Delete Your Photos!

Delete Your PhotosWatch me now at  A few weeks ago I released a video to tell you your photos suck! I then followed that up with a few tips to help you suck less. This is a more detailed look at tip#1 - share fewer photos and shares my Lightroom workflow for quickly deciding which photos to reject(trash) and which to keep. And my star rating system in Lightroom for keeping things simple. Do you delete your photos?And don't forget to watch part 1 of "Your Photos Suck" here if you missed it:

Random Presets with the Lightroom Preset Creator

featuredSomething a bit different for today is a site by Allen Serhat for random Lightroom presets.

This isn't going to be anything your going to use on a day to day basis for editing. For those starting out though it'll be a nice way to learn and experiment with features that are usually skipped over by those starting out. Something simple as adjusting the tone curve can add drastically different looks to your photo without much work. Using this creator you can make a series of presets to experiment with just that. Unless you magically strike gold your going to end up with a lot of Instagram like filters but this is mainly for learning not editing. You always have the option though of fine tuning your preset and re-saving it if you hit something you like.


Once you've selected your choices and hit create go download your new preset. Then in Lightroom's develop module under presets you can right click and import your preset file. Then it's ready to use. Also you can right click to delete the preset when your finished with it.

IMG_7519For example with HSL you can effect colors globally. In this preset all of the red, yellows, and oranges have been turned a shade of bright red while all the other colors have been heavily muted. This is caused from red's hue being pushed to orange, orange to red, and yellow to orange. Forcing everything to turn red. While in saturation every option bar red, orange, and blue has taken a massive drop leaving the muted color scheme.

As for proper learning about Lightroom sign up to our patreon service for your one stop place to get special perks, behind the scenes postings, after show videos, access the private support group, get our Lightroom preset package, as well as our Lightroom tutorial videos. Alternatively the video and tutorial package is also available with the presets at

Shooting Reds

featuredIf you're shooting there’s a hidden little guide most people skip called the histogram. This tool while a bit scary looking provides a lot of information on light levels in your photo. Toby’s already covered this much in a helpful video you can watch below. with the histogram you have what’s called clipping. This is where the camera has maxed out the sensor and that area is a solid color with no data. As with the eagle to the right if exposing to what the camera thinks is a decent exposure due to the dark wings the head will end up clipped and solid white (red is the highlight clipping warning from Lightroom). canonAs an example using Canon’s live view and pressing info you can get a live detail of your histogram and where your photo is currently standing. In the case of a lot of contrast such as baby Groot to the right the histogram is showing that the highlights are blown out. On the right side of the histogram it has spiked at the end due to the light coming in from the window. While purposeful in this case for the most part it's what we're trying to avoid if that happened to be the subject of the photo. Most today's camera's have a clipping notification in review that you can turn on as well for a quick warning. A good way to practice shooting without clipping highlights is to photograph the color red. Typically a DSLR the red channel is the most sensitive and the first to be blown out by the camera. Since that's the case it's also the best to practice with to avoid clipping highlights. Anything red will work but the brighter it is the worse it will photograph, actually useful in this case. It’s a bit of a preference but many cameras allow a RGB histogram in the settings. For shooting red switching to this setting allows for seeing clipping in the three channels vs an overall representation via luminosity. For shooting red this is going to be quite useful if you set your camera to this mode this way you can follow the individual color channels to see where red is peaking.ExposureTypically the camera is going to know what to shoot and you can follow the meter. Which can be true for reds, but it can be wrong, by a lot in certain situations. Reviewing your photos at points while shooting is a good habit to do just to make sure you're not losing a shot. Typically for a brilliant red this is going to end up underexposing a photo from what the meter is displaying to keep detail loss from clipping to a minimum. In reality though, you're not underexposing as it’s a correct exposure of your photo. Alternatively your other options could involve bracketing or a blue (cyan) filter. While bracketing would work we’re trying to go for a correct exposure so for the most part it’d be cheating. A blue filter would work by shifting your white balance then correcting, shifting red to a point it would be easier to photograph. While a cyan filter does work it’s better to know how to do this without more gear and effort. IMG_6411 IMG_6430-Edit 

So with that a good setup for me is tabletop photography in practice. It eliminates clutter and gives you a blank canvas to test photography skills. As you might have seen the sneak peek of me at the flower shop cut flowers are a good subject to shoot and they don’t seem to complain. Most flower shops if you ask nicely will sell individual flowers and let you pick them out yourself for the camera worthy ones. You can always use something around the house but overall a few flowers are an easy subject and not horribly expensive.

