The Controversy Around Flickr Selling Creative Commons Licensed Photos

Douglas MacMillan has an article out in the Wall Street Journal today about the controversy surrounding Flickr selling prints of Creative Commons photos and not paying contributors for these images. It should be stressed that Flickr is only doing this on Creative Commons licensed photos where free commercial use is permitted by the license. If you license your photos Creative Commons Non-Commercial, this does not include you.

In the article he quotes Flickr founder Stewart Butterfield: “Yahoo’s plan to sell the images appears “a little shortsighted,” said Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield, who left the company in 2008. “It’s hard to imagine the revenue from selling the prints will cover the cost of lost goodwill.”

In addition to the Creative Commons photos that Flickr is selling and not paying photographers for use (legally), they are also handpicking other photos for this sales effort and here they are offering photographers 51% of the revenue on sales of these images who have agreed to participate.

My two cents:

I think it’s important that each photographer fully understand how the license that they are using with their photos online works. It is first and foremost the photographer’s responsibility to understand licensing. Creative Commons is a wonderful and liberal way to share your photos. It’s not for everyone though. You choose how your photos are licensed on Flickr though. By default Flickr licenses images “all rights reserved,” the most restrictive license available. So only photographers who have gone in and changed their license to a more liberal license would be affected by this.

I license my images Creative Commons Non-Commercial. This is one of several variations of the Creative Commons license. This means that people can use my images for personal use or non-profit organizations can use them, but folks like Yahoo/Flickr and others can’t sell them commercially without my permission.

If you are going to license your photos Creative Commons with no restriction, then you ought to be prepared for this type of use. If it’s not Flickr selling them, anyone else can, legally. If you are uncomfortable with this idea, then you should not use Creative Commons without any sort of restriction. If you like the idea of Creative Commons but are uncomfortable with commercial use without being compensated, then consider changing your license to Creative Commons Non-Commercial like I license mine.

I think a lot of people though don’t consider the full implications of the license that they choose and like Stewart I wonder if the revenue is worth potential lost goodwill in this case. Some people will inevitably be put off when they see that the community (and Flickr is as much a community as a company) that is hosting their photos for them is now selling them without sharing the profit or asking for permission. Reminding people to read the fine print of their photo license that they chose without really considering it thoughtfully might not be the best answer to that complaint. People on Flickr LOVE to complain about anything and everything.

I think Flickr does have to figure out how to pay for a free terabyte of storage for every user and maybe this is one way to do that.

I haven’t been asked to participate in the online print marketplace, but if I was and was offered a 51% payout, I’d probably say yes. Anything 50% or better feels pretty fair to me. I create the image, but Flickr is driving the traffic to it for sale and handling fulfillment, etc. If I were to have a physical gallery sell my works, I’d probably be looking for a similar cut.

The idea of selling Creative Commons images and getting to keep all of the money is interesting to Yahoo I’m sure, but maybe Flickr would be better off instead focusing on more of a total revenue share model for the entire effort and treating CC images like they treat CCNC and all rights reserved images. I bet people who license their work CC would be pleased if their images too were handpicked for inclusion and they got paid for use. Even if it were a small amount, it would be a positive affirmation to them about their photography and that would feel good.

10 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Ello

10 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Ello

Ello is the most exciting new social network to appear in years. It’s a vibrant place full of interesting thinkers and artists — I spend more time on Ello than any other network right now. Every day new and interesting people are signing up, plugging in and joining. Although Ello is a social network like many others, it is also unlike many others as well. Ello has it’s own way of organizing things and after spending a few months on the site I thought I’d share some best practices for getting the most out of Ello.

1. NSFW. As a community with a lot of artists as early members, Ello seems to have a healthy tolerance for all forms of expression, including fine art nudes and other adult oriented material. I’m a big fan of the human body as form and expression and think this is great.

You won’t be bounced off Ello or censored (like Facebook) because you express the beauty of the human body in your art. If this sort of work is your thing, then Ello asks that you set your account as NSFW. I’m guessing that if you don’t do this voluntarily, they can/will do it for you.

Similarly, it is up to you whether or not you want to *see* this sort of work on Ello.

These are two independent settings.

So there are two things for you to consider. Do you want to see NSFW content AND do you yourself in fact post NSFW content. A lot of people get this setting wrong. They check NSFW for both when they produce work that is entirely SFW. Be sure to understand the distinction and manage your settings (you can do that here: https://ello.co/settings) accordingly.

