Cambo Wide RS Anniversary Edition

Cambo Wide RS
Cambo Wide RS Anniversary Edition for extreme architectural photography - by Cambo

Architecture is one of those specialty areas of photography where the cost of the really high end equipment can be absolutely eye-popping. It doesn’t stop there, either. Imagine having all the problems associated with background, lighting and angles when your subject is two stories tall.

Architectural cameras, like the Cambo Wide RS Anniversary Edition, start with price tags in the tens of thousands and up and that’s just the body. You get to spend almost that much more again on a lens and digital back. Expect the whole kit to be near $30,000.

At least you won’t have any trouble remembering your serial number for warranty service. For cameras like the Cambo Wide RS Anniversary Edition, they’re only making 65 of them. It won’t be that difficult to keep track of your warranty as the cameras come personally engraved with the owner’s information.

What you get for that princely sum is a precision camera with an aluminum body and stainless steel gearing in a “pancake” style camera made to use with medium format digital backs and extreme wide angle lenses. All that precision is necessary to get such a wide angle lens that close to the sensor.

The camera body is built with a variety of wide tilt and swing panels that provide up +/- 5 degrees of tilt along two planes with precision geometry gearing.

All the gearing is designed to move the back, not the lens, so it’s possible to get interesting effects like precision panorama shots just by moving the back.

Definitely not for everyone, but if you’re one of those people who dream about doing architectural photography, this is one of the cameras you dream about owning some day.

Photography Contract Basics

The first photography contract dating from 2,600 B.C. (Okay, not really. It's a land sale contract) - by Marie-Lan Nguyen

There are two types of people in photography: Those who get a signed contract before they set foot on a customer site, and those who are going to get burned because they don’t.

Every small business owner should understand contracts and how they work and that’s especially true in photography. You don’t have to be a legal expert, that’s why your lawyer gets the big bucks, but you need to understand them well enough to know when you need one and the basics of what goes into it.

It’s really a bigger topic than can be covered in a single article. The best advice I can give you is to go to your local community college, where almost every one will offer an evening course on contracts for small business owners. Or, at a minimum, get yourself a book on the subject and spend some time familiarizing yourself with the basics and put together some basic boilerplates.

A good contract doesn’t have to be War & Peace, delving into every conceivable aspect of human behavior, just cover the high points.  One of those high points should be a section that says if you have to sue to collect payment that you can also collect attorney fees.

Contract law varies between countries and even from region to region within countries, so make sure you understand the peculiar issues specific to your area. At a minimum, most contracts have to have the following:

The act being contracted for must be a legal activity. The biggest myth I run into is people who think you can mitigate criminal liability by pointing to a contract if you get caught. BZZZT! Wrong. If the contracted activity is illegal, your contract is void and you can be held responsible.

Two or more parties empowered and legally able to enter into a contract. Minors cannot enter into contracts and, if someone is signing for a business, they have to be authorized by the company to obligate the company in contracts. Getting the janitor to sign your contract is probably not going to be valid.

Some consideration. Something of value has to change hands. That can be money, an exchange of services, or almost anything that can be assigned a value.

When you need a contract is almost any time you’re going to be accepting an assignment as a photographer. Sometimes your liability insurance will require you to be under contract before they pay. So, when you watch your Canon 5D MKII or Nikon D7000 tumbling in slow motion horror from the balcony ledge, the insurance company is going to want to know if you were there working or just taking pictures on your own time.

Photography Contract Specifics

Photography contracts have issues that are unique to the business and need to be spelled out in advance. Probably the biggest issue today is who owns the copyright to the photos? In the old days when there was a film lab and later a print lab, it wasn’t unusual for photographers to hold the copyright to images indefinitely. Today that’s becoming more rare. In the digital age customers expect to take their images with them on disk and be able to do what they want with them. Photography is increasingly “work for hire” meaning the customer owns the copyright to whatever you produce while under contract.

Make sure you have that understanding in writing up front. You might be able to trap an unwary customer with limited use rights, but if they later get mad about it, that’s the last you’ll ever see of them. You won’t build a thriving business on misunderstandings.

Model Releases

If you want to use the likeness of an identifiable person in a commercial advertisement, whether they’re are a professional model or not, you’ll need a signed model release.

This is a different situation than merely taking their picture which, technically, you don’t need permission to do if they’re in a public space. Taking their photo and using it for commercial purposes are two different animals.

When in doubt, it’s always better to get a release. When the subject is a minor, you’ll need a release signed by a parent or legal guardian.

Other types of contracts in photography include:

– Independent contractor agreements
– Portrait contract
– Sport Action contract

If you search around on the web, you can find examples of the type of contract you need and there’s also software available for your smart phone and computer tablet that produces releases and contracts right on the spot.

Nikon’s Snazzy Coolpix S8200

nikon coolpix s8200
Nikon's Coolpix S8200 has great specs with a mid-range price tag - by Nikon

This camera was announced back in August, but slipped under my radar. I wanted to go back and catch it up because the Nikon S8200 is a really decent mid-range offering from Nikon at an attractive price point.

