My second to the last purchase of the year? Just an upgrade of my Zoom Hn4 to the Zoom H5 digital audio recorder...

There are several devices that I employ when I'm using microphones with XLR connectors. If the microphones have good, robust levels and I just need a connection, and possibly a way to reduce their levels, I'll use the little Beachtek D2a box. It's passive so it doesn't require batteries and it works with most of the microphones that don't need phantom power, or more pre-amplification than my cameras can handle. Ah, the vast nest of details involved in producing nice video...

For microphones that need phantom power, or those that just need a boost in the pre-amplifier stage in order to match the camera for less noise, I have been using the Tascam DR-60ii. It's a nice unit and has a plethora of features but it has an ungainly form factor and it eats double "A" batteries like candy...

My first digital audio recorder was the venerable Zoom Hn4 but it had one fatal flaw (as far as I was concerned) the only output available to my cameras was set up as a line out with a much higher level than most cameras could deal with as an input. Since I like getting the final sound into the camera this was a pain in butt. There is a workaround which calls on using an "attenuating" cable between the Zoom Hn4 and the camera which reduces the juice heading to the camera so as not to overload the camera inputs, but.....it's another speciality cable to buy and of which to keep track. And cable tracking is not one of my strengths.

I was able to pick up the Zoom H5 to replace the Hn4 and I was pleased to find the output to camera was fully menu-adjustable. There are also several other bonus features: Longer battery life, physical level controls which are separate for each channel, and much "cleaner" pre-amplifiers.

After using it for a couple of days I find it's just right. I like the way the files sound, it plays well with my Sony cameras (which is good because my primary use of the external audio recorders is as a pre-amplifier and XLR interface, NOT as a recorder). The difference in battery life between the Tascam and the H5 is striking. I'm on my first set of two double "A" batteries with the Zoom and I've run it a lot. The Tascam runs for about 3 hours (tops) on a set of four regular alkaline double "A" batteries. Ouch. Zoom suggest that I'll get around 15 hours of service from two batteries on the H5.

The one real benefit of the Tascam, and why I'll keep it around, is that when it's mounted under a camera I can easily see the control panel and screen. I'm still figuring out workarounds for the Zoom.

In one of those "hit and miss" sales on Amazon.com I was able to buy one for $219. last week. I looked again the next day and they had gone right back to $269.

Another good use of the Zoom H5 is when using the AT Dynamic, side address, narration microphone I bought last Summer. It needs both phantom power and a nice, strong pre-amplifier. The Zoom checks both boxes.

If you aren't shooting video I'm not sure you need one of these. I guess it would be nice to have if you are a musician. I like them because they have a high "gadget-to-price" ratio and I rationalize that I might do some wonderful recording with it in the future.

We are zeroing in on the New Year; I hope everyone is well and has safe and fun plans for this evening. To my friends and readers in Europe....HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! 😁


End of the year light purchases. A little upgrade in the LED division of VSL. Light Storm.

If there's one sector of photography that's changing as fast as camera technology (or faster) it's in the area of LED light engineering. The lights keep getting brighter and brighter while the color accuracy gets closer and closer to 100 CRI. There's a more modern standard for color accuracy that's being used in broadcast and that's TCLI. Here's a quick overview: TCLI

When I first started buying LED panels in 2009 they ranged in the 80-85 CRI range and I can imagine that they would have fared even worse in the new TCLI tests, which measure spikes and chasms of color response in these kinds of lighting instruments. The lights, at the time I wrote the book about LED lights for photographers, also put out much less light. We worked higher up the ISO scale and made other accommodations. 

Last year, and part of this year, I started buying what I call, new technology LEDs, in that they use SMD (surface mount device) technology which has yielded a much higher output. The first of these lights for me was the cute and cuddly Fiilex 360. But I soon augmented that lower powered light with a brace of RPS CooLED, 100 watt fixtures. They used a new SMD designed, dense, 1/1 inch LED that acted more like a traditional open-face lighting fixture and less like a panel. I liked that because I could use my soft boxes on those lights. While the color was better than previous generations it still required that I pay attention and make custom white balances and use caution mixing the "daylight" LEDs with actual daylight...

I'd heard rumors that the newest generation of lights were getting closer and closer to 100 CRI but it was only when my friend, James, a very color-picky cinematographer, bought the latest DraCast LED panel lights and started gushing about them that I sat up and took notice. I've spent the last week or so researching and what I finally landed on as the best compromise of price, color, output power and rugged build was the new line of lights from Aputure marketed under the name, Light Storm. And the products I liked best brought me back around, full circle, to the panel form factor.

With a fairly big video project looming, and an intense studio still life project just around the corner, I decided to improve my light inventory by getting a set of the Aputure Light Storm panels. It didn't hurt that I needed to buy and put a few more things into service in order to reduce my tax burden....

I ended up getting two of the LS-1s panels, which are very bright, and two of the LS-1/2 panels, which are smaller but only a stop less powerful. According to reputable sources, who have measured them with the latest Sekonic 700 series color meters, both of the units exceed 95 CRI and the smaller unit measures at 97+ CRI. We're well into the territory where the diffusion material you put in front of the lights makes more of a difference in color accuracy than anything else. They are color accurate plus they provide the punch I used to get from a 750 watt tungsten bulb in a decent, open-faced fixture. Hard to beat at the price. (They retail for $695). 

Each light is not exactly self-contained. They come in three "parts." The first is the light itself which is mounted in a sturdy yoke and has no controls or connections, other than a power cable. The cable connects to a control box which allows one to raise or lower the power of the lights in 90 discrete steps. Since the control box is separate you can put the actual panels up high and you'll have two benefits.  First, you move a good amount of the weight off the top of the stand, which makes the light and stand more stable. Secondly, you can adjust the intensity of the light without either bringing the light back down or standing on a step ladder. 

The controller will also allow you to mount up a V-lock battery. With these bigger, more robust batteries you should be able to get about an hour of full power lighting without having to look for a wall plug. That's great for remote locations but the cost of the batteries is atrocious. Ah well, there's rarely free lunch. 

Just downstream from the controller is a black, rectangular power supply. This plugs into the wall on one end and into the controller on the other. So you have three physical devices (light, controller, power block) as well as the interconnecting cables. A bit messy but manageable. 

One more interesting feature is the inclusion, with every light, of a wireless, 2.4G remote control. With the remote you can turn the lights on and off, and you can control the power settings. Great for changing ratios while you are at camera position; especially when the lights are hung up high. There are separate channels so you can control three different banks of lights from one remote. Interesting, but I still keep reaching for the controllers and enjoying the tactile reality of lighting control. 

