Get a Gear Education from Pro Photographers at SmugMug Academy

Get a Gear Education from Pro Photographers at SmugMug Academy

Knowing what to expect from a camera or lens is tricky, which is why renting is so invaluable to photographers big and small. However, it’s still hard to know what you’re getting even when renting, which is why we’re stoked about SmugMug Academy – a simple and personal review site put together by people who are passionate about photography. It maintains the core values of SmugMug by providing a resource maintained by folks who actually shoot from subjects ranging from landscapes to kids sports. You do not have to have a SmugMug account to take advantage of the reviews. The page is designed to inform and is open to everyone. Each review is equipped with a bio about the reviewer so that you can get a sense for who they are and what they like to shoot. This can help you divine if a piece of gear is right for your style of shooting. SmugMug Academy is more than just reviews. You can get business tips, shooting guidelines, and video tutorials there, too. Think of SmugMug Academy as the site equivalent of just being able to ask your photography friend, “Should I rent this lens?” BorrowLenses.com has not asked these photographers to write in any particular way, rent certain items over others, or to boast certain gear as being favorable. They are photographers writing about our gear as they see it from their own shooting experiences in a simple and honest way and they review items as they use them for real events like vacations, hockey games, or candids. Keep this page handy for future reference. It is being...
7 Tips for Better Compositions

7 Tips for Better Compositions

John Cooper specializes in corporate, industrial, and commercial photography for various business communities in Texas and teaches basic skills to other burgeoning photographers. If you are just starting out, or looking for a refresher, check out his advice below. 7 Tips for Better Compositions by John Cooper What makes one photo better than another?  Good photographs have compositions comprised of visual elements that abide by certain design principles.  Photography, it is said, is the subjective application of objective tools. Here is a cheat sheet on how to get better photographs. It is not an analysis of art theory or physics.  However, I urge you to research those topics if your passion is photography. In the meantime, here are 7 quick ways to make better photos.  You “make” photos, by the way – you do not merely “take” them. You Can’t Fix Blur Yes, we can put a man on the moon but we still cannot focus a blurred image.  The rule of thumb for hand-held shots is to use a shutter speed that is faster than the reciprocal of the lens’ focal length.  Using a 200mm telephoto, for example, would require you to use faster than a 1/200th second shutter speed.  A 50mm would require faster than 1/50th and so on.  Image stabilization has changed this up to 2 stops but it’s not worth the risk, in my opinion.  Remember, you can’t fix blur no matter what version of Photoshop you may have.  Increase your ISO and/or open you aperture or use a tripod.  Do whatever it takes to get tack sharp focus every time the shutter actuates. Understand...
5 Reasons to Reject an Image

5 Reasons to Reject an Image

Journalist and adventure photographer Jay Goodrich is always looking for new approaches to producing images, which means getting plenty of practice in rejecting photos that fail to rise above the mundane. Learn how you can quickly separate the good from the bad in your own body of work and increase the quality of your portfolio. 5 Reasons to Reject an Image by Jay Goodrich With the age of digital photography now becoming a mainstream part of society, how do you decide what photos are good to keep and what ones should be thrown in the trash? While we need reasons to reject an image, we don’t necessarily want to form a hypothesis of rules. If you ever take a workshop with me you will quickly realize that I choose to disregard rules in almost every aspect of my life and my photography. And I believe that creativity cannot be contained within a set of rules. Rules force us to follow a standard of practice, and while that may work for controlling crime, slowing down speeders, and successful scientific discovery, it completely ruins the concept of creativity. While my way of teaching others how to create a compelling image differ from the norm due to my educational background as an architect, there are areas of image making where decisions have to be made. So in a world of creative decision making that has many drinking the Kool-Aid of free expression, how do I decide on what work to keep? Here are 5 reasons to reject an image that I have discovered work best in most image making scenarios. Just like...
Staying Inspired as a Photographer

Staying Inspired as a Photographer

Being a photographer is so much bigger than practicing lighting techniques, being up-to-date on the newest and most powerful gear, or knowing what post-production actions are best for you. All those things are wonderful parts of the puzzle but being a photographer is so much more. We all have similar hurdles to clear before we feel comfortable calling ourselves “photographers”. Here is some advice of how conquer those hurdles.

