3 Tools to start Your Online Photography Journal

One of the key elements of an online photography journal is telling the story. This site is my photo journal—although right now I use it to share my knowledge of technology & creativity—in the near future I intend to put up more of the work and the behind the scenes process.

As you take photos year after year, you want to eventually share the stories behind those special moments. Here are 3 tools you can use to share those stories.

Square1

Choose the Platform

Choosing the right platform for you journal is crucial. Most any web platform can work but the platform should be suitable for  you. Are you looking to post a photos, then write a few lines of text? If that’s the case, then maybe instagram would be ideal for you. If your looking to post more details, then one of these platforms below are for you.

Web Site Builders

Below are a list of web apps that create your site based on specific themes. These tools work  to create the look and feel but many of them lack additional functionality or customization. They do offer you the ability to change the look of your site but they do no offer you the ability to change it’s capabilities. For example if you wanted to create a section where only clients have access, you’d either have to hire a programmer or switch platforms. Or if you wanted to add a particular method of payment (Square or Stripe)  you would only have the option to choose what that builder has built in.

These tools are used to  build a site but they do not create systems behind that site such as: Members only section, user log in, a forum, or any add ons you you would like to add down the road.

Advantages

  1. Quick setup
  2. Simple
  3. Affordable
  4. Fee option available

Disadvantages

  1. Lacks scalability
  2. Takes control from user
  3. Cannot Migration
  4. When your needs change upgrading it can be costly

Content Management Systems

CMS as they are typically called help you create a site but they also help manage content. Think of them as a massive database that keeps track of your photos, videos, text, users, etc…

These Content Management Systems provide a huge advantage over a standard builder. They provide a more complete system compared to builders. However WordPress gives more of a full featured set than Squarespace. A quick way to compare the 2 would be to compare Android Phones to iPhones. Android gives you more control over your phone than the Apple’s mobile platform. Of course every user is different — Some might require more tools than others — the best method is to write down your needs and look for the tool that comes the closet to those needs.

Advantages

  1. Options
  2. Plugins
  3. Scaleable (wordpress)
  4. Fee option available (wordpress)

Disadvantages

  1. Learning Curve
  2. Time Consuming

Blogging Platform

A standard blog can work as a journal, keep in mind however that you want to create a story for your readers not a note. These platforms though simple can help you focus and just write.  Of course you can also sprinkle your photos in between your copy to help give color and appeal to your readers. As you start to blog it can be tempting to take your site — journal in this case — to the next level, this is where blogging platforms become limiting, other than that they work perfectly fine.

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Verdict

If I had to choose one platform for a person who has photography skills and stories but lacks the time and skills to build a website, I would choose Squarespace. For those who are on a tight budget Wix and Weebly is a good place to start but I would recommend moving to Squarespace after you have enough content and an audience to view it.

Top 5 hard drives of 2016

Hard drives are still the most widely used form of storage to date. Many would argue that no other form of storage has the capacity to cost ratio as a standard drives. With the variety of manufactures available today, and the constant change in technology it can be quite difficult to choose.

G-tech EV Drive

EV
Although the G-Technology EV Drive has been around for a few years, this portable drive is still used by many professionals. There aren’t any frills or add-on software included but these drives have enclosures that are built to last. I have used G-tech drives since I started video production back in 2005 and although the ride hasn’t been smooth the drives have been very reliable. I edited my last documentary on 2 EV drives — one was used as a backup the other as my active editing drive — and they both performed flawless. An alternative to the EV drive would be the Buffalo MiniStation with a similar approach to g-tech, Buffalo keeps the packing and the setup simple. The only difference is the Buffalo doesn’t just include USB 3.0 but thunderbolt, this provides more room for additional peripherals by leaving one usb port free and gives more head room for speed when connecting multiple drives. The EV drive has an add-on to give it thunderbolt speeds but we will discuss that in another article.

