Badly Photoshopped Image wins Nikon Photo Prize


This is an image of a rooftop ladder where a photographer claims he shot a silhouette of a plane though while waiting for a plane to fly over.

It won a Nikon prize in Singapore.

Goes to show that you only need an ounce of photoshop skills to win something online.

Using photoshop, the image was detected to be fake. But Nikon refuse to admit its error. This sparked a whole slew of fake pictures that became a meme.

Including this one of a Tie Fighter. 

So what do we take from this? Obviously a picture is worth a thousand words but with Photoshop, it's worth probably far more. 

I recently had a conversation with a camera retailer who joked that these days, you don't have to be a top notch photographer to get long as your photoshop skills are excellent that's what clients want. 

Looking back, what he said is true. I mean, which of you out there who shoot weddings and commercial photos would refuse to use Photoshop to remove any imperfections?

Running a Photo Contest is a fatal affair for a Brand

During my time with Sony, I was given a chance to run a photo contest and we did. It was a difficult decision and we had to take Photoshop into account. 

You had to send in copies of your originals which were short listed and later, asked for the RAW files. The contest itself was free to enter. We only wanted pictures that told a story and that was it. There was a lot of work involved and many people were engaged for a rather simple project like this. 

All because we wasted to be sure that whoever won the prize deserved it. 

When brands like Nikon give out prizes to undeserving photographers, it gives the impression that Nikon values Photoshopped images more than real ones and this is VERY bad for the brand. 

Nikon was in no doubt not in a big hurry to remove the image from its Facebook page or for that matter cancel the award. They were lost for words. Sort of like shooting yourself in the foot and then putting your foot in your mouth. 

This is why having a photo editor run a contest is crucial. And these are not your average Tom, Dick or Harry. They are experts in detecting fraud and in another time, they would be known as fraud detectors. Why do Brands have to do this? Because Photoshop exist. 

Photoshopping is not illegal for Stock Image Sales

Many a time, Stock Image Banks or Libraries do not make it clear on the subject of image manipulation because they encourage it. 

Stock images sell because it is a cleaned imaged, that means an image that has been created or staged to the point that it appeals to buyers. 

If you have brands in the background or foreground, it is up to you to remove them. Once it is done, it because more marketable as the buyer doesn't need a copy of Photoshop to clean it up for their use. 

A less than perfect photo isn't enough. It has to be perfect, not for viewing but for commercial use. 

Once photographers get into the habit of this, then firing up Photoshop becomes a routine affair for processing photos rather than use Image Editors like Lightroom. 

Photography is about the capture of Images

This is where I have problems with the above understanding. You become less of a photographer and more of a photo manipulator. 

You then have to ask yourself where you stand. 

I don't have a copy of Photoshop sitting on my computer for the last five years, and have allowed my Photoshop skills to depreciate with each new version of Photoshop CC. Do I miss it? 

Not one bit. 

I find that I enjoy my photography more either using a mobile device or on an analog camera. I don't even use my digital cameras to shoot anymore. 

The purity of the experience is in the art of making photos with a camera and not with a computer. I don't think of capturing less than perfect photos because I know I can fire up Photoshop to change things around in an image. 

This is a very important lesson if you want to learn the art of Photography in a digital age. 

You have to ask yourself if you are doing it for profit or for your own sense of enjoyment before embarking on it and if you say the former, that is to sell your works, then you probably need to ante up on your Photoshop skills more than your Photography skills. 

Photos can also be sold as framed artworks so this works to your advantage if that is your goal. 

The the purist who just wants to enjoy Photography, my advice is for you to take up a film camera before you shoot with a digital one. The experience and skills you pick up from this contributes exponentially to your skills later and you won't regret a moment of it. 


Corbis sells out to VCG for a song....


It is official, Corbis has sold out to Visual China Group, the same group that bought out 500px over a year ago.

Corbis sold for less than it was imagined, with rumors flying saying it was below US$100 million and with a library of 50 million images, that sounds like a deal that can only made in China.

Getty has an agreement to sell Corbis images outside of China so that won't affect world wide sales for photographers.

Photographers weren't too happy as they were not informed of the sale and some have even started to pull their images out from the library. But to say that Chinese are going to abuse the issue is misstating the facts.

Decline of Revenue for Stock Images 

With lax to no regulation by stock image agencies over the use on the Internet, the decline was to be expected. For the record, world wide copyright enforcement for stolen images is extremely low and DCMA takedowns cannot be enforced with servers hosted outside of the US.

