Reviews

Meet Luminar Flex: a new plug-in for Lightroom that uses Artificial Intelligence - and save $10

If there is one developer of image editing software that doesn't seem to sit still, it's Skylum (formerly known as Macphun).

At the end of last year, Skylum released an update to their Luminar 2018 app, called Luminar 3. Luminar already had a couple of interesting filters on board, such as the Accent AI filter, that uses artificial intelligence to automatically enhance your images. Recently, they added the AI Sky Enhancer which, as you might guess, automatically recognizes and improves the skies in your photos. Another strong point is the ability to work with layers and layer masks in the plug-in.

Luminar 3…

The Luminar 3 update also added a Library functionality, or at least the start of it. While you could also use Luminar 3 as a plug-in for Lightroom and Photoshop, that wasn't really the intended use and the workflow wasn't ideal. Luminar 3 really positions itself more as a Lightroom alternative rather than a Lightroom plug-in.

However, not every Lightroom user is willing to throw their existing workflow overboard and start completely from scratch with a new application. Some people (such as myself) would prefer to integrate Luminar’s strong features in their existing workflow, such as the Artificial Intelligence driven filters and the ability to apply all adjustments locally instead of just a handful as is the case with Lightroom.

… versus Luminar Flex

If you're one of those people, then you will be super excited about the new Luminar Flex. At its core, Luminar Flex is basically Luminar 3 without the library functionality but with improved plug-in support for Lightroom Classic, Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and Photos (on Mac).

Existing Luminar 2018 and Luminar 3 users get a free license for the current version of Luminar Flex, which is a nice move from Skylum. The code for that free version should have been added automatically to your Skylum account. Skylum did announce however that from now on, Luminar 3 and Luminar Flex will be treated as separate apps with separate development trajectories and separate upgrade paths which will in the future also require separate upgrade fees. But that's only logical: normally, you will want to work with one or the other, not with both, and therefore you would only need to update one of them.

It's also important to know that future versions of Luminar 3 will no longer be usable as a plug-in.

Save $10 with code MORETHANWORDS

if you're not yet using Luminar, but this blog post raised your interest, then you can obviously just buy Luminar Flex. You can do so via this link. Luminar Flex is affordably priced at $59 and on top of that, code MORETHANWORDS shaves off another $10 (click on the blue text that says Enter Promotional Code in your shopping cart). Artificial intelligence has never been so cheap :-) By the way, the code also works for Luminar 3, if you prefer that solution.

Also for Lightroom 6 users

Quite a lot of Lightroom users are still working with Lightroom 6 and if you're in that situation, then Luminar has another ace up its sleeve for you: the ability to work with pixel layers inside of the plug-in. Indeed, it's possible to combine different images into one by using Luminar’s built-in layer functionality. I’ll explore this interesting feature in a future video on the blog!

Save 20 percent on 'Portraits' by Damien Lovegrove

I know very few professional photographers who manage to photograph at Damien Lovegrove's pace all while still sharing so much of their knowledge through live workshops, lectures and videos. Take a look at Damien's excellent lighting videos, I can recommend all of them, especially his latest Lumen release or his Portraits ebook, the subject of this blog post. In fact, I think if you'd go look up the word 'prolific' in a dictionary, chances are that after the description, you'll read 'see also: Damien Lovegrove'. I once jokingly asked Damien which pills he was on because I wanted to see the same pharmacist. 

Shot during an urbex shoot with Damien and fellow X-Ambassador  Ioannis Tsouloulis  in Belgium. FUJIFILM X-Pro2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 17 mm | 1-160 sec at f - 8,0 | ISO 200

Shot during an urbex shoot with Damien and fellow X-Ambassador Ioannis Tsouloulis in Belgium. FUJIFILM X-Pro2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 17 mm | 1-160 sec at f - 8,0 | ISO 200

The master himself in action in this set-up shot: we used two Cactus RF60 speedlights and a Cactus V6 trigger. Modifier was an SMDV 70 Speedbox with a grid. 

The master himself in action in this set-up shot: we used two Cactus RF60 speedlights and a Cactus V6 trigger. Modifier was an SMDV 70 Speedbox with a grid. 

I don’t know what vitamins Damien Lovegrove is on, but I want the same!
— Me
The eBook is available in two different covers. This is one from Damien's 'Figure in the landscape' series which he shot in the USA.

The eBook is available in two different covers. This is one from Damien's 'Figure in the landscape' series which he shot in the USA.

Damien was in Gent (Belgium) recently for a highly acclaimed (and sold out) evening talk. He had a special discount code for his Portraits eBook. Originally, it was only for the participants but I asked if I could also share it publicly, and he agreed. As Damien says himself, everything he knows about portrait photography is in this book.

In Portraits, Damien takes you through his complete portrait making process. He starts at the planning stages and obviously covers capture in great detail, both using natural light and flash, but he also talks about how he delivers files to clients and how he archives them.

Portraits has 356 pages with 384 high-resolution photographs that have all the exposure and lighting details that were used to create them. Because it's so high-res, you actually get two download sizes to choose from: a high-res one (e.g. for on your computer or tablet) and a lower res one (e.g. for on your phone).

Everything I know about portrait photography is in this book. I hope it helps you to achieve a lifetime of enjoyment from your photography.
— Damien Lovegrove

Imagine Damien sitting next to you in a bar, giving you 50,000 words worth of lighting and career advice. Believe me, that would cost you a lot more in beers than the 36 € / $40 (+ tax) Portraits is currently selling for. And better still, if you use code GENT€ (if you pay in €) or GENT$ (if you pay in $) upon checkout, you can get 20% extra off. On the eBook, not on beers! But hurry, because that code is only valid through the end of June 2018.

(Sneaky extra tip by yours truly... the ebook costs about 10 percent less in $ than in € due to exchange rate fluctuations - I think we can thank 'The Donald' for that... just make sure to use the right discount code!)

The 5DayDeal is back! $2.500 worth of photo education and tools for only $117

From now until October 18th, noon PDT, it's 5 Day Deal time again! The 5 Day Deal is a unique bundle of photographic training content. If you were to buy every item separately, you'd be looking at a total bill of over $2.750. Now, you're only paying $117 (+ European VAT unless you have a VAT ID), a savings of more than 95 percent! The total bundle contains over 75 hours of video training, several eBooks and over 1400 Lightroom presets, Photoshop actions and other digital tools. In total several gigabytes worth of training goodness.

