How to Optimize Lightroom Speed and Performance

Love it or hate it, Adobe Lightroom has become one of the most popular post-processing and image management tools on the market. With its simple and intuitive interface, it is easy to learn and our team at Photography Life has provided many in-depth articles on using specific Lightroom features over the years. However, one of the biggest frustrations with Lightroom can be its poor performance, which can be especially disappointing when using the software on an older computer. In this article, we will go over a number of different techniques and settings in order to optimize Lightroom’s overall performance.

1) Upgrading Lightroom Might Not Be The Answer

When one experiences serious issues with any software, sometimes the answer is to upgrade to the latest and greatest release, hoping that the new version will address the problems. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with Lightroom. As we have previously demonstrated in our Lightroom Performance Comparison article, Lightroom is only getting slower with each new release, so the typical recommendation to upgrade to the latest version is not going to take care of its poor speed – it might actually make it worse. So if you are running an older release of Lightroom and you are wondering if upgrading the software is going to alleviate all the performance issues, it probably won’t. With the exception of some specific releases, it might get worse before it gets any better. For this reason, I recommend that you go through all the performance tips below and potentially even consider changing some parts of your post-processing workflow to get the best out of Lightroom.

That said, while jumping to the latest major release might not take care of the performance issues, you typically want to stay current either way. Adobe often delivers fixes and stability improvements to Lightroom and the most current minor releases will also provide support for the latest cameras and lenses available on the market. If you would like to find out more about this process, you can check out my article on how to upgrade Lightroom.

2) OS, Driver and Firmware Updates

While you might have your reasons for not wanting to upgrade Lightroom to the latest release, the same should not apply to your Operating System, Driver and Firmware updates – those you should update periodically, as they might contain important performance, stability and security patches. Personally, I avoid upgrading operating systems to the latest major release when it gets announced for at least three months (preferably six), so that all the potential bugs and incompatibility issues are addressed. There are plenty of beta testers out there willing to be on the cutting edge and if you want a stable workflow, you don’t have to be one of them. Just wait a few months and once all the major issues are addressed, you can safely upgrade. That’s not the case with driver and firmware updates though – I would recommend to update as soon as such updates are available. Pay close attention to graphics card driver updates, making sure that you have the most current driver.

3) Storage, CPU and GPU Performance

It goes without saying that Lightroom’s performance heavily depends on fast storage, CPU and GPU performance. For a start, have a look at the types of speeds you can expect to see when moving up from a spinning hard drive to an SSD or an NVMe drive in my HDD vs SSD vs NVMe Performance comparison. In short, it is a good idea to have at least one SSD or faster drive on your computer that you can utilize to store your Lightroom catalog and previews. I will provide more information on this type of setup further down in the article.

The same goes for your computer’s CPU – faster is generally better, although you don’t have to go with the latest architecture and an expensive Intel Core i7 CPU. I personally found Core i5 CPUs to be quite adequate for most Lightroom features. Since Lightroom is generally not well optimized for multi-threading, you don’t have to worry about getting a high-end Intel Xeon CPU either. Aside from the image export process and maybe 1:1 preview generation, Lightroom does not typically use more than a single CPU thread.

Having a fast and dedicated GPU card can provide some advantages to Lightroom’s performance. This is covered in more detail further down below.

4) Memory (RAM) Requirements

If you take a look at the system requirements page on Adobe.com, it states that 2 GB of RAM is required and 8 GB of RAM is recommended to use Lightroom. First of all, forget about the first number! I cannot even imagine trying to run Lightroom on a machine with anything less than 8 GB of RAM. In fact, even 8 GB of RAM can be insufficient for smoothly running Lightroom, especially if you open up Lightroom and other memory-hungry software at the same time. How smoothly Lightroom runs also very much depends on what you are planning to use it for. If you edit low-resolution images and don’t stitch panoramas or merge HDR images, 8 GB should be sufficient. However, if you are planning to perform such activities, I would strongly recommend to have at least 16 GB of RAM for Lightroom to use.

Unfortunately, Adobe’s Lightroom software development is rather poor, since the software has only become layered with more functionality over the years and some of the core issues and bugs have never been properly addressed. Lightroom is also known to be a memory hog and its memory leaks can occasionally result in enormous memory consumption. Because of this, I would recommend to occasionally close out of Lightroom and reopen it – this alone can take care of a number of performance-related issues. So if you see Lightroom slowing down, you would be surprised to see how much improvement you can get by just re-launching it.

5) Lightroom Catalog, Previews and Cache Folder Locations

Ideally, you should have your Lightroom catalog and the accompanying “Previews” folder (which contains all image previews and smart previews, Previews.lrdata file on Mac) sitting in the fastest storage you have available on your computer. For example, if you have an SSD drive and a large capacity hard drive on your computer, you should have your operating system, along with the Lightroom catalog + Previews folder on the SSD drive, whereas your photographs can reside on the slower hard drive. Lightroom’s cache should also reside on the fastest available storage. Below is an example of how I do this on my secondary computer:

PC Drives

As you can see, I have three separate drivers on my computer. The first one C: (Windows, 256 GB SSD drive) is for the operating system and Lightroom Cache folder. The second D: drive (Speed, 256 GB SSD drive) is for storing Lightroom catalogs and Previews. The third E: drive (Storage, 2 TB Hard Drive) is for storing the actual RAW photographs. For Lightroom catalogs, I create a folder called “Lightroom” and I place all yearly catalogs there (more on file management below):

Lightroom Catalog Folders

And all photos are stored in a relatively simple structure – Photos -> Year -> Event, as shown below:

Photos Storage

Here is the basic folder structure:

  • “C:\Lightroom Cache” – only for Lightroom’s cache
  • “D:\Lightroom” – for storing Lightroom catalogs, organized by year
  • “E:\Photos” – for storing actual RAW images

You don’t have to have three drives as in the example above – on my primary machine, I only have a single large M.2 NVMe drive that I use for the operating system, Lightroom catalogs and cache, so the second drive is only used for storing RAW images. If you only have a single drive available to use (which is often the case when using a laptop), you can use that drive to store your Lightroom catalog and cache, whereas your photos can reside on external storage. My personal choice for external storage is the compact Samsung T3 SSD drive. It is an insanely fast drive that is both compact and lightweight, which makes it an ideal device to use when traveling (see my Samsung T1 review for more details).

Lastly, if you have a lot of photos like I do, you might want to consider putting all your photos on a large network storage device like the Synology DS1815+. In such configurations, your best bet is to still keep the Lightroom catalog and cache on a fast SSD drive, while the actual photos are fetched from a network resource. Make sure to use a gigabit switch and CAT-5e or faster network cables, or you might experience very painful speeds. You definitely do not want to be loading your images off a network storage device using wireless network, as it won’t give you the speed or the reliability of a direct cable connection.

6) Lightroom Cache and its Impact on Performance

When moving between RAW images in Lightroom, many of us are pretty familiar with the dreadful “Loading…” notification, which can show up for a few seconds when looking at a high-resolution RAW image. In order for Lightroom to properly read the information from a RAW image, it must access the file and extract all the relevant information. This information is temporarily stored in something called “Camera RAW Cache”. By default, Lightroom allocates 1 GB of your computer’s primary storage for this cache, which is capable of handling roughly 2,000-2,500 images. Once the folder goes over 1 GB, Lightroom’s cache management automatically purges older cache contents. While maintaining a cache of two thousand images might be sufficient for most people, if you are planning to work on more than a few thousand images (say after coming back from a full day wedding, or a long trip), you are better off increasing the size of this cache in order to accommodate more images and avoid constantly seeing the “Loading…” notification.

To make this change go to Lightroom’s Preferences (“Edit” -> “Preferences…”), then click on the “File Handling” tab and pay attention to the “Camera Raw Cache Settings” part of the window:

Lightroom Camera RAW Cache Settings

Simply bump up that number from 1 GB to something like 5 GB, which should be plenty for most situations. With 5 GB of storage space, Lightroom will be able to accommodate between 10,000 to 12,500 files in the cache, which is more than adequate for most photographers. If you know that you will be working with more than 10,000 images at a time (perhaps for timelapses or sequences of panoramas), then you can bump it up to 10 GB. There is no need to increase the cache to ridiculous numbers. Not only will you end up wasting space, but you will also significantly increase the number of files in a single folder, which might actually end up hurting the performance of Lightroom rather than improve it.

There is no need to move the cache location if it is already on a fast drive, but if you see that the cache folder is sitting on a slower hard drive, you might want to consider moving it to something faster. Keep in mind that the Lightroom cache is not something that is going to make Lightroom drastically faster. Having a cache that contains information about RAW files is going to make Lightroom marginally faster – perhaps 10-15% faster at most. Still, you do not want to lose this advantage when post-processing images, which is why it is a good idea to allocate enough space for the cache.

