Every Day

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Everydaykitco - DIYA recent product photography session involved shooting some largish flatlays and box arrangements for ‘The EveryDay Co’ based in Hitchin, Hertfordshire. Something a little different for me as I do relatively few flatlays.  The job entailed shooting most of the products against white, these were first processed within Capture One Pro with a selection being exported to Adobe Photoshop where some of the backgrounds had colour tints added to match the colours of the final website.

The main issue was ensuring that the products were arranged and looked fairly uniform. The range of products and texture meant lighting could be problematic, with everything from dark objects, chrome reflective surfaces and plastic reflective packaging.

For the lighting, I used several flash units, and a large softbox, but still struggled to get soft enough light. I ended up bouncing the studio flash off a white ceiling, this gave me a good widespread of light that was soft enough to cover most of the products.

The boxed pack shots also came with their own problems in that there were many products, again with many different reflective surfaces. But with some careful arrangement, blue tack and sticky dots, I got the results I wanted.

 

While the shoot took a little longer than I first envisaged, it was worth it and added some improvements to my lighting setups.

You can see the end results and the wonderfully practical Everyday Kits on the Everyday Kit Co website – Visit Website

Capture One Pro 12

Capture One Pro 12

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Capture One Pro 12

Capture One Pro 12

The 29th November 2018 see the release of Capture One Pro 12, with the few days I have been trying this out it is clear that release 12 is a major release with some useful additional features.

Together with a neater interface Capture One now comes with the following:

  • Luma Range Masking
  • Linear Gradient Mask Tool
  • Radial Mask Tool
  • Plug-ins

As well as the above, there is also support for additional cameras including the new Nikon Z6 and Z7.

The standout additions for me are the new masking tools, the linear mask tool has undergone a complete overhaul and now offers much more control. The Radial Mask tool make life easier and will prove crucial to quick precise editing going forward.

The Luma Range Mask tool, allows the creation of masks based on the brightness of pixels, with complete and visible control on what you are masking.

The Plug-in feature should eventually open up Capture One to developers I tried this feature with some ‘Older’ Google NIK plugins, and it works slick, exporting the image, creating the copy, out to the NIK plug-in and the image back into Capture One Pro 12, all in a single process.

For me the biggest feature and noticeable difference is the slickness off use, Capture One Pro has always been fast, but now it is altogether much smoother, which when used on a 2012 Mac mini is pretty good going.

Visit Capture One Pro website for more information, download a 30 day trial, and if you wish to purchase, save with the discount code ‘AMBSEARS’

Two Tulips - Andy Sears

Which way with stock photography

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While I have been contributing to stock photo libraries for many years, it has not exactly been a ‘get rich quick’ scheme. There are many libraries you can join up to and offer your images for sale, and here I will give a little insight into the ones I have used over the last few years, which are:

  • Adobe Stock / Fotolia
  • Picfair
  • EyeEm
  • Alamy

Adobe Stock / Fotolia

Adobe Stock, which took over the Fotolia stock library, is where I have sold most images, with over 2000 image sales. While a low earner, the ‘credits’ I received mostly went back into purchasing images for my web design work.

Because of the integration with the Adobe Suite and Creative Cloud, Adobe Stock enjoys vast reachability. The earning are generally very small per image, i.e. £0.20p, so while pretty pitiful, it is still nice getting the email stating ‘Congratulations one of your images has been sold’.

Adobe Stock Images

 

Picfair

Picfair is a little unique, not as big or as well known as Adobe Stock, but work on a fair price principle. While I have only sold a few images with them, the earning compared to Adobe Stock increase significantly. Wih £5.00 commision earnt on each of my sales, each sale with Picfair ears the same as selling 25 images on Adobe stock.

Picfair Images

 

EyeEm

EyeEm, a large stock library boasting 20 million contributors, the licence image direct themselves but also supply images to the likes of Getty Images. Earning on images sold work out around £2.75 per image, so again not a lot for your effort. One of the dislikeable things about EyeEm that I found, is the time it takes to review and accept images, we are talking weeks!.