6 Website Mistakes You’re Probably Making Right Now

6 Website Mistakes You’re Probably Making Right Now

Our friends over at SmugMug.com help photographers from all walks of life put their best memories into beautiful and safe photography websites. They have seen every kind of website, from breathtaking portfolios to always-under-construction blunders. To kick off a new blog series of photography website tips and tricks, SmugMug lists the most commonly made mistakes of the website world. Avoid these and you’ll be on the right track toward making a good first impression! 6 Website Mistakes You’re Probably Making Right Now by Schmoo Theune So you’ve put your photos online? Great! At SmugMug we believe photos are best when shared, even if it’s only with a few people you really trust. Many of us love to make new connections by building a fully public website but to throw open your door to opportunity (or profit), you’ve got to have the right combination of personality and presentation. Your personality is ultimately up to you but as website builders we’ve got a few tips to help you get the most presentable, functional, online home possible. We’ve seen thousands of websites by photographers who shoot all kinds of stuff so we’ve compiled a few of the most common website bloopers we help customers eradicate every single day. 1) The Dead-End Hello: Zero Contact Information This is one of the most common mistakes we see. You may have done everything right and created a beautiful website but what happens if your visitors love your work and want to hire you? So many websites have great photos on them but zero personality, such as an email address, a personal photo, or even a brief bio....
Serene Travel Photography with the Canon EOS-M

Serene Travel Photography with the Canon EOS-M

The Canon 5D Mark II has long been Tristan Pott’s go-to camera for capturing snippets of Japan and Taiwan, where he has been living for the past several years. To save a little space while still getting to use his normal lenses, Pott picked up a Canon EOS-M, Canon’s first mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Pott’s serene photographs of scenes from his day trips around both countries shows that a little camera can produce some beautiful visual keepsakes. If you’re trying to save on weight, especially if you are a Canon shooter with some lenses already available to you, the Canon EOS-M with the EF to EF-M adapter just may be the ticket! Find out below why Pott chooses the EOS-M. BL: You already have some larger glass, such as the Canon 100mm f/2.8L and the Canon 24-105mm f/4L. What made you want to start using them on the Canon EOS-M? Pott: To be honest, I didn’t think I’d use my L lenses as much as I actually do when I received my EOS-M. I was initially perfectly content with the kit lens, which is a little 22mm prime, but I decided to give the adapter a try. When I actually tried out my 24-105mm f/4L for its zoom capabilities with the EOS-M, I was really happy with a few of the shots I got that day. From there, I realized that an EOS-M plus good glass equals better shots. BL: What are the EOS-M’s greatest weaknesses and what are its greatest strengths? Pott: I consider the greatest strength to be the image sensor. For the price and the form factor, it’s great in terms of image...
Microadjustment for Lens and Camera Front/Back Focusing Issues

Microadjustment for Lens and Camera Front/Back Focusing Issues

All lenses and cameras that return to one of our two headquarters are tested and cleaned by our Receiving Team. Sometimes a lens, in particular, will go out on a rental and need to be replaced by another one from our stock because of focusing issues. The majority of these re-tested lenses end up having nothing wrong with them. Here is an explanation for why this happens and how you can dig deeper into the settings of your camera so that you get the most out of not only rental lenses but your own stock of glass as well. Mass Manufacturing and Range of Accuracy All cameras and lenses are manufactured within certain tolerances. This means that a camera or lens is considered in spec if it falls within a certain range of accuracy. Every manufacturer is different. Sometimes a lens that is front or back focusing +/-3 is considered within normal operating quality. Other manufacturers are more stringent. What Is Front/Back Focusing? Front focusing is when the focus falls in front of your intended subject and back focusing is when the focus falls behind your intended subject. Most of the time this is caused by the user. Barring user error, a lens could be tested at -2 and back focusing slightly or tested at +1 and front focusing slightly. Both are considered within the range of normalcy. Cameras compound the issue. Sometimes, a lens can be back focusing slightly and that is not a problem. But if it is mounted on a camera that is also back focusing slightly then you are now shooting outside the range of spec....
5 Resources to Help Protect Your Photography

