The Web's leading blog about photography! PetaPixel's goal is to inform, educate, and inspire in all things photography-related. Michael is a photography enthusiast, entrepreneur, and programmer based in Davis, California, an hour east of San Francisco.
On May 30, 2019, controversial free stock photo site Unsplashannounced that it crossed the 1 million images uploaded mark. That had much of the photo blogosphere up in arms.
Many photographers hate Unsplash because it encourages people to give away their pictures for nothing — not even credit. But I’m going to argue that Unsplash’s 1 million photo milestone is no big deal — outside of stock photography, at least.
I went down the Unsplash rabbit hole to figure out exactly what’s happening with this company, and I came up with 5 conclusions:
1. Unsplash is small and not growing as fast as you may think
2. Photographers are not uploading many pictures to Unsplash
3. Unsplash offers photographers no real incentives to upload images
4. You may not know how people are actually using Unsplash
5. Unsplash will be acquired for a lot of money because of its powerful SEO
I close out with how I believe Unsplash has changed the photography industry.
Note: I contacted Unsplash to see if I was missing anything. They declined to speak with me.
What Is Unsplash?
Unsplash is the best-known of a new breed of stock photography sites. The pictures are 100% free to download and can be used for any purpose, including corporate advertising.
Theoretically, you could upload a picture to Unsplash, and McDonald’s could slap it on a billboard the next day, all without paying you a penny.
When downloading an image from Unsplash, you see this message:
It’s hilarious that Unsplash actually uses the word ‘exposure’ here. To photographers, ‘exposure’ translates to “you ain’t getting s**t out of this.”
Note: All photographs in this article are from Unsplash with no credit given to the photographer. Why no credit? Because if they don’t care about it, why should I?
Now let’s talk about why I don’t think Unsplash is that big of a deal:
1. Unsplash Is Small and Not Growing As Fast As You Think
Let’s wind the clock back.
Unsplash crossed 500,000 images on April 22, 2018, and 1 million images on May 10, 2019. So it took Unsplash about 13 months to double its image catalog. And in the recent blog post making the 1 million photo announcement, Unsplash CEO Mikael Cho said: “50,660 images have been contributed in the last month alone.”
So, Unsplash’s image library grew by 5.3% in May. 5.3% monthly growth would be impressive for a big company. But it doesn’t scream “hypergrowth startup”. At its current rate, Unsplash would need 14 months to double the size of its image library again.
And let’s remember, 1 million photos is not a lot when it comes to stock photos. iStockPhoto has over 1.4 million pictures of coffee alone!
For comparison, I picked out 5 keywords to compare Unsplash with 4 other stock services:
I wouldn’t expect Unsplash to offer more photos than iStockPhoto. But it should be destroying a small player like Stocksy. If Unplash were set to take over the world, it would be much bigger than it is now, and it would be growing faster.
2. Photographers Are Not Uploading Many Pictures to Unsplash
This is perhaps the biggest sign that Unsplash is not a world beater. On its about page, Unsplash itself says to “join 100,000+ photographers and creators.” Based on this 1 million uploads milestone, this means the average contributor to Unsplash has uploaded about 10 pictures to Unsplash.
Not 100, 10.
If you navigate around Unsplash, you’ll see that many photographers just don’t upload many photos.
I looked at Unsplash’s curated collections like “Editor’s Choice: New Photographers We Love of 2018 | Summer” and “Top 100 Most Viewed Photos of 2017”. Many photographers featured in these collections have fewer than 100 uploads! Now, why don’t photographers seem particularly engaged with Unplash?
Unsplash has nothing to offer photographers.
3. Unsplash Offers Photographers No Real Incentive to Upload Images
Unsplash gives photographers the wrong kind of dopamine kick. On Instagram, you collect Likes, Followers, and Comments, which gives you short-term pleasure. But on Unsplash, you see thousands of other people downloading your images… and possibly making money off them. And your reward is exposure to the “I want free photos” demographic.
I think that’s a breeding ground for resentment.
The lack of a true reward may explain why photographers upload very few images to Unsplash. I think people will continue downloading images from Unsplash for years and years, but I expect the pace of new uploads to slow.
4. You May Not Know How People Are actually using Unsplash
Photographers view Unsplash as a free stock photo site. And indeed, many businesses use Unsplash photos for commercial purposes. But let’s use some web analytics tools to see the search terms people use to reach Unsplash.com.
None of these tools are perfect. But if they are even in the neighborhood of right, they show that some of the world does not use Unsplash as a stock photo site. Believe it or not, many people go to Unsplash for free wallpaper images for computers and smartphones.
There’s no way to measure how much of Unsplash’s overall audience this is, but it may be substantial.
Here are the top 20 search terms ranked by Serpstat (as of June 11, 2019):
wallpaper and backgrounds
h d wallpapers
wallpapers and background
Here are the top 20 search terms according to Ubersuggest:
world stap hip hop
wallpapers that are cool
Please note: these two lists are different because every analytics service uses a different methodology to estimate traffic. I Googled many of these terms like ‘gilr’ and Unsplash does indeed rank very high for them.
