Category Archives: Product Reviews

Microstock Analytics – Deep Dive into your sales

In previous posts I have reviewed the use of Microstockr Pro for monitoring your sales and how I used it to find images that were selling well but missing from one of the main agencies. There is an alternative application on the market that promises far more detail about your portfolio and so I decided to investigate Microstock Analytics in more detail. This is a far more complex system aimed at really understanding which shots are selling and why, whereas Microstockr Pro is more like a fun system to see the sales coming in. Microstock Analytics is available for Windows and is priced based on the number of images on any number of sites. At present, if you have no more than 500 images on your various sites, it is free. The next band to 1000 images is $29.99 a year, 2000 images is $59.99 a year, and then unlimited images are $119.99 a year or $299.99 as a one-time payment. The system currently covers seven agencies, Shutterstock, iStock, Dreamstime, Adobe Stock, 123RF, BigStock and DepositPhotos.

microstockanalyticsmain

The main screen gives you the overview of your earnings performance, with many different choices for each window. Continue Reading

StockSubmitter – an elegant replacement for StockUploader

As many readers know I have been using StockUploader for 3 or 4 years and it has always served me well. However, it has not been publicly available for at least 12 months and will be totally unavailable at the end of the year. So what should new stock photographers do? The answer has also become more complex for me because of the need to identify and prioritize the first seven keywords to fit in with Adobe Stock’s process and while there is a workaround if you have a copy of StockUploader, it isn’t great. And, of course, we still have the issue of iStock and having to go to another site (qHero) to sort the controlled vocabulary issues of that site. Is there a one size fits all solution?

I think I have found it in StockSubmitter.
stocksubmittermain

StockSubmitter, a free program to automate the upload of images (using FTP) to as many sites as you care to configure. Continue Reading

Sensor cleaning problems with Sony A7r II

I noticed a relatively prominent sensor spot on some of my images after my last field trip – one of the potential issues with mirrorless cameras is that there is nothing between the lens opening and the sensor and so changing lenses is always going to have the risk of introducing dust. Anyway, I used my trusty Visible Dust Arctic Butterfly which works by using static in the fine brush strands to pick up the dust from the sensor, but this one appeared to be more of a mark on the sensor. I had used Visible Dust swabs in the past on a Canon APS-C camera, but these are too small for the full frame Sony, so I ordered a set of Visible Dust swabs for full frame, thinking I would use the sensor cleaning fluid I already had. So far so good – the swabs arrived, I cleaned the sensor, but my test shot looked like this when I used Lightroom’s Dust removal tool:

Dust Spots on Sony Sensor

Dust Spots on Sony Sensor

Horrendous!!

Continue Reading

My Canon Gear on sale!

I’ve put my Canon gear up for sale, but if anyone wants to buy directly from me, please get in touch via sales at backyardsilver.com. The macro lens has already been sold so I still have:

Canon 16-35mm F4 L IS USM lens with hood: $895

Canon 1.6x Extender II with lens caps: $255 Continue Reading

Using Canon speedlite flash on Sony A7R

I have four Canon flashes (three 550EX and one 580EX) as well as the Canon ST-E2 infra-red controller. With my change of camera outfit from Canon to Sony, the next question is whether I can effectively use these flash guns with the Sony? There is a great article by Tim Ford, where he concludes that an optical flash adapter is the best way of getting the highest sync speeds, but he is using the 580EX II – mine are the earlier versions and don’t have a PC sync socket – so no way to control them apart from the infra-red or hot shoe. He did conclude that putting one flash in the hot shoe worked fine (in manual mode) up to 1/250th second, and with some clever use of the Custom modes on the flash, you can get a pseudo automatic mode where the aperture is fixed and the flash measures light bounced back to its sensor you can use 1/200th of a second. I could use that from time to time with a single flash, but my main use is with multiple flashes in umbrellas etc. Continue Reading

Move from Canon to Sony after 10 years…

I’ve finally decided to give my back a rest and move to a slightly smaller camera kit, hopefully without sacrificing quality along the way! As a result, all my Canon stuff will be going and making room for a new Sony A7R ii body plus 16-35mm F4, 24-70mm F4 and 70-200mm F4 Sony lenses. I decided to go this way rather than buy a lens adapter and use my Canon lenses partly for convenience and weight and partly because those Canon lenses still have a reasonable resale value and I thought it was better to completely make the break. My normal camera bag carries those equivalent Canon lenses, a 50mm F1.4, and a 1.4x extender for the zoom. I don’t tend to use the 50mm very much, although I might look for an equivalent one for the Sony in due course, and my thought was that a crop into a 42M pixel frame was roughly equivalent to the extender. Continue Reading

Building a new Photography PC – lessons learned!

