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Hi!

Today I wanted to share my brand new Society6 store with you!

I’ve always wanted to offer prints of my work but I have been hesitant to invest more of my time, space, and equipment into creating a backlog of print inventory that might not sell. On top of this, cleaning glass, matting, framing, packaging, and shipping artwork is not really my strong suit. It’s a lot of running around just to ship one item to one person. Luckily, I’m not the only artist that was thinking all these things and over the last 5 years many print-on-demand services have developed online that will handle all the “other stuff” that goes along with selling artwork. I found Society6.com in one of my searches and haven’t looked back since. I can pretty much just make my artwork, upload it, set my prices, and let them handle everything else. It has been a joy. In the past 2-3 months, I’ve made more photographs than I have in 4 years of college (which I’ll post about later). Most of my new work and some of the older stuff is now available on my new Society6 store: www.society6.com/alexhawkphoto.

Right now I mainly just wanted to offer prints both framed and unframed but Society6 offers so many more products including mugs, clocks, bedspreads, pillows, beach towels, bath mats etc. I used to get kind of worried when people asked me about purchasing a print of my work because it usually meant jumping through several hoops on my end just to get a picture in their hands but now I don’t have to worry about any of that. I can just direct them to my Society6 store, they handle the money, they print my work, they frame my work, they package it, they ship it, and then they pay me my cut of the profits. I was also worried about print quality but it all gets printed on one of those huge large format Epson printers, according to their website it’s an Epson Stylus Pro 11880 “- the world’s most advanced 64-inch wide printer” which is good enough for me.

well you could probably make more money if you did it yourself” 

That’s probably true, you’re probably right but I think it’s worth getting a little less money in order to have my own online store that basically runs itself without me touching or buying a thing. Heck, I could be dead and you could still buy a print from me and you’d get it in the same amount of time. That’s what I’m talking about. Society6’s tagline should be “this guy died but you literally won’t be able to tell the difference because we do everything for him except make the actual original artwork so you can totally still buy a print or whatever you want even though he’s dead”

Seriously I wish I had done this sooner.

 

-Alex

 

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Hi Again,

I learned about a sneaky tick box in my Wacom Tablet preferences this week that may interest you. This tick box is called the “Force Proportions” tick box. I’ve seen this tick box before but have never paid much attention to it.

Most new computer displays are a widescreen 16:9 ratio that works wonderfully for viewing HD content. However, depending on your Wacom tablet’s surface area, you may get some distortion on your stylus inputs when they show up on a screen that is wider than your Wacom tablet. You may not notice this issue if you use just one monitor but you will definitely see some distortion if you use two monitors for double-wide display. When your display area is much wider than your tablet your tablet will squish and stretch your display area in order to fit it within the mapped area of your Wacom tablet causing this distortion.

To tell if your tablet is distorting your display to fit within your tablet area just draw a circle on your tablet. If your circle comes out as an oval every single time on your display in Photoshop then you know you have this problem. I’ve made a rough sketch to illustrate this distortion.

Tablet-Distortion-Example

 

When I noticed this problem I was confused for a few minutes because I don’t normally edit on a double-wide display but the easy fix is to check the “Force Proportions” tick box in your Wacom preferences. What this tick box does is it makes your mapped tablet area match the same aspect ratio of your display. With this box checked you should get no distortion on your inputs. The tradeoff is that the force proportions tick box may change the Wacom’s mapped area to something other than what you’re used to because it now locked to the ratio of your display but I think it’s a small price to pay in order to have your stylus inputs accurately represented on screen.

Tablet-Display-Proportional

This is a tricky problem that you might not notice right away but if you do any detailed Photoshop work like digital painting you should keep the “Force Proportions” tick box in mind when you sit down at a new workstation or if you are thinking about using two or more monitors.

-Alex

Hello again,

it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted here on the blog. I’ve been busy with school and a few big projects. I also have one of my photographs in Boston right now at the PRC which I’m very excited about (check my instagram for the info).

