STEAM Powered Photography

Posted on June 28, 2020

A great number of the people I photograph have occupational or professional skills qualifications. Most of my clients have a degree in one of the humanities. Many subjects and clients studied a mixture of both at university.

Corporate Business Photos
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics have been a focus and STEM is still a buzzword in education. Nearly 20 years ago these subjects were identified to be most in need for future careers. The students of that prediction are now entering the workforce.

science student
Design Thinking is another axiom. Often used for STEM research it uses problem solving steps. Design is front and centre rather than an afterthought used to beatify a product or service.

Australia recently decided STEM subjects are more important than humanities for future, gainful employment. University fees for humanities are set to double subsiding other subjects.

Dr Rod Milton, psychiatristBut is that the future? Thanks to robots and AI, many predict automation is set to replace hard skilled jobs. Careers expected to grow in demand involve soft skills. Jobs that include creativity and human relationships.


Add Art to STEM and you get STEAM. Leaving out the humanities including arts is poor judgement for what skills are expected in the near future.

On the job I was trained in the practical use of physics and chemistry for photography. At university while immersed in creativity I was taught lateral thinking.

To some degree photography is polymathic, well excluding the genius part. It requires a balance of art and science. Too much of the former leads to technical failure, focussing on the latter makes for boring images. A professional photographers job is to solve clients problems, visually. That has always required STEAM.

Let me know your thoughts on LinkedIn.

Intellectual Property

Posted on May 28, 2020

Intellectual property covers many areas. Here I want to look specifically at copyright and moral rights. How it affects content creators and those who use their content. Some of the what, why and how.

I am not a lawyer and anything you read here should be clarified with qualified legal advice for your own circumstances.

To encourage people to create new content it is protected from being stolen and profited from. You can’t copyright an idea. The work has to be “fixed” in a material way and that includes images, videos, drawings, books, etc,.

There is over 200 years of commerce based on copyright. What we think of copyright today goes back to the Berne International Copyright Convention of 1886. The key word there is International. Citizens of countries who signed up to the convention have their copyright covered worldwide, mostly. Depending on your country, copyright lasts for 70 years after the death of the author.

Copyright is granted at the time of creation. You do not have to register your work for it to be copyrighted. However, in the USA copyright does have to be registered to sue for statutory damages.

Why is copyright fussed over? Governments want it to encourage new creations. Authors want it to have financial and creative control over their creations. Businesses want it so they can license it.

So many interactions we do require an agreement. Right now you have made legally binding agreements with this website, your ISP and the operating system vendor.

Content creators sell a license to use their material. That can include time, location and where it is used and/or an exclusive license. Just like a software license, the more extensive the use the more the license fee will be. It makes no sense to purchase an enterprise licence for Microsoft Office if you only use it at home on one computer.

Moral Rights
Copyright is the economic value of protecting authors. Moral rights protect the authors right to attribution. It is separate to copyright. Both are intellectual property and negotiated independently.

Fair Use
Again, depending on your jurisdiction, copyrighted material may be used for certain purposes such as education, personal use and other areas that are not commercial.

It is a myth that slightly modifying a copyrighted work to create a derivative makes a new original. Music, recipes and images are often the victim of this infringement. You can’t sample part of a recording, change one or two recipe ingredients, or Photoshop parts of an image and declare it your own. No, not even artists, unless it’s substantially different. Or a parody.

Crown copyright
If you create content for some jurisdictions including Australian States and Federal government departments, they own copyright by default. You can negotiate the copyright assigned to you the author through a contract.

Corporate Event

Win, Win
When you create or consume content do not undervalue its copyright. It has financial value otherwise nobody would want it. Copyright and moral rights are not something to give away or expect for free. A fairly negotiated contract with written terms and conditions respects those who create content and those who license it. Then we all encourage and enjoy fresh, new content.

Comments are welcome at Linkedin.

The Caring Professions

Posted on April 28, 2020

I’ll let you in on a little secret: my favourite clients are those in the caring professions. Meeting the people who change other people’s lives for the better is always an honour.


