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Most of my paid work is in the field. But I have a small dedicated studio for portraiture. The biggest challenge in there is softening the background that's only a few feet behind the subject.

I've been testing the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens on my Canon 5D Mark II, and this optic has solved many of my small studio problems.

I decided to push this notion to its limits by shooting an entire portrait session at f/1.4. I knew I would have to be careful with the focus. But when I succeeded, the results could be beautiful.

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My portrait room measures 14' long by 12' wide. I have a backdrop system against the back wall that takes up a few feet, then moving the subject forward from the backdrop costs me another 3' to 4'. The Sigma 50mm Art lens on a Canon 5D Mark II allowed me to shoot full length portraits when I backed-up against the other wall, yet provided enough magnification for head-and-shoulder portraits as needed.

Shooting at f/1.4 was exciting. I had fast shutter speeds regardless of my lighting scheme. Sometimes I used window illumination only. Other times I added a pair of Lowel Ego Lights, as I did for these images.

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I loved the results. Generally speaking, I focused on the eye closest to the camera, and let everything else trail off. The backgrounds were creamy soft, even though they were just a few feet behind the subject. I set the color by using Custom White Balance on the Canon, and then let the Sigma deliver the results from there.

These images are not retouched. I've made no exposure, white balance, sharpening, or brushing adjustments. They were captured off the screen of my MacBook Pro 15" with Retina Display at 100 percent so you could see how the Sigma 50mm Art lens handled the details.

For photographers with small studios, this is a lens to consider. The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens is available in Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Sigma mounts. The build and design are top notch. For me, it's a bit heavy for field work. I'd rather shoot with my Micro Four Thirds cameras for events. But in the studio and for commercial work, this premium optic delivers the goods... even wide open.

Learn More About the Art and Business of Portraiture

In my lynda.com title, Photographing High School Senior Portraits, I'll show you how to organize, photograph, and deliver great images for fun or profit. Take a look at the free movies and see for yourself.

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Torn: Panasonic LX100 or GM5?

In one fell swoop, Panasonic managed to release two cameras simultaneously that drive me nuts: the Lumix LX100 and the Lumix GM5.

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Both are compact and essentially the same price ($899). They ship with the same sensor size (Micro Four Thirds), and both feature built-in electronic viewfinders. After that, the two paths part widely.

The LX100 is a fixed lens camera, but what a lens it is: a 24-75mm Leica DC lens f/1.7-2.8. You could argue that the price for the LX100 is justified by the optic alone. And then there's the 4K video capture, which includes the ability to grab 3840 x 2160 resolution stills from the movie footage. Talk about fast burst mode.

The GM5, on the other hand, is a system camera that can accommodate my collection of Micro Four Thirds lenses. So I could switch from the 17mm f/1.8 with snap-focus to the 75mm f/1.8, depending on the situation at hand. And thanks to its "silent mode," the GM5 would be an outstanding street shooting camera. Add to this its Low Light AF, making it possible to focus on subjects in -4 EV conditions.

Thank goodness that PhotoPlus Expo is right around the corner. Maybe getting my hands on both of these cameras will help me decide. And if you have an opinion, please share it on our TDS Facebook page.


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Both of these cameras have high Nimbleosity Ratings. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

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If you've set up personal cloud storage with a Transporter, then you should make sure you're running the Desktop 2.7 software that supports versions.

I decided to test this function with an image that was automatically backed up from my iPhone to my Transporter Sync ($99). I opened a color image, converted it to B&W in Photoshop, saved it, then looked to see if the original color version was still available on my Transporter.

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Once the file had synced, I right-clicked on it on my Mac to reveal the Show Versions option. To my delight, the original color image was available.

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I selected the color version and then Transporter "took my back in time" and made the original available. Interestingly enough, when I edited a photo in Preview instead of Photoshop, versioning did not work. So you'll need to test with your specific software.

Cool Little Workflow

For quick-turnaround publishing online, I can capture a photo with my iPhone, edit it in Photoshop on my Mac, and post on a blog, knowing that the original version is still available if I need to revert. Plus, every photo I take is automatically backed up to my own personal cloud. Pretty slick.

You can learn more about versioning with Desktop 2.7 by reading the article, How to revert or undelete a file on your Transporter.

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This week on The Digital Story Photography Podcast: Free Surface Pro 3s at Adobe Max, PhotoPlus Expo Preview, Tethered Photography, 2015 TDS Photography Workshop Season - All of this and more on today's show with Derrick Story.

Story #1 - Adobe rolls out CC update with new desktop and mobile tools - Adobe has announced updates to several of its mobile and desktop software applications, just in time to kick off the company's Adobe Max conference. But Microsoft stole the spotlight giving out free Surface Pro 3s to the audience. What's going on here? I talk about it in the Weekly Update. (Source: DP Review).

