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Review: Filterstorm Pro for the iPad

Filterstorm Pro strives to solve a number of problems for the nimble photographer working on an iPad or iPad 2. It provides a true library environment, complete with star ratings so you can organize your shoot. It handles Raw files with relative ease, even on the original iPad. And there's IPTC support and batch processing -- overall, a step forward in many areas for photo management on a tablet device.

Filterstorm Pro

I ran a basic test with Filterstorm Pro from a recent photo shoot where I shot Raw with a Canon 60D. The beginning workflow went like this:

  • Connected memory card to iPad using Camera Connection Kit.
  • Opened thumbnails the Photos app - I imported 5 Raw files.
  • Swiched to FilterStorm and choose Import iPad Photos.
  • Imported the selected album that had all 5 images.
  • Browsed the images in the Filterstrom library and rated them.
  • Added IPTC metadata such as copyright, caption, creator, etc.
  • Applied image edits.
  • Exported favorite photo to Flickr according to my specifications.

Unfortunately, Filterstorm could not provide EXIF data for my 60D Raws, other than the image size - 3456x5184. I was, however, able to add IPTC metadata to entire batch of photos at once. I could also create template sets to speed up this process in the future. Another nice touch is the ability to add a watermark.

The image editing went fairly well. I actually think this is the weakest area of the application. There are no Levels controls or a histogram to work with (or if there is a histogram, I couldn't find it). There are no Shadows or Highlights controls per se. The curves function works well, but not everyone likes using curves. You do have masking controls if you want them. The Add Exposure control did not seem to work properly for me, or maybe I just didn't understand how to use it. It should be straightforward.

Once I finished, my edited images were put in a stack with the original and displayed in the library.

Export allowed me to send to the images to my Photos library on the iPad, email, Flickr, Dropbox, or FTP. Exporting from Filterstorm Pro went well, and the IPTC data I added traveled with the photo. In the future, I have to remember to clear the various IPTC fields, or that data will be applied to subsequent photos.

Pros

  • True library environment for managing photo shoots on an iPad
  • Works with both iPad and iPad2
  • Raw file processing, even with high resolution cameras such as the Canon 60D
  • IPTC metadata management
  • Stable application that did not crash during testing
  • Batch processing is helpful

Cons

  • Image editing controls lack histogram, levels, shadow and highlight recovery
  • No EXIF data for certain Raw files, such as those from Canon 60D
  • Still a few rough edges, but those should be smoothed out in future updates
  • Bottom Line

    Filterstorm Pro is a breakthrough app for the iPad. For the first time, I can process and manage Raw files on a first generation iPad. Being able to add IPTC metadata is a big plus, especially coupled with the flexible export options.

    These features do come at a price, however. Filterstorm Pro will cost you $14.99 in the US. And I believe it could still use some improvement in the image editing functions, if it is indeed going to be your complete environment on the iPad the way Aperture or Lightroom serve us on our computers.

    That being said, this is a true robust nimble photographer application.

    Nimbleosity Rating: 4 (out of five possible)

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    Why Would We Want a High End Compact?

    Canon S100

    As I look at the just-announced Canon S100, it has me thinking about this class of device in general. What factors would motivate me to spend between $400-$800 for a camera that fits in a pocket (in addition to the one I already have in my iPhone)?

    There are entries in this category that tempt me. I already have a Canon S90, and I love it. The S100 adds speed, resolution, optical zooming range, better low light capability, and GPS. There are questions about implementation, such as, can I shoot RAW and have those images GPS tagged too? We'll see about all of that soon enough.

    The Fujifilm X10 tempts me. It's absolutely beautiful, with premium glass, EXR image processor, manual controls, RAW capability, fast f/2.0/2.8 4X zoom lens, image stabilization, and 7 fps continuous shooting mode. Plus it has an optical viewfinder. How does it perform? We'll find out this Fall. How does it feel in the hands? I can't wait to find out.