As you can see above I opted for a black background and flash lighting but the setup is up to you we’re just focusing on reds. If you have one available setup your camera on a tripod as it helps keep you focused on exposure since the composition is locked in already. At this point use your camera meter for exposure and take a photo like normal. Review the image and look at the histogram’s exposure. Typically the photo will look exposed correctly but the red’s will be bright or blown out. To fix this just underexpose from your first photo and try again, there’s no rush to get this right the first time.Exposure to a big degree is going to go by eye and histogram rather than the meter. After you take your first photo and adjust try again and judge the look. If you did listen and shoot in RAW there is going to be enough wiggle room that you don't have to get it spot on your first try. Take a few attempts at it then review on the computer as your subject's not going anywhere. You don't need to underexpose by a large amount, just enough to avoid clipping, once you've reached that point you can work as normal.IMG_6409-EditHaving a computer nearby or even tethered makes reviewing your images easier. As we’re not running around outside you can have it close for a quick edit to see if the photo will work. Dropping red saturation by a small amount in post for brightly lit subjects also helps nullify some of the highlights without having to underexpose as much. Then fine tune your exposure on your test images and see what you think. If the histogram is still showing it's too bright you might want to try lowering or softening the lighting hitting it for an easier time. Quick tip for small tabletop projects, one part glycerin mixed with two to three parts water for “wet” photos.  The glycerin mixed with the water and sprayed on your subject will freeze water droplets in place. Water would work obviously but this method keeps every drop in the same exact spot while you're shooting. Now take if we take it outside, cut roses or whatever your shooting with still photographs outdoors and you get nice bright light. Albeit quality of light is just as important as a portrait shooting red subjects. Just as with a portrait bright sun on red will leave harsh shadows and overly bright colors. Which to be fair still can work, but it’s then about what style of photo you're going for at that point. Just remember you are working with the wind now so smaller objects will be harder to shoot.IMG_6527 IMG_6554

Beyond that, have fun with it! Try other items beyond flowers there’s a ton of red to photograph out there.


JPEG Compression - Can you tell the difference?

Lossless PNG Screenshots from files showing different JPEG Compression amounts. Which look best to you? What compression rate do you usually use?JPEG Compression Quality 90: 1.3MBQuality 80: 843KBQuality 70: 601KBQuality 60: 335KB JPEG Compression Quality 90: 3.8MBQuality 80: 2.4MBQuality 70: 1.7MBQuality 60: 883KB  Screenshot of the TIFF (no compression) The answers are in the file names - showing the quality amount 60, 70, 80 0r 90. Episode 6 of our Lightroom series, out tomorrow, will have all of our tips about exporting intelligently!

