May 20th, 2016

True Confessions, Photography Edition

Photographers, especially pros, are expected to conform to a set of, if not standards, then expectations. Keep the mode dial firmly on manual. Don’t say you’re a “natural light” photographer. And so on.

But in our unguarded moments, we’ve all slipped.

The folks at Digital Rev TV are clearing the air with a series of raw, heartfelt photographic confessions. We hope they’re cathartic.

May 19th, 2016

New Software Promises to Take the Grunt Work Out of Ranking Your Images

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 6.16.56 AM

Artificial intelligence has been on a role lately. In March, a computer program defeated a human in the ancient Chinese strategy game Go–a feat that was formerly thought to be a decade or more away given the state of the art. Last week, we learned that a U.S. law firm “hired” an AI algorithm based on IBM’s Jeopardy-winning Watson to do legal research for it.

So Picturesqe should come as no surprise.

Picturesqe is a new software program that sifts through your images, groups similar ones together and then ranks them by which ones look best. The idea is to reduce the amount of time it takes photographers to cull through large imports. The software looks for visual similarities (colors, scenes, faces) when grouping and initially is using criteria like under/over exposure to rank how “good” a photo is.

As the software learns about your images and style, it will grow more sophisticated and be able to rank images based on factors such as sharpness, color harmony and composition.

After your images are organized and ranked, you’ll be able to evaluate them yourself and make the final decision about which ones stay and which ones are trashed. An intelligent zoom feature enables you to zoom into the same spot on all similar images simultaneously to check for fine details.

Picturesqe works on RAW images, not just JPEGs, and supports over 600 RAW formats at launch.

It’s a free download for Windows for three months and is available as a standalone program or a plug-in for Adobe Lightroom. After that, you’ll pay $40/year. A Mac version is promised for the future.

If you download the software, you will have the option to participate in Picturesqe’s research program to help “train” its algorithm to perform more effectively. In effect, Picturesqe will take your photos after they’ve been sorted so the algorithm can be fine tuned–the company says they’ll only be thumbnails and won’t be linked to you or shared in anyway (you can read the full privacy policy here). The research program is opt-in, so you’re not obligated to participate.

May 18th, 2016

The “New Rules” of Composition

Photography, like many other disciplines, has a loose set of rules that are very often strategically broken by artists and practitioners–to prove a point or to simply experiment. Thumbing one’s nose at the rules of composition, in particular, is a time-honored tradition.

Photographer James Allen Stewart has his own spin on compositional rule-breaking and has put together this video explaining his approach.

What do you think?

Hat tip: Nick Pecori

May 17th, 2016

Google’s Gigapixel Robot Camera Is Taking Pictures of Museum Work

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Medium format cameras are widely used in commercial photography but they also have a thriving (if less well-publicized) life in museums, where they’re used to create high quality digital files of precious artwork. Those cameras, and the photographers who operate them, have some new competition from Google’s Art Camera.

This custom built, robotic camera creates gigapixel images from artwork. The robotic system steers the camera automatically from detail to detail, snapping hundreds of high resolution stills of the painting. A laser and sonar system ensure that the camera is always in focus while Google’s software ingests the stills and stitches them all together.

The results are on display in Google’s online Cultural Institute, where a user can zoom in up close on artwork without having to travel to a real museum (welcome to the future).

Google is now dispatching 20 of these Art Cameras to museums around the world. And, they’re free. Museums will be able to create incredibly detailed, gigapixels images with a robot/laser/sonar camera–for free.

It’s not clear if these cameras require Google personnel (photographers?) to operate (we’ve asked Google).

May 17th, 2016

The Curator Final Deadline

Submissions for The Curator Fine-Art Awards will close in one week. Enter your work by May 24 to be considered for our annual group exhibition, returning this summer to Foley Gallery in New York City. Other prizes include $3,500 cash, $200 to B&H Photo, print exposure in the August “Fine-Art Photography” issue of PDN and on pdnonline.com, and the chance to be featured in The New Yorker‘s Photo Booth blog. Enter at pdncuratorawards.com.