This is the Google search result for ‘pictures’ (Note: I deleted the ads at the top of the search results page.):
You can see that Unsplash ranks #1 for the word pictures, with fellow free stock sites Pexels and Pixabay in slots #3 and #4, respectively. And that’s why I think…
5. Unsplash Will Be Acquired for a Lot of Money
I predict that a big player like iStockPhoto will acquire Unsplash for a dollar amount that you think is crazy.
Now, why would a company want to acquire Unsplash? Because Unsplash attracts tons of people looking for stock photos and will continue to do so even if the pace of uploads slows dramatically. Unsplash is an SEO powerhouse.
Sites with lots of inbound links rank very high on Google. And Unsplash is on every listicle in the universe about free stock photos, free wallpapers, and free pictures. And because it’s controversial, it’s been heavily covered in the photography and tech blogosphere. I mean, you’re reading about it right here.
The domain Unsplash.com is likely worth many millions of dollars because it ranks so high for so many search terms.
Now let’s move on to…
The Impact of Unsplash on the Photography Industry
First, let’s acknowledge that Unsplash only exists because photographers give away their work without compensation or even credit. The company is very upfront about this.
You get this message before you upload your first image:
Now let’s talk about a big topic: valuing one’s work.
Unsplash did not create the problem of photographers giving everything away for nothing. That’s a product of the digital photography revolution and free/cheap online education, which flooded the industry with highly skilled amateurs.
Frankly, I don’t think you can force people to value their own work, especially those that don’t need to make money from their images. But the fact that the average Unsplash contributor only uploads 10 images implies that many photographers are uploading a few images and moving on.
However, Unsplash is leaving a mark.
Stock photography, particularly microstock photography, was already a hard way to make money. It takes a lot of skill, time, and energy to shoot, post-process, keyword, and upload images to stock services. And remember, there’s no guarantee that your stock photos will be accepted, let alone generate revenue.
I believe Unsplash just made earning money from stock photography 10 times harder. Most people can’t tell good images from bad, let alone good from excellent. For most users, the free photo beats the $1 photo every time. I’d also expect Unsplash to hurt demand for travel and landscape images.
Don’t be surprised to see headlines like:
“My Unplash Photo Made the Cover of XYZ Magazine”
“I Found My Unsplash Photo in a Calendar in Target”
“This Mall Gallery Is Selling My Unsplash Photo for $900.”
But, I don’t see any impact on photographers that produce images unique to a specific person or business — like portrait, fashion, wedding/event, and product photos.
So what do you think about Unsplash? Do you think it’s good or bad for the photography industry? Will it have an impact on you?
About the author: Michael Comeau is the Editor of OnPortraits.com, an all-new online community dedicated to simple, classic portrait photography. Click here for more information. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. This article was also published here.
I am writing this concert photography guide in response to several ‘How to’ guides I have seen online that don’t quite hit the mark on how to take great live concert photographs. Most of the articles focus too much on the obvious, like concerts are dark and avoid things in your way (like mic stands and such). Personally, I think it is a bit patronizing to suggest that you are letting the photographer in on the ‘professional secrets’ if it is written by a non-professional music photographer, so this is my guide.
JANICK GERS – IRON MAIDEN COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
A lot of this information focuses on the technical aspects of taking a good picture. The rest of it is pretty straightforward, really. If a guitarist appears in front of your lens, throwing shapes with his head back and one arm in the air, then hit the shutter release button. It isn’t rocket science, but it isn’t as easy as you may think either.
JASON PERRY – THE BAND CALLED ‘A’ COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Most people who get into music photography do it because they have a passion for music, photography, and a love of the music scene. If this is the case, you are half way there to making a great music photographer, but it also takes time and practice. I started in 1989 blagging a photo pass for Ozzy Osbourne at the Hammersmith Odeon. It was the defining moment of my life experiencing the exhilaration of standing in the photo pit so close that I could touch Ozzy — a moment that led to shooting hundreds of shows in the UK.
ZAKK WYLDE – OZZY OSBOURNE COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
OZZY OSBOURNE – COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
I first shot bands to build up a portfolio and went on to shoot for Rolling Stone, Q, NME, Classic Rock, and Metal Hammer magazines. This work regularly takes me all over the world shooting in stadiums, arenas, small clubs and even live stage productions like War of the Worlds.
WAR OF THE WORLDS – O2 LONDON COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
I also work as Official Photographer for IRON MAIDEN and accompany them on their sensational tours around the world on board Ed Force One in their very own Boeing 747 (Piloted by Captain Bruce Dickinson). On average I shoot approx 200,000 images a year so I have some experience of shooting concerts. I also published the No.1 bestseller ON BOARD FLIGHT 666, a photo documentary with IRON MAIDEN capturing 4 years on tour.
