Category Archives: All

Increasing Online Visibility for Your Photography

increasing online visibility

A new year means new opportunities for growth, so make sure you’re making the most of your photography by increasing online visibility for your work.  There are a lot of great options out there, and while many of us probably already have a Twitter, Flickr, and professional website, there’s still plenty of other avenues to consider.

Four Platforms for Increasing Online Visibilty for Your Photography

1.  Tumblr

Still growing, and no longer just the province of trust-fund hipsters, this blogging platform allows free or paid layouts – both with HTML code you can tailor to your needs.  A popular relationship with younger crowds and the more vocal sectors of the internet mean you’ll receive a fair amount of traffic without having to actually do anything.

increasing online visibility

Viral images or photos with a viral appeal will work best on Tumblr, where users like or reblog material over and over again, growing your traffic exponentially.

2. WordPress

An excellent alternative to the DIY approach, WordPress can give you a photo blog or a pro-looking website, complete with all the plugins and widgets you need to make the most of your web experience.  The online community that this site has already fostered enhances its appeal, with plenty of tutorials for anything you could possible want to do.

increasing online visibility

WordPress is a great platform for just about any kind of image, but I especially recommend those photos that form the backbone of your portfolio.  The strong sale-makers for your clients.  

3. Smugmug

Upload, share, and sell.  What’s not to love?  The site offers many photographers more than just a shot at increasing online visibility.  Photographers subscribing to Smugmug can make money from the sale of their prints.  Photographers take the photos and Smugmug handles prints, shipping, and customer service, as well as legal fees.  All for a 20% cut.  Not bad indeed.

increasing online visibility

Excel at Smugmug by showcasing your work that will sell – think of images people would buy for consumption, and post, post, post!

4. 500px

Just when Flickr started to suck, another website came to fill its need.  Photographers the world over are rejoicing and joining up, with easy connectibility to Facebook not only increasing online visibility, but multiplying the relevance of your photos in social media.  And as an added bonus, there is no “save” option when users right-click on an image (regardless of browser), discouraging theft of your images.

increasing online visibility

Here is a site where you can let your creativity fly.  With as much focus on creative genius as Flickr used to have, this option guarantees your hard work and vision won’t go unnoticed.  

So what are you waiting for?  Get out there and get seen.  Great images deserve to be shared, and with all the confusing technology out there today, it really is time we started using it to our advantage.

Cameras for Kids: Learning Basic Photography

cameras for kids

Last night I had the pleasure of meeting a man who was looking for a camera that his daughter could use.  Now, I love photography.  And I love helping people get into photography.  So here are some suggested cameras for kids, if you have a little tyke who wants to learn basic photography.  For the purpose of helping all parents looking for cameras, my suggestions will be partly based on cost – all of my suggestions can be purchased for right around $400 or even less.

Cameras for Kids by Age Group

Young Children (5-7)

For the youngest of the youngsters, I recommend Fujifilm Instax.  Five years old isn’t an age requirement, but it’s the youngest I’ve seen kids get into photography.  The good thing about the Instax cameras is that they are mostly automatic, with instant, physical results.  As far as cameras for kids go, this one won’t have you spending mad money on a digital camera and printing paper and ink.  You also won’t have to upload your child’s photos to a computer.  All in all, this is an excellent way to give a child near you the photography bug.

cameras for kids

An excellent camera used by people of all ages, the Fujifilm Instax is a ready-available successor to the Polaroid machines of yesterday.  Average price: $70.

Adolescents (8-12)

When it comes to adolescents, there are usually three factors you need to consider:  ease of use, durability, and (some) control.  With that in mind, these cameras for kids include options from the Pentax WG Series, and the Olympus TG Series, with both lines designed to handle rugged wear and tear, or constant drops, spills, and intense pressures.

cameras for kids

The Olympus TG-2 is a top of the line point and shoot camera with some manual controls and a plethora of defenses, making it particularly enticing to those who want a rough-and-tumble alternative.  Average price: $330.

cameras for kids

The Pentax WG-1 is just one of the cameras in the WG series, but offers a nearly indestructible camera complete with a carabiner clip.  Again, some manual controls offer growth with this model, as well.  Average price: $300.

