June 23rd, 2010

Two new backup workflows

Posted by Ben in Gear, Imaging, Macintosh, Windows

RAID drives

I wrote previously about my fairly modest workflow for image-archiving and backup in the following two articles, and while I continue to use this method, some of the aspects may be a little outdated, or inadequate for those with large storage requirements:

Archiving Photos workflow
RAID for photographers

For an updated look at some quite high-end backup strategies for stills and video as used by Chase Jarvis and Vincent Laforet, check out these excellent two new articles:

Chase Jarvis: Complete Workflow and Backup for Photo + Video (includes a video explanation)

Vincent Laforet: Video & Post Workflow and Backup Strategy

I still wish Apple hadn’t dropped its plans to incorporate the ZFS filesystem into Mac OS X. If it had done, all this would be one heck of a lot easier. Very few backup systems – ZFS being one that does – are actually capable of dealing with the not-inconsiderable problem of bit-rot.

Update: Some constructive criticism on the Chase Jarvis workflow here at Canon5Dtips, including a suggestion to use GIT for real-time versioning backups.

November 19th, 2009

Adobe Camera Raw 5.6

Posted by Ben in Gear, Imaging, Macintosh, Software, Windows

Adobe has posted a new release candidate version of its raw-conversion Photoshop plugin Camera Raw.
Version 5.6 adds support for a bunch of new cameras including the very nice Canon Powershot S90 (see Luminous Landscape review) that I’ve recently acquired and have been quite impressed with. It’s the first point-and-shoot I’ve had that I feel comfortable using at 800 ASA, the noise is very low.
Other cameras of note that it adds support for are the Canon EOS 7D, Canon PowerShot G11, Nikon D3s, and Olympus E-P2.

Go get it here for Mac or Windows.

May 18th, 2009

TiltShift Generator

Posted by Ben in Imaging, Macintosh, Windows

TiltShift Generator

If you like the Tilt-Shift lens effect but don’t have any Tilt-Shift lenses, you can now recreate the effect via a new application called, appropriately, TiltShift Generator.

Written by Takayuki Fukatsu, it can be used as an online application direct from the webpage or downloaded to your computer to run as a standalone program and since it’s built from Adobe Air it will run on Windows, Mac or Linux.

Designed for use with low-resolution cameraphone pictures such as those from the iPhone it does choke a little when you throw it a high-end DSLR image but eventually it does produce a result. Quite a fun application to play with, just bear in mind that using this would be considered image-manipulation, so it’s not at all suitable for journalistic photos.

If you do happen to have an iPhone, check out some of Takayuki’s other photography-related applications for the iPhone.

March 17th, 2009


Posted by Ben in Imaging, Software, Windows


Professional photographers have their needs taken care of by Photoshop, Photo Mechanic, etc when they have to resize/recompress photos. However when you are dealing with amateurs or other people who have no training in image-editing, there is often a need to explain in very simple terms how to resize an image appropriately for emailing or sending via FTP, often over a slow internet connection.

This happens frequently when dealing with members of the public who have photos of newsworthy events, or indeed inexperienced stringers, and in such cases I have frequently advised them to download and use JpegCompress – which used to be free, but is now commercial software.

As an alternative, I recently came across PhotoRazor. It is a free and very easy-to-use piece of software that’s only 934kb to download, and can both resize and recompress single images, or indeed a whole folder of images. It’s Windows-only I’m afraid – if you know of similar software for Mac, or indeed other such software for Windows, please leave a comment. I also understand there are a number of online image editors available now, but I wonder whether to resize you have to upload the full-size image first, which defeats the point for those on slow connections.

February 8th, 2009

Q10 text editor

Posted by Ben in Photojournalism, Software, Windows


This one’s for my journo friends who sit in your office tapping your story away on that plastic Dell desktop, immersed in technology and the internet age, but secretly pining you were living decades earlier and click-clacking away on a manual typewriter.

You know who you are.

Now you can recreate at least some of that old-school journalist minimalism with the free Q10 full-screen text editor.

No menus, no user-interface, no icons, pretty much nothing at all to distract you from the actual process of writing. Just a blank screen and the romantic key sounds of a manual typewriter to fuel the inspiration for that latest government press release you’re rewriting…

February 6th, 2009

Skype 4.0

Posted by Ben in Communications, General, VoIP, Windows


If you use Skype for VOIP calls, you should really upgrade to the recently-released version 4.0 (Windows-only so far). There’s a bunch of interface “improvements” (in my opinion that’s debatable) but the most significant difference is under the hood. Previous versions used Skype’s proprietary audio codec SVOPC but the latest version brings a supposedly much improved new codec called SILK.

Why should you care? Well, they say the new codec achieves almost 50% better audio quality for a given bandwidth, which should mean that all users experience better audio quality, but particularly those with slow or otherwise bad internet connections e.g. in Africa. If you’re running Windows (unfortunately it is the only version that has been upgraded to the SILK codec so far, as usual the Mac version lags behind) then it’s well worth the upgrade.

A few caveats though:

1. Even if you are running v4.0 you’re unlikely to experience the audio improvements unless the person you’re calling is also running v4.0, otherwise it’ll still use the older SVOPC codec. I verified this by calling a Mac user and it indeed still used SVOPC.

2. I’m guessing (but not sure) that the new codec won’t be used for Skype-Out calls to “real” phone numbers, only for Skype-to-Skype calls.

