Mario Dennis Photography

The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see. G.K. Chesterton


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Gear Snobs, Photography Edition

If you have ever been a regular visitor to an online photography forum, you have undoubtedly encountered a Gear Snob. Usually a “he,” he is happy to help you spend your money on only the best equipment, because that’s what he has.

I encountered my first Gear Snob about ten years ago at an outdoor photography workshop. The leader was demonstrating his Really Right Stuff tripod with RRS ball head and L-bracket. He reassured us we needed to buy an expensive rig in order to be successful outdoor photographers. Never mind that his equipment cost close to $1,000 (as he pointedly reminded us). He was clear: this truly is the Right Stuff and if you settle for less, you’ll be sorry. (I agree that a $69 Walmart tripod is a waste of money, but there are many other excellent options to consider that cost far less than his.)

Fast forward to the present, where Gear Snobs lie in wait for innocent questions about purchasing tripods, cameras, lenses, and camera bags. When a new user asks for buying advice, the Gear Snob reflexively recommends only the expensive option. Why? Because that’s what he has. Never mind that there are probably less expensive options that are perfectly suited to the user’s needs. The Gear Snob emphasizes that one should only invest in the best if they’re serious about their photography. Often, their argument is, “If you buy X, you’ll eventually outgrow it and end up spending money replacing it.” True. I did that with my first car (and many cars thereafter) and my first house and subsequent homes. I also sold those cars and houses when I “upgraded.” And, I bought cars and houses I could truly afford and that fit my lifestyle and needs. Silly me.

Ultimately, the Gear Snob isn’t really interested in being helpful, he wants to boast that he has premium lenses, the most expensive camera model, the best camera bag, and other top-shelf equipment. Nothing wrong with that, but the user doesn’t want to be your Mini-Me. They wanted to know what features or brands were worth the money, and which were optional or could be passed on. The Gear Snob should have asked, “What’s your budget?”

There is an argument to be made for spending more money on better equipment. However, most of us gradually upgrade as we can afford and need to, and sell our old equipment to someone who can get good use from it. Most of us have other spending priorities and budget considerations. So, Gear Snobs, join us in the real world and concentrate on the photography, not the accessories.


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Review: Kelbyone Lightroom Tour

I recently attended Scott Kelby’s 2017 Lightroom Tour presentation and came away favorably impressed. I attended a Photoshop workshop he did in 2008, and of the two, this was the better experience, although the Photoshop presentation was a good one. Back then, there were frequent “commercials” for the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP), which Kelby started, and it was a bit off-putting. This time, he soft-pedaled Kelbyone membership. (I’m not a member and don’t plan on joining, but it may be a good choice for others. Undoubtedly, it offers a lot to members, though the yearly fee is a bit steep for my needs.)

The workshop is focused primarily on demonstrating what LR can do, with live examples of how to accomplish frequent tasks and solve common problems with the program. It is highly scripted and there are no question-and-answer opportunities. (With 300 attendees, that would simply be impractical.) Offsetting the script is Kelby’s breezy, relaxed teaching style. The slides and videos are supplemented with a handout that contains the same information, so almost no note-taking is required.

Early on Kelby asked for a show of hands of those who start their editing in Photoshop before taking the image to LR. Amazingly, well over half indicated they did. Personally, I rarely open Photoshop, though it’s nice to have it for certain tasks, such as those requiring text or image transparency.

Overall, I think this workshop is best for new users and those considering a move to LR. It will whet your appetite for expanding your LR skills and demystify some of LR’s features. Kelby is not an Adobe cheerleader and he’s quick to point out LR’s shortcomings and quirks. Having used LR since version 3, I can attest to its amazing power, as well as its cluttered interface with tiny, embedded switches and arrows. If you’re considering LR as your image processor and digital asset manager, this is a good place to start.

 

 


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Review: Rob Sylvan’s “Taming Your Photo Library with Adobe Lightroom”

sylvanYou’ve got thousands of images on your hard drive, hundreds more on memory cards you just filled, and you just installed Adobe Lightroom. If you’re new to LR and don’t proceed thoughtfully, disaster can be lurking. Image organization is often a neglected part of post-processing. It’s unappealing and for many (me included) organization is not a strong suit. If you’re eager to start editing images it’s easy to lapse into bad habits for what I call “inflow,” getting my images into LR so I can develop them.

When Rob Sylvan‘s book was announced I signed up for pre-order, and have  since recommended it to many. Taming Your Photo Library with Adobe Lightroom is a must-have for new LR users and anyone who has yet to establish their own workflow. (Judging from what I see in the Lightroom Help Group on Facebook, there are plenty of experienced LR users also struggling with this.) While it is mostly oriented towards new LR users, almost anyone can benefit from a careful reading (me, for instance). The book begins with an elegant description of the concept and functions of the LR catalog, which new users often find difficult to understand, and then moves on to basic LR setup. Subsequent chapters address the Library module and the import process, file management, using collections, managing metadata (including keywords), catalog maintenance and backups, using presets and templates, workflows, integrating with LR mobile, and troubleshooting.

Having learned a workflow, what is left to the readers is to develop the discipline to stick to it, and Rob’s book can’t teach that. But, it’s easier to be disciplined when we know what we’re doing and why, and we realize the benefits that come with efficiency.