There are a few web sites out there that
stand head and shoulders above the rest in terms of the quality
and usefulness of the information they share. This is a list of
some of those, some that are just plain fun, and a few that are
so useful it just doesn't matter how hard they are to read.
Many of these sites are, first and foremost, a labor of love.
Some of them have some discrete, and not so discrete, ads to try
and make it worth their creators while — or at least to
help cover the expenses. Please make a point of following those links,
or using them when you decide to order the products offered. It
helps keep the resources alive.
David Hobby's blog, Strobist, is an outstanding resource
for anybody interested in location lighting. David is a
photojournalist at the Baltimore Sun and very generously
shares both his lighting techniques in an ongoing series of
On Assignment, and the basics of location lighting in the
Lighting 101 section.
I can't recommend this site highly
enough — it's clearly organized and a pleasure to read.
Totally worth your time. The principles you'll learn are
applicable to any kind of gear, and to any budget. But, one
of the side benefits to reading Strobist is that David knows
how to get some great values in gear and he freely shares his
secrets. Another benefit is the insight you get into how a
working photojournalist thinks. Be sure to read
When Are You Gonna Learn
it is a very inspiring "rant" on what it takes to be
great at photography, or anything. OK, I'll stop now.
Rob Galbraith Digital Photography Insights
Rob's site is an eclectic mix of digital news, well informed
product reviews, memory card benchmarks, links to imaging
software, and photographer profiles. Rob and Mike Strunk
used to run the best online community that I've ever seen.
The "Rob Galbraith forums" were a place for lively and
informative discussion. The discussion was civil and
supportive and there was a tremendous education to be had
from some of the very best in the industry. The site was
free, and better than anything that money could buy.
Eventually the overhead became too much and Rob bit the
bullet and sold the forums to Drew and Melissa Strickland.
They are now called the Pro Photo
Community and it costs $35 (US) per year. It's too
early to tell if the forums will return to their former
glory, but if they do, at that price it's a bargin.
There's a lesson in this. There was advertising, for some
very relevant and useful products, on the forum. Rob says
that there was very little "click through," and thus very
little apparent value to the advertisers in supporting the
forums. In the end we may have lost a great resource.
The DAM Forum
DAM as in "digital asset managment" as in keeping track of
your images. This is the forum section of the companion web
site to Peter Krogh's
The DAM Book. Read the book, it's vital information in
an easily digestable form. Then take advantage of the
forums to resolve the many questions that will come up.
Working through the book and bouncing your ideas and
confusions off of the forum members will get you a long way
towards having your image library under control. The rest
is in developing a workable keywording and captioning
strategy, which leads us to . . .
I'm not sure that there is much that can sound drier than
the images conjured by the term "controlled vocabulary." On
the other hand, there aren't too many things more
frustrating than searching for an image that you know you
have — if only you could find it. Good metadata,
especially captions and keywords are key to finding the
images in your library. And finding them is a key to their
value, whether you're selling images, or just wanting to
send a few to doting grandparents. That's where this site
comes in. If you can dodge a few big words and acronyms,
there is a wealth of information here on how to get started
adding metadata, and value, to your images in a sensible and
This is some of my favorite, and not always so obvious, pieces
of gear. It's not an exhaustive list of what I use, just those
items that I'm particularly delighted with and especially those
that are a bit out of the mainstream.
While I've got your attention, let me make my pitch for
trying to buy locally. If you just look at price it is hard to
understand why you'd deal with your local camera store, they'll
be hard put to beat the price of one of the mail order places,
and even when they can match price you've got to add sales
You're wondering what I'm going to say to that . . .
Here goes. If you make your living with your cameras, or if
you are just a bit skeptical about how reliable all of this
fancy digital stuff is, you may find that a good dealer —
one that caters to pros and understands your business — is
the cheapest place you can buy your gear. Seriously. At least
for the high priced stuff.
