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Shutter Magazine | Editor’s Pick Lighting and Accessories Photography Review

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Shutter Magazine | Editor’s Pick Lighting and Accessories Photography Review

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download the complete 2013 lighting product review guide.

 

Westcott

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As photographers, we are constantly experimenting with different light sources, all in the pursuit of creating something unique for our clients. For the past 12 months, I’ve been playing with continuous light sources. The challenge for me is that the more powerful units are also ridiculously bulky and clumsy, and offer limited light modifiers.

Enter the Westcott Skylux LED: light, well-built and with amazing light quality. I’m always talking up portability. I don’t want to be that guy on photo shoots lugging around 18 bags of equipment. I want to be in and out quickly, but the equipment also has to perform.

The Skylux is a great unit for both video and portrait work. One light, many purposes: Now that’s economical! If you have never used a continuous light source for portraits, get ready to be impressed. It’s WYSIWYG: no guessing, shooting, testing, adjusting. Get set up, and you can see exactly what is happening with the light. Best of all, it’s daylight balanced and completely dimmable—incredibly practical when you use this in conjunction with natural light in your studio or on location.

Last but not least, the Skylux mounts to nearly any light modifier: umbrellas, softboxes, grids, snoots, barn doors, etc. You can’t go wrong with Westcott, which has a proven track record of delivering high-quality products.

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Rogue Photographic Design needs to raise its prices. I’m just kidding. Honestly, I hope they don’t read this. I can’t say enough good things about their product. I have been using Rogue for almost two years now. Its stuff is affordable, well made and superior to any speedlight modifier on the market.

 

They just get it. I see a lot of products come across my desk that make me wonder to myself: “Self, did they even test this with a true working photographer?” I’m very mobile in my work. I have to be able to get on a plane or put everything in my trunk. I don’t want to get a workout before every shoot or check four extra bags. Rogue is with me on every single shoot. From grids to flash benders, they’ve thought about almost everything. And now, with their new XL Pro Lighting Kit, they have created a large softbox, strip box and shapeable reflector in one portable unit. (Just as an FYI to Rogue: I will not be returning this. I am pretty sure if I write it in the magazine, it becomes completely binding. I read it on the Internet somewhere.) If you are looking for best of breed in speedlight modifiers, put one of these in your bag—it will change the way you work forever.

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Once relegated to studio work, Chimera has done an amazing job creating a portable and lightweight solution for professional photographers. Beauty dishes are the tool of the trade for commercial photographers, but us wedding and portrait photographers shy away. Why? I know why I do. The damn things are too freaking big and heavy. I have to buy a suitcase just to take one on location. Well, not anymore.

This bad boy is light and portable, and comes in its own carry case. Best of all, I assembled it in under five minutes without even reading the directions. I was feeling rebellious during the review, and just threw complete caution to the wind.

This beauty dish mounts to almost all studio strobes with its speed ring. Let’s say studio strobes on location or in studio are not your thing. No problem! They have an adapter to connect to your speedlight. What excuse do you have now?

What I love about working with beauty dishes is the quality and shape of the light that comes out of them. Chimera’s Octobox also features a reflector dish. Instead of being made from light-blocking material like metal, it’s made from a translucent material that allows some light to spill forward to create a unique catchlight in your subject’s eyes.

Get in the game with this high-quality product, which gives you a level of portability previously unavailable in a beauty dish.

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We’re always looking for power: a place to charge a phone, plug in lights, what have you. Photogenic’s ION is a nuclear-powered power supply for field use. OK, just did some fact checking. Apparently it’s not nuclear powered. Honest mistake. The first thing I noticed is that the ION is light! Today, my battery pack is like 20 pounds. I have to hire someone to walk around with it all day. The ION weighs in at 3.5 pounds—not only portable, but just downright practical. With a single battery, it can fire off 430 flashes at 530ws. Best of all, it comes with a spare battery, so it’s no problem taking your strobes out in the field. We got to play with this in the studio, and it performed like a champ. As I fired away, it kept recycling my 800ws unit without issue. It’s well built, and, as an added benefit, it mounts directly to a light stand, once again making it practical for the photographer in the field.

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Shutter Magazine | Editor’s Pick Cameras and Accessories

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Shutter Magazine | Editor’s Pick Cameras and Accessories Photography Review

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Download the COMPLETE 2013 Camera and Accessories Product Guide

Spider Holster

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We have all had the question posed to us. You are stranded on an island, what do you bring with you?