Yes, but what's in it for me?

Of course, the real question is: 'What is this bundle worth to you?' Unless you're really into all genres of photography, probably not the full $2.500. But I can guarantee you that even if you're only remotely interested in photography, the 5 Day Deal bundle is certainly worth more than the measly $117 it's selling for. In fact, this bundle will do more for your photography than the umpteenth camera bag or a shiny new UV filter. 

To help you determine if it's worth your dollar, I've broken the bundle down into three typical areas of interest: general postprocessing, landscape photography and portrait photography. You'll see that even if you're only really into one of those three areas, the bundle is a steal. Heck, if you're into two or more, you should already be ordering!

1. You're into Lightroom, Photoshop and Postprocessing

Postprocessing seems to be the main theme of this year's bundle, so if image editing is your thing, you're in for a treat. The bundle is ideal to hone your editing skills over these cold winter months and get you ready for a great start in 2018. There's hundreds of Lightroom presets and Photoshop actions, overlays like smoke and sun flares and loads of training videos. As you can see, I'm very honoured that my own Black & White Lightroom Preset pack is included in the bundle. But even if you already have that, there's still $2.767 of other stuff :-) The total value of the highlighted items alone is over $1.500. The 5 Day Deal price is less than ten percent of that. If you're a Lightroom or Photoshop user, this bundle really is a no-brainer.

2.  You're mainly interested in nature photography, landscapes, cityscapes and how to postprocess these

The total value of the highlighted items is about $700. From previous 5 Day Deals, I remember the excellent quality of the stuff that people like Jimmy McIntyre and Christopher O'Donnell put out, so I'm looking forward to discovering their new courses. Also, note that I've only counted items that have a direct relationship to landscape photography. There are lots of resources, like the many preset packs, that will without a doubt also be useful when you're editing your landscape images.

3. You're mainly interested in portrait photography and portrait retouching

The total value of the highlighted items is almost $800. Again, there are some hidden gems in this line-up. For example, I really enjoyed Jeff Rojas' no-nonsense approach on how to interact with, light and photograph 'normal people'. After all, we not always get to choose who winds up in front of our lens!

Still in doubt?

Here's 5 final reasons why you should really consider this bundle:

10 percent of each sale goes to charity. Since 2013, people buying the 5DayDeal have raised over $1.000.000 for charity.

10 percent of each sale goes to charity. Since 2013, people buying the 5DayDeal have raised over $1.000.000 for charity.

  1. This way of learning is one of the cheapest to improve your photography skills, at your own pace, when and where you want it. Furthermore, there's always a couple of hidden gems in bundles like this. For example, I really enjoyed Andrew S. Gibson's Black & White Presets and Jeff Rojas' posing and lighting video.
  2. A lot of this bundle's resources are new and if they aren't new, at least they've never been in any other 5 Day Deal bundle, so there's no overlap with previous 5 Day Deal purchases.
  3. The bundle is gone forever on October 18th, noon PDT.
  4. 10 percent of the entire turnover (not the profits, but the turnover, so almost $10 on every sale) goes to charity. Since the start of the 5 Day Deal in 2013, over $1.000.000 was donated to good causes. To that effect, upon checkout, you can opt for the 'Charity Match bundle'. This is an extra, separate bundle, worth over $900 which costs an extra $24,97, half of which goes to charity. Some 50% of people who bought the bundle so far have chosen this option. If you want to maximise your savings and in the mean time maximise your charity donation, look for the 'Charity Match' section, you'll see it on the 5 Day Deal page.
  5. But wait, there's more :-) Another extra option is the 'Pro Bundle Addon'. That's almost $500 worth of content for an add-on of only $12,47.

You see, I'm shutting up already. Yes. I'm that easy :-)

For an extra $24,97, you not only double the amount of money that goes to charity, but you also get access to over $900 worth of extra stuff. There are two photography courses in there, including the world-famous one by Fstoppers, one of the largest photo websites. Then, if you still have another $12,47 to burn, you can get the Pro Bundle Add-on as well...

For an extra $24,97, you not only double the amount of money that goes to charity, but you also get access to over $900 worth of extra stuff. There are two photography courses in there, including the world-famous one by Fstoppers, one of the largest photo websites. Then, if you still have another $12,47 to burn, you can get the Pro Bundle Add-on as well...

5 Day Deal 2017 Photography Business and Marketing Bundle

Over $2.200 of resources for only $97

If you've followed this blog, you probably know about the 5 Day Deal. The folks at 5 Day Deal bundle photographic training resources, Lightroom presets, video tutorials and Photoshop actions into one heavily discounted bundle. Starting now, they have a new bundle out, which is very interesting because it touches on the business and marketing aspects of photography. As a professional photographer, expecially if you're a one-man-band, you're really only using a camera 10 percent of the time. The rest of the time is spent on marketing, finding new clients, putting in bids, doing your taxes, and so on. Yet, most of the training available always focuses on the creative part of photography or on postprocessing.

This bundle is a much-needed change from that. It's a must-buy for anyone who is making or is thinking of making aake a living, either full-time or part-time, in photography. At only $97 + tax, it's one of the best investments you can make, especially knowing that the full retail price of the bundle is well over $2.200. Some of the individual courses in the bundle cost more than the bundle price. Where's the catch, then? There isn't any, other than the fact that it's only around for 5 days, until noon on January 24th, to be exact.

My top-5 of what's included

There's something for everybody and if you get tired of the marketing and business talk and advice, there are even a couple of creative resources as well. Check out the full list of resources here!

1. Susan Stripling's Wedding Business Fundamentals

The wedding photography industry is probably one of the most competitive businesses out there. It's really a mine-field and the fact that you're photographing a once-in-a-lifetime (well in some cases twice-in-a-lifetime) event won't ease your mind as a budding wedding photographer. This course covers over 300 pages and dozens of videos with do's and don'ts to help starting and more experienced wedding photographers alike with marketing and pricing. 

Normally, this resource is $199 by itself, now it's included in the Complete Photography Business and Marketing Bundle 2017.

2. Perfect Facebook Ads: The Photographer's Guide by Photography Spark

FacebookAdskopie.png

Ever tried Facebook ads? It's a minefield. Or should I say, a swamp. A swamp that sucks your hard-earned money away faster than you can earn it. Yet, if you play it right, Facebook ads can help your business tremendously. This in-depth eBook will teach you all you need to know and the mistakes you should avoid when setting up a Facebook ad campaign.