Odds are good that this stuff will need to go on vacation to
Mellville or El Segundo or wherever it is that Canon gear
goes when it needs a break. My dealer will
ship the equipment for me (at no charge) and if I've got a shoot
they will loan me gear out of rental to cover while mine is in
the shop. I'll bet they'd put in a word on my behalf if things
got testy with the service department too. That's value. Real
cash I'm not spending. Real stress I'm not feeling.
OK, enough of that.
These camera bags are the product of real photographers putting
their heads together to come up with bags that really work.
The "build quality" of the bags is exceptional and the
detailing is brilliant. They are comfortable to wear and they
hold a ton. For year's I'd carried a film body and a nice
collection of manual focus primes in a Lowepro Omni belt
pack. Going to digital and acquiring some zooms put an end to
that, and I acquired a Tenba backpack. Nice for traveling,
next to useless for shooting from. Plan C was a Think Tank
Speed Racer belt pack. Amazingly, with a couple of Lightning Fast flash pouches, it holds almost everything
that I could get in the backpack. I went with a belt pack
because I didn't want the "SWAT team" look of the modular
systems, but it means that I'm always hauling a big bag
around. I'm liking the modular stuff better now, I can pick
and choose what I want to carry with me more easily.
The quality and functionality of the bags would be reason
enough to buy them — they are in a league of their own
in both departments — but read this too. These are the kind of people I want to be
associated with. I feel good about spending my money here.
It's "just" a camera strap, but I have a thing for
really well made stuff. Maybe it's because it helps to fend
off entropy. Don't know, but it's real important to me.
This is one of those items made by somebody who is
passionate about doing a good, no make that superb, job and
the product shows it. It will probably outlast several
ExifTool is a Perl script (and a Perl module if you do
those kind of things) written by Phil Harvey that enables
you to read and write the metadata in your image files. It
lets you get at all kind of cool stuff that is otherwise
hidden -- way beyond F-stop and ISO and shutter speed to the
distance your AF lens focused at or the cameras shutter
count. On a Mac you just drop it on the machine and you're
good to go. It's probably harder on Windows. Usage is from
the command line, but it's worth the trouble. You can use
ExifTool to automate all sorts of metadata tasks. I use it
to add my copyright and contact information, to put the
focus distance and calculated depth of filed where I can see
it in Photoshop (to help me sort out those images that
aren't as sharp as I'd like), and to store the camera's
serial number in the image file. All of this while I'm
copying the images in from the memory card.
OK, so maybe I need a software section, but for now, it's
gear. PhotoMechanic is one of the best tools you'll find
for the task of ingesting and editing your images (as
in deciding which ones you like, not messing with pixels).
It's fast and intuitive and provides you with a ton of
flexibility to do things your way. It is also one of the
best supported pieces of software I've ever come across.
Really Right Stuff
Stuff (RRS) makes camera 'L' brackets and clamps that completely
transform using a tripod. You still have to carry the thing
around, but now you can attach and remove the camera and
switch orientations almost effortlessly. Your tripod becomes
a tool rather than something that is in your way. There are
other quick release systems, but the Arca-Swiss dovetail used
by RRS is something of a standard and can be adapted to most
cameras and many tripod heads. They make a pile of other
items all with matching dovetails for panoramic and macro
photography. It's well engineered and beautifully made, and a
pleasure to use. The camera brackets are expensive, but if
you take reasonable care of them, they sell used for almost as
much as new. They hold their value way better than the camera.
Organizations that make it a bit easier
to make a living as a photographer.
ASMP - American Society of Media Photographers
- The ASMP is a tremendous to any photographer who produces
images for use in "the media." The ASMP has been instrumental
in defining the copyright as it applies to images and in
responding to the current "orphan works" legislation that is
working its way through the US Congress. ASMP also maintains
a web site that is a rich source of information for
photographers and buyers of images. For members there is a
private section of forums and other resources.
SAA - Stock Artists Alliance
- Founded to help put photographers on an equal footing with
the giant stock agencies, SAA has taken a leading role in
helping to understand and respond to the rapid changes
taking place in the photo industry. The web site is well
- OpenRAW is about persuading camera vendors of the
importance of openly documenting their raw file formats so
that images will not be lost.