Being commissioned to photograph and document the working life of nurses, doctors, teachers, surgeons, scientists, carers, those who protect us and many others makes me appreciate what I have. Naturally their patients, clients and students value them even more.

preschool teacher

If you look back at the people who made a difference in your life outside your family I’d wager it’s been someone in one of the caring professions. Relative to the value they give us they’re often underpaid.

special school carerMany times these carers are relatives or volunteers helping their community. Giving back expecting little more than a thank you.

nursing home carer

Perhaps just like a loving parent it’s a thankless task. Unfortunately their chosen vocation will sometimes be a detriment to their health, a heavy price to pay.

Medical Scientist

Then there are the allied professionals working behind the scenes, supporting the frontline workers so that they can concentrate on those in need. Those individuals who do the admin, accounting, cleaning, etc, without whom the whole system comes to a halt.


From my privileged vantage point of witnessing first hand what those caring professionals do – thank you.

medical imaging
Please feel free to post comments on Linkedin.

CPD for Creatives in Isolation

Posted on March 28, 2020

Many of us are now in self isolation, working from home or under shelter in place orders. I wish you the best and hope that you’re OK knowing this will eventually end.

It could be a good time to catch up on Continuing Professional Development. I have a backlog of training earmarked for later and that time may be now.

There are numerous topics to choose from: business, history, skills, communication and more. Check with your professional body that the course will be credited towards your CPD.

Many online training companies are offering free or extended free trial for their services. I’ll list a few programs and please add any more you know in the comments on Linkedin.

Video conferencing gives us an opportunity to work with others on CPD regardless whether our profession dictates it or not. The Australian Institute of Professional Photography is using Zoom for its members to learn from one another.

online training

Linkedin Learning
Formerly, perhaps the original online learning platform, Linkedin Learning offers a huge range of courses in many disciplines. It’s included with Premium Membership or take the 30 day trial. Also check with your company, school, library or professional association as many have a subscription.

At the moment Linkedin offer a free course on Working Remotely.

Specifically for photographers the Professional Photographers of America have opened their library of training resources for free.

Open University
A collection of USA Universities have a large selection of online courses available as OpenLearn.

More training is available from Coursera. They range from free courses to paid university qualifications and  lot in-between.

online learning

edX and Mooc
edX and MOOC have free courses, some of which can be used as recognised prior learning.

Open Culture
For an extensive list of free courses look at Open Culture.

Those already subscribed to Masterclass have been sent an offer to share a free pass with a friend.

Creative Applications
Diversify your skill set and learn a new creative application. Serif have extended the trial for their creative apps to 90 days and are offering 50% off. Serif Photo, Designer and Publisher are the closest competitor to Adobe.

However nothing beats the Adobe Creative Cloud for industry standard programs. If you work in teams and need skills employers look for learning an Adobe app is a solid investment. Adobe offer their standard free trial if you have never signed up Creative Cloud. Teachers and students can apply for free access until May here.

Please join the conversation on Linkedin and share courses you know.

Get Off My Lawn

Posted on February 28, 2020

Many professions have been disrupted by technology over the last 20 years. Professional photography is one of them. For most of last century the journey to becoming a professional photographer was predictable. There were a few avenues for entry and several barriers. Now there are many ways to photograph “professionally”.

Olden Days
Measures for defining a professional previously included income amount, percentage earned from practicing photography or graduation from an accredited educational institution.

Most creative professions like photography have some sort of apprenticeship and/or formal training. I posted before about my business experience of now and then. Suffice to say technology has changed the craft of photography but the essence of business remains the same.

corporate video behind the scenes

Professional First, Photographer Second.
There is a reason that the first word in Professional Photographer is professional. Web stats suggest half of small businesses fail within the first 5 years and two-thirds won’t make it to 10 years. Depending on who you ask the business side of photography is 80% of being a professional.

DTP Analogy
The 1980s brought big hair, shoulder pads and Desktop Publishing disrupted the design and printing industry. Small, powerful Macintosh computers competed with large, expensive systems. Professional designers could work from home, part-time if they wanted. Many of my design clients work from home managing their business and family.

Over the last decade I’ve seen many colleagues close their studio to work from home and emerging photographers choosing to start off the same. As with the DTP revolution over 30 years ago photography is seeing more females entering the profession. It’s a long way from being an old boys club.