Another option to consider is the Fujifilm XP Line, which offers many of the same features as the WG and TG cameras.

cameras for kids

A point and shoot camera with some tweak-able features, the XP series stands out as Fujifilm’s offering to the everything-proof camera market.  Average price: $200. 

Teens (13+)

For teens, consider cameras with a bit more under the hood.  If you’re looking at cameras for kids in this age group, point-and-shoot models just aren’t going to work.  For these young photographers, I recommend the Canon Powershot G15, the Rebel T3 (also by Canon), Nikon’s J2, and the Olympus E-PM1 or E-PL3.

nikon-j2-2-s

The Nikon J2 offers users the ability to change lenses and take photos on a relatively large sensor, with plenty of manual control to boot.  And with a compact and lightweight body easily comparable to the Canon M, but less expensive, this comes highly recommended among cameras for kids.   Average price: $400.

cameras for kids

Often billed as the enthusiast’s compact dream, the Powershot G Series from Canon offers excellent image quality paired with manual control and an optical viewfinder, albeit at a relatively high price.  For those on a budget, you could go with the G15 or an older model.  Average price: $450.

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Start them off while they’re young, and splurge on a Rebel T3.  A body like this can last a long time, and as your young photographer progresses, he or she has a range of lenses to invest in without needing to switch camera bodies.  Average price: $400.

cameras for kids

The Olympus E-PM1 is a fairly decent camera with a range of settings that will encourage your child to photograph more, and learn more in doing so.  With recent additions to the Olympus lineup, older models are being sold at very affordable prices.  Average price: $300.

cameras for kids

Another camera worth considering, the Olympus E-PL is another mirrorless camera with less weight and plenty of control.  Easily portable, its design will ensure easy use, and plenty of it.  Average price: $400.

Hopefully these suggestions have helped.  But if you want to know what the best camera is for a kid, just ask them.  Some kids like viewfinders, and others want the LCD.  Some will jump at the thought of changing a lens or what they see inside the camera, and others will be happy with a fixed lens.  At any rate, the important thing here is that we get them shooting, right?  My first camera was a crappy plastic 35 mm film camera with a plastic lens and two aperture settings.   And yet it made me the photographer I am today.

SD Cards and How to Choose Them

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When you buy a camera, you need memory.  And while most cameras use SD cards, choosing them can be confusing and frustrating.  Luckily I’m here to give you a few pointers.

SD Cards:  Things to Consider

1. Size

SD cards come in different sizes, from a humble 512 MB to a whopping 128 GB.  But in many circumstances, shelling out major cash for a 128 GB card can be downright overkill.  Even my 64 GB card seems a bit overkill at times – even though I shoot JPEG + RAW files, I never seem to come close to my 1000+ image capacity.

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The Toshiba FlashAir has 8 GB and built-in wireless LAN, giving certain cameras wifi.  

With that in mind, most cameras can get by comfortably on an 8 GB card.  A 16 GB card is a decent improvement, and 32 GB is a bit extreme.  Go higher than 32 GB if you plan to travel and can’t unload your card onto a computer during your trip.  For most other purposes – day trips, photo shoots, relatively small memory cards can see you through.

2. Class/Speed

Class and speed are two very important things to consider when shopping for SD cards, because while seemingly insignificant, they can affect your output in various ways.

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A Sony card with a high write speed.  

Write Speed is how fast the memory card can write your photos or video to it.  This is usually expressed by an amount of MB per second.  A slow card might write anywhere between 4-15 MB per second.  A fast card writes faster – usually around 40 MB per second, or even 90 MB/s.

Read Speed is how fast the camera recalls your images, like when you load them onto a computer.  For just about any given card, this speed is faster than write speed.  While this may not seem like a big factor, it can hinder productivity in situations where a card must be quickly unloaded and used again.  For the longest time I used a large card with a slow read speed, thinking it would never catch up to me.  When I found myself in the middle of a photo shoot with a full memory card – and no way to continue, short of putting those files onto my computer right then and there – I had to pay my model extra while we took a break so I could upload those photos.

Class is a term used in SD cards to generally quantify the performance of a card – Class 2 is the lowest or slowest card, while Class 10 is high-performance.  There is a second kind of class called UHS-1, or Ultra High Speed 1, which is faster than a class 2 or 4 regular SD card.

