Lets Talk Photography

Looking to learn more about the camera you are using.....well so am I so together we will take this journey together to explore the many ways you can use that expensive piece of equipment instead of using it like a "point and shoot" camera. Not that there's anything wrong with point and shoots, but don't spend the money for a DSLR camera and only use the "Auto" or "Program" settings. Life is about learning new things everyday so lets get out there and make beautiful pictures!

Follow me at: http://www.chuckadamsphotography.com/

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Ask Chuck - Zooms vs. Primes

“I’m doing some research into lenses for my Canon 5 D Mark II and have come across lenses being referred to as Prime lenses. What is a Prime Lens and why would I consider them instead of a Zoom lens?”
Canon-Ef-50Mm-Lens-1Canon EF-50 MM f 1.4Canon-Ef-24-105Mm-Lens-1Thanks for the question, you’re not alone in asking it. As DSLRs come down in price I’m finding more and more readers are doing the upgrade and are asking questions about what type of lenses are best. Let me start by pointing you to introduction to DSLR Lenses post which will give you some definitions of different types of lenses. To recap from that post: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=fvwp&NR=1&v=bq4iMNqhTU4

What is a Prime Lens?

A prime lens is a lens that has one focal length only. They come in all focal lengths ranging from wide angle ones through to the longer telephoto ones.

What is a Zoom Lens?

A zoom lens is a lens that has a range of focal lengths available to the photographer in the one lens. These have become increasingly popular over the past few years as they are obviously a very convenient lens to have on your camera as they mean you can shoot at both wide and longer focal lengths without having to switch lenses mid shoot.
As you surf around different camera forums you’ll find people who argue strongly for both prime and zoom lenses. Each have their own fans and each will pull different arguments out about them. Let’s look at some of the pros and cons Zoom and Prime lenses:

Arguments for Prime Lenses

Canon-Ef-50Mm-Lens-1Let’s explore some of the common arguments for Prime lenses. Keep in mind that there are many prime lenses out there and that what follows are unashamedly generalizations.
1. Quality – while zoom lenses are improving considerably in the quality that they offer their users, prime lenses are known for being high quality and having the ability to produce clean, crisp and precise shots. This is an argument that often comes out in the prime vs zoom lens debate but it’s worth remembering that in every manufacturers range that there are some lenses (both zoom and prime) that are known for being exceptionally sharp and there are some that are known as being a little muddy. While it might be true that in general prime lenses are pretty high quality it shouldn’t be an assumption you make of every prime lens.
2. Price – prime lenses are generally simpler lenses in terms of construction. By the fact that they don’t need to zoom they generally have less moving parts and as a result they are generally cheaper to buy. Once again – there are many factors that determine the price of a lens (including quality) so not all prime lenses are ‘cheap’ (in fact some can be incredibly expensive at the Pro end of the spectrum) but do some searching around and you’ll find some that are definitely value for money. Renowned as usually being the cheapest lenses (but still not bad in quality) are ‘nifty 50′ lenses – or 50mm prime lenses, particularly from Nikon or Canon.
3. Weight – because of their simple construction you often find that prime lenses are smaller and particularly lighter lenses than zoom lenses in similar focal lengths. My two lightest lenses are my two 50mm lenses (I have the f1.8(pictured right) and the f1.4 – I’m still trying to work out which one to keep). They are great for heading out to locations where it is just not practical to haul lots of gear around with me.
4. Speed – in general prime lenses are faster (in terms of aperture) than zoom lenses. This is slowly changing as zoom lens improvements continue to be made by manufacturers but in the Canon range if you want extra fast lenses you’ll start with prime lenses (for example the 85mm and 50mm lenses for example). This allows you to shoot in lower light without the need for a flash.
5. Technique – one argument that gets pulled out against zoom lenses is that they make the photographer lazy. Instead of having to move around to find the best angle for the focal length they allow the photographer to stay in the one place and just zoom in and out. Some believe this sucks the creativity out of the process. I’m not sure about this one – while I do enjoy the challenge of using a prime lens (it definitely does mean you have to work harder and think about your shots a little more) you can still be a creative and hard working photographer with a zoom lens on your camera if you are aware of the temptation just to shoot from the one position all the time.