 

Western Digital Studio

WD
The Western Digital Studio is my personal choice for those on a budget who need a good drive that has a great warranty (Limited 3-Year Manufacturer Warranty) and a clean and simple setup. With the addition of usb 3 and a metal enclosure these drives are good for storage in a fixed environment. I wouldn’t recommend taking a high capacity drive on the road, that’s what portable drives are for. A slight set up from the Studio drive would be the G-tech G1 Drive the main advantages are a stronger case and and a power switch, not much of a difference but some folks care about the small details.

Samsung 850 Pro

Top 5 hard drives - Samsung SSD

The invention of the Solid State Drive (SSD) can be traced all the way back to the 1950s and today we see them readily available at reasonable prices. Some argue that the SSDs are reliable due to their rewrite life — the fact that they are rated at about 100,000 writes and then they are dead. However note that each drive listed should have a purpose and no one drive should be the cure all for every storage situation. In the case with the SSD I use these for speed. Typically when I need to render a movie from my editing suite to the web or if I need to edit a ton of photos in Lightroom and export them,  the Samsung 850 Pro solid state drive would work quite well at speeds of 550MBs reads / 520 writes. I wouldn’t look at storing sensitive data on a solid state with hopes that nothing will ever go wrong and if I do I will have a back up.

Thunderbay Raid Array

Thunderbay

With many cameras today recording at 4k many work stations require multiple drives working in sync to harness the speed needed to playback these high streams of video (with an SSD the drive sizes aren’t enough for hours of Ultra HD content). The Owc Thunderbay Raid 5 Enclosure  while a bit expensive for most consumers  / prosumer is quite reasonable for the professional. The enclosure has 2 thunderbolt 2.0 ports as well as quiet fan to keep this 4 bay enclosure cool. The setup above contains 20 Terabytes of storage and gets speeds up to 581MBs for reading data and 680MBs for writing that’s great for both speed and storage.

Choosing a bare drive

Many will say any hard drive will suit your needs and then there are those who say stay away from Seagate or even Western Digital. However my personal experience is no matter the manufacture, always backup your files every drive can die. Now I understand for those who cannot afford a second drive right away what do you do when you have 2-3 Terabytes of data? Well you can still back up the most important files online using a service like dropbox or google drive. Obviously 1 google account won’t be enough as they only give you 15gigs of storage but remember that each google account is free so picking up 2 or 3 won’t cost you anything.

Western Digital Black Caviar

Top 5 hard drives - Western digital

I have purchased about 10 Western Digital black Caviar drives  over the past 10 years and I cannot remember the last time one of those drives died on me. From my 1st purchase these drives have been fast, somewhat quiet and reliable I’d recommend then to anyone in need of a simple setup. It seems that Western Digital doesn’t place these black Caviar into their Studio or desktop enclosures (most times it’s Green drives) I could only assume they are looking to keep their cost down. When purchasing these drives you are either putting them into a Raid array similar to the Thunderbay or into a single enclosure like this one from Akitio. Hard drives have been around for quite awhile and I don’t see them becoming obsolete anytime soon.  DVDs and Blurry discs are cheaper buy they don’t have the capacity and speed of drives—Hence why I never converted my storage over to bluray discs. Use this article as a guide when picking up your next drive but study carefully your needs and choose the drive best suited for you.

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Mirrorless Cameras Why Should You Care?

Mirrorless cameras have been around for a long time. In the 1800’s one of the 1st ever photograph was taken by Joseph Draper. Draper took a portrait of his sister with one of the first ever portable cameras made by a company called Niépce. Was this the first mirrorless camera?

Photo Courtesy by Wikimedia

Fast forward centuries later and we have the SLR. Single Lens Reflex cameras often use a mirror and prism system that allows the photographer to view through the lens and see exactly what will be captured, contrary to rangefinder cameras where the image could be very different from what will be captured. We then moved to Digital SLRs or DSLRs which incorporated a slightly sophisticated computerized system. Rather than exposing light to film the light is expose to a sensor and the image is processed to a memory card.

The Mirrorless System

The 1st alleged digital mirrorless camera was introduced by Epson in 2009 it was known as the Epson R-D1. Since then several other cameras have been released, all with different mounts and sensor sizes. Below is a list I’ve complied for easy access.