    Fujifilm X10

    We're waiting for the release of the Fujifilm X10.

    I really like the Olympus XZ-1 with its fast f/2.0 lens, ability to use an electronic viewfinder, off-camera flash control, Bluetooth connectivity, and of course, RAW capability. It's actually a system camera in a small package. I can go barebones with just the XZ-1 itself, or I can bring along accessories and flashes. Nice option to have.

    Olympus XZ-1 with VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder Olympus XZ-1 with VF-2 Electronic Viewfinder. Click on image for larger version. Photo by Derrick Story.

    As I think about these devices, what I really want boils down to this: unique experience, professional capability, and ultra portability. These cameras are for people who what to make photographs that can be featured on Google+ more than Facebook. And with an Eye-Fi card, I can leverage the communication capability of my iPhone to share these images quickly.

    As for the experience... if I'm at my kid's back to school night, instead of pulling out an iPhone for a snapshot, I have an X10. That's a different sensation. Even the most basic picture becomes an activity to relish. It feels good to make a photograph. Will I shoot more as a result?

    I've never seen photography more competitive than it is now. I think these cameras give us the ability to maximize any opportunity that presents itself, whether we're out to dinner with the family, or walking to the store for carton of milk. And because we love shooting with them, we may find more excuses to make photographs.

    The question is... can we afford them?


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    A lot has changed since this nimble photographer last wrote about using an Eye-Fi card with ShutterSnitch on an iPad. In short, everything is a bit more interesting. ShutterSnitch has now evolved to a very high nimbleosity rating. Let me show you why.

    ShutterSnitch Browser

    First, there have been under-the-hood improvements that make connecting your iPad to a digital camera with an Eye-Fi card much easier. I'm using it with an Olympus E-PL2 with an Eye-Fi Pro X2, primarily because the 12MP files from the PEN camera are easier to move around than those larger files from my Canon 60D or 5D Mark II. I shoot in RAW+Jpeg mode, sending the Jpegs directly to my iPad, and uploading the RAW files later into Aperture.

    Aside from being very fun, why would I want to add this second iPad workflow to my shooting? Two reasons: I get to view the photos in semi-realtime on the iPad as I'm working. This is particularly cool when capturing portraits. The subject gets feedback during the session. The second reason is that I can post images to Flickr (or where ever) very quickly with this system. In part, this is due to a major improvement in ShutterSnitch called Actions.

    ShutterSnitch Actions

    Actions in ShutterSnitch are a lot like Automator scripting on a Mac. You have a list of tasks to choose from, you organize the tasks that you want to apply, then save them as a multifunctional Action.

    I have an Action set up that first saves a master of the image to my Photos library (keeping it safe and sound), then resizes the image to 1024 pixels, then adds my copyright. location data, and author credit, then sends the adjusted file to my Flickr Photostream. In short, I choose a shot I like, then it's on Flickr minutes later, with all of my info attached. I can even add a watermark if I want.

    Choosing the shot is easy too. ShutterSnitch uses the same "star rating" system that I enjoy in iPhoto, Aperture, and Lightroom. I go through the shoot, rate the images, then select the ones I want to upload to Flickr or to any of my other sharing sites.

    ShutterSnitch and Eye-Fi work together when you have a WiFi network available. I've already made the Eye-Fi card aware of my standard networks (home, office, clients, etc.). So the setup is pretty much ready to go when I am.

    If you're a nimble photographer who already has an iPad and an Eye-Fi card, I highly recommend spending the $15.99 for ShutterSnitch. Developer Brian Gerfort is one of the hardest working guys on the planet, and has continually refined this application. And I suspect he will continue to do so.

    Nimbleosity Rating: 4 (out of 5 possible)

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    Preparing for Fall Color

    Fall Color

    Here in Northern California, I can already feel the approach of Autumn. The light changes. The air smells different. Fall color is around the corner.