3. Other Designations

Other designations usually get jumbled together with “SD” in the description of a card – for instance, SDHC and SDXC.  Thes acronyms stand for SD High Capacity and SD Extended Capacity.

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SDXC cards won’t work in all devices, especially older models.  Check your manuals to see what cards can be used with your camera.

In general, choosing SD cards is never really easy, and even though these tips can save you some time, different cards fit different situations, equipment, and habits.  Always save yourself some of the hassle by asking salespeople at local stores.  Skip the big chains and go small, because you’ll get better service and a specialist’s opinion from the mom-and-pop joints.

The Story of Frankencamera and Open-Source Firmware

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While some of us just can’t stop complaining about what our cameras can’t do, a couple of grad students at Stanford are actually doing something about it, or have been for the past four years.  How do you get the camera of your dreams?  If you are these students, you build a custom body, mount Canon glass, and adapt Linux into an open-source firmware.

Frankencamera:  Open-Source Firmware in a Custom Body

I’ve always been interested in building a camera.  I’ve known friends who built pinhole cameras out of trashcans.  But the Frankencamera has really trumped any ambitions I might have had, giving way to outright awe.  To say I’m interested is an understatement.  But why?  It’s not much to look at.  In fact, it’s actually quite ugly.  The black, boxy camera doesn’t seem to have all the controls you’d think of seeing on the exterior of a camera.  In fact, the only real giveaways as to this monstrosity’s purpose are the shadow of a handle and the seemingly-out-of-place Canon lens on the front.

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The Frankencamera in all its boxy, ugly glory.  

Then again, it doesn’t need to look like a normal camera because, well, it’s not.

Because the Frankencamera actually runs on a Linux build customized to control the camera’s mechanics.  If you go out and buy a Nikon or Canon feature, the firmware (the software that controls the hardware) is not custom.  It is mass produced, and probably offers you very little custom features – like the Fn Button or custom White Balance presets, to name some of the more common features you can change.

With open-source firmware, you can change the binary code of your camera’s user interface.

Want a camera that takes a photograph every 3.9 seconds?

Want a camera takes a photograph when you say “meow”?

Want a photograph that can name files whatever you want (e.g. summerday_06_23_state park_00000005)?

Or maybe presets that change depending on the lens – like a max ISO of 578 with a 50 mm f/1.8 lens, or a minimum shutter speed of 1/481 with a 200 mm lens?

You could even put video games on your camera and use the directional pad as a controller.

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An image taken with a hacked Nokia N95 running custom firmware.  

With the Frankcamera and its open-source firmware, a truly-custom camera isn’t just a tangible idea, but a reality waiting to happen.  In fact, it’s already halfway there:  Linux builds now exist for Nokia phones that essentially hack the phone’s hardware for its camera, allowing the user to change settings previously locked-out to users.  The implications?  Even before we see an open-source camera aimed at consumers, we may find ourselves hacking already-present hardware to change the things we don’t like about our cameras.  The most immediate niche for this would be Nokia phones currently running on Linux builds, but as other phones’ operating systems can be replaced with Linux, it stands to reason that over time, other phones’ cameras could be altered as well, giving us more control, or more automation, depending on the user.

Cheap Macro Lens: Magnify Your Savings

cheap macro lens for canon image

Cheap may be a bit of a misnomer here, but all of these suggestions guarantee results without robbing you blind.  It should be noted that some lenses – specifically the Canon lenses mentioned here – are by no means cheap, either in terms of build quality, or price.

These suggestions are also aimed at Canon users, because I recently helped a friend select a lens for his T3.  Some suggestions, like Sigma lenses, will hold up across the board.

Cheap Macro Lens Suggestions for Canon Photographers

cheap macro lens for canon image

Sigma 70-300 f/4-5.6 APO DG (~$210)

Okay, so you want a cheap macro lens?  They do exist.  You can buy one a Sigma 70-300 f/4-5.6 DG for around $144, but I wouldn’t suggest it.  Why?  Well, it’s achromatic, meaning that different colors have different focal lengths.  Contrast isn’t that great, and if you want to focus on two colors at once, god help you.