Arguments for Zoom Lenses

Canon-Ef-24-105Mm-Lens-11. Portability (another perspective) – when prime lens proponents pull out the ‘weight/portability’ argument zoom lens lovers often argue that a point in favor of the zoom is that you only need to carry one lens instead of a range of lenses to have the same focal length range. Instead of carrying around a 14mm, 50mm and 85mm lens you could carry one lens that covers the full (or close to) range of focal lengths. You’ll also never have to change your lens and risk getting dust on your image sensor.
2. Price (another perspective) – similarly – while zoom lenses might be more expensive than prime lenses the cost of one lens in comparison to multiple lenses can often be comparable.
3. Flexibility – perhaps the biggest argument for Zoom lenses is the flexibility that the offer a photographer. They allow someone wanting to shoot at a variety of focal lengths the ability to quickly change perspective and add variety into their shots within a second (or a fraction of one if you’re a quick zoomer). This is ideal for many types of photography including weddings or sports where you have to constantly be looking for random shots and may not have the time (or ability) to physically move closer or further away from you subject.

So are Prime or Zoom lenses best?

Obviously there is a range of factors to consider and ultimately the decision will come down to a number of factors including the type and style of photography that you do, your budget, the need for portability, how often you’re willing to change lenses, the quality you’re after and the shooting conditions you’ll be shooting in.
My own approach with lenses is to go with both.

My Prime and Zoom Lenses

I’m lucky enough to have a budget that allows me this opportunity. I shoot with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II so these are all canon lenses – but I have a couple of 50mm lenses (see above) which are great for low light situations and those times when weight is a consideration as well as a 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens which is obviously for macro shooting but is also quite good for portraits (an added bonus).
I also have a few zoom lenses a 17-40mm, a 24-105mm (pictured above) and a 70-200mm which cover the full range of focal lengths that I generally shoot in.
As I mention above – there is generally a lot of variation between lenses (both prime and zoom). I find that there is especially a lot of variation in the zoom range of Canon (and I presume for other manufacturers too). Most DSLRs come with the option for a kit zoom lens which are generally of a much lower quality than a professional grade lens (in Canon Pro lenses are designated as being ‘L’ series lenses).
My advice to those shopping for a lens is that it’s well worth investing in quality lenses. The camera body definitely has an impact on the quality of your shots but lens quality is where you can really take your photography to the next level. Do some careful research before buying a lens and buy the best one you can afford (without re-mortgaging the house).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

DSLR Video: Canon Goes to the Movies

by Ibarionex Perello

December 01, 2011 — A few years ago, Canon came out of nowhere to change the world of video. The EOS 5D Mark II transformed how still photographers and cinematographers perceived and used motion capture. Now, Canon has announced three products that will continue to impact how we record video.

Each off these cameras is designed for a particular kind of user in mind, each of whom faces different challenges and who has different needs that have to be met. However, each model will help to shape how photographers and cinematographers will capture video whether it’s destined for the big screen, television or a computer monitor.

Canon EOS 1D X
Though there is much being made about the EOS 1D X’s impact on the world of still photographers, Canon has spent as much time considering how this camera will be used by those capturing video.

The full-frame DSLR (right) delivers some much welcome advances to video capture, including the ability to record continuous video up to 29 minutes and 59 seconds when the file size exceeds 4GB. It does this by splitting the video into two separate files, but without dropping frames. The files can be easily connected in a video editing application and its ideal for photographers who record lengthy clips such as for weddings or documentary work.

The camera finally includes the ability to add timecode, which has been unavailable in previous Canon HDSLR models. It is offered using two different settings: The “Rec Run” mode is ideally suited for single-camera applications because it resets to 00:00:00:00 (hours/minutes/seconds/frames) for each individual clip. The “Free Run” option is more suitable for multi-camera applications, because it allows for all the cameras used during production to be synchronized.

The camera offers a new edit-friendly compression format, which eliminates the need to transcode the recorded files before editing them in your video editing application. Users have the choice between the ALL-I or the IPB compression.

ALL-I is Canon’s designation for an intraframe compression method that compresses each individual frame of the movie file. This provides for greater quality frame grabs and also results in less CPU strain during postprocessing, because the computer does not to render interpolated frames when decoding and playing back files. This method allows for more precise editing because it allows for cuts in scenes on a per-frame basis, rather than a per-keyframe basis. This is also a good choice for editors using a computer that doesn’t have the processing power to decode and play back IPB files smoothly during the editing process.

The IPB applies compression by referencing the previous and next frame—creating smaller sizes and making it more suitable for recording long movies.

Audio recording is also improved in the camera with the additional of 64-step volume control that can be adjusted before or during recording. The 1D X’s built-in audio recording capability also features a built-in wind filter to cut down on wind noise when using the built-in monaural mic. The camera also includes the ability to record stereo using an external stereo audio port.