    I've noticed that I haven't updated my library with any new Autumn shots in some time. Funny how I get busy with day-to-day tasks, and as a result, miss an entire season. So this year, I'm getting ready now to have the VW Van packed so I can leave quickly when the leaves begin to turn.

    If your photo library could us a little updating in this category, now's the time to make your plans. First, you need a good resource so you can track the changing of the seasons. Here, I'm using CalPhoto. Photographer Carol Leigh will be hosting the Fall Foliage Hotsheet there. So find the resource for your area and check in regularly.

    Next, get your outdoor gear together. Do you have fuel for the stove? Food and cookware organized? Get this stuff ready now. It's hard enough to break away from the grind. Once you get the opportunity, be ready to go.

    Create open windows in your calendar. Mine tends to fill up a month or two ahead of time. So I've saved small blocks of days here and there. I might not hit the color at its prime (we need some luck for that), but I will be able to escape. Now's also a good time to let your family know that you might be gone for a day or two in October.

    I'll talk more about fall color photographically in an upcoming post. But for now, I have to make sure I have plenty of coffee packed in the kitchen kit.


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    I have plenty of serious shooting on my dance card. But sometimes I just want to have fun with a camera. I wanted to take some candids at a street fair in Santa Rosa last weekend (an Oktoberfest at a local church), but what I was really after was a good time. I decided to go with an Olympus PEN and the 17mm f/2.8 lens, adding the accessory optical viewfinder.

    With all of the latest innovations in micro four thirds, you don't read a lot about this combination. It was part of the original offering. And it's still one of my favorite rigs.

    The optical viewfinder (VF-1 $80) pairs with the Olympus 17mm f/2.8 prime lens ($275). The effective focal length on the micro four thirds body is 34mm, perfect for most street shooting.

    Now here's where the enjoyment comes in. I turn off the LCD, which is virtually useless in bright sunlight anyway, and compose through the beautiful optics of the hot shoe mounted viewfinder. The image is clear and crisp. (Ah, the joy of glass!) I can leave my sunglasses on. It's a total casual experience that yields great results.

    An added benefit is that people don't pay much attention to me with that camera around my neck. I can compose quickly and get the shot, often without attracting any attention. Every so often I take a break in the shade, review the shots on the LCD to make sure I'm getting what I think I've captured, then go back to shooting.

    The quality of the prime 17mm is quite good. I always shoot in Raw so I can tame the contrasty lighting later in post production. I let the camera handle the autofocusing, which it does well.

    We all want to take great shots. But there are those days when I want to enjoy myself during the process. That's a good time to use this type of rig.


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    The Night Before (Wine Country Big Q)

    An assignment that I was looking forward to this week was covering the Wine Country Big Q. Set against the rolling hills backdrop of Sonoma County, BBQ artists from all over the country gathered to compete for prizes and bragging rights over who could prepare the most delicious pork, chicken, and brisket. If you know the world of professional BBQ, you know these events are a big deal.

    The Night Before The night before the Wine Country Big Q. Click on image for larger size. All photos by Derrick Story.

    Since the event officially began on Saturday at 1pm, I was there on Friday night. It's a habit I developed back in the wedding days, and it yields rewards every time. So, as the sun was setting, I was there among the chefs and smoke and anticipation. One of the event coordinators spotted me and asked, "What are you doing here tonight? It's practically dark." Yes it is!

    gorilla_and_dr_bbq.jpg Dr. BBQ (Ray Lampe) and Gorilla (Rich Bacchi) took time out from their work on Friday night to pose for this slash light portrait.

    One of my favorite moments was meeting the guys at Tex Wasabi's All-Stars. The title is fitting. The force behind Tex Wasabi is Food Network star, Guy Fieri. He's a local hero in Santa Rosa who brings it home on a regular basis. Also on the team was Dr. BBQ, Ray Lampe, who is a legend in this world. I photographed him on Friday night with "Gorilla," also known as Rich Bacchi. This was a good call, because these two guys, and the rest of the team, won the top award the following day.