Luckily there is an alternative to this dilemma: upgrade to the better version from Sigma, the 70-300 f/4-5.6 APO DG for around $210.  I know…it’s $60 more expensive, but your photos will thank you.  I used to own this particular lens for Nikon, and it works wonders in its price range.  Still, you can do better.

cheap macro lens for canon image

Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 (~$420)

Another decently priced third-party lens, this sucker is ideal if you’re looking for an inexpensive all-purpose telephoto that can double as a macro machine.  Think of it as your standard kit lens, and then some for wildlife, nature, sports, and macro.  It won’t perform as well in low light, but most zooms don’t anyway.  And all of these uses packing into one cheap macro lens will cost you around $420.

cheap macro lens for canon image

Canon 60mm f/2.8 EF-S USM Macro (~$470)

For those wanting brand-name goods, and all the quality that goes along with it, look no further than the Canon 60 mm f/2.8 EF-S USM Macro.  Prices on this lens vary depending on age and seller.  Used ones might go from anywhere between $300-400, while brand new usually tops out at $470.  The fact that it is a prime will not be lost on users – image quality shows exactly where this camera stands in terms of cost-effectiveness.

cheap macro lens for canon image

Canon 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro (~$570)

Another excellent but not exactly cheap macro lens from Canon, this glass verges on expensive, but won’t leave you penniless.   It’s an old film lens that will still work on your digital Canon.  You can expect to pay more for it brand new, but the great thing about film lenses is, you can also find them online for dirt cheap…usually.

Keep in mind when shopping for a cheap macro lens that there are a lot of options out there.  While these are just my suggestions, I recommend doing your own research.  Beware that some manufacturers have old lenses floating around out there that will not work (or might even damage) your DSLR.  It’s best to do some research first, or better yet, speak to someone at your local camera store who can help guide you in the right direction.  And if you really, really want that cheap cheap CHEAP Sigma 70-300 f4-5.6 DG at $144, I know these guys have it in stock.

Just remember that paying for pro glass is never a truly bad idea, and that better image quality is always a wise investment.

The Other Body: Choosing a Second Camera

canon instant rebate sample

One of the things I’ve been helping people with a lot recently, is choosing a second camera.  That is, these folks already have one camera, but want another – either as a backup in important situations, or as a replacement to their current setup.

The Second Camera

A lot of photographers spring for a backup camera body, if not a second system.  A lot of consumers or would-be “clients” like to ask commercial photographers if they have a backup camera.  And while some of us don’t, most of us do.

But if you’re looking to buy, what should you be aware of?  Firstly, people buy second camera bodies for all sorts of reasons.  Maybe you read a review you like, or maybe you’re drooling about the latest specs.  Then again, you could want to increase your versatility, or maybe you just want a lighter camera.

canon instant rebate sample

The Canon PowerShot G16 works well as a second camera, offering many manual features found in products aimed squarely at pros.  

First off, if you’re buying a camera based on specifications, or impulse…don’t.  You may only love it for a matter of days, or you may realize after a couple months that new model has even better specs.

Second bodies are a serious investment.  It doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be fun, just that should be handled appropriately.

As an Addition

Back in the days of film, photographers would buy a second camera and outfit it with a different lens or a different film, to diversify their abilities.  With the advent of the digital camera and an adjustable ISO setting, this phenomenon has almost disappeared.  But many photographers still keep a second body handy in case the first should fail.  For those using prime lenses, differing focal lengths on different bodies makes more sense:  maybe a 30mm f/1.4 on a full frame body, and a 60mm (about 90mm equivalent on a 1.5x cropped sensor) with a smaller format sensor.

Another thing to keep in mind when selecting an additional camera body is special features, or specifications in the second camera that might differ from the first, thereby giving you an edge.  Maybe there’s a wider ISO range, or video capabilities lacking from your old still-image camera.  Either way, the addition of another piece of equipment is a great opportunity to improve performance.

canon instant rebate pic

The Canon SL1 is a light camera with a compact body, offering a second chance at portability that might have been missed from the 5d.  

