Kenneth Lee Gallery
"If you want to be more than a virtuoso…
first you have to be a virtuoso"
- Vladimir Horowitz
Swift-Lock Carrying System

Spinn Design is now shipping the Swift-Lock camera plate. Like their earlier CP Carrying System, it keeps the lens pointing down and out of the way. This makes a real difference when you want to move around safely with a longer lens.

This new version lets you remove the camera in an instant, for placement on a tripod or accessing the battery compartment. It's very well made and works perfectly on my Sony mirrorless camera. The baseplate attaches to an ARCA-SWISS quick release mount.

Nowhere In Particular

Some photographers travel to the ends of the earth in search of breathtaking scenery and exotic wildlife. Their work depends on spectacular subject matter. Another approach is to find beauty in the scenery of everyday life. Click here to see 38 photographs taken nowhere in particular.

Random Order

My photographs are displayed in a completely random order: never the same way twice. This is intentional.

Most people group their photos. They separate portraits from landscapes and black & white from color. This is natural. Everyone appreciates orderly categories.

Another approach is to view each image separately. A good photograph should be able to stand on its own. I'm less interested in catalogs, collections or telling a story. What interests me is each photograph, one at a time.

After and Before III

7 Requirements

There's more to photography than technique and equipment. A competent capture of an interesting subject isn't enough. A succesful image should demonstrate simplicity, elegant design, effective color, compelling lighting, an interesting subject, a novel approach and... an element of mystery. Click here to see 28 images: do they fulfill those 7 requirements ?

Cleer Open-Ear Headphones

I don't normally recommend non-photographic gear but these Cleer Arc II Open-Ear Earbuds give excellent sound and STAY IN PLACE, even during vigorous activity.

They don't go in your ears, they fit OVER them. They can't cause ear infections. They're not the smallest or the lightest but they are very comfortable and they hold their charge for a long time. You can wear them for hours and forget they are there.

Black & White Filter for Better Color

2-minute video: Improving Color Photos with the Black and White Filter in Photoshop
This video explains how to improve the colors and brightness range of a color photograph, using the Black and White filter in Photoshop.
Toning with Gradient Maps

3-minute video: Toning Monochrome Images with Gradient Maps in Photoshop
This video explains the best way I've found to add color to black and white images. It gives the most control over colors and their distribution along the tonal scale. For additional methods of toning, see Toned Monochrome with Photoshop.

Toning our images in Photoshop, we can use any printer or paper we like. We can split-tone with an unlimited number of shades. Toning with Photoshop can replace earlier approaches like Quadtone RIP and Piezography, which by comparison are limited and cumbersome. With digital toning, there is no need for a dedicated printer, special inks, custom profiles, etc.

After and Before II

Man with Two Watches Monitors

Atkinson Test Image
If you use more than one monitor for image editing, the colors may not match. According to Segal's Law, a man with two watches can never be sure what time it is. In this video, imaging scientist Dr. Chris Bai says that two monitors may come very close to matching standard color targets, but each will vary in its own way.

By analogy, one timepiece may be 2 seconds fast while the other is 2 seconds slow. They are both close - but the combined difference "adds up". Every display has its own Delta-E profile, which compares ideal and actual color values. For more on this topic, watch the video Delta E Explained by ArtIsRight.

When I had a problem matching my two different monitors (Apple and EIZO), a generous friend lent me a display calibration tool from Calibrite. After calibration, they are quite close: virtually indistinguishable.

Recommendation: Use only one colorimeter (of recent purchase) to calibrate both monitors. Do not use two different colorimeters. To calibrate my EIZO CG2420, I used the EIZO software because it performs hardware adjustment - but I did not use the EIZO's built-in colorimeter. (A friend told me that he too was disappointed with the colorimeter on that model: it gave him a white point that was too warm.) Using the same Calibrite colorimeter for both displays, I was able to get a very close match between the Apple and the EIZO.

Linear Profiles: Natural Tones

If you shoot raw files, you may not be aware that typical raw profiles automatically "enhance" your photos by crushing the high and low tones. They clip the toe and shoulder of the brightness curve by several stops. They also "enhance" the color saturation. Your camera is probably recording more information than you realize.

Above is a photo taken under high contrast lighting, viewed in the Adobe Camera Raw. The default Adobe Color profile was used on the left and a linear profile on the right. At first glance, the version on the left looks more "snappy", but notice that the linear version has more detail in the shadows and highlights. It looks more realistic, with greater subtlety. Doesn't it feel more like early morning light ?

We can increase contrast and color saturation later if we like - but if the lows and highs have been blown out by an overly aggressive raw conversion, we can't get them back. With non-linear raw profiles, perfectly smooth images like the one below may not be possible.

For information about linear profiles, visit Tony Kuyper's excellent Linear Profile Repository, where you can download linear profiles for a wide variety of digital cameras and find links to many more articles on this topic. To make your own linear profiles, see Linear Profiles for ANY CAMERA! and Make a Linear Profile easily in SECONDS!