Sony-A7R-II

The Sony A7 R II is not a DSLR and many know this but the features it has to offer make it quite attractive. Announced  on June 10th 2015 the updated version to the Sony A7 R  the A7 R II has a lot to offer such as:

  • 42Mega Pixels  / Full-Frame CMOS Sensor
  • BIONZ X Image Processor
  • 5-Axis SteadyShot INSIDE Stabilization
  • 399 Phase-Detect AF Points & 5 fps Burst
  • Internal 4K video recording
  • Weather-Resistant Magnesium Alloy Body
  • Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity with NFC
  • 22 Fames per second (5 at 42megapixels)

if the 42 Mega pixel count wasn’t enough the A7 R II has image stabilization built into the body of the camera. Also it’s low light capability is extraordinary (though not as good as the A7 R) the Iso ranges from 100-25600 and is expandable to 102,400. These feature and more make this $3200 camera a great contender in the mirrorless camera world.

xpro1diag

The Newly released  (February 18th) Fuji X-Pro2 provides a lot bang for your buck. Some of the Fuji features include:

  • 24Mega Pixels
  • Acros black and white film simulation (filters)
  • 273 autofocus points (169 of which are phase-detect)
  • 8 Fames per Second

The Fuji size and retro look makes it great for those who like the Leica Rangefinders. The built in filters are an added bonus for those who would like to add effects in production vs. in post overall Fuji makes a great camera at $1999.

Panasonic GH4

The Panasonic GH4 (released May 2014) is my personal favorite. As of today this camera it’s still used and talked about among film professionals. The main advantage for me is it’s 4k video quality and flexibility. Panasonic has always been good when it comes to color adjustments and providing options for the film maker. Of course its 16 mega pixel photo capabilities are quite useful, below are a few of the images captured with my own Gh4.

Natural Light vintage lens manual focus.

Gh4 North River Church
Natural Light vintage lens manual focus no adjustments.

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Gh4 North River Church
Same location no adjustments only available light.

TheHorse

The Gh4 the Horse watch
Shot in raw no correction at all just converted to jpeg

Summary

Pros

  • Lighter
  • Cost (most models)
  • Interchangeable mounts
  • Video auto focus
  • Smaller
  • Speed (frames per sec)

 

Cons

  • Electronic Viewfinder low light issues
  • Smaller sensors (MFT)
  • Battery life (can be fixed)

Final Verdict

Mirrorless cameras appear to be the future — I say appears because we have no clue what camera technology is next. Though I’m still getting use the the electronic view finder, the weight and size are very welcoming. The absence of a mirror creates flexibility for any lens system (Canon, Nikon, Leica, Zeiss). Many believe that mirrorless cameras aren’t ready to replace DSLRs. I’d challenge that thinking by saying they are ready. Any camera can get a project done however some will require more work than others. Take for example the Watchtower of Turkey a video montage shot over 20 days. It was shot on the Panasonic Gh3 (the model before the Gh4), and a Gopro, yet there isn’t anything quite like this video:

Watchtower of Turkey from Leonardo Dalessandri on Vimeo.

In the market for a new camera? Pick up a mirrorless camera, they are quite liberating.

Why start a photography journal

The idea of starting a journal seems old fashioned and unfruitful. A lot of times, journals are thought to be something girls do or for men who are really in touch with their feelings, but starting a journal is much more than that. It’s not just the idea of sharing your feelings, but it’s the idea of expressing them and being able to help someone else in the process.

Learning from the Past

One of the things journal writing has taught me is to actually think back on my day and remember all the lessons I’ve learned. It could have been a photo shoot, it could have been the day I purchased a camera, it could have been a day something tragic happened. When I say  a photo journal, I’m not talking about grabbing a bunch of pictures, laying them out on the table, getting a portfolio, placing the pictures in the portfolio,  and creating a label to describe each picture. While that’s a great way to catalog your journey, that’s sort of a portfolio type journal. What I’m talking about is actually writing your thoughts & experiences down in a book, or on a blog. It’s amazing what happens when we start to collect our moments and share them. The minute we share, we open ourselves up to criticism and comments. As artists, criticism can be an experience we tend to shy away from — because who wants someone critiquing their craft or their “baby”, so to speak? But how do we expect to grow if all we hold onto are our thoughts and feelings?