The S8200 sports a 16-megapixel 1/2.3 in BSI-CMOS chip behind a healthy 25-350mm 14x built-in zoom lens. Backing up the optics is Nikon’s Expeed C2 image processor.

The ISO range is a respectable 100-3,200 with optical image stabilization and boasts a 3” live view fixed-position LCD on the back. Controls are a mix of menu and manual controls that’s heavy on the buttons.

The autofocus system contrast detect with a multitude of options including multi-area, center, tracking, face-detect and live view.

On the software side it has panorama modes for both 180 and 360 panoramas.

Video is full size 1080 HD at 60 fps in MPEG4 format with the added bonus of HDMI mini connector.

Two minor niggles with this camera are Nikon’s reluctance to add 24p support to their smaller cameras and some serious photographers will be put off by the lack of a RAW output option. The S8200 is not the smallest of pocket size cameras at 33mm wide and weighing in at 213 grams (roughly half a pound), you’ll need a big pocket, but it’s solid to the touch.

Still, overall a nifty little package for $329, worth a look for anyone shopping for a second camera that’s easier to pack around than a full size DSLR.



Bokeh Demystified

bokeh explained
A good example of bokeh - by Angel mat-eye

Bokeh is the Japanese word for “blur” and can lead to some common misconceptions about the effect. I’ve heard bokeh explained as, “Just a blurry background.” It’s tough to bite back the annoyance that arises at such a simplification. A Rembrandt is not just a pretty painting and bokeh is more than blur.

More specifically, bokeh is a highly stylized background created by selectively blurring parts of the picture in a way that highlights the subject. Not merely a blurred background, but one that pops with colors and patterns.  Good bokeh doesn’t always require a subject, sometimes just the pattern of lights without a subject is just as appealing.

You don’t need special equipment to achieve bokeh, but it helps to have a fast lens, like the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 and a selection of ND (Neutral Density) filters. Those help achieve the lower f-stops you’ll need and they’re also handy for shooting video where you have less latitude in shutter speed selection. You don’t have to use ND filters, you can also experiment with your camera’s Aperture Priority mode (the “A” setting on Nikon, “Av” on Canon) and let the camera set the exposure, but I like the results with ND filters a little better and I can still lock a subject in motion.

For the inspirational bokeh, look for sunlight filtered through leaves and foliage or bright pinpoints of light in the background.

Get as much separation as you can between your subject and the background.

As far as I know there are few cameras with an “auto bokeh” setting, so you’ll want to use the widest aperture (lowest f-stop) your lens can achieve.

If you need fill flash, you’ll be limited to flash sync shutter speeds, which may or may not yield the desired f-stop. Times like these is when you may want your neutral density filters.

You can also cheat and get a similar effect in post-processing with Photoshop or GIMP, but I like getting the best possible results in the cameras and save the time in post.

Little Known Digital Camera Tricks

Canon 7D
The Canon 7D has menu tricks many people don't know about - by Canon

There’s a good reason for spending time with your camera’s instruction manual, because that’s where all the interesting tidbits of camera operation hide. A good 90% of people new to digital photography never take their cameras off the auto mode. Those people are missing out on a lot of interesting features.

Professional photographers are sometimes similarly unaware of features in their own cameras. Manufacturers get requests for features from users all over the world and accommodate those requests as often as they can.

Canon 7D

Many 7D users don’t realize their 7D has some interesting tricks buried in menu options and behind buttons.

If you push the Info button on the back three times, you’ll find a digital level with both pitch and yaw readings. You never need a spirit level with a 7D, it’s already built in.

While most people know the digital zoom button on the back zooms the LCD screen when focusing video, many don’t know the same button allows you to digitally zoom still pictures in playback mode and then use the menu control button to pan around still images in the camera.

Canon 5D

The 5D has a Camera Settings menu option that will record all your camera’s current settings and link those to the “C” mode on the menu dial. So, if you have a detailed camera setup for a specific type of shot, you can record all those options and call them back in an instant.

Nikon D7000

The D7000 has several interesting menu options. There’s the “Q” for quiet release mode that flips to the mirror up to get the shot, but leaves the mirror up until you release the shutter button to minimize noise.

Under the remote control settings there’s an option to raise the mirror before taking the shot for use with ultra-long zoom lenses where shutter mirror vibration might be an issue. In this setting the first step allows the mirror to flip up first, gives the camera time to stabilize, then fires the shutter.

The D7000 also has a 2nd IR receiver on the back when operating with the IR remote control.

Sony Alpha Nex 5

Several models of the Nex have a featured called Smile Shutter, which triggers the shutter when the face detection feature sees everyone smiling. While it sounds hokey, more often than not people have more fun aping for the camera, trying to get the smile shutter to work.

Those gems and more await in your camera’s user manual. Find it, read it, enjoy, and share the tricks that you find with us.