IRON MAIDEN, GOTHENBURG COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Fear of the Dark
Firstly, the dark isn’t the problem it once was. Gigs are dark but modern cameras are excellent at producing good results at high ISO, so the dark is not always an issue. But shoot RAW! JPEG just won’t give you the latitude you will need to correct highlights, color balance, levels, and noise, so make sure you shoot RAW or there is no point reading on! I also implore you to shoot manual on your camera or you will never learn a thing!
COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
With film cameras, it was tough getting anything decent above ISO 1600 and technically it was a nightmare having to push process the film to get good results. That said, we did get great results but the key to taking a good shot was knowing when the light was good to shoot. This still applies now and is a discipline that is worth learning.
Know When to Press the Button
When you first get access to a big gig, the temptation is to just hose down every second of the performance. You can do that, of course, but you will discover a high percentage of images will be dark, out of focus, and probably not usable, and an unreasonable amount of time will be spent editing through all your images.
This may sound obvious, but be patient and wait for the right moment to shoot. Focus on the lead singer, find a good angle where the mic isn’t obstructing their face and try and watch what the lights are doing. When the light looks good and you have a reasonable exposure and the artist looks half decent then shoot. If not try and wait. That said, if something spectacular happens like the singer jumps into the crowd or blows a kiss at your camera, then just keep shooting!
SKUNK ANANSIE COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Big shows have follow spots that are usually good quality warm/daylight spotlights that stay consistent for most of the show – they are manually operated by a person and their job is to follow that artist wherever they go on stage. The lighting director is in radio control with the follow spot operators and will instruct them to kill the light or go half power at various stages during a show.
If you are lucky enough to shoot a show with follow spots, then your ISO can stay around 1600 or 2000. Set your camera lens to f/2.8 or f/4 and keep your shutter speed above 1/250th (usually you will get 1/500th @ f/2.8 using ISO 2000). Once you know where your exposure needs to be then you can concentrate on capturing that defining moment.
Capture the Artists’ Likeness
Watch the singer, see what kind of expressions he is pulling. Does he/she look like him or her? Often you will shoot a famous artist and they don’t look like their publicity photos. If so your images may not have much value. It is a picture editors hate, receiving a set of pictures that don’t look like the artist. It sounds crazy, but it is more common than you think.
If this is the case, change the angle and shoot as many different expressions as you can. I remember shooting David Bowie and most of the shoot he just didn’t look like the classic Bowie we know and love. I changed the angle and the light changed and I got some incredible photos. This was on film but I knew by looking through the viewfinder it didn’t look like him. I got there in the end but it pays to be honest with yourself as you shoot.
DAVID BOWIE – COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Not all gigs are lit up like an Aerosmith show and small club shows can be challenging. That said there is no reason why a modern camera with a good lens can’t produce good to reasonable results in a dimly lit venue.
The first thing to consider is how high ISO can your camera go before the noise is unusable? Test your own camera in low light and find out. There are lots of noise reduction changes you can make in post-production but I would try and avoid having to overuse this. From my experience, the effect can make people look like they are made of wax and your photography will look like they are melting if overused!
ROBERT PLANT & JIMMY PAGE COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
If your camera has an insanely high megapixel count (over 30 million) then chances are your camera won’t be good at high ISO. This is a technical fact due to the way the sensor works and a thing called dynamic range. The higher the megapixels, the less dynamic range the camera can give at high ISO.
At low ISO, the high megapixel cameras are mostly outstanding. It will be unable to shoot at very high ISO in bad light and produce good results. It is one thing testing your camera in low light but it is another testing it when the light really is bad. The game changer in high ISO for me was when Nikon launched the D3 – which produces outstanding images up to 6400.
All of the images in my IRON MAIDEN book (‘ON BOARD FLIGHT 666’) were taken with the Nikon D3 and D3s cameras.
IRON MAIDEN COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
The quality will totally depend on your camera, so not every camera is good at high ISO. I have taken stunning shots using ISO 6400 in reasonable light but then as the light changed the quality also worsened giving noise in the blacks and dirty colors using the same ISO. So find out how good your camera is before shooting a show, then you will know how high your ISO can go before it affects the quality.
AC/DC COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
I now use Nikon D5 cameras for the majority of live photography. This is a 20-megapixel camera and shoots great up to ISO 3200. At 6400 the results are reasonable and anything above that is purely ‘get out of jail’. At a very dark show, you can do two things. Wait for the light to come on (usually in the chorus or guitar solos) or shoot at the highest ISO you dare. Maybe ISO 6400 and open your lens aperture to f/2.8 (any wider like f/1.8 is hopeless if you are close to the artist. The depth of field is too narrow and more than not your focus will miss).