The bigger light, the LS-1s, uses SMD LEDs but, like previous generations, hides them behind little plastic nubbins or clear lenses that create directionality (or micro focus) for each LED. The way the light is designed gives it a 20-25 degree light angle. It's got more throw that way. If you need a softer or wider beam you can easily put diffusion in front of the fixture. In fact, the maker provides an envelope with sheets of carefully selected diffusion to do just that. 

The LS 1/2 uses its SMD LEDs naked. The light emitting business end of each small "lamp" is right on the surface and the fixture uses nothing to focus the beams. The light seems exceptionally bright but it does cast a very wide spread of light. You'll either want to use them with big diffusion or as background lights. They have beautiful color but you'll need to practice what you learned working with Lowell Tota-Lights from the tungsten era in order to get the most out of them, vis-a-vis modifications. 

So, now that I've had a chance to play with them what's the bottom line assessment?

The color is so clean that this by itself means they've grabbed a spot as my preferred lighting tools. It's just so clean and perfect. The flesh tones require very little (usually none) work in PhotoShop and the power is quite welcome. Since the entire back of each lighting unit is one big, extruded heat sink I'm going to give them two thumbs up for engineering and (hopeful) reliability. 

The ones I bought are single color temperature models. They just do daylight. 5500 Kelvin daylight. I've had bi-color panels in the past and, while the color flexibility is great to have, you lose half the power since the flexibility comes from turning a daylight set of bulbs up while turning tungsten bulbs down, and vice versa. 

I bought four lights in total. Two big ones to use with diffusion as main lights and key lights and two of the half units to use to evenly (and widely) light backgrounds with direct (unmodified) lighting. They pack down smaller than the RPS lights and are smaller and lighter than the previous panels I owned. 
All-in-all it's cost effective package for around $2400. 

I've paid more for less...

Were I to persevere as a still photographer only I doubt I would have even considered the upgrade but one of my goals for 2017 is to drive the business toward a 50/50 split; photography and videography, and a set of Profoto strobes just won't hack the moving part of that equation. One more acquisition to write about before the end of the year. Stay tuned.

The Aputure Light Storm LS-1s fixture on the left, controller on the right.

A closer view of the controller, which also features DMX control.

Professional Limo connectors for a locking fit.

The 1/2 height model. Bright!!!


And now we start talking about audio for video. Yikes, there's a lot to learn.

The very first thing I taught Ben about audio for video was about PROXIMITY. The need to get the microphone into the physical sweet spot for which it was designed. Everything else about using microphones flows from there.

My first real experiences with professional audio happened when I was a creative director at Avanti Advertising and Design. We had a number of clients for whom radio was an important part of their marketing mix. We wrote a fair number of commercials; some very straightforward and some with valiant attempts at humor. The common denominator was either a person narrating or persons playing roles. Since radio commercials are staged and highly directed all the production work was done in a studio. We used a studio called, Tim Stanton Audio, and we relied on Tim Stanton's deep experience to pull off productions that ranged from simple to highly complex, multi-character, mini-shows.

Tim had a collection of microphones and he would select them the way a sommelier would select various wines to match with the different courses of a fine meal. Tim sat behind a giant sound board controlling levels, etc. while I directed the talent, which meant, asking them to read with a different inflection, more or less energy, and always with an eye on the stop watch so we could fit the read into the time constraints of the commercial. Fifteen, thirty, sixty and one hundred and twenty seconds.

I learned a fair amount. I learned from Tim that every room has its own acoustic character which can be controlled with sound absorbing materials and even thick blankets. I learned to watch the meters and not overload the inputs for the recording devices. I learned that multiple "takes" helped us narrow in on our creative "target" and I learned that (optimal) proximity of the person speaking to the microphone is everything.

We're currently living in a time when we have tons and tons of information at our fingertips and most of it is either too condensed to be worthwhile, factually wrong, or just too shallow in scope to be useful. A lot of the information is driven by marketing. I see a lot of ads for "shotgun" microphones where the videographer has the microphone mounted on his camera but the actors are across the room. Clearly, the marketing people never got the text about proximity.

The reason why many, many people are so happy with the sound they get from lavaliere microphones comes from how they are employed. No one sticks their lavaliere mic on the top of their camera, shoots from across a room and expects to get anything worthwhile. Everyone knows that the "lav" gets positioned on a talent's tie, shirt placket or collar at about 12 inches from the talent's mouth. There are other, more creative locations for lavs but they are all on the body and in close proximity to the talent's mouth. So, even with the least expensive of lavalieres we get decent sound. It's because we are using them correctly (usually).

The truth is that in many cases the sound from a decent shotgun style (hyper-cardioid) can be better than the sound from most lavalieres if it is positioned correctly. The bigger microphones seem to reproduce lower frequencies more accurately and many of the relatively inexpensive ($150-$300) shotgun mics have very decent responses through the frequencies.

The best place for shotgun microphones is just above or below the talent's mouth and about 18 inches away from them. The dance that sound people on movie and TV sets do is to aim the microphone at the actor from the correct distance while staying just out of the video frame. If you have a dedicated sound person they can put the shotgun microphone at the end of a boom pole and continually fine-tune the placement by compensating for the actor's movement. This maintains the level and sound quality. If you are working alone you'll need the client to restrict their movements but it's still important to get the microphone off the camera and close to the actor. If I'm shooting solo I take along a stout light stand and a special bracket that holds my boom pole. I get the actor on their mark and carefully position the microphone before we get started. If the shot calls for walking and talking I give up and put a wireless microphone on them. With a sound person along short walk-and-talks can still be handled with a shotgun microphone on a boom pole.

The bottom line, always, is proximity. Unless you need to be ultimately mobile....

If I am out snapshotting video (solo, all gear attached to camera, nothing scripted, no actors) and I think I'll want to catch audio or even grab an impromptu street interview for my own personal work I'll default to a microphone on camera. Generally the one I reach for is not a shotgun mic but a stereo cardioid (heart shaped front sound pick up pattern) model that I can put in the hotshoe of my camera.
I'll leave it on to record ambient sounds and general audio tone, for the most part. But every once in a while I'll find someone who I'd like to interview spontaneously.

The need to get decent sound always triggers an "alert" in my brain. The alert is... Proximity. I need to get that microphone, which is on top of the camera, as close to the interviewee as possible to get decent audio and to diminish the effect of background noise at any given location. The trick is to use the wide angle setting of your camera's lens and get in close to the person. If I can get into a zone about three feet away I have some assurance that the resulting audio with at least be usable.