Normally, this resource is $99 by itself, now it's included in the Complete Photography Business and Marketing Bundle 2017.

3. Marketing Bootcamp 2.0 by Donal Doherty

Like the previous resource, Donal also talks about Facebook ads but that's just one of the subjects. He also covers the importance of automation (after all, you don't want to spend too much time on repetitive tasks. You want to photograph, right? Donal also covers blogging, Instagram and Google Adwords. 

Normally, this resource is $60 by itself, now it's included in the Complete Photography Business and Marketing Bundle 2017.

4. What Should I Charge by Joel Grimes

This is probably the biggest question facing the beginning professional photographer after 'Where do I get my clients' (on which there's also a course in this bundle, by the way). Too many starting (and even more experienced) photographers have no realistic idea about prices. It's so hard to put a value on your own work. Charge too little and it's hard to raise your prices afterwards. Charge too much and you run the risk of not getting a job in the first place. Joel Grimes knows what he's talking about: he's a very successful commercial photographer and in this one hour course, he covers positioning yourself in the market place, how to avoid pricing pitfalls, and how to successfully prepare a bid.

Normally, this resource is $80 by itself, now it's included in the Complete Photography Business and Marketing Bundle 2017.

5. Mastering the Model Shoot on Location

In any photography business, it's 80 percent business and marketing and 20 percent shooting. That's why after 4 business and marketing oriented resources, I'll finish this top-5 with a creative resource. Frank Doorhof, himself an example of a highly successful photographer, has included his 100 minute Mastering The Model Shoot on Location video. 

Normally, this resource is $35 by itself, now it's included in the Complete Photography Business and Marketing Bundle 2017.

The total value of this top-5 alone is $473. But there's plenty more. In fact, let me give you one more tip myself. 10 percent of the sales of this bundle go to charity. But during checkout, you get the option to double the charity amount (It's called 'Charity Match'. This will cost you only $19.47 extra and if you do, good karma will come your way by way of some extra free content, like Serge Ramelli's Interior Design Photography Bundle (a $147 value by itself), Kevin Kubota's Lightroom Presets Workflow Collection (a $49 value), Blake Rudis' Beginners Guide to Photoshop Actions ($29 value). The 5 Day Deal is a no-brainer and the Charity Match option is a no-brainer within that no-brainer.

The Charity Match option costs 20 dollars extra in exchange for which you receive $400 worth of extra content and you also get that warm, fuzzy feeling of having doubled your charity contribution!

The Charity Match option costs 20 dollars extra in exchange for which you receive $400 worth of extra content and you also get that warm, fuzzy feeling of having doubled your charity contribution!

If you're even only remotely interested in becoming a semi-professional photographer, this will do so much more for your career than any filter, camera bag or leather strap ever will!

Just don't forget, the sale of the Complete Photography Business and Marketing Bundle 2017 ends forever at noon, January 24th (PST).

The 2016 edition of the 5 Day Deal: What's in it for you?

From now until Wednesday, October 19th, noon PST, it's 5 Day Deal time again! The 5 Day Deal is a unique bundle of photographic training content. If you were to buy every item separately, you'd be looking at a total bill of over $2.500. Now, you're only paying $97, a savings of more than 95 percent! The bundle contains over 60 hours of video training, 15 eBooks and almost 500 Lightroom presets and Photoshop actions. In total over 25 gigabyte of training goodness.

From Lightroom presets over video courses on how to shoot wine or photograph models to a complete landscape postprocessing photography course: there's something for everyone in this bundle.

From Lightroom presets over video courses on how to shoot wine or photograph models to a complete landscape postprocessing photography course: there's something for everyone in this bundle.

Of course, the real question is: 'What is this bundle worth to you?' Unless you're really into all genres of photography, probably not the full $2.500. But I can guarantee you that even if you're only remotely interested in photography, the 5 Day Deal bundle is certainly worth more than the measly $97 it's selling for. In fact, this bundle will do more for your photography than the umpteenth camera bag or a shiny new UV filter. 

To help you determine if it's worth your dollar (well, 97 of them), I've broken the bundle down into three typical areas of interest: general postprocessing, landscape photography and portrait photography. You'll see that even if you're only really into one of those three areas, the bundle is a steal. Heck, if you're into two or more, you should already be ordering!

1. You're into Lightroom and Photoshop

Postprocessing seems to be the main theme of this year's bundle, so if image editing is your thing, you're in for a treat. The bundle is ideal to hone your editing skills over these cold winter months and get you ready for a great start in 2017. There's hundreds of Lightroom presets and Photoshop actions, textures and loads of training videos. There's also a lot of HDR training, and I mean photographically interesting HDR, not the headache-inducing variety! The total value of the highlighted items alone is over $1.600. The 5 Day Deal price is less than ten percent of that. If you're a Lightroom or Photoshop user, this bundle really is a no-brainer.

2.  You're mainly interested in nature photography, landscapes, cityscapes and how to postprocess these

The total value of the highlighted items is about $700. From previous 5 Day Deals, I remember the excellent quality of the stuff that people like Jimmy McIntyre, Klaus Herrmann and James Brandon put out, so I'm looking forward to discovering their new courses. Also, note that I've only counted items that have a direct relationship to landscape photography. There are lots of resources, like the many preset packs, that will without a doubt also be useful when you're editing your landscape images.

3. You're mainly interested in portrait photography and portrait retouching

The total value of the highlighted items is also some $700. Again, there are some hidden gems in this line-up. For example, I really enjoyed Serge Ramelli's no-nonsense approach to compositing: he photographs a model and then puts her in front of a different background. This course alone by itself normally costs double the entire 5 Day Deal bundle price.

Other areas of interest

But that's not all. There's also more general, introductory courses such as David duChemin's 26 part email course on the one hand but also some highly specialized ones on the other: how 'bout an in-depth course on Photo Mechanic (I know I can use one since I'm using this app more and more as a front-end to Lightroom). Or what about a course on how to photograph wine? It's all there.

If you're still in doubt, here's 5 final reasons why you should really consider this bundle:

The ever-funny-yet-to-the-point Zack Arias has written an eBook of over 100 pages with business advice for photographers. It's an excellent and at times hilarious read.

