Last month I wrote about the 15th anniversary of the Australian Professional Digital Imaging Guidelines (APDIG). Each of my co-authors had their own reasons for volunteering to create the guidelines. For me, the obsession with digital standards began in the late 1990s.
Digital vs Film
When I approached existing commercial photography clients about using digital capture many said the quality was not good enough and still preferred film. Compared to film the commercial benefits were obvious: no film or Polaroid costs, no film scans, faster turnaround and immediate feedback on set.
So I began creating test shoots to demonstrate the viability and benefits of digital. Clients saw the digital quality matched or bettered film however some were still cautious. For those I continued to photograph film and digital together until they were confident in the quality. Through education and initiatives such as APDIG eventually standards for digital photography were established.
Raw, What Is It Good For?
When the tools for digital photography hindered me I began reaching out to vendors for solutions from camera manufacturers and software companies. Being amongst the first to do so they welcomed the feedback and sought my input as a professional photographer. The biggest pain point was handling digital camera raw files.
Digital cameras capture raw data then convert them to JPEG images in-camera. These out-of-camera JPEGs are pretty much final images. The settings are baked in and can’t handle much post-production before showing digital artefacts. Heavy adjustment of colour, brightness, contrast or sharpness can look pixellated.
Many early professional digital cameras allowed you to save the raw images. Raw images, as their name suggest, capture essentially the data from the camera sensor and are rich in information. In post-production much of the editing like colour balance, sharpening, etc., is non-destructive for raw files. They’re often referred to as digital negatives by those who have used film.
Preserving camera raw images offers the opportunity to reprocess them later when software vendors discover new ways to wring more information from them. For example, highlights that were blown-out when captured 10 years ago can be re-processed today to reveal detail; but only if shot as a camera raw image.
At the time the raw processing software was immature, expensive and like the raw files themselves, proprietary to the camera manufacture. Decoding the raw image is different for every single camera model, even within the same manufacturer.
In 1997 Dave Coffin reversed engineered camera raw file formats and created ‘dcraw.c’ allowing independent vendors such as Bibble Labs to create better workflow tools at a tenth of the cost of camera manufacturers. Adobe and Phase One, who now lead the market, followed soon after.
Managing a digital image archive has many barriers. Some standards were already established by 1995, such as the International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC). Thanks to a long history of electronically transmitting images for newspapers since the 1970s, IPTC metadata contains the who, what, where, why and how required for media organisations. The method for adding metadata to film scans were ideal for images captured by digital cameras.
Image file formats like JPEG are well documented so adding metadata is both safe and straight forward. Embedding metadata means important information travels with the image and further derivative files retain it. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of proprietary camera raw files.
Typically, adding or appending metadata in a proprietary camera raw image meant creating a sidecar file to house the information. When moving or renaming camera raw images their sidecar files are easily lost, along with the metadata. Alternatively metadata is maintained in a catalog that references the raw image. If the images are moved or renamed outside the catalog then again the metadata is disconnected and lost from the image.
Some smaller vendors reverse engineered the undocumented, proprietary camera raw files to allow their software to embed metadata. This could potentially damage the file and corrupt the raw data. More than a few image management software companies told me they would not support camera raw files.
Camera manufacturers have now started working with some third party vendors as well as offering software development kits. Vendors, including operating systems, handle camera raw files much better than the early days. Simple things, like cameras embedding a large JPEG preview in the raw file, means you can quickly view the image on a computer without decoding it. Work is also progressing on making an ISO standard camera raw file format.
Working with camera raw files is better but there is more work to do. My images are very important to me. Selfishly I want to ensure their future. That’s why I started and I continue to work on improving standards.
This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Australian Photographic Digital Imaging Guidelines. Before 2004 there was no recommended standard for digital photography capture and delivery.
At the turn of the century some professional photographers were doing more damage than good to the adoption of digital. They zealously over-sharpened, manipulated tone and colour, then delivered files that looked far worse than film.
Looking for standards in digital photography and not finding them professional photographers banded together to share information. Photographers began publishing their methodology on their websites and groups sprang up on several photography forums.