Anyway, I’m here to explain an updated data backup strategy that I put into place today. I’m a big fan of saving multiple copies of your work. As a photographer it is crucial to have a system in place here that works well and fits your budget as it would be very counter intuitive to spend all sorts of money on equipment and overlook the data management itself.

I like gear as much as the next guy, I would love to have hundreds of thousands of dollars of camera equipment but if I lose all the pictures I took then what’s the point? It doesn’t matter that you shot a Hasselblad with a digital back, those files are still just as vulnerable to a dead/stolen/lost hard drive as images that are shot on a phone or point and shoot Kodak. One of my biggest fears is having to give money back to a client because of images lost after a shoot. It completely undermines your reputation as professional if you can’t also handle and backup your data safely and effectively. Having said that I’m sure there will still be plenty of people who lose work because of some overlooked issue or mishap.

I’ve grown to actually enjoy purchasing hard drives although I know for most people it is a chore and nothing more than a necessary evil. You can do the bare minimum here if you want but there’s really no reason not to have at least a couple hard drives to backup your work considering how cheap they are these days. A 1TB external hard drive from Amazon runs about $55 which is such a great price.

Ok let’s get right into things. Let me explain my original setup that I used since I got my Macbook Pro in 2012. This is the setup I recommend to most people as it works very well until your hard drive fills up (which is what I’ve had to deal with the last few weeks and I’ll get into my new setup in a few minutes). I made a neat little diagram to show you.

Hard-Drive-diagram-1

This is possibly the most basic setup with redundancy you can have that doesn’t also include cloud storage. Cloud storage like Dropbox is great for delivering images to clients but not so much for backing up terabytes of RAW images which is what this setup is good for. You have two hard drives- One which holds all of your media and one that backs up that hard drive and the computer. In our diagram “External Drive A” holds all the media and “Time Machine Backup A” corresponds to “External Drive A” and the computer. For this type of setup it does not really matter what you name your drives if you know you’ll only ever use one external drive as your main storage drive and one hard drive to back it all up. For the next setup though it becomes a lot more important to have a consistent naming structure for your hard drives because they can get hard to keep track of otherwise. I would recommend changing the hard drive name in finder to something like “Drive A” or “External Drive 1” or whatever naming structure you’d like as soon as you take it out of the box and plug it in for the first time. It will save some time later on.

I found that after about three years my “External Drive A” in the diagram was getting full. So now what? I feel like this is where things can get a little murky for some people because the next step up from this diagram could be a multitude of things. There are so many options for buying hard drives what do you buy? Luckily there are enough hard drive options today to make your backup strategy scalable and affordable. I’ve been using the Western Digital My Passport Ultra external hard drives a lot recently and I love them. If you don’t know what to get and need more space those are a great option and I haven’t ever had issues with them (but I also take very good care of my equipment). They are also cheap enough to purchase in pairs of two which is great so you’ll have two more terabytes of space and another two terabytes to back it up. If you need all of these hard drives plugged in at once then a USB 3.0 Hub is also probably something you might want to look into buying.

One of my main points I wanted to keep in mind while adding more data storage to this diagram was not also having to lug around more hard drives with me. I love just being able to take one small hard drive with my photos and going to a shoot, shooting tethered right into Lightroom and calling it a day. I don’t want to have to keep track of what hard drive to bring with me and when, I just wanted one hard drive to work off of while I’m away.

I came up with this.

Hard-Drive-Explanation-2

What’s happening here is the same thing as the first diagram except that instead of storing all your pictures on “Drive A” you only keep your current year’s photos on “Drive A” to take with you wherever and move the rest to “Drive B” which has its own “Time Machine Backup B” drive to back it up separately from “Drive A”. This system works well because I rarely find that I need to have pictures from two years ago on-hand all the time. So essentially once the year is over, I’m done with those images and they’re really just taking up prime real estate on my “Drive A” that would otherwise be free space to shoot more photos. So all I have to do is move my previous year’s photos over to “Drive B” and back it up with Time Machine. This secondary “Drive B” doesn’t need to get backed up nearly as often because the files on it aren’t changing until “Drive A” fills up again. After a while if “Drive B” fills up all I have to do is buy another two Passport Ultras from Western Digital and move photos from “Drive B” over to the newly purchased “Drive C” and “Backup C” (not pictured). This method also saves me from losing all of my work if I lose “Drive A” when I’m out and about because it only has the current year’s images on it. Even then, “Drive A” is backed up so we’re still fine.