If you are not posting nudes or other adult oriented materal, then make sure the “post adult oriented content” button is checked no. You can still check yes that you want to view it, but more people will see your stuff if you manage this setting correctly.

2. Don’t overshare. I see a few people posting 10, 15, 20 photos in a row on Ello. Most people won’t want to see 20 of your photos in a row. They want variety. They want to see other stuff by other friends too. If you overshare, there is a very good chance that people will move your account into their noise bucket and a lot less people will see your work. The right number of items to share on Ello per day is probably a matter of personal opinion, but realize that every time you post you give people an option of moving you into the noise bucket where your work will be much less (if at all) visible to them going forward.

I’d say anything over 4 or 5 posts a day on Ello is probably too much and starts to feel spammy. Save your very best work for Ello and self edit a bit more. I probably post 1 – 3 images there a day depending on the day. That might even be too much.

3. Quality counts. Never has quality been as important. Again, people can easily move you into the noise category so consider that in what you post. Post your best work for others to see. Nothing makes me want to move someone to noise like thoughtless, mediocre work.

I probably sound like a broken record with my dislike for watermarking and signatures, but on Ello it’s more important than other places to avoid these distasteful aesthetically displeasing nuisances. If you put ugly watermarks and signatures on your photos people will move you to noise (if they follow you at all) and your work will not be seen. Even your best friend might do this and you will never know. So put your best foot forward and only share what you consider to be your highest quality content.

4. Be social. Ello is a *social* network, so be social. I see people already complaining that it doesn’t feel like they are getting enough attention on Ello. You shouldn’t expect to just post content and have people flock to your brilliant work. You need to engage with others. The best way to do this is to participate in conversations on other people’s posts. Find some interesting people who are engaging on the site and jump into conversations that you find. Ello is a place best served by meaningful, articulate dialog. Offer up considered thoughtful contributions to other people’s work and I think you’ll make friends fast there. Lurk and you will be alone.

If you are new and are looking for some interesting and engaging people you may find some here. Also, don’t forget about the invite button. Do you know some really great people who should be on ello? Then make sure you send them an invitation to your new party. Inevitably people will start saying that “none of their friends,” are on Ello. This is your fault. It’s up to you to get them here. It’s also up to you to make new friends. :)

Post about Ello on your other networks and encourage people there to come join you. Tweet, FB, G+, Flickr, etc. letting people know that you are hanging out there and offer to get an invitation to anyone who wants one.

5. “I think everybody should be nice to everybody.” — Andy Warhol It goes without saying that you should be nice to others. This is one of the most important things that Andy Warhol ever said. Especially on Ello where there is not only a block function, but also a noise feature, people who are antisocial assholes will quickly be marginalized out of the experience. Being nice does not mean being bland, uncontroversial and boring. It just means that when you disagree with others, try to do it as respectfully as possible. Don’t personally attack people. Rise above that. Great ideas can be discussed on Ello and people can disagree on things, but respect is the key.

6. Be visible. Make sure you have an avatar, a profile, and links to your other sites as the *very first thing* you do when you join Ello — then add some interesting content of your own. You only get one chance to make a strong first impression. When someone new follows me, a lot of the time I’ll go look at who they are by clicking on their profile link. If I’m taken to a blank page with a blank avatar and minimal description, I probably will not follow them back or engage with them. On the other hand if I find a thoughtfully written profile, links to other places where I can check out your work, and some compelling content already uploaded to your Ello account, I just might try to make friends by adding you back.

7. Be active. If you want to get the most out of Ello, you should consider making a meaningful contribution to the site. Especially after you first join you should plan on spending some time on the site every day. Post content yourself daily, but also participate in posts by other people every day, and this means more than just typing “nice photo.” If you post a few photos and then disappear for a week, when people look at your account you’ll be passed over as a dead account.

8. Understand Ello’s advertising position. Ello does not have ads on the site. Also, they don’t profile you and sell your personal data to advertisers (like they do on Facebook). This does not mean that brands are not welcome on Ello though, they are. They just won’t be able to advertise to people by paying Ello. Brands may not fully understand this and think that they need to stay away. One of Ello’s founders Paul Budnitz spells this position out clearly here:

“Because Ello doesn’t have ads, the only way for brands to be on Ello effectively is to post interesting things that people want to see.

Another way to say it is, the worst way to for a company to use social media is to advertise, because that is essentially paying money to show us things that we don’t want to see. Brands are welcome join Ello, but if their content sucks, nobody will want to follow them.”