EyeEm Images

 

Alamy

Alamy’s claim is to be the worlds most diverse stock photo collection. It is big and a strong contender up there with Adobe Stock. I probably use Alamy more than the other now, upload is easy, image review is 1 – 2 days typically, and the earnings much better. The earnings vary greatly with most sales generating me £7 – £10, but then you get a nice sale with a single image generating £145.00 in commision the equivalent of selling over 700 Adobe stock images.

The interface for Alamy is easy to use and allows extensive keywording and descriptions, which again can only help sales.

Alamy Images 

 

So there you have it, a quick overview of just a few of the many stock photo libraries out there waiting to sell your images.

 

Benington Lordship, Hertfordshire, England

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The Benington Lordship historic Georgian manor house,  Gardens, and the remains of a Norman motte and bailey castle, is located just east of Stevenage, and around 35 miles north of London, in the picturesque village of Benington, in the county of Hertfordshire.

The garden at Benington Lordship are open at various times of the year, the snowdrop walks throughout the grounds are particularly popular towards the end of wintertime.

Visit the Benington Lordship website for more information. Click Here

Capture One Pro – Low Key

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Continuing my learning curve with Capture One Pro I am amazed at the amount of control over an image I have available. Now at version 11 of this software from Phase One, the software become better with each release while still maintaining incredible speed on my 5-year-old mac.

A quick capture of some images of Tulips bought from the supermarket. Using only window light from the right-hand side and a plain ‘Mocha Brown’ wall with poor light shadows.

The light hitting the background looked wrong, with window light coming in from the right, the background was set back a couple of feet causing the right-hand side of the background to be much darker than the left-hand side. The Tulip was receiving a good light from the window and lit well on the right-hand side. My other problem was the light itself, a cloudy day, but late afternoon and had a yellow tinge.

The images looked ok(ish) in live view and I knew how I wanted the final images to look and knew I would be doing the post-processing to get what I wanted.

Firstly was to correct the white balance, and also reduce the vibrancy of the colours, The greens and pinks were separately lowered in saturation. An adjustment layer was added with a left to right gradient mask, and the exposure lowered to make the left-hand side darker, the colour saturation was also lowered.

A further adjustment layer was added this time with a short gradient from the bottom, to fade out the stem of the tulip by reducing the exposure.

The overall exposure of the image was taken down a touch and an adjustment to the curve to render the background to near black. Finally, a little clarity was added and a further adjustment layer with some slight highlights increased on the tulip.

The before and after images can be seen below.

 

 

Simple Asset Management

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SIMP - Simple Asset Management

Simple Asset Management

When embarking a new ‘Asset Management’ software project, some key areas were looked at from the very start to ensure the end result adhered to three main points.

 

Ease of Use

All too often, the complexity of systems meant the software designed to solve a problem, became the problem itself. User interfaces became a minefield, the initial data per asset was too in-depth and often not even available.

The time taken to collate and input the initial key data had to be kept to a minimum, too complex and the same old result of missing and unreliable data meant unreliable output.

Much of the data per asset is common data, with each asset type having a set of common parameters that could be applied to many assets.  Ensuring as much of the common data is populated for each different asset type ensured the keystrokes required when adding assets were kept to a minimum.

By collating and entering data from the very start of an assets creation or purchase key dates, costs and other data could also be recorded. Ensuring these are correct in the purchase systems meant the share data could also be used for assets. It does not matter what the asset is, it could be a car, an image or a piece of machinery.

 

Tracking

It should be remembered we are looking at physical assets, a single item. The single item may be made of many parts, and these parts themselves may need to be recorded. The important part is that we should not lose track of the asset itself. A single entity that is uniquely recorded. It does not matter what location this unique asset is placed, what the asset is used for or who the asset is used by, as all of these are secondary and recorded as such.

If an asset moves, or is resold the asset itself still remains, the unique entity must not change because it is in location B instead of A.