Then select the fastest shutter speed your exposure meter will allow (remember you are in Manual mode). Try and keep your shutter above 1/60th if you can unless you are shooting a wide shot of the entire stage. At 1/60th you will get sharp results but any fast movement of anyone jumping or turning will blur. Ideally, you want to be at 1/250th if at all possible.
Weirdly, with modern LED lighting, some colors (blue and red) will produce incorrect exposure information so your LCD display on the camera is imperative for checking on your exposure. Most modern cameras will allow for a couple of stops of underexposure which you can bring back in the edit (as long as you are shooting RAW). In low light, you have to be patient and wait for the lighting to look good. Sometimes the band wants a show to be dark as it fits their mood and other times the lighting guy is just asleep. Either way, you deal with it.
2018 Copyright HELSINKI IRON MAIDEN COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
For many years, I shot in London’s small clubs using an effect called flash blur. By using flash, it solved the low light problem and was an impressive effect to freeze a guitarist in motion.
GIZZ BUTT – JANUS STARK COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
The trick is to use a low ISO like 100 and use very slow shutter speeds (1/15th – 1/4) that aren’t long enough to fully expose but enough to give you light trails or blur lines. This setting combined with a flash gun that is freezing the action produces stunning results but it is a trial and error method that takes some getting used to.
Alternatively using flash with a mid/high ISO (ISO 400) will produce good results as long as you are exposing for the background lighting also. Let the cameras through the lens metering automatically select the flash exposure and you set the ambient exposure manually.
Don’t Combine Flash and Smoke
Never shoot with flash if there is a lot of smoke, it just doesn’t work!
PROPHETS OF RAGE – COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
If the concert is an editorial commission then you will probably only get 3 songs at the beginning of the show. Because you only get to shoot 3 songs you need to prepare and find out what happens during those first moments of the show. The best way to do this is to learn the show from YouTube. On YouTube, there will be plenty of fan uploads showing where each member of the band stands, pyro explosions, jumps, what the stage show and lighting is like, and what are the must-see moments to capture. There have been many a gig where I have watched the show before going to the venue so that I knew all the cues for pyro.
AIRBOURNE – COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
With Maiden, I am lucky to see the production rehearsals and I make notes so I know exactly when and where things happen. Once you know what you are going to shoot then you can plan where you will shoot from.
2012 MAIDEN ENGLAND SET LIST WITH SHOW NOTES COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Right Place, Right Time
Knowing when things will happen allows you to be calculated and in the right place at exactly the right time. The best images don’t necessarily come from being at the front in the pit, sometimes the best shots are from the back of the venue looking at the entire stage.
2018 by JOHN McMURTRIE 2018 Copyright HELSINKI IRON MAIDEN
AC/DC, Maiden, Slipknot, Rammstein, and Metallica all have an impressive stage show with pyros. Find out when the big production moments happen and make sure you are in a position to get the pyro explosions and the full stage show in the frame.
AVENGED SEVENFOLD 2014 Picture Copyright/All Rights JOHN McMURTRIE
Sometimes the pit is the worst place to be if the stage show is impressive. I know modern restrictions with its 3 songs in the pit prevent you prowling the venue for the best vantage point but sometime if you ask, you will get special access to shoot from the Front of House desk or at the back. The big wide shots make great double page spreads in the magazines and pay more than a single page so always get a wide shot of the full stage.
AVENGED SEVENFOLD COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Bring a Flashlight
Getting to the back of a venue through thousands of people is never easy regardless of the style of music you are shooting so bring a flashlight, or what I like to call the crowd separation device. Shine a bright light at someone and they get out of the way! It is that simple. It also stops you falling over stuff in the dark. I never shoot a show without a flashlight in my pocket. It can also help add light if needed.
IRON MAIDEN 26/4/16 SHANGHAI CHINA. T-SHIRT LIT USING A HAND HELD TORCH. COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Fire Up the Crowd
Get the crowd to go f***ing crazy! Shooting the crowd at any size gig is always great fun but focus on somebody interesting that looks like they are enjoying the show.
IRON MAIDEN COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Some people don’t want to be photographed and if that is the case, move on and keep shooting until you get someone going crazy. There is nothing worse than a crowd shot with someone looking disinterested.
IRON MAIDEN COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Band managers and magazines don’t want to see a lukewarm crowd. On the big stadium crowd shots, I always focus on one individual and let the rest of the crowd fall off around them. Sometimes 70,000 people in one picture is too much to take in. Shouting at a crowd to get their attention’ also works well!
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Get access and make the most of it. If you are lucky enough to get a full Access All Areas pass to a show, then make the most of that opportunity. Shoot backstage. The walk up pictures to the stage are always used and if you can get in the dressing room backstage before and after the show then shoot as much as you can but have some awareness of the band’s mood and behave appropriately.