While it seems like a shotgun mic would be just right for this they can be too focused and require too much effort to aim them. Again, if you have a helper you could take the microphone off camera and allow the sound person to aim it correctly... but we don't always have that luxury. In fact, if you are shooting for yourself you probably won't.

The microphone I've been using on the camera for the last few years is a Rode SVM, which stands for "Stereo Video Mic." It's not very long but it has two microphone capsules behind its wire screen. Used close in it has very good sound quality, and the stereo nature of it means that I can often stick two people in a tight frame and get good sound from both. It's probably not the best microphone for this kind of work but it's the one I thought I could afford at the time. It cost me about $200 and it's come in handy a number of times. (I'm linking to the current model as the one I have has been discontinued).

The quieter the environment the easier it is to use an "all purpose" microphone like this to get good results....as long as you get it close enough.

Along these lines; meaning run-and-gun video versus controlled video, I've come to also appreciate the standard "reporter's microphone." You've seen them forever on the news shows. It's the classic microphone that reporters stick in front of their faces to do their remote, location "stand ups" in front of the news cameras. When they interview the crooked politician or the man on the street they alternate pointing the microphone at their own mouth when asking questions and then aim it at the person they are interviewing when they answer (usually from about 12-18 inches away....). These microphones (reporter mics) are counter-intuitive for many people. It would seem that a shotgun microphone would be more useable because we have the idea that the shotguns zero in on what we point them towards. It would seem that a reporter microphone, with its omni-directional pick-up pattern would pick up EVERYTHING!

But being wise photographers we understand that sound and microphones are subject to the inverse square law and, that the closer we have the microphone to the source of the sound the quicker audio "falls off" as we increase the distance from the other sources of sound. If we get the microphone close to the subject then everything else is relatively further away and much quieter. This is how someone with a reporter's mic can get decent audio even when surrounded by screaming fans at the end of a sports competition or political rally. It's also why people have more luck a lot of the time with lavaliere microphones (which are generally omni-directional). The sources of the main audio is much, much closer than the distracting background sounds which quickly "fall off."

I like the way shotguns microphones sound. The can be very, very good. I have a case full. But we have come to love them because most commercial production is done in rooms insulated from air conditioning noise, with appliances turned off, with reflective surfaces covered and microphone to subject distances (and angles) optimized. This is where they shine. But they are not "Swiss Army Knives" of the sound world. I reach for my reporter's mic when I know we'll be moving fast and working in uncontrollable environments. If I'm not working on a tripod and don't have a hand free I default to something like the Rode SVM, on camera.

It's good to understand the how the environment and the use dictates the right microphone. As long as you remember the primary rule = proximity = you'll come away with cleaner and less distracting sound. Get close. Even in the studio getting close means less necessary gain and less noise.

So, next up let's talk about lavaliere microphones and I'll show you the two options I use.


A modest and short list of the three most useful interchangeable lenses I used in 2016.

Sony 18-105mm f4.0 G lens.

 Hot cameras and fast, fast glass seem to get all the attention but I wanted to talk about the two top lenses that I used this year and what makes them special. They aren't sexy or fast and in both cases the web-based reviews are quite mixed. Don't just read mine, if you are in the market for one of these either shoot it and test it yourself or, at least, read a bunch of different reviewers and decide which ones you trust most. 

My top award for usefulness and profit-enabling is the middle of the road, Sony 18-105mm f4.0 G lens (which is also the "kit" lens for the Sony FS-5 video camera...).  It's not a small lens but it is much lighter than its bulk might suggest. It's part of a new generation of lenses that are pretty sharp but designed with (seemingly) no regard for actual, optical distortions. But, it's also of the generation of lenses that is designed from the ground up to be corrected by in camera and in software lens correction magic. My copy is nicely sharp in the middle and more than adequate on the edges. The optimal stop for balancing most of the parameters and giving good performance, is f5.6. I routinely shoot it wide open for both stills and videos with no ill effects. Most of what I shoot has a subject in the center part of the frame and background stuff on the edges. Unless I'm willing to shoot everything at f16 the background of nearly all my images is going to be somewhat out of focus anyway, making discussions about edge sharpness a bit silly. 

If you need a lens with which to shoot perfect brick walls or test charts with straight lines to the absolute edges of the frames this is NOT the lens for you. If you need a very versatile lens that covers a wide range of focal lengths well this might make you happy. I like it because it has a nice, variable response power zoom for video, it focuses silently, and the image stabilizations works as well as anybody else's stabilized lenses. Another nice feature (mostly for video but still shooters who use manual exposure will like it as well) is the fact that it's a constant aperture zoom lens. The f-stop doesn't change as you zoom. A downside for some videographers is the focus-by-wire nature of this lens. You won't be using this with a follow focus rig. That's okay, we have other lenses for those uses.

For about $550 it's, I think, one of the bargain lenses in the Sony APS-C lineup. I'd buy it again and, for paying work, it seems to stay glued to the a6300. It's a great combination for shoulder mounted and handheld video. It's probably my most used Sony lens in 2016. The one issue I have? It's not full frame....

Sony/Zeiss 24-70mm f4.0 lens.

My second choice, based on the amount of use it gets and the amount of billing it helped to engender, is the 24-70mm f4.0. When I first bought it I'll admit to rushing into the system and not reading enough about the Sony lenses. In retrospect, I am happy it turned out that way because if I had read the reviews of this lens I probably would never have bought it. The biggest strike against it was, again, the edge sharpness. Probably not the optimum choice for shooting flat documentation of circuit boards....

A common, negative refrain was that it just didn't have the overall performance to demand the high price... What I found in day-to-day use was a good, medium range, standard zoom lens that created very nice images. It is, again, a lens from the new generation of firmware tweaking and software corrected systems. But it's nicely sharp (instead of clinically sharp) and seems to be a well behaved lens for photographing people and events. I've used it as the primary lens (along with the A7Rii) on eight multi-day advertising shoots and have never found it wanting. But again, I'm not shooting flat, perfectly rectilinear test charts, I'm photographing lifestyle images that have depth to them. 

The one stop difference in aperture between this and the new G Master lens means that this lens weighs less than half as much, is much smaller overall, and, according to DXO is about one point off the performance of the faster, fatter and heavier G Master f2.8 version. You get to spend about $1,000 more to get a very, very small amount of improved performance. The f2.8 might have been vital in the days of 400 ISO being the top sensitivity you'd be willing to use in digital imaging but now? With the amazing cameras we routinely shoot with the difference is a rounding error. 

