Nikon Updates My Picturetown

Nikon Picturetown
Nikon updates My Picturetown with new features

Nikon announced the release of its latest version of its photo sharing service called My Picturetown. Aimed squarely at the consumer market, new features include greater sharing and creativity features including some tailored to some of the new software features of cameras like the Nikon System 1.

The latest iteration of Picturetown expands GPS support to display log data from cameras like the Coolpix AW100 which has built-in GPS support. The log data will be displayed in map view, allowing users to track their route and share the adventure with friends and family. There’s also an altitude graph and capability to display heading information and location names.

Another new feature is the integrated movie playback option that automatically packages video for streaming instead of download. There’s also a feature to display the new Motion Snapshot files, the new feature in the System 1 that combines still images and a few frames of video to create motion graphics reminiscent of the paintings in a Harry Potter movie.

One interesting feature serious photographers will appreciate is Picturetown supports NEF and NRW RAW formats besides JPEG and TIFF.

Picturetown comes packed with variety of options to share photos, including PhotoMovie which combines photos, music, and messages that can then be shared with family and friends. Other social features include shared albums with a slideshow feature and if the photos include location info, users can toggle between the slideshow and map view.

There is also built-in integration with Facebook and permalink features to embed photos in blogs and web sites.

The storage may prove a bit anemic for pro shooters with free accounts limited to 2 GB and a scaled price point up to $29.95 a month for 200 GB.

How The Pros Do It – Portable Lighting For Wedding Photography

Ac 3
The PocketWizard AC3 paired with the MiniTTL for Canon

My nephew got married recently, an event I was unfortunately not able to attend, although my high tech family managed to send me pictures of the event. One picture that made my teeth grind was one with the wedding photographer in the background, trying to light a dress shot with a dinky external flash.

This was the photographer with a killer web site that my future niece felt she was lucky to get, but there was no way the results displayed on the web site were captured with the camera and flash combination in that photo. Judging by the pictures I’ve seen so far, she was duped by a slick web site with, at best, a tenuous connection to whoever took the promo pictures displayed there.

To contrast the difference between that lighting setup and the real pros, I went to see Karl Leopold at Images4Ever near Melbourne Beach, Florida. Karl has been shooting weddings longer than most photographers working today have been alive, has won more awards than I can list here, and is the president of the Atlantic Professional Photographers Association. I wanted to see a real pro lighting setup and wasn’t disappointed.

Karl builds his portable lighting kit around a pair of Canon 580 EX ii Speedlites, pairing those with a PocketWizard FlexTT5  for Canon. The trigger on the camera is a combination of the MiniTT1 matched up with an AC3 Zone Controller for changing the power settings on any of the flash units on the fly wirelessly.

“I can change the power by 3 stops on any of the flash units right from here,” Karl explains, dialing back the power with the AC3. I watched him flip through the power settings while shooting nearly continuously, much faster than making the change through the camera menu.

The arrangement provides the flexibility to mount the fill flash on a monopod and let an assistant adjust the location and height to fit the situation. If he’s working alone he can mount the remote on a light stand and adjust it himself. Instead of being tethered to the camera, he can also move the key off the bracket handle if the situation calls for it.

Lighting set up
How it all comes together - One Speedlite on a standard bracket, the other a remote that can be mounted on anything

It’s all about speed, reliability and flexibility, with added bonus of being able to light the world.

“The big advantage is you can put a light behind the subject for those nice, bright highlights,” Karl explained. The radio triggers work around corners and even when concealed behind foreground objects.

Equipment isn’t the only factor separating the pros from the posers, but having the right gear is definitely a bonus.

In the days to come I’m planning to work with Karl and Images4Ever on more articles on studio lighting, exposure, and working with models on commercial shoots. Stay tuned.

It’s a Phone, It’s a Camera, It’s Panasonic’s Lumix Phone 101P

An Android phone with wifi and a 13.2-megapixel camera - by Panasonic

Most of us are comfortable with the concept of cameras in our phones. Some of those phone cameras have gotten pretty decent over the years. Maybe not anything you’d want to take to any kind of significant event, but in many situations better than not having any camera.

Panasonic has decided to take the camera/phone integration to the next level with the Lumix Phone 101P, available in Japan where they seem to get all the good toys first.

The Lumix phone packs a 13.2-megapixel CMOS Lumix sensor coupled with an Android phone running 2.3 (Gingerbread) on a dual core 1 GHz TI cpu. There are many of the usual camera software tools available, like Intelligent Auto.

On the back it sports a 4-inch QHD LCD screen with 960×540 resolution.

Besides both W-CDMA and GSM the Japanese models also include Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR, wifi support, and a digital TV tuner.

The body is advertised as waterproof, but just how waterproof that is remains to be seen.

Either way, I want one. This isn’t going to replace my Canon 7D anytime soon, but it sure might replace my point-and-shoot and it will definitely replace my regular phone.

What’s more interesting is what this phone/camera may signal for the future of electronic news gathering. With a phone like this and wireless keyboard it would be possible to grab some pictures and movies and duck into a nearby coffee shop to file your stories, where you can also pay for your coffee with the integrated e-wallet. No laptop required. While that may not be this device, it may be something very similar.