Even with personal images, the law is on the side of the offender for US cases. You cannot claim a copyright if you didn't file for copyright protection in the US. This is a costly affair and with your images worth only a tad more than the royalty image, getting a lawyer to sue the offender just doesn't make sense.

To make matters worst, even if rights managed photos are exploited, stolen or misused, stock image agencies still fail to perform any type of regulation to ensure rights are not abused.

This means that a offender can buy a lower quality photo for web use and still blow it up to wall size for use on rooms and walls.

Photographers who own these photos do not know the buyers and this is kept confidential. If a rights use issue does crop up, offenders normally get a slap on the wrist rather than pay any penalty since laws are opaque when it comes to copyright from country to country.

Worst time for Stock Photographers

It is hard to imaging who would want to carve a career in stock photography when royalty free and crowd sourced photos are disrupting the markets.

Camera gears are getting more expensive, and to be kitted out with the latest equipment for professional photography would be a very difficult business proposition.

This is not to say that you can't make money from ad hoc photography services be in commercial photography or weddings. It is how much you can make that determines your future in the business.

Stock photography cannot be treated as a mainstream  income but for beer money. So enjoy the photography while keeping in mind the weekend booze could be more memorable if you earned a little more.


Noob tips for Concert and Stage show Photography


I was watching this TV program on Australia's ABC channel where a few selected a candidates who were photographers of other genres to test their skills on something they have never done. 

Fortunately for me, I have done a whole load of different genres in my lifetime so coming across these challenges weren't a problem. 

What struck me was that the candidates weren't sure if the ISO handling would hold up in a shoot with a Canon DSLR, something they could have found out using the Internet. 

For me at least, I knew that any present day DSLR worth it's grain in salt would be able to handle 3200 ISO without breaking a sweat. High ISO grain should not pose a problem but lighting or White Balance can. However you only find that out during an actual shoot when the lighting comes on. 

Besides these expected challenges, shooting in concert or stage scenarios is pretty much like shooting motor sports. Let's examine the details. 

Telephoto Lens with a Wide Open Aperture

Yup. Without it, you're done for. You need a minimum of 200mm with a f/2.8 aperture. Any less would warrant problems. This has to do with how far or how close you are from the stage. Fast shutter speeds allow you to free movement, slow ones blur it. This is the same creative methods used by sports photographers. The aperture is used not only for bokeh effects but also for shutter speed control. A higher shutter speed used in a wide open aperture will compensate for low light conditions. 

Bring along a Wide Lens

For environment shots, you need a wider lens. How wide depends on the stage. In large scale stadium style a wide area shot captures the mood and audience during performance while in the pit area (official photographer's pit access) the wider lens will also go some way to capturing the whole performance on stage. To capture the full breath of the performance, you need to include as many scenarios as you can within a short time frame. 

Use higher ISO to compensate for higher Shutter Speeds

Shutter speed is a tricky subject, how fast do you need to shoot depends on how much action you need to freeze. In most cases a 1/250 shutter speed should be enough to freeze human movement. But in order to achieve that, you also need to know how much light you need to get it properly exposed. In the old days, when using film, you could only make a guess on the speed and make several shots without knowing if you hit one. This is called bracketing. With digital, bracketing isn't really necessary as a frame can be developed with up to 1 stop in exposure either way using RAW files. What you need to know is how much of the highlight, and shadow areas of the scene can be captured. 

Monopod use is Encouraged

The last trick in the book is to bring along a monopod. This allows you to spin the camera on its monopod axis to ensure as little movement as possible when capturing the pictures. If you do not have a monopod, you can use your normal tripod but use it only with only ONE leg fully extended. Professional tripods are an absolute pain to carry around, they are bulky and heavy but as photographer, you need to be prepared for every shooting situation and being lazy isn't one of the traits that will help you in the end. 

Be creative while you are at it....

Not all staged events takes place in dark or low light environments, the key here is using available light to your advantage within the confines of the setting. Being able to think on the move is crucial, so is find the right angle for composition. Mix lighting in concerts are very difficult to manage and plays havoc with your WB settings. It is up to you to use your creativity to manage the situation. 

You have to be selfish and mindful at the same time. 

Selfish. Because you need to get the picture you want at the opportune moment. The best angle is often hogged by numerous photographers and you can't afford to be stuck in one place too long as all your shots will look the same.

Mindful. As you might be block the audience when you shoot the picture so be courteous about it. In free public concerts, there are no restrictions on what you bring along and you don't need a press pass to shoot the event. So this means you can position yourself somewhere until the opportunity comes. Sometimes you have to quick and mindful of where this will be and how you might affect the audience. 

Now go out and have fun while you're at it.....