The benefits of our lens is that it can be handheld for a lot longer because it doesn't make your (smallish) Sony camera too front heavy, the OSS (image stabilization) is very good and, you'll probably need to start at f4.0 and go to smaller apertures if you want to get enough in focus to satisfy most clients. It's as sharp as I've ever needed, even when photographing product in the studio, by the time I get to f8.0. The final point is that it's a congenial lens to carry along with you as a daily walk around lens. Not something I would ever say about its faster sibling...

Again, on the "con" side, the focus is focus-by-wire and that's always dispiriting and I'd love the lens even more if it was $895 (there I go, slagging it on price with the other reviewers....) but the reality is that you only pay for it once and you'll soon forget the premium you paid if it gets you the kind of images you need to make your clients happy. It's primary advantage over the 18-105mm is that the 24-70mm covers the full frame of full frame...

And, YES, I would buy it again (but I'd try to find a mint copy, used...). 

And that brings me to my "runner up." This is a lens I've been using more and more for portrait work. I use it instead of all the nice manual focus Rokinons and Contax Zeiss lenses for one simple reason: It works well with eye autofocus on the A7Rii and the a6300. Every frame with a person is tack sharp exactly where I want it; right on the eyes. 

But there are many more reasons to like this lens. It has very good image stabilization. The f4.0 max aperture keeps it from being too heavy and too big. Sorry, I just won't carry a 70-200mm f2.8 around anymore. There's no optical advantage and nothing but a cluster of handling issues. According to DXO, this is the sharpest zoom lens in Sony's entire lineup. Amazingly sharp for me, even at f4.0. And it's off white like the groovy lenses that Canon makes and I'm certain this gives comfort to my clients as they think they are getting something on par with the Canon lenses (dripping sarcasm...). 

The only reason this is not my first or second choice is that I've only started using it a lot recently. Given the results I've gotten I know I'll press it into service a lot more frequently in the year to come. As far as I can discern it has NO flaws at all. Not even the price. The only reason I can think of not to buy one is if you don't shoot with Sony cameras....

One more note about this lens; I don't have anything longer than 200mm for my full frame camera precisely because I have this lens and the amazing sensor in the a6300. The combination gives me great 300mm equivalent files with good, dense details as a result of the resolution of the sensor. It's the perfect combination of the strengths of full frame and APS-C, used across the system. Much like the combination of something like the Nikon D500 and the D5. Nearly equal image quality but with more reach on the smaller format. 

Sony 70-200mm f4.0 G lens.

These are the lenses that have been getting my attention this year. Not nearly in consensus with the majority of other users and reviewers but that's part of the rich stew of subjectivity. A lens is more than just sharp it is. Usability, color, contrast and, of course, NANO-Acuity are also vital features.
We could all be shooting with an 85mm Otus lens but the overall handling would cause us to end up hating photography and taking up some other passion. Not everything Zeiss makes is designed to really be used in the field. At least from my point of view....

Curious to know what your favorites are. If you have a moment, let us know.

The Day After Christmas and We're Back to Work.

Amy. At the ready with the best of Kodak, circa 2002.

I came into the studio today and the first thing I did was click on the air conditioning. It's the day after Christmas and it's already eighty degrees at noon. The humidity is also quite high. Not that unusual for Texas, although we broke a record yesterday morning for the highest recorded morning low on December 25th.

I also had a call from a friend/art director who was just calling to chat. I asked her what she was working on and she chuckled and told me that she was revising a series of ads that we had first worked on 14 years ago. Seems the client (a national pharmaceutical testing company) loves the original images we created back in 2002 and just goes back to update logos and type treatment, as well as written information, every couple of years. The photos seem to be solidly withstanding the tests of time.

The photographs in question were a series of studio still life shots that were a backlit medicine cabinet filled with generic pill bottles and pills, as well as so props to finish out the styling. The images have been used in print ads, on the web and in posters.

The thing that seems so funny to me is that, in this day and age of compulsive camera upgrading (and we always hear the rationale that clients are demanding that we spend money to energize our "hobbies"..."client MUST have the 42 megapixel files!!!!), is that the images were all created with a six megapixel, Kodak DCS 760 camera that had no Jpeg capability (added later via firmware) and the top useable ISO was really the same as the base ISO = 80. The camera specs seem like something from a million years ago. But, in fact, I'm once again amazed at just how well the files stand up even now, in the most modern of times.

This was a funny year. It's the first time in nearly 30 years that I have not rushed to the camera store in late October (my birthday) or middle December (Christmas) to buy myself a new camera. I seem to have broken a cycle. The last new camera I bought was much earlier this year and it was the Sony RX10iii. I've been tempted a couple of times but each time I checked back in with what I already owned and found it at least adequate and most times perfect for the kinds of images I want to make.
In any event, every camera I own is up to the task of making images for clients that are only limited by my own imagination, and ability to translate expressions and lighting into photographs.

Nice to step back in time and realize how much we were able to do even with the most "primitive" of digital cameras. With a Sony A7Rii and a drawer of really, really nice lenses my attention has moved from still photography cameras to the world of dedicated video cameras. But even there, every time I consider purchasing a video camera to use on a project I go out and test a hybrid camera I already own and find that, once again, any limitations in quality will come from my inability to direct or even conceive of the correct visual story to tell. It won't be because the cameras I already have aren't up to making moving pictures that will almost inevitably be compressed several times and showcased on the internet instead of on big screens.

Right now, where video is concerned, the spot I'm working to improve is my facility with recording sound. I get the underlying engineering ideas, it's putting them into fluid practice that needs the work. That, and having support gear that gets the job into the ballpark. I'm loathe to spend a fortune on high end audio gear but at the same time I don't want to be let down by the gear. It's a tricky pathway but one that seems as fun as puzzles at this point.

I hope it's okay with everyone if we spend a little time in the next week or so talking about good, inexpensive microphones of all kinds and about digital audio recorders. It's a source of renewed interests for me. And, well, that's what the blog is all about.

Still a week to go in this old, weathered year. I hope to finish it out with five more good swims, a couple of good runs and some nice family meals with Ben and Belinda. And Studio Dog. Always with Studio Dog.


The Sony a6300 as a premier low light video camera. Amazing.

I like to go over to Zilker Park, in the very center of Austin, Texas, at least once during the holiday season to look at the giant "tree" (a moon light tower festooned with lights) and to savor the carnival atmosphere that has evolved over the years. Under the tree are tacky vendors galore, hawking funnel cakes, turkey legs, kettle corn, corn dogs and other weird, Texas festival foods.

