Why Darktable is perfect for Fujifilm users.

There’s an editing package that stands head and shoulders amongst the paid for and subscription editing package services out there, and it’s called Darktable. Many people would have heard of it, but presume because it is free, it is no good or not suitable. However, things couldn’t be further from the truth, as Darktable isn’t only amazingly powerful, but has a lot of useful features, especially (but not exclusively) for Fujifilm users.

What does Darktable generally offer?

Before we delve into what Darktable offers Fujifilm camera users, you need to know what Darktable offers in the way of it’s general features.

Think of Darktable as Lightroom, but on steroids. It offers a full library/Lighttable organisation section which allows you to view and tag multiple images, arrange them by various forms of ranking and much more, on a similar way to Lightroom. However you’ll have none of that importing inconvenience of Lightroom , as you can point directly to the directory your images are stored, or even just edit single images very simply.

In the editing portion of Darktable you can of course start the process of non-destructive editing. Darktable 3.4 has a wealth of options, many more than Lightroom offers for total control over the processing of your images.

Darktable has some very powerful and unique features for masking, which once used, you’ll wonder how you managed without them. Being able to curve the gradient line is something so simple, yet missing from every other editing package. There are also the parametric masks, which give you instant and full control over the areas you want with the tweak of some sliders (very much like colour or luminosity masks, but more advanced). In fact, there are a ton of masking options, something for every conceivable operation you may need to perform.

What’s in it for Fujifilm users?

Firstly it handles Fuji raw files with ease, avoiding so called artefact issues that allegedly plague some software. Noise and sharpening is handled extremely well, and you’ll always get clean looking images.

And then we have the built in colour science. Using the Colour Lookup Table module, you can instantly choose from a selection of Fujifilm film simulations. When added to your image they can be very accurate, especially when you can the exposure correct. You can fine tune them to by changing the opacity of the modules mask, perfect for getting things just right.

The standard Color Look Up Table Options

There is also a Velvia module, which, as the name suggests, adds colour and contrast to your image in a way that using the Velvia film simulation looks and feels. A great module for making your images pop.

Finally, you have Darktable Styles (dtStyles) which can result be downloaded. There is a huge repository for Fujifilm styles, covering dozens of film stock variants and X-Trans III sensor styles. It’s a great resource to get your image looking “Fuji”, and styles can be adjusted easily, as they are usually base curves with often other adjustments which are added to your history stack for tweaking.

dtStyles (First half)
dtStyles (Second half)

Of course, Darktable can use LUT files too, so as an added bonus, you can add any Fujifilm (or other cameras) LUT files to help you achieve what your aiming for, especially if you’ve used those LUTs in other programs. Check out my good friend Marc’s website here for accurate Fujifilm LUTs.

Conclusion

Darktable has a bit of a learning curve, but in its latest update to 3.4, it’s easier to use that it ever was. If you’re coming from Lightroom, Darktable should generally be more accessable.

For a free and open source program, you can tell a lot of love has gone into making Darktable. Written by photographers, for photographers, and it shows, plus it is updated on a regular basis and is available for Windows, Mac and Linux computer systems.

Visit Darktable here, and give it a download, as it’s free!

Get your dyStyles here.

Visit here for many more LUTs etc

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Creating a successful photography website

You’ll be surprised at the amount of people who think once you create a personal photography website, that’s all you need to do and the world will see your photographs. In reality, things couldn’t be further from the truth, and taking that approach you’ll have a very limited number of visits to your website, regardless of how good you think your work is.

If you want people to visit your site, situated your photos and other with, you need to set up a long term plan to get your money’s worth from your domain. What I’ve tried to do here is take a look at his to achieve success, based on my latest website and change of approach compared to other websites I’ve run.

One: Have branding or a name that stands out.

So many photographers have their websites as just their names. In a world of “JoeBlogsPhotograpy.com” type websites being one million to the dozen, try and be a bit more creative so people remember you. Think about what you do most, what you want people to remember you for! The possibilities are endless, and people will remember it more!

Two: Content.

It’s an obvious one, but an important one to think about. Do you have enough contact to be interesting? Most people will just click through your images in seconds, do you have enough to keep them interested? If you do, does the image to a story? Do you tell the story to go with it?

What is in context and a memorable photograph for you, will be totally irrelevant for other people, so even if it’s just a title, give meaning to your photographs.

Three: More content.

In this day and age, simply having a couple of pretty pictures doesn’t work anymore. People like to discover new things. If you’ve got the time dedicate your time to writing a blog update as often as you can, it can be about anything that interests you, but more importantly it will need to be something that others may be interested.

Four: Set aside a section for a specialist subject.

Sometimes you need to attract people to your website by offering something you specialise in. It can be anything, for me it’s my Fujifilm Film Simulations section. I have a huge interest in film after shooting all sorts since the late 1970s, and there’s a community of Fujifilm users that enjoy using their advanced capabilities to emulate film.