Stay tuned for pricing and availability in the U.S. when announced.

Building Your Photography Business With Social Media

Don't overlook social media when building your business

There are some businesses that lend themselves particularly well to promotion via modern social media and photography is one of those businesses. At a minimum you’ll want to create a Facebook group page and link to it from your personal page and your photography web site.

As part of the customer interview process get your customer’s permission to use social media to distribute some of the photos, but respect their wishes if they’d rather not. Online image collections of events are a great way to expose your customers entire social circle to your work. If the customer publishes the photos themselves, you lose that opportunity.

Online marketing pro Eric Hardenbrook explains, “Find out early if customers are comfortable opting in for online photo sharing. If they are send them a Facebook friend request. Post selected shots from a “life event” type shoot (wedding, baby, graduation, prom) to an online gallery and announce the post on your own wall. Their friends and family will rush to see your work and call you for theirs.”

The added service of loading the photos to an online gallery for your customers is another value angle for your business both in terms of service and exposure. The idea is to provide a path from their event photos to your contact information in a manner that respects the privacy of your clients.

Twitter is another convenient mechanism for communicating with customers and announcing the availability of photos or posting a few online with Twitpic. It’s also a convenient mechanism to advertise specials, like special deals on senior or family portraits. Twitter doesn’t tend to be a big money-maker but it is very convenient for communicating event information.

A LinkedIn account is important for anyone trying to build commercial and business contacts. Recruiters and media companies are increasingly using LinkedIn for locating local talent rather than putting out a hog call on the freelance boards or Craigslist. Getting location jobs these days really is a matter of who you know. Working your LinkedIn profile will build your business.

Another online marketing opportunity are microsites, small web sites focused on one particular facet of your business. Instead of just one big site that lists all your services, split off those services to individual sites focused on just one of those services and have it point back to your main site. “Many small companies are ignoring microsite strategies,” explains Eric. “They are inexpensive to build and greatly increase your web site footprint and search engine rating with back-links.”

Put your best foot forward with a great website - photo from Subtlevox Photography website

Blogging is another way to raise your web site profile and promote your individual brand value in the form of your unique selling points. “WordPress is a popular blogging platform that is very photo friendly,” explains Hardenbrook. “Use it as a gateway to your portfolio by posting slide shows of your shoots in different categories on your site. Adding links to your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles gives you a professional image.” Blogging is one of those activities that will get you business.

To get the most mileage from your online marketing efforts you have to make sure all your social media efforts are working together and echo your main selling points. Your social media message should be what sets you apart from others in the field of photography and why specifically customers should hire you. These are not “set and forget” advertising venues, but part of an ongoing relationship that eventually yields business.

“Remember that social media is all about the conversation. You want to be involved and available, allowing people to interact with you on their terms. Know who your clients are and use the media that they use.”

Aperture vs Lightroom

aperture 3
Aperture 3 is worth a look if you have a Mac

There are holy wars in the tech world, but the discussion about Aperture vs Lightroom is more like a friendly rivalry than any serious dispute.

If you don’t have a Mac, you only have one option, which probably helps explain why Lightroom dominates the marketplace. That’s good and bad: Good because you have a lot of resources for support. Bad if there’s something you don’t like about the program.

Lightroom 3 is the industry powerhouse, more of my pro photography associates use that than any other image management software, including many who are shooting 2 and 3 weddings a week. They have their Lightroom work flow down to a science. They can shoot 2 weddings on a weekend and have them basically ready to deliver inside two weeks. Considering the amount of post-processing work a wedding takes, that’s truly impressive turn-around time.

On the agency side, the majority of companies I work with here are using Aperture. These are high volume shops that are jamming a lot of custom ad work out the door every week; they manage 10’s of thousands of photos.

Those are anecdotal observations for sure, but there’s at least some validity to them. The ad agencies are graphics intensive and most were already using Apple computers. If you’re more comfortable working on Macs, you’ll probably like Aperture better.

I’ve had a chance to try them both this week and, once you get used to the vagaries of working on a Mac, I do like Aperture better. It seems more fluid and intuitive than Lightroom, with more ways to quickly edit images. To be open about disclosure, I did have an Apple pro who works with commercial photos every day showing me the ropes.

Both support tethered shooting, which as a wonderful option to have in the studio, and both support popular plugins like Topaz.

There has been some back and forth in discussion boards about a difference between RAW conversions, but even a color corrected studio monitor, I couldn’t see enough difference to make it an issue.

To be completely fair, I don’t have a Mac and, while I do like Aperture better, I don’t like it well enough that I’d go buy an Apple computer just to get it.

The Lightroom interface is less intuitive and harder to get used to, but not so bad it’s a deal breaker. There are more clicks involved for editing, that did bother me a little. In a high volume environment those clicks make a difference.

The bottom line: If you have a Mac, then you have a wonderful choice between two really great products. I think you’ll like Aperture better and, at $149.00 (retail box at B&H, $79.99 download from Apple), you’ll save some money. If you don’t have a Mac, don’t feel like you’re missing anything with Lightroom for $209.00.