AVENGED SEVENFOLD 2018 – DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, UK – copyright JOHN McMURTRIE
Once you have access to shoot a whole show, don’t waste that opportunity. Even though you have a full access pass make sure the security are aware you are allowed to roam the venue. Many times (especially in America) I have been stopped by security even though I have a triple A (AAA for Access All Areas) laminate pass. The Head of Security is the person that needs to be told there will be a photographer permitted to shoot everywhere and that message is normally passed on by the band’s Tour Manager or the band’s security. If local security stops you, tell them to radio the security boss and stay polite. Being a dick in these circumstances rarely works!
IRON MAIDEN COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
With full access, you are not pressured to get all your shots in 3 songs but it does bring other pressures. The 4 principle areas I shoot from are the pit, on stage, Front of House (mixing desk area) and up in the gods. Before the show, you need to see how accessible all these areas are and make a plan.
ON STAGE IN MADRID COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
On-stage work can be filled with real danger and you need to find the stage manager and introduce yourself. He will be able to warn you of any moments during the show he won’t want you getting in the way. This will either be pyros or stage set changes or simply where the guitar techs are or the band’s preferences on the night. There are several songs during the IRON MAIDEN set I stay well clear onstage due to the danger of being literally blown up or flattened by a 2-ton stage prop.
ON STAGE – DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Once the details of health and safety have been taken care of you need to work out what pictures you are trying to take up there. The drummer is the first priority as he is the most inaccessible to get good shots from the pit.
NICKO McBRAIN – COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Secondly, it is the onstage shots that illustrate the scale of the show. With a gazillion people in the crowd, knowing when the ‘blinders’ are switched on and illuminate the crowd is essential. Shots on stage with a band and no lights on the crowd are often unusable so check with the LD and on the set list when these moments happen and then work out where the best vantage points are?
IRON MAIDEN COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
In between songs is best to avoid getting in the stage technicians way because that is when guitars are tuned and swapped. Upset one of the roadies and the entire production crew will be on your back. Front of House is probably the most comfortable shooting position during a show but often it is virtually impossible to get to this area once the crowd is in the venue. Using a flashlight helps get through a crowd but doing a recce of any access routes before the crowd comes in will help.
AVENGED SEVENFOLD 2018 – DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, UK – copyright JOHN McMURTRIE
The same for getting up into the bleachers at the big shows as getting lost or wasting time will lose you shots during the show. Again the impressive shots from high up in the crowd at a stadium or Arena often only work when the blinders switch on and light up the crowd. You have to decide when to shoot on stage with the crowd lit up and when to climb high up into the highest part of a stadium will equally look good.
IRON MAIDEN 19/4/16 TOKYO SHOW 1
Looking at a set list I usually plan where I will shoot for each song. You usually have to miss at least one song traveling high up into the gods of a venue so I will plan to leave when I know I can miss that song but know the next will have impressive lighting.
COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Many a show I have wasted time waiting for the lights to come on! Obviously, there are plenty of other areas that you can shoot from and every venue will be different but try and work out where before the crowds come in.
COPYRIGHT JOHN McMURTRIE 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Use Continuous Shooting Mode
When we shot on film this was called the motor drive but now it is called continuous. I shoot a lot of jumps shooting continuous at 10 frames per second. I pre-focus and hold the shutter down giving me a choice of images.
2018 by JOHN McMURTRIE 2018 Copyright TALLINN IRON MAIDEN
This is a great way of getting the perfect shot. Know when to shoot but when something looks great or something exciting happens then shoot and shoot a lot of frames. You may only use one frame out of 20 shots but you can choose the exact moment where everything works.
These Colors Don’t Run
Love it or hate it, LED lighting is here to stay! I can see why it has pretty much replaced the older style tungsten Parcan lights, but they can be a total pain to shoot. LED is lighter, brighter, cooler and safer and they give the LD more control, being able to dial in a whole multitude of colors and saturation. But they cause a real headache for modern RGB sensors with over-saturation blowing out individual colors.
With an RGB CCD, each color is read by the individual part of the..
After using a Leica Q for 3.5 years, I decided to pre-order the eagerly anticipated Q2 in early March 2019. Despite owning a number of cameras over the years, the Leica Q had become my go-to camera for its light weight, small size, and high image quality.
While I hope to do a full review of the unit in the future, I had two problems that caused me to send the unit to Leica’s service center within the first month.
My major complaint with the Leica Q was the lack of dust sealing, which eventually caused me to tape up the microphone and speaker ports to avoid dust on the sensor. Since the Q employs a fixed lens, there’s no way to clean the sensor without sending the unit back to Leica’s notoriously slow service center.
I used black tape to cover up the microphone ports on top of the camera.
The Q2 addresses the problem with IP52 weather sealing which provides “Protection against solid bodies larger than 1mm” and “Protection against condensation.” The engineers reportedly went to great lengths to add weather sealing while maintaining essentially the same small body size.
But as others have noted, the EVF is prone to dust accumulation, and my unit had dust inside the EVF out of the box. A temporary remedy was to gently knock the side of the unit with my palm, which seemed to dislodge the dust temporarily. But the dust reappeared in a matter of a few days.