Recording changeable information against an asset is the next important area. The information recorded could be anything from where it is located, a sale or rental price and period, or just that it has been maintained and checked. When developing new systems it should be considered where all key data is going to be recorded and utilise the sharing of common data where possible.

Again ease of use must be considered, the easier and clearer it is made to record data the cleaner and clearer the end result is.

 

Presenting the data

Ensuring clean and easy presentation of our data is crucial to the system being both accepted and used.

We have our assets and we have our recorded data against these assets. We have to make sure that the data can be found easily, and the results are clear.

Again there are many systems that present user interfaces and data in such a way, that the time it takes to actually find what you want becomes the downfall of the system. The majority of the time most of the data is irrelevant to the person enquiring about an asset, all they want is some small or basic information but instead are present with charts, data, and numbers cluttered onto a screen. Some of this data may be useful, but most will not.

By structuring the output and displaying only key information on initial result screens, it makes it easier for the user to identify the asset they want. Separating further data into key areas ensures that each page displayed is relevant to the users’ request.

It is also important to be able to extract the required data, whether this is required electronically or in printed format, the same applies, key relevant data that the user has requested, if this is the date due for the next MOT, then they do not need the last five years of repair data and similarly if a stock image of a red pepper is required, then those green peppers can be left where they are.

The user is key, they need to get the asset information they want from the system, quickly and easily, they only need relevant information and the need to be able to share, send, record and act on the information, ensuring this will also ensure the system is accepted and used to its full potential.

Pasta Food Photography

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Pasta - Andy Sears Pasta, on its own, is not the most inspiring of subjects for food photography. Whether dried or fresh, pasta tends not to have a great amount of detail or texture. Getting in close with a macro lens does open the subject up, you start to see micro detail, a dusting of flour livens uncooked pasta up and provides more detail.

With cooked pasta, photographing while steaming hot can again liven up the scene, a small amount of parsley or black pepper can again add to the detail.

The thin slightly translucent nature of pasta also lends itself to backlighting, where the tones of the pasta and the glow of the backlighting show themselves. It is also a cheap subject, dried pasta, dark background and boiling water on a tabletop studio. Pasta comes in all shapes and sizes so most stores have a good selection of varieties to choose from.

For these images, the lighting consisted of one softbox with daylight fluorescent lamp to the right and backlighting provided by a single Speedlight set on low power.

 

Pasta - Food Photography - Andy SearsThe fresh tagliatelle image looked quite flat on the first images, a light dust of flour provided extra detail and texture which was picked up with the lighting well. Concentrating on the uncooked pasta first allowed me to play around with the lighting without worrying about pans of boiling water.

In manual mode, I used the lowest ISO I could with the images, to minimise noise, varying apertures were used depending how much of the scene I wanted to focus on.

After the uncooked pasta, I turned to capturing some cooked, steaming pasta. I set up a fork suspended in the air by taping it to the top of canned veg!.

 

 

Cokked tagliatelle - food photography - Andy SearsI boiled the pasta in water but removed from the water before it was fully cooked. Now here is the tricky bit, getting the pasta twirled around a fork is not as easy as it seems, it slides off easily and has a mind of its own.

With the intention of capturing steam, my first few attempts failed as by the time I managed to get the pasta on a fork, it had cooled and the steaming stopped. Keeping the fork straight and tilting the pan was the answer. Once securely on the fork, the pasta was dipped briefly back into the boiling water then quickly set up and captured while still steaming.

The steam does not last long and several images were fired off in succession to capture the variations.Some dried parsley was also used on the pasta t give it a little more detail.

 

 

WordPress Starter Websites

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Responsive Websites  from visart, Hitchin, HertfordshireGetting an online presence can be a daunting, timely and expensive process.  For a lot of new start-ups and sole traders, getting online becomes one of those tasks that get put to the bottom of the pile, with so much time actually running your business and doing the work the ‘online presence’ get left behind.

Visart’s ‘WordPress Starter Websites‘ offer a basic online package giving you your own domain name, e-mail addresses and a WordPress website that looks good on both mobile and desktop devices. For sole traders, new start-ups, creatives, in fact, anyone that needs an online presence, visart’s basic package cost just £99.