In other news, Rent, love, keep: LensRentals launches try-before-you-buy program - Starting immediately, most of the lenses that LensRentals provides can be purchased outright if you decide you like them. (Only hard-to-source optics which the company couldn't easily replace in time for delivery to subsequent renters are excluded.) and better still, the rental fee you paid to try the lens in the first place can be put towards the cost of the lens, which will vary depending on the age of the individual item. (Source: Imaging-Resource.com).

And finally, Mark Your Calendars: The Next Blood Moon Will Take Place Wednesday, October 8th - For North American viewers, the lunar eclipse will begin shortly after midnight between October 7th and 8th; those in Australia and most of Eastern Asia will see it after sunset on the evening of October 8th. Unfortunately, those living in Europe and Africa will be missing out on this particular astronomical phenomenon. (Source: PetaPixel.com).

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Story #2 - Tethered Photography - If you've never tried it, essentially you connect your camera to a computer, enabling you to fine tune the composition on a large HD screen instead of a tiny LCD. You can adjust settings, focus, and trip the shutter with controls on the laptop. The big advantage is that there are no surprises when it comes time to edit the photos. You can read more about tethered shooting here.

Story #3 - PhotoPlus Preview - One of the best US photography shows is right around the corner. PhotoPlus Expo at Javits Convention Center in New York opens its doors for conference sessions on Oct. 29, with the Expo kicking in the next day, Oct. 30th.

I'm going to be there, reporting for c't Digital Photography Magazine and speaking in their booth (#6 across from Epson and Nikon) on Thursday and Friday at 1pm, and Saturday at 12pm. Come by the booth for a visit, and I'll have a gift for you from Nimble Photographer Store. More about PhotoPlus in the third segment of today's show.

Story #4 - I've just announced the events for the 2015 TDS Workshop Season. Four enticing opportunities including stops in Bodie, San Francisco, and Sonoma County.

Virtual Camera Club News

Photo Assignment for October 2014 is "Water".

Order Your SizzlPix Early

Order your SizzlPix early to get holiday shopping out of the way. You'll give the double whammy of your own great image that has special meaning to your recipient, combined with the delightful surprise they'll have, seeing the back of the SizzlPix, wondering, "what the heck is this?", then lifting it out of the box, flipping it over, and there it is, a spectacular SizzlPix -- like Retina Display for the wall -- all ready with hanger attached!

Just a Couple More Things

If you haven't done so already, please post a review for The Digital Story Podcast in iTunes.

BTW: If you're ordering through B&H or Amazon, please click on the respective ad tile under the Products header in the box half way down the 2nd column on thedigitalstory.com. That helps support the site.

Download the Show

In addition to subscribing in iTunes, you can also download the podcast file here (31 minutes). You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. And from those images, I choose the TDS Member Photo of the Day.

Podcast Sponsors

Red River Paper -- Keep up with the world of inkjet printing, and win free paper, by liking Red River Paper on Facebook.

SizzlPix! - High resolution output for your photography. You've never seen your imagery look so good. SizzlPix.com. SizzlPix! now is qualified for PayPal "Bill Me Later," No payments, No interest for up to 6 months, which means, have your SizzlPix! now, and pay nothing until January!

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As we roll into Fall and Winter, it's a good idea to have a little extra protection for your camera bag. If yours doesn't include an All Weather cover, you can easily convert a Reusable Shopping Tote into an emergency rain cover.

I prefer the reusable totes to other solutions for a few reasons:

  • They look good. Yes, I could tie a plastic grocery bag over my gear, but that's not really the way I want to walk around the city.
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  • They stuff into a compact pouch that's easily stored in my camera bag, or hook to the outside with a D-ring.
  • They're multifunctional. Yes, if I find myself in a store and need a good looking shopping bag, I have one.
  • They're affordable. I can buy a 4-pack for $20 and have spares for more photo gear or bigger shopping trips. (Or in the case of the one shown, a free give-away at a conference.)

I carry a few office clips (also handy for other uses) and stretch the reusable tote over the top of the camera bag, clipping it at the bottom on both sides. This protects the main compartment of the bag from the top, front, and back. I can attach it quickly, then stuff it back into its pouch when no longer needed.


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The reusable tote has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

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It feels like refined canvas, but wears better. The Nimble Messenger Bag is fully lined with a zippered flap pocket that accommodates an iPad mini and incidentals, as well as an interior pocket that can secure a full-size iPad. And if you want, you can also carry a sleeved 15" MacBook Pro inside.

iPad Pocket Inside the Nimble Messenger Bag The iPad pocket inside the Nimble Messenger Bag.

We've been working on a larger urban bag to complement the smaller Walking Man Shoulder Bag, and what we created was a refined, canvas-textured carrying solution that will make an impression at business meetings, but won't attract too much attention on urban streets.

