Media Pro, DEVONthink and Databases

Posted on June 28, 2018
Media Pro

Media Pro (image courtesy Phase One)

I’m a long time user of Media Pro, a visual cataloguing application by Phase One. Starting as iView over 23 years ago it’s one of the longest running DAM apps of its type. It’s also one of the last standalone, single user digital asset management programs.

Designed for creatives it’s used mostly by photographers. Like Apple Photos and Adobe Lightroom, Media Pro uses a database. What sets it apart from those programs is that Media Pro can catalog any file type including images, fonts, movies, DTP files, text files and more.

DEVONthink macOS

DEVONthink (image courtesy DEVONtechnologies)

DEVONtechnologies also makes database applications (Mac and iOS only). DEVONthink, just like Media Pro, can catalog any file type. While you can use DEVONthink to catalog images I still prefer a dedicated media manager and Media Pro. I use DEVONthink as a digital filing cabinet for my reference material. DEVONthink’s target audience is researchers including educators, scientists, lawyers, students and journalists.

I was drawn to DEVONthink Pro Office in search of a replacement for Evernote, which was my previous digital filing cabinet. Both can use Optical Character Recognition so content in scanned documents can be searched.

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Wanting an alternative to Evernote’s subscription model I like that DEVONthink is a once only perpetual license. It also offers several sync options and a mobile version DEVONthink to Go to add new information to and access it from my iPhone. There is no web access like Evernote, which doesn’t affect me but may be a feature you need.

You don’t need a tin foil hat to appreciate DEVONtechnologies commitment to security and privacy. Recently they deleted their Facebook page and removed Google Analytics from their site. The software offers strong AES-256 encryption, biometric and/or password protection.


Perhaps its greatest feature is AI. Artificial Intelligence is a buzz word at the moment with companies like Google, Apple and Adobe demonstrating the potential of machine learning. DEVONthink uses its proprietary AI technology in a practical way, that admittedly I really don’t take full advantage of. I use it for simple searches and even for that using fuzzy logic it delivers precise results. Serious users such as academics collect reference information across multiple sources including the web and DEVONthink is able to discover and reveal links between sources unknown to the researcher.

DEVONthink Pro Office

DEVONthink Pro Office (image courtesy DEVONtechnologies)

DEVONthink come in various flavours but you’ll need the Pro Office version to get OCR. Unlike Evernote there’s no free version. However with their 2018 SummerFest special DEVONthink Pro Office is less than than a 12 month Evernote subscription and is yours to keep forever. This isn’t a sponsored post and there are no affiliate links, I’m just sharing my thoughts as a happy customer.

Is There Any Value In Formal Photography Education?

Posted on May 28, 2018

photo education

The traditional path to professional photography started with a formal education at a brick and mortar college. Students could assist photographers during or after graduation for hands on practical experience before establishing their own businesses.

Now, just as with photography itself, education has been disrupted by technology. Potential pro photographers can learn online through random YouTube videos or via informal training.

So is it worth investing $25 000 or more to attend university for a career in photography? Judged by economics alone, no it is not. You could watch how-to movies for free on the skills you would like to learn.

photography education
What prompted this post is I’ve started to see more and more pro photographers with gaps in their knowledge. The profession of photography is constantly changing and most of us subscribe to Continuing Professional Development. However CPD is built on top of foundation skills embedded at the beginning of our career.

With formal training there is a syllabus starting with the basics. It’s frustrating because most students have been keen enthusiasts so already know some of the basics of photography. Reviewing the basics is important because it irons out bad habits and fills the gaps in knowledge.

Some professions and trades are best learnt hands-on, face-to-face along with other students. That includes photography. You share the learning and find answers to questions asked by other participants. You learn faster face-to-face with tutors who can immediately review progress. Of course you can support the learning with online videos and yes even from books. Being a student is the time to make mistakes and grow from them, as well as those made by your cohort.