There are a couple other things I wanted to point out here too. Lightroom references and keeps track of multiple hard drives that you have attached. For example, you’ll notice in this screen shot of the folders panel in the Library module in Lightroom that I don’t have “Drive B” connected right now but Lightroom still knows what pictures in the catalog are on that hard drive. This is helpful once you start using multiple hard drives need to know what data is on what drive.

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 4.50.44 PM

I would also recommend color coding your drives with tape or labeling them with a P-touch labeler so you can easily pick the right hard drive to connect to your computer.

In terms of actually transferring files between hard drives, at least with images you can do so within Lightroom by just dragging the folder over to a different hard drive. I didn’t do it this way for a big move like this because it was a lot of data and I also wanted to stop using my main external “Drive A” as the drive I take with me everywhere. The new “Drive A” I put into place is 2TB as opposed to the previous 1.5TB which will give me a little more on-the-go space. Using my older hard drive as the secondary “Drive B” works well in this case because it doesn’t move around too much or get used that often anymore but is still useful for this setup. I was just getting a weary of still using it as a hard drive to work off of because I’ve used it constantly for the last three years and I’d rather work off a nice fresh drive instead.

I just used Finder to copy all the files over to the new hard drive. This way, by using copy I won’t lose or corrupt data if the computer shuts down in the middle of copying or something else happens because this much stuff takes a long time to transfer. Then to update Lightroom with the correct locations of the images you can just right click on the folder you want to tell Lightroom to reference from the new hard drive and click on “Update Folder Location” and pick the same folder. This “Update Folder Location” method is perfect for how we used finder to copy all the data over because we have an exact copy of Lightroom’s folder on the second hard drive. For any smaller moves that are only a couple gigabytes I would just drag them around in Lightroom.

So that’s about it for today. I just wanted to share my new file management setup with you because I know I had no idea what to do when my hard drive filled up. A lot of places online make you think that if you run out of space you need to buy one big huge 6TB drive, which you can absolutely do, but I think for the time being it might be better if you’re on a budget to increase your hard drive space incrementally as needed and that’s what this setup does.

-Alex

A few weeks ago I was doing a photoshoot outside for the first time in a while. I’ve almost exclusively been doing studio work for about the last year or so and I noticed some big differences when I went to go shoot outside again.

When I’m in the studio I’m usually trying to keep my camera between f/11 and f/22 to keep things nice and sharp. It shows in the final image especially with a 60D which doesn’t really have too many other scenarios where it can really shine. I’ve been getting so used to seeing images that are nothing but crisp front to back that it was kind of jarring shooting outside at f/4-f/5.6 again. Focus was noticeably less sharp on some but not all photos, making me a little uneasy but that’s of course to be expected given such a wide lens opening and the many other factors of outdoor shooting.

One of my big pet peeves with shooting outside is that I have to account for potential blurriness. In the studio you can keep your shutterspeed around 1/250th or even 1/125th of a second and still rarely encounter blurriness because the flash is what is freezing the action if there is any type of movement at all. Also, unless you bring a reflector, or some flash units with you, you’re at the mercy of mother nature. As I’ve been shooting in the studio I’ve really been enjoying all the control I have with lighting to create a specific look, feel or mood. Outside I find there are the two extremes of super flat, soft light from a cloudy day, or the ultra-contrasty-racoon-eye sunny days. There are a few in between situations but that’s generally what you’re dealing with.