The ever-funny-yet-to-the-point Zack Arias has written an eBook of over 100 pages with business advice for photographers. It's an excellent and at times hilarious read.

  1. This way of learning is one of the cheapest to improve your photography skills, at your own pace, when and where you want it. Furthermore, there's always a couple of hidden gems in bundles like this. For example, I thoroughly enjoyed Zack Arias' 'Get To Work - Business Primer' eBook. It's not something I'd probably buy (in fact, I didn't know it existed), but it was included in the bundle anyway! 
  2. A lot of this bundle's resources are new and if they aren't new, at least they've never been in any other 5 Day Deal bundle, so there's no overlap with previous 5 Day Deal purchases.
  3. If you're more interested in the business side of photography, there's a couple of interesting items as well, like the afore-mentioned guide by Zack Arias. Zack's studio is doing great now, but he once was nearly bankrupt. So, he knows what he's talking about.
  4. The bundle is gone forever on October 19th, noon PST (that's 9 PM Brussels time).
  5. 10 percent of the entire turnover (not the profits, but the turnover, so almost $10 on every sale) goes to charity. Since the start of the 5 Day Deal in 2013, over $650.000 was donated to good causes. For this year, the 5 Day Deal team is hoping to achieve $250.000 of charity donations and they even silently hope to reach $350.000, which would bring their total over one million since 2013. To that effect, upon checkout, you can choose to pay an extra 10% ($9.7) which goes entirely to charity. And, as a token of good karma, you get an extra bonus-download worth $250. Some 50% of people who bought the bundle so far have chosen this option. It's called 'Charity Match', you'll see it on the 5 Day Deal page.

You see, I'm shutting up already. Yes. I'm that easy :-)

5 products that caught my eye at Photokina 2016

I have just returned from a bustling two days at Photokina, the biannual photographic gear lovefest that is held in Cologne, Germany. I was travelling in the exquisite company of fellow Belgian X-photographers Isabel Corthier and Ioannis Tsouloulis. I want to thank the people from Fujifilm Japan and Belgium for inviting us over. Trade shows like Photokina are as much about people as they are about products. So, it was great to reconnect with longtime friends such as Tom, Bert (who used Tom’s bald head as a reflector during his 'Small lights, big results’ demo on the Fujifilm stand), Rob, Damien (energetic as ever), the German ‘rock star’ trio Dieter, Jens & Peter and Marco, Julia, Shusuke and Kunio. I also had the privilige of being introduced to new people such as Patrick La Roque, Jens Krauer, Martin Hülle and their impressive work. Finally, I am happy I got to meet Rico Pfirstinger. He’s the author of the unofficial Fujifilm manuals. If you are struggling to get the most out of your camera, his books and workshops are among the best resources to turn to.

Now of course, apart from the social aspect, Photokina is obviously also about gear. Lots of gear! In fact, it's probably the most GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome)-inducing show on the planet. Even during those two days, I was unable to visit each hall, let alone each booth. Yet, there were a couple of products that caught my eye. Because the Internet loves lists, here's five of them, in no particular order. Well, except maybe for the first! 

1. Fujifilm GFX

The GFX looks like a beefed-up X-T2. Image © Fujifilm.

The GFX looks like a beefed-up X-T2. Image © Fujifilm.

Call me biased (I'm an X-photographer after all) but the Fujifilm GFX was the star of the Fujifilm booth and probably even of the entire Photokina. In case you've just returned from another planet, the GFX 50s is Fujifilm's first digital medium format camera. It has a sensor size roughly 4 times that of the other X series cameras and a pixel count of 51.4 megapixel. The GFX 50s will be available with three lenses at launch, which you should be ‘early 2017’. By end of 2017, another tree lenses should be available.

Literally everybody wanted to get their hands on the camera of which only a couple of prototypes exist. I was lucky enough to get to hold it in my hands for a couple of minutes. I was surprised at how well it focused even in the dark venue where I was and also at how lightweight it was: this beast of a camera weighs less than many a professional DSLR! If you want to read more about the specs (even more than is available on Fujifilm's own website) read this excellent article by Rico Pfirstinger.

The price of the GFX hasn't been set yet, but Fujifilm management did promise it would be 'well under $10.000' with the standard lens. We have yet to see into how many Euro that will translate...

Official press release here.

You'll be able to use two EVF viewfinders with the GFX: a regular one and one that can be tilted and rotated, allowing almost every imaginable capture angle. It will even be possible to use an external monitor.

You'll be able to use two EVF viewfinders with the GFX: a regular one and one that can be tilted and rotated, allowing almost every imaginable capture angle. It will even be possible to use an external monitor.

2. Phottix Spartan beauty dish

As you know, I use a lot of artificial (flash) lighting in my images, so I'm always eager to learn about cool new lighting accessories. One interesting modifier I came across was at the stand of Phottix. The Spartan beauty dish (full specs here) is a modifier that seems to come straight out of a Transformers movie: it's easy to set up and you can remove the disc in the center to turn it into an octabox. I also like the fact that it comes with a grid. More and more, I seem to be using grids in my own lighting. The Spartan comes in two sizes: 50 cm and 70 cm. Price for the latter is about $145. That is very affordable, considering that some companies charge about that much for just a grid!

3. SMDV BRiHT-360

The SMDV BRiHT-360 is a lightweight 360 Ws battery-powered barebulb flash with removable battery that slides into the main unit.

The SMDV BRiHT-360 is a lightweight 360 Ws battery-powered barebulb flash with removable battery that slides into the main unit.

Just as I thought I could finally finish the manuscript of the second edition of my Making Light e-book, I came across the SMDV stand... I could not help but notice their BRiHT-360 portable barebulb flashes (there were about 10 of them placed along the counter). As you may know from previous blog posts, I am a fan of their easy to set up (and even easier to break down) Speedbox series of softboxes. At Photokina, it was the BRiHT-360 that stole the show, though. As its name implies, this is a 360 Ws barebulb flash. What I like about it is that it's super lightweight at only 1.25 kg including the battery. The latter lasts about 300 full power pops. Basically, this thing produces the same amount of light as four Speedlights at the weight and price of only two. What I also like, is that it works well with SMDV's Speedboxes, who happen to be also very lightweight: the combination of the BRiHT and an 85 cm Speedbox only puts 2 kgs on the scale!

