fall of 2010 after I felt I had pretty much watched all the videos I wanted on it. But in the fall of 2011 I was browsing there and found it had a whole new group of videos I wanted to see and what really sealed the deal was the new iPad app. Now I can watch the videos on the iPad with it sitting right beside me on the computer or while sitting on the couch. Kelby appears dedicated to adding to this site all the time, so if you get a membership, watch it like crazy, let it drop for a year and then go back, I bet it's all new.
- Photoprice: OK, so this one is only for Canadians, but if you are looking for gear and wondering where to get it the cheapest, this site just plain rocks. I'll pop on there and it will do the conversions, shipping calculations of all the major online retailers in the USA and Canada for me so I can compare directly. Think the US is always the cheapest? It's not. Often I will look at items, realize the price is pretty much the same everywhere and just go down to my local brick and mortar store and buy it there. Other times, you come across a crazy good deal and the site makes you really happy. :)
- Kickstarter: Ever want to feel like a philanthropist? I have made three pledges on this site toward projects I thought were super cool. I bet if you visit you might too. Basically it's a crowd sourcing site for funding for various projects, one category of which is totally devoted to photography. I might have bad taste though because all of my chosen projects have not been fully funded yet. You can donate as little as $1 and if the project doesn't receive a set amount of pledges, you pay nothing and they get nothing.
- The Visual Science Lab: Kirk Tuck's blog has been on my reading list for quite some time. This year he briefly quit blogging because of some rampant haters leaving comments that frustrated him. But he is back now and writing better than ever. It is a nice mix of nostalgic images and writings mixed in with gear reviews of his newest items of love (LED lighting and small cameras like the Nikon V1 lately).
- The Phoblographer: This blog was new to me in 2011, and I'm glad I found it. Heavy on gear reviews, but also full of nice images and a nice atmosphere. I think I may have been the last photographer in the universe to find it, but it should be on all our reading lists.
- The Music Bed: I'm not one to steal music. I always license it when I'm using it for a project, but to be honest I get kind of tired of the selection out there that can be licensed. This site has songs that I actually enjoy.
- Olympus Grassroots: For those of you that have been following the ongoing soap opera that Olympus has become in 2011, this site was an interesting find. I suspect it will be gone soon, but it is a gathering place for Olympus employees to try and take back the reputation of their company.
- Robin Wong's Blog: I love discovering new, active photography blogs. They make nice reading over a cup of coffee. I just discovered Robin's blog in December and I'm really happy I did. It is often updated, has great content and really nice photography. It does lean toward Olympus users, so you Nikon/Sony/Canon only types might not be as thrilled as I was.
|Pentax 645N with 75mm f2.8 LS lens. Scanned on Epson V600 shot with Fuji ISO 800 expired colour 120 film|
- The Olympus E5 was released in late 2010, but I was late to the party and bought it in 2011. I had also bought the Canon 7D in 2011 and between the two, the Olympus was my favourite. I still plan on doing a head to head comparison (though I've spoiled it now haven't I?) and the 7D is a nice camera, but Olympus really did a nice job of what could be their last proper DSLR.
- The Pentax 645N was an impulse/lust buy for me this year. I had trolled the internet and hovered my finger over the buy button on this camera for quite a while before I finally bought one from Keh. I liked that it looked like a DSLR so would be familiar (I've since used a traditional Hassleblad and must say it has it's charm too) and had an irrational sense that it would make me happy. Well on day one when it arrived the shutter speed dial fell off it. I glued it back on rather than deal with the hassle of sending it back to Keh. But the use and feel of the camera is really nice. I LOVE the big viewfinder, love holding the camera and the look of the images that come from it have a really special feel. If you are a 'bigger sensor is better' kind of person, skip full frame and go right to medium format (I'm sure large format is coming my way soon), and if you can't afford digital (I can't) then just grab a film body and scan them. It's surprisingly cheap, a good medium format film camera and a nice prime lens will set you back less than a budget DSLR.
