Archive for May, 2009

PBase – a poor photographer’s website that’s awesome

May 26, 2009

pbase

I’ve been working on my website for way too long. Making websites is not something that excites me very much, at least not for more than an hour or two. It’d be great to have the whole thing done for you with a magical press of a button.

Well PBase is almost, kinda like having it done with a press of a button. I’ve been using it for about three years now and have to say that it’s one of the most useful, best value-for-money products out there for photographers.

PBase is not perfect, but for $23 a year (for the basic account) it, in my opinion trumps everything else out there. For those who don’t know; what exactly is PBase? It’s something between Flickr and SmugMug. But I prefer it over the two for seriously presenting my photos. Flickr’s interface is not an ideal platform for making your images look their best, yeah there are ways to do it, but who really cares enough to go to the effort? It’s also got this air of amateurism about it. All those little badges and group invitations seem so much like a thing for teenagers. SmugMug’s interface is a little better but that crap that pops up on the images is very annoying and seriously; what’s with the name?

PBase’s interface is as simple as it gets and with some basic knowledge of CSS you can customize the look of your galleries beyond that in the preset templates. You are of course rather limited to what you can do, but there’s enough for a simple, elegant presentation of images, without adds, badges or pop-up icons.

I would not feel right sending an editor from a serious magazine/organisation to my Flickr account (which I do have). If I get annoyed navigating through it, an editor may not even bother. As far as PBase goes, I send my editor at Getty Images there all the time, to make selections from my submissions. He doesn’t have to navigate through all the nonsense to get to the photos and the whole experience is pretty convenient. Same goes for magazine editors. I create a gallery, upload a submission and email the editor.

PBase is also a community. Not anywhere nearly as large as Flickr’s but a community nevertheless. For professionals in the early stages of their career an important point of being part of a community is to get your name out there, perhaps even sell an image or two. I’ve had some success with that on PBase, none with Flickr. Sure I’ve had countless badges and hundreds of people adding certain images to their favourites list, but in the real world; who gives a shit? There are also many people sending me Flickrmail and asking for freebies, it just seems that Flickr can be as annoying as it can be useful.

I’ve sorta revamped my PBase galleries to work as an extension of my website. With the help of my IT genius father I customised the look a bit (but it’s nothing hard really). I also got rid of all the older stuff, put some of the more relevant work on there and sorted it in groups. I’m still working on the whole thing, but you’re all welcome to HAVE A LOOK.

So the verdict is – PBase is awesome. If I didn’t have a website, I may have opted for Photoshelter’s offerings, you get some great options, but the price of those is in the hundreds. If you’re looking for an easy, cheap way to get your images online, look no further. If you’re looking for a place to which you can quickly upload images from anywhere in the world to show them to clients, editors in a simple professional manner – PBase is great.

Well, they’re not paying me to advertise them and you all get the point.

Thoughts on competing and comparing in the world of photography

May 18, 2009

wrastling

A few of my photographer friends on the internet and others who I respect, have at some stage stated  that being competitive with your photography or comparing yourself to others is not something that is very useful for us photographers. I disagree.

In a world perfect for photographers, each one of us would simply follow our own creative path and not care about the market and its demands. We would create what we love, spend years on honing our skills and make a living from it. The fact that someone does what we love much better than us wouldn’t matter, because there would be enough work/money/resources for everyone who calls themselves a professional photographer.

Well, in a perfect world there wouldn’t be poverty and injustice, but our world is very, very far from perfect and the photography part of it is no different.

A few days ago I came across a blog entry titled The Sport of Business on the blog of Mark Cuban – former owner of Yahoo, now the owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA team. Whether you like him or not, one can’t deny that Mark Cuban has been incredibly successful in his endeavors. I’m a big basketball fan and used to play pretty obsessively back in the day. I could relate some things from basketball to photography, so right away I understood where Cuban was going with his post.

Cuban compares the sport of basketball to the “sport” of business. He concludes that the sport of business is “the ultimate competition” . The dedication, the competitive nature and the hard work you have to put in, are the same in basketball and business, but the “sport” of business basically consumes your entire life.

He talks about having the edge over his competition and the “sacrifices” this involves, mentioning not watching TV, unless there is something he can learn from what’s on, not reading fiction, but rather searching the internet, newspapers and magazines for concepts that he can use in his business and “getting so jazzed about what you do, you just spent 24 hours straight working on a project and you thought it was a couple hours.”

Here’s another interesting phrase:

Every day some stranger from anywhere in the world that you have never met is trying to come up with a way to put you out of business. To take everything you have worked your ass off for, and take it all away. If you are in a growing industry, there could be hundreds or thousands of strangers trying to figure out ways to put you out of business.”

While this quote is not directly related to photography (photographers are not necessarily consciously trying to put each other out of business), but whether we want it, like it or not, the phrase applies to many things in our world. Photography is no exception, we are competing with other photographers in our field. We compete for work, money, recognition, respect.

The demand for photography is limited. There will be only a few winners in a photographic competition, an advertising agency will usually hire only one photographer for a particular project, a magazine will only publish a limited amount of photo stories and a couple will only trust their special day to one wedding photographer.

A seasoned pro, who has been “dominant” in the industry for years may get complacent for a year or two and before he/she knows it,  dozens are ready to take his/her place.

