So. I bought a new video camera. It also does stills. It's the Sony a6300. I shot some casual test video today in full sun. Go see it.

Sony a6300 shooting 4K in Super 35 mode 100 mbs. S-Log 2. from Kirk Tuck on Vimeo.
I just got the a6300 on Friday and wanted to see what the 4K video was all about. I shot some sample footage in direct, full sun. I graded it quickly in FCPX and uploaded as 1080.

If you want to see a high res version of this go to vimeo and see it there. You are limited here to 800 px wide but there you can see it in 1920 px.

This is my first time to play with S-Log 2 and 4K together. I'm still in the early part of the learning curve but the ability to hold both highlights and shadows on the canoes is pretty impressive to me.

The a6300 is too small but the EVF is great and it shoots really good stills and video. Short wish list? Headphone jack. Long wish list? Taller body and a better manual.

I've shot 2,000 frames with the camera so far and twenty or thirty short segments of video. So far, so good. More to come.

Disclosure: bought with Kirk's cash. No Sony sponsorship whatsoever. Early days with the camera. More to come as I get used to holding it. The camera it most reminds me of? The Leica/Minolta CL. 


Optimizing the shooting performance of your one inch camera (or any camera).

A reader has asked me several times to talk about how to get good results out of the one inch cameras we been talking about for the last few years. Let's get one thing out of the way upfront: If you need to have noiseless, ultra detailed shots at ISOs above 800 you'll likely be happier with the latest generation of full frame or, at least, APS-C sensor cameras.  Physics is physics. I guess. There are compromises in every choice we make and as much as I wish my $1,000 cameras could do ultra clean files at 6400 I am reminded that even my $3200 Nikon with a $1,000 lens isn't noise free at those settings.... You are always trading sheer quality for flexibility, handling and purchase price. 

But with that said the secret to loving the results from any camera come from using it to its fullest potential. To do that you need to practice good photography. It's that simple. Let's start with camera movement. While I.S. is magical, and both the fz 1000 and the Sony rx10 have very good built in I.S. it's not really a panacea for good camera handling and immobilization. I don't trust I.S. nearly as much as I trust a good tripod or a well implemented monopod. Step one to getting landscape photographs that rival photographs from much bigger cameras is to stop screwing around with hand holding and get your gear on some sticks. Tripods are the gold standard and I guess that's why I have a half dozen scattered around the studio and in the car. Get good ones. Get a very expensive carbon fiber model if you have to carry it a long way. Get a heavy, heavy, sturdy one for the studio. 

Use your tripod correctly. Don't depend on extending the center column to get more reach. Use the tripod legs instead. And buy a tripod that goes as high as you need it to without extending the center column. Sturdy as it may be it's less sturdy than depending on the intersection of the top plate and the legs. Once you have your camera mounted on a tripod it's kind of stupid to trigger the shutter with your finger, because that also causes camera motion which is immediately translated into less sharp images. Use a remote trigger or download the maker's app and trigger the camera with your phone. If you don't have those options then for goodness sake, take advantage of the camera's self timer to trigger a hands-free exposure. 

If you need the mobility and are still willing to give up the pure goodness of your tripod consider using a monopod. See the image above? I was about to shoot a dance rehearsal and I needed to be able to move around quickly --- but I wanted to get really sharp images --- so I put my camera on a monopod and that actually gets me into a pretty solid space. In addition, you can use I.S. on a monopod (but generally not recommended for use on a tripod) and that gets you even better results --- as long as you consider your technique. Your feet should be spread shoulder width apart and your legs and the monopod should form a tripod of sorts. Don't drink a lot of coffee or contemplate your audit while shooting and try to use a light touch with the shutter button. 

The next thing to consider is shutter speed. Most people think that stopping down to just the right f-stop is the magic way to get sharpness but that's only true if you have already conquered camera motion. You might think that, because you have miracle I.S. you can shoot at 1/15th, 1/30th or even 1/125th with the longer focal lengths of the zooms on the one inch cameras but I'm here to tell you that you probably should revert to the old rule of thumb and still shoot at a shutter speed that is at least the reciprocal of the lens length. If the lens is extended to the equivalent of a 400mm you should make 1/400th your minimum shutter speed. Even on a tripod it can make a difference if the camera itself causes some of its own movement (shutter shock, mirror slap). So, optimum shutter speed counts for a lot. Really. Always faster if you can. Always. 

So, if you've done all that stuff above you get to the idea of the optimum aperture. Smaller sensor cameras are at their best nearer wide open and further from all the way stopped down. The fz 1000 and the RX10 both love being shot at f5.6 and f8.0. They hate smaller apertures. I think of these cameras as having only three apertures: wide open, only for when I can't do anything else, f5.6 when I don't need endless depth of field but want high sharpness on a singular object, and f8.0 when I want high sharpness coupled with deeper depth of field. Wide open is only for low light when it can be used to avoid subject motion. 

So, now you are on a stout, Gitzo five series tripod. You have your aperture set at f8.0 and you are triggering with a remote or using the self timer. You found a great shutter speed.  Good for you. You are about half way there to sharpness. 

Since you are shooting landscapes the only subject motion you need to care about is trees swaying in the wind and grass blowing in the breeze. Go back up and experiment to find the shutter speed that effectively freezes this movement as well. It's trial and error but you can see the effect. And when you look for the effect on that back panel LCD be sure to zoom all the way in so you have a fighting chance of seeing the actual effect. Everything looks sharp on a tiny screen. 

The next thing to consider is your ISO. If you are shooting stuff that doesn't move you are crazy not to be shooting at the lowest, non-gimmick, ISO on offer. For the two cameras we're talking about ISO 100 is a safe bet. Only go up if it's impossible to use that optimum aperture ---- but before you bitch and moan about the need to use high ISOs just remember the generations of photographers who were able to make incredible images on ISO 64 and ISO 100 slide film. If they could do it with primitive materials you should be able to do better (technically) with the latest tech. The tripod is a wonderful camera equalizer....if you use it. 

All this preparation is for nothing if you don't get two things right: focus and exposure. As you under expose digital images get noisier and noisier. The noise obscures detail. It's like sprinkling sand over the top of a painting. You need to nail exposure. Not to, much, and not even a half stop too little. Oh sure, you can recover a lot from underexposed images but that's not the point. You asked about optimizing sharpness not compromising sharpness. Learn to read a meter and learn to effectively read your histograms and, if the subject is important to you then by all means, bracket the exposures in one third stop increments. Oh hell, do that anyway so you can bring your files back and look at them big on the screen and better see the differences I'm talking about between frames. 

Once you've absolutely nailed exposure turn your focus to focus. Most people get it wrong. Or sloppy. Or they depend on depth of field to save them. In all images only one thin plane can truly be in totally sharp focus. Everything else is a regression from the perfect focus point. It only makes sense then to nail focus precisely on what you are most interested in seeing clearly. All the new cameras have a million focusing points and ten different ways to set up focus but if you are shooting landscapes you don't need to worry about any of that crap. Set the center point as your focusing element. Set the camera to AF-S, point your camera at the thing you most want to be in focus and initiate focus by pushing the shutter button half way down. When the camera finishes its job and the point is in focus lock it there. AF-L is the setting you are looking for. Can't find it? Then once you have the point nailed switch the camera from AF to MF, effectively locking in your focus point. Recompose and shoot your photograph. Then check (review) at 100% to make sure you got focus exactly where you intended and not in front of behind or side to side. If you want to take it up a notch then go into MF and enable your focus peaking. Set it at the lowest level possible ---- it may be harder to see the little yellow lines creep in effectively but that setting has the most discrimination. Now bracket your focusing in tiny increments around the point that your camera originally suggested. 

When using the center AF sensor make sure you use the camera setting to reduce the effective sensor size to a minimum, this will ensure that you are focusing on precisely what is covered by the green indicator in the finder and not on a bunch of stuff in the periphery. 

Now we're closing in on good technique. Be sure to shoot raw and, if you have the option, choose uncompressed raw and choose the highest bit rate your camera is capable of. Usually 14 instead of 12, though you can't really do that with the two cameras we are talking about --- just set them for raw. 

That's the first half. Now you need to process correctly. Not every raw converter handles every raw file well. Sony files are pretty good in Adobe Camera Raw but the Panasonic files are better in Capture One. If you are using the fz 1000 and want perfection in your files you should be using the latest rev of Capture One. Or DXO. Correct color balance first and then exposure, if you do these steps backwards you'll find that changing color balance will change exposure. And you want optimum exposure for high sharpness. If you have the option to select a profile for the lens you use then do it because some smart people spent a lot of time learning which settings make each lens look good. 

When you have finished doing all the stuff you want to do for your file then do the sharpening last. Sharpening is an art and most people do it wrong. Small radius with big effect works better that the other way around. But be aware that the sharpness you require is not universal to everything but is dependent on your intended output. Every sensor and every lens and every scene requires its own sharpening settings. You can also sharpen in DXO, which is very good. Most people overdo which makes images look crisp until they are enlarged past a certain point --- then the look falls apart. 

This is a matter of personal taste and must be learned by first reading every tutorial the software makers offer and none that you came across on DP Review. The makers of the software have a vested interest in helping to make your work look good so you'll buy the next rev of their product. The people on DP Review are generally just engaged in a pissing contest. 

Now, there are plenty of other things to think about. Highly collimated light sources make subjects look sharper. Softer, more diffuse lighting has the opposite effect. Flash helps to freeze both subject and camera movement and so is valuable in making images that present a high appearance of sharpness and detail. 

One last thing to mention is noise reduction. Anything that reduces noise also reduces sharpness. No free lunch. Turn off sharpening in camera and apply sharpening in post production where you have a lot more control over every frame. Add just barely enough to do the job but don't be afraid to leave in some residual noise because many times it conveys a greater impression of sharpness than the noise filter does in making things ultimately seem less noisy. But the secret to taming most noise goes right back to the top of the article = shoot at the lowest ISO. Get your exposure right in camera. 

This is just some of the stuff we think about when we shoot with any camera but I pay closer attention to all of the parameters if I am looking for optimum results from small sensor cameras like the one inch or the m4:3 cameras. Practice good technical and you'll get the absolute best out of your camera.

A well done small file can beat a sloppy D810, handheld file pretty much every day of the week. As long as you aren't pushing everything toward the ragged edge of Ming's envelope. 

Does that help?
carefully handheld fz 1000

Same applies to both cameras. 

Flash freezes motion. fz 1000. 

Sitting on a tripod for a reason. sharpness. 

Sorry for the postus interruptus this morning. False start.

Ann Richards ©1994 Kirk Tuck

I worked late last night photographing the new play about Ann Richards that's opening at Zach Theatre this week. Usually I can post fun images from the play the day after I shoot them but this production is different and my public relations manager asked me not to post images until after they are approved by the production company. I started to post one image from last night and quickly removed it when I got the e-mail from P.R.  Too bad, because I wanted to show off the capabilities of the new Sony a6300 as I experienced them on a real job.

Instead, I thought I'd go straight to the original source and show a photograph I did of the real Gov. Ann Richards, right in front of the Texas Capitol, holding a bouquet of yellow roses.

I'll share the production photos from the play when we get the green light.

Hope your week is off to a great start.


By the way, the play should be a great experience, especially for people who were active in Austin and Texas politics in the early 1990's. What a time!

Additional edit at 4:04pm. I dug around and found the original, full frame version of the above image and I like it even better than the cropped one. Here it is:

A Favorite Selection from my Photographic Assignment. Making Marketing Photographs for the "Ann" play at Zach Theatre.

From the play, "Ann", starring Holland Taylor
at the Zach Theatre in Austin, Texas.
From the tech rehearsal. 

Photographed with with Sony a6300
Sony 18-105mm G lens


Shooting product in the studio with a small sensor camera. What the heck?

I enjoy shooting products in my little studio. I've got a shooting table that's just the right size and a crazy range of lights so I can customize my lighting based on the subjects at hand. Recently I had an assignment to shoot this product for the manufacturer. They went on to use the photographs for trade show graphics and general marketing, and public relations. 

The product is fairly small, as you can see by the size of the back panel connectors. When the product first came through the door I took a few test shots with the Nikon D810 and a macro lens but the process was kludgy and the depth of field issues were annoying. Now, I am sure I could have extended the depth of field to cover what needed to be covered if I had done some accurate focus stacking but that takes time when shooting and even more time in post production. I had another idea. I would photograph the products with a smaller sensor camera and take advantage of the increased depth of field. 

The first time I photographed the product I used the Olympus OMD EM-5ii camera and various lenses. The images were very good and were quickly approved by the client but in several instances, while shooting, I found myself wishing


Book Excerpt. The Lisbon Portfolio.

A few more from the wall. It changes every day. Adventures in Austin, Texas with a camera in tow.

All images: Sony a6000 + 18-105mm f4.0 G.

I hate unexpected brushes with the intimation of mortality. I was on location yesterday, getting ready to shoot a public relations job, when I reach down and grabbed a heavy bag of cameras and flashes the wrong way. If you've ever had a lower back spasm you'll understand when I say, "Ouch."  It's been years since I've tweaked my lower back but it's something most photographers eventually deal with, and it never gets easier, or more fun.  I finished the shoot and made the mistake of grabbing the camera bag again and swinging it up onto my shoulder. "Ouch." Again! 

I've taken it easy since then and the whole issue is resolving many times quicker than it has in the past. I credited some of that to strengthening my core muscles with the push up regimen I wrote about a while back. At any rate I skipped swim practice today (emotional "Ouch") because the idea of doing a hundred or so flip turns with an achy back wasn't particularly welcoming. But after lunch I decided that it might be therapeutic to take a bit of a walk. I grabbed a small and non-combative camera and headed downtown. I thought I'd walk to the Graffiti Wall and then do a long circuit of downtown. 

After spending half an hour shooting at the Wall my back warned me to knock it off and I surrendered to my physical self's higher awareness and headed back to the car. One more day off and then we'll get back into the groove. 

Aside from the physical trauma ( a new reminder of my advancing maturity age ) the walk was pleasant and the park was filled with graffiti tourists; myself included. I didn't see a whole lot I felt like I needed to document but I did enjoy using the small and light camera and lens. They work well together, and that 24 megapixel sensor is pretty outrageous. I'd read some review that were lukewarm about the lens but in practice it does a great job with high sharpness, and the image stabilization is as advertised, pretty good. 

As Robin Wong reminds me, sometimes getting out and shooting for yourself is a form a therapy. In this case a brief warm down from the day before. Go ahead and click on any of these to see them bigger. They are jpegs that came popping out of the camera. Good, clean fun. 

Doing stupid things like bending over to pick up a camera bag reminds me of an old saying:

"With Age Comes Wisdom. Sometimes Age Comes Alone."

Just another afternoon photograph in Austin, Texas.

At the Graffiti Wall with a Sony a6000
and the 18-105mm f4.0 G lens. 

"Through the portal."

OT: The house next door is for sale and they are having an open house. No, more like an OPEN HOUSE!!!!!

Our neighborhood was quiet and affordable until about five years ago. That's when the speculators and people arriving fresh from S. California showed up with bags of extra cash and the desire for their own, "West Austin/Hill Country Homes." A couple of speculators bought the large, rambling house next door. It was decades old and not particularly well cared for. Over the course of the next two and a half years, up to the present, the speculators tore down the old house and built a nouveau riche dream home, of sorts. The construction was stop and start. We never knew if we'd have peace and quiet or an army of saw and power tool wielding construction workers next door.

Soaring windows, multi-level pools and a hot tub big enough to hold Shamu. Faux Modernism in every kitschy architectural touch. They even built a recirculating "stream" along the front of the house which runs for about 200 feet and ends near the storm drain at the corner of their property. (Water rationing anyone?).

So, now they are (almost) ready to sell the house. The price tag is a choking one million, seven hundred and eighty nine thousand dollars, U.S. Today is the open house. They've spent weeks "staging" the house with trendy furniture, plants and throw rugs. The landscape company came this morning for one last "spruce up." There are balloons and "bandit" signs at every street corner, throughout the neighborhood. A three piece ensemble of musicians showed up to perform. They have cakes from "Nothing Bundt Cakes" and tea from one of the boutique tea shops that have sprouted up around oh-so-current Austin.

And the big draw for gentleman home buyers is the opportunity to test drive either the black or the bright red Tesla S automobile. How amazing? Right?  Look at a $2,000,000 house and test drive an electric car at the same time. Chic.

After having been inconvenienced over and over again by the speculators' contractors we are disinclined to help out with the marketing of the house. To that end I've parked an ancient, pollen covered, Toyota Corolla with no hubcaps at the top of our adjoining entry way. It's there mostly to keep the herds of black Range Rovers and BMW X cars off our driveway. I've put the trash bags full of leaves out on the curb for the trash collectors and our lawn guy took a couple of weeks off. I was thinking of hiring some people from the theatre community to do, "Trailer Trash Homecoming" in the front yard, complete with Colt 45 malt liquor and big, bare bellies with tattoos, sitting in lawn chairs but my spouse said, "No!"

There are several problems with this whole gentrification thing that I'm having trouble getting over: One is that the asking price is ten times what most of the surrounding neighbors paid for their homes twenty years ago (when the neighborhood was casual and middle class) which means our property tax comparables will skyrocket (and we live in a state with no income tax which means everything comes from one of the highest property taxes in the country). The second is that when projects like this are successful in a neighborhood it opens the floodgates to an army of wannabe speculators and then all hell breaks loose.

Ah. The maturing of Austin, in which we get to pay in advance for the next generation's expenses and live day by day and month by month with fleets of cement trucks and dumpster deliveries rumbling up at all hours of the day and night. One issue I dealt with this year was not being able to do videos in our little studio. Couldn't do audio with all the jack-hammering. Sometimes it seems like the only answer is to sell and move along but ......

I sure like my house and my studio. And my dog loves her yard.  Ah crap.

The new Sony RX10iii is an interesting adjunct to an existing, small sensor system. An easy choice for videographers, a tougher choice for "still only" shooters....

The Sony RX10iii. 
Long, long, long. 

Sony continues to create new iterations of existing cameras at a rapid clip. I purchased one of their RX10ii cameras right around the end of last year and I have pressed into use for an impressive number of photographic and video projects which would have been the realm of APS-C or micro fourth-thirds cameras previously. The RX10ii is a good, all around photography tool that would suit the needs of many photographers for many kinds of projects. It's not right for everything, but then no camera is.

I also have the first version of the RX10 which I refer to as "the classic." After Sony came out with their firmware upgrade (improving the video codec) I didn't think I would want to upgrade to the "version 2" but I was lured by the 4K video as well as the newer, higher resolution EVF. I'm happy to have the newer camera because the image quality is slightly improved (mostly in the shadows) and the two cameras together make a good pair of production cameras for video when I am shooting 1080p on both, simultaneously.

I've discussed the merits of the RX10 (both iterations) several times here on the blog but as a reminder: 20 megapixels is good for at least 90% of our projects. The video is probably among the best quality of any 1080p camera out there limited to (in camera) 8 bit 4:2:0 output. The build quality is great. The lens is a good (for me) range of 24mm to 200mm. The image stabilization is quite good. For most purposes they are fully loaded for video work: microphone in, headphone out, zebras, good profiles, focus peaking, etc. To my mind Sony has done a great job of producing a serious compact system which is a great adjunct to the usual inventory of a working photographer.

If the Sony RX10ii is so well implemented then why would we also be interested in the Sony RX10-3?

The camera adds only one thing to the overall system. It adds a zoom lens that yields the equivalent angle of view of a 600mm lens on a full frame camera and it does so on a sensor that's big enough to take advantage of the reach. In my shooting universe the need for anything longer than the 400mm on the Panasonic fz 1000 is rare, but there are times when I do need the reach and those times might become more frequent if the potential were part of my conscious thought process. A thought process sometimes driven by what is at hand. Meaning: If I had "it" I'd probably use it.

From a non-professional point of view there's no reason to own both a Sony RX10ii and the RX10iii. If you need the longer reach you would just choose the newest camera and you'll be able to take advantage of all the things I love about the RX10ii along with the added reach of the new lens. And, importantly, Sony doesn't make you give up the wider end in a focal length compromise. If you always shoot wide, never long, and you like the lighter weight and smaller overall size of the originals you would go for the RX10ii. If you want the basic performance of the RX10ii but don't need the latest finder technology and 4K video --- but would love to save about half the purchase price --- you can buy the original and few if any will see a difference in sensor performance or pipeline performance between the three.

But some professionals have different needs than their enthusiast counterparts and so may want to consider owning two different models from the RX10 system of cameras. I like photographing P.R. exterior events with the RX10 cameras for both the reach of the lenses and the ability to work without endless chimping. (Yes, I know that many of you are OVF genii would can estimate all exposure parameters to within one sixth of a stop. I am not Vulcan, only human and I love the ability to fine tune, through the finder, on the fly. It's a time saver).

I am a bit eccentric and, even though I keep a raft of full frame Nikon DSLR cameras for client work (where necessary or implied...) I am starting to look at the RX10 family of cameras as an alternative professional imaging system of the future. Narrow depth of field has been a style for a long time now but there are numerous situations in which deeper focus is more or less demanded. Products, group shots, landscapes, most video, etc. With the improved performance metrics of Sony's BSI 20 megapixel sensor and the very good performance of the Zeiss branded zoom lenses the only two places that require different cameras choices are quickly becoming situations requiring very narrow depth of field and situations that call for the use of very, very high ISOs. For nearly everything else all of the formats are capable of good results on a wide variety of media.

I'm certainly not suggesting that anyone need change a system that works for them and that they like I am trying to outline why someone in my occupation may be interested in the one inch cameras as an alternative or an adjunct to a more traditional system.

The zoom lens on the front of the RX10iii, if it lives up to its marketing spin, will give many of us our first real taste of extreme telephoto reach, coupled with a good performing imaging sensor. And we would be getting this reach at a fraction of the cost of the same sort of lens from, well, anyone.

If you need the reach of a 600mm but can't handle the weight, price, size and logistics of handling a traditional lens this camera will be logical and almost mandatory. I can hardly wait to put the long reach to the test at the next big swim competition. In most lighting conditions for swimming concerns about AF performance aren't vital. But being able to reach across a pool from the audience bleachers and get tight close ups of competitors could be amazingly fun. I also love a good compression shot and this is a camera/lens choice that would handle that superbly. It comes with a small penalty over it's sister cameras in terms of weight but, apparently, nothing else.

When I go out to shoot video I want to take two cameras with me for a number of reasons. The first being the need/desire for nearly identical, redundant back-up. With so many resources being focused on a specific time frame it's folly to go out without a second camera. Cameras don't just fail on their own, they also get dropped, mishandled, splashed and stolen. $1300-$1500 more, spent on a second camera is just like buying insurance. You may never need it (in a back up capacity) but if you do it can be a job saver...

The other compelling reason is the ability to use two cameras to video capture the same scene or interview from two different angles and two different focal lengths. Having more material with which to edit is never a bad thing. That the 2 and the 3 are mostly identical except for the difference in lenses is a great thing. When you are in the middle of a series of interviews, with short windows of available time, being able to go back and forth between cameras with identical menus, codecs, profiles and setting is an enormous time saver and reduces anxiety on important projects.

I could write more things about the cameras but I have covered most of the big features in my review of the RX10ii. The important thing to remember is that I'm not necessarily using any of the cameras exclusively. My purchase of an RX10iii does not mean that I would use it all the time, instead of any other camera. It would be a nod to the idea that there is no one perfect cameras that's perfect for everything you might want to throw at it.

The bottom line for me is that I've been shooting with the RX10 products since their inception and have found them to be reliable,  functional, easy to handle pieces of equipment that do many of the things I like to do with a camera well.

I've asked my supplier for a "review" camera when the "type 3" comes out so I can put it through its paces and write a knowledgeable review of it. Until then I am actively resisting the pre-order hype, mostly because I am so darn happy with the RX10ii. We'll see....

Also, quick question for video inclined readers: Have you used the Sony PXW X70 HD422 video camera?  If you have I'd love hear/read your impressions. Thanks.


Personalized Marketing Goes a Long Way Toward Differentiating You From Your Competitors... At Least That's the Theory.

A three dimensional view of today's card.

(click the images to see them bigger...)

I wrote recently about a marketing project I've been working on. It's a series of folded cards with images on them and a short, written piece inside. I print the cards on my Canon Pro-100 inkjet printer and mail them out in envelopes. After reading the article a number of VSL readers asked me to go into a little bit more detail about the cards. Here's all I have. 

The easiest part of the project is choosing the card stock. I buy boxed sets of pre-scored, large cards from Museo. They come 100 to the box, with matching envelopes, and my local photo merchant sells the boxed set for about $80. Add in the cost of inkjet ink ( and spoilage ) along with a first class stamp and your per unit cost for a card is about $1.50. Yes, you can get printed postcards on the web much cheaper but my strategy is predicated on being able to modify or fine tune the art and the story in small batches, for specific markets. 

To get a bit more technical, the cards are 5-1/2 inch by 7-3/8 inch, 220 GSM, acid free cotton, in an art/matte surface (there is discernible "tooth"). 

The hardest parts of the project ( aside from the obvious issue of procrastination... ) is choosing the right images and writing the correct story for each audience. You may be good at this but I always run my choices past a designer or art director friend before spending ink.

I print my name and return address on the envelope in a type that matches the type I use inside ( Georgia, 13pt ) but I am superstitious about using labels or having the printer address them. I am a believer that if you are personalizing a mailing you should take the time to hand address to the recipient. You may have different deeply held beliefs. Such are modern times...

Front of card with matching envelope.

Inside of the card. 

I always sign the cards I send and, usually, I write a brief, personal note to the recipient in the space you see under the image, just above. This allows me to purpose the card as either a "Thank You" card or a reminder card; or a straight forward marketing impression. I sent one out today with a note of thanks to someone who had recommended me for an assignment. I sent out another card today with a note confirming and out-of-town  lunch for next week. I sent out a third card to gently remind a client that we still need to finish up our video edit and are waiting for their input. 

In all, I sent out twenty-five cards today. 

By the end of the week I will have sent out around 90 cards to customers who have done work with me in the past or to acquaintances who I know but have not worked with yet. The most productive cards are always the ones that go to our best clients. It seems that seeing images "reminds" them of projects they need to get done. The cards remind them that I am ready to help them. 

With copy I have learned not to be technical and to always try to make some sort of story. The one here is plain but serviceable. 

I keep a list of the people I have sent cards to on a legal pad I keep in my top desk drawer. I like to keep track of what I've sent out and to whom. 

This is the back cover. It has my contact information. 

Over the course of a year my core audience of around 200 people will get eight different mailers from me as well as e-mails and other "touches." My goal is not to generate immediate sales (although that's always nice) but to maintain "top of mind" awareness of my business and what I offer to them.

When this mailer is complete I will immediately start planning my next marketing effort. I am leaning toward a color post card mailer with location portraits. I won't know until I'm in the middle of the project exactly which images I will use and how I will design it. I will probably choose to use the Hahnemuhle FineArt Inkject Photo Cards in the 285 gsm pearl finish. The base is a bright white and the finish allows for an impression of high sharpness with good color saturation. It works well with the Canon printer. 

Marketing is the lifeblood of most businesses. Buying cameras is more fun. A good mailed-card campaign can be much more profitable. 

Historically I can expect about a 10% response rate over the quarter. Not too bad for direct mail. 

Hope this answers the bulk of your questions! Tomorrow is April Fools day. Stay tuned.


"One inch" sensor cameras have been very useful for years now. EVFs work very, very well for a growing swath of serious photographers.

Michael Dell Volunteering at Austin Easter Seals.
Shot with a Nikon V1. Years ago. 
©2010 Kirk Tuck

Just a few blog reminders for those who visit infrequently, are new to the blog: 

I receive no money or free gear from any of the companies whose products I discuss here, with the following (past) exceptions: I was a member of Samsung's Imagelogger program and received several cameras and lenses in exchange for posting images (but not reviews or commentary!) taken with the gear. They (Samsung) seem to have exited the camera business last year. At no time did anyone at Samsung request, cajole, plead, beg or ask me to write anything at all about their products, nor did they offer to pay me for any sort of endorsement or online discussion of their products. 

The Cactus company sent me three triggers and one flash to test and review. I was under no obligation to review the products. I did so because they worked well and represented a fair investment for users who work with small flashes. 

In 2009 Olympus paid me to present several demonstrations using their photographic products  to a live audience at a Photo Expo here in Austin. I have received no additional payments from them and, while I have been loaned equipment to review it was promptly returned. Olympus have never tried to influence my reviews nor have they paid me to make any assertions about their products on any of my blogs.

I have shot with Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic and Sony in the past three years and have not received from any of them, or their agents or assigns, any gear, money, consideration, junkets, travel or even swag. Nothing. Nada. Not from any of them. Not even a promotional coffee cup. (Cheap bastards).

I am a Craftsy.com instructor and believe that the courses I've taught are good and have value to photographers who are learning the craft. I use the blog from time to time to promote these classes. They are offered with a "no questions asked, money back guarantee." 

Our blog site, like almost every other blog site in the photography niche, is an Amazon affiliate. We sometimes link products I am writing about back to Amazon. If you click on the link and go through to Amazon and buy something Amazon gives me a commission on that sale that does not effect the price of the product or service to you.


Why am I writing this? Disclosure is always good. And I'm getting tired of anyone who disagrees with something I've written immediately stating that, "Tuck switches systems because he's a paid shill for XXXXX." Anyone who thinks the camera market is full of people getting paid to use gear from camera makers is delusional. There are a few people who get consideration, assistance with travel, and the use of the latest gear in exchange for their honest reviews and assessments but I bet we could count those U.S. photographers on two hands....  And I'm sure not one of them. 

All the equipment in my studio right now; today, was bought and paid for either from Precision Camera here in Austin or came from Amazon.com. I neither asked for, nor have been extended, any privileged pricing from either merchant. My average monthly income from this blog for the past year is approximately = 25 Starbucks Venti Lattes (per month). The amount of time I spend writing blog posts and responding to them is approximately 60 hours a month. You do the math. 

I currently derive the majority of my income from creating photographs which I license to clients directly, or through advertising agencies. I write the blog as a way to share images and ideas. It's usually lots of fun for me and I'm met many, many fine people who I would not have known if not for their interest in the blog. The only time I regret having spent the time writing is when someone links to VSL from a forum on a major photographic website and the people there go ballistic because they either disagree or lack the intellectual capability of understanding correctly what they are trying to read. And, of course, the anonymity of the web allows them to be as nasty as they want to be. The unfounded assertions and ad hominem attacks abound. My comment queue goes toxic from time to time. Feels --- not worth the trouble...

Current Status: Happily self employed, financially stable, busy with projects and still buying whatever I want to shoot with. Also, still writing the blog...

Photograph from Primary Packaging Project in NYC.

©2016 Kirk Tuck. All rights reserved.