Banding from LEDs?
I put the camera through the paces while photographing some dance rehearsals at my high school’s theater. Of the first 1,000 images that I shot with the Q2, thirteen of the images contained significant banding.
Here’s unretouched RAW from the DNG generated in Photoshop.
Leica Q2, ISO 3200, f/2.0, 1/3200s
Here are the individual RGB channels as seen in RAW Digger.
Red channel in RAW Digger
Green channel in RAW Digger
G2 channel in RAW Digger
The G (and G2) channels have no visible banding, while the red and blue channels have heavy banding.
Many years ago when I worked in the theater, it was outfitted with halogen-based lighting instruments. But while shooting in April, I noticed that many of the overhead wash lights were LED-based.
Flicker from various light sources is a well-known problem in video, and less known in still photography. But anyone who’s ever tried to photograph a television is familiar with refresh rates and how it can affect an image. Banding usually manifests itself as a black-and-white shadow, which made my colorized encounter a bit curious.
LEDs have become extremely popular for continuous lighting because of their low energy consumption and heat generation, making it ideal for use in theatrical lighting. But LEDs sometimes use a method called Pulse Width Modulation to dim the light, and this can cause “invisible” flicker that shows up in videography or photography.
As I looked over the metadata of the images with the banding, I noticed that it occurred reliably on the Q2 at 1/2500 and faster, and unpredictably at 1/2000s. And in another image, I saw that the ambient sunlight wasn’t causing the same banding issue.
Leica Q2, ISO 3200, f/1.7, 1/2000s. Banding is visible with subjects under LED wash lights.
But the detail of a section lit by sunlight doesn’t exhibit banding.
I didn’t see the problem on my Nikon Z7 at the same shutter speeds, but I also wasn’t shooting with the Nikon during the exact same scenes and lighting conditions.
Without more extensive testing under controlled lighting conditions, I can’t definitively determine whether the problem is 1) specific to the sensor design, 2) a manufacturing defect, or 3) a case of a specific dimmed lighting condition that has nothing to do with the camera.
The LEDs are undoubtedly part of the cause of the problem, and something that photographers should be aware of given the increasing ubiquity of LED technology. For sports and dance, higher shutter speeds are often needed to freeze hands and feet.
Leica has had my camera since the end of April and has assured me that I will receive a replacement unit when it becomes available. No one will likely shed a tear for a Leica owner, but the frustration of not having the camera is real nevertheless.
About the author: Allen Murabayashi is the Chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter, which regularly publishes resources for photographers. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Allen is a graduate of Yale University, and flosses daily. This article was also published here.
“Delivering the same superb image quality from edge-to-edge as the XCD prime lenses, this extremely high performance, compact mid-range zoom covers moderate wide angle to short telephoto focal lengths,” Hasselblad says. “Ideal for shooting anything from wide angle landscapes to portrait images, this lens is perfect for photographers who are looking to keep the amount of equipment they carry when traveling to a minimum but don’t want to compromise on image quality.”
The lens features an internal focusing system that keeps the lens’ length the same throughout its focal range, which is equivalent to 28-58mm in 35mm terms. The system also provides speedy performance and a reduction in the overall weight of the lens, according to Hasselblad.
Hasselblad is making lofty claims about this lens, going as far as to say it’s the best Hasselblad lens ever.
“This really is the best lens Hasselblad has developed,” Hasselblad lead optical designer Per Nordlund says. “I can even go as far to say that it’s probably the best zoom lens currently available on the market.”
Other features and specs of the lens include a central lens shutter (exposure times from 1/2000s to 68m with full flash sync throughout), a minimum object distance of 1.38 feet (0.42m), a filter diameter of 77mm, and a weight of 2.5 pounds (1.13kg).
In my work travels, I recently met someone who gave me an interesting gift. Several years back he had been driving down a back road in Virginia and came across an old, abandoned farmhouse. He stopped and peeked in to see if anyone was using the place (you can’t be too careful about what you run across that looks abandoned these days), and saw only cobwebs.
He went in and found an interesting box by Seed’s Dry Plates. The company was founded in 1883.
Dry plate photography was developed after the wet collodion process. With dry plates, glass plates that had been factory coated with a photographic emulsion were boxed after the emulsion dried. They could be stored and loaded into cameras as needed and developed at any time after exposure. The process was therefore far more convenient than the wet collodion process, where glass plates had to be hand coated with a wet, light-sensitive emulsion just before exposure and then developed almost immediately thereafter.
The dry plate process was first introduced in 1871, and, in particular, the Seed Dry Plate Company was founded in 1883 and purchased by Eastman Kodak in 1902. That would date this box as well over 100 years old.
My friend opened the box and found exposed dry plates inside, which appear as a negative image! Recognizing that the farmhouse was obviously abandoned and that if he left the plates they would likely be lost forever, he took the box. After a few weeks of our working together, he found out about my interest in photography and one day brought the box in and gave it to me as a gift.