7) Allocate Enough Storage Space for Lightroom

Always make sure to allocate enough storage space for Lightroom to use. This one is very important, especially for the volume that keeps your Lightroom catalog and the accompanying Previews folder. If you run out of space while performing tasks in Lightroom (which can happen rather quickly when generating 1:1 previews), you might even end up corrupting the catalog. Adobe recommends at least 20% free space on your storage, but it all depends on what type of storage you are using and how big it is. To avoid potential corruption and performance issues with Lightroom, make sure to have plenty of storage available.

8) Organize Lightroom Catalogs

Lightroom catalog is essentially a database that contains all imported image metadata, along with current adjustments and editing history. If you take a good care of catalogs and properly organize your images in Lightroom, that in itself should take care of a few performance issues. For example, instead of putting everything into a single catalog, my personal preference is to keep Lightroom catalogs and photographs organized by year, as I have shown above. This way, things can be kept clean and I don’t have to worry about storage space issues, or my Previews folder getting massive. I have written quite a bit on image management and there is no need to repeat everything again – please see my article on how to organize images in Lightroom, where you will find a video that details how I keep Lightroom catalogs and photo folders on my computers.

Although you might be better off having a single catalog when you are starting out and you don’t have many images, I think it is a good idea to get in the habit of properly organizing your file and folder structure from the get-go to avoid potential changes and problems in the future. Lightroom can surely accommodate millions of images in a single catalog, but that’s not something I would recommend for a number of reasons. First, larger catalogs are going to be slower compared to smaller ones. I know database folks might disagree with me on this one, but it is not just the database that slows things down – the previews folder that contains image previews for every image and its accompanying database also grow significantly larger, becoming potential performance bottlenecks. Second, larger catalogs are harder to backup and manage, whereas smaller ones are much easier to deal with. Third, you are not putting all your eggs in one basket with a single Lightroom catalog. And lastly, if you run into space issues, it is very easy to move your older data by moving older catalogs, along with their accompanying image files to external archive storage – you won’t have to deal with anything missing from your catalog.

9) Optimize Lightroom Catalogs

When you delete a bunch of images from Lightroom, the database does not get automatically checked and compacted for you. This means that occasionally, you should run catalog optimization in order to make sure that the database is well-maintained. Optimizing a Lightroom catalog is very easy – all you have to do is fire up Lightroom, then select “File” -> “Optimize Catalog…”, which will bring up the following window:

Lightroom Optimize Catalog

As you can see, it looks like I optimized by 2016 catalog at the end of the year, as part of my year-end workflow activities, but if I changed anything in my catalog, I would normally re-optimize it to make sure that it stays as compact as possible. Depending on how often you perform this task and the speed of your storage volume where the catalog resides, the process of optimizing a catalog can take as little as a few seconds and as long as a few minutes. Once you are done, you will receive a message that says “Your catalog has been optimized”.

Another reason for occasionally optimizing your catalogs is to make sure that they are error-free. If anything happens to the catalog that causes corruption, the process of catalog optimization might fail, which will be a good sign for reverting to an older backup.

10) Lightroom Previews (1:1, Standard and Thumbnails)

Lightroom can potentially store up to three types of previews for each image:

  • Thumbnail – for showing image thumbnails in Lightroom’s Library module. Thumbnails are generated pretty quickly by Lightroom, since it often uses the embedded JPEG previews in images that are generated by your camera. If Lightroom detects any changes, it will re-render the thumbnails and make them appear closer to what they should actually look like after changes in the Develop module are applied.
  • Standard – for looking at a larger version of an image in the Library module. Standard previews are nice to have built ahead of time, so that you don’t have to wait for the “Loading…” message each time you navigate between larger versions of images.
  • 1:1 Preview – for zooming in on an image and seeing it at 100% / 1:1 or higher view. The 1:1 previews can be very useful when looking at images at 100% view in the Library module. Please note that 1:1 previews are not used by the Develop module, so if you zoom in to images at 100% in the develop module and navigate between images, they will need to be re-rendered each time.

One of the suggestions that we often hear from photographers is to create 1:1 Previews, claiming that it will make the process of image culling and editing faster. While 1:1 Previews can certainly help a great deal for culling images, they are of no use when utilizing the Develop module! Don’t believe me? Try the following yourself:

  1. Select a group of images and generate 1:1 previews
  2. Once the previews are built, jump to the Develop module, zoom in to the first image at 1:1 / 100% view. Now press the right arrow of your keyboard to navigate to the next image
  3. You will see “Loading…” each time you move on to the next image

Now repeat the same process, except this time, zoom in 100% to the first image in the Library module, without going to the Develop module. Press the right arrow of your keyboard to move to the next image – the 1:1 preview will be shown without the “Loading…” message.

This basically proves that the 1:1 previews are of limited use and they can only be relied on when going through image culling. If you think they can help you when making changes to images in the Develop module, you would be wrong. As a result, if you are planning to cull through images in Lightroom, you should never do it from the Develop module – always look at images in the Library module instead.

11) Retaining Lightroom Previews

If you choose to generate Lightroom previews, don’t forget to check your Preview retention settings in Lightroom, to make sure that they are not eating up your precious space forever. Personally, I keep my 1:1 Preview retention / garbage collection to be 30 days, but if you edit images frequently and generate a lot of 1:1 previews, you should probably shorten that window to a week. Go to “Edit” -> “Catalog Settings” and click the “File Handling” tab to reveal the “Preview Cache” settings:

Lightroom Preview Cache

Take a look at the “Automatically Discard 1:1 Previews” setting and make sure you pick a time interval that works for you. Unless you really know what you are doing, you should not select “Never”. For most desktop computers, I would keep the default “Medium” setting for “Preview Quality”, but if you have a slow machine or a laptop, you are probably better of picking “Low” to make rendering a bit faster. Keep the “Standard Preview Size” at “Auto”, but if you have previously changed this setting and wondering which one to pick, choose resolution that closely matches your monitor resolution.

12) Automatically Writing Changes to XMP

In Lightroom’s Catalog Settings, you will find another tab called “Metadata”, which contains an important setting called “Automatically write changes to XMP”, as shown below:

Lightroom Automatically Write Changes to XMP

What this setting does, is whenever you make changes to a RAW file in Lightroom, it either embeds your edits into the same image (if its is in DNG format), or creates a sidecar file that contains the changes. While I certainly recommend to preserve your edits within sidecar files, I would not recommend to keep this setting turned on, because it will impact Lightroom’s overall performance. And it makes sense, because Lightroom will be constantly writing changes to the XMP / sidecar file as you edit your photographs.

Instead of this, my recommendation is to make the process of creating sidecar files with all your changes either at the end of your editing process, or as part of your year-end workflow activities (see section #5 “Save All Edits”). The process of saving your edits is very simple – all you do is select all images (CTRL / CMD + A), then press CTRL / CMD + S to start the process (you can also go to “Metadata” -> “Save Metadata to File”). This way, if anything happens to your Lightroom catalog, you will be able to create a new catalog and import your images without losing your edits. Please note that saving your edits does not preserve your editing history.

13) Lightroom is Poor at Image Culling

Now let’s go over the painful process of image culling in Lightroom. Why painful? Because Lightroom sucks at image culling, period. In order to even make the process of image culling tolerable, you must render 1:1 previews ahead of time, or you will be wasting your time, waiting for Lightroom to render each image at 100% zoom. So if you are going through hundreds of images at a time, selecting which one you are going to pick or delete, you will need to sit and wait through the process of generating 1:1 previews. Unfortunately, this process can take forever, which for many of us means that we should allocate sufficient time for Lightroom to do this for us. Many wedding photographers typically import images into their Lightroom catalogs, then start the 1:1 preview rendering process before they go to bed, so that by the time they wake up in the morning, the renderings are done and they can sit and cull through the images. Sadly, many don’t understand how the 1:1 previews actually work, so they end up wasting a lot more time by firing up the Develop module, where the 1:1 previews are completely useless!

Now picture this process in your head. You have 1,000 images to import into Lightroom, out of which you are planning to only edit 100 images or so, which means that plenty of images will be deleted, while others will not be marked for editing later on. During the import process, Lightroom will be copying all 1,000 images into a designed folder on your computer and simultaneously creating tens of thousands of rows of data in the Lightroom catalog / database, containing image metadata, file location and other relevant information. When you start rendering the 1:1 previews, it will take even more time, since Lightroom needs to apply any of the import settings to each image, then render images one at a time. It then needs to keep all the rendered images in a separate database that resides inside the “Previews” folder, so that Lightroom knows which images have those 1:1 previews available to use. Next, you start going through images, marking which images you want to keep or delete, which again results in more database operations. After you are done, you delete all the images that you marked for deletion. During this process, Lightroom empties all the rows containing image metadata and other relevant information that no longer needs to be in the database. However, the database still stays at the same size, since nothing is re-organized or compressed after this – you will need to repeat the process of optimizing the Lightroom catalog in order to be able to reclaim the space and keep the catalog at its proper size. This, in turn, adds up to more wasting of precious time that one could spend editing images.