More recently, I found that there’s also another factor that contributes to the sharpness, or rather the unsharpness of outdoor photos given the low f/numbers needed to create an exposure. Most big lens manufacturers like Canon, Nikon and Sigma have created a chart that represents what’s called the “Modular Transfer Function” of a lens. Essentially what the chart does is it maps out the relative sharpness/resolution and contrast of a lens on a scale for a lens that is opened at its widest f/stop and then stopped down to f/8. I was surprised to find that some lenses become almost 1/2 their total sharpness/resolution quality at their widest f/stop as opposed to f/8 which is significantly better.

The MTF Chart for the 24-105L IS from Canon's website.

The MTF Chart for the 24-105L IS from Canon’s website.

 

The black lines represent the lens wide open, the blue lines represent the lens stopped down. The thick lines represent contrast, and the thin lines represent sharpness/resolution. The Y axis is a 0-100% numbering system, meaning that for the wide angle of the 24-105L it is at 100% of it’s total potential sharpness/resolution and contrast. The X axis is from 0 (which here is the center of the lens) to the edge of the lens (20). Ideally, all the lines should stay grouped together in a straight line across the top of the chart. This is found more often with prime lenses at least on paper. There are many photographers and gurus on the web that will argue, given the right zooms and prime lenses, that both types of lenses are equally sharp. I think in today’s age, the difference between a zoom and a prime lens is negligible and even less so if you stop down to f/8 or higher on a zoom and on a prime lens. There are still many photographers that will only shoot their images using prime lenses.

 

Canon's EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM lens MTF chart

Canon’s EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM lens MTF chart

So before you think that you may have back-focused your lens while shooting and that’s why you’re getting soft images, check your lenses accompanying MTF chart on your lens manufacturer’s site. It could be that your lens is much more sharp at one f/stop down from where you’ve been shooting. For the future I will definitely be referring to the MTF charts before buying another lens.

If you need another explanation of the subject, there is a beautiful Luminous Landscape article that discusses MTF as well.

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/understanding-series/understanding-mtf.shtml

-Alex

A few months ago Wacom revamped its lineup of pressure sensitive tablets. The Bamboo was changed to the Intuos and the Intuos lineup was updated to the new Intuous Pro 5 models.

Many people wonder how I do some of the Photoshop work I’ve completed. They come up to me and ask “Hey, Alex how did you do such great Photoshop work? I would also like to do such great Photoshop work.” and I tell them that apart from using Photoshop for over five years now and becoming a Certified Expert, I use a Wacom tablet to do my editing and not a mouse. There’s no exaggeration on my part. Photoshop is built to fully utilize pressure sensitive tablets and using one has made a world of difference in the quality of work I produce. If I tried to do the same editing and retouching I’ve been doing over the past two years with a mouse I would probably tear my hair out.

What urks me the most though is that I tell people my response that really a tablet is a priceless tool when it comes to editing and they go “oh wow” and that’s about it. Very few people are willing to invest the money in buying this piece of equipment which, if you ask me, is probably the best thing I’ve bought in the last two years. Now there’s really no excuse to have a tablet as I was checking Amazon last night and found that the new Intuos Pen & Touch tablets now start at $75. I was thinking of picking one up just so that I don’t have to haul mine back and forth to school with me.

For the time being I can’t readily attest to the quality and durability of the Pen & Touch tablets but specs wise it’s worth every penny. If they’re anything like the Intuos 4 series like what I currently own then I would highly recommend it. It doesn’t look like it has as many buttons or a wheel to boot but I never use those features anyway.

Really, if you’re looking to do some solid editing, for $75 you can do a whole lot more than you would with a mouse.

-Alex

I have not owned a ton of cameras in my life, but each new one has been heavier than the last. I’ve grown to prefer a battery grip on my DSLRs and on a few rare occasions I need the use of a hot shoe flash. For whatever reason, my neck has always cracked a little too loud and I think my neck straps had something to do with it.