Define “Professional”
When I joined the board of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP) one of the first jobs we undertook was to define what a professional photographer meant. In was 2007 and the definition was in a flux. Digital imaging was the norm, the internet had become essential for marketing and the profession was now mostly part-time, female and working from home. Data was gained from research within the AIPP through surveys, benchmarking as well as partners in industry and training supported by reports including that of IBISWorld.

Wikipedia defines:

“A professional is a member of a profession or any person who earns their living from a specified professional activity. The term also describes the standards of education and training that prepare members of the profession with the particular knowledge and skills necessary to perform their specific role within that profession. In addition, most professionals are subject to strict codes of conduct, enshrining rigorous ethical and moral obligations. Professional standards of practice and ethics for a particular field are typically agreed upon and maintained through widely recognized professional associations, such as the IEEE…”

Technology has made photography easier to get a good result at the push of a button (Push here Dummy). Cameras, or more often phones, mean you can capture a photo without necessarily knowing how it’s created.

To predictably and repeatedly make images that fulfil a client brief requires deeper knowledge of the craft. Knowing how to make an image is essential if you want to charge for it. This comes with time, experience and can be fast-tracked with training. Learning the fundamentals of photography is better experienced face-to-face with a cohort. Learning online in isolation is easy but I think best left for continuing professional development.

Creating images of a high standard that fit the client’s purpose is but one part of being a professional photographer. More important is operating as a business professional. That includes permits, insurance, accounts, tax, workers compensation, superannuation and all regulatory requirements for your state/country.

Caveat Emptor
In the digital age there are costs and benefits for commissioning a professional photographer. Technology makes searching for a photographer easier and reduces delivery times. It also allows anyone to promote themselves as a professional photographer regardless of their experience. There have always been “cowboys” in the industry looking to make a fast buck, it’s just easier today.

As with any form of online shopping you should be careful and do your research. Portfolios can be stolen or worse use stock images that don’t represent the photographer’s abilities. Skills and sometimes qualifications can be embellished. Look at some of the jobs the photographer has recently done and testimonials for client experiences.

AIPP Accredited Professional Photographer

The Grass Is Greener
Accreditation from a recognised professional body goes a long way to protecting you. In order to trademark Accredited Professional Photographer® the AIPP has to effectuate specific Australian federal government requirements and took several years to achieve. These requirements are there to protect you when you commission photography.

Learning the art and business of photography is crucial, regardless of what stage you’re at. Rather than protecting their turf, associations welcome new members and that elevates the profession for photographers and clients alike. Let me know your thoughts on LinkedIn.

Why I quit Facebook and Twitter

Posted on January 28, 2020

The photo above is the first and only one I posted on Facebook. After 14+ years on the two major social media platforms last year I closed my accounts. I only ever used them for business so what follows may not apply for personal use. I did however decide to keep LinkedIn.

As a commercial photographer my clients are other business people, what we once referred to as B2B.


My preferred publishing platform is here on my blog on my own website. That content is also posted on LinkedIn and until recently was duplicated on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

I’m one of those people who prefer to both own and control my content. I’ve seen what happens when your work is at the whim of a platform’s terms and conditions. I don’t understand why any business would risk hosting all their content on a platform like Facebook or worse, redirect their website to it.

As with other social networks posting on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn grants them some rights to your content:

…non-exclusive …license worldwide, transferable and sublicensable right to use, copy, modify, distribute, publish and process, information and content”.

Perhaps ignorantly I trust LinkedIn more than Facebook.

OK, so I’m not a social media strategist but have engaged and worked with them professionally. If you are a pro please chime in and correct any of my points and share your experience on LinkedIn.


Over the past four years my interaction with Facebook and Twitter has been a decidedly more negative experience. News of their affect on individuals and society doesn’t leave me any hope for it to get better. Early on engagement was positive. Non linear timelines and algorithms that encourage bad behaviour, confrontation, misinformation for the sake of profits in an unregulated industry left me hopeless.

In my opinion these platforms are publishers and should be bound by the same rules as traditional media. Media platforms that I’ve worked in for over 25 years: newspapers, magazines, television, radio, etc.

Traditional media has to play by rules


Deleting your Facebook account isn’t easy and to a lesser extent neither is Twitter. I found very helpful with lots of useful tips!