Lightroom might be pretty solid for editing images, but I personally stay away from Lightroom for culling through images for the reasons stated above. Instead of going through this nightmare, I would recommend to modify your workflow, so that you cull through the images ahead of time, only importing images you are intending to keep and edit in Lightroom. My personal choice of image culling software is FastRawViewer (see my detailed FastRawViewer review) and I use it heavily to cull through the images while they are still sitting on my memory card. Once I mark the images I want to edit and delete the ones I don’t care about, only then do I go through the import process in Lightroom. This speeds everything up and I know exactly what needs to be done in Lightroom. I don’t waste my time generating 1:1 Previews or optimizing my Lightroom catalog each time I delete images from it.

If you modify your workflow and avoid Lightroom for culling images, you will save yourself a lot of time and frustration!

14) Import Settings

When importing images into Lightroom, you can save quite a bit of time by not rendering large previews upon import. You especially want to avoid rendering 1:1 previews on import, because those take forever to build and provide benefits only for image culling, as stated above. Personally, if I want to import images as quickly as possible, I choose “Minimal” for preview generation and if I want to be able to toggle through large images from a single card, I might sometimes choose “Standard” size previews (I typically do that after images are culled and imported though):

Lightroom Import Previews

For the best image import performance, I would recommend to render Minimal previews, especially when importing from more than one card. If you want to generate image previews, you can always do that after the import process is complete.

15) Using Smart Previews

Basically, Smart Previews are highly compressed, low resolution DNG files that are generated from the original RAW images. If your machine is slow and you are working with a lot of high-resolution images, sometimes limiting yourself to edit using Smart Previews is the best way to speed up Lightroom. For this, you will need to generate Smart Previews ahead of time, which can be done in a similar way as rendering 1:1 previews. Simply go to “Library” -> “Previews” -> “Build Smart Previews” and let Lightroom generate those smart previews for you. Once the process is done, you will end up with a bunch of small DNG files in a new folder called “Smart Previews.lrdata” (it is a file on Macs). These files will be used for editing, instead of the original RAW file.

To make sure that your computer actually uses the Smart Previews instead of the original RAW files, you will need to change a setting within Lightroom. Fire up Lightroom Preferences by going to “Edit” -> “Preferences…”, then select the “Performance” tab. You will find a setting under “Develop” that says “Use Smart Previews instead of Originals for image editing”:

Lightroom Smart Previews Setting

Once you check that setting and click “OK”, go back to the develop module and select an image that you previously created a Smart Preview for. As long as you don’t zoom in to the images at 100% view, the RAW file that you will be working on will use the data from the DNG file instead of the original RAW image, which should noticeably speed things up, especially when toggling through many images and applying edits to them. The great thing about performing edits on Smart Previews, is that your changes will be automatically replicated on the original RAW images, so you don’t have to sync anything.

Don’t forget to turn this setting off after you get back to your fast desktop, as you are better off working on original RAW images instead.

16) GPU Acceleration

Some software is able to take advantage of a dedicated Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) in order to speed things up through “GPU acceleration” – a process that replaces CPU usage with GPU. In many cases, GPU acceleration can bring a lot of benefits, since the GPU is used for drawing and outputting information on the screen, whereas the CPU is freed up to perform other tasks. Although Lightroom can now take advantage of GPU acceleration, its support is unfortunately very poor at the moment. GPU acceleration is only limited to the Develop module, so it is completely useless for Library, Export and other modules / screens. It can bring some performance benefits when using the Develop module tools such as Spot Removal and Adjustment Brush. You can find this setting in the same Preferences window as above, under the “Performance” tab:

Lightroom Use Graphics Processor

If you have a fast dedicated graphics card from NVIDIA or AMD, you can take advantage of GPU acceleration and speed things up. However, the effectiveness of enabling GPU acceleration has to be tested on a case-by-case basis. If you have a fast video card, you will most likely benefit from enabling GPU acceleration. But if you have a built-in GPU or an older-generation GPU, you are probably better off keeping this setting turned off.

Therefore, my recommendation is to test whether this setting is going to be effective for your editing. In many cases, I found GPU acceleration to be buggy and slow, but in some cases, it can noticeably improve the performance of tools within the Develop module.

I hope you found this article on optimizing Lightroom performance useful. If you have any questions or comments, please use the comments section below.

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Stage Photography Tips

A few years ago, after a request, I started to photograph stage shows. Generally I would classify myself more as a landscape and wildlife photographer, but I was intrigued and certainly up for the challenge technically. My brief was pretty straightforward – no flash, to confine myself to a discreet location by the stage and photograph the main performance of a private school’s annual dance. Firstly, this was a pretty special private school with a great auditorium, professional level choreography and lighting and really high level production values. The performances are sometimes astonishing and the dancers often go on to professional careers.

Stage Photography (8)
NIKON D750 + 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 85mm, ISO 1250, 1/640, f/3.2

I began with a Nikon D800E and 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II. I learnt reasonably quickly that relying on the meter when dancers and performers are often moving rapidly under wildly varying stage lights just resulted in a lot of badly exposed shots. Consequently, I learned to shoot everything manually, including adjusting my ISO on the fly (I reprogrammed the video record button to do this). I also realized I needed a broader range of camera bodies and lenses to really do the job.

Stage Photography (1)
NIKON D750 @ 200mm, ISO 1100, 10/3200, f/3.2

In developing pure stage photography and treating it as an art form, I wanted to differentiate myself from many other stage photographers who use a tripod and then photograph the performers posing for the shot under optimal lighting. In my case, I want to capture the performer engrossed in their dance and lost in that moment.

Stage Photography (3)
NIKON D800E @ 38mm, ISO 6400, 10/4000, f/2.8

These days, I continue to photograph the actual performance, however, I’m usually asked to shoot the dress rehearsal as well. Although the performance normally has a special quality when the audience is in and it’s real, I often get wonderful shots from the rehearsal. The other advantage of the rehearsal is that I can shoot from diverse angles and get really close, something impossible to do if an audience is in the theater. A two or three day shoot allows me to get to know people involved and work more cohesively with them.

Stage Photography (5)
NIKON D750 + 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 3200, 1/320, f/2.8

I find some performers are acutely aware of the camera. They know how to assist you to get a great shot, whereas others may be less confident.

Stage Photography (9)
NIKON D750 + 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 3200, 1/400, f/2.8

It’s taken considerable experience to be able to gauge a stage environment and know instinctively how to set up my cameras. I’m currently running a Nikon D4, D750 and a D810. I use them for different looks and types of performance shots. Normally the 70-200mm f/2.8 stays on the D750 and I use it when the lighting is moody, dark or dramatic. The D4 normally has my 24-70mm f/2.8 attached and I keep it on high speed continuous for particularly fast paced dance or stage performance where I need 10 frames a second to capture a particular moment or expression. I will also use my D800E or D810 with a prime such as a Nikon 85mm f/1.8 or Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art for ballet or slow moving performance where I’m seeking ultimate quality.

Stage Photography (10)
NIKON D750 + 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 98mm, ISO 6400, 1/500, f/2.8

I would note that it takes time to instinctively look at a variable set of stage lights, dance performers and think 1/500th, f/2.8, ISO 6400. Photography under stage lighting is challenging and almost always a compromise because ideally, a shutter speed of 1/1000th would be better to capture the action of a fast-paced dance routine. Unfortunately, that may push ISO to unacceptably high levels. Normally, I try to keep my ISO to a maximum of 12,800 on the D4, but many of my shots are from ISO 3200 and up.

Stage Photography (13)
NIKON D4 + 50mm f/1.4 @ 50mm, ISO 1600, 1/640, f/1.8

Technically, it’s vitally important to be properly equipped. To shoot an all-day dress rehearsal I have my cameras set up with the fastest 64 GB cards I can get. I carry plenty of spares. My D810 and D750 are gripped and the D4 has a spare battery. I might shoot 3,000 images in a day and running out of memory or battery is not an option.

Stage Photography (6)
NIKON D750 + 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm, ISO 10000, 1/500, f/2.8

I would describe shooting a stage show as exhilarating and with little margin for error. I recently visited Los Angeles; I would describe driving around LA in a rented vehicle, with no knowledge of the local freeways and navigating purely off a GPS device as a similar kind of scenario. People drive really quickly in LA. I was sticking to the 65 mile an hour speed limit and everyone seemed to be whizzing by. You can’t make a mistake. Similarly, I might capture a magical moment on stage but if that shot is out of focus, blown out or badly framed it’s almost impossible to rescue.

Stage Photography (11)
NIKON D750 + 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 122mm, ISO 6400, 1/640, f/2.8

Stage photography of this kind of also labor-intensive. There will be a percentage of out-of-camera shots which will work, but many shots require significant post-processing. Something taken at 12,800 ISO under bright orange stage lights may need radical and creative thinking to bring to life. Often my shots end up significantly different compared to the original.

Stage Photography (7)
NIKON D750 + 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 180mm, ISO 3200, 1/500, f/2.8

I have found that there is often an algorithm or solution which works for a particular performance or set of stage lighting and naturally, I dial that in as a preset in Lightroom or ACR. Photography is an art form, and the creative process really comes to life when it comes to taking an image photographed under complex and varied lighting and finding how to make it work.