The rolling shutter, which creates a visual distortion when photographing fast action, has been reduced in the 1D X with the increase in processing speed by which image data is exported from the CMOS imaging sensor. The increase to a 16-channel dual-line read out is a big improvement over the 8-channel single-line readouts found in the EOS 7D and 1D Mark IV.

Performance is also improved as a result of the Dual DIGIC 5+ image processors, which are 17 times faster than the DIGIC 4 processors used in other HD-compatible EOS models.

The camera is scheduled to become available in early 2012 and has an estimated street price of $6,800.

Canon EOS C300
The Canon EOS C300 (right) will be the first camera from Canon’s Cinema EOS system, which are cameras and lenses designed specifically for the digital high resolution production industry, including motion picture and television. Though cameras like the 5D Mark II have been utilized by professional cinematographers, HDSLRs are still primarily designed for still capture. The EOS C300 is designed with for those shooters whose primary goal is to capture video.

Capable of capturing 4K-resolution, this camera provides start of the art high-resolution video capture in a form factor that resembles a DSLR, but is appreciable smaller than traditional motion picture cameras. Measuring 5.2 x 70 x 6.7 inches, this interchangeable lens system brings video capture to a whole new level.

Built around an 8.3- megapixel Super 35mm CMOS sensor, the camera is available with either an EF or PL mount, the latter being compatible with a cinematographer’s inventory of cinema lenses. The sensor, which is larger than what is typically found in a traditional video camera, provides the look of a limited depth of field favored with film capture and reduced noise.

Several short films made with the new camera were showcased during the camera’s press announcement in November and demonstrated the camera’s ability to move beyond the limitations of DSLR video, including the issue of rolling shutter when capturing fast action.

Canon has also simultaneously announced its own line of cinema style lenses, which include a 14.5-60mm T2.6 L (above) and 30-300mm T2.95-3.7L lens, each of which will be available for in both the EF and PL mounts.

For those photographers who have been using their existing line of EF lenses for video capture, the camera provides built-in peripheral illumination correction, which reduces the appearance of vignetting.

The camera is scheduled to be available in 2012 and at estimated price of $20,000.

4K HDSLR in Development
Canon has announced the production of another 4K camera, which will be built along the traditional form factor of a DSLR. No model designation or price has been announced at this point, but they have provided a few details about the camera.

The camera is designed around a 35mm full-frame CMOS sensor that will provide 4K resolution at a frame rate of 24 fps with Motion-JPEG compression.

Just as digital created a new era for still photography, these cameras and those to come will create new visual possibilities.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Rangefinder - Groupon The Erosion of Our Industry

Rangefinder - Groupon The Erosion of Our Industry

Groupon The Erosion of Our Industry

by Sal Cincotta

Sal Cincotta

June 01, 2011 — Let’s just cut right to the chase. I have no hidden agenda here, and I didn’t have a bad experience with Groupon. I am a big believer in our industry and the longevity of our craft. I fundamentally disagree with the Groupon craze and what it represents for our industry.

We are artists providing a unique and valuable service to our clients. “Unique” and “valuable” do not go hand-in-hand with coupons and off-the-wall margins. Groupon gets $0.50 on the dollar just to host your coupon. No matter how rosy your glasses, that’s an insane amount of money to burn.

Let’s break it down into logical pieces, and when it’s all said and done, if you still think participating in this is the right move for your business, I would love to hear all about it.

Horrible Margins
Right out of the gate you are giving up $0.50 on the dollar. So, if you put a coupon out there for $50, Groupon gets $25 just for hosting your coupon! If you’ve listened to us speak or have read any of our previous articles, you know how margins and Cost of Goods (COG) work.

So, not only are you already discounting your services in some cases by 50% of more, you also have additional hard costs that must come out of that $25 you actually receive. Again, I want to emphasize, 50% is lost right out of the gate, not including your discounted price. So, I would guess, when its all said and done, you are losing 75% from your normal pricing before you have delivered a single product or service.

Devaluation of Your Services
Never, and I mean never, operate from a position of desperation. This is a desperation move and one that will ultimately lead to the demise of your brand, and more than likely, your business altogether. If you embark on this path, you will almost never recover from being the low-cost provider in your market. So I guess as an upside, if you are looking to do 600 shoots a year and compete with your local chain studio pumping out $29.99 packages, this might be the right move for your studio.

If you are an artist, you must properly price and value your service. Why? It’s because you are a limited resource, plain and simple. We bring an artistic eye to the table along with unique products that allow us to differentiate our studio from the weekend warriors.