Photography associations around the world started researching guidelines to assist their members including the Australian Commercial & Media Photographers (ACMP) and the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP). Fifteen years ago William Long, Murray Fredericks, Nadish Naoroji, Nick Rains and I set out to make a concise set of parameters to help photographers capture and deliver digital images.
The Australian Photographic Digital Imaging Guidelines was published in 2004 and endorsed by both the AIPP and the ACMP as well as the Imaging & Digital Entertainment Association (formally Photo Marketing Association) and the Association of Professional Color Imagers.
View the complete guidelines with detailed explanations at www.apdig.com including a PDF version. The basic recommendations are below.
1. ICC colour-managed environment. (More info)
2. Capture digital images in camera’s RAW format. (More info)
3. Calibrate your monitor(s) regularly with a hardware device to the D65 standard and Gamma 2.2. This is becoming a worldwide standard. (More info)
4. For Prepress use:
a. Colour space: Adobe RGB (1998) embedded in final image.
b. File format: TIFF uncompressed in Windows byte order, or JPEG at level 12 compression, @ 300 PPI (DPI). (More info)
5. Deliver files on USB Flash Drive. (More info)
6. For Web use.
a. Colour space: sRGB embedded in final image.
b. File format: JPEG. (More info)
7. Converting to CMYK
a. CAUTION: Only convert files to CMYK when a profile or full press specifications are supplied by the client, and no further retouching is required.
b. File format: TIFF uncompressed in Windows byte order, or JPEG at level 12 compression, @ 300 PPI (DPI). Sized to final art with final sharpening. (More info)
8. For printing to colour-managed lab
a. Ask your photo lab for their normal file specifications (eg: Adobe RGB, JPG, 300ppi).
b. Soft-proof using lab-supplied colour profile for the specific media. Ensure your monitor is correctly profiled.
c. Do NOT “Convert To” or apply the profile (send to lab in standard colour space like Adobe RGB 1998).
d. Apply sharpening if recommended by the lab.
e. If uploading convert to JPEG. Or send TIFF on CD. (More info)
9. Make sure the client is viewing the files on a monitor profiled to the international standard D65. (More info)
10. Embed copyright & usage into the file (IPTC) viewable in Photoshop > File Info. (More info)
11. Provide a ReadMe file with images outlining specifications and disclaimer. (More info)
Details of items listed above
1) The ICC (International Color Consortium) specifies international standards for colour management. Photographers who supply digital files for publishing need to be in an ICC managed environment, as do their clients. Your cameras, operating system, software, and output devices all need to be setup for an ICC managed workflow. A detailed description of the ICC workflow is beyond the scope of this guide.
2) Most professional digital cameras and backs allow users to record images in a RAW format. A RAW file is essentially a record of the data captured from the camera’s imaging sensor without any in-camera processing. By capturing in RAW you begin with the highest quality file with the most options / flexibility / quality for postproduction.
Presently RAW formats are proprietary to each camera/back manufacturer and require processing to a common format such as JPEG or TIFF. There are several RAW converters including Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Phase One Capture One PRO, as well as each camera manufacturers own proprietary software.
It is important to note that RAW files are not colour managed in any way. While these files may appear to contain profiled information, colour management strategies and profiles only commence during the conversion from RAW to TIFF or JPEG.
3) Professional photographers need to invest in a quality hardware monitor calibration device such as supplied by X-Rite (www.x-rite.com) or Datacolor (www.datacolor.com). The human eye and Adobe Gamma (a part of Photoshop) do not permit calibration with high enough precision for professional use. Computer monitor’s colour drifts over time and should be verified regularly.
In the past prepress would recommend a Mac use D50 and Gamma 1.8 to match the Apple Laserwriter. Today D65 and Gamma 2.2 are becoming the common standard for both PC and Mac. If you wish to supply proof prints, you will need to extend similar calibration procedures to your printer and print viewing area.