While most brands make comparable equipment, lens mounts and lens compatibility are ongoing issues for photographers.  One way to avoid a load of lens trouble is to buy a second camera of the same brand that you’ve already purchased into.  Already purchased a Canon?  Buy another.  Maybe a different model, but save money and patience by selecting a model that can mount the lenses you already have.

Most people following this approach are dedicated pros who need a second camera to fill in in case the first should die.  Or they may want the added benefit of twice as much camera.  Enthusiasts usually don’t follow this route because there is no gain in using the same system twice as much.

As a Replacement

As a replacement, many people prefer a lighter camera.  Some may want to keep the same manufacturer, while others are ready to experience new technology.  At any rate, the point here is to make sure you’re getting the features you want.

Where less weight is required, some manufacturers offer better alternatives.  If already invested in Canon equipment, consider the SL1, which has the distinction of being the lights DSLR ever made.

Or if you want something with all the latest features in a light package, the E-M1 and E-M5 from Olympus offer some excellent options.

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The OM-D E-M1, an Olympus flagship that weighs considerably less than a DSLR.

Another thing to consider in a replacement is the tech leap – that is, how much new technology you’re getting in the next camera.  Since technology is quickly improved upon in the camera industry, it makes sense to save money and purchase a system when it just comes out, thereby extending the shelf life.  On the other hand, older models can be very inexpensive, and if you’re only after one feature or so, buying an old camera can still be an upgrade in some ways.

Others may be looking for something less conspicuous, or quieter, or sporting a smaller, more cropped processor for the equivalent focal length on some lenses.

In any case, make sure you’re looking at the right cameras.  Enthusiast cameras and manufacturers like Sony, Panasonic, Fuji, and Olympus offer alternatives for those who don’t want to lug around a DSLR.  Some even have as much control.  But for others, the real win is going to be and optical TTL viewfinder, or a larger sensor.

At any rate, do your research or consult your local camera store.  Or just ask me!

Cameras and Memory Loss: Fact vs Fiction

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One thing that seems to cropping up on the news and camera sites, is a recent claim, centering around cameras and memory loss, that links photography to an inability to remember.  This claim stems from research conducted by Fairfield University in Connecticut, but is it accurate?

The Truth About Cameras and Memory Loss

Something that seems to be glossed over in a few articles, is the fact that there were two studies conducted on the relationship between cameras and memory loss.  Both studies focused on memory in college students, by placing them in art museums.  In the first study, the students were shuffled around and asked either to observe, or take a picture of a work of art.  A few days later, they tested these students on what they could remember.  Results were disheartening.  This is probably the study that you’ve heard about.  But the second study required students to simply view the art or in some cases, zoom in on particular details before taking a picture.  In this study, the students remembered more of the art that they photographed.

I doubt that every student possessed a dedicated camera.  Many were probably using cell phones, and a study of memory in cell phone users vs people using dedicated cameras would probably be extremely interesting, if not damning evidence against the cell phone industry.

Fact and Fiction

The fiction here is that using a camera – a foundation laid in the headlines – will mean you won’t remember what went on in front of you.  The story goes that while we were too busy fiddling with our cameras, we forgot to participate in or remember the scene in front of us.  

Any photographers – photographers using a dedicated camera, not just a camera-phone, or something that never gets used out of auto mode – know the facts.  We can not only remember the moment, we have a good time remembering our process.  We may not remember the exact f-number on our lens at that given moment, but we remember talking to our models, or the excruciating hike up a mountainside at dawn, or getting stopped by a cop for photographing where we shouldn’t have been.  We remember the time we spent composing, or (for those of us who suck) the time we spent chimping and then re-composing only to chimp and chimp again.  Yes, we remember.  After all, we use our heads when we photograph anything.  We have to.  Our cameras are usually manual, if not in a priority mode that requires us to think about at least one variable.

Other studies show that photography can actually improve memory in seniors, and is it any wonder?  There is a lot of thinking that goes into any photography that doesn’t just rely on a camera’s algorithms.

More than anything else, what this study shows is that we as a collective have reached a place in our picture-taking where we no longer think – where a snapshot has now become our knee-jerk reaction to anything interesting worth sharing at some point in the future.  Instead of remembering the experience in order to talk about it later, it’s easier to take a picture with our phones and upload it to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.  And we don’t remember vague details because we don’t take the photograph ourselves, but let the camera take a light reading all on its own and adjust the algorithm accordingly.