With your own domain, you can increase your brand awareness and improve your identity, no more non-descriptive outlook.com or gmail. visart will help you find a domain name that says more about you and your business.

For many years visart has been providing websites for local businesses in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, covering everything from Estate agents to Playgroups and Architects to  Holiday Lets. Simple, effective websites that help get you and your business found.

Our WordPress starter websites are fully expandable and you have full control to add as many pages, posts, plugins, themes as you need with no restrictions, allowing the website to grow with your business.

Click Here – For more on our WordPress Starter Websites

Capture One Pro – Getting the look you want

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Capture One Pro - Start Image - Andy Sears

Start Image – Unprocessed

Getting the look that you want for your images can be time-consuming with large image files and required processing power often dragging software down to a crawl. This was the main reason for the switch to Capture One Pro.

Processing multiple files and exporting images is fast with Capture One Pro, there appears to be no drag on the system and very little in the way of freezes and crashes. Cataloguing is fast and relatively simple (after the initial learning curve which actually isn’t that bad).

With you images captured you set about tweaking, getting the best out of your image. The first step after importing is getting rid of any junk, a quick flick through the images and I can easily see what to keep and what to get rid of, again this is quick with no lag.

For the adjustments, you can manually adjust exposure, clarity, shadows, brightness etc as well as a mass of other delicate settings. Cropping is easy and can be to a set constrained ratios or free. Adjusting colours, the temperature etc again is with a phenomenal amount of settings, some self-explanatory and some take a bit of working out. From the colour adjustment panel, you can also switch to black and white.

You can also add layers, to process local areas of an image using selection brushes and gradients to create masks.

You also have pre-defined styles which with a single click can create the entire look of your image including black and white, retro looks, portraiture and selective colours amongst the offerings. Other style packs are also available to suit various needs, some free and other to purchase.

Once you have your start image, you can process your basic settings and then clone as a variant so not having to start all over again for different looks. The variants can also be viewed side by side

 

Capture One Pro - Multiple image selection

 

As can be seen above multiple image variants can be viewed side by side to see the differences between your processes, with all your available imported files and variants on the right-hand side. The final images can be seen below.

So whether you want to give an image some punch, convert it to black and white or just do some subtle colour correction, it is worth giving Capture One Pro a try with the 30 day free trial.

Download Capture One Pro 10 here

Cosmos in vase - Andy Sears Garden Photography

Capture One Pro - Image Variants

Telephoto Flowers

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Dahlia - Andy Sears

Dahlia – ISO320 – 1/250sec f5.6 – 200mm

While most of the time I use my Sigma 105mm macro lens for garden photography, one of my lesser used telephoto lenses is the Nikon 55-200mm f4-5.6 Non-VR Bought second-hand this lens rarely sees the light of day, but on the occasions I have used it, I have been pleased with the results.

Using this lens at the 200mm end actually makes flower photography that much easier, giving me more room to manoeuvre. The depth of field is more forgiving than the macro lens allowing me to capture the full bloom while still separating it from the background. It is also lightweight and gives me the benefit of other focal lengths if needed.

The lens itself does have one major drawback on the autofocus front. It is slow, very slow. Although slow to focus, it does seem to do a good job (given time).

The different viewpoint offered by the telephoto lens is completely different from that of the macro lens. While detail matters I find myself looking at the framing much more closely with the better depth of field using the background flora proved beneficial to the end result.

The Nikon 55-200mm non-vr lens is available second-hand for under £70 and proves to be a real bargain, and offers more flexibility in not just flower photography but in general usage as well.

Pick up the Nikon 55-200mm from MPB

 

 

Dahlia Raindrops - Andy Sears

Dahlia Raindrops ISO500 – 1/200sec – f6.3 – 200mm

 

Rudbeckia - Andy Sears

Rudbeckia – ISO320 1/400sec f5.6 200mm

 

Cosmos - Andy Sears

Rudbeckia ISO 320 – 1/250sec – f8