Monitor Calibration: X-Rite vs Datacolor Spyder & how-to

X-Rite ColorMunki Short Answer: The X-Rite ColorMunki Smile can be a bit aggressive & warm with its calibrations but mostly works for what you need on a budget. If you want something a bit less aggressive the Datacolor Spyder4Express is a better option although you’ll need the next model up from Datacolor for multiple monitors if you use their software. Using free third party software you can get a better reasonable calibration from both but especially the smile.Why Do you need color calibration? If you are editing your photos and doing anything beyond hitting an automatic fix, you are trusting the monitor to be true to life. One of the ones I normally hear from people is that their prints came out quite dark or an off color and they want to immediately blame the print lab. One of the reasons, but not the only one, is what they see on the monitor is off in color and brightness. Your average monitor on full brightness displays at 200 cd/m² which is fine for normal use, near a window, or outside but for editing it has to be around 60% of that for a decent print.If you’re using the monitor to edit photos it needs to have the most accurate colors possible and while the monitor is calibrated at the factory over time it needs recalibrated. While the monitor ages very slowly the screen deteriorates which can throw the overall color off its optimal setting. If you look at an old LCD you can notice a slight yellowing to it because the chemicals used to create blue light are the most susceptible to this effect leaving a stronger red and green presence making yellow.As an example these are two photos that on screen look identical but as you can see are quite different. On the left being my desktop that has been calibrated with a white photo and the right being my laptop set to its default which is more of a cooler blue tone. For the laptop to have the same image as the desktop the photo has to be made significantly warmer which would affect prints and posting/sending it to anyone else.Roy Mckee's Sample ImagesThe ColorMunki Smile from X-Rite (Amazon) tries to fix this issue by creating a color calibration file for your computer. Without getting too technical it creates an .icc profile that acts as an index for the computer telling it the correct colors to send to the monitor. This is accomplished by using the Smile on your monitor and letting it display a baseline of colors for it to take the differences it monitored and come up with a calibration to negate the effect making the display true.Most of the monitors I’ve tested over the last couple weeks the results were positive with usable results. That is to say not all of the monitors did manage to make a correct calibration and the X-Rite software is not a magic bullet. The software tried to aggressively warm the monitor on displays that were cooler (mainly laptop displays) or were originally quite off. For one of my own monitors that errored testing the software, it was warm enough that I ended up switching to the profile only when editing.X-Rite’s solution is to install their baseline icc profile as a default and the software will tend to be less aggressive. It still edges on being slightly warm but will give you a much better result if you are having any issues. While packaged with the ColorMunki Display it is left out from the Smile but you can download the file below. Right click on the file, click install, go to color management in the control panel, add the icc profile, click it and select it as default, restart, then re-calibrate.Download the .icc profileAs I mentioned above if the monitor is off a fair bit the software can be a bit aggressive trying to fix the problem and in more than a few I tried it actually ended up with a warm result. For laptops and some monitors this is mainly due to the temperature being set for 9300K instead of 6500K which is great for videos and documents but overall a bit blue. While you cannot directly change the output of the monitor in this case you can alter the graphics card color setting for a less blue to get a better result at the cost of some brightness (see dispcalGUI below). Also if you use a USB display adapter they are not connected to color management for it to use .icc profiles so this will not work.As for ambient light, if you have a strong yellow lamp or light in the room the Smile does not have a ambient light sensor which in that case a Spyder4Pro or ColorMunki Display would be a better option.As for the instructions, which in terms of documentation leaves a bit to be desired.

  1. Leave the monitor on for 30 minutes minimum and don’t let it go on standby
  2. Reset the monitor to its factory default
  3. Plug the sensor in
  4. Run the Smile software* and press start on display
  5. Place the sensor on the screen in the box below
    1. It has to be flush with the screen, this may involve tipping the monitor back
  6. After pressing start it will go through a series of colors for testing
  7. Click done or calibrate another monitor

*As a note if you’re using Windows 8 or 8.1 your better option is to download the updated software vs using the packaged version. Screenshot 2014-11-20 13.01.20Screenshot 2014-11-20 13.01.28Screenshot 2014-11-20 13.01.36If you're on a budget the Smile is a workable solution. It sells for $69 frequently on Amazon Gold Box and for the most part does a decent job. In terms of software for another $20 you can go with the Datacolor Spyder4Express and have a few less issues. In comparison for your average when it does work correctly X-Rite software usually is warmer than the Datacolor software. The main drawback for some of the Spyder4Express is that it’s default software while somewhat limited the same as the Smile does not handle multiple monitors.Fortunately with both units if you would like to use them as a sensor only you can go a bit more advanced for a better result with the free software below.While they are expensive for a calibration I provided a link below in which you can rent a Spyder3 Print which does have that capability as well as making print calibration profiles. At least for laptops, unless you want to haul your desktop and monitor in, you can check with your local camera shops as sometimes their camera demo days sometimes have monitor calibrations for free using one of the pro models.Rent the Spyder3 from BorrowLensesBuy the X-Rite ColorMunki Smile From Amazon or B&H PhotoVideoBuy the Datacolor Spyder4Express From Amazon or B&H PhotoVideoDispcalGUI using Argyll CMS can solve a lot of the issues with the Smile having warm results. It is compatible with PC, Mac, and Linux for those wanting to avoid the stock software. In terms of sensors the Spyder4Express is relatively the Elite model bar a ambient light sensor and the software. The Smile is in the same respect as an older pro iProfiler model rebadged with dumbed down software. Compared to the previous two though the software is a bit more complicated to run.Compared to the Smile software the main benefit you gain from this is being able to set a monitor white point using monitor settings, something the more advanced products have. Compared to the default X-Rite software this leans towards a cooler result that for some monitors that I tested was preferable and you have the ability for a bit of fine tuning. For laptops this allows my above point of using the graphics card settings to account for a better calibration as well.Monitor calibration files are not permanent so you can try this software without causing any permanent issues to either device. You will however need to switch the driver back to the original to use the previous software again.Download DispcalguiWindows Instructions: (full instructions can be found on