I’d bring the Spider Holster, designed by photographers for photographers. I found myself playing gunslinger all day. My staff took it away from me before I could hurt someone.

Besides being fun to play with, it’s a practical tool. When I’m shooting, I’m constantly taking my camera off my shoulder or putting it on the ground. I have kicked my camera, dropped it, and a host of other things I still can’t bring myself to talk about. Ok, if you insist. This one time I was in church shooting a wedding and put my camera on the pew. While walking by, my foot caught the strap and slammed the camera into the tile floor. All things that would never have happened had I been using the Spider Holster.

The one thing that really stuck out was the quality of the construction. It would make sense since we are en- trusting our most expensive asset to the holster. It has to be able to support the weight without risk of dropping. The belt, holster, and locking system are all top-notch, and I would trust my most expensive equipment to the belt.

The Spider Holster will change your shooting workflow, allowing you to free up your hands and free us from those awkward upper-body contortions we have all become so accustomed to.

It’s without a doubt one of the most effective holster systems on the market, and it’s even extremely comfortable to wear.

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Panasonic

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Let’s be honest: These days, the last company you may look for the latest in DSLRs is Panasonic. Well, be prepared to have your minds blown! I know mine was. When I received the GH3, I was pretty indifferent to it. I mean, I use a real camera for my video, right? How can this little thing be better?
Wow, was I blown away when I started playing with the camera! Within 10 minutes, I had most of the major features figured out.

Whether you’re just getting into video or are an established event cinematographer, you need to get this camera now. Panasonic touts it as great for hybrid video, such as the slide shows
created by software like Animoto, with images and

video mixed together.

The biggest thing that sets this camera apart
is that it has no recording limit. Have you
ever tried to film an entire ceremony
with a DSLR? Good luck with that. This feature alone makes it worth its weight in gold. But wait, there’s more.

The other features continue to blow my mind. Check this
out: The camera also has autofocus that actually works. So,
when your bride or couple is walking toward camera, it’s in focus the entire way, using the built-in tracking focus system.

The focusing system is top-notch, offering touch-screen focusing. So I can pull focus from one subject to another just by tapping the back of the screen.

And the list of boring features continues, with things like 1080p at up to 60fps, HDMI output, and independent mic and headphone inputs.

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Tamron

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When I was starting out, the biggest challenge was quality gear at a reasonable price. Something that seemed impossible to find. Inexpensive meant cheap. Cheap meant slow. And that meant my image quality was going to suffer. Those two things are no longer mutually exclusive.

Tamron is not a lens I would typically think of for the full-time professional. I really did think it more of a kit style lens. I was blown away when the SP 24-70 2.8 arrived. The first thing I noticed was the weight. It didn’t feel cheap or inexpensive. It felt like my other glass. The build is quality construction—definitely something that will handle the ins and outs of the professional shooter.

I shot a few frames at a 60th and 80th of a second, and the image stabiliza-tion took over, giving me a tack-sharp image. Something else that really stood out to me was the focusing motor: I never heard it. This thing is ninja quiet. Just sneaks up on you, and bam, it’s in focus.

While this may be categorized as an economical choice over its rivals, coming in at almost $1,000 cheaper for the same glass from Canon or Nikon, this lens can play with the big boys. Best of all, it comes with a six-year warranty.

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LensProToGo

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This company, founded in 2006 by Paul Friedman, is no stranger to making things happen and providing amazing service. I have known and worked with them for the past three years, and am proud to say I knew them when. See, this is a business that was started out of Paul’s spare bedroom and fueled with a passion to be the best!

LensProToGo is a national photo and video rental company that does things differently. It’s staffed only by professional photographers, so you’ll be sure to have top-notch customer service—and a fun conversation.

They ship anywhere in the U.S., and two-day shipping is included with every order. No gotcha pricing! All orders also ship in Pelican cases. Nothing but first class for their glass.

Truth is, I started renting a few years back when my business grew to a point where I needed extra equipment for my second shooters, my weddings, my video jobs, etc. It just didn’t make sense for me to buy new gear when I might only need it for a weekend or two.

Another brilliant strategy, if I do say so myself, is I typically rent gear before I buy it. This lets me get my hands on it for a few days to play with it before I make a major purchase. Try before you buy.