Stage Photography (12)
NIKON D4 + 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 48mm, ISO 8000, 1/500, f/2.8
Stage Photography (2)
NIKON D750 @ 200mm, ISO 3200, 10/4000, f/2.8

When I shoot long exposure shots and landscapes, I have the luxury of carefully setting up the shot, using a tripod and taking numerous test images to get focus and exposure perfect. Shooting a high-impact stage performance is the exact opposite. You get only one chance. I love it. This is my favorite form of photography and when people appreciate the work, it’s incredibly satisfying.

Stage Photography (4)
NIKON D800E + 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70mm, ISO 9051, 1/640, f/2.8

Please note: I’m restricted in the images I can use. These are used with permission.


This guest post was shared by Stephen Weir. To see more of his work, please visit his website.

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When People Downsize Their Camera Gear

This short article summarizes some of the feedback that I have received from seniors who have downsized their gear, or are thinking about doing so. The desire to downsize camera gear is not restricted to seniors! Some of the actions that seniors are taking may make sense for other photographers as well. It has been quite surprising to witness the number of comments and contacts that have occurred since my senior-related article, Senior Perspectives on Photography. I’d like to thank all of the readers who have contacted me and shared their personal experiences! Not only has it been an enjoyable experience to hear from all of you, but very enlightening as well. One of the common topics that these more ‘mature’ photographers wanted to discuss with me was their decision to downsize their gear. There was certainly a range of approaches that people have used to better align their gear with their photographic interests and their need for smaller, lighter camera gear.

downsize 1
NIKON 1 J5 + 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 38.5mm, efov 104mm, ISO 3200, 1/500, f/8.0, hand-held

Partial Replacement of Interchangeable Lens System

Only replacing a portion of their camera gear was a very common approach that has been used by many seniors. This was especially true of people who had an interest in bird and nature photography. Some have kept their full frame DSLRs and long zoom or telephoto lenses, along with their tripods and gimbal heads as they simply love the quality that this gear produces for them. Since they are still able to handle this heavier gear when used with a tripod it has made sense for them to keep it. They most commonly replaced some camera gear for other types of subject matter.

Other seniors have kept their full frame bodies and faster glass because of image quality considerations when photographing family events and specifically their grandchildren at school events and other such gatherings which are often captured in lower light conditions. They then used other camera gear for more general photography needs.

downsize 2
NIKON 1 J5 + 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 10mm, efov 27mm, ISO 1600, 1/640, f/5.6, hand-held

When seniors replaced a portion of their full frame DSLR camera gear many have kept a number of their lenses but switched to a smaller and lighter cropped sensor DSLR body such as the Nikon 5000 series cameras or models like the Canon SL 1. Some full frame Sony owners have added a cropped sensor bodies for their everyday photography and travel needs. Along with the addition of a cropped sensor body many seniors have added an ‘all-in-one’ zoom lens such as an 18-200mm or 18-300mm to simplify their travel kit down to one body/lens combination.

Initially replacing only a portion of their interchangeable lens camera gear with some smaller cropped sensor bodies appears to be one of the most common approaches used by senior owners of full frame gear. Many also acknowledged that this is likely only a stop-gap solution and that they may need to downsize further as they age.

Adding Travel Gear

Some seniors who are now travelling more have added a super zoom camera so they can travel with one camera to meet their travel needs. Others who do not need the focal length range of a super zoom unit or find them too large and bulky have opted for a fixed lens camera, most often with an optical zoom capability. Their selection of optical zoom range appears to be driven by the nature of their travel. People who mainly travel to city destinations and capture mainly street type photographs were more likely to choose wider angle zoom cameras. Seniors who more commonly traveled outside of urban areas seemed to choose cameras with optical zooms offering more focal length range.

downsize 3
NIKON 1 J5 + 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 10mm, efov 27mm, ISO 160, 1/640, f/5.6, hand-held

Total System Replacement

Anecdotally, replacing their entire camera system doesn’t seem quite as popular as adding a cropped sensor body for many seniors. For those seniors who told me that they have switched systems completely it appears that one of two approaches was most commonly used. The first was to switch from DSLRs to a cropped sensor mirrorless solution. Quite often brands like Sony and Fuji were mentioned in this scenario. People that made this switch most often cited their need to maintain image quality with a cropped sensor body, but also shedding some weight by going mirrorless as their main determinants.

downsize 4
NIKON 1 J5 + 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 64mm, efov 172.8mm, ISO 3200, 1/160, f/8.0, hand-held with extension tubes

The second very common approach was to move to a Micro Four Thirds (M4/3) system. Seniors that took this route wanted to physically downsize their camera bodies as well as their lenses. Many of them mentioned that they thought that the image quality had improved with M4/3 sensor bodies making them now well suited to their current needs. Olympus and Panasonic were both mentioned frequently with Olympus appearing to be the more popular brand.

downsize 5
NIKON 1 J5 + 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 10mm, efov 27mm, ISO 400, 1/800, f/9.0, hand-held

I also had quite a few people mention the Nikon 1 system. Realistically, I don’t think that the Nikon 1 system is nearly as popular as M4/3 and I likely got a higher percentage of inquiries and comments about Nikon 1 since many readers know that I shoot with it exclusively. Of the people who have switched to Nikon 1, or have an interest in the system, two basic groups emerged. The first group was bird/nature photographers who are specifically interested in a Nikon 1 V3/CX 70-300mm combination. The second group was looking for a small interchangeable lens camera to use primarily for travel. These folks tended to ask about the Nikon 1 J5 with a 10-30mm kit lens or with the 10-100mm f/4-5.6. Some of them also had interest in other 1 Nikon lenses like the 6.7-13mm, 30-100mm, and 18.5mm prime.

downsize 6
NIKON 1 J5 + 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 33.6mm, efov 90.7mm, ISO 160, 1/100, f/8.0, hand-held

Confusion Reigns

Of the many emails and calls I received almost half of them were from folks who are contemplating downsizing their camera gear but were very confused with how to proceed. Most seemed conflicted when it came to camera sensor size, or were caught up in the confusing but somewhat pointless DSLR vs mirrorless debate. Others viewed their plethora of available camera choices, i.e. interchangeable lens systems, bridge cameras, fixed lens cameras, as simply overwhelming. This conundrum ended up being the creative spark for an article I recently wrote for my photography blog that helps people create a camera buying decision matrix.

I’ve never thought is was appropriate for any of us to tell other folks what camera gear they should buy as it is impossible for us to really understand the photographic needs of another person. Carefully defining one’s needs, then evaluating our options against those needs is, in my view, the most prudent course of action.

downsize 7
NIKON 1 J5 + 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 17.1mm, efov 46.2mm, ISO 160, 1/10, f/5.6, variable neutral density filter and tripod used

If you’ve downsized your camera gear, share you experience!
Regardless of whether you’re a senior or not, if you’ve downsized your camera gear we’d love to hear from you! Tell us what you were using in the past, what you’ve moved to and why. And, just as importantly what your experience has been (both good and bad) with your new gear.


Article is Copyright 2017, all images are Copyright 2016/2017 Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, adaptation, or reproduction of any kind including electronic or digital is allowed without written consent. Photography Life is the only approved user of this article. If you see it reproduced anywhere else it is an unauthorized and illegal use. Readers posting comments on offending websites by calling out people who steal intellectual property is always appreciated!

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Fuji X-T1 $500 Off, X100T & X-T10 $200 Off

Now that the Fuji X-T2 (see our detailed review) is out and other updates such as the Fuji X100F and X-T20 have also been already released, it is time to clear out the existing stock and make room for the latest and greatest. For this reason, until stock completely runs out, Fuji has decided to issue a $500 instant rebate towards the X-T1 and $200 rebates towards X100T and X-T10.

Fuji X-T1

If you are wondering about the capabilities of these cameras, check out our in-depth Fuji X-T1 review and Fuji X-T10 review. These are killer cameras and although their newer iterations are definitely superior in almost every way, the price difference between the newer models and these current offers is huge – the X-T2 retails for $1,599, so you could literally buy two X-T1 cameras for this price. The price difference between the X-T20 and X-T10 is smaller at $300, but that’s still quite a big chunk off from a $900 camera.

If you would like to take advantage of these offers, please see the links below:

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The Ultimate Wildlife Photography Tutorial

In this in-depth Wildlife Photography Tutorial, we put together some of the best material we have published to date on photographing wildlife. Most of the information comes from myself (Robert Andersen), but a few extra tips are shared by other talented PL team members like Tom Redd. Instead of creating separate articles on each topic, we thought it would be a good idea to compile everything into a single piece, so that our readers could get the best out of it and have a chance to follow the material in a logical progression. This tutorial is a work in progress and we will be adding more sections in the future, so make sure to bookmark it in your browser!

Note from the authors: all the material presented in this article is based on our field experience and years of shooting, and our recommendations and guidance are based on that. If your experience differs from ours and you disagree with any of the expressed statements, please use the comments section to let us know. We always welcome healthy criticism and discussions.