5 Resources to Help Protect Your Photography

In an ideal world you will not have to use some of these resources to protect yourself against image theft. However, the use of OPP (other people’s photography) is rampant – sometimes out of malice and sometimes because of a simple misunderstanding or lack of research. Here are 5 things to explore to help you protect your work in the first place and what to do if something unlawful happens to it. Copyright Your Work For $55 a batch (as of this writing, updated July 2014), you can have your photographs registered for copyright. Register Yourself as a Photographer For free you can register yourself with PPA so that others can find you when they are interested in duplicating your work. If you are an ASMP member, you can also get into their Find a Photographer database. Additionally, register yourself with the Plus Registry, which is also a great resource for all things licensing related. Keep Your Rights Nearby Know your rights as a photographer without having a lawyer on speed dial. A U.S. attorney has put together a handy printout to refer to if confronted for taking pictures (UK version here). Prepare to Write a Nastigram Sending a DMCA takedown notice is scary. DMCA Info makes it a little less daunting with plenty of info, including a notice template. Where applicable, you can also request items to be removed from Google products, including a subsection requesting the removal of items because of copyright violation. Further protect yourself with a free account on Lenstag, a gear registry that also offers free DMCA and Model Release documents as well as optional...
Working With Magic Lantern RAW Files

Working With Magic Lantern RAW Files

In case you missed it, we started carrying a version of the Canon 5D Mark III modified with the Magic Lantern firmware modification last year. One of the really cool features of this tweaked body is that you can now shoot 1080p video in RAW format. Still shooters know what this means: better control over white balance and a file that stands up to post-processing really well. RAW is still something of a new bag for video shooters working with DSLRs, however, and there are a few things you should know when you start working with RAW files from the 5D Mark III. Making the Magic Lantern RAW File Usable Let’s start with this: The RAW file you get from the 5D isn’t immediately editable. It’s a single file with a .RAW suffix that none of the popular video editors, neither Final Cut nor Premiere, currently recognize without additional plugins like GingerHDR. So you have to modify this file to work with it. The converters for Magic Lantern RAW files essentially do one thing: they take a single RAW file and split it into a sequence of image files in either DNG, TIF, or JPEG files. Your video clip is then available to you as a folder full of hundreds or thousands of single images, each one representing a single frame of footage. That’s not ideal in that you now have a fairly large number of files to manage, but it’s not too difficult to work with them. But first, you have to get to that point where you have those hundreds of files. For this, you have a...
Sony RX10: Thoughts, Test Shots, and Quick Review

Sony RX10: Thoughts, Test Shots, and Quick Review

Court Leve is a sports, wedding, portrait, and pet photographer. His work has been published in National Geographic Adventure, Powder, Ski, Skiing, Freeskier, Parade Magazine, ForbesLife Mountain Time, Spirit Magazine, Southwest Art, and more. He is a regular contributor to the BL Blog. Sony RX10: Thoughts, Test Shots, and Quick Review by Court Leve Coming from a background in SLR cameras, and owning a number of point-and-shoots over the years, it was interesting to have a chance to use the new Sony RX10. It’s the first ‘bridge’ camera that I’ve used and I was somewhat skeptical about how it would perform. In short, this camera is very impressive and makes for a great all-around camera and an excellent choice as a travel camera. The RX10 is easy to use in either full automatic or manual modes. The design is simple to navigate with the most commonly used controls quickly accessible without having to dive into menus. If you have used the RX100, the RX10 will be a short learning curve. Even if this line of camera is new to you, it will still be a pretty quick study with shutter speed, aperture and ISO controls in logical places. Even when I needed to navigate the menu system it was very straightforward. I used the camera in a number of different situations ranging from a conference in extremely low light, landscape images, portraits, and on my recent trip to Cabo, Mexico. For my trip, I brought my RX100 along with my Nikon D800 with a number of lenses but I wound up only using the RX10 while traveling. The size, weight,...