4) Adobe RGB (1998) is a commonly used industry-standard colour profile supplied with Adobe Photoshop. sRGB does not have a wide enough colour gamut and clips some CMYK colours. Adobe colour profiles can be downloaded free from:
Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) is the preferred file format. When saving tiffs in Photoshop you are given options for compression and byte order. For maximum compatibility, TIFFs should besaved with 8-bit, uncompressed options in Windows byte-order. Tiffs can also be supplied in 16 bit which doubles the file size but allows for more aggressive tonal editing. To capture 16 bit images may require shooting in the cameras’ raw format, sometimes referred to as a digital negative. Images can also be delivered in JPEG file format saved at maximum quality (level 12 compression in Photoshop).
Sharpening is best done in stages. A `light’, initial sharpen is often performed on an image to overcome the softness inherited from capture devices such as digital cameras and scanners. Final sharpening should only be performed after all editing and resizing, etc has been completed. As most clients will resize images in the final stages of production, final sharpening is best left to them.
Ensure files saved on a Macintosh computer have a three-letter file extension corresponding to their file type, e.g. TIF or JPG.
5) Optical discs were the preferred method of delivery however as image resolution and file sizes have increased delivery on USB Flash Drives, portable hard drives and cloud services are now more common. Format and label the drive for the client computer system, i.e., FAT32, Mac HFS or Windows NTFS. Write optical discs using the ISO 9660 format to maintain compatibility across platforms. Close disc sessions so no more data can be written. A relaxed ISO 9660 standard is also common but check with your client. Label the disc with a meaningful title that the computer can pick up and display.
For archival purposes we recommend marking CDs only with pens that are designed for the purpose. The safest place to write on a CD is on the small clear hub. Adhesive paper labels should be avoided as they could come loose in a CD drive, and may also cause a CD to become unbalanced and unreadable.
6) For internet use sRGB is the standard colour space, although the many common web browsers are not colour managed. Colour profiles and other metadata add to file size and may not be useful for web use.
7) Every digital camera & scanner is a RGB (Red, Green, Blue) device, so without exception all images start off as RGB. Most printing processes use CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) inks (sometimes adding additional ink colours). This means somewhere in the imaging chain there will need to be a RGB to CMYK conversion. There are many ways to perform this conversion, but only one way to do it correctly.
We suggest you convert from RGB to CMYK using Standards Australia & International Organization for Standardization standard profiles (AS/ISO 12647-2). Profiles may be downloaded from www.eci.org/en/start. If you are unsure which ICC profile to use for offset printing, we recommended you use ISO Coated v2 300% (ECI).
CMYK conversion usually occurs at the end of the workflow and is device dependent. Each press / inkset / media combination has different characteristics requiring a specific colour conversion / ICC profile. There is no such thing as a ”Generic CMYK” colour space. Do NOT convert from RGB to CMYK until you know which device/process you are printing to & which CMYK conversion / profile to use. As CMYK colour spaces are much smaller than RGB, for maximum quality all editing should be done in RGB before the CMYK conversion.
CMYK conversion is an art unto itself and is beyond the scope of these guidelines. Photographers supplying CMYK need to be aware of any liability they expose themselves to and should include a disclaimer (see point 11). As with RGB delivery, for maximum compatibility CMYK TIFFs or JPEGs should saved as 8-bit, uncompressed and in Windows byte order.
8) Each lab will have different specifications for printing; ask before supplying files to print. Professional photo labs should supply colour profiles for each surface and paper type. Soft proofing allows you to preview on screen in Photoshop how the image will be printed and make any necessary adjustments. Labs should NOT request you alter your monitor to match a sample print.
9) Make sure the client is viewing the files on a calibrated monitor profiled to the international standard D65. Anyone anywhere in the world, viewing a monitor correctly profiled to ICC standards will view the image(s) correctly, as the author desired.
10) IPTC (International Press Telecommunications Council) has established standards for metadata attached to files describing what the file is. It can include information about copyright, photographer (author), date, captions and more. Most important to photographers is copyright, and usage – which may be entered into the ‘caption’ or ‘special instructions’ fields. Several applications can write metadata including Adobe Photoshop. IPTC information is viewable in Photoshop under File > File Info.