The BRiHT does TTL and HSS with Canon and Nikon cameras (using a compatible SMDV Flashwave 5 trigger) but luckily enough it also works in manual mode on my Fujifilm cameras. I am looking forward to testing this unit more in-depth and to see whether I might even be able to get some sort of HSS with my Fuji cameras by using the Cactus V6 Mark II triggers, which I reviewed here.

In the mean time, you can read the full specs of the BRiHT 360 here. In Europe, the BRiHT will be available through www.foto-morgen.de. Price should be somewhere around €700 / $750.

4. Godox

The AD600 exists in a Bowens and a Godox mount and in a TTL and manual version. All versions support HSS with Canon, Nikon and Sony (provided you use the matching Godox X1 trigger). Image © Godox.

The AD600 exists in a Bowens and a Godox mount and in a TTL and manual version. All versions support HSS with Canon, Nikon and Sony (provided you use the matching Godox X1 trigger). Image © Godox.

Godox, whose Lithium battery-powered Ving V850 speedlight I’ve reviewed here, also had a stand at Photokina. Their AD600B battery powered studio flash has recently been reviewed in Shoot, the Belgian photography magazine I write for (Dutch link here). This unit packs 600 Ws of power in an affordable package with TTL and HSS support for Nikon, Canon and Sony. By default, it comes as an all-in one light with a battery that attaches directly to the body of the flash. The advantage is that you don’t need cables and you don’t have a separate power pack to worry about (or carry around).

The potential disadvantage is that if you put your light on a boom stand, especially with a heavy modifier, the setup can get a bit top-heavy. Also, if you’re using an assistant instead of a light stand, it’s quite a workout to hold a setup like this in the air for any prolonged period of time.

Image © Godox

Image © Godox

So I was happy to see the 600 Ws Extension Head. This accessory allows you to separate the pack from the head. Just unplug the flash tube from the AD600, plug it in the Extension Head, connect the power cable to where the flash tube used to be and boom, you've transformed your all-in-one into a pack-and-head system.

Godox also had a 1200 Ws Extension Head on display: this accessory has a special, more powerful flash tube which effectively allows you to turn 2 AD600s into one 1200 Ws pack-and-head system. With so much power, you can overpower the sun even when using larger modifiers. Or, you can benefit from faster recycle times.

Finally, Godox also had an AC adaper on display which allows you to turn the AD600 into a mains-powered flash. The adapter includes a fan as well.

If you live in the US, note that the AD600 is sold by Adorama under the Flashpoint XPLOR 600 brand name.

Image © Adorama

Image © Adorama

The 600 Ws Extension Head ships without a flash tube because you use the one that comes with the AD600. Price is around $80. Image © Adorama.

The 600 Ws Extension Head ships without a flash tube because you use the one that comes with the AD600. Price is around $80. Image © Adorama.

The 1200 Ws one has a special flash tube which actually consists of two 600 Ws tubes. Price is around $300. Image © Adorama.

The 1200 Ws one has a special flash tube which actually consists of two 600 Ws tubes. Price is around $300. Image © Adorama.

5. 3 Legged Thing Albert Tripod

I have been using the Three Legged Thing Brian tripod during my travels for the last couple of years. The main reason is that it is a lightweight travel tripod that still can be extended really high. For me, it serves a dual purpose: I can use it as a traditional tripod for long exposure photography (in which case I obviously don't extend it all the way up) but I actually use it a lot more as an impromptu light stand. Having this versatility (transformability really seems to be a theme in the products I selected in this blog post) allows me to travel with less weight without compromising on photographic opportunities. Alas, the Brian is no longer available. At Photokina, I was introduced to his successor: Albert. The Albert was improved on a number of points but still shares the Brian’s adventurous and multi-purpose DNA. Price of this carbon-fibre travel tripod system is about GBP 400 (including a ballhead).

Full specs here.

The Brian used as a light stand.

The Brian used as a light stand.

So there you have it, a quick round-up of some of some of the products that caught my attention at Photokina. If you were there, I’d love to hear what caught yours!

 

 

Tutorial review: The Complete Guide To Portraiture by Sandro Miller

When I first heard about ‘The Complete Guide To Portraiture & Building A Body Of Work For Print & Publication’ I knew this was one I just had to watch. After all, it’s about all the things I love in photography: travel, portraiture, lighting and retouching. So I contacted the guys over at RGG EDU (that's short for Rob and Gary's Great EDUcation), the producers of this video, and they were kind enough to set me up with a review copy and a really cool discount code for readers of this blog. Full details are at the end of this post but basically, it means that as a reader of my blog, you can get RGG EDU's newly released 6 hour Capture One Pro training video as a free bonus when you purchase the Sandro Miller tutorial.

UPDATE: the discount code no longer works, but there is currently (until May 29th, 2017) a 66 percent discount on this tutorial, making this an even much better deal than the one I had for you back when I originally wrote this review...

This tutorial follows internationally acclaimed photographer Sandro Miller from start to finish on a project in which he photographs indigenous tribes in the remote and sometimes downright dangerous parts of Papua New Guinea. Here's the official trailer below.

This day and age, everyone and his dog seem to be producing video tutorials geared towards photographers. As I can tell from my own area of expertise, Lightroom training, there’s a lot of chaff amongst the wheat. Yet, the videos from RGG EDU, a relatively young photography tutorial website, definitely fall in the ‘wheat’ category. Having bought, watched and highly appreciated their ‘The Complete Guide To Composite Photography, Color & Composition with Erik Almås’, I knew I could expect high quality, and I wasn’t disappointed. By the way, here's an in-depth (Dutch-only, unfortunately) review of the Erik Almås tutorial.

Sandro Miller

One of Sandro's most recent books is the result of a seventeen-year collaboration between photographer and subject. I'll try and keep that in mind the next time I make a one-minute portrait of someone :-)

One of Sandro's most recent books is the result of a seventeen-year collaboration between photographer and subject. I'll try and keep that in mind the next time I make a one-minute portrait of someone :-)

To be really honest, I did not know Sandro Miller. At least not by name. But I did know some of his work, and chances are you do, too: just google his latest book Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich, which features photographs that Sandro made during his 17 year friendship with this incredibly versatile actor.

Incidentally, this is just one of the things this tutorial taught me: getting a book published takes time and patience. Sandro visited Cuba 14 times before he did a book on it. But... it is not undoable, especially after watching this tutorial...

What’s in this tutorial?