Why stay on LinkedIn?
Most of my clients and colleagues are there. LinkedIn was the first social media platform I joined. Paul Gibbs, the owner of a pro photolab sent me an invitation. It was described as Facebook for grownups.

The conversations on LinkedIn do seem more mature, business related, where comments are celebratory rather than derogatory. New-ish owners (since 2016) Microsoft also gave me hope; a company I’ve dealt with as a provider and, like all of us, as a customer. I do like what Microsoft CEO Brad Smith writes and says about his tech industry:

Speaking at Microsoft’s Redmond Campus

I mentioned Google+ before. Well Google made the decision to leave social network before I did and have a track record for doing that.


Do I miss Facebook or Twitter?


In summary I don’t like where Facebook and Twitter are taking us. I’m in a fortunate position to be able to choose not to participate. Let me know your thoughts on LinkedIn.

Nice People Finish First

Posted on December 28, 2019

Your attitude and personality plays a key role in getting work as a professional photographer. At least here in Australia. Overseas clients and colleagues tell me that’s not always the case. I’d love to hear your experience on Linkedin.

There is the stereotype of the brilliant artist as a prima donna. That may work for those few at the peak of their profession and here I’m thinking of the performing arts. Their name attracts an audience as much as their work and colleagues tolerate the bad attitude. However that isn’t true for the vast majority of creatives and prima donnas are poor roles models.

One fashion photographer from Texas I worked with in Sydney decades ago was rude to everyone. At that stage I was a mature assistant photographer with nothing to lose so I pulled him aside. Turns out he is the sweetest bloke and the bad attitude was all part of his fashion photographer persona. Thankfully he was grateful for the chat and not defensive. Indeed he ended up getting more work in Australia when he dropped the attitude and was himself. He sent me some colourful cowboy boots as a thank you!

Australians tend to prefer forming working relationships with people who are easy going. Even if you’re the most talented creative, if you’re hard to work with clients will prefer someone else. And vice versa.

There are two types of people: good and bad. This became even clearer for me over the past two weeks as I lost my mum to cancer. Those who cared for my mother clearly demonstrated good. I truly believe most people are innately good. Personally the most rewarding work for me is witnessing and photographing caring professions.

hospital photography
My wish for the new decade is for people to choose good. Wishing you a Happy New Year!

Why DNG?

Posted on November 28, 2019

First off, What is DNG?
Well it’s not Dolce & Gabbana as a photography student once asked me. DNG (Digital NeGative) is a digital photography file format created by Adobe Systems. It contains all the data captured by cameras that offer raw format output.

OK, What Is A Camera Raw File?
Most of the time when you take digital photos you create JPEG photos. JPEG images have been processed and cameras discard the raw data. Many cameras have the option to save images in a proprietary raw file format. For example, Canon have CR3, Nikon NEF and Olympus ORF. These formats are unique to each manufacturer and even each camera model.

These files are information rich allowing superior results in post-production. As software improves we can extract more detail from raw files captured decades earlier.

The trouble is every camera raw format is undocumented and needs to be reverse engineered by software developers so photographers can process them. This requires heavy investment in resources, time and potentially legal issues as they are proprietary file formats.

In 2006 a group of photographers lobbied for an open raw format without success. Two years earlier I asked if it was feasible for Adobe to create a documented camera raw format that proprietary raw formats could be converted to.

adobe raw format feasible

Adobe is one of the software companies that has to deal with the overheads associated with camera raw formats. Thomas Knoll, the co-creator of Photoshop, is an avid photographer and developed his own software to process digital images, now known as Adobe Camera Raw. Knoll knew there had to be a better way to manage raw camera data so in 2004 proposed DNG.

Fully Documented
DNG is owned and patented by Adobe who offer documentation and a license. Camera companies including Leica and Pentax use it for raw capture as do Apple and Google for their smartphones.

DNG specs

Software companies have been slow to take up DNG as an output format but all major vendors can process DNG files. Some competitors to Adobe’s cite their ownership of DNG as barrier to full adoption and simply a business decision. For the record, Adobe also own the TIF format that all camera raw formats are based on.

Data Validation
The DNG spec includes the option to embed a checksum for the raw data to test its integrity. Photographers can use software like Adobe Lightroom to validate their image archive. Processing images through the free Adobe DNG converter is another way to check the health of raw files.