Non-Adobe users: see How To Use Linear Profiles in Luminar, ON1, Affinity, PhotoLab 4 & Exposure X6. The freeware program RawTherapee also supports a fully linear option when converting from raw. FastRawViewer lets you examine your raw files in linear mode.

Natural Tonality is Nothing New

This approach is analogous to proper film scanning: see Scanning Tips with EPSON and VueScan Software

If this sounds like using a cold diffusion light source in the darkroom to avoid the Callier Effect, then you're probably old enough to remember Fred Picker and his 1974 classic Zone VI Workshop.

Whether we're shooting digital, scanning film or enlarging negatives, it's the same old issue: getting natural tones.

MacOS & Multiple Monitors

If you've ever used multiple monitors on a Mac, you know that by default, macOS only provides a toolbar at the top of the main display - even when we are using multiple monitors. This makes life very difficult...

...because we always have to move the mouse (and our eyes) back to the main screen to get to the menu. Perhaps this accords with Apple's minimalistic design philosophy, but the whole point of using multiple monitors is speed and convenience. For every monitor, there should be a toolbar along the top, don't you think ?

Fortunately there is a solution, and it doesn't require us to install any after-market software. Many thanks to macOS ToolBar on All Screens for sharing a simple workaround which places a toolbar at the top of every screen - and every toolbar conforms to whatever application has focus on that screen !

In a nutshell, enable the setting Displays have separate Spaces. That's it.

If you have the dock along the bottom of the display, then on whichever screen you're active, if you move the mouse beyond the lower edge of the display, the dock will move to that display. You don't have to go back to the main display every time to use to the dock.

DxO with Unsupported Lenses

Do you use lenses for which Adobe has a profile, but DxO does not ?

Here's how to convert from raw with DxO and apply the Adobe lens profile:
  1. Open the raw file in DxO Pure Raw and save it as a DNG file
  2. Open the DNG file in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom and apply the lens profile along with other corrections
  3. Save the file as Photoshop/TIFF for subsequent creative editing. (I prefer Photoshop to Lightroom for all but the most trivial corrections: for explanation, see Tutorial Videos)

This is a good workflow when shooting with older lenses like the 75mm Voigtlander f/2.5 Color-Heliar, for which there is an Adobe profile which corrects slight distortion and color-fringing.

After and Before

5x7 View Camera and Ilford FP4 ?

la traversee de Paris estivale ~ 2023
Photograph by Christoper Mark Perez

Was this photo of a WWII re-enactor taken using a Linhof Tech II 5x7 view camera, a Fujinon-A 240mm f/9 (wide open), and Ilford FP4+ film?

See Looking More Deeply by Christoper Mark Perez to find out.

One of the great testers of Large Format optics back in the day, Christopher Mark Perez continues to share valuable information.

Short, Free Photoshop Tutorials

Video: PARTIAL Clutter Removal
Here is a free series of short instructional videos which demonstrate some of the Photoshop features I use most often. I hope you find them helpful.
Auto-Straighten Images

Photoshop's Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom provide the Geometry tool to correct perspective automatically and/or manually. It can be used with all types of images, not just raw files. Here we have corrected a rather skewed cell-phone snapshot, by merely clicking the A button for Auto: Apply balanced perspective corrections.

Just Enough Detail

For certain images, reducing the level of detail allows greater emphasis on color, composition and feeling. To make painterly photographs, you can start out with a high resolution image and experiment with various Photoshop filters and programs like Dynamic Auto Painter. Because Photoshop supports layers, we can combine various effects and adjust them to taste. The possibilities are endless !

Although I started out decades ago making Large Format silver gelatin prints, today I make digital images: some which resemble paintings to varying degrees, and others which look strictly like photographs. I don’t distinguish or categorize images along this spectrum. I do the same with monochrome versus color: I use what whatever works best, on a case‐by‐case basis. Ultimately, an image is an image, and “If you like it, you like it”.

For a 3-minute instructional video, see Digital Watercolor Treatment.

Toned Monochrome

Image toned to resemble an (imaginary) mixture of copper and platinum
Image toned with a combination of vintage treatments
Before black and white silver prints became the norm in the early 20th century, photographs were made with platinum, palladium, gold, carbon and a variety of elaborate chemical treatments. Using today's digital methods, we can reproduce many of the same effects.

We can even combine them in ways that were unimaginable or impossible in the darkroom. For a brief introduction see Toned Monochrome Images with Photoshop. For several more approaches to toning, see Additional Methods of Toning in Photoshop.

Favorite Aspect Ratios
"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds"Ralph Waldo Emerson

Often overlooked, aspect ratio is one of the more important elements in fine art photography because it determines the overall compositional structure and feeling of the work. Every aspect ratio has its own flavor and as they say, "Variety is the spice of life".