For more explanation of the technical aspects of SILK, take a look here and here.

Personally I still much prefer using SIP for VOIP calls to telephones, largely because it’s an open standard giving you a wide choice of different providers and you can do so many things with it that you just can’t with a proprietary system like Skype, also I just find the audio quality much better… but… it’s hard to ignore the already large user-base that Skype has.

Finally, if you hate the new large window that takes up half your screen, you can switch it back to the old look by going to the View menu and changing “Default view” to “Compact view”.

Skype Download

August 24th, 2008

Free tracking for stolen laptops

Posted by Ben in Macintosh, Software, Windows

A recent post by someone on an internet forum who’d just had his laptop stolen reminded me about this relatively new, free, and open source tracking tool I came across a while back.

Adeona is software currently being developed by a group of students at the University of Washington and is designed to help you try to locate your laptop should it get stolen. The information you can glean from it includes the internal IP address, public IP address, traceroute, name of wireless access point, and if you use the Mac OS X version on a Macbook with built-in webcam then you can also receive photos of the thief using the isightcapture tool.

There’s been plenty such offerings of a commercial nature before, usually requiring a yearly subscription, but this is the first free one I’ve seen. There’s a number of ways in which all these methods won’t work, or can be disabled by a knowledgeable thief, but being free you have little to lose. I haven’t tried it myself but someone who has done wrote this about his experiences here

July 2nd, 2008

Multiple Skype Accounts, Part II

Posted by Ben in Communications, VoIP, Windows

Frankly I don’t use Skype much anymore, and now use SIP for most VOIP calls, but I wrote previously about a hack that allows you to run multiple Skype accounts simultaneously. It wasn’t great but it worked.
There is now, at least for Windows, a slightly more elegant solution to running more than one Skype account simultaneously that doesn’t involve creating multiple Windows logins. It’s free and you can download the Skype Launcher software here. It still opens up two Skype windows but the whole process is pretty painless and now supports auto-login too.

June 12th, 2008

Firefox 3 matters to Photographers

Posted by Ben in Imaging, Macintosh, Software, Windows

Mozilla have announced their expectation that the new version 3 of their popular web browser Firefox will be released this upcoming Tuesday, June 17th. Why is this a big deal for photographers in particular? Let’s step back a bit…

Colour management of photographs can be a complicated and misunderstood process, but the end goal is always to ensure that the viewer sees the image – with regard to tonality and colour – in the way that the photographer intended.
To achieve this, images are usually saved in a certain colour space such as AdobeRGB or sRGB, which defines the potential range of colours and embeds this information profile in the image in a way that can be understood by any colour-profile-aware application.
So if I view an image saved in sRGB and another in AdobeRGB, my colour-aware application can sense the difference and automatically convert the colours so that what I actually see is pretty much the same. Great huh?

However, if you look at the graph above, you will see that sRGB displays a much lower range of colours – a smaller gamut – than AdobeRGB. Professional photographers generally shoot and save their images in AdobeRGB because its larger gamut is better for capturing the full range of colours and for printing purposes.

The current problem is that most web browsers COMPLETELY IGNORE this colour profile information and assume that the image is saved in sRGB – you can test your browser to see if it is compliant at the ICC Test Page. Therefore when these AdobeRGB images are uploaded to the web and seen on the vast majority of browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox 2, Opera, etc) they appear flat and dull – as you can see in the some of the examples here.

Ideally photographers should save an AdobeRGB version for print, and then convert this to a separate sRGB version for web use – but that is of course, a pain. Up until now the only browser that supported colour profiles was Apple’s Safari – which is now available for both Mac and PC. Safari is quite a good browser but has a low market share, and doesn’t offer the wide range of useful plugins and customisations that Firefox does.

Enter Firefox 3. The new version of the browser isn’t colour-profile-aware by default but happily it can be easily fixed by either a hack explained here, or there is already an easy plugin created by Sean Hayes called “Color Management” that does the job – available here on the Mozilla site or here on the author’s homepage. The latter requires no registration.

This is certainly a step in the right direction as far as photography on the web is concerned. It gives me a way to see images on the web as the photographer intended. However the decision to have it off by default means it’s unlikely to help the majority of Firefox users and I find that disappointing, although some of the reasons are discussed here.

Until Microsoft’s Internet Explorer starts recognising colour profiles, and Firefox 3 starts doing so by default, the majority of web users will still be seeing much photography on the web incorrectly represented and not as the photographer intended – but at least I don’t have to any more.

UPDATE 17/06/08: Firefox 3 is now out, I’ve installed the Color Management plugin, and I can say that colour photographs on most websites I frequent look much, much better than before.

November 11th, 2007

FileZilla 3 for OS X

Posted by Ben in Macintosh, Software, Windows

FileZilla logo

Seems I missed this one… My preferred FTP client for Windows (and Linux) is now available for Mac OS X. FileZilla is a robust, free, and open-source ftp client (server version also available) that in my experience handles a variety of connections (including satphones) very reliably.
Longtime Mac users will probably hate the un-Mac-like interface, but shouldn’t dismiss it out of hand as it’s a very full-featured ftp client that has served me well and continues to be frequently updated and improved.
One particularly useful feature that has saved me countless hours of time is the ability to export and import both the settings and all the saved ftp sites, including passwords and individual site preferences. This makes it very quick and easy to transfer everything to a new machine without needing to re-enter everything. Give it a try…

FileZilla download page

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