How to watermark your photos

Carlisile has posted a comment about which software I’d recommend for watermarking your images.

Watermarking your images is an easy way to ensure that nobody steals your photos and uses them without your permission. Most images I’ve seen online aren’t likely to be stolen but it has happened. This is especially true for photographers who shoot stock images. Stock images have commercial value and there are quite a few stories about stock shooters finding their images being used in ad campaigns in foreign publications.

A real simple way to avoid photo theft is to make certain you only upload very small images to your website. There’s no need to upload full size images if all you want to do is post your images for others to view.

So if you’ve got images you think someone might steal or you just want to say to the world that this is my image here are some links to some great information on watermarking software.

Here’s a good overview article about watermarking. This is from the About.com site.

PicMarkr is a free watermarking site. The Pro version offers more versatility for $39 and has a free download trial period offer. BTW I make no claim for any of the software listed here as I haven’t personally used anything with the exception of Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and Lightroom 2. My other favourite editor is Capture NX2 that is designed to work with Nikon NEF files.

Of course Photoshop and most other pro RAW editing tools (like Lightroom 2) will create watermarks as well as will Photoshop Elements. This link takes you to a You Tube tutorial on how to create a watermark on multiple photos.

Hope that helps Carlisle and thanks for the question. Happy New Year.

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How to make your own zombies

Yes I got myself Left 4 Dead 2. (HUGE violence and blood warning.) It’s a highly rated (well at least in the zombie world) PC gamer where the objective is to survive a world overrun by zombies. In real life, I’ve worked for some of these people (and so have you) but that’s a different story. Anyway you too can create your own zombies using software to create the effects. Here’s a tutorial from a site called CSS CREME by someone called Violet. Make your friends into zombies and post the image on Facebook. The fun will never end. Here’s the link to Zombie Face Photoshop Tutorial.

What did you get for Christmas?

I hope Santa was good to you. Perhaps you got a printer for Christmas? If so, check out these short videos from the good folks at Epson Printers. Doing your own printing is my third secret of better digital photography. If you care about the overall quality and colour of your prints then you’ll avoid the digital print machines found in so many retail and big box stores. Those machines are setup to print JPG images shot in a predictable and standard manner. Anytime you start to shoot images you really care about, the automatic printing machines will just ruin your efforts. With your own printer you can control how your final print comes out.

If you haven’t purchased a printer yet, keep an eye out for sales on printers that will print at least an 11″X17″ print. These larger prints will make your images look better. They will also give you more room to leave big white margins around the image itself. This looks so cool and you can’t do it as well with a printer that will only do an 8″X10″ print.

As for recommendations: the Epson 1900 or better still the 2880. Canon’s 9500 printer is wonderful. Personally I’ve got an Epson 3800 which will do a 16″X20″ print. You might find the 3800 discounted as Epson has a new 3880 printer which is cool but not worth the price difference if you can find a 3800 at around $1000 or so. The 3880 is likely selling at around $1500.

Merry Christmas

This video is a treat. Musically wonderful but for you photographers out there here’s the kicker: It was shot on a Canon 5D Mark II and put up by the folks at Vistek here in Toronto. This is a great example of using one really decent microphone (it’s how the Cowboy Junkies did their first LP The Trinity Session that has such a haunting sound) and having the players move in and out to match the sound levels.

Oh Come. Oh Come. Emmanuel by the Franz Family

How to run your photography business (or school)

I’m re-reading Michael Gerber’s excellent book The E-Myth Revisited. Before I turned to teaching photography (and remember this is the last day to sign up for 2010 classes at 2009 prices. I got a couple of cheques in today’s mail so thank you to those students who took advantage of this Christmas present and I’m looking forward to meeting you early in 2010.) I was a coach working with individuals on their personal and professional development. About three years ago I did a 22-week workshop with a group of entrepreneurs using Gerber’s book as our guide.

If there’s one thought that I’d like to share from The E-Myth it’s this: “Your business is nothing more than a distinct reflection of who you are.” For some of you who regularly are reading this blog, this may come as a rude awakening. I sure hope so. And for some of you, this may well be a welcomed statement.

Here’s what Gerber says:

  • If your thinking is sloppy, your business will be sloppy.
  • If you are disorganized, your business will be disorganized.
  • If you are greedy, your employees will be greedy giving you less and less of themselves and always asking for more.
  • If your information about what needs to be done in your business is limited, your business will reflect that limitation.
  • So if your business is going to change — as it  must continuously to thrive –then you must change first.

We’ve all worked in places that work like this. Processes are complex and confusing. Emails and voice messages are routinely ignored. Requests for meetings are agreed to but never implemented (See Ruiz’s The Four Agreements about how not being impeccable with your word lessens your credibility with others.) There’s no cooperation but an attitude of command and control. There’s no willingness to change and grow. If your business is like this, then Gerber offers lots of hope because you can change what you do and how you do it.

Let’s turn away from those companies which insist on being sloppy, disorganized, greedy, possess limited vision and no desire to change and support those individuals and companies who are creating excellence in all that they do.

2010 is coming and bring with it new opportunities and change – we can always count on change – and I look forward to providing you with some of the best photographic training available anywhere, by anybody, at any price 🙂

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Prague in winter

We don’t talk enough about the video capabilities of some of your cameras.