Budnitz’s own company Budnitz Bicycles has a brand page on Ello. And you know what, it features kick ass beautiful artistic quality photographic works of their bicycles. That’s a pretty good example of how you should think about Ello if you are a brand. Just because the anti-advertising ethos runs strong on Ello, this doesn’t mean your business/company/brand should not be there. It just means you are going to really have to work to get people’s attention by providing them interesting content and not typical advertising crap.

9. Watch your activity. Click on the little lightning bolt frequently on Ello. Are new people following you? Go check them out. Did someone make a meaningful comment on a photograph of yours or ask a question? Go respond to them. Did someone mention you in one of their posts somewhere else on Ello, then acknowledge that and go say hi back. It’s important that you use this tool regularly. While you may not be able to get back to everyone who mentions you or look at everyone who adds you as a contact, be sure to spend time on your activity when you can and participate.

10. Understand and respect both imagery and text. Are you a writer? Consider adding an interesting photo to your post (or borrowing one from an image creator with attribution and permission). This will make things more interesting than just a wall of text.

Are you a photographer? Consider using the strong text function on Ello as a way to tell people more about you and your work. I’m sharing more about myself personally on Ello than I ever have on any network. When I post a photo, frequently, I write about where I was when I took it, how I made it, what my feelings are/were around the image. And I use my space on Ello as a sort of personal diary through text just as much as a visual diary through my imagery of America.

A lot of people don’t get Ello yet. Many never will. It’s so early for Ello, but I do believe that Ello has the potential to become the most substantial social network going forward — bigger and more important than Facebook or Twitter or Google+.

Being early there, you have an opportunity to participate in shaping this important new community — what it will be today and what it ultimately will become.

You can find me most days on Ello here. :)

Ello, My New Favorite Social Network

ello-40715fdd-0669-4999-bedd-419b07886886

I just spent $40 on a t-shirt.

I don’t think I’ve ever spent $40 on a t-shirt in my life. The t-shirt is a limited edition threadless Ello t-shirt designed by @nopattern.

I’ve been given t-shirts in the past by many social networks and sites. I have a Google+ t-shirt, I have a Facebook t-shirt, I have a Flickr t-shirt, I have a friendfeed t-shirt from back in the day. Twitter never gave me one, but that’s ok. The Ello one I bought for myself though. I like to think that this is some small way that I can help contribute towards the ad-free social experience that quickly has become my favorite of all the networks.

Over at the Atlantic Alexis Madrigal has an article out today titled “The Fall of Facebook.” In the article he describes a certain “soullessness” of Facebook and writes about the unease that people increasingly have with Facebook’s advertising network.

A few weeks ago, when the San Francisco Giants clinched the World Series, my wife took a photograph of our children and family celebrating the win. Not being particularly privacy conscious when it comes to social media, she added a name for the location, “Hawkville” without realizing that through this process she was creating a new permanent “place” on Facebook that was geotagging our home.

Friends quickly liked both the post and the new “place” and in a matter of hours we were much more public on Facebook than I wanted to be. After realizing that she’d made this mistake, my wife removed the location tag from the photo – but what she couldn’t remove was the new permanent “place” on Facebook, “Hawkville,” which geotagged our home’s exact and precise location against our wishes.

Because I’ve had issues with impersonation on Facebook in the past and I suppose because I have a larger than average social media following, previously I’d been given a link to a special sort of VIP customer service area at Facebook.

Although I was disturbed that there seemed to be no way to remove my geotagged home from Facebook, I figured it would just take reaching out to this VIP customer service group to get the geotag deleted — unfortunately this turned out not to be the case. The Facebook employee who responded to me told me that she was unable to delete the page “Hawkville” or remove the geotag of my personal and private residence.

I next made a post on Facebook about the unfairness of this. Just because my wife made a mistake and geotagged our home, why should that mistake be irreversible? Shouldn’t I have more control over my personal residence on Facebook? Does Facebook believe in doxing? Why were my wife and I locked out of this page, unable to control this personal data? Why had Facebook created a “place” of a personal residence in the first place and why wasn’t my wife warned at the time that by geotagging our home she was permanently and irrevocably adding our location data to Facebook with no way to remove it?

After several posts and further attempts to contact the Facebook VIP customer service department, about a week later I went to a group of Facebook employees who I know personally and I was able to get the geotag removed (although not the place). I really appreciate the personal help that I was given to get this done (I really do), but the fact of the matter is that I shouldn’t have had to go that route to have my personal information removed from Facebook.