1x3 Ratio
The 1x3 ratio is a new one for me. I discovered its charms while designing a set of 2x6 inch bookmarks. Stay tuned for more images in this ratio ! To view 1 photographs in the 1x3 aspect ratio, click here.

Golden Ratio + 1
A lovely wide format, the Golden Ratio + 1 is roughly equal to 2.618. The Golden Ratio (often designated by the Greek letter φ or Phi) is defined such that Φ squared is equal to Φ + 1. Therefore, this proportion can also be stated as Phi Squared. In whole numbers, we can approximate this ratio by 5x13. To view 2 photographs in the 2.618 aspect ratio, click here.

Root 5 Ratio
An irrational number, the square root of 5 can be approximated by 9x20. Pablo Picasso appears to have chosen this ratio for his 1937 painting Guernica. Leonardo da Vinci used something very close for his 1472 painting Annunciation. Another example is Xiao He Chases Han Xin by the Japanese poet and painter Yosa Buson (1716-1784). With deep respect, I have taken the liberty of "restoring" the painting digitally, removing the six folding screen divisions: see here. To view 22 photographs in the Root 5 aspect ratio, click here.

1x2 Ratio
The 1x2 or double square is a true classic, employed by renowned architects of the Italian Renaissance like Leon Battista Alberti (1407-1472), whose design principles were based on theories of musical harmony and Andrea Palladio (1508-1580), who referred to the double square in his 1570 text Four Books of Architecture.

The great Chinese painter and poet Ni Zan (1301-1374) often used the 1x2 ratio for his hanging scrolls. Read What is 2:1 Aspect Ratio (Univisium) & Why Are Directors Switching Over? To view 30 photographs in the 1x2 aspect ratio, click here.

16x9 Ratio
Developed by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, the 16x9 aspect ratio is the default setting on most video cameras and the most popular aspect ratio for video displays. Note that 16/9 is equivalent to 4/3 squared. This format likely originated with the use of anamorphic lenses to capture a wide view and compress it into the SDTV 3:4 film format. To view 27 photographs in the 16x9 aspect ratio, click here.

Root 3 Ratio
An irrational number, the square root of 3 is roughly 1 x 1.732. This ratio can be approximated by 4x7. To view 4 photographs in the Root 3 aspect ratio, click here.

3x5 Ratio
Another favorite of Andrea Palladio was 3x5. To view 5 photographs in the 3x5 aspect ratio, click here.

Golden Ratio
An irrational number, the Golden Ratio is roughly 1 x 1.618 and can be approximated by 5x8, 8x13, 13x21 etc. This ratio (often designated by the Greek letter φ or Phi) has received considerable attention throughout the history of Mathematics, as it appears in many natural forms and processes. For more information, see Fibonacci Sequence and Golden Ratio. To view 20 photographs in the Golden aspect ratio, click here.

2x3 Ratio
Another classical ratio from the Renaissance, the 2x3 ratio entered mainstream still photography with the 1924 introduction of the 35mm Leica camera, developed by Oskar Barnak. To view 54 photographs in the 2x3 aspect ratio, click here.

5x7 Ratio
The 5x7 aspect ratio is very close to the Square Root of Two, which can be approximated by 12x17. On a full-frame sensor, 24x34 pixels is midway between 2x3 (24x36) and 3x4 (24x32). To view 53 photographs in the 5x7 aspect ratio, click here.

11x15 Ratio
Here's an elegant but lesser-known aspect ratio: 11x15. At 22x30 pixels, it's midway between 2x3 (20x30) and 8x10 (24x30). To view 10 photographs in the 11x15 aspect ratio, click here.

3x4 Ratio
A favorite of Palladio was 3x4, the ratio used on many cell phones as well as Micro Four Thirds, Medium Format film and digital cameras. To view 16 photographs in the 3x4 aspect ratio, click here.

11x14 Ratio
The 11x14 ratio was popular in the days of darkroom printing. After 8x10, it was the next largest size of commercially available photographic paper. The 11x14 ratio conveys a lovely sense of fullness. Interestingly, it is very close to the square root of the Golden Ratio. To view 10 photographs in the 11x14 aspect ratio, click here.

8x10 Ratio
The 8x10 ratio has simplicity and strength. It's close to square but still conveys a sense of orientation, whether portrait or landscape. There's a good reason it remains a classic format. To view 84 photographs in the 8x10 aspect ratio, click here.

Square Ratio
The square or 1x1 ratio is another ancient design. It became popularized in photography with the introduction of roll-film cameras like the Rolleiflex, Hasselblad and 6x6 folding cameras. The square format makes life easy for photographers: with neither portrait nor landscape orientation, there is no need to rotate the camera. Square images are easily tiled and they are well-suited to commercial graphic design, which favors simplicity and boldness. To view 6 photographs in the Square aspect ratio, click here.
Custom Aspect Ratios

This image has an aspect ratio of 10 x 15.4
Some photographs do not conform to any of the usual aspect ratios. They look best when cropped according to their own inherent design. To view 32 photographs in custom aspect ratios, click here.
Lens Defects That Software Can't Fix

With curvature of field a lens may focus sharply in the center but the edges will focus at a different distance. The plane of sharp focus is not flat. It extends forward from the lens like a curved wave front. The curve may be simple or complex. This is determined by the optical design of the lens, not manufacturing. Better lenses and macro designs exhibit flatness of field: they do not suffer from this problem.