Across the street but still in the park is the TRAIL OF LIGHTS!!!! It's a series of Christmas tableaux with lights and Potemkin scenery. The whole affair used to be put on by the city of Austin, and local business footed the bill for creating the myriad "Santa's Villages" and "A Power Ranger Christmas" scenes in exchange for tasteful little signs; along the lines of "brought to you by the folks at H.E.B."

In the days before our massive population explosion the two week long event was free to anyone who wanted to attend. There were "special" days when car traffic was prohibited and everyone would actually walk through the quarter mile long set up. Most recent years, and on most days, the reality was an endless line of cars whose inhabitants might wait several hours in a line, perfumed with auto exhaust, in order to drive through, bumper to bumper, and stare out the window at........Christmas lights.

The resulting traffic jams in all the surrounding neighborhoods led local wags to re-name the "Trail of Lights" to "The Trail of Headlights."

The city ran out of money to underwrite the event back in the bleak days of 2008 and 2009 but then the event rose from the dead and fell into the hands of the private sector. Now the park land adjacent to the "tree" and the "Trail of Lights" becomes home to a giant, compacted parking lot for thousands of cars, each of which pays through the nose for the chance to park close. Thousands of newly arrived Austinites ride over on privately chartered school bus services from points downtown and south of town. And everyone gets to pay $3 a piece to stroll through......Christmas lights.....and the much bigger and better lit signs "thanking" the sponsors.

It's now more like "Monster Truck show" meets "Rodeo" meets the Holiday Season.... They have even introduced a Ferris Wheel, and rides.

But, is there a better time to break out a video camera and walk down from my house to see the cultural show unfold before my eyes? I think not. With a happy, new awareness of the secrets of operating Sony still cameras as video cameras I was anxious to go somewhere visual and put what I've learned into practice.

I grabbed a Sony a6300, along with its 18-105mm zoom lens and a Rode StereoMic, and headed on over. The microphone was there to record natural sound and any chance interviews I might create. I put the camera into the manual mode on the mode selector dial and applied the correct shutter speed and aperture along with Auto ISO (ranging from 100-6400) and headed over. I decided to shoot in 4K just to see how the image stabilization worked with my handheld shooting.

Here's my takeaway: The a6300, when shooting in 4K and downsampling in FCPX to 1080p, makes files that handle noise extremely well, show a high degree of sharpness and saturation and look very detailed on my 27 inch screen. Even with assistance from the lens's I.S. I am hardly a paragon of fine handholding technique and wish I had taken a monopod (at least) to provide a more stable shooting platform. If I eschew the movie mode on the selector dial and just initiate my video clips by leaving the camera in the "M" mode I gain the ability to zoom way, way in for fine focusing before I start shooting, which is a major advantage. I lose the ability to see the exact framing before I start rolling the video. The video frame is always smaller... If I switch to the "M" mode, or one of the other PSAM modes instead of the movie icon I also enable automatic level control for my external microphone. Which can be quite useful. If I need to have exact audio level control then I have to venture back into "movie" mode territory.  C'est la vie.

There were many little voyeuristic snippets I caught as I roamed through the crowds with my camera but I'm resistant to putting up "test" nonsense. My final video observation is that the a6300 is a wonderful and truly portable ENG video camera capable of great image quality; even at ISO 6400. Down at ISO 100 it's almost unbelievable. The cage helps balance out accessories and gives me more to grab on to. I have new respect for my tripods...

My final cultural observation is: I am much more comfortable with these kinds of holidays being more private, family or close community oriented events and less comfortable with them being grand spectacles of modern entertainment culture. The long lines, noisy diesel generators, and crowds of people in the middle of what is usually a beautiful park is a painful reminder that society is in a mad rush to make every life event into a mass spectacle thus robbing each event of its power and dignity. A visual that summed up the intrusion of modern culture into the "tree" at Zilker was the addition, just this year, of big, American flags at each corner of the "tree."  If there is a holiday that should be free of blatant nationalism one would think this would be it...  Can't imagine that Santa has the stars and stripes hanging from his sleigh or that the baby Jesus was swaddled in "old glory" in the manger...

We have succeeded in turning our wonderful "central" park into a tacky, outdoor mall and our holiday into a spectacle. Oh cheer!


OT: Concierge Doctor Service. How does that work for a freelancer?

I live, day to day, under the watchful eyes of Studio Dog...

Whenever freelancers get together, especially freelancers over 40 years of age, the conversation, at some point, gets around to health insurance and healthcare costs. Here is my solution.

Like most self employed professionals in the U.S.A. I've spent the last 30 odd years paying the full cost for my own health insurance, and the insurance for my family. Like many I tried to balance the scales between having enough coverage to prevent bankruptcy should I get hit by a car, have a heart attack or stroke, or a cancer diagnosis; and having a high enough set of deductibles to keep the overall costs low enough to make coverage (marginally) affordable. In the last few years the costs crept up from around $12,000 per year to somewhere north of $16,000 per year. 

Mixed in to the whole equation was the need to make sure, with each insurance change, that I could see my favorite doctor. I had to check carefully to make sure his practice was on whatever plan I was considering. I've had the same doctor for nearly 25 years and he was instrumental in helping me get over a big health scare and a nearly crippling bout of anxiety. I trust him and want to have access to him regardless of what carrier I might choose. 

So, this year my doctor announced that he was walking away from the traditional insurance-reimbursed paradigm and re-thinking his practice to relaunch as a Concierge Medicine provider. He would no longer accept insurance but would, instead, charge a yearly fee which gives his patients full access to all of his services and knowledge with no additional charges. His yearly fee would cover routine office visits of all kinds as well as a thorough yearly exam with a complete battery of tests. In exchange for our trust in him he would trust us (the patients/clients of his private practice) with his cellphone number, access by text, e-mail and office phone. I could e-mail him a question about anything that comes to mind, from some nagging symptom to a question about the side effects of my parents' prescriptions. 

Everything is life seems to be a gamble but this is one I happily accepted. I am generally very healthy, lead a relaxed and happy lifestyle, eat very well and get more good sleep that the average adults I know. I'm pretty sure that my doctor will come out ahead, financially, but I am equally sure that I will come out ahead as far as my general peace of mind is concerned. In addition to his services I will, of course, continue to carry an ACA approved, major medical policy with a high deductible, and now my kid is covered through his college...

So, why am I talking about this today? Well, I've had a nagging stuffiness in my left ear. After swim practice today it felt a bit worse. In the days of old I might have held off seeing my doctor until the symptoms were obvious but not now. I called the doctor's office on my way home from swim practice, around 10:00 am. I explained what was going on and, after a brief pause, the office manager asked if it would be convenient for me to come by in an hour. Yes; very convenient. 