The question is: Does it make any sense to think about this stuff?

I guess it depends on the individual and as always, I can only speak about my own approach.

Do I compare myself to other photographers? Most definitely. I look at photos online, in books, in magazines all the time. If I come across work that I like, I’ll search for the photographer, go to their  website, read about them, find out about their age, their experience and about what they are doing with their photography. I’m competitive and I’m very curious. I like to know where I stand. I don’t think this is bad and would even suggest to aspiring photographers to adopt this attitude.

But this comparing and competitiveness must have a purpose. It has to be done the “right” way. It’s not about simply looking at the work of talented young photographers, feeling they are so much better than you and lamenting on the whole idea for weeks. Neither is it about saying that all work except your own is rubbish.

If however you were to look at the work of a successful photographer you admire, if you were to compare where he/she is and where you are and stop to think about what the whole thing actually means, you could help your career move forward or remain at the top of the game.

When I look at the work of successful photographers, particularly my peers or those younger than me, I try to understand – What is it that has made them successful in a relatively short amount of time? What are the strong points of their work? Can I learn anything from them? If they are producing the same kind of work as I am, but are much closer to where I want to be, (creatively or financially) I want to know why. It’s surprised me how much I have learned through these comparisons.

Now about being competitive. I’m not talking about the sort of competitive, where you try to trip someone in a race to win. It’s about keeping things in perspective and driving yourself, striving for a level of greatness.

Feeling too lazy to get up and shoot on the streets  early in the morning – Some 19 year old is doing it, he’ll have the shot that will sell, that will win the competition, that will give him the edge and get his photo story into the magazine. Simple as that. If you’re not doing it, you can bet that someone is and that person will be the one rewarded, not you.

Not feeling inspired enough to do something with your work? Dreading rejection from a potential client? Well, the other photographer, the one who you thought didn’t have much talent is feeling the same, but he decided to do something anyway. He emailed the magazine, called the client and now his career has moved forward, and yours hasn’t.

You compete with those who are doing the same thing as you by default, and the same goes for your competitors. To have a chance to “win” you must put forth as much effort as you can, use all the existing opportunities and create new ones. If you have the talent and did it right, you will have taken a job or a magazine slot that could have been somebody else’s. The next time things may not turn out so well.

In the end if you really compete, if you give it your all and still don’t get the result, then just like in basketball or whatever other sport, you were usually beaten by a better team/photographer, you probably just weren’t quite good enough (or at times you were not playing the same game). The good thing about photography however, is that the game doesn’t stop when you can no longer run quite as fast or jump quite as high. You can try again and keep trying until you either reach your goal or decide that it’s not worth the effort.

Ultimately the comparisons are about learning, and the competition is about getting off your butt, doing stuff with your work and living life.

And what is the other option? Photographers can shoot mediocre stuff, never  compare themselves and never be aware of how mediocre that stuff is, until, if they are professionals it hits them over the head. Until a 17-year-old with an entry level DSLR takes their job.

If photography is just a hobby, enjoy it! But as far as professionals go, I feel that although some say they don’t get competitive or compare themselves, it’s simply not true. They’re doing it, even if they are not entirely aware, and as I said, I really don’t think that’s a bad thing.

I’ve been tied up with some submissions and I am quite close to finishing a new website. If all goes as planned I should have that tutorial available before the end of the month.

Facing the inevitable – Taking another look at Camera RAW in Photoshop CS4.

May 5, 2009

cameraraw_screengrab

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been playing around with Camera Raw in Adobe Photoshop CS4. The CS4 version has the local adjustments feature that Lightroom has had for quite some time now.

For whatever reason I never really fell in love with Lightroom and thus missed out on this wonderful feature. Capture One was my preferred software package. I hated knowing that the local adjustments feature existed and I wasn’t using it, but I felt that the image quality of Capture One made up for what I was missing out on.

Well, I gave the whole thing another go with Camera Raw in Adobe Photoshop CS4, I could resist no longer. True that I absolutely love Capture One, but in the end it’s just a tool and it would be stupid to get attached to it.

For files that are intended to end up as large prints, hanging in someone’s house or a gallery, Capture One is still my number one choice, but the convenience of local adjustments is too much to overlook for images that aren’t getting upsized too much. I feel that I will definitely make room for working with RAW files in Photoshop CS4.

Those who have Lightroom 2 already know how convenient it is to be able to adjust only select parts of an image, while you are still working with the RAW file. Local adjustments feature in Lightroom 2 is probably the major reason why many photographers are bypassing Photoshop all together. I still wouldn’t go so far as to stop using Photoshop, this is the only tool that allows me to do all the fine adjustments that I desire, but around 80% of the work can certainly be done in Lightroom 2 or Camera RAW in the new Photoshop.

I’ve provided a part of an image above, which is in the process of being edited in Camera RAW and it is already looking decent enough that only minor things will need to be done in Photoshop.

I am inclined towards making that PDF tutorial and I will now focus on the workflow in Camera RAW, which in its features is almost identical to Lightroom 2. There will still be some stuff that can only be done in Photoshop itself, or done more effectively in Photoshop, but most of the things can be accomplished in Lightroom.

I’m building a new website for the next couple of weeks or so, but before long I will have something up for those who are interested.


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