Eye-Fi card workflow

eye-fi_cards When I was rounding up 2013 I mentioned that I had a lot of success using an Eye-Fi card to wirelessly transmit pictures from my cameras (Canon EOS5D MkIII and Fujifilm X20) to either my iPhone, iPad or laptop where I can do a quick edit and caption before sending them to clients. Inevitably I got a couple of emails using the “ask me anything” feature of this blog asking me to describe my workflow. It is similar between an EOS5D MkIII and the Fujifilm X20 except that the former has twin card slots (one CF compact flash and one SD secure digital) whereas the latter only has the SD slot. I like to shoot RAW which means that in the X20 I have to do an in-camera RAW conversion to create a Jpeg to send out. I have two cards (shown left) – an Eye-Fi branded 8Gb Pro X2 and a Sandisk branded 4Gb one. In practice, they both do much the same job but the orange Eye-Fi one has more options should you want to work differently. Without further ado, here is how it all works on the Canon…

Getting the the settings on the card, your camera and your phone/tablet/computer right is the key to getting everything working well:

  1. Setting up the Eye-Fi card. When you get the card it should come with an SD card reader and by far the best way to set things up is to use that reader to load the card into a computer. There are lots of options that will appear once you have loaded the supplied “Eye-Fi Centre” application. This workflow is all about working in what the manufacturer calls “direct mode”. I choose to only transfer the files I want to my iPhone and so on the card I have selected “Selective Transfer” via the Eye-Fi Centre application. This means that only images that I have protected in the camera menu get transferred. On the Canon I have assigned the “rate” button to protect images for speed. It is also useful to add a couple of wifi networks and to define which file formats to transfer using the application whilst the card is in the computer because it isn’t possible to alter some settings once the card is in the camera. This whole process takes a few minutes and if you get it right, the whole thing test a lot easier from here on in.eye-fi_screenshot
  2. Setting up the camera. In the EOS5D MkIII menu there are three things that I’d recommend you do. The first is to assign the “rate” button to protect selected images. The second is to get the camera to write RAW files to the CF card and medium size Jpegs to the SD (Eye-Fi) card. Finally, you need to enable Eye-Fi transfer from the camera menu. This way you can use the review function with card 2 (the SD slot) and then every time you protect an image written to the Eye-Fi card it will automatically look to transfer that file to the device you have nominated.
  3. The receiving device. I use an iPhone and an iPad and the whole process is eventually controlled by the free app that Eye-Fi make available through the Apple App Store. There are equally useful apps available for Android powered devices and the functionality is pretty much identical. Apart from loading the app the only other thing you have to do is to download and authorise a small change to your wifi settings on your phone which simply installs the settings for the direct mode to work. Once you launch the app you get an opening window which then gives way to the gallery window which in turn tells you what is happening about transfers. Below you can see the card paring screen and the gallery screen.eye_fi_phone
  4. Editing your pictures. Once you have the image on your phone or tablet you can then use the apps of your choice to edit and caption your image before shifting them on. My personal favourite is Photogene4 which has some good image options such as clarity, contrast, saturation, straighten, crop, sharpen and the ability to add IPTC captions – including defaults such as the EXIF time day and date as well as any pre-loaded captions and copyright information. I find that it’s a good idea to write some generic captions using Apple’s Notes app and then copy and paste them into Photogene4. The app also has the option to upload to a wide range of sharing sites as well as to email and ransomer images to FTP servers – making it really useful for work.photogene
    From shooting a frame to having it uploaded to my own FTP server normally takes twenty to thirty seconds if there is a good phone signal and the various uses that I’ve found for this rapid upload range from offering images to people I’ve photographed to providing almost instant pictures for corporate clients to use for their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds at events. This is a very versatile piece of kit and I haven’t even come close to describing everything that it can do. I like the way that this workflow actually does flow and I love the effect that it has had on a couple of clients who really appreciate what it offers them. My first Eye-Fi card was £24.99 including VAT – possibly the best investment that I’ve ever made!

Charity PR portrait

©Neil Turner, July 2013. The Victoria Education Centre & Sports College

©Neil Turner, July 2013. The Victoria Education Centre & Sports College

Back in July I was commissioned by Livability to go to the Victoria Education Centre & Sports College to shoot a range of pictures for their in-house publications, websites and PR work. I’d worked on news events a couple of times with the charity before but this was the first time I was shooting this kind of job for them. The afternoon started in the horticulture department where a team of professionals and volunteers works with students and clients growing a range of plants for use around the college and for sale to visitors and the public.