In this tutorial, we get to follow Sandro while he is preparing a new book project: a series of portraits of tribal people in Papua New Guinea. 

Obviously, the highlight of the tutorial is the actual documentary in which you get to see him set up a makeshift studio, set up his lights and interact with the people he photographs. If this tutorial where a five course dinner: this would be the main course. But the appetizers, served as 'prerequisites' and desserts (the compositing tutorials and final interviews) are just as... mouthwatering.

Gear and Lighting Prerequisite 

First of all, there are a number of so-called prerequisites or series of introductory videos: there's one about the gear that Sandro uses and then another series of videos about lighting where you can see how he puts that gear to use in his studio in Chicago. The contrast between the high-end equipment (Sandro's studio looks like a mix of a Profoto and Broncolor flagship store) and what he used in Papua New Guinea could not be bigger. It’s another proof that it’s the photographer matters more than the gear, or as the publisher of my own eBooks, David duChemin would say: Gear is good, Vision is better!

The idea of the prerequisite videos is to teach you some of the basics so that you can follow along better when the tutorial shifts to a higher gear. To that effect, we see Sandro make 2 portraits: a moody male portrait and a fashion portrait of a woman. During these sessions, Sandro explains why he uses a certain light and how he modifies it with flags. We also get to see that lighting is often a game of inches...

‘I can create a novel in a man’s face by the way that I light it’
— Sandro

I found it interesting to see the progression in the images: from ‘I can do that, too’ to ‘Damn, that’s a setup I have to remember’. It was also kind of comforting to see that even a highly respected portrait photographer has to work a scene and a model to get to great results. Success does not come easy. In fact, if there’s one theme that recurred throughout the work of Sandro Miller in general and this tutorial in particular, it’s the importance of practice, perseverance and attention to detail. I really picked up lots of little nuggets from those prerequisites.

Digitech prerequisite

Another thing that I found really interesting was the interview with Shad Wilson. Shad works - amongst others - as a so called Digitech: a digital tech assistant. He even has his own custom truck stacked to the roof with tripods, pelicases and light stands. Sandro being a high-end photographer, he can afford the budget for a Digitech to come along on this project.

'I'll be in the shed...' Shad WIlson talks Gary from RGG EDU through how he turned a regular Pelicase into a sun-shielded laptop case.

'I'll be in the shed...' Shad WIlson talks Gary from RGG EDU through how he turned a regular Pelicase into a sun-shielded laptop case.

But even for mere mortals like you and I, this section has some really interesting advice on backup and workflow that can be helpful when you have to be your own Digitech. I also learned an interesting idea from this section: Sandro already had a specific idea from the start as to how the final images should look. He created that specific style in Photoshop and then gave that file to the Digital Tech. Shad emulated the look in Capture One so that he could apply it to the images while shooting tethered.

Postprocessing and retouching prerequisites.

As this tutorial is as almost as much about postprocessing as it is about photography, there’s also a couple of introductory videos on postprocessing and retouching.

In these videos, we get to know Pratik Naik of Solstice Retouch. Pratik is a world renowned retoucher and another example that RGG EDU will only work with people who really know their stuff.

Pratik has some interesting ideas on how to redefine some of Photoshop's shortcuts so they are grouped together better for retouching. Even though these prerequisite tutorials were primarily aimed at beginners, I picked up a couple of interesting tips, not in the least about Capture One, which I I'm not so familiar with as I am obviously more of a Lightroom user. Yet, the things I learned definitely made me want to check out Capture One more in detail.

Pratik has some interesting ideas on how to redefine some of Photoshop's shortcuts so they are grouped together better for retouching. Even though these prerequisite tutorials were primarily aimed at beginners, I picked up a couple of interesting tips, not in the least about Capture One, which I I'm not so familiar with as I am obviously more of a Lightroom user. Yet, the things I learned definitely made me want to check out Capture One more in detail.

Again, the idea is to get you up to speed for the ‘real’ postprocessing sections towards the end of the video, where the Papua New Guinea portraits that were taken on a green screen are composited into the backgrounds which were also photographed on location, but separately.

Sandro shot the backgrounds separately. At first, I had a hard time understanding why but after seeing the whole series come together, it made sense!

Sandro shot the backgrounds separately. At first, I had a hard time understanding why but after seeing the whole series come together, it made sense!

I have to admit that at first, I thought it was a strange idea to be shooting people against a green backdrop and then, sometimes as little as 100 feet further, shoot the actual backdrop separately, only to combine them later in Photoshop. I mean, why not just put your subject against the backdrop of your choice and photograph him right there and then, right?

It's what I have been doing so far with all of my travel portraits. It was only after viewing a number of finished images that I understood why this at first sight overly complicated procedure made sense: by having separate control over the background and the foreground and by also being able to exactly control the lighting of the subject in his makeshift studio (much more than under the glaring Papuan sun), the resulting photographs work much better together as a series. This in turn makes the work better suited for a book. It's definitely something I might also try in the future. 

The actual Papua New Guinea documentary

Although ‘only’ slightly over an hour, this is obviously the ‘pièce de résistance’ of this tutorial. Here we get to see Sandro created the raw material (pun intended) that will form the basis of an actual book project. We see Sandro check out locations that can either be suitable to create his makeshift studio or as a so called black plate, a background for compositing.

The setup (left) and the resulting raw file (right). Sandro used a digital Hasselblad on this shoot so he has virtually unlimited postprocessing options in terms of recovery and dynamic range.

The setup (left) and the resulting raw file (right). Sandro used a digital Hasselblad on this shoot so he has virtually unlimited postprocessing options in terms of recovery and dynamic range.

To me, the most important take away from this video was that you don't need expensive or complicated lighting setups to create really impactful images. Everything was done within a relatively simple, double diffused soft box. No rim light, no reflectors, nothing.

The video below has some behind-the-scenes footage and it gives you a good idea of what to expect in the full-length tutorial.

For me, the tutorial also re-emphasized the importance of having a good fixer on location. When you spend a lot of money on a location project in an area or a country that you're not familiar with, it really is a good idea to set some money aside and hire someone who can help you, not only logistically but most importantly help you scout interesting locations and faces and interact with them.

In terms of makeshift studios, it does not get much more makeshift than this :-)

In terms of makeshift studios, it does not get much more makeshift than this :-)

On my most recent trip to India, I did exactly that: we hired a really great local guy who helped us find interesting people and locations and who at the same time could translate  as my own Hindi is limited to ‘Hello’ and ‘Look this way’ and ‘Look that way’.