With de-centering every corner of the image focuses at a different distance. A misalignment of internal elements has been overlooked by quality control. To avoid de-centered lenses, some photographers routinely purchase several samples, keep the best and return the others to the retailer. Budget-priced lens adapters and extension rings can cause de-centering.

With focus shift, adjusting the aperture moves the point of sharp focus closer and farther. This is determined by the optical design of the lens, not manufacturing. For optimal results it's best to focus at actual taking aperture, which is easy with manual-focus lenses. One reason that cinematography lenses are more expensive than still lenses ? No focus shift. See Cinema Lenses: What Are You Paying For?

To get around these problems, we can shoot at small apertures and rely on increased depth of field to get everything in focus, but that's not an ideal solution since image quality starts to degrade once we pass the best aperture. Besides, sometimes we want to shoot at wide apertures.

Browsing Monochrome Raw

Some cameras let us compose and shoot in Black & White but they save a full color Raw file. With recent improvements to Adobe Bridge, we have the option to browse monochrome images as they were envisioned.

To view files as they were captured in monochrome, go to Adobe Bridge 2020 > Camera Raw Preferences > Raw Defaults and change from Adobe Default to Camera Settings.

FastRawViewer also lets us browse B&W photos as they were taken - in monochrome - or as they were saved - in color. As the name implies, it's a very fast application, with versions for both macOS and Windows. To browse in monochrome, select View > RGB/Channels/BW > BW Conversion

Browsing with FastRawViewer

Selective Sharpening in Photoshop

Remember that sharpening should be the last step, performed after all other corrections and adjustments.

When sharpening an image, strange artifacts often appear at the high and low ends of the tonal scale. Here's an improvement: sharpen the mid-tones only.
  1. Duplicate the layer that you intend to sharpen.
  2. Select the Layer Style of the duplicate layer.
  3. Adjust the Blend If sliders to remove the low and high end of the tonal scale. The result is that only the middle of the tonal scale has been selected.
  4. Sharpen the new layer to taste.
  5. Do not merge the layers before saving. Save the file as a PSD or TIF file with separate layers intact. You can change or even discard the sharpening layer any time you like, depending on the size of your print.

Some images automatically look sharper than others. Because of visual cues, they convey an impression of sharpness. See Two Barns: One Sharp, One Not for more explanation.

3-Minute Video: Sharpening on Layers

3-Level Sharpening

If you want to sharpen your image even more effectively, you can apply this principle three times over. Create 3 duplicate layers (one for each of the low, middle and high portions of the tonal scale) and sharpen each layer separately.

Vibration-Free: Sony Wireless Remote

Shooting on a tripod for best image quality, it's not always appropriate to use the camera's self-timer to minimize camera shake. Sometimes we need to work quickly, shoot at an exact moment, perform repetitive manual focus-stacking or appear in our own group portrait.

The Sony Wireless Remote Commander is an inexpensive and portable tool which communicates with the camera's infra-red sensor. It supports remote shutter release, delayed shutter release, video start/stop, image review and deletion. Click here to watch a brief YouTube video.

Photoshop Solid State Scratch Disk

Without sufficient access to fast RAM, Photoshop will hang, pause, delay, spin... etc. Photoshop really wants RAM for its scratch disk. To eliminate these problems and gain performance, your scratch drive should be very large and it should be on its own dedicated drive. This is easy on a Windows machine, where we can configure additional drives before or after purchase, but newer Mac machines ship with one drive only.

If we want a cheap and easy separate Photoshop scratch disk we can simply plug in an external SSD drive and specify it in Photoshop > Preferences > Scratch Disks. There should be nothing else on the drive and it should only be used as a scratch disk.

Be sure to specify the scratch disk as the first disk in the list, before your main drive. This frees the main drive to provide actual program code, while the scratch can serve as a dedicated disk for temporary memory. Drag the scratch disk entry above the main disk. Power users can specify multiple scratch disks.

Of course it's best if we have an internal SSD with its fast on-board connection to the computer, but even an external SSD drive will be better than no separate drive at all, especially if the drive uses a fast connection like USB 3 or Thunderbolt 3. The more RAM you have, the more Photoshop will use, so get a much larger SSD drive than you think you'll need. I use a 250 GB SanDisk External SSD with a USB 3.1 connection.

Note: as of November 2023, beware of Sandisk 2TB, 3TB and 4TB drives. See SanDisk Extreme Pro Failures Result From Design and Manufacturing Flaws, Says Data Recovery Firm.