Aside from the practice you learn the theory and history of photography. You will challenge and debate one another especially as photography is based in science and art.

studying photography
Tutors are practicing or retired professionals with a direct connection to the industry. These experienced practitioners who are qualified teachers know how to explain, demonstrate and inspire. Not all universities are equal and neither is the quality of their teaching. Shop around for the best college and tutors for you and your needs. Get opinions on the course from professional photographers and recent graduates.

Guest speakers give you access to successful professional photographers who willingly share their knowledge. Even better, potential clients such as art directors visit to give advice, folio reviews and valuable networking opportunities. Accredited courses will have links to professional associations with access to student membership and a pathway to full membership.

learn photography
Learning at a brick and mortar college gives you access to facilities and professional equipment. Suppliers of pro equipment and software will offer discounts (sometimes free software licenses) in order to gain you as a lifetime customer.

Do clients care if you have qualifications? Most don’t but surprisingly many do particularly when dealing with other professionals and government. Being qualified has allowed me the opportunity to write courses, teach at colleges and run training programs.

Value can be measured many ways not just in dollar terms. If you are fortunate enough to have the option to study photography look at it holistically. Only decades after graduating can I now see how valuable the experience was.

The biggest takeaway for me from tertiary study was being on campus. The infectious passion of fellow students and tutors. The aspirational and youthful collective hope for the future. The opposing viewpoints and debates challenging the status quo. Both joining and being involved in the student association. Access to a fabulous library of books, monographs and journals; both current and long out of print. I loved my university education and it serves me well two decades later. How about you? Let me know on Facebook , Twitter or LinkedIn.

Photography Portfolio Ethics

Posted on April 28, 2018
landscape photo

Photo: Robert Edwards

There are many aspects to finding a photographer. These may include, experience, location, availability, price and personality. Part of evaluating whether any creative is a good fit for your job involves looking at a portfolio of their work. But what if the work you’re presented with isn’t their own?

Stock Photos
Many businesses use stock photography. Whether that’s the more exclusive and expensive rights managed photography or low cost royalty free micro-stock images used everywhere.

Businesses using stock images include media outlets, travel agents, and perhaps you do too. With micro-stock it’s impossible to control who else uses the image or where it’s used. For example, there is a popular micro-stock image of a happy Scandinavian family used by several health professionals – including their direct competitors. In another example a micro-stock image of adolescents was used for very different messaging: one to promote quality education and elsewhere the same photo was advertising condoms.

construction energy infrastructure photography

Photo: Robert Edwards

People Know The Difference
Consumers are visually astute when generic stock images are used. I previously posted about Jakob Nielsens’ study of how people are more engaged with “real” images than generic micro-stock images. Visitors to a travel website don’t necessarily believe the pilot in the photo is a real pilot and probably a model. No harm done as they know when they travel they will have real pilot flying their plane not the one pictured.

Where I Draw The Line
When you view a photographer’s portfolio on their website you assume they are the authors. If not then to me it’s the same as a retailer showing an photo of one product but delivering a very different product. It’s substitution and with photography it’s passing off.

hotel and resort photography australia

Photo: Robert Edwards

Unfortunately I’ve seen photographers not disclosing the use micro-stock images in their portfolio including wedding, corporate and event photographers. One didn’t even bother changing the image which included the stock library’s filename and metadata that included the real photographers name and contact details.

Technically these photographers are doing what any business who uses stock images does. To paraphrase Jakob Nielsen they are using “fluffy pictures… to ‘jazz up’ web pages” (no disrespect to the stock photographer). When you visit a photographer’s website you look at the quality of work there to see if they have the ability to do the work you require. Not see if they know how to license stock images.

How You Can Tell
Visually literate people can pick a stock image. Vince Vaughn’s movie Unfinished Business was promoted, tough-in-cheek, using generic stock images and pasting the lead actors faces into the images.

Unfinished Business

‘Unfinished Business’ starring Vince Vaughn. Photo: Getty Images.

Look for an inconsistent style in the portfolio: different techniques, image processing, effects, etc. Of course if you’re daring enough you can ask the photographer.