Closed Nimble Messenger Bag Stylish design, yes. But the Nimble Messenger Bag won't attract too much attention outside the board room.

Included with the Nimble Messenger is a set of Whisper Strips. They allow you to control access to the interior of the bag. Put the Whisper Strips on the top flap, and you have perfectly silent operation - ideal for weddings and meetings. Apply the Whisper Strips to the Walking Man Pocket, and the bag is partially secured, making a bit of sound when opened. Remove the Whisper Strips all-together, and go for the full velcro-on-velcro experience with high security.

Whisper Strips on Top Flap of Bag Whisper Strips applied to the top flap of the bag for perfectly silent access.

During the testing phase, the Nimble Messenger Bag accompanied me on three business meetings. At each meeting, I received an unsolicited complement on the bag. I couldn't believe it.

iPad mini in flap pocket An iPad mini stashed in the flap pocket for quick access.

To learn more about the Nimble Messenger Bag ($69.95), visit the Nimble Photographer Store.


Nimble Photographer Logo

The Nimble Messenger Bag has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

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The 2015 TDS Photography Workshop Lineup features an Eastern Sierra adventure to Bodie silver mining town, street shooting in San Francisco, and Fall Color in Sonoma County.

bodie-eastern-sierra.jpg A new 3-day adventure workshop to the Eastern Sierra has been added to the 2015 schedule.

Plus, a software workshop will be offered in February for Aperture users who want to explore migration to the new Photos App or to Lightroom.

All of the events feature TDS hospitality: small groups of 8 or less, hands-on instruction, photography lab, class presentation, swag, food, and total immersion in your craft.

You can learn more about these events and place your name on the reserve list (putting you at the front of the line) by visiting the 2015 TDS Photography Workshop page.


Join me on my Instagram site as I explore the world of mobile photography. And now Instagram features 15-second movies too.

For the August 2014 Photo Assignment, TDS shooters got up close and personal with their subjects. See for yourself in our gallery, My Favorite Close Up. And which one will be the SizzlPix Pick of the Month?

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Photo by Gerry Legere. Gerry writes, "This is a ship anchor chain closeup." See all of the great images from this month's assignment by visiting the My Favorite Close Up.


Participate in This Month's Assignment

The October 2014 assignment is "Water." Details can be found on the Member Participation page. Deadline is October 31, 2014. No limit on image size submitted.

Please follow the instructions carefully for labeling the subject line of the email for your submission. It's easy to lose these in the pile of mail if not labeled correctly. For example, the subject line for this month's assignment should be: "Photo Assignment: Oct. 2014." Also, if you can, please don't strip out the metadata. And feel free to add any IPTC data you wish (These fields in particular: Caption, Credit, Copyright, Byline), I use that for the caption info.

Gallery posting is one month behind the deadline. So I'm posting August 2014 gallery at the end of September, the September gallery will be posted at the end of October, and on and on.

Good luck with your October assignment, and congratulations to all of the fine contributors for August.


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Setting Up Your Locking Lens Safe

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As we travel lighter, we're leaving more gear at home. Spare camera bodies and extra lenses that may not be needed for the work at hand, may be essential for next week's assignment. So it's not a bad idea to keep them safe... in a safe.

The plan is simple. Purchase a moderately priced, ample storage container, such as the Exacme Steel Digital Electronic Safe ($109), secure it in a cabinet, or to the floor or a shelf in a closet, and store your gear inside.

I like the Exacme model because it measures 20"x14"x12", has an easy-to-use electronic lock passcode, and includes an override key (just in case) plus bolting hardware.

I use old camera bags to organize my equipment inside the safe. One kit includes spare mirrorless gear, and the othe other is for DSLRs. When I'm preparing for a shoot, I open the safe, grab the lenses I need, lock up, and hit the road.

There are plenty of other safes on the market that also provide fire protection and more advanced locking systems. But the way I look at it, any safe is an improvement over having my lenses displayed on the office desk.

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After posting my review of the excellent Nissin i40 flash on c't Digital Photography, and talking about it on this week's podcast, I still have a few pictures leftover. So I thought I'd put together this brief visual tour for you.

Looking Good from the Front

nissin-140-em1-v3.jpg This size of the flash seems to be a perfect match for many Micro Four Thirds bodies, such as the Olympus OM-D E-M1.

Gotta Love Those Dials

i40-manual-setting.jpg The flash is controlled by the Mode dial on the left, and Power dial on the right. So easy!

Built-In Diffuser and Bounce Card

i40-flash-diffuser.jpg Go to 16mm focal length coverage with the diffuser and bounce away with the built-in card.

Nice Kit!

nissin-i40-kit.jpg Kit includes flash, case, stand, and diffuser cap to soften shadows.

Available Now...

The Nissin i40 Compact Flash for Four Thirds Cameras is available for $269.


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The Nissin i40 flash has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

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