Photodiox Exxy L-Bracket

Exxy L-Bracket When we orient a digital camera in portrait mode on a typical tripod head, movements are restricted and the camera sits off to the side of the rotational axis. The Photodiox Exxy L-Bracket solves this problem at an affordable price-point.

With an L-bracket, shooting in portrait orientation is just like shooting in landscape mode: all tripod movements are available to us and the camera can be centered over the axis of rotation: we can stitch vertical images together to make images of considerably higher resolution. Not absurdly wide panoramas: photos in landscape mode with optimal quality.

Below is a photograph stitched from 3 overlapping vertical images made with a 42 megapixel Sony A7RII and an affordable used 75mm lens. Cropped to the 4x5 ratio, the resulting file is 80 megapixels. Each section of the final image is taken from the central portion where resolution is highest. At 80 megapixels we have matched or exceeded the image quality of far more expensive equipment but we may not need that much resolution unless we plan to make and display very large prints !

Once you attach the L-bracket to the bottom of the camera, you can mount the camera either vertically or horizontally using a standard Arca-Swiss style dovetail quick-release. The rear screen moves about freely and you still have full access to the battery and memory card. Click here for a Fotodiox YouTube video which features this product.

Cropped Aspect Ratios in Daylight

Blue Tape
Some mirrorless cameras offer a narrow choice of in-camera aspect ratios: 2x3 and 16x9 only. If we like to compose in other ratios, we can apply removable painter's tape to the rear of the electronic viewfinder or EVF. This works well indoors, but under bright sunshine we can't always see the EVF clearly enough for precise composition, focus and exposure adjustment.

Hoodman Loupe
An affordable loupe like the Hoodman comes to the rescue. There are more inexpensive models on the market, but be sure to choose one with a diopter adjustment on the eyepiece. The Hoodman loupe works as designed: in very bright light we can effectively view the EVF. If the EVF has been masked to a different aspect ratio, we can compose in that ratio. In-camera control of aspect ratio would be ideal, but this solution will mimic that missing feature at an affordable price point.

The diopter adjustment works well and we see a clear image with no barrel or pincushion distortion. The Hoodman works nicely when the camera is tripod-mounted and we wear the loupe on a lanyard. In other words, it functions best when we use it like a loupe. There is nothing to attach to the camera which might damage the paint upon removal. For my Sony A7RII, I use the 3-inch model.

4-Way Focusing Rail

Neewer Focusing Rail
If you've ever tried working at short range with a small tripod-mounted camera, you'll know that minute adjustment of position can be troublesome. An affordable four-way focusing rail like the Neewer makes it easy. Four-way rails allow you to precisely move the camera from side to side or front-to-rear. Be sure to choose a model where everything is geared and the positions can be independently locked.

After shooting with a view camera for decades, many of my photographs are made at close proximity to the subject where even a slight change in camera position has a pronounced effect on composition. For example, see these photographs of Tulips which were made with a Sony mirrorless camera only inches from the flowers. Exact camera position can make or break an image.

To see a brief YouTube video about the Newer 4-way Focusing Rail, click here.

Another advantage of a 4-way focusing rail is that we can position the entrance pupil of the lens directly over the the tripod's center of rotation. This step is critical for making successful stitched panorama and mosaic images at less-than-infinity distance.

The image above was made from 16 exposures, employing both focus-stacking and mosaic stitching to provide unlimited depth of field and avoid parallax artifacts. For focus-stacking I use Helicon Focus and for stitching I use Photoshop. Helicon allows you to import RAW files directly: there is no need to save as TIF or DNG first (but it's faster if you do).

Converting 8 to 16 bit in Photoshop

At the left is the histogram of an 8 bit grayscale image file. Because of the shallow bit-depth, we can observe gaps in the tonal scale. This is also known as banding. As we continue to adjust the image, banding gets worse. The more corrections we make to 8 bit images, the more artificial they can look. For best image quality, we want to avoid banding.

If we simply change the file mode from 8 bit to 16 bit (Image > Mode > 16 Bits/Channel), Photoshop will not interpolate new values to provide intermediate tones as we perform adjustments.

Here's the trick: after converting to 16 bit depth, change the size of the image, even slightly. This will force Photoshop to interpolate all the pixels. As the histogram on the right demonstrates, the tonal scale is now smooth. Any subsequent adjustments to the tonal scale will be performed in 16 bit and no banding will be introduced.

Printing Custom Sizes with Print Tool

Print Tool is a custom layout and printing application for macOS with Epson and HP printers. It can run standalone or with a Quadtone RIP workflow. Print Tool supports JPG, TIF, PSD, PNG and GIF files in 8-bit or 16-bit RGB or Grayscale.

6 x 7.5 inch print on 8.5 x 10 inch paper

One of Print Tool's many compelling features is the ability to print on custom-sized paper with equal borders. This is vital because many of the standard paper sizes do not work with 8x10 and other traditional ratios. Unequal borders can easily spoil a composition: equal borders are a must !