When I think about it, a neck strap makes no sense at all. My neck is not built to carry things on it, when I’m not carrying my camera I don’t usually carry a ten pound weight around my neck to hold its place. Finding an alternative neck strap setup seemed to be an issue worth delving into and I found a solution. This solution comes in the form of a Black Rapid shoulder strap. It’s a beautiful thing, the shoulder strap screws into the tripod mount on the bottom of the camera and allows it to hang down by your side with no neck involvement at all. After hours and hours of using a shoulder strap I don’t feel that fatigued because quite a bit of my body exists in between my arms and legs to support a camera from my shoulders but not my neck so much. There’s also a quick release on the back of the strap as well so you won’t risk injury or accidentally choke yourself to death. Pretty convenient.

Now that I have removed the Canon neck strap from my camera I have some options for yet another piece of equipment to accompany the Black Rapid strap. A Canon E1 hand strap goes nicely in place of the previous neck strap. Not only can I have a shoulder strap when I want one, but if I’m doing studio work for the day I can disconnect it and simply use the hand strap. It’s a one-two punch combo. I greatly prefer this setup instead of taking a neck strap and wrapping it around my arm or hurting my neck with it. I think I have saved my neck years and years of grief by using the shoulder strap-hand strap combo and I highly recommend the same to anyone tired of a sore neck.

That being said, I’m not really hardcore into gear but it definitely is nice to buy something that fills a need and serves a purpose. If ever there is a product that you stumble upon that appears to be useful to you in some way, buy it. It’s probably worth the money in the long run.

 

-Alex

 

 

A couple days ago I went ahead and bought a Canon 24-105L lens just like the one I had rented from BorrowLenses a few weeks earlier. I’m so stoked about this.

You can debate with me all you want but this is one of the finest purchases I’ve made since I bought my 60D about a year ago. The long term plan has been to acquire an arsenal of EF lenses so as to have maximum compatibility with future camera upgrades. For those of you who don’t know or aren’t camera savvy, there are two types of sensors on DSLRs. There are the APS-C sized sensors, which stands for “Advanced Photo System type-C.” These are the sensors that are built in to most consumer grade DSLRs in the current market, my 60D has an APS-C sensor and it’s great.

There is a caveat to the APS-C sized sensor though, it results in a cropped field of view. You wouldn’t notice it really unless you did a side-by-side comparison but cropped frame sensors result in an image that is cropped in about 1.5-1.6x depending on if you’re using a Canon brand camera or a Nikon. For some types of photography this is fantastic, if I was really into wildlife/bird photography and I had a 100mm lens on my cropped frame APS-C sized sensor it would give me a zoom of about 150mm instead of 100. Great for telephoto lenses but not so much for wide shots.

The lenses that usually come with crop frame cameras are known as the EF-S lenses in Canon’s lineup. All this means is that the lens’ opening on the inside of the camera body is sized so that the entire image fits onto the small sensor. Were you to somehow fashion one of these lenses onto a full-frame camera, a camera where there is not crop factor of 1.5x or 1.6x then you would get a dark circle or vignette around your image.

So, EF-S lenses are great but it’s best, if you’re going to buy lenses, to get the EF lenses because they are sized for full-frame cameras and also have backwards compatibility to the APS-C sized camera sensors like what I currently own. I would have to think that the reason that all lenses are not made to be EF lenses largely has to do with cost as they are usually more expensive. But, of course, there’s always the 50mm 1.8 which is an EF lens for about $100 no matter where you look.

If I look at Canon’s lineup of DSLRs, the next camera worth upgrading to from a 60D would be either a 5D Mark II or a Mark III. The reason I haven’t bought one already is because until recently I only had EF-S lenses which are not compatible with Full-Frame cameras. The 24-105L is an EF lens and is also amongst some of the best optics Canon has ever made.

Personally, if I had to buy one lens and leave it on my camera forever, this would be it. I think it’s kind of silly to have to go through this extra gyration of changing out my entire lens collection in order to make upgrading to a full-frame camera viable, but I think it’s probably something a lot of budding professionals like myself have to go through at some point. It’ll be nice to have another piece of equipment that is up to my standards. Normally I’d feel bad about dropping hundreds of dollars on something like this but I know it will pay for itself a million times over.

Have yourself a lovely summer and see you next week,

-Alex