Whatever it is, it will draw people to your website, and if it’s done good enough, these people will explore the rest of your website. The one thing you don’t want is the same amount of visitors as views of your website, as that will show that people are not looking around.

Five: Metadata and tags

Make sure every bit of writing you do has words or sentences that can be picked up by search engines. Make sure your blogs are still tagged, your web pages full of metadata and make sure everything is relevant.

The importance of this feature cannot be understated. With burning to search for, no one will discover your site.

Six: Collaborate

Don’t be afraid to build up relationships with other content providers who you admire. You’ll mutually benefit from working together in more ways than one. It can push you to better understand audiences, improve your workflow and build up great friendships

Seven: Constant work and plugging.

The single most important point is this final point. You need to be updating your content almost daily, you need to be plugging your website daily, you need to be linking to your blog at every opportunity and you need to be refreshing everything as often as you can.

It’s hard work making a website successful, but it’s also very important if you want to be recognised for what you do. If you fail in any of the things mentioned above, your website will just be another website that your friends and family will enjoy when your remind them about it

Perfect Camera Straps

I love having the camera in my hand at all times, it means I’m always ready, and I always have the camera in position at all times. However, I was recently out for a few hours, in cold weather and at the end of the session, even with gloves, my hand was just uncomfortable.

I know I wanted another Cody strap, as the quality and feel of them is just perfect. I also knew I didn’t want a typical neck strap where the camera hangs on your belly or chest, so I visited the Cordy website and realised they made custom lengths! With that I ordered the longest length available in the hope it would meet my needs.

The reasoning for the extra length was so that the camera could be left to dangle on my hip. After Christmas Day, I attached the strap, and it fitted perfectly to my hip. Now I have the best of both worlds, I can hold the camera whenever needed, but on the rare occasion I want to let it go, I can now just let it go.

Cordy straps are extremely well made. A finely braided material, that is very comfortable on the hands and neck. From the website the version I chose was approximately £20, although there are many different versions on the site.

Hopefully, this will give those looking for an alternative strap a good idea of a product that is well up to the job.

Cordy Wrist Strap on X-T20 and Standard Thick Neck Strap on Olympus OM10

Of course, the thing about camera straps is that they are very personal. It can take ages to find the perfect device for varying your camera. These straps from Cordy though are simple, stylish, affordable and comfortable. Something that can’t be said for every camera carrying system out there. Plus they are available as quick release or fixed clasps.

*** This article is in no way promoted by Cordy, Cordweaver or any other manufacturer, and it’s wholely based on years of trying out various straps.

Maximising Your Cameras Dynamic Range

After the success of the article “Maximising Your Histogram” we follow that up with taking a look at how to maximise your dynamic range by looking at three popular techniques that will allow you to achieve this. We look at their Pros and Cons, and hopefully this will let you get the best from your digital camera.

Dynamic range is a much misunderstand concept in photography. For the most part, if you have metered correctly for the scene, and conditions are great (not too dark or too light and not much contrast in areas between the two), you can just make slight alterations to your raw image and being back the shadows or highlights and you’ll have s great final image.

In this article we will look at three ways popular with photographers to maximise dynamic range, and compare how effective they can be. We will look at the pros and the cons of each method, and your can make your own mind up at which technique you want to use.

Technique One: Adjusting shadows and highlights.

This is one of the easiest and most effective way of dealing with dynamic range, especially when there are not huge extremes in the highlights and the shadows. It’s the technique that most use, including professional photographers, as with technology now, it is easy to reduce or remove noise that might show because of pulling the shadows or highlights too far.

Many people say use the ETTR (Expose to the right) method when metering your exposure, however forget that nonsense and expose for the scene! That means expose to the left if needed, right if needed or just expose as needed. There’s no blanket metering mode that covers every scene type.

This technique will have you moving your shadows, mid-tone and highlight sliders in software, usually raising the shadows and dropping the highlights and using mid-tone adjustments to bring the whole scene together. It’s very effective, and the majority of photos you see will have used this method. You can also adjust selected areas of highlights and shadows with software filters, targeting areas specifically needed, this haa the same effect but can be more precise.

Pros: Simple and effective, when used correctly can look natural.

Cons: You can get noise in the shadows of they were too dark to start with.

Technique Two: Attached Filters (Graduated filters).

This method of controlling dynamic range is quickly losing favour with photographers in this day and age, as modern cameras and modern editing techniques mean using them is less necessary.

The idea is to put a filter on the end of your lens, usually a soft or hard graduated filter. Think of the filter as a pair of sunglasses, raining in the dynamic range of the sunny part of your image so that you can control the highlights.

Using a graduated filter though is a highly destructive process. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that unless your horizon is perfectly flat, the filter will affect parts of your image that your shouldn’t be touching.