The young man in this picture volunteered himself for this picture and he chose which of the several hundred plants he wanted to be photographed with which made my job rather easy. I found this railing in the woods behind the greenhouses and poly-tunnels (where the work gets done) for the portrait. I chose it because I liked the way that the light was coming through the mass of green foliage, because the rail was sturdy and a great height and because I could see the scope for lighting the foreground in balance with the lovely ambient light in the background.

The photograph that you see here is completely ‘as shot’ with no cropping, no white balance adjustments and only a very simple tweak of the shadows in Adobe Camera RAW from the Canon CR2 files from an EOS5D MkII.

I knew that I wanted to shoot with a relatively shallow depth of field so that the background was sufficiently blurred. I was able to get back a decent distance and so I decided to shoot on my 70-200 f2.8L IS Canon lens and to light the subject with my Elinchrom Ranger Quadra with a shoot-through white 100cm umbrella. Once I had everything set up:

  • The flash was just under two metres away from the subject
  • About 30 degrees from the axis of the lens and ten degrees above his eye-line
  • A quick Custom white balance using the Lastolite EzyBalance grey card
  • It quickly became obvious that shooting at f2.8 or even f4 wasn’t really going to work – I wanted to have the whole plant in focus as well as my subject and then have the whole background as far out of focus as possible.
  • I shot a few test frames and looked at them on the LCD screen before opting for a third of a stop wider than f8 (f7.1 according to the EXIF data) and a balancing shutter speed of 1/80th on 200 ISO.

This gave me the lighting balance that I wanted and the depth of field was as good a compromise as I could get. These shoots are always a mass of compromises and that’s one of the biggest lessons that I try to teach when doing seminars and workshops.

I often get asked about the time it takes to shoot these kinds of pictures and the answer in this case was from the moment I unzipped the bag with the light stands in to shooting the first meaningful frame was just over four minutes. I then had another three minutes before other people were demanding the subject’s attention and it took a final three minutes to pack the kit away again – a nice round ten minutes from start to finish. That’s nowhere near being a record but it was comfortable for me and the subject and it really helps that the client liked the results.

Back when I first started to use portable lighting in this way I used to have a Lumedyne head already on a stand in a sling bag with a pack already connected and used a simple umbrella with Pocket Wizard triggers. I used to boast that my kit was not only lightweight but well planned and that I could be ready to shoot in under forty-five seconds from the time I touched the zip on the bag. When I did seminars and talks I’d even get people to time me getting the kit out and regularly beat forty-seconds. These days I’m a bit slower and I carry a bit more kit (I’m also a fair bit older by the way) and so a three minute set-up and break-down time is pretty good (three and a half minutes if there’s a softbox involved). It means that even if your subject is watching you, they don’t really get the chance to get bored waiting.

The rest of the day was fun and the other highlights were the students playing Boccia (a sport that I hadn’t encountered before last year’s Paralympics), one young woman showing off her excellent art and spending time with younger students and their rather docile rabbits.

Archive photo: Conductive education, Sussex, March 1990

Please note that I have made a small correction to the caption. The pictures were taken a year later than I originally thought.

©Neil Turner, March 1990

This assignment opened my eyes to a whole world of education. I was fascinated by the ‘special needs’ systems that had grown up in the UK to try to provide a combination of tuition and therapies for children whose families were trying to do the very best for them. On this job I was working with a committed reporter who did her best to bring me up to speed on all of the terminology used in the field and years later I found myself telling younger reporters how things were. To this day, disability remains a topic that I get real satisfaction from showing to the world.

Young child who has cerebral palsy having a physiotherapy session at a residential school in West Sussex under the Conductive Therapy regime. This technique was brought to the UK from Hungary where therapists, known as conductors, use a range of very intensive methods to try to get children who have very badly compromised motor skills to walk unaided.

Judging from the date, I expect that this picture was shot on a Nikon FM2 with a 135mm f2 Nikkor. The film is Kodak Tri-X.

Folio photo #02: Girls’ education project, Rajasthan

©Neil Turner/TSL, May 2005

The UK based charity SAVE THE CHILDREN funds a scheme in northern Rajasthan to allow girls between 12 and 15 years old who do not get access to education to come to a boarding centre for a few months in which time they cover the syllabus normally expected to take five years. The students take it in turns to do chores such as fetching water and washing clothes but still take books to read as they work. This picture was taken at dawn when some of the girls were already reading whilst others were fetching water, fuel and cooking breakfast.