I showed up and was seen by a nurse immediately. She took my vitals and we briefly discussed my general health. I am happy to report that I weigh exactly 160 pounds, my temperature was 97.6 and my blood pressure was 110/65. My resting pulse rate was 55.  The nurse looked at my age and took my blood pressure once more, just to verify. I was hoping to get a Pokemon sticker or something for my good numbers but I guess that's just for younger kids...

My doctor came in and we chatted about swimming, about my kiddo getting home from college last night, and my general view of life. He examined both ears. I did not have swimmer's ear  or any other kind of ear infection. Seems my allergies have been affecting my eustachian tubes. He suggested several remedies and wrote a prescription for the one of last resort. We wished each other a "Merry Christmas" and he reminded me that he was available for anything I might need. I should just call, text or e-mail. 

I walked up to the reception desk, preconditioned by a lifetime of paying co-pays, etc. The reception person smiled and said, "Thanks for coming by! Happy Holidays!" There was no paper work, no request for a credit card, no demand to see my insurance card. Nada. Just a smile. 

By cutting back on a traditional insurance policy to one that is more barebones (but still covers major illness, accidents and emergencies) and adding in the cost of the concierge service I am paying about what I did the year before. It's nice though  to have a dedicated doctor and the ability to get nearly "same hour" appointments. 

The most important thing though, as a freelancer, is to take control of your lifestyle and engineer it to be as healthy as possible. 

Here are the things that seem to work for me: 1. Maintain your proper weight. If your pants start to feel tight don't buy bigger pants, re-examine your diet and exercise strategies. 2. Exercise at least an hour a day. More (much more) if you can. Doesn't have to be brutal, like full contact power lifting combined with ultra-marathoning but you should be on the edge of being out of breath for at least a large part of your (minimum) hour. I try to swim five or six days a week and I try to walk a lot every day. When my schedule permits we all walk with Studio Dog in the early dawn (about 2.5 miles with hills) which serves as a warm-up and then I head straight for the pool. 3. Get a lot of sleep. I get to bed with the idea of getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night and, I supplement that with an afternoon nap on the couch under the watchful eyes of Studio Dog, when I feel a nap is suggested or required. 4. Eat good food. Don't eat too much. Push away from the table before dessert rears its ugly head. 5. I have a glass or two of red wine with my evening meal. I think it is good for your blood pressure and I know it's good for my general attitude. Finally, 6. Try to make leisure time, hobbies, art and socializing your top priorities and keep your "job" as a lower priority. Work makes most people crazy. I try to avoid doing too much of it. 

In the end we are able to deduct a certain amount of our healthcare costs, insurance, and medical consulting from our federal taxes. Insurance takes a chunk out of my gross income but having coverage, and a good doctor on call, add back a sense of security that lowers my overall stress. If we had universal cradle-to-grave healthcare that I did not have to pay for directly I would most likely still maintain my new relationship with my primary doctor. I like both the continuity of care and the ready access. 

For an older freelancer good health (and by extension, good healthcare services) is a very important asset. Unlike an employee we do not have paid sick days. If we have recurring health issues we lose income. If we have health limitations those limitations limit our ability to provide services that require more physical rigor. 

As a nation we pride ourselves on being self-reliant but the reality is that 50% of healthcare cost (maybe more!) is self inflicted; caused by lifestyle choices. Exercise may seem boring to some but the alternative is accelerated physical decline and muscle loss. Eating healthy may seem like a fussy or expensive undertaking but the value of controlling weight and blood sugar pays enormous rewards. 
If we all made the right decisions, and followed good advice from experts we might, as a nation, be able to lower our costs of healthcare a lot. 

I can't make anyone accept my routine but I follow it because it's proven to be cost effective for me so far. 

Health is an investment for freelancers; especially those that have professions requiring mobility and strength. My final thought is that my cost for concierge care at my doctor's office is less than the price of a replacement, full frame camera. Looking at it that way makes it seem like a bargain.

Final thought. Pets are good for your physical and mental health. It's hard to over estimate the value of unconditional love.... 


It's inefficient to not know what you don't know. That's why I bought this book...

Like every other lazy photographer out in the wild I too bitch about camera menus. I was thinking about all the "limitations" of the RX10 iii as I was actively thinking about buying the Panasonic fz 2500. But then it occurred to me that perhaps I overestimated my abilities to really get to know a camera without some sort of smart guide. My own hubris often blinds me to the fact that there are lots of people who know more than me about any given subject and if I want to squeeze more value from a tool it pays to learn from people who've taken time to do the deep dive.

There are lots of things about the RX10 cameras that I thought to be either opaque of missing. For example, in the movie mode you are not given a choice of having automatic level control for your audio. You have to set the levels for your internal or external microphones carefully. Too low and you get noise and not enough signal for your editing program, too high and you risk the red zone with your audio meters indicating overload and distortion. But if you are shooting in a run and gun configuration who has time to constantly nurse the input levels manually? I looked in vain for the controls but couldn't find them.

Here's another vexing thing; Sony puts seven different picture profiles at your disposal for shooting video but they never bother to tell the buyer of the $ 1500 camera what each profile is really all about or even how to choose among them, let alone how to modify them. Sure, most of us know that #7 is a super flat, S-Log-2 profile but what about the other six?

And then there are all the functions you can add to custom buttons that never appear in the menu until you dive into the custom functions themselves. Like, did you know you can map a control to a button that allows you to deactivate the rear screen? Perfect for those times at the theatre when you want to shoot without becoming a beacon in the night. Of course you can dive into the menu and find the EVF/LCD selector switch and chose EVF but how nice to have a custom button that clicks the screen on and off. On to check a control and off again to go stealthily.

I knew my RX10 ii and iii could do more but I was butting my head against the wall trying to figure it all out. On a whim I looked on Amazon for a book about the RX10 iii. I read all the reviews. I pored over the "sample this book" for nearly everything that's out there until I found this book:

Photographer's Guide to the Sony Dsc-Rx10 III: Getting the Most from Sony's Advanced Digital Camera

by Alexander S. White. I read the reviews. I thought I'd found what I was looking for. I bought the Kindle version for $7.99 and sat down last night to read it. OMG. In one hour I learned so much about my camera that I did not know. I unlocked a few video secrets and figured out, in general, how to get much more out of the camera. The menus in the camera are....complex.....but one good reason for that is the sheer depth of control the camera really offers. One just needs a good guide in order to unlock the potential. 