The dry plates themselves (of which there were 8 or 9) were not in particularly good shape, probably because that had been exposed to the elements for decades. This an example of one of the dry plates that was better preserved, with an apparent negative image:
Glass dry plate.
I chose some that looked promising, put them on my flatbed scanner and scanned them. I then brought them into Photoshop, inverted the negative black and white image, added a bit of contrast and sharpened them. In some instances, I was able to produce a pretty reasonable image of people who are presumably no longer among the living. For example, this was the result of scanning the dry plate pictured above:
And for a closer, zoomed in look at the young girl:
And another couple of examples. The many black dots are areas where the emulsion has degraded and worn off. I have to say that it is at the same time exciting and yet somewhat eerie to see people ‘reaching out from the dead’.
To me, this next image appears to be the same two women pictured above:
And yet another:
And this final image does appear a little ‘ghostly’.
Perhaps this serves to bring back, in some small way, the memory of these people. Should any reader know who these folks are (I know the odds are one in a million, but stranger things have happened) do please let me know.
About the author: Howard Grill is a self-taught nature photographer. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Grill’s artwork has been exhibited, published, and purchased by galleries and companies that include The Pittsburgh Center For The Arts, Spokane International Airport, Pittsburgh Public Library, and Starbucks. You can find more of his work on his website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This article was also published here.
Olympus has announced firmware version 3.0 for the E-M1 Mark II mirrorless camera (which was announced in 2016). The update improves the camera’s autofocus and image quality to be on par with the new E-M1X announced in January 2019.
The E-M1 Mark II and E-M1X are the two professional bodies in the OM-D series, and Olympus is bringing the three-year-old camera up to speed to compete with rivals in the increasingly crowded mirrorless camera market.
With firmware v3.0, the E-M1 Mark II’s autofocus system uses the same algorithm as the E-M1X, “which was developed based on the shooting needs of the professional photographer,” Olympus says.
“With the goal of achieving performance that responds to demanding shooting conditions, such as fast movement in sports, etc., C-AF Center Priority delivers high-precision tracking of moving subjects and sudden subject movement,” the company states. “AF precision for still subjects when using S-AF is improved for various subjects compared to OM-D E-M1 Mark II firmware Version 2.3.”
The camera will also actively use data from the On-chip Phase Detection AF sensor for better AF performance while shooting video with the camera.
In addition to increased speed, there are also a number of new autofocus features added to the camera:
“Group 25-point has been added to AF Target, and is effective for photographing birds and other small subjects,” Olympus says. “C-AF Center Priority is now available, and repeatedly autofocuses with priority on the center point in Group 5-point, Group 9-point, and Group 25-point. If AF is not possible in the center point, the peripheral points in the group area assists, which is effective for subjects that move around quickly.
“In addition, C-AF+MF1 is included which allows users to instantly switch to MF by turning the focus ring while in C-AF for fine tuning the focus.”
For low light shooting with an f/1.2 lens, Olympus has dropped the limit down to -6.0 EV (ISO 100 equivalent for S-AF). This improves the cameras focusing abilities while shooting in dark environments and when dealing with low-contrast subjects.
Finally, Olympus has added Low ISO Processing (Detail Priority) to the E-M1 Mark II for higher resolution and lower noise results when shooting at low ISOs. There’s also a new anti-flicker mode.
“Compared with OM-D E-M1 Mark II firmware Version 2.3, noise that occurs when shooting at high ISO sensitivity is improved approximately 1/3 of a step,” Olympus says.
The face filters built into the cameras of social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat are all the rage these days, but not usually in official government settings. But when a Pakistani politician live-streamed a press conference on Facebook Live last week, a cat filter was accidentally turned on. Hilarity ensued.
Regional minister Shaukat Yousafzai was holding the presser last Friday when viewers suddenly began seeing him with pink cat ears and whiskers.
“I wasn’t the only one — two officials sitting along me were also hit by the cat filter,” Yousafzai tells the AFP.
Upon noticing the mistake, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party Facebook page quickly took the video down minutes after the press conference ended, but not before recordings of the unusual live stream began spreading across the Web.
Hasselblad has announced the 907X, the smallest medium format camera body ever made by the brand. Paired with the upcoming CFV II 50C digital back, photographers will be able to shoot medium format digital photography with a classic Hasselblad experience.
The new body and back will “will connect Hasselblad’s photographic history into one system,” the company says.
The CFV II 50C digital back will contain a 50-megapixel CMOS sensor that measures 43.8×32.9mm.
The back will be compatible with most V System cameras made from 1957 onwards.
Design-wise, the CFV II 50C features the look of Hasselblad’s famous medium format systems beloved by photographers over the years, so it’ll blend in perfectly when paired with older bodies.
At the rear of the back is a tilting touchscreen for handling settings, reviewing photos, and navigating menus.