Small bull moose in snow
NIKON D4 @ 240mm, ISO 400, 1/800, f/5.6

1) The Importance of Light

I hope everybody knows what the ‘golden hour’ is, but in case you are not familiar with the term, it’s the first hour of light in the morning and the last hour of light at the end of the day. There are many reasons why the golden hour is a great time to shoot photos, but the three reasons I want to mention are the tone of the light, the soft diffused light produced and the height of the sun relative to the subject. Lets start with a sample photo taken during morning golden light time and show you the magical properties the light produced.

Immature Bald Eagle in Sunrise Light
NIKON D4 @ 340mm, ISO 1250, 1/2500, f/6.3

If you look closely at the photo you will see that the bird is beautifully lit and even has light illuminating it from below, almost as if I am holding a golden reflector on it. There is also no over exposure areas anywhere, however this bird does not have a white head and tail like it’s mature bald eagle parent, where that would have mattered more and been easier to over expose. What I want to say about the golden hour, is that morning and evening light is softer and not as harsh, so use that to your advantage when shooting difficult-to-expose animals. Also, because the sun is low in the sky at this time, it will illuminate the subject more evenly and have a beautiful temperature to the light.

Wildlife Tips Part 1 Comparison Photo

The main point about the golden hour, is not so much the hour itself, but rather that first and last light are powerful tools and the harsh light of a midday sun can easily ruin a photo that might otherwise have been stunning. The midday sun also creates very strong shadows that can ruin a photo because of the dark areas it creates on the animal itself (e.g. from antlers etc.) to strong dark shadows on the ground. The comparison photos shown above have no strong shadows anywhere, because they were both photographed in early light. The tone difference is because the left photo was shot in absolute first photographable light, whereas the right photo was approximately 45 minutes later, but still soft morning light. You can argue which light/photo you prefer, because I also love the photo on the right; they are two very different photos of the same bird. The point is that light is important in how the resulting photo looks and you need to consider that when shooting, it’s hard to make a harsh midday sun look great.

Tips:

  • You need to get up real early to shoot in the morning light
  • You need to allow travel time to get to the location
  • You need to allow time to find the subject
  • Watch the shutter speed, allow for the light level
  • Watch your white balance – Auto might not be best choice to catch the colors

2) Weather

My wife is a walking talking weather station. She checks the weather all the time and that’s great, but don’t let what you think the weather will be, rule your decision to go out and shoot. I have come to think that the weather for the most part doesn’t matter or more accurately, the weather can be your friend. Photographing moose / elk / deer or other large antlered animals is most of the time better done on an overcast day. However, shooting birds or having the sky in the image when it’s that sucky winter overcast off white could end in horrible results. Don’t be afraid to venture out into a bit of rain or snow either, you just never know what you are going to get until you go. I have seen some amazing light/skies the day after a major storm. Always be on the ready – there are no hard or fast rules. Look at different weather situations as photographic opportunities, rather than reasons to sit at home.

Bull Moose at Snake River
NIKON D4 @ 310mm, ISO 1600, 1/400, f/4.5

The above photo was taken right after it stopped raining and the extra details the weather provided were just awesome in my opinion.

details found in wet photos

I actually prefer to use wet photos to draw animals from or reference as they show how hair and fur really flows on an animal. To me, all these little extras add to the story of the photo and make it more interesting.

This next photo shows how I prefer my moose photos to look with nice, even light and no harsh shadows on the moose. Because it is a semi-overcast day, it’s perfect weather for moose photography. I am in between trees and a bright sunny day would make for very contrasty photos with areas of strong shadows and bright highlights that are hard, but not impossible to make look good. The biggest reason I love overcast days for this type of animal, is that there are no shadows from the antlers ruining a good photo. Finding a huge moose is hard enough, finding a huge moose and having crappy photos because of a bright sunny day can make a grown man cry.

Big Bull Moose up close at Gros Ventre
NIKON D3X @ 600mm, ISO 640, 1/320, f/5.0

Most of my experience with moose in my part of the country (NH) where I chase them all the time, is that you usually find them extremely early in the morning or late evening when they are most active. The photo below will compare sunny versus overcast for you.

Sunny versus Overcast Sample

I tried to pick two photos from around the same time of year, same setting and similar subjects. It doesn’t matter which photo you like more – that’s a personal choice. Just be aware of your light choices. To me the left is the photo I prefer and here are the things I like about it: background looks more pleasing, moose is lit evenly, no antler shadow, no distracting lighting changes or harsh tree shadows. You can’t always pick the light, you probably booked your trip in advance and once you are there. You just have to deal with what you are given. We will make subject choices based on the weather e.g. we are in the Grand Teton / Yellowstone area and its going to be a bright sunny day, we may decide to just do moose at first light and then move onto other subjects while the light is harsher, or we get three days of overcast and we will forego all other animals and concentrate on moose or elk, because we prefer to shoot those with no shadows. Preferably, bright overcast is amazing light condition for wildlife photography where there are no scenic vistas with the sky showing – hehe if only it was that easy.

Harsh Light Comparison

Before I move off weather, I will re-mention that rainy wet animals look very different to dry ones. They have more texture to their fur and also, the environment will look more saturated naturally and set more of a mood. I don’t like it pouring down in such a manner that the rain becomes the photo. More a light drizzle or just after it rains is a good time to look for opportunities. This next photo is from Alaska and it is drizzling, but look at the texture it adds to the bears and also the motion it conveys from the splashes of water from the cub’s paws. Lastly, look how saturated the greens are and as an added bonus, there are no clouds of insects hovering around the bears because of the rain.

Coastal Grizzly Bear Photo
NIKON D4 @ 340mm, ISO 1250, 1/2500, f/6.3

Tips:

  • Get wet weather gear for you, your camera and lenses (I use AquaTech sports shield for camera)
  • Also you will need Muck boots or hip waders to get to those wet / muddy locations
  • Wet or snow – don’t point your lens up (water spots on the lens glass)
  • Windy rain or snow – watch the direction you point your lens to (water spots)
  • Cold weather – have layered clothing and gloves that still allow you to shoot
  • Cold weather warm car/house etc. – watch condensation issues, let the camera warm slowly
  • Cold weather drains batteries faster
  • Cold weather – breath / warmth fogs your viewfinder – can’t see your subject

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What Camera Manufacturers Need to Learn from Fuji

Fujifilm has just announced yet another set of “Kaizen” firmware updates that will soon be available for the Fuji X-T2 and Fuji X-Pro2 cameras. This is a major firmware upgrade release consisting of a total of 33 (!) updates and new features, which is very exciting. It is nice to be able to go back to a camera and discover new things you can do with it – almost creates a feeling of owning something entirely new. After seeing the announcement (the details of which are provided at the end of the article), I thought about other camera manufacturers and what they could learn from Fuji.

Fuji X-T2 Image Samples (14)
X-T2 + XF10-24mmF4 R OIS @ 17.4mm, ISO 200, 1/20, f/8.0

Firmware updates might not seem like a big deal for some people, but they are very important for a number of reasons.

Why Firmware Upgrades Matter

Let’s start off with a question – when Apple or Google release major OS updates for the phone or a tablet you bought a couple of years ago, does that make you excited? I am sure the answer is a definite “Yes” and that’s for a good reason: we love getting more life out of something we already own. The same experience takes place when we get a major upgrade to our computer’s operating system that introduces new features. And if we don’t have to pay for those new features, it creates a subliminal bond, which basically translates to two key words that marketers love: value and loyalty. Knowing that you can buy a product that will only get better overtime makes you feel good about your purchase, which in turn, transforms you to a repeat customer and ultimately – a fan.

And that’s exactly how Fuji was able to grow a huge base of very loyal Fujifilm customers. Early on, the senior management of the company realized that if they make customer service top priority and fix any potential issues without releasing new gear or charging customers extra for those features, the company will win more customers in the long run. It has now been five years since the very first X-series camera was released and back then, many of us, including myself, were not very happy with the X system. In fact, my first review of the Fuji X-T1 was very critical of the camera and I remember rating it below “acceptable” – I even poked fun at the failures of the Fuji X-Pro1’s AF system. But in less than a year, Fuji transformed the camera into something completely different. So different, that I had to completely rewrite my Fuji X-Pro1 review. In the past, I never had to do that with any other camera – the X-Pro1 was the first. With each new camera release, I was getting more excited with what Fujifilm had to offer. So when the X-T1 was released, I made the decision to purchase the camera, as it suit my needs perfectly. Since then, Fuji has released a number of large firmware updates, making me feel good about my purchase. And each time I saw a firmware announcement, I would go back to my X-T1, update it, then play with the new features like I do when my iPhone gets a brand spanking new iOS update. In essence, that’s how a loyal Fuji fan is born every day…

I can’t remember the last time I was excited to flash firmware on my Nikon DSLRs. As I was writing my article on updating Nikon firmware, I realized just how boring those updates were. Since my Nikon D810 was released, I never even cared to go back and flash the firmware on it – it has been running stock 1.0 firmware for the past 3 years. Every time new firmware was released, all I saw was fixes for the things that I did not even give a damn about. No new features, nothing refreshing. Although I consider the Nikon D810 the best high-resolution DSLR on the market today (maybe with the exception of the Pentax K-1, although Nikon wins in the lens department), I somehow get more excitement from shooting my Fuji X-T1. As I explained in my Fuji X-T2 review, the camera I spent the most time with during the trip to New Zealand was the X-T2 – my D810 was only used for specific things like timelapses. The rest of the time, the D810 just sat in the bag. And I am not the only person who feels this way – ask any Fuji X shooter who shoots with two systems and you will hear pretty consistent, similar feedback. Fuji goes out of the way to make their cameras a pleasure to shoot with and when you couple the great ergonomics with a very friendly user interface and continuous firmware upgrades, it does translate to an overall better experience.

