Selling Microstock (Photos, Videos, Illustrations) — Is It For You?

Shutterstock Sales from Contributor Dashboard

I’ve just written up a page about selling microstock (licensed photos, videos, and illustrations). It’s worth bringing up for two reasons:

  1. I would not have just made my first $1,000 from microstock if I had continued ignoring it.
  2. Shutterstock gives me a referral bonus for talking people into buying or selling photos (even if they’re not mine). This means support for The Adaptive and everything I’m involved with.

If you’re a photographer, videographer, or illustrator, you owe it to yourself to consider the benefits of selling microstock.

GoPro Hero5 Black: How to Enable RAW Photo Mode

This took some research to figure out, so I’m sharing it and keeping it here for future reference.

Version: GoPro HERO5 Black update v01.20

Download the latest update for your GoPro Hero5 Black here: https://gopro.com/update/hero5

To take a RAW photo you need to have Pro-Tune off, WDR off and the FOV in Wide.

  • Press the Mode button (right side of the GoPro)
  • If not in Photo mode, press Mode button again until you’re in Photo mode
  • If the “FOV” at the bottom right of the screen is anything but “Wide”, then tap it and slide the options up or down to change it to Wide. Tap it and make sure “Wide” is blue.
  • While in Photo mode, swipe your finger from the right side of the screen to the left.
  • The screen that appears after swiping has three pages of settings. You can swipe from right to left again to see the additional pages.
  • If PROTUNE is on, the first page will Color, WB (White Balance), ISO Min (minimum sensor sensitivity), ISO Max (maximum sensor sensitivity), EV Comp (Exposure Compensation), Sharp (Sharpness Level) and ProTune Reset. Tap the power icon at the bottom of the screen to turn PROTUNE off.
  • With Protune off, you can swipe to the right to turn off WDR (if needed).
  • Swipe to the third page, “RAW FORMAT”. Tap the power button icon at the bottom of the screen to toggle RAW mode on and off.

The Adaptive’s Guide to Photography, Part 2: Lightroom

Lightroom is Way Easier Than Photoshop/Camera RAW for Most Photo Editing

I’m not kidding. I can get by on either, but when I have the choice, Lightroom wins. That’s because Photoshop is a powerhouse graphics editor, and Lightroom is dedicated to photo editing. I avoided/ignored this truth for several years, like a damn fool.

Lightroom Will Advance Your Photography Processing Style

Thanks to Lightroom, I can now emulate many of the stylized photo processing techniques I see around communities like Flickr, Instagram, and VSCO (more on those in upcoming posts).

Here’s How I Use Lightroom… Sometimes

(Click the screenshots to see full-size photos)

theadaptive-lightroom-01THAT’S DARK, MAN

Here’s an example of how I’ll often shoot dark, underexposed photos that have what looks like far too little light to work with — at first. Remember, I’m shooting in RAW. A JPEG doesn’t have much of a chance at being very versatile in this situation.

In highly dynamic situations, like this one where I’m walking down train tracks towards the blinding sunset, I usually experiment with varying levels of exposure compensation (telling the camera to adjust its automatic exposure settings below and above what it thinks is optimal exposure) and set my ISO to L(50), 100, or Auto (100 to 400). Sometimes the blacks & shadows hold the shot together, and sometimes the whites & highlights do. I most commonly set my Canon 6D to shoot at one stop less than it thinks it should aim for, though this can backfire if my light source is fading fast. I also like to use Exposure Bracketing to quickly get multiple shots at different shutter speeds, because it can be hard to tell if the camera is going for the same thing(s) you are. Keep in mind, the Canon 6D does really well with keeping detail in the shadows that you can bring, essentially, out of nowhere. Watch what happens next.

 

theadaptive-lightroom-02LET THERE BE LIGHT (ALSO: PRESETS)

I created a Lightroom Preset that runs some initial stuff like Auto Exposure, Lens Correction, and a Tone Curve that I consider pleasant. Instead of sharing my preset here just yet, I advise you to first decide if your photography situation requires any such automated processes. I don’t always use presets — many photos get treated completely from scratch. I also advise you to create your own presets based on whatever it is you find yourself most commonly doing in Lightroom. Mine won’t necessarily have much to do with your needs.

In this case, the “Shane 2” preset fires off Lightroom’s Auto Exposure adjustment and turns the photo from color to black & white. White Balance and Tint are left alone, trusting that my Canon 6D’s Auto White Balance and neutral color handling has things under control. In this black & white, auto-brightened version of the photo, I get a much clearer view of what details are available in the shot.

I don’t tend to leave it black & white for long, but sometimes it sticks.

theadaptive-lightroom-03WATCH YOUR TONE(S)

As I ignore the histogram (probably a foolish thing, but #yolo), I return the photo’s Treatment to Color mode by clicking on “Color” above the White Balance (WB) slider, and fool with every exposure setting. Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, Blacks, Clarity, Vibrance, Saturation… Nothing is safe; nothing is correct, nothing is incorrect. If moving it makes it look better, I keep it there and move to the next one. I return to many of these settings for additional tweaking throughout the process of editing.

DEM CURVES

This is the main place where a photo can get a faded look. On the closest photo to the left, notice how the Tone Curve curls up at the bottom. There are also several points on the curve. If you don’t see a curve to work with like this, click the little toggle switch to the left of the Tone Curve title. Clicking on the line adds points, double-clicking removes them. The bottom curve sets the levels and limits of your darkest tones, somehow mathematically leading up to a faded look as you curve up at the bottom. Experiment with this Tone Curve thing and get to know it well.

