Koken Store

Koken the portfolio management system that allows you the flexability to publish your photos to your site directly from Lightroom has released a new store. This can only be a good thing for the Koken community, a free project like Koken can only exist for so long without a revenue stream and this seems the perfect way for them to do that, I know I’ll be buying a feature soon if only to help ensure the project continues. The implementation method for the Store has also impressed me, the way that it’s not currently just an online storefront, it’s actually integrated into your site, it’s impressive and easy to use for what’s likely a user base that would rather spend time photographing than admin'ing servers.

To start, the selection of items for sale isn’t large but what they do have serves it’s purpose. For example the two theme upgrades Madison and Regale have had some features missing for a while but got addressed in version 2. Now these theme upgrades do pose a question about future upgrades to their free themes, are they all going the way of premium upgrades? After that you get into what I think Koken has needed for a while featueres that extend Koken. Image protection, Image watermarking, Instagram Import and Vimeo Import to start but I can only assume there will be more coming.

The only part of this that frustrated me from a perspective of a Koken user that has multiple installations of Koken is that Themes and Plugins limited to only allowing installation on one Koken instance. No sharing of your plugins or themes between your different websites even though you’ve paid for them. I assume I’m in the minority of users in this case, where most people will only have one Koken install I have two and could see reasons for more, it’s a pity to have to keep purchasing the same software each time.

Hoping to see more of these great features coming to a wonderful product.




Tweet Small Change

It’s all about creating art, capturing a moment and to that end sometimes it takes money to get your dream accomplished. A new project launched today called Tweet Small Change offering micro grants to help you get your dream going. A cute and fun idea for finding and funding new art projects.

Tweet Small Change is $140.00 micro-grants given to compelling arts projects that are pitched via tweets.

It’s not a large ammount of money but maybe it’s all you need to launch your project or complete some sections of it. Check it out for yourself to learn how to apply or check them out on Twitter.




Koken web publishing

Koken took a different approach to web publishing that really appealed to me, it allowed me to easily manage a lot of my website from Lightroom. I love the ease at which I can update the photos in a set of images, utilize Smart Collections to age photos on and off my website and simply publish without the hassle of exporting, uploading and organizing again online.

How is all of this possible? Koken created a simple Lightroom plugin where you can easily manage what images are published to your website and in what albums. You can use all of your standard Lightroom options for creating collections like star ratings, labels, keywords, dates, camera information and much more. This gives you great flexibility in terms of what is ready for publishing and when all within Lightroom. Just add a step to your workflow to check the publish services before you quit and you can easily keep your site up to date.

There are quite a few good templates to choose from with the basic install of Koken. That being said they have also documented the language they use to create each item of a layout so that you can create your own look and feel. I’ve decided to keep it on the standard side for the time being but I did test things out a bit and ran a custom version of one of the templates for a while. It’s always nice to see a nicely documented system especially from the start like Koken.

In my mind there are a few questions you need to ask yourself when thinking about setting up a portfolio online.

  • Do you want to self host or pay someone else to do it like Smugmug, Photoshelter etc?
  • How do you want to manage which images are on the site? Web Interface or Interface into an existing product you already use to manage your images?
  • How flexible is the publishing system, you don’t want to invest a bunch of time into setup only to find out you can’t put in a feature you want or need down the road.

At this point I’ve been using Koken for a while and it’s been stable. I have not had much load on the system to date so I can’t say how it would scale under heavy traffic but I can say it’s been the best portfolio site system I’ve used and the most fun to keep up to date. That’s saying a lot, a website that’s fun and easy to keep up to date. If your looking for a system where you can self host/publish your photography I’d fully recommend Koken

If you’d like to see my site built on Koken head on over to Adam Bliss Photography




Zeiss Distagon 21mm Review

If your a Canon or Nikon shooter you have some good options for lenses, both companies have a wonderful and deep catalog of lenses for you. But what if you want more, better image quality and better build quality. Your options are more limited without needing an adapter ring, luckily Carl Zeiss has produced their ZE and ZF lines of lenses specifically for Canon and Nikon. Across the board the Zeiss name has been hailed as one of the top lens manufacturers for decades. They have made lenses for all types of cameras and other equipment including their own since the mid 1800’s. The question is does the new Zeiss lens selection for Nikon and Canon give you enough of a quality bump to justify the price and the loss of Autofocus?

Those last two things are a good place to start for those that don’t know about the Zeiss lens line, they are manual focus prime lenses. I know plenty of shooters who will kick them off their list due to those two things. Please understand that up front, if you need auto focus or zooms then the Zeiss line is really not for you. They are also priced at the top of the line, consistent with the Canon L or top Nikon glass with an average selling price over $1000 a lens with some reaching up quite a bit further.

Ok for those of you still with me your in luck, the Zeiss lenses are a wonderful option and offer incredible performance against any Canon lens I’ve owned over the years. The 21mm specifically has been amazing and I’ve found to be tact sharp from f/2.8 on and seems to last longer before the effects to diffraction take hold than my Canon glass. That’s not to say there are not issues with the Zeiss lens, including a cyan color cast in the edges and some magenta fringe specifically in out of focus high contrast areas. But the effects overall have been very impressive!

The build quality has also been quite different than my Canon glass, these lenses are made of a metal without any hint of plastic. They feel like a tank compared to especially the average Canon lens but even feel more durable than the L series lenses. The focus mechanism is also magnitudes better than Canon which is good since these are manual focus, the throw distance is much larger allowing for precise focus in small increments. The main drawback to a great build quality with heavy duty materials is the weight, these lenses are heavy and won’t spare your back/arms while hiking.

Below are some images along with 100% crops for you to see some of the detail and quality of these lenses.


Maine Wildflowers

Notice the detail and the pleasant out of focus blur as the depth of field falls off.

Netherlands Tulips

Note the wonderful contrast and sharpness of this lens, the 100% crop is from the right side.

Colorado Apen Grove

See some of the magenta frindging around the leaves/branches in the out of focus areas here.

Maine Fall Colors

The sharpness of this is amazing, even in the high contrast areas you can see detail.

I can give this lens my full recommendation

You can pick it up at B&H Zeiss 21mm f2.8 Distagon




4 of 52 Cello

Photographing a Cello

Week four I wanted to work on something different and I wanted to focus on just one part of an item. I worked on my Cello and really just the neck of the Cello to hopefully show some of the ways you can make things look different just from lighting.




3 of 52 iPhones

Photographing an iPhone

Week three brought continued the process of learning my studio and lighting set up with a difficult subject matter, a very reflective surface item. I had countless shots that were essentiall ruined by bad reflections and/or scratches that led to shots that just didn’t make the cut.




Photo Backups

I know this has been said time after time across the internet “you need to backup your computer” but I still see people who don’t backup their computers. This is just asking for trouble as computers are stolen, hard drives fail and natural disasters happen, it’s not a matter of if it’ll happen but when. Digital photographers more than any one else need to make sure they have a backup strategy or they could loose large parts if not all of your life’s work. The big question is how do you do it?

The goal here should be to have at least one backup of your data, if your data is your livelihood I’d suggest an even more robust strategy. Below you’ll find my two part answer to this question, first is for your average photographer who has important photos but they don’t make a living on the photos, the second is for your professional photographer who absolutely can’t loose images for any reason.

Average Photographer

For years the answer to your house is on fire and you can grab one thing on your way out the door has been your photo albums. In the digital age with fewer and fewer images actually being printed the answer has changed to my computer. This is a good thing because we can easily make sure that you don’t loose anything in the digital age even if you can’t get to the computer on your way out the door.

Local Backup

Having a second hard drive locally is important because if you have a failure without a natural disaster it’s much easier to recover from a local drive than not. If you have a desktop computer you should leave this connected full time, if your on a laptop you should make a habit out of connecting it at least once a week. You should also pick up some copy/reproduction software to make sure the two are in sync (see below for top choices).

Offsite Backup

This is a big part of even the average user strategy, natural disasters happen and are unplannable. If your house goes up in fire and you loose your computer and your backup drive you are in trouble without an offsite backup. The easiest option here is to use a network backup tool like Backblaze or Crashplan where you install some software on your computer and sign up for a plan and everything is automatically backed up offsite. For the most part there is a fee for this with some exceptions but it’s worth it for peace of mind. The second option here is to buy a second backup drive and make a backup and then store it offsite and keep a schedule where you pick it up and update it regularly.

Professional Photographer

As a professional photographer if you loose images you are possibly loosing money and quite likely also loosing repeat business from that customer which can easily cripple your business. Don’t get yourself into this situation.

Local backup

Unlike the Average photographer you need to have a great set up here as you are likely blowing through lots of data and need more than one backup here and you need to be doing it as more than just backup, it needs to be redundant from import. I used to work for a studio long ago and we had constant problems with this aspect of data loss, luckily software has gotten better and hard drives cheaper.

Import

Upon importing you need a backup, what if a drive fails before your backup job starts? You could loose a day’s worth of work which could be a huge client or 20 senior portrait sessions, you just can’t loose this much data. There are two ways to do this, I’d recommend you do both -

  • RAID - Option 1 is to have a redundant raid array as your photo storage drive so that on import your images are backed up immediately. You can find some options here at B&H.
  • Immediate copy to multiple drives - Lightroom and Aperture both support options to write the data from your memory card to your computer onto more than one drive immediatly. This is a no brainer, why would you not take advantage of this? Have your RAID array as your main or your back up drive (depending on the drive and RAID type) and then backup again to a photos only drive. If you does these right you could easily end up with 3 copies on import, which is a smart move.
Boot Drive Duplication

You can’t have your primary computer go down for a long period of time, it needs to be up and running so you can keep your business running smoothly. Duplication allows for you to have an immediate clone of your startup drive (not just your photos) in case that fails so you can be back up and running within minutes with your setup, your software and your tools. This will save you hours! I use SuperDuper for this on my end and have a nightly job that will make this backup.

Incremental Backups

If your using a Mac you can easily attach another drive and set up Time Machine on it, this will back up the drive and keep track of all the changes to your data incrementally so if you need to go back in time later chances are good you can find a previous version. For PC I’ve seen a few pieces of software mentioned but have not tried them myself so I won’t make any recommendations here, best to do some research on this if your running a PC.

Network Backup

This is a little more iffy as a professional as there are privacy and bandwidth concerns above and beyond what you would have to worry about for your home machine. That being said if your connection can keep up with your business I feel it’s worth while to back up via the internet.

  • Backblaze - This is my first choice for a couple of reasons, it’s cheap at $5 a month and it’s secure as it’s all encrypted and you can store a custom key to make it even more secure. This is also what I use and can recommend.
  • CrashPlan - This is similar to Backblaze but you also have the ability to control the offsite machine. Say you have a studio and a home machine, the studio can back up to your home. Just keep in mind you’ll need fast internet for this in both locations.
  • Your own server - This is the last option I’d choose personally as even though I know how to manage a server I’d not fully trust that I had it secured properly and kept up to date. That being said its a good choice if you are very worried about keeping everything under your own control.

Software

Apple
Windows
Network Backup



2 of 52 Watches

Photographing watches

Week two brought on some new challenges from actually getting the job done to getting quality shots from watches that are scratched and used to how to keep them in a good position for the shot. I think the images came out well and I hope that you enjoy but I may be putting these on the list for a re-shoot this year.




Wallpaper - Tracks to the Sun

As part of wanting to start sharing my images more, I’m starting with an image I took last week in Maine at sunrise. It was a chilly -22 farenheit but It was a beautiful morning and also one of the coldest I’ve been out snowshoeing for. I don’t know how often I’ll be publishing these, depends on the images I shoot or pull out of my archives but when I do post I’ll be going with three sizes normally.

  • Tablet - 2524x2524px
  • Phone - 744x1392px
  • Desktop - 2560x1440px

It’s my hope that these work for not only specific devices like the iPhone and iPad but also cropped or scaled for plenty of other devices. If you have a specific need I’m happy to look into adding but can’t guarantee anything.

Download the wallpapers below
Desktop   Tablet   Phone ** Images are for use on your personal computer/device only **



1 of 52 Cameras

Installment one of my project 52 went pretty well, I decide to take some pictures of my cameras for future use on this site and it was a good first week’s project to get my home studio up and running.










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