    I made prints for Ray and Rich and brought them to the event on Saturday as a thank you for letting me photograph them. I also make the digital files available in case they need them for their own promotion. This is something I try to do with celebrities. I include my name and email on the back of each print in case they need to reach me in the future.

    Guy Fieri and Pete Stringfellow Guy Fieri joins musician Pete Stringfellow on stage during Pete's performance on Saturday afternoon.

    Then on Saturday afternoon, it was back to work. Guy Fieri made an appearance and hung out with his crew at Tex Wasabi. He's also friends with another local star, Pete Stringfellow, who opens for Clint Black, Randy Travis, and others. Pete's band knocked it out of the park that afternoon.

    The bottom line is, as a photographer, you're going to best capture an event if you immerse yourself in it. Don't be afraid to get smoke in your eyes. Respect your subjects. And get there the night before.


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    As powerful as the Develop Module is, there are times when you need to take an image from Lightroom and work on it in Photoshop. We call that roundtripping. And the beauty of this process is that Photoshop sends the photo back to Lightroom and puts it in a stack next to the original. This helps you stay organized because the derivative version and the master are in the same location. Here's a 4-minute video that shows you this process.

    Keeping track of your work is a focus of my latest title on lynda.com, Organizing and Archiving Digital Photos. I show you techniques for Lightroom, as illustrated here, Aperture, iPhoto, and even roll-your-own. By spending a little time with these movies, you should be able to tighten up your photo management workflow.

    More on Organizing and Archiving Digital Photos

    Organizing and Archiving Overview Movie

    Choosing the Right Hard Drive for Your Photo Backup

    "Organizing and Archiving Your Photos" - Digital Photography Podcast 290

    Quick Keywording Tips in Lightroom 3

    Backing Up Aperture 3 Via My Local Network


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    photo_plus_expo_2011.jpg

    I'm preparing for my upcoming workshop at Photo Plus Expo in New York City on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011, Developing Revenue Streams to Sustain Your Photography Business. This class is sponsored by Lowepro and focuses on how you can create multiple revenue streams that allow you to maintain a steady position in an unstable economy, while keeping your business focused on what you love most, photography.

    This workshop will be part "small business basics," part "marketing tips," and part "here's what I've learned the hard way." We'll definitely cover social networking, but also will look at how you can leverage your personal strengths into a livelihood.

    I'm at PhotoPlus the entire show, and will be hanging out in the Lowepro booth. So even if you can't make this workshop, be sure to come by and say hello.


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    Adobe Carousel is a software system that enables you to access, manage, and adjust your pictures on a Mac and iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPad. Regardless of where you work on a picture, the images are automatically updated across all devices.

    carousel_ipad_adjustments.jpg Adobe Carousel on an iPad

    Carousel is offered as a subscription service. To get started, download the application from the iTunes App Store for iOS, and the Mac App Store for your computer. (You'll need Lion to use the service on a Mac.) Once you've made the connections, you have access to the images regardless of which device you're using.

    Basic image editing tools are included. If you crop a picture on the iPad, for example, the edit is reflected on the iPhone and Mac too. You can share your Carousels with others (up to 5 people), even if they don't subscribe.

    The app will work on iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, all versions of the iPad, and the iPod Touch 4G. To get started, Adobe is offering a 30-day complimentary subscription. After that, the introductory cost will be $5.99 a month, or $59.99 a year.

    I'll report more once I've had a chance to test it.


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    cookie_projector_250.jpg

    I found this article on DIY Photography that explains how pro shooter Richard Hill created a background projector for his studio photography using an old film camera. (Richard photographed the two portraits on this page using this technique. Be sure to check out his blog.)

    I love this idea. Even though I have various backdrops in my portrait studio, I sometimes want to create something different on the spot. By printing out any sort of pattern on a transparency, I can project it on the wall and have an new look within minutes. Once you get the basic technique perfected, I'm sure the creative possibilities will soon follow. Thanks Richard!


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