- Honeycomb Grids: I use Alien Bee's strobes, but these are available for small strobes as well (probably on my 2012 purchase list) and all brands of studio strobes. I like to control my light as much as possible and I love drama in my lighting that shows a strong sense of direction. I can't believe I didn't start using these until this year, but now we have them for our small reflector dishes and our large beauty dish. This little add-on to my lights has changed completely how I light people. They are much more effective than the cloth box grids you velcro on the front of your soft boxes.
- Film: OK, so I've been using film for years, this isn't a new thing in 2011, but my love for it deepened in 2011. I'm in the process of getting myself a full kit to develop at home. I won't print yet, but rather I'll scan the negatives. To me film is like playing music on a record player instead of listening to a CD of MP3. It has soul.
- Vagabond Mini Lithium: We spent most of 2011 carrying around the 18 pound battery pack from Paul Buff and breaking our backs. The purchase of the mini battery pack later in the year was a very welcome thing. It weighs around 3 pounds. I'm not a big fan of big heavy gear, so this just makes me, and my back very happy.
|My fridge was getting taken over in 2011|
SOFTWARE & OTHER STUFF
- Final Cut Pro X: OK, so this is a bit disingenuous of me because I didn't buy this until the last day of 2011. But yesterday I installed it, and played with it and I just know that it will be my newest favourite thing. I think the software received a bad rap from serious video people after it was released largely because it was a complete departure from Final Cut Pro 7 and not all features were ready for it upon release. However, for us photographers using an editing software for video fusion, this is really robust. It is also familiar (but much better) to anyone coming from iMovie. I also had Final Cut Pro Express installed, but I never really got the hang of it, a little confusing. I was up and using X in minutes.
- Nik Software: I use Color Efex, Silver Efex and Viveza as regular parts of my editing workflow. While I like to do most of my editing quickly in Lightroom, I don't mind shipping them out to Nik for that extra something special. It sure beats spending time in Photoshop masking and brushing. The U-Point technology is a real time saver, once you try it, you'll see what I mean. Google discount codes and you'll usually find one for 15% off somewhere.
- Smugmug: I'm a bit biased here because I'm a Smug Leader and therefore associated with the company, but for print fulfilment for my customers this site is a huge time saver. They shop online with their credit cards, Smug cuts me a cheque and mails the prints to the customer all packaged with my branding without me lifting a finger. I love that. Use the code vi11 for 15% off.
- Fastline: Talk to Billy or Justin at Fastline if you want a custom Smugmug site, website or blog. These guys did our custom Smugmug site and they are working on a custom blog for us now. The biggest thing about them was just how friendly they were. I loved that.
|Olympus EPL1 with OM 24mm f2.8 lens. Walking around testing my new VF2 viewfinder. Out of camera Jpg.|
- The power of saying No. This year we stopped photographing jobs we didn't like. We finally kicked out the door the clients we dreading working for. This goes for actual people as well as types of photographic work. The last thing we were doing that I didn't personally enjoy was business head shots and corporate events. For me, it was a bit like showing up at the dentist. Necessary, but not something I looked forward too. I truly believe that if you stick with what you love, it will show through in your work and the customers will follow.
- The power of saying No part 2. When it comes to negotiating on price, I've always had a hard time. I think what you charge is in part tied to your personal sense of worth. While business coaches will teach you to figure out your hard costs as a basis for pricing your work, there is no denying that a lack of confidence in yourself will stop you from charging premium prices. When I finally started telling potential clients that I wouldn't negotiate on price, they started wanting me more. Try it, try saying no to a lower price and you might be amazed just how in demand you really are.
I did learn more this year, but I won't share it all. Our business has come very far, and I know I don't share much of it here on this blog. Here I really just talk more about the craft, more about my little gear obsessions and fun stuff, nothing too serious. But the power of staying true to yourself and what you really enjoy about photography is a skill that everyone can benefit from, pro, amateur or random snap shooter.
I wish you a happy, prosperous and creative 2012 no matter what kind of photography you love, what brand of camera you use or what colour your hair is. :)
Thanks for dropping by the blog.