LensProtoGo is currently rolling out an iOS app that allows you to check out gear prices and rent right from your iPhone or iPad. It doesn’t get much easier to get gear in your hands and be completely prepared for your next event. GET 10% OFF ANY RENTAL USING THE CODE “MAGAZINE” (Expires 10.31.2013)
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Benro

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For me, tripod size matters. I want something that is compact, lightweight, and fits in my travel bag. As a wedding photographer, I do plenty of destination work. Today, checking bags is a nightmare. At 3.5lbs., Benro’s new tripod folds to just over 17.5 in. and is so compact that it allows me to put it in my suitcase and check it with the rest of my luggage.

Next up on the feature list, a built-in mono- pod. You read that right, the tripod breaks down into a monopod in seconds. It’s an absolutely incredible feature that allows me to have two pieces of heavy equipment in one.

Clearly built for the on-the-go photographer, the Benro tripod comes in an aluminum or carbon fiber option. And for the nature lover in you, the monopod also comes with a compass handle.

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Shutter Magazine | Editor’s Pick Software

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Product Guide
 

Download the COMPLETE 2013 Software Product Guide

 Foto Fusion

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Album design. Whoa. Did you just get chills of horror thinking about it? Next to editing images, this is the biggest time sink for any photographer. When I first started designing wedding albums, I would spend six to ten hours per album. It was brutal.

I had to look for tools to streamline the process. FotoFusion is one such tool!

Both Mac- and PC- compatible. And with two versions, Enhanced and Extreme, you can create a beautiful, professional book in a fraction of the time it would take using other tools.

The tool is easy to learn and easy to use. It’s loaded with features.

Bottom line:

Print your albums anywhere. Easily adjusted form factors allow you to get your 10×10 bridal book printed in one place, and then in just a few clicks you can resize the book and send it off to a different printer as an 8×10.

Blending Modes // The most powerful image tool to be added to the FotoFusion family in a long time allows you to enhance your images in unique and beautiful ways.

Image blending modes can be applied to a single photo or “mixed in” with the canvas using background modes to create stunning overlaid results. Effect presets transform images in one click, while advanced settings allow you to adjust blending options and create your own recipes.

Web albums // Make a project . . . click one button . . . and bam!—your project shows up as a digital album on an iPad, iPhone, or Android device, or in a PC or Mac Web browser.

Flip from page to page like a book, jump to any page, or share it by email, Facebook, or Twitter. Albums are available for 30 days from publication. V5 users can publish as many online albums as they like, at no charge. Enjoy!

Project Versioning // Go back in time and load earlier versions of projects, listed by date and time.

Lose power or shut down unexpectedly? FotoFusion now includes auto save and crash restore. Never worry about losing a single edit.

Learn more about Foto Fusion

Log in to see the complete guide and video reviews.

 

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onOne Software

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Time is money! And onOne Software’s Perfect Photo Suite 7.5 hits the mark. When sitting at your computer, it’s never fun flipping back and forth between applications. This package has just about everything you could ever want in your post-production workflow. Best of all, you don’t need PhotoShop! While the tool works seamlessly with PhotoShop and Lightroom as a plug-in, it operates as a stand-alone platform, allowing you unprecedented access to editing tools. Perfect Photo Suite 7.5 includes these features: Perfect B&W // Develop stunning black-and-white images quickly and easily. It includes powerful tools that add dramatic, elegant, and classic B&W looks to images instantly, offering you complete creative control.

 

Perfect Portrait 2 // Enjoy powerful portrait retouching, now improved with more accurate automated feature detection and enhancement tools to smooth skin, remove blemishes, brighten eyes and teeth, correct skin color, and reduce red eye.

 

Perfect Layers // Combine images and extend your image editing options in a layered file workflow without PhotoShop. Create and edit multilayered files directly from Lightroom, Aperture, or as a stand-alone application. Perfect Effects 4 // Extend your creative power and find even more ways to create images with impact. Perfect Effects 4 delivers an extended library of photographic effects, frames and edges, and presets designed by industry experts via a flexible new browser with keyword search functionality and favorites selection. Perfect Mask 5.2 // Create high-quality masks quickly and easily with automated functionality and powerful tools that make selecting subjects and isolating backgrounds for removal extraordinarily accurate. Perfect Resize 7.5 // Perfect Resize is renowned across the photography and print- ing industries for its ability to increase image size well over 1,000 percent without the loss of sharpness or detail. Focal Point 2 // Create realistic selective focus and depth-of-field effects after the shot. Choose from a selection of lens presets to produce a specific bokeh, or adjust controls to get the amount and kind of blur you want.
Log in to see the complete guide and video reviews.