I’ve been increasingly disappointed with my experience on Facebook. I find that fewer and fewer of my friends are seeing what I post and engagement is increasingly going down.

I’m seeing more and more “sponsored” posts and advertising crowding out organic content, which probably plays a part in this… or maybe my photography just sucks and is way less interesting to the people who follow me there.

Sponsored posts are the worst as far as I’m concerned. At least with an ad over in the right hand column, I can try to ignore it. A sponsored post shoves itself right into your face though. Time and again I’ve caught myself reading the first few lines of a sponsored post before realizing I’m reading one and then have that terrible feeling I get when I realize I’ve just been suckered for few seconds into an ad.

More than this though, I feel like Facebook doesn’t really care about me. I feel like I’m being targeted and manipulated and probed and studied. I don’t feel like my content there is valued. There *is* a certain soullessness to the place. I’m not sure what can be done about that, it’s just what it feels like to me.

I also feel like photography doesn’t really matter at Facebook. Photos are super small and optimized for mobile, rather than big and glorious and optimized for the web. I get that Facebook has to pay for storage for our photos, but with all of the advertising and personal data they collect to target us, don’t they have even just a few nickels or dimes to make the photos just a tiny bit larger in the feed? Yes, I know that someone can click through and see it larger, but most people don’t and won’t and so your art is presented in an unfavorable small way to the 0.1% of your followers who might actually see it in their feed.

My experience so far at Ello has been the opposite.

At Ello I’ve found an idealistic group of artists, photographers and thinkers who dare to imagine a different, better way. I’ve found some of the freshest, most creative and most interesting art that I’ve seen in years online. There are no ads. Ello is not tracking my information to try and sell it to advertisers.

The founders and operators of Ello come across as creative, innovative, accessible, enthusiastic and engaged. I feel respect for my content on Ello, which is shown large in full high res glory. This is why I put more of myself into my art and photography on Ello than any other site. The respect feels greater.

I’ve met so many new and interesting friends on Ello. I’m settling in there realizing that this will be the place that I will share and communicate online with people going forward more than anywhere else. It feels like I’m hanging out with some really interesting artists in a nice cozy little café in Marfa, Texas with amazing coffee and music — rather than being lost, wandering aimlessly around the world’s largest Walmart, being told not to take photos in the store by some security guard.

Forbes says that the number one social media marketing trend that will dominate 2015 will be the rise of Ello. Rather than rely on crappy paid advertisements on Facebook going forward, Fashionista writes about how brands will actually have to create interesting, creative content to be seen on social networks like Ello in the future.

So is this new network worth $40? You’d better believe it is. Plus I get an awesome new t-shirt to go with the Marfa Public Radio one I bought just last week.

Do you like art and photography and architecture and design and creative thinking? Then come hangout on ello. You’ll find me most days online over there at http://ello.co/thomashawk

The Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM, My New Favorite Wide Angle Canon L Series Lens

My Friend Chihuly Says Hi

I almost didn’t purchase the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens. I remember a conversation when I bought it a few years back on Google+ with my good pal Gordon Laing where I was really debating buying it. It was in pre production and I had an order in with B&H but it hadn’t shipped yet. At around $1,400 the lens felt expensive for what I worried might be an oddball lens, a lens useful for making a few high impact fisheye shots but not good for much else.

I’m happy to say that I did buy the EF 8-15mm fisheye lens and that I couldn’t be more happy about that decision.

My main dilemma with the EF 8-15mm fisheye was that I already owned the excellent EF 24mm f/1.4 lens and EF 14mm f/2.8 lens, and so I felt like I had the whole wide angle world covered. Now I find that I use this lens at 15mm much more than either my EF 24mm f/1.4 lens and EF 14mm f/2.8 lens and get what feels to me to be a remarkable more normal non fishy looking wide angle shot. Yes, you can tell it came from a fisheye lens at 15mm, but barely and I love the slightest degree of distortion I get there artistically speaking.

Welcome to Caesars

Of course I have way more fun shooting this lens at 8mm and have found that beyond traditional fisheye subjects, this lens has opened up a whole new world to me when it comes to shooting more abstractly — especially with architecture. I find these days my EF 14mm lens stays in my bag and instead I put on my EF 8-15mm fisheye lens for almost every ceiling photo I take.

I find this lens gets me my highest impact shots. Shots that make you go wow and make people notice.