I would rather buy an f/1.8 portrait lens and have some money left for a fixer, than buy the most expensive lens there is and not have any budget left for travel, let alone a fixer. If you're interested, below you can find a short video with some of my own location lighting work. Although it's not in the Hasselblad range, I'm very happy with the dynamic range of my Fujifilm X-Pro 2 and I'm even happier its price isn't in the Hasselblad range, either!

The Compositing videos

As much as I liked the actual on location video in Papua New Guinea, I was even more looking forward to the compositing videos. And again, I was not disappointed. Pratik does a really good job of explaining how to blend these rather complex subjects with all their feathers and beads into the background. I found his explanation on how to get rid of the green fringes that remain (shooting against a green backdrop is no miracle solution) and how to use the blur and smudge brushes to tweak the mask, invaluable.

Before... As you can see from the screenshot, the original mask leaves a lot of problems in terms of green fringing. Pratik shows a couple of really interesting tips that I have never seen before (and Lord knows I've watched my share of compositing videos) on how to get rid of those.

Before... As you can see from the screenshot, the original mask leaves a lot of problems in terms of green fringing. Pratik shows a couple of really interesting tips that I have never seen before (and Lord knows I've watched my share of compositing videos) on how to get rid of those.

And after... The final image is dark and moody. Yet, by keeping everything nicely organized in layers, adjustment layers and groups, everything can still be changed should the photographer prefer a different blend of foreground and background, or a different white balance. By the way, these quick screen grabs don't do the images much justice...

And after... The final image is dark and moody. Yet, by keeping everything nicely organized in layers, adjustment layers and groups, everything can still be changed should the photographer prefer a different blend of foreground and background, or a different white balance. By the way, these quick screen grabs don't do the images much justice...

As a photographer, you have to have your own characteristic style. Part of that style is obviously created during capture, but this tutorial really made clear that an important part is also added in postproduction. The original files were rather dark and flat. Using a bunch of adjustment layers and filters, Pratik turns them into very moody portraits. As a nice extra, the tutorial includes a number of backgrounds and original raw files so you can follow along with the compositing videos. And I really recommend you do because it's the best way to learn anything. 

Two images waiting to be combined into one...

Two images waiting to be combined into one...

Another advanced technique I picked up was how to use Photoshop's Blend If options to restrict the effect of an Adjustment layer to specific areas.

Another advanced technique I picked up was how to use Photoshop's Blend If options to restrict the effect of an Adjustment layer to specific areas.

The printing videos

In these videos, we see Sandro meet up with his longtime friend and printer, Jon Scott of JS Graphics. We get to see Jon prepare the final images for print and if you have ever printed on a large format printer yourself, you'll recognise the mix of anxiety and excitement that you feel when an expensive large-format print comes rolling out of the printer. This section wasn't as in-depth as I wanted it to be but on the other hand, you could probably easily fill another 11 hours with just a printing tutorial.

Sandro and Jon inspecting a large format print. As an interesting side-note, this image, which was shot with available light and was not composited, is one of my favorite images of the entire series.

Sandro and Jon inspecting a large format print. As an interesting side-note, this image, which was shot with available light and was not composited, is one of my favorite images of the entire series.

Final interviews: hug a book!

This tutorial wraps up with two more interviews: the first is with Sandro’s publisher, Martha Hallet from Glitterati. It's an interesting talk about the publishing business and all of the artistic, financial and marketing considerations that go into  publishing a book. I chuckled when I heard Martha say that Sandro wanted to use seven inks for the Malkovich book (compared to the standard of four) and how they finally settled for five.

I dont’t want to look at a book on an iPad. That’s ridiculous. You want to feel a book. You want to hug a book!
— Sandro

This section really is an ode to the printed photo book and rightly so. One thing I found missing was some insight as to how to actually layout a book like this. The publisher goes briefly into it but an interview with the graphic designer would really have interested me, too. Well, I guess the RGG EDU guys had to draw the line somewhere!

The final interview not only gives an insight in Sandro's career, which spans four decades, but also in his amazing collection of photo books, which seems to span 40 feet!

The final interview not only gives an insight in Sandro's career, which spans four decades, but also in his amazing collection of photo books, which seems to span 40 feet!

That ode continues in the last interview with Sandro about his life and career. Sandro is filmed against a bookshelf that literally contains hundreds of photo books. After all the tech talk of the previous videos, this more inspirational interview is a great way to end a great tutorial.

Conclusion

As you may have guessed by now, ‘The Complete Guide To Portraiture & Building A Body Of Work For Print & Publication’ is an excellent tutorial in my opinion. If you're into location portraiture, postproduction and the entire process of working towards a published book, whether it's self published or with a publisher, this is something you must watch and then... probably watch again.

Everything is relative
— Einstein

Update: the discount codes in the next paragraph are no longer valid but as mentioned in the introduction, there is currently (until May 29, 2017) a Memorial Day discount on this tutorial that offers no less than 66 percent off, making the price only $98. And, even better, if your total bill exceeds $99 (in other words, if you buy two tutorials), code REMEMBER gets you an additional 25 percent off your entire bill AND if you spend more than $300, code REMEMBER35 shaves 35 percent off your total bill! Only for two more days!

Two fantastic RGG EDU discount codes for readers of this blog

Now... about the price. At first sight, $299 isn't cheap but as Einstein said: 'Everything is relative'. For the price of a camera bag, you get 11 hours of very well produced, in-depth, concise and above all very motivating training that will probably do more for your photography than any camera bag ever will!

Knowing what it already takes to produce a relatively simple Lightroom or Photoshop tutorial, I can only imagine the planning, effort, time and money it has taken to create the Sandro tutorial. So I would say that although not cheap, the price is more than fair for the length, quality and production value of the tutorial.

With code MTW25, you basically get RGG EDU’s new 6 hour Capture One Pro tutorial for free!

And if $299 is too much to pay in one go, you can even finance it in monthly installments of $29.

Better still, I’ve got two very cool discount codes for you, my dear readers: code MTW10 gets you 10 percent off the Sandro tutorial (or any other RGG EDU tutorial, for that matter). Code MTW25 even gets you 25 percent off on any order that's over 375$. That basically means you can get RGG EDU's freshly announced Capture One tutorial (a $79 value) completely free: the trick is to add both tutorials in your shopping cart, enter the code MTW25 and you'll pay less for both than the regular $299 price of the Sandro tutorial alone! But don't wait too long, because these codes expire end of August, 2016.

