opinion

Photo Mechanic 6, Macs and 32 bit apps

Coming March 25th 2019…

Slowly but surely application developers are replacing their 32 bit versions for Apple OSX with 64 bit ones. As things stand there are only two bits of software that I use on a very regular basis that are still only available in 32 bit and the most important (and dare I say “most exciting”) of those, Photo Mechanic, gets an upgrade later this month. It has been a while coming, and I have mentioned it here on this blog once or twice already, when the next iteration of OSX is installed it stops us being able to use 32 bits apps altogether. Because I have the luxury of having three Macs I always have one of them running the latest (or even beta) versions of everything. That way I can satisfy my curiosity without risking my production machines with untested or insufficiently tested software. (more…)

How big do you want them?

This chart is for one “average” photo and represents a comparison for that picture as a guide. Closed image file sizes vary widely due to their content. The photo in question is an environmental portrait taken with a Canon EOS5D MkIV.

Sometimes I post blogs which describe how I do things and others are intended to be conversation starters and thought promoters. This one falls directly into both camps but it was originally written to start discussions.

How we deliver images to our clients is a subject that photographers can debate until the cows come home or until the technology changes and the debate has to start all over again. For the kind of work that I do most of the time (editorial, PR and corporate) there are a huge number of compromises to be made – most of which are dictated by a small number of factors:

  1. Does the client have a digital asset management system?
  2. Will the client want to do anything to the pictures before sending them out?
  3. Who are the end users and what will they want?

Once you start to gather the answers to these questions you can start to discount a lot of options that, as photographers, we would like to see. Ninety-nine percent of the pictures that I deliver are in JPEG format. It isn’t the best format for quality but it is almost universally recognised and it offers the ability to compress the files. It makes sense to us to save our images at the highest quality available and to deliver the pictures in a way that allows for that quality to be maintained but a surprising number of clients simply don’t want or can’t handle that. A modern DSLR with a 24 megapixel chip produces very large files – even as JPEGs; Too large to safely email. Too large for them to be stored easily unless the client has a decent server or at least a method of storing (and retrieving) a lot of data. (more…)

Theresa May MP – July 2000 portrait

The fifteen frame edit supplied to the newspaper from a seven minute portrait shoot with Theresa May who was the Conservative front-bench spokesperson on education in July 2000. © Neil Turner/TSL

When I published my piece last month about the arrival of the Kodak DCS520 cameras I included an interesting portrait of Theresa May MP taken just over eighteen years ago. Several people – including some picture editors – got in touch and asked to see the whole shoot. It was the second time that month that I had photographed Mrs May which, given that I was working for a group of education titles, wasn’t that unusual back then. As always the interview overran and the time for pictures was severely curtailed. The inside of a Member of Parliament’s private office is rarely interesting and so I went tight with what little time I had. (more…)

Style sheets and client expectations

When I returned to the world of freelancing ten years ago one of the biggest changes that I noticed was the arrival of the “style sheet”. Almost every commercial and PR client had a prepared guide that let you know what they wanted from a commissioned shoot and a few pointers of what they, or their end client, liked and didn’t like in their pictures. These ranged from really helpful pointers about what kind of clothing should be worn for portraits or whether or not images should have unfussy backgrounds through the obvious such as “images should be properly exposed” to the mildly bizarre “avoid any and all references to money”. I wish that I had kept them all – they would have provided me with a mixture of useful references and a good laugh.

Recently I have seen two rather odd things in style sheets provided to me by three totally unconnected clients. The first oddity appeared when talking to a PR company about an upcoming commission. They are based in London and the job was for an insurance company. Their style sheet featured three identical pictures and one completely identical paragraph to a style sheet supplied to me previously by a Manchester PR company. I cannot see a connection between the two PR companies and so you have to think that they are getting their style sheets from a single supplier or that they have both copied something from a third PR company. Either way, it explains why so much of the PR and corporate sector has come to look like a catalogue for a stock photography company. Bland people doing bland things with even lighting is a bit dull and I’m pretty sure that every single one of the photographers involved would have been capable of something way more interesting.

The second oddity came when a PR firm working for an educational establishment sent me a style sheet with one of my own photographs used in it. A picture that I created almost twenty years ago and which bore no resemblance to anything that I was being asked to do. When I asked them where they had obtained the images for their style sheet they told me that they had got them from Google Images over the years. Bizarre indeed. (more…)

August is a strange month

Throughout my 32 years as a photographer August has been something of a “silly season” with little freelance work on offer and very small editions of the papers where I was employed and because of that there has been a lot of soul-searching and career planning done in the height of the English summer.

As July turned into August this year I had been really busy – mostly with editing work but with the odd commission here and there too but as soon as we passed August 1st it all turned quiet again and the annual time for career reflection had begun. This year the plan is a very simple one: to continue to get fitter and to make sure that my regular clients are kept up-to-date with that progress.

One year ago in August 2017 I was in hospital having had some major spinal surgery. Whilst in hospital I spent a lot of time trying to work out what I was going to do for the rest of my career. Of course there was really only one option and that was to get back to freelancing as quickly as possible. (more…)

We all have a favourite lens or two

Bournemouth, Dorset. May 2018. Fisherman’s Walk on a sunny May day. ©Neil Turner

Every photographer has a lens or two that they love to use. In my day-to-day work that would be my Canon L Series zooms but when I am shooting quieter and more personal pictures I reach for a very basic and non-L series Canon EF 35mm f2 IS. I am going to try to explain what it is about this lens that makes me love it and I guess that the fact that I have had lenses of that focal length for pretty much my whole life as a photographer (amateur, student and working professional adding up to 38 years or maybe more) and that I appear to know precisely what kind of picture I’m going to get from a 35 make a good start. Canon make an L Series 35 – the 35mm f1.4L but that’s a big, expensive and heavy lens which, at f1.4, is really hard to focus. When I owned one I always shot at f2 or f2.8 even when the light was poor or even when I wanted shallow depths of field because the amount of sharp images that I could get at f1.4 was too low. That was probably due to shortcomings in my technique rather than the lens itself because so many photographers whose work I love are very happy with it. (more…)