Paper Size Image Ratio Image Size Cropped Paper Size Border Width
8.5 x 11 3 x 4 6 x 8 8.5 x 10.5 1.25
4 x 5 6 x 7.5 8.5 x 10 1.25
8 x 10 8.5 x 10.5 0.25
5 x 7 5 x 7 8 x 10 1.5
12 x 17 6 x 8.5 8.5 x 11 1.25
11 x 14 5.5 x 7 8.5 x 10 1.5
2 x 3 6 x 9 8 x 11 1.0
9 x 20 4.5 x 10 8 x 11 0.5

Paper Size Image Ratio Image Size Cropped Paper Size Border Width
11 x 17 4 x 5 10 x 12.5 11 x 13.5 0.5
5 x 7 10 x 14 11 x 15 0.5
2 x 3 8 x 12 11 x 15 1.5
10 x 15 11 x 16 0.5

Paper Size Image Ratio Image Size Cropped Paper Size Border Width
13 x 19 4 x 5 10 x 12.5 13 x 15.5 1.5
12 x 15 13 x 16 0.5
5 x 7 10 x 14 12 x 16 1.0
12 x 17 12 x 17 13 x 18 0.5
11 x 14 11 x 14 13 x 16 1.0
2 x 3 12 x 18 13 x 19 0.5

Paper Size Image Ratio Image Size Cropped Paper Size Border Width
17 x 22 4 x 5 16 x 20 17 x 21 0.5
5 x 7 15 x 21 16 x 22 0.5
11 x 14 16.5 x 21 17 x 21.5 0.25
12 x 17 12 x 17 17 x 22 2.5
2 x 3 14 x 21 15 x 22 0.5
9 x 20 9 x 20 11 x 22 1.0

For example, I like to make proof prints on US letter paper (8.5 x 11 inch), with a 1.25 inch border. This comes out to a 6 x 7.5 inch print on 8.5 x 10 paper and is very easy to set up on Print Tool. This requires trimming our 8.5 x 11 inch paper to 10 inches long, as shown above. Another nice size is exactly 10 x 12.5 inches with a 1.5 inch border. We merely trim our 13 x 19 inch paper to 15.5 inches long.

To see how to configure macOS for Print Tool 2 custom sizes, click here. (For Print Tool 1 click here.)

Really Accurate Color Balance

The XRite Color Checker Passport Photo 2 is an affordable solution consisting of a portable target and software. It works with Photoshop and Lightroom to give you accurate color balance wherever you shoot.

The tool contains RGB and CMYK values, gray steps and other standard color patches. The newer Passport Photo 2 also contains an 18% gray card.

The test photo above was made under typical incandescent home office lighting and shows before and after profile correction. To watch a YouTube video about it, click here and see the X-Rite promotional video here.

Sony Mirrorless

Sony full-frame sensors deliver high resolution in a very portable package. The 60MP Sony A7RV full-frame sensor delivers 6,336 x 9,504 pixels: a 21x32 inch (50x75 cm) print at 300 dpi. (The older A7RII and A7RIII sensors deliver 5304 x 7952 pixels: an 18x27 inch print at 300 dpi).

The tonality and dynamic range are superb. At ISO 100 there is no apparent grain or sensor noise whatsoever at 100% magnification. Using noise reduction software (like my favorite DxO Pure Raw), we can make clean and sharp images at much higher ISO.

Sony A7RII, Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Color-Heliar

To get resolution like this across the entire image, we need to shoot lenses at their best aperture and keep the camera very steady. The larger the print, the more important this becomes.

Sony Cameras: Latest News

To keep up with the latest news and discussion about Sony cameras and equipment see Sony Alpha Rumors and Fred Miranda's Sony Forum. An official Sony shooter, Brian Smith's blog is highly informatve.

Brian Smith's Ultimate Guide to Fullframe E-Mount FE Lenses is comprehensive and regularly updated.

Although less frequently updated, here's another survey and evaluation of native full-frame lenses with electronic coupling for Sony E-Mount cameras by Phillip Reeve: Sony FE Lenses: a Comprehensive and Independent Guide. He also provides these additional helpful articles: The Best Lenses Below $499 for the Sony A7 Series and Beginner’s Guide to Manual Lenses on the Sony A7.

For news about digital equipment of all stripes, see Digital Photography Review.

 Auto  Manual Focus Please

For fine-art subjects (as opposed to snapshots, sports, wedding and fashion), manual focusing is preferable. we're rarely working quickly and we can't trust the camera to make the right artistic decision. For example, see below where sharp focus has been applied off-center.

Sony A7RII, Nikon 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor

Because the Sony provides focus-peaking and magnification, it's like using a loupe on a view camera. Mirrorless cameras provide a level of precise focus that can never be reached while looking through an SLR or rangefinder window.

Another advantage of manual focus: we can focus with the lens stopped down to the actual taking aperture. This not only helps us preview depth of field, it eliminates focus shift.