JURY

MARYANN CAMILLERI
Founder, The Magenta Foundation
Director, Flash Forward Festival Boston

MICHAEL FOLEY
Director
Foley Gallery

ELIZABETH RENSTROM
Photo Editor
VICE

THEA TRAFF
Associate Photo Editor
The New Yorker

AMY WOLFF
Co-Founder & Creative Director
CoEdit Collection

thecurator_eblast4b

 

May 13th, 2016

Great Weekend Reads in Photography & Filmmaking

Rosmarie Voegtli | Flickr

Rosmarie Voegtli | Flickr

“Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.”
John Locke

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Renting a Darkroom in TokyoJapan Camera Hunter

How I Became the Subject of My Own Boston Bombing PhotosBill Hoenk

The International Center of Photography’s Brave New World Christies

So, What Is a Video Essay Really?Filmmakers Magazine

Under Pressure at the Bloomberg Picture DeskCreatives Go!

I am Lucy Wainwright and This Is Why I Shoot FilmEmulsive

Paris Attack Photo Sparks Press Freedom CaseNY Times

The Polaroid Reborn, But Will It Survive? – Financial Times

Kids Photography Grows UpPDN

Anatomy of an Unnerving Ad CampaignBBC

What It Takes to Be a Good Street PhotographerEric Kim

Exposing Hollywood’s Age-Old Achille’s HeelNo Film School

 

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Weekend Audio

May 13th, 2016

How to Get Work As a Social Media Influencer? Hope the CEO’s Kid Likes You

Digiday’s Shareen Pathak has published a revealing–though anonymous–interview with a social media executive about the business of finding and cultivating social media influencers to promote brands. (A subject we’ve tackled quite a bit — here and here.)

Reading it, you’ll learn that the process is anything but scientific. It’s chaotic and lucrative.

“So in 2014, [influencers] were making $500 to show up and take some photos,” the executive says. “Then it became $1,500. Now it’s hundreds of thousands of dollars. They no longer value their art. I remember I once did a speaking thing to a school of young social media people, and they asked, “How do I become an influencer?” So I asked them what they were good at. And they said, ‘Nothing.’ We’ve gotten to the point that if we have a meeting with them, and we ask what they do, and they say “influencer,” we don’t hire them. If they say photographer, we do.”

Paying influencers/photographers/famous-on-social-media-people isn’t straightforward either:

“We have no idea what to pay them,” the executive admits. “That’s the problem. Right now, I separate their role as a ‘content’ producer and influencer. So I pay them, maybe, $4,000 for 50 images, fully edited, that I own.”

Recruitment is done by “a bunch of millennials” or by the CEO’s kid. “At this major car brand I worked for, we paid $300,000 for a few photographs because the CEO’s kid liked someone,” the executive notes.

Read the whole thing.

Frankly, the idea of the “good at nothing” influencer sounds like a promising career path….

READ MORE

When Instagram Success Leads to Work (Subscriber)

How to Be an Influencer Without Being Unethical

What Should Photographers Charge for Social Media Usage?

May 12th, 2016

Two Weeks with the Sony G Master Series: Mike Colón Tests Sony’s Latest Lens

Sponsored by Sony Electronics Inc.

Shooting from 2,000 feet above the ground is one of the fastest ways to initiate new gear. And a sunset hot air balloon ride in San Diego provided a perfect kickoff for Sony Artisan and SoCal wedding and portrait photographer Mike Colón to try out the new Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master lens. “I was actually putting the other balloon in the furthest corner of the viewfinder, focusing it there, and zooming in on it— and it was razor sharp,” Colón says.

Image captured with the Sony a7R II and the 85mm G Master Lens. © Mike Colón

Image captured with the Sony a7R II and the 85mm G Master Lens. © Mike Colón

But that was just the beginning. Would the 85mm G Master lens work over the next two weeks, as Colón tested it in variety of shooting scenarios? Spoiler alert: with an amazing quality of sharpness and bokeh, he was not disappointed.