11) A ReadMe file, preferably in PDF or HTML format, contains information about the images delivered. It may include your usage agreement, copyright and a disclaimer such as:
- On this disc you will find “our product”.
- Our product is an ICC colour-managed RGB file with the Adobe RGB (1998) colour profile embedded in the file.
- All image editing was done on a monitor profiled to the international standard D65. Conformance to this standard was achieved with a measuring instrument. Any monitor that is correctly profiled to ICC (International Color Consortium) standards will view the image(s) correctly, as the author desired.
- Any prints supplied with the disc should be used as a guide only. They are intended for identifying files, assessing expressions, composition, etc and not for evaluating colour accuracy. They are NOT contract proofs unless identified as such.
- All files on this disc should be scanned for viruses, file integrity verified then backed up. We will not be held liable for any loss.
This information is supplied in good faith as a generic guide. No legal liability is assumed for the suitability of this information to your specific needs. All recommendations should be tested in your own work environment. We recommend you have any disclaimer(s) checked by your legal expert and consult a digital colour expert for advanced advice.
© 2004-2019 the authors: William Long, Robert Edwards, Murray Fredericks, Nadish Naoroji and Nick Rains. APDIG retains copyright on all content as enforced under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, in addition to local and international copyright laws. All rights reserved.
Most art courses, including photography, will talk about the rules of composition at some stage. They are presented as scientific, historical facts and shortcuts to success. Later you will be told the rules are meant to be broken but you must learn them first. These rules are too often forced on to historical artworks as evidence.
The most common compositional rules are based on mathematics. They are referenced to artworks from Ancient Greece and the Renaissance. The most common rule is the Rule of Thirds. Divide an image into thirds and where the lines intersect is where your subject is best placed.
The rule of thirds lends it’s origins to the Golden Ratio credited to Pythagorus and referenced as far back as Ancient Egypt. Based heavily on mathematics the Golden Ratio, or Golden Mean, will also be shown as existing in nature such as the spiral shell of a conch.
Composition suggests you never place your subject, or the horizon, in the centre. Unless of course you are an anarchist and deliberately breaking the rules.
But art and photography is more about visual language than pure mathematics. To do the latter is over analysing and systemising photography. Ironically I’m just as guilty in writing this!
Photography is first and foremost about telling a story. About an experience, a person, a place, a feeling, to make a memory. A visual record.
It crosses borders, languages and cultures, to some degree. In order to decipher the image we need to know the same visual language as its author. With globalisation most of us use the same visual vocabulary.
Egyptian hieroglyphs, warning signs and emoticons overcome dialects.
Images have been used to communicate with the majority of people, well before photography. Centuries ago the world was mostly illiterate. Illustrations and fine art communicated to the masses. Cave paintings created over forty millennia ago are messages from our ancestors telling the story of their lives through images. Your Facebook feed may not last that long.
Photographers Reference Past Imagery
For centuries we have been trained that certain types of images depict different emotions: happiness, sadness, anger, empathy. Photographers create photos that remind us of those images. News, documentary and reportage reference these to grab your attention. James Natchwey’s powerful anti-war photography Deeds of War uses religious motifs that left an indelible image in my mind.
The theatre has a long tradition of using dramatic lighting to create mood. Photographers use the same techniques through colour, direction and selective lighting. Back-lighting creates romance, warm dawn/dusk light produces feelings of beginning or ending, and lighting from below suggests something sinister.
Back lighting contributes to a photo’s mood
Photographers Exaggerate Perspective
Photography has created some of it’s own metaphors. Compressed perspective flattens and we learned that means distance. Exaggerated wide angle distortion can a create feeling space, or when close, intimacy.
Composition Rules, OK?
We often use mathematical composition rules without thinking about it. And that’s OK, it’s innate. But if I start recomposing to force a scene to fit a formula, I stop. Then I remind myself why I am making the photograph: to tell a story.
Recently I was invited to speak with students at a photography college on the business of the profession. Here is some of what we discussed.
Now vs “Then”
How I started out and the way new photographers do today is very different – but only on the surface. Whilst I may have used mailers, the telephone and door knocked more, many photographers now use email and social media to reach prospective clients.