Fuji X-T2 Image Samples (31)
X-T2 + XF10-24mmF4 R OIS @ 24mm, ISO 800, 1/340, f/11.0

Continuous Software Development Creates Loyalty

Firmware and software upgrades matter. Loyalty is extremely important for any company. Sadly, the big camera manufacturers like Canon, Nikon and Sony just don’t seem to give a damn. And that’s why they are losing customers every day. Many of our readers have completely switched from Nikon, Canon and Sony to Fuji in the past few years and most of them don’t regret it, praising not just the Fuji X-series cameras and lenses, but the value they get out of their cameras with ongoing firmware updates. That’s pretty remarkable, but it makes me wonder about the state of the industry today. Nikon is in trouble and going through massive restructuring of the company, despite its 100 year anniversary. Canon is not in great shape either – if it was not for their printing, document management and other profitable business solutions, the company would probably be going through similar restructuring as well. Sony is an electronics giant, so it does whatever it needs to do to make more money.

But one pattern emerges among all three – they all seem to be far disconnected from their customers. What’s puzzling to me, is that they do not realize how easy it is to reach out to their customers. I have no problem contacting someone at Fujifilm and I always get an email response. Last night, I sent 12 suggestions for the Hasselblad X1D-50c and I got a reply within an hour from the company, with most of my suggested fixes either on their way or “on the list” of fixes. That’s truly remarkable. When visiting large photography conventions like Photo Plus, I get to talk to Fuji and Hasselblad executives and engineers, since they are on the floor, talking to their customers. Heck, I scored both interviews on the floor without prior appointments either! I have been attempting to talk to Nikon for the past 5+ years and all I get is a business card of a PR company that represents the company. I’m an NPS member and as many of our readers know, I write more about Nikon than any other brand on this website. I have never been contacted by anyone at Nikon. Ever. So when I see Nikon suffering today, I can see why – the patterns of a company that does not seem to give a damn are all there.

Fuji X-Pro2 Image Samples (2)
X-Pro2 + XF56mmF1.2 R APD @ 56mm, ISO 200, 1/8, f/5.6

Software Development Does Not Stop

I have been fortunate to have had a tremendous career in Information Technology. I have been involved in many projects and I have personally participated in writing software, and later on in my career, managing large software and ERP projects. To date, I still write quite a bit of code – I maintain PL completely by myself and I continuously make changes and customizations to the core code. Some of my code has been integrated into a number of WordPress plugins, based on my feedback and modifications. So I do have quite a bit of experience when it comes to software development.

Based on my experience, I must point out that software development is a continuous process – its lifecycle does not end with the release of a product. If you look at any industry today, you will see that software modifications and upgrades take place all the time. Microsoft is known for its “Patch Tuesday”, while other companies follow up with different methodologies and timing to deliver their updates. Even on your mobile phone, you see constant updates to apps and operating system. That’s just the world we live in – with so many apps and tools available at our disposal, if a company releases something new and never actively maintains it, customers get unhappy and abandon the product. A good example of terrible software practice is Nikon’s recently released SnapBridge – software that was supposed to bring Bluetooth integration to cameras like the Nikon D500. To say that it was an utter fail is an understatement. With a mere 1 star rating (which recently improved to 1.5 stars) on iTunes and a slightly better 2 star rating on Google Play, it makes me wonder what kind of software engineers the company hired to make software work that bad. Nikon recently released firmware updates for its cameras to make the software work a bit better, but it has been many months since the cameras like the D500 with SnapBridge were released. Such poor timing does not benefit Nikon in any way. Sadly, Fuji’s Camera Remote app is not that far off either in its ratings, which shows that most camera manufacturers, including Fuji, have not gotten a good grasp of connectivity options and the world of app development. But that’s a topic for another day…

Software is something all camera manufacturers need to spend a bit more R&D on. And it should not be a one-off contract with a development company to make a single app! Ideally, software should either be developed in-house with proper resources, or it should be contracted out with a company that can provide continuous development and maintenance. It is a connected world out there and the sooner they all get on the same boat, the better. I can share my pictures on my iPhone instantly – one should be able to do the same when shooting with an expensive camera.

Fuji X-T2 Image Samples (27)
X-T2 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 250, 1/3800, f/5.6

Fuji X-T2 and Fuji X-Pro2 Firmware Announcements

Now let’s take a look at what kind of improvements Fuji is going to deliver in the upcoming firmware updates:

X-T2 version 2.00 & X-Pro2 version 3.00 – due late March 2017

  1. Shooting RAW in Bracketing and Advanced Filters: The update enables you to use the RAW format when shooting not only in AE Bracketing but also in other Bracketing modes (ISO, Dynamic Range, White Balance, Film Simulaitons) and also in Advanced Filter modes.
  2. Extended ISO 125 and 160 selectable: The update adds ISO125 and ISO160 to extended ISO levels available.
  3. Programmable long exposure of up to 15 minutes: Long exposure in the T mode currently goes only up to 30 seconds. The update will allow users to extend it up to 15 minutes.
  4. ON/OFF for 1/3-step shutter speed adjustment (X-T2 only – already in X-Pro2): The update allows you to turn off the Command Dial’s function to adjust shutter speed by 1/3 steps in order to prevent unintended adjustments.
  5. Full-range ISO adjustments with the Command Dial (X-T2 only): With the update, set the ISO “A” position to “Command” to adjust ISO sensitivity across the full range, including extended ISOs, with the Front Command Dial.
  6. “AUTO” setting added for the minimum shutter speed in the ISO Auto setting: The update adds an AUTO option for the minimum shutter speed in the ISO Auto setting, that allows the camera to automatically define the minimum shutter speed according to the focal length of the lens attached.
  7. Faster “Face Detection AF”: The update enables the use of Phase Detection AF for faster performance in Face Detection AF.
  8. Improved in-focus indication in the AF-C mode: The update reduces focus hunting in the AF-C mode, making it easier to track a subject.
  9. Addition of a smaller Focus Point size in Single Point AF: The update adds a smaller Focus Point size in Single Point AF, bringing the total number of available sizes to six. The new smallest size facilitates pin-point focusing.
  10. Addition of “AF Point Display” (X-Pro2 only – already on X-T2): With the update, you can choose to have AF Points constantly displayed in Zone AF and Wide / Tracking AF, making it easier to track a subject.
  11. Addition of “AF-C Custom Setting” (X-Pro2 only – already on X-T2): The update adds “AF-C Custom Setting” for specifying focus-tracking characteristics. Choose from five presets according to your subject’s type of movements.
  12. Addition of “Portrait / Landscape AF Mode Switching” (X-T2 only): The update allows you to specify separate AF mode and AF point settings for portrait orientation and landscape orientation.
  13. Change of focus frame position while enlarging it: The update allows you to move the position of focus frame while enlarging it in Single Point in the AF-S mode or in the Manual Focus
  14. Activation of the Eye Sensor in video recording (X-T2 only): The update allows you to use the Eye Sensor during video recording to automatically switch between EVF and LCD.
  15. Change of ISO sensitivity during video recording (X-T2 only): The update allows you to change ISO setting during video recording.
  16. Re-autofocusing in video recording: With the update, half-press the Shutter Release button or press the button assigned to “AF-ON” function during video recording to re-do autofocusing.
  17. Display live histogram during video recording (X-T2 only): The update allows you to display a live histogram during video recording.
  18. Optimization of external microphone’s input level (X-T2 only): The update optimizes external microphone’s input level (lower limit revised from -12dB to 20dB) to reduce white noise when an external microphone with preamp is connected.
  19. Addition of “Eye Sensor + LCD Image Display” in the View Mode: The update gives the “Eye Sensor + LCD Image Display” option in the View Mode that allows you to shoot through the viewfinder and check images on the LCD, just as you would with an SLR.
  20. Shorter EVF display time-lag (X-Pro2 only – already in X-T2): The update shortens EVF’s display time-lag in the AF-C mode so that you will not miss a photo opportunity.
  21. Constant “Dual” mode display (X-T2 only): With the update, the small window in the Dual mode stays on even when you half-press the shutter release button.
  22. Automatic vertical GUI for LCD (X-T2 only): With the update, when you hold the camera in the portrait orientation, the camera will automatically display the GUI on the LCD in the same orientation.
  23. Name Custom Settings: The update allows you to assign a specific name to Custom Settings 1 – 7.
  24. Copyright information in EXIF data: The update allows you to register the photographer’s name and the copyright holder’s name in advance so that the camera automatically adds the information to EXIF data for each image.
  25. Voice Memo function: The update enable you to record 30-second “Voice Memo” clips in the Playback mode.
  26. Extended AE Bracketing: The update extends AE Bracketing from the current 3 frames +/-2EV to up to 9 frames +/-3EV.
  27. Addition of “Shoot Without Card” mode: With the update, you can have the “Shoot Without Card” mode turned OFF so that the camera can not shoot when there is no SD card inserted.