If you have an RX10 iii or the RX10 ii I can't recommend this book highly enough. The writer is no nonsense and writes with a comforting sense of authority. He is detailed. He is thorough. And, in reading it again today I have yet to find a typo or grammatical stumble. The illustrations are great and all of the book is searchable via the table of contents. This is the perfect holiday gift for yourself. Not to flashy or expensive but almost guaranteed to make your enjoyment of these two Sony cameras much greater. 


A Very Short Blog Post About the Panasonic fz 2500 Versus the Sony RX10iii. No real conclusions yet.

Just horsing around in the studio....from the 2009 archives. Yes, that's the Leaf A7i we were sporting around. Ah, medium format digital. The 2017 redux is at hand.

Once again I have to blame Frank for my current waffling. He asked me to join him for coffee and then showed up with the new Panasonic fz 2500 in his hot little hands. He knows I have a couple of big video projects coming up and I just know he loves to muddy the waters of my decision making by tossing in new options to my already mixed up mix of thoughts about the next acquisitions in video gear. 

We got our coffees and we sat down to catch up. He handed me the camera to play with and I have to say that if I was not already deeply entrenched in the Sony camp I would have curtailed our coffee meeting and gotten in the car to rush to Precision Camera and pick up an fz 2500 right way. #impetuous.

The first thing in favor of the Panasonic is the viewfinder. Sony and Panasonic are both using the same resolution in the EVFs but Panasonic increased the magnification and eye point and the finder is easier to look at, seems sharper and cleaner. Point to Panasonic. The Panasonic also has more video file format options, including an "All Intra" 200 mbs 1080p setting that should really make editing a pleasure. While we're on the subject of output that camera also allows one to output a 10 bit 4:2:2 signal from the (micro) HDMI port and that's one of those "holy grail" specs that technically adept video fans are always trotting out as highly preferable. 

I also have a sneaking suspicion that the DFD focusing in the new Panasonic brings a faster and surer focus to the table. The topper in favor of the fz 2500 is probably the three position, built-in, neutral density filter system. Nice......

During our coffee, I kept picking up the camera and checking "just one more thing" in the menu. I'm pretty familiar with the Panasonic menus having owned the GH4, GH3, fz 1000 and several other Panasonic cameras. I could only stare in wonder at the reality that they have separate still and video tabs in the main menu. That would also be so nice (hello Sony?). 

A couple of things stayed my hand and preserved my credit rating (at least temporarily). One is that when shooting in 4K (which we do more and more; even when editing in 1080p) the Panasonic makes a big crop into the frame. It grabs the pixels it needs one-to-one instead of downsampling the whole sensor. Might make for a better image but you lose a bunch of wide angle capability and recent shoots have shown me that a wider angle is always useful. 

Secondly, the preliminary reviews point to evidence that the lens on the front of the Sony RX10 iii is superior and its superiority can be seen in the camera's output. 

The jury is still out for me.  Frank has offered to loan the new camera to me so I can spend a couple of days shooting it with both an eye to a review and a nod to (almost inevitable) acquisition. It'll have to wait till after Christmas but I think it'll be fun to put the two cameras together and have them battle it out. 

I have no complaints at all about the RX10 iii's image quality in either stills or video but I do wish it had the convenience of ND filters inside as well as some of the file format bells and whistles. On the other hand, I don't want to walk away from the painful investment I've made in mastering the Sony menus across the entire camera line, so there is that. 

If I were in the market, with an empty camera bag and a full wallet of ready cash, I'd have to carefully weigh what I would want to use each camera for. If I were a video guy who wanted occasional still images I think I'd be all over the Panasonic. But there's more to life than video.....

Stay tuned?

SmallRig in use on the Sony A7ii.

Lately, my "go to" camera for doing portrait work in the studio and on location has been the Sony A7 ii. It's the 24 megapixel model and if you look around you might be able to find a lightly used one for around $1,000. The High ISO Whiners would tell you that it's noisy above 3200 but I'd say that if you are really, really picky, and have no idea of how to use the noise reduction features in any of the major post processing programs, you might not even want to use it over 1600. When I put on strong, strong reading glasses and press my noise against my computer screen while diddling the magnification to 100% I can see the noise as clear as day....

But like the fool I am I bought one anyway. And even more foolishly I used it this year to create hundreds of portraits. Which clients happily paid me for. Go figure. I should probably hang my head in shame since none of my full frame cameras focuses faster than I can pull them out of the camera bag. I feel horrible anxiety when "real" pros saunter by with their Nikon D500s since I know I will be unable to photograph my clients (with studio flash) at 10+ frames per second. I hear how great the 153 AF points are but end up wondering why a camera that advanced doesn't have eye auto focus. My A7ii doesn't have it either but the A7rii and the a6300 both do; along with 400+ focusing points... But, once again, I digress. 

I wanted to write about the SmallRig cage I bought for the A7ii and to show you what I meant about holding big lenses stable on tripods while shooting in the vertical orientation. The lens in question is the Rokinon 135mm t2.2 Cine lens. It's pretty front heavy. Sometimes, when I use it on a camera mounted directly to a tripod it droops. And droops can be embarrassing. Especially in the studio. 

After I bought a cage for the a6300 and saw how well it stabilized the camera and transferred the stress of the tripod connection to its own structure I was anxious to try one with the A7ii. This cage fits very tightly and the feel of the construction is just like the cage for the a6300, very high quality. 

The following are a few images from different angles....

So, if you are one of those guys who always handholds cameras, doesn't own a tripod or only uses puny lenses, just ignore all of this and go on doing your craft in the way which you've become accustomed. We're not even grading on a curve here. But if you have a wimpy, little camera and a plump, oversized and front heavy lens you like to use you might consider some sort of "camera prosthesis" to handle tripod work.

While we are on the subject of cages... I did put a XLR mixer and a monitor on the cage on the A7Rii today to record a quick testimonial video for a financial services client. It was great having everything right at hand instead of clamped and cabled away. Can't wait to get the A7 cage set up optimally to be able to move with the camera and watch the image on a 7 inch monitor mounted just above the camera. Should make moving shots just a bit more fun. 


I had such a good experience using the new "cage" on the Sony a6300 I ordered one for the A7Rii.

I recently wrote about ordering a "cage" for the Sony a6300 camera. It's kind of a video thing. The cheese plate surfaces allow you to add shoes for things like microphones and attachment points for things like digital audio recorders and external monitors. The one I bought for the a6300 was very well made and sturdy. The way the rig is designed it holds the camera in place firmly. I can still access the battery and the memory card. 