Getting things out

Writing also helps you with articulate your thoughts, so that you can express what’s in your head to someone else. This process is actually preparing us to someday teach.  As others read they can learn from your experiences and become better at their craft or better photographers in this case. What has written can also be repurposed and create content for other platforms which I won’t go too in depth in this post, but probably will talk about this in a future post.

photographers-JournalThere are a number of tools available to start your journal, I personally use a black and white composition book and other times Day One as well as Ulysses. There are online platforms available as well.  Tumblr and Medium  are two platforms that make it quite easy to share your experiences and are both free. Notice that I didn’t mention anything about monetization as the main purpose of starting your journal is bigger than you earning a few dollars a day, it’s about the process and growing each step of the way.

 

How to Launch an Online Photography Portfolio

You’ve taken a few photos and your now ready to start your photography portfolio. Where is the 1st place you should go? How much would it cost you? These are key questions but there are a few steps to take before making a choice. A portfolio is a must as a photographer, after all it’s a very effective way to share you work. You will also have the opportunity to review your work from time to time and discover ways you can improve.

Prepping your Portfolio

Before you can actually launch your port go ahead and choose your best images, you may want a friend to help you with this part as many artists tend to be critical of their work. When you have chosen approximately ten images, making sure that they are all high resolution (same size as they were shot or at least 2048 x 1500) and about the same width and height. The reason you want your images to be the same height and width is for consistency. As far as wanting them high resolution that should be obvious (more pixels better details usually). In the end where ever your images end up you want them to each have the same affect, to draw the attention of the viewer into each story as they go from image to image.

Choosing a host

Now that you have all your images we need to choose a site where your images can be easily accessed. There are a number of places, so I will do my best to go over each along with their pros and cons.

500px

www.500px.com (free or paid)

500px online photography portfolio
The Premier Photography Community

Pros

  • Free
  • Fast
  • Community of photographers
  • Market (sell images)
  • Download originals (no compression)
  • Share & embed tools

I use 500px just about every time I capture an image that’s worthy of my portfolio. The interface is simple, works well, and the community is great. Although there are some great aspects of the site, most features are unavailable until you pay for upgrade, pricing starts at $25 per month and goes all the way up to $165 go here for more details.

Cons

  • Free account only offers 20 photos per week
  • Selling requires high visibility can be hard for new photographers

Zenfolio

www.zenfolio.com (paid service)

Zenfolio online photography portfolio
Professional photo and video hosting for photographers.

Zenfolio has been my portfolio company of choice for over 10 years. I have been with them since 2006 mainly because of their features and the fact that the site is solid. To name a few of the features that I enjoy

Pros

  • Password protected galleries
  • Print ordering directly from galleries
  • Templates for site & galleries
  • Storage (unlimited)
  • SEO & blog options

All these features however come at a premium. Zenfolio’s pricing starts at $60 annually  (a lot cheaper than 500px) however the base package doesn’t include all the above mentioned features, for full pricing and features go here.

Cons

  • Site Templates are a bit outdated
  • Customer shopping experience a bit complicated
  • Pricing can be high for some
  • No phone support only through an online form

Twenty20

www.twenty20.com (free service)

Twenty20 online photography portfolio
Twenty20 is a community to showcase, discover, and buy the best in mobile photography & art.

Probably one of my most used sites in 2016 is Twenty20. Twenty20 is a California based company that doesn’t just showcase your work, they actually help you to sell. Keep in mind if you want to upload your portfolio pictures to this site,  it will probably end up being sold . Their purpose is to help you sell your work so you can earn income. The system works fast, they give your work exposure they’ll actually collect your pictures and put them into categories so that buyers can actually find them it’s really nice.