Folio photo #01: PTSD sufferer, Eastbourne 2008

©Neil Turner, November 2008

Mr Wilkinson was a Lance Corporal in an army infantry regiment between 1969 and 1984. He served several tours of duty in Northern Ireland through the worst of the “troubles”. He now suffers from a form of post-traumatic stress disorder and has ben helped by the charity Combat Stress to start to overcome the problem. Photographed in high winds and driving rain on Eastbourne Pier for a UK magazine. This picture features some very subtle fill flash from a light bounced off of a very large white painted wall just out of the right hand side of the frame. During the shoot a friend and fellow former soldier was right there providing support for him. This is one of those pictures that felt good to take.

Photographic policy

Just in case you haven’t noticed, I’m a photographer. I also teach a bit of photography and write about the subject too. The latest addition to my ‘portfolio career’ is what I can only describe as photographic consultancy. I have done a few corporate training sessions aimed at people who aren’t necessarily shooting pictures but who are handling them on behalf of their employer. It started off with some PR managers from a range of Universities a few years ago and has been a very small part of what I do ever since then.

This week, I did a bespoke session for an NGO talking about copyright, licensing, permissions, model release, photographing children and how to get PR pictures used in the media. All of that in less than one day meant that we didn’t get right down into the finer details. For some organisations the knowledge that they need to do more will be enough to get them going. A company wide photographic policy has to be a ‘must-have’ with the amount of images, websites, pamphlets, brochures, publications and social media in circulation (officially and otherwise).

We are in the Christmas party season and a good, well publicised policy telling staff what is and is not acceptable would be very useful. Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and the rest are public platforms and un-wisely placed images or video are bad news. It isn’t only about stopping bad stuff happening though; good pictures need to be licensed, captioned and stored properly. The quantity of pictures held on company systems seems to have expanded exponentially and it makes sense to have policies that make use of the good stuff whilst making that the bad, the off-message and the out of date images are never seen.

As a professional photographer it is really hard to see photographs sourced from keen amateurs, micro stock sites and crowd-sourcing as anything other than lost income but that is the way the world has gone and we need to learn to work with it. People like me, with a lot of experience in the industry, can help to form policies for small, medium and even large businesses based on our knowledge of the law, ethics and technical matters. It isn’t going to cost a fortune and any company who ignores the concept of a photography policy could end up regretting it.

One light, big space

It’s very useful to be able to kill two birds with one stone – especially when you have a limited amount of time. I have been very busy this month and blogging time has ben limited. I had intended to carry on my review of the ERQ and maybe post a new technique piece as well. I was sent on a job the other day that allows me to do both.

The quality that you can get at 3200 ISO with the latest generation digital cameras is amazing but sometimes you really would rather light something. I was asked to shoot some pictures of “An Evening with Alan Bennett” – an event staged to raise awareness and funds for the Christie NHS Hospital Foundation Trust. The Christie is a world renowned hospital in Manchester and they decided to hold an event in London to raise their profile. The venue was the Royal College of Physicians in London’s Regents Park. The library is a spectacular blend of 20th century modern architecture and the fixtures, fittings and books from earlier centuries. The light is kept deliberately low and that presented me with a few issues. At 3200 ISO I was only getting 1/60th at f2.8 and so I used my Elinchrom Ranger Quadra kit to give the room a lot more light.

Allan Bennett talks to Jenni Murray. ©Neil Turner

My idea was simple. I set up the light as far away from the interview as I could get it and bounced the light off of a wall. This gave me a light source of about eight feet (2.4 metres) by four feet (1.2 metres) at almost 90 degrees to the subject and at a distance of over thirty feet (9 + metres). Quite a decent soft light, but very directional and it looks utterly unlit.

This is an effect that I have written about before but the power of the ERQ kit, given that it is only rated at 400 w/s, made this very easy. I was able to be quite a distance away using a 70-200 f2.IS L lens on an EOS5D MkII and frame my shots with relative ease. I was shooting between rows of chairs and invited guests and had been asked by the organisers to severely limit my use of flash so I only got half a dozen goes at the shot. This was my favourite frame and it shows the interviewer – Radio 4’s Jenni Murray – asking Alan Bennett a question right at the start of the session.

This was shot at 1/60th of a second at f5.6 at 800 ISO. The available light was non-existent and the effect is very interesting. I had been worried about the range of the Elinchrom Skyport triggers but they worked very well at a range of at least thirty feet, probably nearer to forty feet and my only gripe with them is their lack of a locking mechanism to keep them in the hot shoe. The ERQ system passe another important test here and I’m still very very happy with the kit.