Almost all point-and-shoots can shoot standard video and some can do high-definition as well. This is a great little feature and perfect for throwing some clips up on your Facebook page. But if you want to be serious about your video shooting, I highly recommend getting a video camera that allows for manual focusing of the lens. Why? The auto point-and-shoot cameras will focus on whatever is in front of them. You can’t control them. They don’t allow for the artistic look you can get when you manual move the focus through the scene that you’re shooting.

So do you need to go out and buy a $50,000 movie camera like one that Stephen Spielberg would use? No. Many of the better camcorders will allow for manual focus as will all of the DSLR cameras that have a video option.  And on the DSLRs you can use “fast lenses” to get that shallow depth of field.

So how good can it get? Well here’s a fantastic clip by Philip Bloom who shot this high-def video of Prague using a new (pre-production) Canon 1DMKIV (There are less expensive cameras that will do this sort of shooting like my D-90. Ok it’s not 1080p but 720p is still considered high definition and at around $1,000 it’s a steal.). Now before we go to the clip watch for how Bloom uses his camera. First: There is almost no camera movement. In other words, he had the camera on a tripod almost all of the time and he’s shooting one setup at a time. Second: He’s got his lighting figured out for each individual scene. Third: The video is a series of set scenes and the magic is done in post production.

In other words, what separates this wonderful filming is the artist is not waving the camera around and isn’t letting the lighting affect the camera’s exposure and finally it’s shot in black and white (likely shot in colour and desaturated in post production). Once Bloom has all of his clips ready, he assembles his video in the computer and adds music. You can do this too. Okay, maybe not as well right off the bat but trust me, with a little effort, you can get pretty close.

Here’s the link: Enjoy Prague in Winter.

Merry Christmas.

Web Tips for Pros

As you can imagine I’m typing up lists of potential students to invite to my photography workshops during 2010. We’re going to have a full schedule of workshops here in Oakville and maybe in a second prestige location yet to be announced (I’m working on a downtown site which will be more convenient to so many of my former students who live in the GTA.) and once I know more I’ll be letting you know.

BTW unlike some of those big retail store classes, I feed you. Cold drinks and coffee are always available. We take the time to treat you like family and not like customers 🙂

So today as I’m going through hundreds of websites put up by professional photographers from across North America I’d like to offer a big bunch of observations.

What doesn’t work:

  1. Most pro photography websites are pretty horrible. Why? They’re really, really slow to open (and my cable download speed is just under 20 megs/second which is pretty good by any standard).
  2. Too many sites are homemade which wouldn’t be so bad if they were kept simple.
  3. There’s nothing to differentiate many sites from the competition. They all look the same. Few stand out from the crowd.
  4. Many many sites make it really difficult to find the contact information. Some don’t have an email contact. In this day of instant connectivity that’s a really poor business decision. And using a form to fill out is a sure-fire way to turn off potential clients.
  5. Some designers used dark (It’s usually purple. I think that’s this year’s “in” colour.) backgrounds and then the web designer picked a dark grey coloured typeface which makes the words impossible to read.
  6. Around 50 per cent of sites I’ve seen so far do not include the proper name of the actual photographer. Makes it hard to relate to you. And, almost none include a photo of the photographer.
  7. Some photographers are better than others. Can’t help that but why, oh why, put your worst images in your opening page?
  8. If you do decide to write a blog, please don’t make it too self serving. Talk a little about how much you enjoyed shooting this wedding and less about what a great shooter you are.
  9. If you do blog then do so weekly. Nothing says nothing’s happening faster than a blog whose last update was sometime in 2007.
  10. I’m not against adding music but please make it pleasant to listen to and don’t recycle the same song over and over and over and over and over again…

Okay so what does a great site look like?

  1. My number one favourite site starts off with this statement: “I’m booked up for 2010.” Every criticism I could offer pales to insignificance. I might think this was a poor marketing ploy except this particular photographer’s  images are excellent. She’s also shooting big weddings and I bet her word-of-mouth vibe is all the marketing she needs. Smart and talented. Says it all.*
  2. My favourite sites are the ones that open up instantly. Once they’ve got me, the galleries can open a little slower but the first image on the opening page and some contact info should jump up immediately.
  3. The best sites are what I call “one-banana” sites. The photographer is selling one type of photography. We don’t see a mix of his pro shots and the stuff he did on vacation.
  4. Great sites hold great images. The images standout. Period! The clients (or models) either look good (sorry about this but it is about the image) or the photographer takes hot images of ordinary people (which is so much harder to do).
  5. * I wasn’t going to point out my favourite site so far in my wanderings on the Internet (I’ve seen a couple of hundred sites so far this morning and I’m getting a little bleary-eyed) but after spending 20 minutes on Impulse Photography located in Toronto I’ve changed my mind. Now the site isn’t perfect. Silvana Frammartino, I couldn’t find your name any where on your site. I finally found it on your blog posting under your announcement about speaking at WPPI in Las Vegas in 2010. And the only photo of you on site has your face hidden behind your camera. Let’s not be too shy or modest. When it comes to laying down $10K or so for a shooter I want to see who I’m hiring. Anyway it’s your choice and as I said anybody who is booked up for 2010 in 2009 is more than okay in my book. (I’ll even forgive the image of the cat in one of your galleries but I do so reluctantly.)

Folks, you can learn a lot about how to take better images by looking at other photographer’s work. If you see an image you really like then go out and try to duplicate it. Photographer is very much more a craft than a profession. As craftspeople we learn from our peers. And if you’re just getting started contact me about taking one of my courses in 2010 at peterwestphoto@gmail.com