Look For An Accredited Professional Photographer
Thankfully there is a way to know when it’s safe to assume a photographer’s images are their own: see if they are members of a professional association that mandates a code of conduct. The Australian Institute of Professional Photography has a Code of Professional Practice it’s members must abide by, as do sister associations the American Society of Media Photographers, the British Institute of Professional Photography and the New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography. The code of conduct will have other benefits for you as their members need to be adequately insured, experienced, educated and skilled in both photography and business.

Accredited Professional Photographer

Five Basic Photoshop Mistakes

Posted on March 28, 2018

As a visual communicator I’m hypersensitive to images that have been badly Photoshopped. Here are some common mistakes in no particular order and how to avoid them.


1. Distorting An Image When Transforming It.
A photo has a set aspect ratio and when rescaling it using a tool like Transform it’s easy to accidentally make it too tall or wide. The trick is to hold down the Shift key while resizing. If you know what image dimensions you need use the Image Size dialog box.

Distorting An Image When Resizing It

Don’t accidentally squash images.


2. Using Wrong Color Profile
Images have a color profile tag embedded that describes how to accurately display it. If you use a color profile in the wrong context it affects how an image looks. For example if your website images look flat and dull chances are they are in Adobe RGB (1998) or worse CMYK. Your photographer, designer or printer has supplied images intended for repurposing or printing but certainly not for the web.

Using Wrong Colour Profile

Simulation of wrong colour profile.

When you edit images in Photoshop you can see what color profile an image has and should Convert it for the appropriate end use, e.g. sRGB for web or PowerPoint. Do not Assign a color profile for this as it doesn’t change the image but tags the photo with the wrong color profile.


3. Convert To CMYK
Have a professional do your CMYK conversions. Every printer, paper stock and ink-set has it’s own CMYK profile. Why not DIY? If you’re about to print hundreds of thousands of pages and you incorrectly convert to CMYK guess who has to pay for the the reprint?

Convert To CMYK

Don’t do your own CMYK.


4. Save As High Res 300DPI
I’ve previously posted on just this point alone! DPI indicates the scale an image is reproduced not it’s resolution. Image size is best described in pixels: e.g, 5383 x 3600 pixels. When you resize an image in Photoshop you will first see Pixel Dimensions and way down below Pixels/Inch.

Save As High Res 300DPI

Use Pixel Dimensions to determine high or low res.


5. Destructive Editing
Every time you edit a photo and save it you throw away pixels. Adjusting colour, contrast, brightness doesn’t create new pixels it deletes some to apply your enhancements. You can work non-destructively on TIFF or PSD files by using Adjustment Layers. You will also save on disk space by not creating multiple TIFF versions of the same image with new edits. As the name implies Adjustment Layers can be adjusted later without changing the pixels.

Use Non-Destructive Editing

Adjustment Layers won’t degrade images.


Customer Service

Posted on February 28, 2018

customer serviceCustomer service is important to me, both as a service provider and as a consumer. I value good customer service and aim to offer the same to my clients. Great customer service makes a big impression on me and my spending habits. This post is about my personal beliefs and not meant to be a how-to guide. So your milage may vary.

What is Good Customer Service?
Authentic concern for your customer and what they need.

What it comes down to for me is a personal interaction. A genuine interest in helping someone purchase what they require. Yes there are metrics to gauge customer experience and I’ve been through several training programs.

Scripts, surveys, techniques, body language, psychology, etc, make good statistics for comparative data. But the face-to-face human interaction can’t be faked. I’m either talking with a human or a robot.

service with a smileHonesty
SPIFs, bonuses, etc, aren’t there to help the customer. They’re designed to motivate and drive sales of specific items. While I understand some businesses do this to move boxes I don’t see any place in my profession for such incentives.

Politeness doesn’t cost anything. Being abrupt and rude will costs sales. We all have bad days, we are human after all! Recognise those times and work around them.

Negotiating and bargaining is not a cultural thing, it’s just business. Being respectful and understanding goes a long way to create an agreement where both parties are happy and continue to work together in the future.