CROPPING, ALIGNMENT, SPOT HEALING

Don’t forget to check your cropping options (you might be surprised what happens when you crop out an object or an unnecessary section of a photo) by hitting the “R” key (in Develop mode). Use the spot healing tool by hitting “Q”. Raise and lower your exposure to find the dust spots and distracting specks, unless you’re into that kind of thing.

theadaptive-lightroom-04COLOR TWEAKS

Controversial, maybe, but I think adjusting color tones can breathe life into an otherwise average photo.

I’ve noticed that in the HSL section, moving the Hue of Yellow and Blue slightly down (to the left) can lead to some interesting complimentary turquoise & orange vibes. Experiment with tweaking all of the colors’ Hue, Saturation, and Luminosity if you want to get a feel for how those affect your photos.

 

 

theadaptive-lightroom-06THE DETAILS

These settings on sharpness and noise reduction will be different in each situation. Go with what looks right at the largest size and closest viewing distance you expect the photo to be seen at, and don’t overdo it!

 

 

 

 

theadaptive-lightroom-07LENS CORRECTION & VIGNETTE

Pretty self-explanitory. Use it unless it doesn’t make the photo look better to you. Sometimes the lens’ natural vignetting is just what a photo needs. I tend to always lens-correct, then set the Vignette at a subtle -12, then tweak it from there.

 

 

 

 

theadaptive-lightroom-09FINAL REVIEW

I usually bounce between settings throughout the process of editing a photo, because changing things down the line can definitely create some drastic changes in your photo. Take your time looking at the visual impact of the photo. Does it have a subject, and if so, is the subject meaningful to you or someone you care about? If you answered yes to those questions, export that thing. There’s more fun to be had yet.

 

 

 

GETTING THE PHOTO FROM LIGHTROOM TO SOCIAL MEDIA

I export the photo (using a custom preset), upload it to Flickr, then download it from Flickr to my phone or tablet. From there, I edit it once more in VSCO Cam and/or Instagram.

Stay tuned for the next post, which will cover the details of how I use additional apps to optimize my photos for smaller devices.

The Adaptive’s Guide to Photography, Part 1: The Basics

Train Tracks in Great Falls, MontanaI was preparing a quick e-mail about Lightroom for the talented Scott Chumley, who makes incredible effect-pedal boards for great bands like This Patch Of Sky (and with a bit of luck, yours truly). I decided that instead of sharing this e-mail with one dude, why not get my sh** together and start using my blog the way it was intended?

My Take on Photography

I approach photography in a similar fashion to the way I make music. That is, I use a wide variety of tools in a wide variety of ways, and I take every bit of feedback and advice from others with a great big grain of salt. I’ve had to un-learn some strict rules that used to hold back or complicate my creative flow, and I’ll likely learn and un-learn many others over the years.

Before I knew any better, I assumed a person’s camera decided whether or not a photograph looks good. Oops. No way, Jose (but a good camera and lens can help increase your chances of getting a good photo, especially when you’ve learned the technical side of things). I won’t get into the details of how to take pictures just yet, but let’s just say that the options are vast when it comes to most photos.

The Real Basics: Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO (short version)

If you don’t feel you’ve mastered the technical side of photography, then stop right here. Read this book: Understanding Exposure, Fourth Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera. Between that book and a workshop with the legendary Starving Photographer in 2015, I finally felt comfortable with my skills after years of guesswork and frustration. Once you understand how aperture, shutter speed, and ISO work together, you will feel like a whole new photog. You’ll also realize that you don’t have to spend a ton of money on gear to create great photos. I went from spending too little to spending too much, and have since found the middle ground. More details below.

General Habits

These days, I don’t generally use a tripod until night time, I sold all my polarizers (though I miss them and at least one might have to be re-bought), and I regularly use my Canon 6D‘s “Tv” mode (Shutter Priority) without thinking about much else. One or more of these things might make some expert photographers cringe, but not me.

I switch over to manual when I can’t get what I need in Tv mode. One of the niftier features of the 6D is the Automatic ISO Range setting. I keep mine at 100-400 when walking around in the day time in Tv mode, then raise the upper end to ISO 800, 1600 or higher (depending on the situation) at night. Because let’s face it — if you have to choose between no shot at all and ISO 1 zillion, you might as well get the shot, noise and all. If your camera only has manual ISO, just pay attention to how the photos turn out when the ISO goes too high. The grain can be a nice touch, or it can ruin the shot.

Gear

I was lucky to find a killer deal on a refurbished Canon 6D. As much as I love Zeiss, Canon, and the other high-roller lenses, I no longer have to fight the feeling that I need them. Rokinon, Sigma, and Tamron make some great glass. Spend some time figuring out what you really need in lenses, because you might find that one lens does everything you ever wanted. If you’re like me, one workhorse lens and two specialty lenses will get you through nearly every photography situation you encounter. Use photography sites like Flickr to search for the lens you’re interested in (and try adding your camera make & model to the search) to see some real-life examples of what you could do with it.

Here’s my full arsenal:

IMG_4483Processing Principles

I generally like photos that might be described as “film-like” or faded. Many of my photos have that look. I used to depend on VSCO or VSCO-like presets to get that faded film look, but now I understand how to create the effect using programs like Lightroom or Photoshop. I’ll describe that in the next post. While I used to focus on getting a surreal or hyper-detailed photo each time, I currently enjoy shooting fairly underexposed shots and working with the dark tones to create what is commonly called a “moody” vibe.

My Workflow in Adobe Lightroom

I found myself repeating the same general workflow in Lightroom, so I made a few of my own Presets to handle stuff like Auto Exposure (which I start with and tweak heavily), Tone Curves that provide a lightly faded/film-ish look, Camera Correction, and so on. I’ll walk through these in my next post (it should be posted within a few hours of this one).