Before I forget: the RGG EDU contest!

When you buy the tutorial, you also get access to a private Facebook group and you get to enter the Sandro Portrait Photography Contest which RGG EDU specifically set up for this tutorial. The contest has $50.000 in prizes! I told you these RGG EDU guys don’t do half work… Find out more about the contest here.

Subscribe to my newsletter  and get my '10 Tips for Better Travel Photographs' for free.

Subscribe to my newsletter and get my '10 Tips for Better Travel Photographs' for free.

And - shameless plug to end this long review - if this tutorial gets you in a traveling mood, don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter: you’ll receive my 10 tips for better travel photographs absolutely free.

Finally, if you want to do more than just read about travel photography, Matt Brandon and I have just announced the 2017 edition of our Location Portraiture and Lighting Masterclass in Delhi and Varanasi, India.

What's the big deal about The Big Deal?

If you're reading this blog, chances are that you are into photography, postprocessing or probably even both. Well, I've got some interesting news for you! There's a new photography bundle out, The Big Deal. I'll immediately cut to the chase: this bundle, which is only available until July 4th, contains photography software, video tutorials, eBooks, Lightroom presets and Photoshop actions. The combined value of all the goodies in the bundle is over $3.000, yet it's priced at $99... and that's really a steal! 

Generally, there's a lot of 'filler' content in these bundles: stuff that you even would not want to get for free, let alone pay for it. But the Big Deal is much more about 'killer content' than it is about 'filler content'.

Let's have a look at what's inside. I won't list everything - there's a full list available over here - just my personal highlights.

Software

Although there's a lot more software in The Big Deal, I've limited myself to my personal top-3:

1. Photo Mechanic 5

More and more high-volume photographers who are using Lightroom, are starting to use Photo Mechanic as a front-end to Lightroom. Instead of waiting forever for Lightroom to build 1:1 previews, they use Photo Mechanic for the culling (selection) of the best images and then import only the selected ones into Lightroom. Ratings and Color Labels applied in Photo Mechanic can be read by Lightroom.

If you're a high-volume shooter, Photo Mechanic is an ideal 'front end' to Lightroom: do your culling in Photo Mechanic and your developing in Lightroom.

If you're a high-volume shooter, Photo Mechanic is an ideal 'front end' to Lightroom: do your culling in Photo Mechanic and your developing in Lightroom.

If you want to speed up your Lightroom workflow, Photo Mechanic is the way to go. In fact, Photo Mechanic only has one disadvantage: at $150, it's more expensive than Lightroom itself. If you get The Big Deal, it's included in the $99 bundle. For some of you, this should be enough to go for the 'Buy Now' button, so I've included one below, just for your convenience :-) By the way, if you want to see a video on how I use Lightroom and Photo Mechanic together and how it could speed up your workflow, check out this recent blog post of mine.

2. Tonality by Macphun

After Silver Efex Pro, Tonality by Macphun is probably the best Black & White software out there. It's got tonnes of presets and what I especially like is that it has built-in layer capabilities: this allows you for example to blend what one preset does to the sky and what another preset does to the foreground

Tonality (Mac-only) has the ability to work with layers inside the application. This lets you combine presets or easily fade their effect.

Tonality (Mac-only) has the ability to work with layers inside the application. This lets you combine presets or easily fade their effect.

Normally, it's about $60, now it's included in The Big Deal.

3. Clarity by Topaz Labs

If you like the Clarity slider in Lightroom, you'll love Clarity by Topaz Labs: it's like a whole plug-in dedicated to creative sharpening effects. It's one of the favorite plug-ins of master retoucher and compositer Glyn Dewis, whose videos are also included in the bundle!

Clarity is normally around $50, now it's included in The Big Deal.

Video Tutorials

There is a plethora of video tutorials included in The Big Deal. Below is my personal top-3. Just as with the software, some of these tutorials cost more if you buy them separately than if you get them in the bundle.

1. Language of Light, Volume 1 by Joe McNally

If you want to learn about off-camera flash, no better source than Joe McNally. I've bought this tutorial myself a couple of years ago and it's worth every penny of its $120 price tag. So this is another example of a tutorial that by itself costs more than the whole bundle itself!

2. Retouching and Compositing Video Bundle by Glyn Dewis

If you're into compositing, British guru Glyn Dewis is your man. I own his book on compositing and it's excellent. I've also seen him live on a couple of occasions and the man knows his Photoshop stuff and he's witty to boot. This bundle contains several of training and again, when purchased separately, would cost more than the whole Big Deal Bundle.

3. Photoshop Training with Dave Cross

Dave Cross is another one of those Photoshop giants. He's got three courses in The Big Deal: one on working non-destructively, one on selections, channels and masks and one on automating Photoshop. 

This is just my personal top-3, but there's also Lightroom training by RC Concepcion, a video tutorial on how to use Photoshop for video editing and lots more. Again, you can see the whole list here.

Presets and actions

Finally, there's a bunch of Lightroom presets and Photoshop actions in the bundle as well, like Lighroom guru Jared Platt's comprehensive preset pack, by itself a $115 value.

Conclusion. Is it worth it?

There's lots more interesting stuff than what I've listed in this post but ultimately, you're the only one who can decide on whether this bundle is worth it or not. What I generally do in cases like this, is have a look at the entire list (scroll down a bit in this link), and check what stuff is in there that I'm really interested in. In this particular case, that would be well over $1.000. So the way I look at it is I get a 90 percent discount on the stuff that really interests me, and I get all the other stuff thrown in for free, in which there will probably be some hidden gems, too!

But that's just me and my rational approach. You could just go and say '$3.000 worth of photo stuff for $99?' That's a no-brainer :-)

Disclaimer:
In the interest of full disclosure: the above links are affiliate links. If you purchase the Big Deal through the links in this blog post, MoreThanWords receives a commission that is paid for by the seller. In other words, it does not cost you anything extra and it helps me pay the bills of running this site and all the free content and videos that are on it. Rest assured that I don't simply advise this bundle because I'm an affiliate. In fact, I have the opportunity to promote bundles like this one quite regularly, but there's a lot of chaff amongst the wheat. So, I only promote the ones that I think are interesting, like this one. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments.