Darktable RAW image processor

I’ve been using Adobe Photoshop since 1996, just 3 years after it became available for the PC. Version 4 did not have RAW Image processing capabilities but then in 1996 digital cameras were not really popular. I purchased my first digital camera in 2005 and while the camera did produce RAW files as well as JPG files, there really wasn’t much of an option for processing RAW files. In 2006 “Raw Therapee” became available with version 1.1 which I started using, it really wasn’t that great but by version 2 in 2007 it was quite usable and I used it regularly. So now I had Photoshop and a Raw processor.

In 2006 Adobe added “Bridge” to Photoshop CS2 which prompted me to upgrade from my now version 7. Bridge was a great RAW processor which allowed batch processing as well as a nice image content manager. Needless to say my use of Raw Therapee dwindled. Eventually Adobe added Lightroom to their collections of apps; versions 1 & 2 were useless and I continued to use “Bridge”. Lightroom version 3 turned out to be quite a good app with outstanding image management “Library” capabilities. While “Bridge” is still an integral part of Photoshop, Lightroom has been my Go-To app. The ability to create multiple libraries is so useful especially when photographing many events over the course of year, after year.

While happy with the Adobe product line I grew tired of paying a monthly subscription fee and while I did find a suitable replacement for Photoshop, “Affinity Photo”, I was still using Lightroom as my RAW processor. I was talking to a fellow photographer who was using Darktable and suggested I give it a try. After a few rough starts and hours on YouTube I finally saw the light and started using “Darktable” as my primary RAW processor. While “DarkTable” is deficient in its Image management (Library) capabilities, it shines as a RAW processor, allowing me to do things “Lightroom” only wishes it could do; it’s quite amazing. Oh yea, did I mention that it’s FREE and works on pretty much any operating system you’re bound to use. I currently have it installed on my PC as well as my Linux machine. There is a learning curve, especially when it comes to layers and masks but believe me, it’s worth giving it a try.

Native Camera RAW or DNG? – Good question

While most DLSR manufacturers prefer to export their camera raw files in their own proprietary format there are a few manufacturers that use Adobe’s proprietary Open DNG format as their native RAW format, they are: Pentax, Ricoh, Casio, Leica, Samsung and LG.

A DNG file is a proprietary Adobe file that suggests that it can convert other camera raw files at a size savings of 15% – 20% without any loss of quality. Another advantage of using a DNG file is that any editing changes you make with Adobe Lightroom (LR) are automatically written to the DNG file as well as the LR catalog. This way if the LR catalog gets corrupted (and it will) you can simply delete it and read in the DNG files to restore your edits. This is a good thing.

What’s the bad news? There really isn’t any provided you never change to any other software other than what comes from Adobe. Why is that, you may ask? Well, apparently specific camera profiles are stripped out of DNG files, unless the camera you’re using outputs DNG files as their native raw file format.

However, if you ever decide to switch from LR to another raw file editor, such as ON-1 or Capture One, you may run into some issues. Realistically only a very small percentage of photographers will notice a difference. Native camera raw files contain camera specific profiles, unique too and associated with each camera model. The DNG file replaces these camera specific profiles with their own AdobeRGB profile. While AdobeRGB defines a specific color space that is greater than sRGB, it IS NOT camera specific like native camera profiles are. Does this really matter? Only you can make that determination.

Here are three links describing the reasons some people stopped using DNG files or why they prefer DNG files




Read the articles and decide for yourself.

My new Godox AD360ii-C

Original Post; June 18,2017
Updated November 27, 2018

After months of research and deliberation I finally took the plunge and purchased a new Godox AD360ii-C.  According to the manufacturer, the speedlite is rated at 360ws and sports a guide number of 80m/262ft @ ISO 100 when measured using the standard reflector without the diffuser. As an aside, with the exception of Impact, I’ve yet to find a flash manufacturer that doesn’t seriously exaggerate their Guide Numbers (GN). It’s always best to measure them yourself.

Unlike speedlites that use replaceable AA batteries to power the flash, the AD360 uses a separate external lithium battery pack which makes it more like a Quantum Qflash X5dR than a run-of-the-mill speedlight.

Note:  All information regarding the Godox AD360-ii-C also applies to the Flashpoint Streaklight 360. The Flashpoint Streaklight 360 is maketed by Adorama in the US. All accessories, cables, radio triggers, that work for one will work for the other. With the exception of stenciled text, these units are identical. I now have one of each so I can attest to their interchangeability. 

Since I’m a Canon user, all comparisons are made against Canon equipment. This flash unit can also be purchased as a Nikon compatible (AD360II-N) version.

This review includes the Godox AD360II-C, PB960 Battery Pack, X1T-C Transmitter and the X1R-C Receiver.

Godox AD360ii-C Overview 
(shown below w/ reflector & diffuser next to Canon 600EX-RT)

As you can see the AD360 is quite a bit larger than the Canon 600EX-RT.  In order to provide the extra power, the speedlite requires larger capacitors; with larger capacitors comes the need for a larger housing to contain them. I’m also quite sure there are some larger heat sinks as well.  You’ll also note that the flash tube is quite a bit larger than Canon’s 600EX-RT.

Canon 600EX-RT  / Godox AD360ii-C  (shown below – bare bulb)
An advantage of the AD360 is it’s ability to shoot bare bulb; this is extremely useful when using the flash with soft-boxes. Also, unlike most studio strobes, the actual flash tube is housed within a glass housing which allows you to use your bare fingers to  insert or remove the tube.

Godox AD360ii-C (Bare Bulb) and Canon 600EX-RT

Full TTL capabilities  (on camera or off)
Whether you buy the Canon (AD360ii-C) or Nikon (AD360ii-N) version, they both have full eTTL/iTTL capabilities.  The receivers are built-in but you do have to buy a relatively inexpensive transmitter,  X1T-C for the Canon, X1T-N for the Nikon.

Being a Canon user I have both the Canon 600EX-RT flash units along with the associated Canon ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter.  I also have a few Youngnou 600EX-RT speedlites that work seamlessly with the Canon speedlites and transmitter.  Needless to say that although the Godox and Canon transmitter use 2.4GHz as their transmission frequency, they are not interoperable. So if you want to use the AD360ii with your existing speedlites you’ll need to purchase the Godox X1R receivers.

A couple of weeks ago I tried out a colleague’s AD360ii-C and attached my Canon ST-E3-RT radio transmitter to the hot-shoe of the Godox X1T-C transmitter. I was able to invoke a pre-flash so I incorrectly assumed I could mount both Godox and Canon triggers and control both flash systems. Now that I have my own unit, I was able to do more extensive testing and the units really don’t play well together, at least not in TTL mode.

Godox Wistro AD360II-C Flash Unit                                       [menu]                

This is a large and hefty unit that weighs in at almost twice the weight of a canon 600EX-RT.  While it ships with a default Hot-Shoe, it also comes with an additional mounting plate that allows you to replace the hot-shoe with a standard 1/4-20 screw mount that will allow you to connect this unit to a light stand.

WARNING: There are written warnings against attaching this flash directly to the camera’s hot-shoe.  It further states that because of the weight of the flash, the camera’s hot-shoe may not be able to support it without damage to the camera.

The weight differences:

Godox AD360II-C (with Reflector & Diffuser) =  2lb 1.2oz   (33.2oz) with reflector
Godox AD360II-C (Bare Bulb) =  1lb 13.9oz (29.9ox) bare bulb
Canon 600EX-RT =  1lb. 2.4oz (18.4oz) /w batteries

Light Output:

All WS (watt seconds) displayed in this section are the advertised values from the manufacturer. All Guide Numbers (GN) were actually measured values using a Sekonic L-328.

All measurements are taken at max power output. Final readings are the average result of of 5 consecutive readings taken 15 seconds apart. The Canon speedlite was tested with fresh alkaline batteries and external power provided by a fully charged Quantum Turbo SC battery pack.

The x3200 & x1600 units are White-Lighting studio strobes from Paul C. Buff. These units provide two separate ranges of light. Guide Numbers (GN) for each power level were measured and documented.

The X800 unit is a White-Lighting studio strobes from Paul C. Buff. Unlike the X3200 & X1600 series, this unit does not provide two separate ranges of light.

All “X” series White-Lightning studio Strobes were fitted with a standard 7 inch reflector with NO diffuser.

The EX100-A is my lowest power studio light from Impact with an advertised and measured 100ws with a guide number (GN) of 80.

All GN values are not advertised but actual readings taken with my Sekonic L-328. All GN values were measured at ISO 100 @ 10ft.

All measurements are taken with the standard reflector as provided by the manufacturer of the associated light.

Flash Unit W/S GN
x3200 1320 (full pwr) 320
x3200 330 (1/4 pwr) 160
x1600 660 (full pwr) 220
x1600 165 (1/4 pwr) 90
x800 320 160
EX-100A 100 80
1Canon 600EX-RT 140
2Canon 600EX-RT 56
3AD360ii-c 360 190
4AD360ii-c 360 140
5AD200 200 112 & 126

1 – Average of 2 Canon 600EX-RT speedlites (avg. of 5 flashes each)
2 – Average of 2 Canon 600EX-RT speedlites Sto-Fen Diffuser Installed

3 – AD360 with reflector, but NO diffuser
4 – AD360 with reflector and diffuser ON

5 – I had the opportunity to test a couple of Godox AD200TTL units in the studio. This test was carried out with the Frenzel Flash Head attached NOT the Bare Bulb. I tested 2 separate units and got two different readings.

As you can see by the above readings the Godox Wistro AD360II-C actually provides and extra 2/3 stop of light over the White-Lighting x800 and 1/3 less stop than a White-Lightning x1600 at full power.

Also, as you can see from the values above, the AD360 with reflector and diffuser attached provides the same output of light as the Canon 600EX-RT and/or Yongnuo YN600EX-RT bare flash. However, once you put a diffuser on the Canon and/or Yongnuo flash you loose about 2-stops of light (or 4 times less light). The big bonus is the quality of light you get with the Godox Wistro AD360II when used with light modifiers such as softboxes, umbrellas, where the bare bulb takes full advantage of the modifiers reflective inner surface.

Godox AD360II Flash Accessories

While the AD360II comes with a standard 4-3/4″ reflector & diffuser (AD-S2), there are quite a few light modifiers that fit the AD360. The following is a list. For some reason I can’t find what the AD-S8 and AD-10 are, it’s possible these represent discontinued modifiers.

AD-S2    Standard Reflector w/ Diffuser
AD-S3    13″ Beauty Dish (Hard Dish)
AD-S4         13″ Beauty Dish Grid
AD-S5    39″ White Shoot through umbrella
AD-S6    Umbrella Reflector
AD-S7    18″ Grid Octagonal Folding Softbox
AD-S8        18″ Grid Octagonal Folding Softbox Grid
AD-S9    Snoot w/ Grid

AD-S11   Color Filter Gels- Fits std reflector
AD-S12   Honeycomb Grid – Fits std reflector
AD-S13   63″ Light Boom w/ 1/4-20 thread
AD-S14   16ft Flash Extension power cable
AD-S15   Flash Tube Protector
AD-S16   33″ Light Stand
AD-S17   Wide Angle Soft Focus Diffuser
AD-S18   Shovel

Godox ProPac PB960 

This is an 11.1VDC,  4500mAH batter that is compatible with the Quantum Turbo but at a fraction of the cost. This battery is however about 75% larger.

This battery has two output power sources on the top which allows you to connect two separate flash units. This battery is compatible with Canon and Canon compatible flash units that allow an external battery to power the flash tube itself but not the electronics. In fact any flash that is Quantum battery compatible (with flash specific cable) will work with this battery.

A flash-specific cable (image below) is used to connect the battery to the AD360 flash or any other flash using a flash specific cable.
If you need quicker flash recycling time, a Y-Adapter cable (image below) is available. The Y-Adapter connects to both ports of the battery, then you connect the flash specific cable to the Y-Adapter.    As an example, when using a single cable with an AD360 at full power in Manual Mode, it took 5 seconds to recharge to full power.  With a Y-Adapter it took a bit less than 3 seconds.
Unlike the Quantum which has an internal non-user replaceable battery, the ProPac PB960 has a removable battery (image below). This allows you to keep a spare battery on extended shoots. Quite frankly I’ve yet to run out of power when used with my Canon 600EX-RT on extended weddings.
The charger that comes with the battery supplies 12.6vdc @ 1.5A output and plugs directly into the battery itself.  The charger (not pictured) has a single indicator that lights RED when charging and GREEN when the battery is fully charged.
The image below shows the battery charging port.

Godox X1T-C Transmitter                                                          [menu]

Unlike Canon’s ST-E3-RT transmitter which has all the controls of the Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, the Godox X1T-C has limited controls.

On the Right Side

  • On/Off switch
  • Focus Assist On/Off   (nice touch, wish the Canon ST-E3 had one)
On the Left Side

There’s a rubber (may be waterproof) cover that hides a

  • mini-USB connector for upgrading the firmware.
  • PC-Sync socket  for connecting the Trigger to the camera’s PC-Sync port. When used with Godox X1R-C receivers this allows you to trigger devices like studio strobes. The default is to allow you to use the camera’s PC-Sync socket to trigger the X1T-C; since I don’t plan on ever doing this, I changed it to trigger external flash units or other single contact devices such a remote triggers. (C.Fn-03 = ou)
On the Top

  • Canon compatible hot-shoe. The X1T-N is Nikon compatible.
  • Test Button (on top of the unit) fires the flash or wakes up the receivers
  • Status indicator (lets you know when the transmitter & receivers are talking). The status indicator is a bit of confusion. It lights red whenever the Test Button is pressed. It lights red when the receiver (AD360 flash) is off or when the receivers (AD360 flash) is on a different channel and is unresponsive. According to the manual, the Indicator Light on the Transmitter and Receiver will turn red when there’s a connection. We’ll see when I get actual receivers as opposed to just a compatible flash
On the back  (along with the LCD display)

  • CH/OK Button – Quick press and select the channel with the scroll dial.
  • CH/OK Button – Long Press – Enables Fn functions, selectable by scroll dial.
  • Mode Button –  Selects TTL, Manual, Multi-Flash and Grouping
  • GR Button –  Allows you to set power levels for each flash grouping via scroll dial independently.
  • GR Button –  Allows you to GRoup all setting which allow you to change all setting simultaneously relative to one another via scroll dial.
  • Scroll Dial –
The X1T-C has 32 frequency channels to pick from. Make sure you set the channel and receivers or compatible Godox flash units to the same channel.

You also have the ability to assign additional flash units to one of 5 groupings (A-E). You can assign your Key (main) Light to Group A,  Fill Light to Group B,  Background Light to Group C and Hair Light to Group D.  However, unlike Canon’s ST-E3, you can independently set each grouping as TTL or manual or even turn off a group.  As an example, you can set the Key Light to TTL,  Fill light to TTL  -1EV, then set the Background and Hair lights to Manual and adjust their output intensity independently and not subject to TTL metering.

What you can’t do:

  • Select High Speed Sync – unlike Canon’s ST-E3, the Godox transmitter automatically sets HSS (High Speed Sync) when you set the shutter speed over 1/250 sec.
  • Select Curtain mode  (front curtain/rear curtain) – Sets from the camera menu
  • Select Flash Bracketing  –  Sets from the camera menu
  • Select Manual Zoom – the AD360 has no zoom capability. However, Canon as well as other Godox flash units that work with this transmitter do and you can select Auto Zoom, No Zoom, or select a fixed zoom rate from the custom function menu.(c.Fn-02 = [AU] ). This is an improvement over Canon’s ST-E3 which automatically sets the zoom to 24mm and can not be overridden, not even in manual mode.

Setting of flash functions from a Canon menu will only work on cameras manufactured from 2012 on; not sure about Nikon.  While I very rarely use the camera’s menu controls to set flash functions, for the purpose of this write-up I tried it and it does work. In fact the camera automatically identified the attached X1T-C as a transmitter.

Note:  I set the X1T-C transmitter function to allow pass-through signals from the camera hot-shoe to the the X1T-C transmitter hot-shoe. (c.Fn-01 = — [off] )

Note:  When using the X1T-C transmitter’s hot-shoe to host an attached speedlite, the channel that controls the attached speedlite is Channel “A” .  All speedlite functions properly only when assigned to Channel “A”

I tried using a different channel and this is what happened:

  • The Canon flash went into High Speed Sync mode and could not be reset.
  • The Canon’s Modeling Light function arbitrarily turned on and off
  • Adjusting the flash output  +/- 3EV manually from the flash had absolutely NO result in flash out, it remained as +/- 0.0EV
  • Adjusting the output  +/- 3EV for grouping “B” from the X1T-C had absolutely NO result in flash out, it remained as +/- 0.0EV
  • Adjusting the flash compensation can only be done from the camera’s menu, assuming the camera was built after 2012. This for me is a deal breaker for using a flash on the transmitter’s hot-shoe since I routinely make this type of adjustment (think zone system).  Because of this revelation, I set c.Fn-01 = on. This turned off the pass-thru function and makes the hot-shoe behave as a single-contact unit. perfect for using it with my CyberSync studio triggers.
  • It didn’t matter if the flash was in ETTL or ETTL Master of ETTL Slave, all the results remained the same.


The power switch is easily nudged into the ON position. This device has no reliable power management system. While it will blank out the LCD to conserve power, if you put it away without turning the power off, it will be dead when you take it out in a day or so.

The focus assist beam died after a couple of weeks of use.

When I first received the X1Tc transmitter it takes a bit to get used to it and quite frankly weird stuff happens.  There’s an arrow that points to the middle reading and the dial scrolls the display up and down through the available groups. There are two options for group settings (c.Fn-06)  3 (Group A,B,C) and 5 (Groups A through E).

At one point I set the groupings to 3 and after a while the display locked to show the 3 groupings with the scroll dial having no function other than adjusting the power levels. Stepping through the groups was now done through the mode button. After a while I decided to go back to 5 groups (c.Fn-06-[5]). Unfortunately the display never changed and no matter what I did I couldn’t get back to 5 groups.  Final I searched online and found that I could reset the transmitter to factory defaults. That did the trick.

I decided to go back to 3 groups. I changed the custom function to 3 (c.Fn-06-[3]). The display now only shows 3 groups and you move between them via the scroll dial. No matter what I do I can’t get the groups to lock in place so that I can step through them with the mode button.

Regardless of the seemingly strange and inconsistent operation of the settings, the transmitter works great. I recently purchased an X1Rc receiver so I can use my canon flash units remotely with the X1Tc transmitter.  The operation of the transmitter/receiver combo is flawless.

Godox X1R-C Receiver                                                     [menu]

The receiver is a simple device with just two major settings,  Channel Selection and Group Selection.

  • Would be great if there was a way to lock in the channel selection since it’s quite easy to inadvertently press the CH button and cause the channel to change. Then you have to go through all 32 channels to get back to where you were.
  • On the Right Side
    • On/Off switch  (easily nudged into the ON position when storing)
On the Left Side

There’s a rubber (may be waterproof) cover that hides a

  • 2.5mm jack – used to remotely trigger a camera or a studio strobe. Cables are included for triggering studio strobe as well as camera specific cable for triggering shutter.  (X1Rc = Canon,  X1Rn = Nikon,  X1Rs = Sony)
  • USB Port – used to upgrade the firmware.
On the Top

  • Camera specific compatible hot-shoe. (X1RC = Canon,  X1T-N = Nikon)
  • Test Button (on top of the unit) fires the flash or wakes up the receivers
  • Status indicator (lets you know when the transmitter & receivers are talking).
On the back  (along with the LCD display)

  • CH Button – Quick press and select the channel (up to 32 channels).
  • GR Button –  Allows you to set the group used for the attached group. (5 Groups A-E
The bottom of the receiver sports a metal cold-shoe with a standard 1/4-20 threaded hole for directly connecting to a standard light stand.

Set the flash as if you were putting it on the camera, no need to set it as a Master or a Slave.  I tried starting it in both eTTL and Manual and it automatically changed in accordance with the settings of the transmitter.

The power switch is easily nudged into the ON position. This device has no reliable power management system. While it will blank out the LCD to conserve power, if you put it away without turning the power off, it will be dead when you take it out in a day or so.


I have both Canon 600EX-RT and Youngnuo YN600EX-RT flash systems that work seamlessly with with either Canon’s ST-E3 or  Youngnuo’s YN-E3-RT.  While the primary  operating frequency of these units and the Godox/Flashpoint transmitters are the same, they will not trigger each others flash units.

The Godox AD360II-C (Flashpoint Streaklight 360) 

If you’re looking for a more powerful light to use on-camera, look elsewhere. This is a heavy unit, over 2 lbs. with reflector, with published warnings about mounting it on the camera’s hot-shoe. While the output is one stop hotter (twice the amount of light) than the 600EX-RT units, the AD360 is more suited to being used off-camera, either with the supplied cold-shoe stand or on a light stand. When used on-camera (yes, I did test it) the unit operated in either manual or full eTTL mode.

Where this light really shines (no pun intended), is with it’s off-camera bare bulb capability and vast array of light modifiers. As an example, when using a standard speedlite with an umbrella (reflected) there is significant loss of light and the light distribution is not very even.  With the AD360 (with either bare bulb or umbrella reflector) the resulting light is much more even and the extra stop of light really helps.  As I stated earlier in my write-up, this light produces almost 2/3 of a stop more light than my Paul Buff AB-800 studio light.

Another downside is the external battery and connecting cable. Unlike a speedlite which is all self-contained and quick to set up, the AD360 needs to be mounted (so does the speedlite), then you have to mount the separate battery pack to the light-stand, then connect the cable. There are a couple of screw-type clamps that can be purchased for specifically mounting the battery to the light-stand,and while I do have a couple, I found that using a 12″ zip-tie formed in a loop then super glued to ensure it won’t come apart, is the quickest way to mount the battery. Slip the battery through the loop then hang it on the light stand.

At full power the light is fully charged in about 4.5 seconds.
At 1/2 power the recycle time is about 1 second.
At 1/4 power the recycle time is significantly less than 1 second.

The flexibility of these lights far outweigh the negatives regarding setup time and separate components.

Godox X1T (Flashpoint R2) Transmitters

This is a simple but flexible transmitter. With 2 on/off switches, One for the Power and one for the focus beam. There are 3 mode buttons facing the back of the camera along with an LCD screen.

Once you get used to it, it’s a joy to use, however, if you inadvertently switch operating modes, it can take forever to figure out how to get it back to the default factory mode.

The top mounted hot-shoe allows you to mount a camera specific flash for use in full TTL or manual mode along with the AD360 mounted off-camera. Or you can mount a different transmitter, such as a Pocket Wizard or Paul Buff CyberSync to control your studio lights.  I have actually used an AD360 on a boom as a hair or separator light along with White-Lightning X1600 series studio lights. The camera mounted X1T transmitter allows me to easily adjust the boom mounted output of the AD360, while the CyberSync triggered the studio lights.

For me, these lights are a great addition and allows me to create lighting scenarios that would otherwise cost me significantly more money. When used with the Godox X1R receivers, it allows me to fully integrate my Canon and Youngnuo 600EX speedlites with my Godox & Flashpoint 360 and my studio lights.

I hope you found this write-up informative and useful.

Back from the Can/Am Photo Expo

FocusNY was held in conjunction with the Canadian/American Photo Expo that was held in Buffalo, NY.  There were 3 days of training seminars and workshops. Friday I attended Cheryl Belczak’ “Lighting Techniques for Photographing Glass” and a Portrait/Fashion series by Dana Nordlund called “A Quest for Light“.

Rather than booking a room, I decided I would drive back to Rochester then come back in the morning; big mistake!  It made for a really short night and a really long day. I left Rochester at 6 am and arrived at the Adam’s Mark Hotel at little after 7:30 am. After a quick breakfast I attended Tony Corbell‘s “Let’s Talk Light for Weddings” seminar.  Immediately after Tony’s seminar, Will Cadena had a lecture and walkabout with models at Silo City; this lasted from 10 am to 5 pm.  Will conducted a “Lighting on the Run” workshop for the GRPP here in Rochester

It was heavily overcast (great for photography), cold (bad for the models), wet  and drizzly (Bad for all of us) but we all ventured out to Silo City in what turned out to be a great session. I’ve added a gallery of my photos below.

Can-Am Silo City Shoot

Saturday evening Tony Corbell was the Keynote Speaker for PPSNYS. There was a Fashion Shoot from 9pm to 11pm “Night on the Town” but I opted out since I didn’t get much sleep the night before so I headed out to my hotel room.

Sunday was the last day of the Photo Expo. I took Brian Matiash’s lecture on “The Visual Palette: Defining your Photographic Style”  which turned out to be more about Lightroom. Since there were no other lectures that interested me I decided to make one last sweep of the vendors. Depending on how you look at it it this was either a mistake or good fortune, I ended buying a new mottled grey backdrop.  Since this was a custom order I got to pick the color shades and style that I wanted. Hopefully when it arrives in 2-3 weeks it’ll be what I expected.


Outdoor Portraiture workshop

May 9, 2016

I’ve been conducting an outdoor portraiture workshop as part of a class I teach at the Flower City Arts Center. This class is less about posing and more about lighting.

This first outdoor session was at Ellison Park and started around 11am. While there was some sporadic cloud cover, most of the time there was just bright harsh sun light and the worst possible time of day to take outdoor photos. The object of this workshop was to teach the proper use of a hot-shoe flash to mitigate the harsh lighting conditions that a noon-day sun presents.  Other than some slight cropping, there was absolutely no post-processing of any of the images.

I took the first few photos as examples and used an ambient light meter (not in camera) to measure the light. With the ISO set to 200 (lowest common denominator for the cameras being used) the exposure was 125 sec. @ f/16. I was not using a flash diffuser but did have a 1/4 CTO filter attached. White Balance (WB) was set to Full Daylight and the 1/4 CTO filter added just a tiny bit of warming.

During this session the cameras were set to manual and the flash was set to TTL. The primary in-camera metering mode was Spot and manual pre-flash was used.

The photo below was taken with the sun behind and to the right (my left) of the subject.  The advantage to shooting into the sun is that the subject is not squinting.  

The Photo on the Left – was taken with no flash. While the exposure on his right cheek is good, there is way too much shadow on the rest of the face. This s not a very good shot.

The Photo on the Right – was taken with the flash on and set to minus 1-stop. As you can see, it’s a much more pleasing photo. The main light is still on the left side of the face but the harsh shadow has been significantly reduced.

This next photos were shot with the sun in the face of the subject. The camera setting were exactly the same as the previous set of photos.

The Photo on the Left – was taken with no flash. While no in-camera metering was used, if it had been, I’d spot-meter on the nose.  The overall exposure is good, but the shadows are a bit harsh and deep, especially under the nose and chin.

The Photo on the Right – was taken with the flash on and set to minus 1-stop. As you can see, it’s a much more pleasing photo since the harsh shadows have been reduced. I could have further reduced the shadows by reducing the flash to 1/3 or 2/3 stops as opposed to a full stop. It’s all just personal preference.

The rule of thumb is to always shoot into the light since that’s something you have very little control over. You can control your flash but controlling the sun is another matter and waiting for clouds may not be an option.

This next 3-frame series was taken in the shade with the initial exposure determined by the background. The initial exposure was 125 sec/, f/11 and the flash was set to zero (0) compensation since I wanted to match and control the background light.

In order to control the background exposure, I closed my aperture by a whole stop between the three shots, this made the sky look darker that it really was. I could of just as easily changed my initial aperture to f/8 to make the background brighter.

  125 sec. f/11                         125 sec. f/16                            125 sec.  f/22

In all cases my camera’s metering system was set to spot and I used it, along with my camera and flashes FEL (Canon) FVL (Nikon) pre-flash function, to control the output of the flash system.

The next outdoor session will be more of an evening event taking advantage of much compressed dynamic range and a setting sun.

“Lighting on the Run” a Will Cadena Imagery workshop

This past Sunday GRPP sponsored a “Lighting on the Run” workshop presented by Will Cadena.Will is the owner of Will Cadena Imagery and is New York City’s best up-and-coming wedding photographers.  We spent the day learning the various lighting techniques that Will uses to make his images pop. There were about 20 of us at the workstation and as crowded as it was, especially in a small hotel room, we managed not to step all over each other; things were a bit more roomy when we moved outdoors.

Here’s a gallery of some of the photos I took at the workshop.

Lighting on the run

Macro Rails & associated head.

I decided to do some macro work and as you know the depth of field is measures in fractions of an inch and auto focus is nearly useless. Earlier this year I built a custom panoramic tripod head that still needs a few parts that need to be manufactured at a machine shop. When it’s done I’ll post more information. I equipped my tripod with a 3-point leveler Macro Head_1902that has proven to be a blessing when using the pano-head because in order to make stitching more accurate a true horizontal level is vital and adjusting the tripod legs to achieve a level is a true pain.

I also don’t like the time it takes to combine all the separate components so I’ve incorporated a Stroboframe Quick-connect system that allows me to quickly connect or disconnect the various components including the camera.

Right now I have a Manfrotto ball head screwed onto the 3-point leveler. The working end of the ball head is equipped with a Stroboframe clamp while the 2-axis rail system has a corresponding Stroboframe Plate. Finally, on top of the rail system there is another Stroboframe clamp that is used to hold the camera. The 2-axis rail system holds the camera and allows me to fine tune the focus without using the lens’ focus ring.

Once it was all together I decided to give it a test drive by photographing a drinking glass from the 1960’s; it contains the caricatures of the WBBF AM95 radio station.

WBBF-Glass  More macro’s to follow.

Fauxto Booth vs. Photo Booth

So what’s the difference?

Photo Booth – In a standard photo booth you actually have a booth that’s typically 6 feet tall, 2 feet wide and 6 feet deep. It’s usually build into a number of shipping enclosures that are snapped together to form the booth. It is a self contained, stand-alone unit containing a seat, backdrop, camera and printer. People go into the booth and there’s some mechanism that triggers the photo.

Once the photo is taken a 4×6 print emerges from the printer. The photo is typically cut in half lengthwise providing the well known 2×6 inch photo strip with up to 4 poses on it for each of the two participants that can fit into the 2 foot wide booth. In some cases a 2nd 4×6 print is printed so that it can be glued into scrapbook and the participants can write a short note to the Bride & Groom or host of the party.

In most cases the participants end up with a 2×6 strip of 4 photos that will eventually get lost or tossed.

Fauxto Booth – This is a portable studio with a standalone backdrop, studio lights and a high-end DSLR camera manned by a real photographer. While the typical background is 5 feet wide allowing larger groups of people to have their photos done at the same time, space permitting, 10 foot backdrops are also available. More often than not a printer is not part of the setup. While not having a printer may seem to defeat the purpose there are significant advantages, cost being one of them and access to the actual photo being the other.

A big advantage to this type of Fauxto Booth is that participants can download the photos to their own devices, be they smart phones, laptops or home computer. This gives each participant the ability to have as many prints made as they want and/or email the photos to friends and family. Want to leave a message for the Bride & Groom or Host? Write your message on a white-board and include it in the photo. Like the traditional photo booth, goofy props are usually provided to enhance the experience. Another advantage is that the photos are of high quality and can be altered after-the-fact if necessary. In the samples below two photos taken at a 585Wedding event were modified to suit the subjects of the photos.


Traditional Photo Booth – will set you back about $800 or more for a 3-4 hour session which usually starts after the diner of the wedding or event.

The Fauxto Booth – will cost you about $400 for the same 3-4 hour time period. In fact, if you add a $600 Fauxto Booth as an option for your wedding, you get a 2nd photographer for 8 hours. That means better overall coverage of the wedding and it’s still less expensive than a traditional photo booth.

Short Sample Gallery:

Do your photos seem too soft or out of focus?

... well it could actually be your lens. For a couple of years now, during some of my studio lighting classes, I’ve had some students complain about their inability to get a sharp focus. Since all manufacturing processes have some degree of variability, the chances of getting a lens/body combination that don’t quite match is a real possibility.

In many cases the lens will either Front Focus or Back Focus and unless you have a camera that provides micro adjust capabilities the only solution is to send both the camera and lens to an authorized repair facility to correct the issue. However, if you have a higher end camera body that allows you to make Micro Focusing Adjustments then you can do this adjustment yourself. Not all DSLR manufacturers provide this adjustment capability and for those that do, they don’t provide it on all their cameras. Check your users manual to see if your camera has this adjustment capability.

  • Canon calls it: “AF micro adjustment”
  • Nikon calls it” “AF fine tuning”
  • Pentax calls it: “Front/Back focus corr”
  • Sony calls it: “AF  Micro Adjustment”

There is a product by Datacolor called the Spyder LENSCAL that you can purchase to see if your lens is front or back focusing. For those of you interested in buying an off-the-shelf product here’s the link:  http://spyder.datacolor.com/portfolio-view/spyderlenscal/

However, rather than purchasing a product of this kind I demonstrate to my studio class a method of achieving the same results using a tripod and a ruler. The technique is effective and works quite well although I have to admit that sometimes getting the autofocus to lock in can be a chore and unless you are using the center single-point-of-focus, it’s quite unlikely you get get my method to work.

Recently I found an article on a PPA group site that shows you how to make a DIY Focus Calibration Target; it even provides a PDF template you can print out. After reading the post, the DIY template looks strangely similar in form and function to the Spyder LENSCAL device whose link I provided earlier in this post. So if you’re interested and want to save about $70 , I encourage you to check out the link below.  Enjoy.