Typically we associate quality with price. If a customer is shopping on price, which is a legitimate motivator, then don’t write them off. There’s a saying, “Price, Quality, Time: pick any two.” If I can’t meet someone’s budget or I’m booked up I endeavour to help them out. With a large network to draw on I will recommend a colleague or an alternative. The bottom line here is I will try to help whether or not it’s going to lead to a booking.

retail shopGood Experiences
What prompted me writing this is lately I’ve had to use after sales service with widely different experiences. I will continue to use Apple and well, here I am “singing their praises” because of their very friendly, blameless customer service. I happily pay more for this level of service and as a technology influencer recommend their products to others.

Another tech company who I won’t name and shame made me jump through hoops for a failed hard drive warranty repair. Tens of hours spent wasted with online chats, emails, phone calls, in store and despatching has left a sour taste for their brand. I will never buy or recommend any of their electronic goods because of inconsistent, poor customer service.

From these experiences I ask myself how can I use what I learned from these two competing companies to offer better customer service for my clients. The takeaway is: admit when there’s a problem, apologise, offer a fix ASAP, and then deliver on that promise. Naturally that’s just the right thing to do.

Room For Improvement
Whenever possible I let a business owner know when I’ve had a really good customer experience – especially for the sake of the employee. Far from perfect I’m always learning and striving to improve customer service. If you’re a client of mine I welcome your feedback, good or bad, on how I can improve your experience.

Why I Don’t Miss Film

Posted on January 28, 2018

Why I Don't Miss Film
Many “experienced” photographers pine for the pre-digital days of photography. To be clear I’m not referring to Millennials discovering film and vinyl for the first time. I’m talking about photographers who began photography when film was the only option.


Film meant you had to “get it right in camera”. There was no chimping (looking at the camera LCD to check you got the shot) but there was Polaroid for test shots and client feedback.


An initial $20 000 investment in film cameras would last a decade or more and lenses lasted forever. As film technology improved photographers could “upgrade” simply by purchasing new film stock. With digital you have to update your camera every 18-24 months to stay current. Along with computers, hard drives, cards, etc. As digital sensors begin to outperform lenses those lifetime investments will eventually need to be replaced too. Unfortunately I’ve seen several photographers go bankrupt investing too heavily in new digital technology.


Digital looks digital. Film had an analog look that Instagram and various apps try to replicate. Bright areas of an image on film tend to gradually fade to white whereas digital highlights often blow out sharply. Tonal transitions are masked by grain in film, yet another look often replicated with digital filters.

Film images are unique

Film images are unique

Film, particularly slide film and Polaroid, is unique. It has one original and every copy made is a second generation visibly inferior. Of course negative film, whether black and white or colour, is designed to make multiple prints. However the original negative is unique and valuable.


Film photographers are magicians who conjure up a latent image on a piece of celluloid. No-one can see the image until the alchemist has processed the film and reveals the secret creation. It’s a skill in itself that was once handsomely rewarded.


Nostalgia of the photographic darkroom

Nostalgia for the photographic darkroom

But Not Me!
OK I’ll admit as a teen seeing my first print appear under an amber light in a darkroom was magical and addictive. But I don’t miss the “good old days”. Not at all!

Digital Skills

Photographers need to be computer savvy. The physics of light are the same and photographers still need to know how to photograph, control light, and work with their subjects. Digital requires a new skill set. It’s less forgiving than slide film I used professionally.

Digital Costs

Photography has always been relatively expensive. Digital compounds that and it means photographers, especially professionals, need to be very smart with their ROI.

Digital Quality

Digital surpassed film well over a decade ago.

Digital Scarcity 
(or lack thereof)
The ability to make 100% duplicates of digital images is a huge benefit. It means all my images have identical copies as back ups. My film archive has one copy slowly deteriorating. I monitor the health of my digital archive and when an image deteriorates it’s restored from back up.