Underground

On a full frame lens this lens gives you a perfect circle at 8mm. I love the square crop format and frequently shoot it at 8mm and then crop square afterwards.

The lens is super sharp and great if you want to get the entire ceiling of Chihuly’s amazing sculpture at the Bellagio like in the photo with this post.

While it’s not the best portrait lens, it can be fun to use as well with photographing people in new and creative ways (like this version of the human eye that I used it on).

As a reminder, my analysis of my Canon gear is being done in partnership with Canon and I am receiving compensation for this work with them.

Meet You at the Cosmopolitan

You Give Your Hand to Me

If You Can Find Her

Your Love is My Favorite Color

Time for a Beer?

Your Love is My Favorite Color

Penchant

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM lens — One of the Fastest Canon Primes You Can Buy

Sunrises Are Best in Las Vegas

It doesn’t get any more bokeh than f/1.2.

The first thing you notice when you hold the EF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens for the first time is how significant the weight of this lens is over the less expensive EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens or EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens(both also excellent 50mms lenses). You can feel the quality as you weigh it in your hand. A big, solid, piece of glass allows this super fast f/1.2L lens to get the shallowest depth of field possible.

If you are going to be shooting in the darkest of environments, this is the lens for you. I use this lens a lot at night time parties or indoor events, where getting closer than you need with the EF 135mm lens is not a problem. I use this lens to take amazing photographs of paintings in museums and other places where you want a near perfect technical image at closer range. It’s a wonderful portrait lens of course.

Verbena

I like to take this lens with me if I’m going out to dinner at a restaurant or out for cocktails as it does a remarkable job at capturing food/cocktails in low light. As an aside, the cocktail in this post that I photographed with it is called the verbena and is a secret drink off the menu at the Cosmopolitan Chandelier bar in Las Vegas. The cocktail contains an edible flower called a Szechuan button that you chew before drinking the cocktail. It actually alters your tastebuds and feels like an explosion of pop rocks in your mouth as your entire mouth goes numb. As you sip your cocktail after chewing the flower you taste it in a whole different way. I’d definitely recommend checking it out at the Cosmopolitan on your next trip to Vegas.

Back to photography, the only drawback of this lens is the price. You do pay up a bit for quality here. It’s not that this lens is not worth the money (a little over $1,500), it is, it’s just that the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens is such a fantastic value when you compare the two (at around $400). While I like this lens much more than my EF 50mm f/1.4, if you are on more of a budget, you may find that the EF 50mm f/1.4 lens is the better 50mm lens for you to buy. On the other hand, if you really must own the best at 50mm lens, this is it.

Sit Over There

It should be noted that at f/1.2 this is currently the fastest (lowest aperture) lens in production by Canon but that it shares this distinction with the EF 85mm f/1.2 USM lens, another excellent Canon portrait lens that I do not own yet, but that is on my list to consider soon.

There is another f/1.0 lens that Canon made, but that lens is no longer in production that I’ve never tried.

As a reminder, my analysis of my Canon gear is being done in partnership with Canon and I am receiving compensation for this work with them. More on Canon prime lenses here.

I'll Hold You

Through the Years

Through the Years

I Felt This Way Before

Just Wait and See

Turn Me On

A Reminder to Myself

Had a Great Time Photowalking Last Week at the Microsoft Store #MSStoreWalkSF

Microsoft

I had a great time out photowalking last Thursday night with a great SF crew around downtown SF. The walk was hosted by the always awesome Microsoft store in San Francisco (go check them out in the Westfield Centre in SF).

Thank you to everyone who came out for the walk. It was great to see old friends and also make some new ones. :)

We started out the walk in the center itself and got some nice photos of the great dome. From there we made our way up Powell Street, shooting some of the local color around Union Square and eventually made our way to the very top of Nob Hill. Originally we planned for the walk to take a turn down California Street and head towards downtown, but we were sort of distracted by the always imposing and always grand Fairmont Hotel atop Nob Hill.

I've Got a Room at the Top of the World

I've Got a Room at the Top of the World

We explored the lobby of the Fairmont and an elevator of us also somehow found our way to the top of the hotel with some of the most amazing views of San Francisco that exist.

After our fun at the Fairmont we headed back down California and cut through Chinatown to shoot this distinctive SF neighborhood.

Finally we finished up our way back up Market Street back to the Microsoft store where our ever so gracious host treated us to a spread of food and drinks to finish up an eventful walk.

