Category Archives: Product Reviews

The best drone I ever had

This should really have been titled the best drone I never had… About a month back I finally gave in to my impulse to buy a drone for stock photography and videos. I did a lot of research, and my key requirements were obviously a good camera for stills and video but also something that I could travel with on my jaunts around the world. I’m going on a cruise later in the year and thought lovingly of a great shot of the cruise boat sailing from port with my drone up in the air above the stern! To get there, it had to fit in my luggage in some way on air flights. The answer for me turned out to be the DJI Mavic Pro which I bought from Amazon:

For just less than $1000, you expect something good, and this surpassed my expectations. It was solidly built but not too heavy at just over 2 pounds, and folded down into a small space of perhaps a large bottle of water. The controller uses a smartphone as the controller/viewer which saves weight on travel as well. I practiced around my home and found it really stable in the air, easy to fly and the early video output was very good. I flew it above my house to see why the gutters were leaking and saw some debris in there – great first success!  Continue Reading

Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography

This may seem strange – I have my own book on stock photography and here I am talking about a competing one! However, the new release by Alex Rotenberg called The Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography is actually a very nice complement to my own book! Alex takes a broader view of the subject of stock photography, first looking at the market and what buyers are seeking, then going through some very useful tutorials (or reminders) of the various photographic approaches and techniques that can make (or break) a stock photograph. He reviews the various agencies and their approaches, and he is also very honest (as I am) on the effort involved to really make it in stock photography. Indeed, he makes the very useful point that the skills we are learning will translate very well into other photographic opportunities and has an interview with an architectural photographer who made exactly that move. My book dovetails nicely with this because I focus less on the market and the photographic skills needed and put much more detail around the “OK, so how do I do it?” question, with chapters about how to work with each agency, a workflow for handling all the images, sections on keywords and keywording tips and so on. You can read more and buy Alex’s book for $7.50 via this link, but we both have agreed to bundle our books together for a grand total of only $10.99. This includes both the PDF and eBook formats and is a whopping $4.50 less than buying them from Amazon or individually. You can buy the bundle from my site here.

Sunset Cruise with Na Pali Coast Hanalei Tours

For something different, I thought I would post a review of a sunset cruise I recently took in Kauai with Na Pali Coast Hanalei Tours and illustrate it with some of the images that will be finding their way onto stock agency sites in the near future! I’ve been to Kauai quite a few times but always in the winter and then the boats along the Na Pali coast leave from Port Allen in the south of the island and don’t get very far down the coast before they turn back. And, of course, the sea is pretty rough off that coast in the depths of winter! This time we were lucky to go in May and so boats leave from Hanalei on the north, and are able to spend much more time along the interesting bits of the coast. The seas, at least when we were there, were still pretty rough!

Leaving from Hanalei Bay

The first day we arrived was a gorgeous day and the forecast for the evening was similar and so we searched around for a tour company that had space for two that evening. Na Pali Coast Hanalei Tours fitted the bill and they were very friendly on the phone as I booked. They have a relatively small Continue Reading

My favorite Sony full frame lenses

After moving from being a long-time Canon shooter to the Sony mirrorless full frame system last June, I started questioning one of my lens choices. I started with the 16-35mm F4, 24-70mm F4 and the 70-200mm F4 Sony lenses and carried those around in my backpack. Right from the start, I was a bit uncertain about the sharpness of that 24-70mm lens and even had some rejections from stock agencies about lack of sharpness. Even though I did some tests on a tripod of a stone wall, which looked generally OK, I found myself downsizing images and sometimes avoiding that lens if I had an opportunity to do so, which isn’t a great tribute to it’s quality! When I read a review and checked out the price of this Zeiss 55mm F1.8 lens and saw how light/sharp it was, I couldn’t resist.

New 55mm F1.8 on my Sony A7Rii

New 55mm F1.8 on my Sony A7Rii

What I always do on Amazon Continue Reading

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

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