“I got to shoot model headshots with the new lens, and I typically do a lot of manual focusing for portraits because if I’m wide open at f/1.4, I want the eyes to be razor sharp,” he says. “With previous Sony lenses, the manual focus was a little more difficult to control, but with the 85mm G Master, they really tightened it up so I can move it just a hair and see the focus adjust accordingly. I even compared to the Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4, and it is just as super fine-tuned.”

Images captured with the Sony a7R II and the 85mm G Master Lens. © Mike Colón

Images captured with the Sony a7R II and the 85mm G Master Lens. © Mike Colón

The AF lock kill switch also came in handy for Colón, giving him the flexibility to switch back and forth between Auto Focus and Manual in an instant. “I photograph for UFC, so I do a lot of shooting through the cage next to the fence,” he says. “With the fighters moving around so sporadically, I don’t want the camera to constantly be hunting for focus. There are times when I’d rather be locked most of the time, and deal with focus when I need it at my fingertips. So I can hold that button, recompose and shoot.”

The 85mm G Master also has an incredibly useful feature for filmmakers: the choice to go silent. For a photographer like Colón whose clients are increasingly asking him to do video, this option is paramount. “If I’m in the middle of shooting a video and want to change my aperture, I can do it without hearing it or creating vibration,” he says. On the other hand, ”when shooting stills, it’s nice to be able to hear the click between f-stops and calculate your setting without looking.”

Image captured with the Sony a7R II and the 85mm G Master Lens. © Mike Colón

Image captured with the Sony a7R II and the 85mm G Master Lens. © Mike Colón

After comparing the 85mm G Master’s sharpness and quickness of focus with other lenses in its class, Colón was solidly impressed with its overall quality. “It felt well-balanced, like a lighter weight lens, but the images came out so great,” he says. “It’s nice that Sony is making fast lenses now because that’s huge for wedding photographers. The 85mm’s fast f/1.4 aperture makes it so much easier to work in the super low-lighting situations that we’re so often dealing with at weddings. And of course, the razor-sharp glass, shallow depth of field, and insanely beautiful bokeh is the perfect recipe for making our subjects pop against the busy backgrounds of a wedding scene.”

For more information on Sony’s G Master Lenses and Mike Colón, visit AlphaUniverse.com/lenses.

May 12th, 2016

Portrait of a Wet Plate Photographer

Ask photographers why they shoot film and you’ll invariably be told that they love how it forces them to slow down. While film photography may feel slow in the digital era, it’s positively breakneck compared to wet plate photography.

Few people are better acquainted with the original “slow photography” than David Rambow. A history buff, Rambow was exposed (if you will) to wet plate while working in a museum. His interest in the old photos drew him deeper into the history and process of wet plate–an interest that morphed from academic to practical. Today, he is one of the few active wet plate photographers in the country working with a custom built camera and a lens he bought on eBay. His work has been used in movies like True Grit and Cowboys and Aliens.

PBS just released this short documentary on Rambow and the history and process of wet plate photography that should be of interest to history and photo buffs alike.

Read More:

Lighting a Wet Plate Photo Shoot with 12,000 Watts (Subscriber)

Take a Walk Through Kodak’s Tech Vault

Hidden History of the Zoom Lens

A Brief History of Long-Lens Gotchas

May 11th, 2016

Meet the New Instagram

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Change is the only constant at Instagram. The social network revealed today a brand new design that aims to put the focus more squarely on its users’ content. Oh, and there’s a new logo too.

“We stripped the color and noise from surfaces where people’s content should take center stage, and boosted color on other surfaces like sign up flows and home screens,” wrote Ian Spalter, Instagram’s head of design.

Spalter added that, “By paring down the new interactions and using standard iOS and Android components, fonts, and patterns, people will be navigating familiar terrain. We also redesigned our icons in a way that feels at home on Android and iOS.”

The redesign is available now for both Android and iOS platforms. Check it out, and let us know what you think of the new look.