Lenses for Sony Mirrorless

This section now has its own web page. Click here for a discussion of our favorite native and adapted lenses for full-frame and APS-C Sony mirrorless: zoom, fixed focal length, manual and autofocus. Lenses for travel, macro, landscape etc.

These lenses can also be used on other mirrorless camera bodies: Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Olympus, Panasonic, Leica, etc.

Step-Up Rings

Don't purchase a set of filters for every "odd-ball" size (and carry them into the field). An inexpensive step-up ring can save you money, space and weight. If you add a step-up adpater ring to your smaller lenses, they will take a larger lens cap and you can purchase a single set of filters.

Favorite Tripod and Heads

Bogen 3021 BN Pro This tripod is neither the largest, smallest, heaviest nor lightest - but the Bogen 3021 BN Pro is an affordable all-around solution. It's built strong enough and light enough. It's not made of carbon fiber but unless you are a trekker... who cares !

Sorry, I do not recommend ball heads: when we adjust the camera in one direction, we lose the other two planes of orientation. Ball heads are hit-and-miss. They drift as we tighten the knob, due to the weight of the camera. For precise work, they are practically useless ! I recommend geared tripod heads for general use. For careful positioning of small cameras at close distance, I recommend a 4-way Focusing Rail.

Bogen 3275 410I like the Manfrotto 3275 410 geared tripod head, which is rated for holding cameras up to 11 pounds. It lets you make fine adjustments in 3 directions, independently. It's small, light and strong. It's a treat to make adjustments this way: there is no drift. I use it with cameras that are comparatively light in weight, like wooden field cameras and digital cameras.

Geared movements let us make minute compositional adjustments, critical when shooting small objects at close distance, like these Tulip and Rotary Telephone photographs which were made with a Sony mirrorless camera. There are better geared tripod heads on the market like the Arca Swiss C1 and D4, but the Manfrotto is considerably more affordable.

Manfrotto 229For heavier equipment, consider the Manfrotto 229 tripod head. It's rated up to 16 pounds and has no problem holding a Sinar P with 5x7 back, extension rails etc.

Here's a cold-weather tip: wrap some pipe insulation around the legs and hold it down with some inexpensive duct tape. This will keep your hands warm when you carry the tripod. Pipe insulation is very inexpensive but you will find this very helpful in winter time. It also helps if you want to carry the tripod on your shoulders: it's soft on the body.

Favorite Tripod & Head for Travel

The Oben CT-3535 Folding Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod with BE-208T Ball Head folds to only 12 inches and weighs only 2.5 pounds. It fits in just about any backpack or shoulder bag and is therefore ideal for travel. It also converts to a monopod and comes with a ball-head that will orient vertically. Ball heads are suitable for travel when weight and size must be kept to an absolute minimum.

You can watch a YouTube video about this tripod here.

I use this combination when traveling with my Sony A7RII. When possible I replace the Oben ball head with the Manfrotto 3725 410 head shown above. Even though it weighs as much as the tripod, it is finely geared.

Leveling Base - What a Relief!

Manfrotto 438 A leveling tripod base like the Manfrotto 438 sits just below the tripod head (see yellow arrow). You get a level platform without having to adjust the legs of your tripod. This piece of equipment doesn't weigh very much but makes life much easier - especially when shooting in the field, where the ground is rarely level.

Manfrotto 438On the right you can see the leveling base in action. The tripod is not level - as the red line shows - but the tripod head is level, because we have adjusted the leveling base beneath it.

With such an arrangement, we can pan the head horizontally (or move the 3 gears of the 410 head in any direction we like) and we don't have to correct anything afterward. To adjust the leveling base, just loosen the lever and use the bubble level. It's much faster than changing the length of the tripod legs. If you've ever tried to work with a tripod that isn't level, you'll appreciate this improvement !

To see a nice YouTube video about the Manfrotto 438, click here.

Printing Accurate Colors

Atkinson Test Image At right is an image which can tell you if your monitor and printer are reasonably color-calibrated and profiled. Click on it to see it full-sized. You should be able to see all the shades of all the colors. Can you see the purple rocks in the fishbowl ? Is there plenty of detail in the shadows of the sand dunes ?

Now print these images on your printer and see if the final results looks like what you see on your monitor. Ideally, they should match, very closely. If they don't match, then perhaps your monitor is off or your printer needs to be profiled... Probably both !

Ideally, we should have our own custom profile for every combination of printer/paper/ink that we use. The same ink has a unique response to every different kind of paper - and every printer is unique. They are mechanical devices, subject to variation. Just like musical instruments, they need to be tuned up, all the time.

Printer manufacturers like Epson make profiles for their own printers/papers freely available for download and tools like Photoshop allow you to print your images with the profile of your choice. These are not as good as getting your own profile but they're a great place to start and you can't beat the price ! it's hard to get things right, even with all the right tools. Without a calibrated workflow, it's almost impossible !