After a great set of earnings in August (OK, perhaps that isn’t altogether true…), I decided the time was right to build a new computer for my photography. My current PC was bought refurbished in 2010 and although I added more memory, it was increasingly slow when I wanted to move between the panels in Lightroom and even loading an image for editing seemed to take a few seconds. Frustrating! I saw this article by a fellow photographer Nasim Mansurov about the ultimate PC build for Photographers (and he has various links for the items from B&H if you would like to use them), and that really tempted me to have a go. I followed all his recommendations and so this is more about issues and thoughts I had in building the computer rather than the logic for the choice of the components. I tend to buy all my stuff from Amazon and so I have put various Amazon links in this blog post in case you want to follow in my footsteps.

The case I used was a full tower Cooler Master HAF-X. Wow – is this a big unit.

Build of ultra fast photography PC

Build of ultra fast photography PC

I must admit I didn’t expect this big a case, but it certainly made things easy to work on within the case. Continue Reading

Sony RX10 – perfect for travel stock photography?

As I’ve probably mentioned before, my main camera kit is a Canon 5D Mk3, with the 24-105mm F4, 16-35mm F4 and 70-200mm F4 lenses. I also normally carry a 1.4x converter and 50mm F1.4 lens as well. All in all, quite a load on my back, but I like the flexibility that I can get with the lenses and the high quality of the results, even at higher ISOs and if I need to crop.
SonyRX10The trip to Equatorial Guinea made me think – firstly because the country has a very poor reputation for hassling photographers, and secondly because carrying all this gear makes me a pretty obvious target. I started to look for a camera that was easier to carry, had a wide zoom range, gave good quality results and would not make me look like a professional photographer! I looked at the compact cameras, but most of those had relatively small zoom ranges and the sensors tended to be small. Then I looked at the smaller interchangeable lens cameras but that seemed to be rapidly taking me towards another complete set of lenses and hence a camera bag to carry it all. Some of the lenses on those ILCs are physically quite big as well. Then I came across the Sony RX10 and read a few reviews – it started to look like the answer and so I bought it specifically for the Equatorial Guinea trip.SonyRX10-Canon5D

Firstly a bit of background to the camera. It is a fixed lens relatively small body – looks a lot like a small SLR and so that did seem to clash with one of my objectives – look more like a tourist! But it is small and unobtrusive and so I decided I could live with that. The photo here comparing it with my Canon and 24-105mm lens gives you a good idea of its size – but it is much much lighter than the Canon. The sensor is 1 inch across, which is not bad and provides 20 megapixels to give me room to crop. The zoom is particularly good – going from 24 – 200mm equivalent. It has a pretty good electronic viewfinder as I don’t think that holding a camera out to see the rear screen helps much with camera shake, and a range of manual controls so that you can pretty much control the shot you get. Finally, it has a small flash, which can be useful for a bit of fill when needed. As you can see from the little red tabs in the photo, I bought a Peak design camera strap system in December which I find great for hanging the camera over your shoulder and resting on your hip. I have the same tabs on my Canon as well.

It traveled around Equatorial Guinea for a week and I never got stopped by the police – well actually we got stopped at police checkpoints maybe 6 or 7 times, but our driver was able to explain where we were going and why! The camera worked perfectly, and I came back with several hundred shots. I learned how to use it pretty quickly – most things are intuitive and I had no problems moving from Canon to Sony. The only thing I still find difficult is that the manual zoom (there is an electronic switch as well) turns the opposite way to a Canon and hence I am always wanting to zoom the wrong way. But all the exposure controls are easy to master and the warning marks in the viewfinder if you are over-exposing were very helpful. I took some indoor shots with flash, some evening shots with long exposures, some shots in the rain as well as normally sunny images, and it coped with all.