X-T2 version 2.10 & X-Pro2 version 3.10 – late May 2017

  1. Support for computer tethering via Wi-Fi (X-T2 only): The update adds support for computer tethering via Wi-Fi.
  2. Addition of “All” AF mode (X-T2 only): With the update, select “All” in the AF mode so that you can select the AF mode and Focus Area size by only using the Command Dial.
  3. Function extension for “Shutter AF” and “Shutter AE” (X-T2 only): With the update, you can specify different settings for AF-S and AF-C in “Shutter AF” and for AF-S / MF and AF-C in “Shutter AE.”
  4. Addition of “-6” and “-7” to EVF’s brightness setting: Additional options of “-6” and “-7” to the “EVF Brightness” setting so that, even in an extremely low-light condition, the brightness of the EVF does not distract you from shooting.
  5. Switchover of the main and sub displays in the Dual Display mode (X-T2 only): The update allows you to switch between the main and sub displays in the Dual Display mode.
  6. Function assignment to the Rear Command Dial: With the update, you can assign a specific function to be activated when the Rear Command Dial is pressed.

What do you think? Please share your comments below!

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How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

A magnifying glass is a handy little tool, popular with intrepid detectives and bug collectors. As the name suggests, the convex lens produces a magnified image of an object, but it can also be used to make some unusual and eye-catching imagery. Pairing a photographic lens with a magnifying glass will probably not create a flawless alternative to a macro lens, but the unique properties of a handheld convex lens mean that there are endless combinations of optical effects to exploit.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

What you will need:

  • DSLR camera
  • Magnifying glass
  • Subject to photograph
  • Cleaning cloth
  • Tripod

Getting Started

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

The first thing to remember when using this technique is that the glass in your average, run-of-the-mill magnifying glass will be of far lesser quality than that of the glass inside your camera. The nature of the cheaper quality glass lends a softening effect to an image so sharpening in post-production (using software like Photoshop or Camera Raw) will help to add a bit more definition to the photographs. But don’t worry if you aren’t getting pin-sharp precision, the softness can actually add to the image overall.

Using a tripod to photograph subjects through the lens of a magnifying glass is a good idea too. Without a tripod, camera shake will add another layer of difficulty to a process that can be slightly tricky at times. For the purpose of this tutorial, I’ve chosen flowers as my subject. They make good subjects for this technique because they are colorful, interesting and they don’t move around. Getting the hang of this technique on a static subject will save you a bit of frustration when moving onto more animate subject matter later

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

This leaf was photographed against a window with the afternoon sun pouring through from behind. The light illuminated the veins in the leaf and the magnifying glass helped capture the detail in its intricate fibers.

Magnification depends upon a magnifying glass’s distance relative to the subject or camera, so there are endless angles and distances to experiment with to create imagery with soft light and diffused bokeh-like effects.

Method

First, clean the glass of the magnifying glass with a tissue or cleaning cloth to avoid dust spots. Maneuver your camera up close to the subject. If you are using a zoom lens, zoom in as far as possible. Your autofocus will most likely get confused by the additional glass between the lens and the subject, so set your lens to manual focus instead.

Hold the magnifying glass over the front of the lens with your hand.  Notice that it will either make the subject appear bigger or just extremely out of focus. With one hand you will need to either adjust the camera focus manually or move the magnifying glass forward and backward between the camera and subject. Trying to find a sweet spot where part or all of the image looks focused can be tricky – but be open to how the magnifying glass alters the photograph. The results can often surprise you.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

Keep in mind that the extra layer of glass will cut down the amount of light that reaches the camera sensor so you may have to adjust the exposure compensation, depending on the available light of your setup. Don’t forget to experiment with depth of field by adjusting the aperture as well. Taking control of the aperture will guide the viewer’s eye around the photograph. That can be crucial in more abstract images like these floral landscapes.

Experiment!

The best bit about this technique is that it rewards experimentation. Once you have a feel for photographing your subject through a magnifying glass, why not use two taped together for greater magnification? Or take a chance at photographing a friend or pet? Or why not try including the loop of the magnifying glass to create a framing effect? With even the slightest adjustment in angle or distance a magnifying glass can render some unique results. Take the time to experiment and have fun.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

Experiment with black and white images to highlight shape and form.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

Tape two magnifying glasses together for greater magnification.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

Create unusual framing effects by incorporating the loop of the magnifying glass in your photograph.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

After you get the hang of photographing still objects, why not move onto something more animated.

The post How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass by Megan Kennedy appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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5 Tips for Photographing Water

Water is a beautiful subject to photograph. It can be as dramatic as a waterfall, predictable as a fountain, vast like the ocean, or just a winding exciting river. Whatever the source, it can be a point of interest in your image or an element of your composition. If you are enchanted with photography water, here are a few tips you can use to improve your final image.

5 Tips for Photographing Water

1. Capture Motion

Firstly, think about what you want to convey and how to add that characteristic to the shot. This may be as simple as choosing the right shutter speed. A fast shutter speed freezes motion and works well for crashing waves to show the activity of an ocean. Sometimes when using faster shutter speeds, your camera may indicate that you are getting insufficient light – this is where adjusting your ISO can come in handy. When using shutter speeds of 1/500th and above, timing is key for spectacular shots.

On the opposite side of fast shutter captures are long exposures. If you want to show greater motion or get that silken effect, slowing down your shutter speed gives you that cool effect. A few key things; aim for an exposure between 0.5 and 10 seconds which means that your camera needs to be absolutely still (a tripod is a definite, you can also use a shutter release cable/remote if possible). Dusk and dawn are great times for long exposures but there is no need to limit yourself to these times of day if you have a neutral density filter (discussed lower down in this post).

Bonus Tip: Getting closer to the water makes the blurring effect of moving water more noticeable.

2. Mirror Mirror

Water is a natural mirror. Seek out reflections and classify them. Is the reflection enhancing your image or distracting from it? In the latter case, move around a bit to eliminate reflections where possible or return to your location when the sun is at a different angle. A polarizing filter can help eliminate some of the reflections and give you nice contrast (rotate the filter and check out what’s possible).

Reflections can also add to an image and are used a lot where water is calm and still. That being said, ripples can also be interesting as they add texture and effect. There are also abstract reflections that look great in moving water such as the lights of a cityscape.

With reflections you can go for a symmetrical composition or not, depending on what you want to portray. You can even just shoot the water reflection and not the subject itself; the possibilities are endless.

3. Filter it

Using a polarizer was mentioned above, but it is worth a second thought as it is quite a useful tool to have in the field when photographing water. In addition to removing reflections (when they’re not wanted), a polarizer is very helpful in cutting out glare. By eliminating glare, it helps bring out any color details of the water and what lies below the surface.

Neutral Density (ND) filters are quite useful for creating long exposures during the day as they give you better control over your exposure. They do this by stopping/restricting light from reaching your camera sensor, thus allowing you to leave your camera with a higher aperture for a longer amount of time.

Note: ND filters do not affect the color in your photo in anyway, while the same cannot be said for a polarizer filter.

4. Underexpose when photographing water

Perfect exposure in-camera is your ideal goal. When water is your subject though, too many highlights can make it look white and it is difficult to recover the details in large areas that are blown out or clipped. If water is the dominant subject in your frame, it will benefit you to underexpose by 1/3 to 1/2 a stop.

Bonus Tip: Shooting waterfalls in overcast conditions is something many landscape photographers would recommend. There is no direct sunlight on the water itself.

5. Get your feet wet

If you can get into the water safely with your tripod, it’s a perspective worth trying. Use extra caution when setting up on slippery rocks and be aware of your surroundings. Make sure your equipment is insured, and you’re all set to try something different.

If this is not an option for you, grab a zoom lens for some close up details. It is worth the time to experiment with unusual angles.

Conclusion

Water is indeed a fascinating subject and with so many ways to capture it, why not give it a try? Are you drawn to the dreamy motion of long exposures, or do you find yourself caught up in a reflection? What other fun tip would you share to help improve other’s water photography?

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DIY Hack 2-for-1 Luggage and Camera Roller Bag

Can we really have enough camera bags? In this article, I will show you a DIY hack to easily convert a small travel bag with wheels into a camera roller bag. Basically, you get two bags for the price of one.

DIY Hack 2-in-1 Luggage and Camera Roller Bag

A piece of luggage with wheels on the left and with a padded camera insert on the right – and voila it’s now a camera roller bag!