The study, and its implications, might be a little skewed as it appears in the media.  But the alarm, even if it is more in response to fiction or fact, is real.  And it should be.  People actually can’t remember where they were or what they saw because they were too busy adding the 199th photo to a Facebook album, or selecting a filter for an Instagram of their breakfast sandwich.

In what world is that not terrifying?

Do you remember?

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Sam came over to my apartment one day, shortly before I dropped out of college.  She wanted to show me her new tattoo and she brought along a half-gallon of ice tea from the convenience store.  We sat on my floor and talked for the better part of an afternoon, and in the evening, I asked her to sit under the overhead light in my room so I could take this photograph.  

 

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Talking online one night, Alex asked me if I wanted to come over and drink.  So we stayed up late drinking beer and smoking cigarettes and talking about philosophy and music (particularly Andy McKee).  Then we got the great idea to give each other mohawks.  I woke up to Alex playing his guitar.  This was shortly before his mother would come storming into the room, upset that I had given him the haircut.

 

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Sarah said she wanted to hang out, and all I ever wanted to do back then was take photographs.  We’d been spending a lot of time together that week, hanging out at her house or talking on the phone.  There was an impulse there – one that I never acted on.  So one evening we went down to the creek and I photographed her just standing there, but with a different look in her eye.  She played “Linger” on her phone.  I almost kissed her, but something stopped me.

 

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Kit and I went out to Centralia one night, to see if we could photograph the smoke coming up from the ground.  We couldn’t, but I was testing a new camera that night – a Canon Sureshot Autoboy 2.  Shortly after this photo was taken, we went to a local amusement park and got chased by security.  We got separated in the confusion, and I spent the morning at a local police station.  

 

 

Candid Street Photography without Permission: Is It Legal?

candid street photography legal example

Today, I found out that someone on the internet doesn’t like a photo I took.  What should I do about it?  Write a blog article, of course!  I’m joking.  Haters gonna hate, and photographers gonna photograph.  That’s just the way the world works.  But the comments made about the photo in question brought up a subject that is interesting to me:  permission in candid street photography.

Candid Street Photography

Now to be honest, this was not a “street” photo in the purest sense, as I was in the subway when I took it.  But as an accurate depiction of fellow New Yorkers doing whatever it is that they do, I stand by it.  The photograph was taken without permission, and it shows four people on the subway.  Two of the people in the frame are only partially represented, and the main point of interest is a woman reading a book.  The title?  “Woman reading book, F Train.”

Here is the photo.

 

candid street photography legal example

 

Some people seem to like this photo.  I like this photo.  I liked it before I took it, and I liked it after I took it.  But I can understand why people might not like it, and I certainly understand why people would feel that it’s unfair for me to photograph other people without their permission.

And even though I understand why they feel the way they do, it isn’t going to change my mind about the way I photograph people, or whether I should keep the photo up online.  Here are some of the questions I asked myself when I began thinking about others’ concerns.

Is it legal?

From the MTA’s Rules of Conduct and Fines, Section 1050.9 (restricted areas and activities), Article c:

Photography, filming or video recording in any facility or conveyance is permitted except that ancillary equipment such as lights, reflectors or tripods may not be used. Members of the press holding valid identification issued by the New York City Police Department are hereby authorized to use necessary ancillary equipment. All photographic activity must be conducted in accordance with the provisions of this Part.

In other words, as long as I’m not using equipment other than a camera all on it’s own, yes it is completely legal.

Now, from the same Rules of Conduct and Fines, Section 1050.7 (disorderly conduct), Article i:

No person...shall:  ...conduct himself or herself in any manner which may cause or tend to cause annoyance, alarm or inconvenience to a reasonable person or create a breach of the peace;

With that in mind, were someone to say, “Don’t take my photo,” or “You’re making me uncomfortable,” or even if I were to notice someone not at peace with me and my camera, I wouldn’t take the photo.