Is it good enough for stock? I’m asking a lot from my camera here, because I can obviously downsize my images and upload them to microstock sites and hide any issues in the image, but I also submit to Alamy and Corbis and they want images that are around 5000 pixels wide – little chance to downsize at all. I can’t be bothered to maintain two versions and so the microstock sites get images that are generally 4500 pixels wide. I found that the noise was higher than my Canon – and that the auto ISO function didn’t actually use the lowest ISO available – there is a slightly better performance if you set the ISO to 80, but noise reduction got rid of any issues I saw with higher ISOs. I usually set the camera to aperture priority and watched what the shutter speed was set to – the auto ISO was helpful on cloudy days to keep that shutter speed in the hand-holding range. The camera has built in stabilization and so I didn’t have many problems with shake.

Full shot

Full shot


The zoom lens is generally sharp throughout its range, and any distortion or color aberration was removed by Lightroom without any issues. There is definitely a lower level of detail (compared to the full frame Canon) when you blow up to 100% – by no means an issue for submissions to the macro agencies at full size, but it can be seen in a photo of tiny windows on a modern building for instance. The next two images are 100% crops (if you click on the image) of the center and lower right of the Mongomo cathedral in Equatorial Guinea – ISO 125, 1/800th second at f8. I don’t apply sharpening in Lightroom apart from the default.
Center crop

Center crop

Lower Right corner

Lower Right corner

So, what is the bottom line? Yes – I like it! I now carry all my Canon stuff and this new camera when I go on a trip, but I often just stroll around the streets with the Sony and keep my Canon for the more planned excursions (usually in a rental car with tripod etc.) when I am trying to get the really great shots. But, to be honest, I would be quite comfortable taking the Sony as my sole camera on some shorter trips and have had no issues with rejections of the resultant images at either Shutterstock or Alamy.

If you are interested in purchasing it, please use the link below – it all helps!

Black Friday – Photographing Food Magazines on Sale

I reviewed this earlier in the year – I really enjoyed reading each of the issues of Taylor Mathis’ Photographing Food series. I haven’t seen his videos (to be honest I don’t like watching instructional videos much), but I thought the separate eBooks were interesting and thought provoking, but expensive.

I noticed that Taylor has a special Black Friday sale on his site with 55% off – Friday through Monday. If you are interested in having a relaxing read and learning about food photography, this could be a good opportunity. The special sale can be accessed via the button on the top of the home page here.

Worth checking out.

Update on the Gold”n”Blue filter

A few months back I wrote about my experience with the Singh-Ray Gold’n’Blue polarizing filter. Some people rightly made the point that it was expensive and the use of filters in Photoshop (or plugins) could do the same. I’m not so sure and recently used it in my trip to Tampa and surrounding area. On the boiling hot and humid day that is a Florida summer, I tend to minimize the equipment I carry and so I put my new 16-35mm F4 lens on my Canon and fitted the gold’n’blue to it. First – I didn’t really see any vignetting – the filter is sufficiently thin to avoid that. I also noticed that you had to be careful (as with any polarizer) for certain issues in the sky with a wide angle – the effect on darkening the sky is strongest at 90 degrees to the sun and gets weaker as you approach 180 degrees (ie sun behind you). That is the same with this polarizer and occasionally I had to back off the color change to account for this physical phenomenon. However, I found that it could almost always improve the almost greyish blue of a summer sky in the humid south with a much brighter more saturated look. Here is the image I took of a boardwalk path leading to the ocean with no filter. I was using the 24-105mm lens at this stage. I have processed this as much as I could in Lightroom to improve the sky and the contrast between sky and clouds:

No Filter on humid summer day in Florida


Then I went back to the car to get the wide angle lens, added the filter and started taking images with intent of maximizing the blue in the sky. This is the same location about 10 minutes later:

With Gold’n’Blue Filter

Quite an improvement (in my view) to the previous one. I continued using that same lens and filter for the next couple of hours as I made my way up the coast. Here is one of some sea oats with the yellow sun shades on Madeira Beach in the background. I used F4 on this to try to get close to the plant and blur the background. The lens was set to 30mm for this one (on a full frame). Again, a lovely deep blue sky, which was nothing like the image I was seeing at the time. Remember – stock photography is not about what something looks like, but how you can create an emotion in the reader that makes them want to go there!

Madeira Beach, Florida, with Gold’n’Blue Filter

Copyright © 2017. Powered by WordPress & Romangie Theme.