During the walk folks uploaded their photos from their mobile phones directly to a OneDrive account and we got to watch them in full high res glory on the Microsoft store’s 110 inch LCD display while we refueled on artichoke hearts and chicken skewers.

I was super impressed with so many of the great shots that people got on the walk. If you want to see some of what was shot check out these photos on Flickr here.

I shot with two cameras on the walk. I shot with my trusty Canon 5D Mark III and on mobile I shot with one of the Nokia Lumia 1020 mobile phones.

There Has to Be an Invisible Sun

All of the photos that are in this blog post were shot with the Lumia 1020. The camera on this phone is the best camera on any phone at present. The phone has a 41 megapixel(!) camera that actually shoots in RAW! It’s got a Zeiss lens and I was super impressed with what it was able to do. I liked that the camera could be used in 100% manual mode. Having more granular control over what I was trying to do with it was really helpful. You can pick this phone up for $49 with a contract here.

*Disclosure: this walk and post were sponsored by Microsoft and I received compensation for working with them on it.

Jesus Christ Loves Barry Blanchard

His New View

Buy Me Some Red Shoes Baby

Scream

Escape

Crown

Sky Light

Neon Dancers

The Angels of Market Street

More Time for Architechts

Betty

Baby

Sharp Lines

Time to Go Macro With the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM Lens

Just Wait Until Midnight

While the EF 135mm f/2L USM is my favorite Canon L Series lens, one thing it does not do is macro photography.

With a minimum focus distance of 3 feet, the EF 135mm lens can do a great job with a lot of flowers or other traditional macro subjects, but it really cannot do traditional macro work.

If you want a very high quality portrait lens that can also do macro work, the EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM is the lens for you. Like the EF 135mm lens, this lens is an Image Stabilization lens which is helpful to minimize camera shake when you take those super close very precise macro shots. This is my favorite lens to make abstract macros of flowers with. If you are into shooting insects or flowers or a close up of the human eyeball or really anything macro you can imagine you will love this lens.

What I like most about this lens though is that it is not *just* a macro lens. It takes such nice portraits and is great to use for all other sorts of photography. This makes this lens suitable for use as a primary prime lens for just about every type of photography that can also produce stunning macro work.

Just Wait Until Midnight

Shooting food is one of my favorite subjects these days. I shot the photo of caviar in this post with this lens at Michael Minna’s excellent spot in the Bellagio hotel. Be sure to try the tasting menu there on your next visit to Vegas, it’s worth it!

I also own the earlier non-L series generation of this lens and I’ll say that I’m so much more impressed with the results I get out of the newer L series version.

As a reminder, my analysis of my Canon gear is being done in partnership with Canon and I am receiving compensation for this work with them. More on Canon macro lenses here.

Just Wait Until Midnight

Just Wait Until Midnight

Just Wait Until Midnight

Just Wait Until Midnight

My Favorite Lens of All, the Sharp, Smooth, Feel of the Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM

One Last Hand

For those of you who know me or follow my work, you probably already know about my love affair with the Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM telephoto lens. Simply put, this is my favorite lens I have ever used in my life. It’s also the lens I use for probably 70% of the photographs which I produce. This is a workhorse lens and I believe it is the sharpest lens that Canon makes. If I could only own a single Canon prime lens, this would be it.

Bet Red

Professional grade Canon L series lenses are not cheap. Canon’s L series represent their top of the line optics. They are what almost all Canon professional photographers shoot with. That said, I think the EF 135mm f/2L USM is one of the best values as far as Canon L series lenses go. The lens costs a little over $1,000 and is amongst the most economical L series lenses you can buy.

I probably shoot this lens at f/2 the majority of the time. This gives you a super clean point of focus, with the beautiful out of focus bokeh away from your primary point of interest. For those low light shallow depth of field photos, it does not get better than this lens in my opinion. The portraits you can make with this lens are beautiful — sharp as tack but with the subtle bokeh around the edges that a lens like this can produce.

Two Hearts Can't Be Wrong

The autofocus on this lens is the most responsive of any lens I’ve ever used. It autofocuses so lightning fast and allows you to quickly lock in on the action that you want to see. It’s a very quiet and very smooth feel when you hit your focal point perfectly on the mark.

The photos in this blog post were all taken on my recent trip to Vegas with this lens. I cannot recommend this lens strongly enough. An example of why I like this lens so much can be seen in the first photo in this post. Forget about it as it appears in this post, click here to see it in full high res glory. Look at how sharp the details are on that photo. Notice the individual neon tubes as visible in the Harrahs and Flamingo signs. I took this photo from the balcony of the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, a great distance away. The 135mm EF f/2L USM gave me the distance I needed to shoot down with such clarity on the neon signs in the photo.