Computational Photography

Computational Photography: new doors for creativity

Digital Magic
Photography is more magical for me than ever. The rise of computational photography breaks down barriers to pre-visialisation. The act of capturing an image has no value. It’s the vision, preparation, execution and post-production that is the magic of the modern photographer.

Back Up – It’s That Time Of The Year!

Posted on December 28, 2017

hard drive failure
Around year end is a good time to review your back up. Specifically, how your personal images are stored. Here are five things to consider.

1. Do You Even Have A Back Up?

Disaster will strike

You should at least have an extra copy of everything. On another hard drive or in the cloud. Ideally have three copies (see point 5) with one stored offsite. If you only have one copy of your images then it’s only a matter of time before they are lost due to hard drive failure, data corruption, viruses, ransomware, burglary, fire, flood or human error.

2. What’s Your End Game?

What do you want to do with your images? Maybe your photos are disposable and show what you eat to share on social media. They have no future value to you. In that case you don’t need to worry about back up.

However if your photos are of your children, family and friends most likely they’re precious. You want to share and hand them on to future generations. This is the most important scenario for having a proper back up.

3. Cloud Is OK For Phone Cameras

cloud storage
Google, Apple, Dropbox and others offer free or low cost solutions to sync your smartphone JPEG images to their cloud storage. This gives you an easy way to back up and share those images. Note these cloud syncing solutions are not a true back up. If you accidentally delete all your images eventually your cloud images will sync and be deleted.

For cloud back up a dedicated service like Backblaze will copy your entire system to their servers. When a disaster occurs you can recover data including your images. But it takes time and is very dependent on your internet speed. In Australia that rules out this type of service as our internet speeds are going backwards. For the rest of the world look at Cloudwards who review cloud services.

4. Automate

Apple Time Machine

Apple Time Machine

Your images are only as safe as your most recent back up. Ideally automate the back up process with software like Apple’s Time Machine or Microsoft’s Back up so you don’t need to remember. Even better are Carbon Copy Cloner for Mac and SyncBack for Windows.

5. The Best Solution Is (Still) 3-2-1

In his book Digital Asset Management for Photographers author Peter Krogh recommends a 3-2-1 strategy for back up:

  • 3 x separate copies
  • 2 x different media (hard drive, cloud, optical, etc)
  • 1 x off site (cloud, external hard drive, etc).
Back up to different media

Back up to different media (illustration by Tina Hartman)

Anything less is compromising the safety of your photos. Use a system that is the most simple for you and one that you will use.


Make Back Up Your New Year’s Resolution

Happy New Year!Don’t make the same resolution that you’ll likely break again in the new year. In 2018 plan to make sure all your images have a back up. At the very least buy a large external hard drive, plug it in and turn on your operating system’s built-in back up software. And have a Happy New Year!

Celebrating Teachers

Posted on November 28, 2017

celebrating teachers

Teaching is a vocation. It’s a calling for those individuals who shape our lives and those of our children. The most quoted section from Robert Fulghum’s book All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten tells us the rules of a civilised world are taught that first year at school.

inspiring teachers

As with any parent I take a close interest in those who teach my children. I’ve seen great teachers who have had a huge impact on them. More than the pedagogy it’s the simple things, the human element, that influenced their outcomes.

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
– William Arthur Ward


You might guess as a photographer that my art teacher played an important role. Colleen Hinder had an enormous influence. Her classes encouraged exploration and removed traditional rules. She encouraged, inspired and celebrated our work. Once, unable to blend colours in a painting I resorted to a fan brush, to which she exclaimed, “The student has become the master!”. Mrs Hinder talked with us as peers; she never spoke down to us. Her positive, forward facing outlook absolutely stimulated creativity.

Practical lessons in art history and theory flamed my passion for art. The length of written assignments was given as “anything from the back of a matchbox to a telephone book” as long as it answered the brief. Without knowing it Mrs Hinder gave me the confidence to continue on to study art at university and pursue a career in a creative profession.