But there was a bonus that works well for me as a still photographer as well. By anchoring the camera firmly in place, and then giving me lost of quarter inch female sockets everywhere, I am now able to use the small camera with heavy lenses in the vertical orientation on my tripod. In the past a heavy lens would pull its nose down and I was loath to over tighten the tripod screw for fear of damaging the camera. Now, with the lens on the camera, I can orient the rig to make the camera vertical and the stops on the rig hold the camera and lens in place. No more droop. Sounds like a small thing but it means a lot to me in terms of working vertically with bigger lenses. 

Once I figured this out it just made sense to do the same thing for my bigger, A7Rii and A7ii cameras. I ordered a rig/cage made specifically for those two cameras and it came (as promised) today. Now I have a place to attach a microphone that doesn't let the microphone poke me in the forehead as I use the EVF. 
It more or less completes the "run and gun" configuration for those A7xx cameras when using them as video snapshot cameras.  There is one built in shoe on the right side of the rig as I hold it but I will be adding another shoe to the left side of the rig to hold a small XLR mixer box. 

I like the way the rig bulks up the camera for better handholding as well. Nice when video gear also enhances still photography handling. We'll see how it goes but I'm already thinking of researching to see if they have one designed for the RX10 ii. ... 


A Holiday Special: Try either of my Craftsy.com Photography Classes and You'll get 33% off the class price.

Here's the link: http://craftsy.me/2i2oha1

It's Monday. Back to business and clients.

Two weeks ago I photographed the entire staff of a high end, commercial real estate development company. I got to extend my practice with the style of portraiture I've been working on for most of the year, which is largely about blocking offensive interior light and then mixing whatever is left with a main light from either a scrim or soft box, powered by a big LED light. It's a style that works best in big spaces or long halls where one entire side is lit by windows. It's a bonus if there are nice, big shapes you can toss out of focus in the background...

A sample from an earlier shoot for a different client.

When I was first contacted by the client we discussed the style I wanted to use and I cautioned them that I couldn't commit to doing it unless I could come by and scout their location to see if I could find appropriate backgrounds. I dropped by and was offered the conference room; countered with a long hallway that had glass fronted offices on one side and windows to the outside on the other. 

We set up and shot on a Weds. afternoon and finished up on Thursday morning. I like to schedule this way because we can come to downtown in the mid-morning, miss all the traffic and then get the portrait subjects that like afternoons on the first day, followed by the "morning" people on the second day. We pack out in the early afternoon; again, missing traffic altogether. 

("Missing Traffic" is the number one trending subject in Austin conversation as we challenge second place, Los Angeles, for the honor of second most congested city in America. Thank you to all the refugees from unhappy areas of the U.S.A. for your help in growing our city in so many annoying ways !!! And, no! I don't want to hear how much better the kombucha is in Portland, or why we are not appreciative enough of NYC-style bagels...).

I brought along two light blockers. One for the warm white fluorescent fixture overhead and a second to both reflect the main light and block another source of weird fluorescence. I lit the set up with one big LED light into a large soft box and used a second LED, bare, to kick some light into the background. Over the course of the two half days I met and photographed about twenty people. We were able to schedule everyone but the guy who was home with strep throat. 

As a courtesy to both the left out employee, and to my client, I made a point to schedule a session for him so there wouldn't be gaps in the coverage and so no one would be tempted to mix an impromptu cellphone image in with my other hard work. I had the time this morning. 

I came back to the same area of the set up and used the same lighting design but I did change cameras and lenses. The first time I used the Sony a7ii and the 70-200mm f4.0. They worked great. But I have a hard time sticking to doing things the same way over and over again so this time I pared down to the a6300 and the Rokinon 85mm f1.4 lens (actually, the Cine t1.5 version...). Shooting one stop further open than I did with the first combination gave me depth of field that matches up nicely with the other work. I shot about 120 images and noted that I still had 96% battery power remaining. 

The scene looked so good through the camera that I was tempted to toss a microphone on the top of the hot shoe and also do an interview on video. But I remembered that no one had requested the service and it would be a bit insane to just start interviewing people at work with no real agenda.

I've done my quick color correction and messed around with contrast and exposure, and I've uploaded a gallery to Smugmug.com for selection purposes. Today's shoot was a reminder that I need to write a bit more about the Rokinon lenses that I've worked with this year. Some of my favorite images have come from the 100 macro, the 85mm and the 135mm t2.2. None of the lenses were introduced this year or I'd have another "Camera and lens of the year!!!!!!!" article to pen.

I do have a favorite microphone of the year but that's for later this week... And now? Some images.

The Wall. Best Austin location in 2016.

This week's "Best Camera of the Year." 

"They" keep making commercials in Austin. Now the pedestrian bridge between south and north Austin is so littered with camera crews, sound engineers and make up people that there are pedestrian traffic jams in the city. It never stops! Nice shooting rig but DAMN look at all the crew. I guess somebody has to pay them and feed them...

Here's the basic set up. A blocker above to kill the fluorescents a reflector to the side for clean fill and two soft boxes jammed together for the lovely LED main light action.

Reverse view. The chair is to stand behind and have a place to put your hands, if you are the subject. It serves to anchor the subjects. I very rarely have people actually "sit" for a portrait. The clothes get wrinkles and the postures generally suck. NO SITTING!

So, what did I charge the client to come back, set up the lights and photograph the one straggler? Not a dime. I offered to do it for free. I wanted the continuity of images on the website. I was already being well paid. This client is a rich source of continuing recommendations. Call it a holiday gift, an accommodation, a favor. Sometimes the cumulative value exceeds the amount we might bill. And, it gave me a chance to compare, file-to-file between the A7ii and the a6300. 

I made it downtown and back in time to walk with Studio Dog and eat lasagna for lunch. Now I am blogging while supervising some pre-holiday landscaping. Life is good....

One of the "secrets" of good, quick, consistent color balance and post production efficiency is to get a good, repeatable custom white balance in every shooting location. I always use the same target (a Lastolite) and the benefit is not walking into the color correction blindfolded.

Still time to order stuff from Amazon.com. Use the link below and make my holiday a bit rosier at no cost to you. Thanks! (you don't have to buy the book but the link will get you to the site).

Content added after initial upload: 

I find that it is often a smart thing if you make a few empty frames of the location on which you are shooting a portrait. That way, if someone can't be photographed on the original location you can always drop them into the background in post processing and better match the rest of your take. Goes a long way toward maintaining a consistent look when needed. Just a thought...