Embed Metadata
Due to the undocumented nature of camera raw files it’s neither recommended nor safe to write metadata to them. JPEG and TIFF are documented so adding descriptions, copyright, attribution and contact information is simple using the IPTC standard.

camera raw

To add such information to any proprietary camera raw file software typically creates a sidecar file. Often these are .xmp files with the same name as the image file. Sidecar files are easily lost along with your metadata.

sidecar file

DNG allows the safe embedding of metadata with clear instructions for third parties on how to do it.

Embed/Extract Full Resolution JPEG
Another form of metadata is the embedded preview image. I also use the option to embed full resolution JPEG images inside my DNG files. These reflect the processing I have done on the images and can be viewed in cataloguing software and easily extracted for fast proof images.

ISO Raw File Format
The International Organisation for Standardization is in process of making a camera raw standard based on Adobe DNG. Adobe have a track record here with their PDF format, now a ISO standard.

My motivation to lobby for a standard raw camera format is so future generations can view them. DNG offers many benefits however this will be its greatest legacy.

Let me know your thoughts or comments over at Linkedin.

Photo Myths

Posted on October 28, 2019

Maybe that title should be “photography misunderstandings“. Digital photography gave us more opportunities, freedom and power. As with any superpower it comes with great responsibility. Assumptions can lead to the spread of misinformation. In that vein, if what follows has any errors please let me know on LinkedIn.


Opening A JPEG In Photoshop Recompresses It

No it doesn’t.

If you edit a JPEG image in some way and re-save it then you will lose data. Re-saving a JPEG can reduce it’s “quality” but that’s likely imperceptible. JPEG compression is visually lossless. Edit and re-save a JPEG dozens of times then you’ll see it in smooth areas like the sky below.

JPEG artefacts

JPEG artefacts (right) after re-saving dozens of times

In some applications editing includes changes to metadata or rotating an image. For example, when you change IPTC metadata in Adobe Photoshop (File >File Info) it will ask you to save changes and recompress the JPEG. Do the same in Adobe Bridge and it writes the metadata without recompressing. Photoshop is a pixel editor, Bridge is a multimedia manager.


Edit JPEG metadata in Bridge.


I Need a TIFF Not JPEG

Ask for JPEG with minimal compression (levels 10-12 in Photoshop) and make a TIFF master file when you edit.

For the reasons in the last point, people sometimes ask for TIFF files. A standard TIFF (there are TIFF standards but no generic, “standard” TIFF) can be edited in Photoshop with information added and re-saved without loss.

Adding information means layers, text, etc. Photoshop doesn’t add pixels when you change colour, tone, etc, – it removes them. To make a photo more yellow a pixel editor removes it’s opposite colour, in this case blue pixels.

Ideally when editing in Photoshop use a TIFF or PSD file format. Apart from allowing non-destructive layer based editing, you have the option to re-save in a lossless format.

The downside to TIFFs is the file size is dramatically larger than JPEG, for example 2MB versus 60MB per image. File management is more costly in terms of time, delivery, space, resources and dollars.

TIFF can offer better quality if it is 16 bit where JPEG is 8 bit. High bit depth offers millions of times more data for aggressive editing. High bit depth increases file size dramatically, for example 2MB versus 145MB per image.


Deliver Images 300 DPI

Pixel dimension defines image resolution.

Pixels Per Inch

DPI is the scale not the resolution an image is reproduced using dots (Dots Per Inch). Digital devices use Pixels Per Inch, PPI.

The iPhone 3G screen had a 165 PPI pixel density. The iPhone 4 introduced the Retina screen with nearly double that at 326 PPI. Compare the same photo on both phones and it will not appear sharper on the iPhone 4. It will appear smaller.

PPI information is metadata and may be redundant as some applications ignore it and apply their own default setting.


Digital Is Free

There are costs to create, process and deliver high quality digital images.

With film we have the cost of the raw material and processing plus the time that takes. Take a photo with with your phone and it’s there ready to use. Aren’t digital cameras the same? They can be but will need some some adjustments, especially if required for commercial use.

Last century most photographers outsourced film processing to labs using automated, industrial machinery. Some high volume photographers would do it in-house.