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”
– Albert Einstein.

special teachers

Education photography is an area I’ve specialised in for over twenty years. It’s given me the opportunity to work with several hundred schools, to see behind the scenes and meet hundreds of teachers. I began this post with ‘teaching is a vocation’ and that comes from witnessing the men and women who dedicate their lives to support students. Many go well beyond their job description to care for student welfare.

As a caring profession teaching never seems to be adequately rewarded, at least not financially. Teachers please know that over a lifetime you are a major part in the development of who we become.

Thank you.

school teachers

Tips For Attending A Photography Conference

Posted on October 28, 2017
Photography Conference

National Photography Conference

I’ve been attending photography conferences for decades, both as an attendee and as a presenter. As a professional event photographer I’ve also covered all types of conferences for corporate clients.


Some Do’s And Don’ts For Attending

  • Do register early online. Using a service like the Eventbrite platform makes it easy for attendees and organisers.
  • Do research the speakers and events. There may be some you hadn’t considered.
  • Do allow downtime to rest. It can be tiring give yourself a break.
  • Do clear your calendar so you and your clients aren’t disappointed.
  • Do change your voice mail/ email autoresponder to let people know you’re temporarily unavailable.
  • Do allow time to browse the equipment expo.
  • Do allocate time to see any new or specialist gear you.really want to see. Often it’s not available for hands on demo at any other time.
  • Don’t forget the social events. Often you can meet presenters 1 on 1.
  • Don’t bring too much. Pack light so your can take your stuff with you everywhere.
  • Don’t be shy in asking questions.

robert edwards photographer


What Items To Bring

  • Print your ticket to save queuing at the event.
  • Water & snacks to keep you going.
  • Business cards and lots of them.
  • Your mobile phone and charger.
  • Small satchel or backpack to keep everything together.
  • Pen & paper to take notes.

Corporate Event


What Presentations To Attend

  • You can’t attend every presentation so choose carefully.
  • Are there areas you need to improve on, gaps in your knowledge?
  • Look for a presenter you always wanted to see. Often they’re the keynote speaker.
  • Information on cutting edge ideas, styles, techniques, equipment, etc.
  • Include some content for your Continuing Professional Development.

Photography conferences are a great way to learn, network and socialise with your industry. You can cram maybe a years worth of experience into just a few days. Please share your tips on Facebook and LinkedIn for attending conferences.

Why Join The Australian Institute of Professional Photography?

Posted on September 28, 2017

For well over 50 years the Australian Institute of Professional Photography has been representing the profession of photography in Australia. While similar associations have shrunk the AIPP continues to grow. In recent times the Australian Video Producers Association, Professional Schools Photographers Association and the Australian Commercial + Media Photographers have all merged with the AIPP.

A History of Professional Photography in Australia

A History of Professional Photography in Australia by Paul Curtis.

AIPP is a membership organisation governed by its members who support one another through:

  • Peer review via awards
  • Continuing education
  • Sharing knowledge
  • Camaraderie
  • Socialising
  • Helping each other in an increasingly isolated profession


Honorary Fellow AIPP

Photo: David Simmonds

Business Development

AIPP markets its members to photography buyers through recognition, accreditation, public relations, marketing and advertising.


AIPP actively engages with federal, state and local government on behalf of the profession lobbying on:

  • Photographers rights
  • Access
  • Copyright
  • Certification
  • Education
  • Taxation
  • Standards

AIPP offers a career path from student through to emerging and fully accredited professional photographer. Along the way you have access to the best in education with mentoring from world class photographers and continuing professional development.

Professional Photography Events

Dr Michael Coyne speaking at AIPP Event

Corporate Citizen

Collectively, AIPP members have supported many causes – most recently Reflections: Portraits of WWII Veterans.

Reflections: Portraits of WWII Veterans

AIPP Reflections: Portraits of WWII Veterans

Many More Benefits
A long association with the photography industry AIPP has many sponsors and even more importantly, support from individuals and the leading brands. No, its not a discount club but members do receive vendor discounts, access to free magazines, legal advice, contracts, and other benefits.

Like any membership organisation to get the most out of it you need to participate, get involved, volunteer – and of course join AIPP.