In the end a face-to-face meeting is always better. It creates a more personal connection that’s simply not possible any other way.
After decades in business referrals are another important way of attracting clients. You can ask existing clients to recommend you. If you do a good job organic referrals will come your way. I’ve found people by nature like to help one another; by referring work to you and helping their contacts find a professional photographer.
Good Old Days
Years ago while having dinner with other well established photographers we reminisced about the “good old days”. Adelaide photographer Milt Wordley noted that for the emerging photographers at the table this is their good old days – now!
Long Standing Business Model
When I assisted photographers there was a well established path to becoming a professional spanning back many decades. Digital disrupted the traditional master/apprentice model with many photographers either starting out without a mentor or a definitive career pathway. If you’re not assisting or studying then professional photography associations, like the Australian Institute of Professional Photography offer a mentoring program.
Professional photography is very competitive. However it always has been. Indeed all creative professions are. In high school I was heading towards a career in graphic design and all the advice was there’s an over supply of designers. It was no different for photography and I suspect it always will be.
Nowadays it’s quite common for professional photography to be part of a mix of income streams for many in the industry. It’s supplemented with teaching, workshops, design or a corporate day job. There are also a lot career changers entering professional photography with some choosing to keep their current job on a part-time basis.
I realise as a full time professional photographer I’m in a very privileged position and don’t take it or my clients for granted.
Perceived Lower Cost of Entry
When starting professional photography I invested over $100 000. Some believe the cost to entry is lower today but I’ve found that not to be the case. At least not in the long term. To set up a similar quality, professional business the initial investment is marginally lower. Unlike film equipment and training that could last a decade or more, new technology requires replacement and updating every few years. Photographers have to be business savvy when looking at shiny new toys ensuring it’s ROI is viable. I’ve seen many a photographer over capitalise only to be out of business soon afterwards.
Less Skills to Start
There is a shallower learning curve for digital photography compared to film photography. Digital cameras are a great learning tool. It also means beginners plateau faster than before. It’s important not to rush too fast into professional photography and make sure you have the breadth of photography and business skills needed to prosper long term. Again, I’ve found being a member of and being involved in professional photography associations a huge benefit.
The More It Changes…
The more it’s the same thing. On a micro level the craft and business of photography continues to change. On a macro level professional photography is still about relationships and finding creative solutions for clients.
Not in a bitter way but to hope you go onto great success. Success never seems to come easy but rather is built upon stepping stones of failed ventures.
Many well known and not so famous entrepreneurs have a litany of ideas that did not succeed. But that did not stop them and they ultimately went on to achieve success.
Thomas Edison. Photo: U.S. Information Agency
Among Thomas Edison’s many inventions perhaps his best known is the electric light bulb. He wasn’t the first with many others competing to create one. By using a carbonised bamboo filament his team succeeded in making commercially viable electric light bulb that resulted in his 1879 patent. They reportedly went through thousands of combinations.
“I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
– Thomas A. Edison
Henry Ford in his first car. From the book ‘The truth about Henry Ford’ by Sarah T Bushnell
Henry Ford worked nights at Edison Illuminating Company while working days on building an automobile. Early versions failed because they could not be mass produced to be commercially viable.
“Failure is just a resting place. It is an opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”
– Henry Ford
His fourth attempt succeeded because Ford invented the modern assembly line that revolutionised how goods were manufactured.
Oprah Winfrey. Photo: Bill Ebbesen
Oprah Winfrey, fresh out of college, got a big break as a TV news anchor in Baltimore. Within few months Winfrey was fired, apparently due to poor marketing by the TV station. She went on to other TV shows and eventually form the Oprah empire.
“Failure is another stepping stone to greatness”
– Oprah Winfrey
J.K. Rowling. Photo: Steven Hill
While writing Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling had a failed marriage, lost her job, relied on welfare and with her daughter moved in with her sister. The early Harry Potter manuscript was rejected by 12 publishers before Bloomsbury accepted it. Rowling’s books have gone onto break sales records worldwide and make her the world’s highest paid author.