Have you ever seen Rolex go on sale for 50% off? How about Louis Vuitton? Maybe the Ferrari dealership runs a sale like this? Of course not. And the list could go on and on. Pricing has as much to do with your brand as everything else you do. It establishes value—both perceived and real.

You will almost never see these brands embrace a pricing structure like this. If you do, it’s a sign of giving up. You are basically saying, “yep, we don’t know what else to do, so let’s drop our prices and let someone else market our business for us. We give up.”

Commodifying Your Brand
Once your brand/product/service has been devalued you start positioning yourself and your studio as a commodity product/service. What is a commodity product? It’s a product that holds no perceivable difference between that of its competitors, ultimately, competing on price. Translation? You have now entered the slippery slope of price competition, attracting clients who are shopping based on price—not quality or service. Examples include: fast food, household cleaning supplies, gas stations, mall-based photo studios, etc. Are you getting the picture here?

This is the worst possible path to take your business down, and I promise you one of two things will happen: You will ultimately realize you cannot deliver on the high volume that comes your way for a multitude of reasons, or you will realize this is the worst thing you could have done for your business and try and get back to basic business principals. Either way, you will soon abandon this business model.

True Story
There is a studio in my local market that adopted this concept. They were, and are, a very established studio in the mid-market. They jumped on board the Groupon craze. Offered a location-based mini-session at $50, including the negatives. They booked 1000 sessions. You read it right, 1000 sessions. $25,000! [once you subtract Groupon’s take] They were going to be rich! Um, not really!

Let me school you on some math here. That’s 1000 mini session at 30 min per session. That is 500 hours of shoot time, which is not including burning DVDs, any travel whatsoever, scheduling calls, etc. Let’s say for arguments sake you are able to shoot 30 hours a week, which I think is very aggressive, that will take you 16-17 weeks to fulfill all those shoots. Over four months!!! That’s your entire shooting season.

So, they pretty much guaranteed that their entire summer calendar would be filled with these low-end shoots generating no additional revenue (shoot and burn to the maximum).

The unintended consequences of this little exercise? Customer service disappeared. Clients were now rushed through sessions. The “experience” was all but gone. And worst of all, existing clients who were used to paying the normal studio prices and rates bypassed the normal session fee and went the coupon route. And who can blame them? Why pay full price when you can get a deal? So now they’ve managed to cannibalize their existing client base vs. generating new clients and new revenue streams.

As result of this we booked two weddings from their missteps. I am not bragging at all. I want to help my fellow photographers. My point is simple: The clients who came to us told us about this and expressed how they felt rushed, the quality suffered and that was not something they were willing to sacrifice. After this experience they realized that you ultimately get what you pay for.

Back to the Basics
All right, I know what you must be thinking, great points, but if not Groupon, what should we do? We are struggling, competitors are everywhere and we need to make a change.

How about this as a simple solution? Instead of giving a random third party 50% discount on your product or service and then splitting the profits by 50%; take that 75% and reinvest it back into your business.

Please don’t misread my points here. There is nothing wrong with running some special promotions or discounts, but you can’t give away the house and think you are going to remain in business for very long.

We run specials all the time to boost sessions during our slow season. This doesn’t devalue our brand, nor does it impact our overall sales numbers. In fact, it helps the sales numbers by keeping the studio busy during our slowest time of the year.

If things are slow, run a 50% off session fee to get things moving. If that doesn’t work, refresh some of your sample work, refresh your pricing and packages, update your Web site, etc. Take a hard look at why things are slow and ask yourself some tough questions to ensure you are still relevant in your community. Work with local charities or booster clubs and offer some auction items to generate new leads. Check out GoogleAds to target your market online—it’s easy and cost effective.

I just quickly rattled off some simple ways to promote your business, all with a cost that is little to nothing to execute. If you have some dollars to throw away, which is what you will be doing with this coupon to the tune of 75% or more, why not invest that in a slew of things that can help promote and better your studio. Update your branding, update your client area, get a new Web site, send direct mail pieces, start a customer referral program, give gifts to your top ten clients, attend training workshops, upgrade your gear, etc.

Don’t give up and don’t resort to desperate measures for your business without exhausting every possible means available to you. Sure, you might see an instant jump in sales, but long-term, this model will implode on itself and ultimately damage your reputation and our industry.

Competing on price is never easy and unfortunately, this is typically a last resort for many businesses. Don’t let it be yours.

Salvatore Cincotta Photography is based in the St Louis Metro area with a focus on weddings, high school seniors and professional education for photographers. For more information, visit www.behindtheshutter.com