Despite the fact that taking the photo might still be in legal gray area, there is nothing wrong with putting your photography aside long enough to be a thoughtful human being.  But that in and of itself shouldn’t stop you from your right to free speech, or the pursuit of liberty and happiness.  Which bring us to the next point of discussion…

What about the Right to Privacy?  

You don’t actually have an explicit right to privacy in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

What you do have – upheld by the Supreme Court for decades – is an implied right to privacy.  The implied right has been used mostly in defense of civil liberties against government control, and it extends to areas where you might have a reasonable expectation to privacy, like your own home.  Or a restroom.

But probably not the New York subway.

Even with local laws, New York has shown itself to be more inclined to uphold freedoms of speech and press before individual claims to privacy.

Of course, this only holds true if the images are used non-commercially.

Is it fair though?

Though I hate to bring up this side of the debate, it tends to show up frequently.  Should you, as a photographer, worry about what is fair?  Believe me, there are times where I see a shot and don’t take it.  There is still something to be had in being just a human being once in a while, and not always a photographer.  But when most people bring up the ethical or moral arguments, I tend to tune out.  Ethics and morals vary by location and demographic.  And this city has a large, multinational, polyethnic demographic.  I also like to point out that I’m not an Ethicist or a Moralist, and am hardly qualified to speak on these finer points.  Then again, I’m not a lawyer, so I probably shouldn’t discuss what is legal and what isn’t.  But most of the people who might object to me and my candid street photography, probably aren’t photographers…

Candid street photography is more than just a kind of photography.  It’s a raging debate.  I think that in this current day and age, though, we’re just getting more used to cameras and the idea that privacy doesn’t seem to exist anymore.

One time my girlfriend told me she was afraid of falling asleep on the subway, because she might drool on herself and become the subject of a photo somewhere.  “Like the photographs you take, baby.  Woman sleeping, Q Train.”

How to Pick a Camera: Four Questions You Should Ask

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If you’re thinking about how to pick a camera this holiday season, odds are your head is spinning with so many different camera models.  Don’t worry!  This happens to the best of us.  But here are some tips for helping you select your dream camera this holiday season.

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The Olympus OM-D E-M1 is hot this season, and with good reason:  offering the latest in features and performance, this mirrorless camera is one of the best you can buy.  

1.  What will it be used for?

Figure out what kind of camera you want.  Brand doesn’t really apply to how to pick a camera.  Most camera brands offer extremely similar products.  But cameras come in all shapes and sizes, and those shapes and sizes are good for different things.  Compact cameras are excellent for travel, where lightweight capabilities are needed.  Some mirrorless cameras shine here, as well.  Maybe you want a mostly-automated camera that will take “great pictures” right out of the box, like a bridge camera.  Or maybe you want complete creative control, and require a DSLR.  Cameras like the Canon 70D and T5i, or the Olympus E-M1 or Pen E-P5 all offer such control.  Where lighter models are concerned, go with a Canon SL1 or something even smaller…bridge cameras like the Canon Powershot SX510 HS offer some control without sacrificing portability.  Or you can even find everything-proof cameras from Olympus and Pentax that will survive freezing cold, dust, drops, extreme pressure, and even extended submersion in water at varying depths.

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The latest Pen, the E-P5 has both touch screen and built in WiFi, as well as an improved User Interface.

2.  What features do you want?

This holiday season, a lot of manufacturers have laid on the bells and whistles.  And while all of them are offering the same features, they are doing so in different models.  Do you want a touchscreen?  Built-in WiFi?  Maybe you want interchangeable lenses, or a bigger sensor.  Maybe you want HD Video…or perhaps you just want a camera that shoots still images.  Whatever you want, there’s a camera for that.  Knowing what features you want in a camera will save you time when you finally go shopping.  Here, the newest models will have more features, while older models may lack WiFi or touchscreens.  And some cameras are WiFi compatible with a necessary card that is usually sold separately.  It’s best to chat with a salesperson if you’re looking for very specific features in your purchase.

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The most recent addition to the Canon T Series, the T5i offers some nifty features and abilities without a super-high price point.