The one main drawback to being a photographer is the amount of gear you have and what type of bag to store your equipment in. This is especially true whether you are a professional, semi-professional or hobbyist photographer. There is no getting around it, once you invest in any type of camera with interchangeable lens, the add-on extras are similar to lego…you just keep building!

And herein comes the next must-have for any photographer, the camera bag.

DIY Hack 2-in-1 Luggage and Camera Roller Bag

A very inexpensive luggage bag on wheels H54.5 X W34 X D20cm

So much choice

peak design everyday backpack

Courtesy of Peak Design – Everyday Backpack.

With such a plethora of camera bags on the market, it can become a bit of a quandary to know which bag to choose. For me, the one that proves the most comfortable in hauling around gets my vote. Although that said, I do love to see what company is launching the next must-have-camera-bag.

Peak Design’s marketing campaign video for their Everyday Backpack was just brilliant. I had to physically sit on my hands to stop myself pressing the buy button. Oh, I was so tempted!

Assess your needs

My main focus when going to a location shoot is to try and limit the amount of gear I bring. At the same time, I can’t afford the risk of not having that one extra bit of kit that may be crucial to a shot. As I do a lot of location shooting, there have been many occasions where I had to improvise and change the direction of the shoot. This was only possible as I had the extra camera gear with me in my bag. It is about good planning and being professional.

I also find it’s the non-camera gear that is really useful to have with you on a shoot. Even an elastic band comes in handy.

Look at options in non-camera stores

I was at my local shopping center recently and browsing at travel luggage bags. I was on the lookout for one of those carry-on size bags with wheels. Whoever thought of putting wheels on a travel case is a genius.

DIY Hack 2-in-1 Luggage and Camera Roller Bag

This bag from itLuggage proved a great solution for my dual combo – a travel bag that converts into a roller camera bag!

My thinking was two-fold. I needed a small travel bag for trips away, plus I could use the same bag as a camera roller bag. I have always loved the idea of dual functionality with one product, especially when it’s not marketed as such. Plus, storage space in a house can be a premium, so the idea of doubling up on my bags to save space seemed an obvious solution.

The average camera roller case is expensive. One can range from €250 – €500 ($265USD – $530USD) here in Ireland (Europe). If you are a hobbyist photographer, this price tag may seem pretty high and way above your budget range.

DIY camera roller bag

The simple idea of turning a travel bag into a DIY camera roller bag is just brilliant. What I really liked most about this hack is there is no DIY or customization to be done to the actual bag and it looks great.

travel bag with wheels - DIY camera roller bag

An in-expensive travel bag from itLuggage.

I first saw the concept of turning a luggage bag into a DIY camera roller bag on Fstoppers a few years back. So, I’m in no way claiming this as my idea. However, it is so simple and easy that it is worth sharing the idea again in case you missed it.

This bag which caught my eye was ridiculously cheap at €39, approximately $41 USD. It is extremely lightweight and the size was perfect. H54.5 x W34 x D20cm (21.4 x 13.8 x 7.8”). Plus, this size of the bag meets the strict dimension requirements of European budget airlines.

Customize or DIY the bag

I was able to source this padded camera divider with an egg crate foam from B&W International. Even with the Sterling conversion to euros plus shipping. It cost me €50 ($53 USD) and in my opinion, was well worth it.

The dimensions of this padded camera divider were perfect for my travel bag:  H43 x W30 D12.5cm (with the egg foam 15cm). (16.9” x 11.8” x 4.9”). Do a search on Amazon for padded dividers by B&W or Pelican to find more size options to fit your bag snugly.

DIY Hack 2-in-1 Luggage and Camera Roller Bag

Inexpensive travel bag with wheels with a padded camera insert and egg crate foam from B&W International. DIY camera roller bag. 

I was impressed with the overall quality and robustness of the material. The dividers are all easily removable and can be configured to your own setup.

padded camera insert

Padded camera divider insert with modifiable velcro attachments, typical of most camera bags.

DIY Hack 2-in-1 Luggage and Camera Roller Bag

Quality padded camera insert from B&W International.

The whole camera bag insert fits snugly into the travel bag with ease.

Try it out

I brought my new roller camera bag to a local event recently and it worked a dream. More importantly, my shoulders were not screaming at me the next day, as those little wheels did all the work.

DIY Hack 2-in-1 Luggage and Camera Roller Bag

Camera gear packed into the padded camera insert with lots more room to spare.

Now, I can’t wait to go away on a trip and use my new travel bag with wheels. I’ll keep you posted!

Have you already done this DIY camera bag hack? Would you consider doing it? If so, please leave your comments in the section below.

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5 Reasons to Use Lightroom for Portrait Retouching

There are some photographers who use Photoshop or plugins such as Portrait Pro to do portrait retouching. There is nothing wrong with this and these programs can do an excellent job, especially if you retouch portraits at a high level.

But you may be surprised at just what an excellent job Lightroom also does at developing portraits. There are compelling reasons to do all of your portrait retouching within Lightroom. Here are some of them:

Portrait retouching in Lightroom

1. You can use Lightroom Presets to create different looks

Whether you buy presets made by other photographers, download freebies from the internet, or make your own, presets can open up new worlds. There are presets that emulate film (such as those from VSCO and Mastin Labs), presets for black and white photography and ones that create just about every type of look you can imagine.

It’s possible to buy or put together an entire preset system – a set of presets that is designed to make developing portraits much faster and simpler than going through the right-hand panels in the Develop module individually.

Retouching portraits in Lightroom

The same portrait, processed with three different Lightroom Develop Presets to create three different looks.

2. You can easily bulk process portraits in Lightroom

Another benefit of using Develop Presets in Lightroom is that they make it easy to bulk process your portraits. In any portrait session, it is natural to take lots of photos, possibly hundreds, as you explore a variety of poses, clothing, and settings. If you want to spend as little time on a computer as possible processing those photos, then Develop Presets are the key.

I’m particularly impressed by the SLR Lounge Lightroom Preset System which I’ve seen in action on a Creative Live class. Designed for high volume wedding and portrait photographers it really does make bulk processing easy. It is not difficult for advanced Lightroom users to come up with a similar system themselves.

Portrait retouching in Lightroom

Sets of similar portraits that share the same lighting and background are the easiest to bulk process. All you have to do is develop the first image, then copy and paste the settings to the rest. Leave local adjustments like retouching until last as those need to be applied to portraits individually.

3. You don’t need to leave Lightroom to smooth skin

The main selling point of portrait plugins is that you can use them to make anybody’s skin look beautiful. The danger of these plugins, if overused, is that they remove skin texture and make it look over-processed and plastic.

But what you might not know is that the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom is an excellent tool for portrait retouching. The Soften Skin preset helps you smooth skin while retaining texture when used with the Adjustment Brush tool.

You can reduce the opacity of the brush after you have applied the effect, giving you full control over the strength. Combined with the healing brush tool, which is perfect for eliminating blemishes, you can retouch nearly any portrait.

Portrait retouching in Lightroom

This before and after view shows how Lightroom’s Soften Skin preset smooths out skin while still retaining texture.

4. Saves hard drive space

I always recommend that you do as much work in Lightroom as possible, and only export photos to Photoshop or a plugin when absolutely necessary. The main reasons are hard drive space and workflow.

Every time you export a photo, Lightroom has to convert it from Raw to a file format the program understands. For maximum quality, you should use 16-bit TIFF – a file that is much bigger than Raw. 16-bit TIFF files are very large and rapidly fill your hard drives.

Retouching Raw files in Lightroom is much more space efficient. The workflow is also much smoother when you keep everything within Lightroom.

5. Lightroom helps you create a natural look

One of the biggest dangers associated with using Photoshop or plugins is that you can go too far and over-retouch your portraits. It’s common in movie posters, which make the actors almost unrecognizable, and expensive advertisements. The search for perfection results in a lie and realism goes out of the window.

We’ve all seen those epic Photoshop fails, where the retoucher takes a few inches off a waist or thigh, enlarges the model’s eyes or changes the shape of her face. This takes great skill and restraint to do realistically. Most people fail. A model once told me about another photographer who enlarged her eyes and altered the shape of her face in Photoshop. She didn’t like the results at all and felt they were no longer photos of her.

Portrait retouching in Lightroom

Lightroom is well suited for processing portraits with a natural look.

The benefit of Lightroom here is that it doesn’t have the same capability of Photoshop so there is no temptation to use it to distort the shape of the model’s face. Lightroom helps you keep it real and go for the natural look.

What happens when you can’t rely on Photoshop to slim somebody’s face or figure? You have to learn how to do it through lighting and posing. Using Lightroom indirectly helps you become a better portrait photographer.

Conclusion

Photoshop and portrait retouching plugins are powerful tools but Lightroom is just as good, maybe even better as it stops you from over-processing portraits. But what do you think? Do you have a favorite retouching application for your portraits or do you prefer to use Lightroom? Let us know in the comments.


If you’d like to learn more about Lightroom, then please check out my popular Mastering Lightroom ebooks.

The post 5 Reasons to Use Lightroom for Portrait Retouching by Andrew S. Gibson appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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