The rechargeable battery is fully integrated into the back, which means less flexibility when it comes to power management but an overall reduction in size. The back can also be recharged in-camera using the USB-C port.
The ultra-compact 907X provides the smallest possible option for using a V System back.
The CFV II 50C (left), 907X (middle), and an XCD lens (right).
“This combination will offer a truly distinct photographic experience, including the classic waist-level shooting style of the V System enabled by the CFV II 50C’s tilt screen,” Hasselblad says.
The 907X is compatible with all of Hasselblad’s X System lenses. And using adapters, photographers will be able to tap into lenses from the H System, the V System, and XPan. Hasselblad is also creating a line of accessories that include a Control Grip and External Optical Viewfinder.
Here are a couple of videos introducing the new body and back:
CFV II 50C: Our legacy, Your future - YouTube
Introducing CFV II 50C - YouTube
Hasselblad will be announcing additional details, pricing, and availability for both the CFV II 50C and the 907X later in 2019.
“In the pursuit to continue the journey of taking medium format outside of the studio,” Hasselblad has put enhanced electronics in the camera for faster performance compared to its predecessor.
The live view has a faster refresh rate, there’s reduced shutter lag, reduced blackout time between frames, a faster shooting speed (2.7fps), and a startup time that’s twice as fast.
There’s still a 50-megapixel CMOS sensor at the core of the camera — a 43.8×32.9mm one that measures 1.7 times larger than 35mm full-frame sensors. The sensor features a native ISO range of 100-25600, a 14-stop dynamic range and large 5.3×5.3μm pixels for fantastic tonality.
On the back of the camera is a higher-resolution 3.6-inch 2.36-million-dot touchscreen, up from the 3-inch 920K-dot touchscreen in the X1D. This is the largest LCD display currently offered on a digital medium format camera.
The electronic viewfinder has been upgraded as well, going to a 3.69-million-dot EVF with a 0.87x magnification from the 2.36-million-dot EVF found in the X1D. The menu system can now be accessed when looking through the EVF as well, allowing photographers to work more seamlessly, especially in sunny conditions.
In addition to 16-bit RAW photos, the camera can now capture full-resolution JPEGs on their own for photographers wishing to trade post-processing flexibility for a faster workflow.
Speaking of workflow, Hasselblad’s new Phocus Mobile 2 app now allows photographers to connect their camera to an iPad via USB-C or Wi-Fi to transfer RAW and JPEG files for editing while out in the field.
Here’s a short video introducing the new camera:
X1D II 50C: Compact. Powerful. Enhanced. - YouTube
The Hasselblad X1D II 50C is available to order now with a price tag of $5,750 and will begin shipping in July 2019. By comparison, the original X1D was priced at $8,995 when it was announced.
Photographers use tools called flags to block and control light. NASA has detailed a new technology called a starshade that’s essentially a gigantic flag in space for doing photo shoots with space telescopes.
“Although starshades have never flown in space, they hold the potential to enable groundbreaking observations of planets beyond our solar system, including pictures of planets as small as Earth,” NASA writes.
A starshade mission would involve two spacecraft working together with extreme precision. One would be a space telescope (the camera) that can hunt for and photograph planets that orbit stars outside of our solar system. The other spacecraft would be a large, flat shade called a starshade (the flag) flown about 25,000 miles (40,000km) away in between the telescope and the star system being photographed.
After getting in position, the starshade (which would be tens of feet in diameter) would unfurl its “petals” like a blooming flower and block direct light from the star, allowing the telescope to see and photograph the orbiting planets more clearly.
But because it’s located 25,000 miles away, the “flag” would need to stay extremely aligned for it to serve its purpose. If it’s misaligned by over 3 feet (1m), the light from the star would spill over the edges of the starshade and ruin any potential photo of the faint exoplanets.
“The distances we’re talking about for the starshade technology are kind of hard to imagine,” says JPL engineer Michael Bottom. “If the starshade were scaled down to the size of a drink coaster, the telescope would be the size of a pencil eraser and they’d be separated by about 60 miles [100 kilometers].
“Now imagine those two objects are free-floating in space. They’re both experiencing these little tugs and nudges from gravity and other forces, and over that distance we’re trying to keep them both precisely aligned to within about 2 millimeters.”
Here’s a 2-minute NASA video illustrating how a starshade photo shoot would work:
Studying Other Worlds with the Help of a Starshade - YouTube
Getting this type of starshade photo shoot to work could open the floodgates for astronomers to directly photograph exoplanets, which today are mostly observed indirectly except for in rare cases. The first starshade mission could potentially be in the late 2020s if planning continues to go well.
“Blocking out starlight is key to performing more direct imaging and, eventually, to carrying out in-depth studies of planetary atmospheres or finding hints about the surface features of rocky worlds,” NASA says. “Such studies have the potential to reveal signs of life beyond Earth for the first time.”