  1. Same as before you need to warm the monitor for 30 minutes and reset the settings
  2. Plug the sensor in
  3. Install the Argyll Driver
    1. If you're in windows you need to disable driver enforcement
      1. Windows 8/8.1: Bring up settings from the charms menu (menu on right). Click settings, power, hold down shift, and click restart. When the menu comes up select troubleshoot->advanced options->startup settings->restart. After reboot press 7.
    2. Run the software and select tools->Install Argyll CMS Insturment Drivers
    3. If you already have installed the previous software or it picked up the driver you need to check Launch Device Manager.
    4. Press OK
    5. If you did open device manager select the device under x-rite at the bottom. Right click and press update->browse my computer->let me pick->select Argyll driver->next and close.
  4. If you have installed the previous software you can grab the calibration data from it to improve dispcalGUI. Select Tools>Import colorimeter corrections>Auto.
  5. Choose your settings. In this case select photo at the top then adjust for 6500k. If you have an older monitor selecting drift compensation does seem to help. For some monitors selecting 2.4 gamma is a better option but that is up to experimentation.
  6. Click Calibrate and Profile
  7. Attach sensor to screen as previously
  8. Start measurement and manually adjust your monitors color until all three bars are in the center and the text turns green. The final bar is for brightness, the goal of this would be somewhere close to 125cd/m².
  9. Click stop measurement then continue
  10. Finally, Install Profile

Screenshot 2014-11-20 13.20.53 Screenshot 2014-11-20 13.21.07 dispalGUIWant to see more of Roy's work? Follow him on Facebook or InstagramRent the Spyder3 from BorrowLensesBuy the X-Rite ColorMunki Smile From Amazon or B&H PhotoVideoBuy the Datacolor Spyder4Express From Amazon or B&H PhotoVideo

365 Project - KISS

I mentioned in my Be a Better Photographer Tip #53 [Project 365 & Gimmicks] that I was considering starting a 365 project again (results of my last attempt a few years ago).  Well the first 8 days of 2013 were easy, traveling through beautiful Costa Rica and Panama there was something new and exciting to photograph every day.Cosa Rica SunriseNow and I am back home and although Southern Vermont blanketed by snow is no less photogenic it is a struggle to see past what is to my eyes "ordinary" AND to find the time.  Mostly to find the time.     Here is my plan with an emphasis on keeping it simple(KISS) and not giving up the whole thing if I miss a day. . or two.

  1. Take a photo each day - My goal will be to use my DLSR 98% of the time but if I have taken a cell phone photo that I am particularly proud of that can work too.
  2. Review the photos with some regularity. The back of the camera is not a substitute for seeing the photo on a big screen and inspecting the photo along with the metadata - seeing your settings side by side with the image is a great way to understand the relationship of exposure, depth of field, movement blur etc.
  3. Upload these photos with some regularity - probably to a Facebook album, maybe to Blip and anywhere else I feel like sharing.
  4. Provide a few additional challenges, themes or ideas to keep it fresh- This might seem to fly in the face of keeping it simple but you do run the risk of hitting a mental road block and giving up for lack of creativity.  Sites like provide ideas/challenges for each day, helping to keep the brain juices flowing.  Plus it is really fun to meet a challenge and then review how others approached or interpreted the same challenge.

#365Project - 1/10/13 I will be back with some more ideas soon - in the meantime pick that camera up an snap a photo, then do it again tomorrow and the day after.  You certainly aren't going to improve your photography by putting it off.  And don't hesitate to give me a shout and ask how I am doing with the challenge.