For best results with color printing, get someone like CHROMiX to make profiles for you. If you only print with one paper, you only have to get one profile made when you get a new printer. If you don't want to have a custom profile made, then at least get one of the profiles from the public domain. Thanks to for the test image.

My Monitor is Too Bright

Even if your monitor has been recently calibrated and you are printing with a custom profile for your printer/paper/ink, you may still end up struggling to match your prints to what you see on your monitor. Why? Because typical monitors are much brighter than paper. Their colors extend beyond what can be printed with paper on ink. With every generation, monitors become brighter and bolder. Fine art printing is not a consideration.

Gaming Monitors

If you have a light meter, you can see for yourself that typical office illumination is such that a white piece of paper, or a white wall, gives an Exposure Value or EV, around 9. Actually, EV 9.3 is around 80 cd/m2, so for digital printing, if your photos will appear in a well-lit office or gallery, you should configure your monitor to that brightness before making adjustments.

Many homes and galleries are darker, like EV 8, 7, 6 or lower. If you don't have a light meter you can use one of the many phone apps, like Luxi. Be sure to use ISO 100, since that is the standard.

Consumer-grade monitors don't do well at these levels: they are brighter than standard office walls and intended for general web browsing, video and gaming. That's why print imaging specialists use displays like Eizo which are intentionally designed to perform best at paper brightness.

Art Gallery

Before editing your photos for printing and gallery viewing, you need to reduce the brightness and change the white point of your display to match the illumination of the display area. Otherwise, you may be in for an expensive surprise: wasted paper, ink and time. Typical home and office lighting is much warmer and much dimmer than noon daylight.

The Calibrite Grafilite Viewing Lamp lets you view prints under lighting at 3 different color temperatures: daylight (5000K), store light (4000K) and home light (2700K) and has a dimmer with different brightness levels. For a review video, click here.

So while it's good to calibrate your monitor for 120 cd/m2, 6500K and P3 if you're watching videos or browsing the internet, making fine art prints for display at home or in galleries requires settings actually used by printers: 80 cd/m2 brightness, 5000K white point and the Adobe RGB color gamut. Before you edit your photos for printing, be sure to configure your display appropriately or your photos won't match your display.

Here's a superb video presentation from Andrew Rodney: Why Are My Prints Too Dark ?. Here's a nice article on the Shutterbug website, entitled Are Your Prints Too Dark ? Here's another one, by Pat Herold of CHROMiX. it's called My Printer Is Too Dark on the CHROMiX Color Wiki.

"If you do not set up your system so the white of the paper and the white of the monitor are as close as possible, you will not get a good screen-to-print match." - Pat Herold of CHROMiX
OBAs and Metamerism: Magenta Colors

Metamerism In order to make Inkjet photo papers look whiter, manufacturers not only bleach them, they add OBAs: Optical Brightening Agents. Brighteners are commonly added to laundry detergents to make white clothing appear cleaner and brighter. When exposed to daylight (which contains UV light), the OBAs luminesce. They emit blue-white light. The brighter the whites, the deeper the blacks look by comparison. It sounds great, no ?

The problem is that under indoor lighting, they don't luminesce, so your images look dull. With less blue, the same image suddenly looks rather different. This effect is known as metamerism, or color shift. Your print looks different depending on where you view it. While harmless for family snapshots, it's unacceptable for Fine Art prints. Traditional Silver-based photographs don't suffer from metamerism - and neither should a good inkjet print.

To make matters worse, OBAs fade over time. Even if the image looked right under daylight, it starts to look wrong eventually. The print you spent so much effort to make, is slowly replaced, so to speak, with something else.

Not all papers have OBAs: some are made with 100% Cotton Rag, have no OBAs and exhibit no color shift. Two papers I recommend are Epson Hot Press Natural and Premier Smooth Hot Press. Another brand I really like is Canson Infinity Museum Quality 100% Rag papers. Be sure to look for papers which have no OBAs. Canson writes "No Optical Brighteners" right on the front of the box. I like their Rag Photographique: it's very smooth, 100% Rag, has no OBAs and a great color.

To see how different papers and inks fade and change over time, see Aardenburg Imaging. Mark McCormick-Goodhart is a first-rate scientist and a world-class expert in the field of image permanence.

Favorite Backup Software for Mac

Carbon Copy Cloner

Apple's Time Machine is great for backing up your computer, but it's safest to keep your images and other important documents on a separate drive.

Carbon Copy Cloner lets you schedule tasks to back up your files - from one disk to another - as many disks as you like - as often as you like. Back up all your files, or copy only what has changed. Move a copy of your digital files to a backup disk. Back up your OS X system files to another disk. Copy your large Photoshop files to another disk. I schedule these tasks to run in the middle of the night, while I'm sleeping.

Large Format Photography

Shooting in Massachusetts with a 4x5 Sinar P

For information about Large Format cameras, lenses, scanning, darkroom, etc. click here

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