With digital most photographers do processing on a PC in-house. Some may outsource to others but as yet there is no industrial machinery equivalent for digital.

For maximum quality photographers will capture in a raw, unprocessed format. Processing and non-destructive editing is done on a computer in a raw conversion application. Photographers will capture and edit in a camera raw format that has high bit depth, mentioned in the point above in TIFF not JPEG.

Then there is the ongoing capital investment in digital equipment and knowledge that has a cost.


Fix It In Post

Get it right in-camera.

Post-production costs money. If it can be done at time of capture it will save money, all things being equal!

Video is the same and I’ve even seen producers wince hearing this phrase. Sometimes fixes can be more efficient in post to name time when talent and crew are involved. These will have been decided in beforehand to improve efficiency and minimise production costs.


Phones Are As Good As “Real” Cameras

“Ye Cannae Change The Laws Of Physics Jim!”
– – Scotty

Small camera sensors in phones cannot collect as much information as larger sensors in professional cameras. Their sensors are not capable of capturing subtle tones and colours. Phones do use computational photography that is well beyond any professional camera to create amazing images. In “good” light.

Tech companies want you to believe their cameras will make you a better photographer. Sometimes they engage well known photographers to use their latest devices and create stunning images. Those rare creative, individuals could make images with anything including a shoe box, seriously.

Annie Leibovitz. Photo: Robert Scoble.

Phone cameras definitely have a place in recording memories of family, friends, events and adventures replacing the compact camera. For professional use creating images that will be repurposed a so-called “real” camera is most definitely still required.

Just as important, someone with the vision and skills needs to be behind that camera.

What a Professional Photographer Delivers

Posted on September 28, 2019

For 150 years professional photography has been delivered in a common format. Images were processed using standard formulas for predictable, repeatable results. Commercial photographers would supply their clients with prints, film and before that glass plates.

This would be repurposed for printing or other type of reproduction. While digital offers infinite ways to process images industry standards have been established to ensure a common experience for image receivers.

Before supplying the images a professional delivers non-tangibles in the course of doing business.


Professional Quality
It’s given that the images you receive will be of a high technical and creative standard. That means the images are suitable for your use and fill the brief. The goal is to exceed those expectations.

This assumes the photographer knows how to measure these and that can only come from training, experience and associating with other professionals. Traditionally that was through higher education, apprenticeship and membership of a professional association.


File Specification Standards
OK I’m a stickler for standards.

With film there are specifications for densitometry, specific gravity, etc,. In digital there is color management, compression, etc,. As a receiver of images you need not know the jargon but your photographer should. To assist you the Universal Photographic Digital Imaging Guidelines published a guide for image receivers.

Depending on how you will use the images your photographer will prepare and deliver them in the proper formats.


It both surprises and frightens me when a photographer or client don’t see the need to be adequately insured. My parents were both in the industry so it was drummed into me. Public liability will protect you and the photographer, while professional indemnity and equipment insurance help make your job go smoothly, if anything should go wrong.


Ask for a quote, a written quote. As with most creative professions there is no cookie cutter template for every job.

Your photography deserves to be custom created to fit your needs and this brings variables. Where the images will be created, for what purpose and how much time needs to be invested are some of the factors determining costs. I’ve posted how this becomes easy once you and the photographer have an ongoing relationship.


Naturally the more experienced the photographer the easier your job will be. Professionals will know what to do, foresee any issues and how to handle problems if they arise. Experience means the photographer will know what and who else is required to make your photography.

Do you need permits, make up artists, clearance to work with children, etc,. You benefit from their knowledge and network.

experienced professional

Having photographed similar situations before a photographer can advise when to capture your job in camera or if it’s better to do it in post-production. This is different from being able to actually do it at time of photography rather than use Photoshop as a crutch. Sometimes you can save time and money by taking advantage of digital photography.

Experience very much includes your client experience with the photographer, the user experience if you will. How the photographer treats and respects you, your staff, possibly your client, and other crew members. There is no room for prima-donnas. This has nothing to do with photography and everything to do with professionalism: empathy, maturity, human relations, time management and being business savvy.

There is a reason that first word in ‘professional photographer’ is professional.

Let me know your thoughts on LinkedIn.