Pros: Handy for controlling light of straight horizons.

Cons: Highly destructive, can be expensive and not needed for modern photography. Often leave a colour cast.

Technique Three: Exposure bracketing.

Of all the three techniques mentioned here, exposure bracketing is one that most people are scared of, because they associate it with HDR photography. But it’s for the high dynamic range than you should really be using this technique when you know you might struggle with dynamic range.

Exposure bracketing can be done both manually or via your cameras bracket mode. The easiest method is using the bracket mode, you set this up to take 3, 5, 7 or 9 exposures, press the button and the camera will fire off the shots one after another. I tend to use just a three bracket shot of EV -2/0/+2, although many people like to separate the exposure by +/-1 stops. It is whatever works for you.

Once you have your 3, 5, 7 or 9 raw files at different exposures, you can then work with them as you want, and there are a number of techniques you can use.

Exposure blend: In software you can create layers and blend in the different exposures that suit the images.
HDR software: Use HDR software to combine or choose from their many presets the best look that suits your image.
Use the best: From your bracketed exposures, there can sometimes be one that just works and you won’t have to do much editing.

Bracketing exposures gives you options, and for the most part it can be used with our without a tripod for everyday photography, as editing software will align the images if you are going to make a HDR image.

Pros: You’ll get the most dynamic range available, images will be clean from noise, simple to use in camera.

Cons: Needs more work in software than the other methods, you may need a tripod in very few situations.

Conclusion

There’s plenty of options for maximising your dynamic range, which starts from getting things right in camera to begin with. I’ve written an article on maximising your histogram here, which should be your next stop if you want to maximise your dynamic range.

There are many YouTube videos online explaining each of the methods I have mentioned, and until I manage to get tutorials up on each method, I advise you to search each one. Through decades of experience, I understand that some people prefer different ways over others. It’s a choice you have to make, from using graduated filters in a destructive way, to find tuning using software.

If you’ve found this article useful, a like and comment would be much appreciated. Also, if you don’t already, please subscribe to my blog.

Why Landscape Photography Is Perfect For Beginners

When you get your new camera, chances are you’ll want something to photograph, and there are only so many times you can photograph the cat, family members and your back garden before they get annoyed or you get bored. The next best thing to do is go out with your camera and take photographs of the surrounding landscapes! They’re not scary places, there’s rarely any people and you can concentrate on what your doing.

The great thing about landscape photography compared to other types of photography is that with little skill, you can create amazing photos. This is due to the fact that nature can be so beautiful and you have so many options. You see a mountain, the sea, cliffs, horses in a field, an empty farm house, and you can literally photograph anywhere near them and you’ll have a result. Even the newest of photographers will usually have some understanding of composition, and I dare to argue that when you’re new, you are far more experimental with your compositions, because you’re learning your craft.

As time goes on, you’ll understand that weather conditions, time of day and the type of light that is available can enhance your photographs, and there’s little to adapt other than learning to work with the things you’ve learned. You’ll experiment with light and shadows much more, and you’ll build on what you know. It’s a perfect learning ground, where the only things that change are the light and weather conditions. You can fine tune your craft with the certainty that you’ll always be in your safe place, with little risk to others, and the knowledge that you’ll get some amazing images.

Landscape photography also lends heavily on allowing you to continuously work and improve on your editing skills. Unlike other forms of photography where colours can hugely vary, you know what colour the skies, water and landscapes are. You’re already programmed with that knowledge, so when you’re at the computer editing, you know straight away if you are on the right track with the edit you are making.

A lot of photographers will almost exclusively do landscape photography, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Firstly it gets you outdoors, and secondly, of all the other forms of photography its the easiest to sell and the easiest to please other people with. As mentioned, it’s also a great place to learn your craft, as there’s so much opportunity to play with your camera and the settings that go into capturing an image.

If you’re just starting out with photography, get outside, and photograph to your heart’s content. With digital photography there’s no cost, and nobody ever got better by doing less photography. If you’ve got a printer, use it on a regular basis, print out your favourite images and just look at them. Give them to friends and family to look at, and take in any feedback. There’s a myth that you should only do photography for yourself, but if you think your work is great and others don’t, it can be really detrimental to you progressing in photography. Of course you should be able to please other people with your images, it will boost your moral and give you confidence to get better.

Once you’ve taken the time with landscape photography, try other genres such as street photography, portraits, architecture or any other kind of photography. Yes, they are so much more challenging, but you’ll reap the rewards for your efforts.

Conclusion

Starting with photography can be a minefield. You’ll read books, watch videos and listen to others. Even if you don’t plan on doing landscape photography, give it a try. Your subject won’t be moving, you’ll have beautiful photos, and you can concentrate. Landscape photography can really be the place to start your career, and it’s one you can dip your toes into time after time in the knowledge you are learning new techniques and enjoying the peace and quiet that comes with it.