The photo of the roulette wheel and the mannequin in the post show how great the bokeh and depth of field is around an isolated focus point. This is another of my favorite characteristics of this lens. Shooting portraits at f/2 on this lens feels just perfect to me.

In addition to portraits, this lens is great for street photography, sports, concerts, abstracts, and so many other types of photography.

As a reminder, my analysis of my Canon gear is being done in partnership with Canon and I am receiving compensation for this work with them. More on Canon telephoto lenses here.

Teardrop

I'll Take Two

Seeing Red

An Introduction to DSLR Photography, the Canon EOS 70D and EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens

Just Wait Until Midnight

The very first Canon DSLR I ever purchased, about a decade ago, was the Canon EOS 10D. The very first Canon lens I bought was the EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM zoom lens.

While my photography has advanced considerably over the past decade, this was an excellent starter set up for me. It was a decent DSLR for me (for the time) with a lens, which gave me a very wide range. Ultimately I upgraded bodies and got into more expensive Canon L series prime lenses, but this early set up gave me an opportunity to really experiment and try to figure out if this was a pursuit that I was going to invest more time and energy into.

About the same time I bought my original EOS 10D and EF 28-135mm lens I also purchased a set of Ping golf clubs. I thought golf was going to be something that I’d end up being interested in. I paid too much for what at the time were top of the line clubs. Unfortunately, I never did take up golf seriously and I have a very expensive set of unused Ping golf clubs that sit in my basement today. Maybe someday one of my children will take up golf.

The point of that story is, that if you are starting out with digital photography, you need something that is solid and good enough to take awesome photos, without investing $10,000 into your new hobby. This is why I suggest the EOS 70D and EF-S 18-135mm STM lens as an entry point for people starting out. The EOS 70D is one of Canon’s most popular DSLRs, but it’s much cheaper than the primary body I use, my EOS 5D Mark III. Although I do encourage people to use prime lenses, most people starting out don’t want to buy 5 different prime lenses with 5 different focal distances — that can get very expensive quickly.

The EF-S 18-135mm lens is a strong, high quality lens that you can use with the EOS 70D and shoot everything from wide angle landscapes, to telephoto shots of your kid’s baseball game or school play. With just a bit more range than my first EF 28-135mm lens, it’s a great way to start out. Although I don’t personally shoot a lot of DSLR video, many people do and it’s nice to have such high quality video as another option with this set up.

The photos in this post were all taken with this camera and this lens on my recent trip to Las Vegas.

A Joy You Could Not Measure

Through the Years

Because the EOS 70D is a cropped sensor, this lens actually has even more reach than a 135mm lens on a full frame. A cropped sensor is 1.6x times smaller than a full frame sensor — full frame sensors are the same size as traditional 35mm cameras.

Practically speaking, what you see when you look through a camera with a cropped sensor at 50mm would be equivalent to what you would see at 80mm on a camera with a full frame sensor. For this reason, if you are shooting sports or wildlife or other subject matter where you want longer reach, the cropped sensor delivers more reach.

Full frame sensors, in my opinion, do better in low light and at high iso settings and are preferable, but they are also more expensive and might not be as necessary for someone starting out.

Sunrises Are Best in Las Vegas

One of the fun things that I like doing with a zoom is zooming while my shutter is open on a long exposure shot. This creates an interesting double exposure zoom sort of effect that I use in some of my photographs. The disadvantage of this zoom is that it is not as fast (low aperture number) as some of the prime lenses.

If you end up starting with this sort of a combo, you might also want to consider the excellent value you get from a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II or EF 50mm f/1.4 USM prime lenses. Both of these lenses represent excellent value and are some of the least expensive prime lenses you can buy. You’ll have no problem using the EF-S 18-135mm lens during the day, but at night, or in a much lower light situation, you’ll appreciate being able to put on a faster 50mm prime lens that will work better in less light.

For many photographers the EOS 70D is all the camera you will ever need. Some of the best photographers I know are content to shoot with this body and never upgrade from here. To see some of the best work done with this camera body, check out these photos on Flickr all taken with the EOS 70D. Because this camera will be enough for some folks, I think this is a good place to start.