 

Sticky Albums

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This is one of the most powerful marketing tools on the market today! It’s easy to use and viral in nature—your clients will go out of their way to share their images, and your logo and brand with them. Plain and simple, this is good for business!

It’s been a little over a year since StickyAlbums splashed onto the scene. The concept is simple yet incredibly powerful. Creating a custom mobile app for each of our clients is the ultimate way to knock their socks off and kick-start your word-of-mouth referrals like nothing else has before.

Because it is a subscription-based service, the company recommends creating a StickyAlbums for your clients just after they have placed their print order. This way you don’t have to worry about competing with print sales, but more importantly, this is when they are most excited to share their images with their friends and family. Now they don’t have to wait two weeks for the prints—they can have their favorite images with them wherever they go.

This is a marketing tool first and foremost. No one wants to look through a hundred images on their mobile device. Your albums will go viral when you put the very best images in your clients’ StickyAlbums.

StickyAlbums’ most important feature is that it allows images to be saved offline. Clients download the app one time, and the images are available on their phone with no data usage required when they want to show them off. And because the images are local after the first download, they open really fast.

Additional features include unlimited album creation, unlimited images, social media integration, YouTube integration, password protection for albums, and custom branding.

Learn more about Sticky Albums

Log in to see the complete guide and video reviews.

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With over 50,000 businesses using StudioCloud for their management needs, I would say this company knows a thing or two about studio management. In our studio, we needed a tool that would allow us to track customer data, including contact information, sales data, and history, as well as conduct robust scheduling. StudioCloud has become the hammer in our studio toolbox. Two of my favorite features are automatic email reminders and the ability to integrate my calendar with my iPhone and iCal. StudioCloud provides an easy-to-use cloud-based business solution that includes client management, calendaring, point- of-sale, bookkeeping, reporting, marketing campaigns, and project management tools. Utilizing the Adobe Flash Platform, StudioCloud is able to provide an intuitive user interface across multiple devices and screens where creative businesses can access their information with or without an Internet connection. StudioCloud is used by tens of thousands of creative professionals—including photographers, designers, and videographers—in over 100 countries. Out of the gate, StudioCloud is a powerful tool for any business. With the addition of its Add-On services, it becomes cost-effective business management software that would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop and customize for your business. StudioCloud provides impressive mobility by syncing all of your StudioCloud data between the cloud and all of your Internet-enabled devices.

 

CloudProofing // CloudProofing by StudioCloud offers photographers an easy and powerful integrated online proofing system they can use to sell their images online.
CloudBooking // CloudBooking by StudioCloud offers an integrated online booking solution that is fully customizable to meet most every business’s booking needs.
CloudAlerts // CloudAlerts provides automatic email, text message, and postcard reminders to businesses, their employees, and their customers.
CloudStorage // CloudStorage provides online integrated storage.
Log in to see the complete guide and video reviews.

Zenfolio
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We live in a digital world, and most if not all photographers require a digital storefront. When was the last time you heard a client say, “I was just walking by and decided to have my picture taken”? Reality check. It doesn’t work that way!

Today, our storefront is the beginning of the process for most of our clients. Your website is your store, and clients make decisions about your business and if they want to work with you based on what they see.

Zenfolio wants to simplify the process of building and maintaining your virtual store. All while making complex development a thing of the past for you and your business.

It offers an all-in-one portfolio and online proofing solution that is ready as soon as you open your account. Choose from a selection of built-in pages or create custom pages to suit your individual needs.

All Zenfolio sites are built using NOW HTML and HTML5, making them easily compatible with mobile devices.

Every account comes with a fully integrated photo blog that maintains your design identity and allows for an easy showcase of photos and videos in blog posts.

The shopping cart and the entire checkout experience are fully integrated with your website. The Zenfolio e-commerce platform is designed for photographers by providing them the flexibility and features to get from shooting to selling in as little time as possible.

In addition to using a custom URL, Zenfolio gives you tools for increasing the visibility of your site. Everything that needs to be done to make your site search-engine optimized is done for you automatically, behind the scenes.

You can include social media buttons from Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, and Twitter into your pages, encouraging sharing between your visitors and enabling viral promotion of your content.

Entice your customers with special deals by using the flexible coupon functionality. You can create amount- or percentage-based coupons, make them applicable to a specific event, set expiration dates or number of uses, and more.

Learn more about Zenfolio

Log in to see the complete guide and video reviews.

 

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