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”
– JK Rowling
Not everything you do will be successful. Success can be quantified in many ways: financial, personal, fame, career or by your own measure. Don’t let early failures put you off. They can be hard lessons that give you the experience needed to succeed in new ways.
This time of year new photography equipment is announced at the world’s largest photography expo, Photokina in Cologne Germany. Just like an Apple event, keen technology followers get excited and discuss the new gear. As a passionate photographer I too follow the reports. As a seasoned professional I also reflect on the key players in the industry. This post isn’t about the equipment, it’s about customer service and support.
When I decided to pursue photography as a profession I changed camera brands to Nikon. Yes I appreciated their aesthetic starting with my first Nikon F3, designed by Italian automotive designer Giorgetto Giugiaro. However the camera is just a tool and matters little in the end result. Looking at an image you can’t distinguish what camera was used by the photographer. So why then did I choose Nikon?
Nikon F3 designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro. Photo: Gbor Dobrocsi
For decades professional photographers have chosen Nikon or Canon. Typically professionals invest tens of thousands of dollars in camera equipment and both brands have the quality and variety of equipment required. However it’s the professional support that Nikon and Canon offer that make them stand out.
Nikon Professional Service (NPS) and Canon Professional Service (CPS) are worldwide programs offering priority repairs and loan equipment. For example:
- When my camera was locking up Nikon loaned me a camera until the repair was complete.
- Before investing in a new camera Nikon loaned me one to try out.
- Dropped camera damage was quoted for repair immediately.
- One of my lenses was out of collimation and would need to go to Japan to be fixed. Nikon replaced it so I wouldn’t be without one.
- Digital SLR camera sensors often get dirty when changing lenses. Nikon clean mine while I wait for no charge.
- Nikon staff and I have built a professional and loyal relationship.
You will see NPS or CPS at all major sporting events supporting the professional photographers covering the competition with on the spot repairs and loan gear. When you’re livelihood depends on cameras having reliable equipment is expected, but professional service and support is even more important.
Nikon have long been supporters of the photography community. Sponsoring major photography awards, competitions, education and workshops. Some I’ve attended:
- The Nikon-Walkley Press Awards (recognising excellence in photojournalism in Australia)
- The Nikon AIPP Event (Australia’s largest photography event)
- Digital Asset Management Workshop (bringing DAM guru Peter Krogh from the USA)
- Nikon School (supporting enthusiasts with professional instructors)
- Nikon Ambassadors (inspiring pros and enthusiasts alike)
Knowing Nikon has me covered, as well as my equipment and business, keeps me in their ecosystem. It’s a symbiotic relationship – I like to support the brands that support me and my profession.
For over 15 years these are some of the most common questions asked by clients looking for corporate headshots.
How long does it take?
Schedule 5 minutes per portrait; each person is in front of camera for 2-3 minutes. Set up (and pack down) takes 30 minutes.
Allow 5 minutes per person
Where do we do the photography?
The photography can be either in a studio or on location.
Most clients prefer photography at their office so staff are only away from their job for 5-10 minutes and people feel more at ease. As to where in your office an area 5m x 5m (16ft x 16ft) is good for a head and shoulder headshot. This can be a meeting room, boardroom or any open area in your office.
A small meeting room is good for corporate headshots
What should I tell people being photographed?
Consistency is the key. Establish a corporate style for your business be that conservative, relaxed, fun, casual, etc, and brief those being photographed.
Typically corporate headshots are jacket and tie, smiling to camera against a white background. These images are timeless and won’t date as quickly. For a more stylised look you can include parts of your office as a background, out of focus.
Email people their scheduled time – and send a reminder the day before!
Suggestions for corporate headshots
How many images do I get?
It depends on your photographer, I deliver at least 10 images per person to choose from.
A selection of images to choose from
When do I get the photos?
Usually within 24 hours or sooner if you need a rush service.
How much does it cost?
Fees depend on how many people are being photographed. The more people in a photography session the less it costs per person. To give you an idea my fees start at $360 for one person and scale to just $25 each for 70 people.