3.  Who is it for?

Most cameras are getting smaller, and because of that, folks with big hands (like myself) can get frustrated handling cameras seemingly designed for hobbits.  The next step you should take in learning how to pick a camera is considering the person who will be using the camera.  Of course, it’s not just size that can sour a user’s experience:  a good user interface is always a plus, and simplistic controls for young photographers will get them out and shooting in no time.  If the Canon SL1 is too small, consider a T3i, which offers a larger body.  Want a bit more from a DSLR?  Try prosumer models like the Nikon D7100 or the Canon 70D, which both offer budding photographers plenty of leeway.  Or maybe the recipient of your gift used to shoot film, but now wants to see what all the digital fuss is about.  If this last example is the case, try the Canon G Series, or Nikon P Series.

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The T3 is old, but scrappy.  Even though new-fangled features may be missing from this workhorse, she’s still capable of some great image quality.

4.  What is your budget?

You can’t put a price on good photography, but you can put a price on a good camera, and that price is usually pretty steep.  So if you aren’t looking to buy the latest and greatest, how much can you expect to pay?  Even for bargain hunters, an excellent camera can still be had for under $400 – you just may have to sacrifice some of those extra features and the latest improvements.  A good choice here would be the Canon T3, which after several years, is still on the market, due in no small part to its plucky performance.  If you’re looking for mirrorless equivalents, check out the older digital Pen cameras from Olympus – recent additions to this camera line have left older models at more affordable prices.

Well there you have it folks!  A few questions to get you thinking about what you really want in a camera.  And if you’re still stumped, go ahead and contact me here and I’ll help you pick one out.

Nikon 1 V3: Mirrorless Goes Manual

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Circulating the web right now is a rumor that the upcoming Nikon 1 V3 – expected to appear early next month – will offer mirrorless tech in a new package.

Nikon 1 V3

Rumor has it that the next addition to the struggling Nikon 1 system will be the V3, a manual mashup following the design of the Nikon P Series cameras (which were in turn the answer to Canon’s G Series), but with interchangeable lenses to boot.

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The back of the P7800, showing an abundance of manual control dials.

Is it true though?  Since mirrorless cameras started appearing, and increasingly since their advocates began predicting the death of the DSLR, many of us have been waiting for a mirrorless camera to offer external controls for manual photography.

Whether we want to buy into mirrorless systems is beside the point; until there is a camera out there offering manual control at a decent price point, who cares?

The decent price point is key here, because despite the fact that Olympus has been making great strides in the E-M cameras, neither one is particularly enticing from a fiscal standpoint.  And while Nikon and Canon both seem to offered examples of too little too late, a combination of interchangeable lenses with outward controls speaks to many of us enthusiasts who are thoroughly disgusted with novice-forward offerings of Fuji and Olympus.

Not only is it a win for consumers to see this final missing link between a mirrorless camera and a DSLR, but it’s about time both Canon and Nikon got their minds in the game – by kowtowing to consumers’ desires for mirrorless cameras that don’t suck.

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An awkward grip and bulky viewfinder made the V2 an epic fail.

Because, if we’re going to be honest, the offerings from these two monolithic manufacturers has done just that.  Canon’s M 1 leaves something to be desired, and the eye-gouging lack of aesthetic, among a dearth of other pluses, has left the Nikon alternative in similar straits.

Will it be the end of the DSLR if we do see a Nikon 1 V3?  Somehow, I doubt it.  People will always want a DSLR.  Manufacturers like Nikon and Canon aren’t going to relax the stranglehold they have on the industry, and the only contender to an SLR consumer base is Olympus, whose mirrorless flagship still offers only half the sensor size.  Another thing to consider is that no matter who the manufacturer is, any mirrorless camera is aimed at enthusiasts and not professionals, so it’s going to be laden with junk features no one really needs, like grainy black and white filters.

I mean, artistic filters?  Really?  Is the camera industry that scared of the iPhone and Instagram that they have to offer crap filters to make idiots feel more artistic?

But I digress.  What was the point I was trying to make here?  Oh yeah, that camera companies are backwards and market to established niches, but are lazy when it comes to cross-selling to anyone other than “enthusiasts.”

Nikon 1 V3 sample pic

Hopefully the V3 looks more like the compact V1.

Anyway, it’s too early to tell right now exactly what the Nikon 1 V3 will look like, but we can still expect it early next month.

Just in time for an epic case of buyer’s remorse.

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