The last two are Flickr and Google Photos, they’re both great, they’re both fast,  and they’re both available on IOS apps and Google Play. They give you tons of space Flickr gives one terabyte, Google is unlimited. If you want to be able to start showcasing your work, take advantage of these two as much as possible.

Tangible Textures

Today sharing your photography portfolio is just a vital as in the days of the printed portfolios, in fact I still recommend that each photographer have a tangible portfolio, after all there are clients out there who are more tactile and enjoy the texture and materials of printed photos. A physical portfolio is also a good conversational piece when your socializing and don’t need the distraction of technology. Start your portfolio today it’s something you won’t ever regret. Years from now you will be able chart the progress of your work, countless lives will be touched and you will have established a series of images that create a legacy for your work.

Composition for life photography

When you pick up a camera each image you capture is a story. The key in knowing how to capture those stories begins with lighting & composition. Composition is one of the first steps to better photography. It is understanding how to properly arrange the subject(s) in the frame, so the viewers can clearly understand what it is your trying to convey. It is one of the most essential parts of photography.

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
— Thomas A. Edison
Composition-Hardwork

Composition a Process

When you look through a view finder on a camera your presented with your scene. Yet when you get to the editing process the image looks completely different, in most cases it doesn’t live up to what you saw in your head why is that? Well one of the first steps to creating your shots is to have a plan. If your shooting in a broken worn out building, realize that to capture the full scene you need to either step back or use a wide lens.

Composition from-aboveComposition comes before the actual photo is framed in your viewfinder. Composition starts in your head and is then transferred to the view finder, then your editing room and eventually to your audience. When taking portraits, placing the subject center frame might not be your best option, as this looks flat and more traditional  (depending on who you ask).

Composition Shaw-Distant

Placing your subject slightly off center creates more style and makes the image more picturesque. Of course if you want him/her to own the scene and be separated from all others center frame can work.

Composition Bride-Groom-Centered

The principle of composition exists in various art forms: from sculpting, to song writing and even public speaking,  It is vital, it creates the art before it’s physically manifested. As far as photography, where you stand, how you hold the camera, what angle you choose and the type of lens you use, are all factors of creating or composing your shots. 

Below are a few examples of (visual) composers  I follow on 500px. Study their work and see what you can discover about composition:

Portraits by Sam

Dina Belenko

Thierry Boitelle

2015 Year in Review

In 2015 I took over 12,000 images, shot over 800 video clips, and traveled the most in all my life. 2015 was truly a good year.  What made it great wasn’t the amount of content I shot, or the income I made but the fact that as I look over my work I am inspired. The fact that the images actually speak volumes to me and that makes it worth while.

500px Photo ID: 132718597 - On the top of Sunset Rock in Georgia with this lovely couple.
Mountain Top
This image was taken on top Sunset Rock in GA. It says to me that together these 2 will go anywhere and conquer it all.

At the end of the day what will your final life story tell? Will you leave behind a legacy that will help inspire a generation? Or will people cringe at the sight of your work? The aim I long for in my work is to give someone hope, purpose, love, encouragement and the realization that life is more than just living day to day.

We are either giving or taking

500px Photo ID: 130200051 - Getting her Hair done by mommy.
Mother's Care
This image was taken while I spent some quality time with family. It demonstrates the solid trust of a child.

It was Jim Rohn that said: “Life accumulates, either we accumulate the debt or value,” it’s up to us to choose wisely. What are you accumulating? Do your actions deposit in the lives of others? Or do our actions withdraw from people?

500px Photo ID: 101312783 - With eyes of hope he looks for direction.

At Peace
Took this image while working on a campaign against human sex trafficking. This young man had a peace and calmness that I felt was captured and just couldn't be hidden .

2015 down in History

To help record the events of the year I’ve put together this 5 minute piece, which took approximately 10 hours of editing. I believe it’s important that we keep track of our life’s progress, because how else will you know how you’ve done and in what areas you need improvement.

I sincerely desire that 2016 is full of growth and love for all who read my blog.