Ask for an estimate for your corporate headshots
Ask for a quote, and provide the number of people, where you’re located, and over how many days (sometimes shoots need to be spread over two or more days).
What do I get?
Images can be delivered many ways. Typically I send a low res, web ready version and a high resolution version so you can resize or edit them later for other uses.
Do you Photoshop the photos?
Yes, if you like. Experienced photographers will light and pose you so any retouching will be minimal – if required at all.
The goal is to make you look like you on your best day, not like a plastic mannequin. If possible do the photography earlier in the day and week while people are fresh.
Retouching is available but not necessary
Personally, corporate headshot photography gives me the opportunity to meet a variety of people and share some of their life. I’m lucky to have a glimpse of some interesting workplaces and no two jobs are ever the same.
Photography has many uses, more so now than at any other time. Closely linked to advances in technology the scope of how and what we photograph is rapidly expanding.
Visual media crosses many barriers: language, culture, literacy and age engaging a diverse audience. With only a quick glimpse an image can tell a story in a split second.
Like painting or illustration, photography is visual media
For centuries illustration, and painting before that, would communicate a message prescribed by its creator, or by those who commissioned the image. 150 years ago photography took over as the key medium for visual communications.
Rather than point the brush, pencil or lens just anywhere an artisan crafts an image aware of the visual language used to convey a specific message. Manipulating, guiding or isolating the viewer to influence how images are interpreted.
Advertisers would be the largest investors in photography for marketing. The goal is to persuade you to invest in a product, service or opinion. The photographs need to grab your attention before the bus ad speeds by, you turn the magazine page, or flick through to the next image online.
Advertising photography wants to sell.
There is a definite science to advertising photography using psychology, and an art using the latest styles to engage you in their message.
Photojournalists record history telling the story of humanity often in a single image. Documentary photographers dig deeper spending months or years to reveal a narrative through photo essays.
Part of the Fourth Estate news photography keeps leaders in check, exposing corruption and crimes against humanity.
The Australian: Good news also sells.
While bad news sells visual stories can also be upbeat and positive. Acknowledging achievement, overcoming adversity and celebrating the human spirit all make for important visual documents.
As a one-eyed machine removed from human interpretation photography was quickly used to depict truth. Newspapers, courts, medicine use photographs to scrutinise what happened at a particular moment in time.
Digital imaging has made it easier to manipulate images and with it the truth. In fact photographs have been manipulated since it was first invented, both when the picture was created or later in the darkroom. Digital imaging has made image manipulation in post-production easier and now tarnishes the reputation of photography to show the truth. The camera never lies but the photographer can and those with Photoshop too.
Image file verification. Image: Canon Japan.
Camera manufacturers have created systems to embed tamper proof signatures in images but I’m yet to see court accept them as evidence. Having photographed crime scenes the truth in the image is validated by the law officer next to me who can then testify the images are true.
Smartphones mean you always have a camera with you. You can record anything as a temporary record knowing it can be deleted when no longer needed. That could be to record a pair of shoes that grabbed your attention, where you parked your car, or a shopping list. Rather than write these reminders down we can now photograph them.
Today photographs are often taken to be shared on social media. It can be to show what you’re having for lunch, a selfie in front of a tourist spot, or enjoying the company of close friends.
It’s a visual diary that only ever exist digitally on web platforms for as long as they are relevant, for as long as the platform decides, or while it’s still around. Social media photography is ephemeral and treated as disposable.
Photography has a strange influence on our memory. We often remember our past not by the memory of the event but by the memory of a photo of that event. We recall the photo album not the experience itself.
Photography helps memorialise our existence on earth, to prove we were here. It can show our birth, birthdays and everything we hold precious until we pass. Then those images can be passed onto future generations to remember us and compare their lives and that of their offspring.
Again smartphones make recording memories easy so we tend to photograph everything. Not too long ago the family camera would only come out on special occasions. For the most important milestones we engaged a professional photographer to ensure they were captured and that’s still the case today.
I’ve probably only skimmed the surface of what photography can be used for. Let me know on Linkedin other areas that you use photography.
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 (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 (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.
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.
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.
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.
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 LinkedIn.