I personally use my EOS 70D as a second camera — a good backup to use in case something goes wrong with my EOS 5D Mark III and a camera I can keep at my office in case I feel like taking a break during the day and walking around town and shooting. I think it works especially well for street photography given the range you can get with the EF-S 18-135mm lens.

As your passion for photography grows though you will want to consider upgrading to a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and some of the prime lenses that I will review in some upcoming blog posts.

As a reminder, my analysis of my Canon gear is being done in partnership with Canon and I am receiving compensation for this work with them.

Better Lines

Boulevard Poolside

Lay Out

Just Wait and See

A Joy You Could Not Measure

A Joy You Could Not Measure

Through the Years

Through the Years

Optics Matter — Camera and Lens Guide for the New Canon DSLR Shooter

Waking Up With You in Vegas

Last month I spent four glorious days shooting the lights and sights of fabulous Las Vegas. As always, I packed my camera bag full of my favorite lenses and other accessories. I haven’t done a “what’s in my bag,” type post in a while, so I thought I’d use this trip to talk about what camera/lens combinations I used on this trip and why.

In today’s day and age, I hear many photographers talk about ditching their DSLRs for other sorts of setups. I am not one of those photographers. Simply put, I believe that optics matter. I believe that there are things you can do with a DSLR and lens that simply cannot be done as well with other setups. There are unique qualities and characteristics of a well made piece of glass that cannot be replicated with micro compact software based algorithms.

The light going through the glass is primary and fundamental in my opinion, and I refuse to give up the high quality I demand for the convenience of something tiny that I can fit in my shirt pocket, text my friends with or strap to my helmet.

Each photographer must find their own way when it comes to what works best for them, but for me the glass is what matters most of all and there is just no substitute for high quality Canon lenses.

I’ve been shooting Canon digital SLR cameras for over 10 years now and it’s the lenses that allow me to get the shots that I need to get and that allow me to accomplish what I need to accomplish photographically speaking. Like everyone else these days, I’ll snap off mobile shots and post them to Instagram, but what I feel is my more important body of work comes from my DSLR.

To start with, I’ll inventory what I brought with me on my recent Las Vegas Trip — what’s in my bag:

1 Canon EOS 70D camera body
1 Canon EOS 5D Mark III camera body
1 Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens
1 Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM lens
1 Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens
1 Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens
1 Canon EF 8-15mm f/4 Fisheye USM lens
1 Benro Carbon Fiber Tripod
1 Sandisk 64GB SDXC Extreme Pro Flash Memory card
1 Sandisk 32GB SDHC Extreme Plus Flash Memory card
1 MacBook Pro
1 Drobo Mini

All of my camera gear fits comfortably into my LowePro CompuDaypack bag. I keep the MacBook Pro in the hotel room and it is where I dump my photos to at the end of each day of shooting. The Drobo Mini is used as backup, so that I always have two copies of my image files before clearing off my memory card. It easily fits in the hotel room safe, while I am out shooting during the day and night and connects via Thunderbolt so backup copies are quickly made.

So this is my system, but what’s right for you may be a different story.

The number one question I get from people on social networks is, “what camera should I buy?” The advice I give is pretty much always the same — some sort of Canon DSLR set up, depending on your budget.

Part of why I recommend Canon, is because that’s the gear that I love, use and know. I am simply blown away with the high quality I personally get out of the system. For the life of me, I cannot imagine living without the crisp, sharp perfection of my EF 135mm f/2L USM lens (my favorite lens).

While there are other systems out there, this is the system that I’ve adopted and mastered. It does a remarkable job of getting me the images that I want and need.

There are lots of other reasons why I recommend Canon as well though.

When you are a new DSLR user, I believe one of the best things you can do is try lots of different lenses. Because there are more DSLR Canon shooters out there than any other kind, I find that borrowing friends’ lenses is a great way to stretch your experience, then learn and try new approaches.

Over the years I’ve lent my own lenses on photo walks to hundreds of different people and am always pleased when someone gets to try one of mine out. Likewise when I’m out shooting, I always like running across a different Canon lens and being able to swap with a friend for a few hours to try something new. Chances are if you are going to get into photography you will end up with photographer friends, and chances are that more of them will be shooting with a Canon DSLR system than any other.

For example, this past year at Coachella I shot with some very serious high end professional lenses that my pal Robert Scoble got from a lens rental site, the Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM and the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM.

If I wasn’t a Canon shooter, the fact that my buddy Robert Scoble brought those really nice lenses would have been worthless to me. As it was though, I was able to borrow these great lenses just like Robert was able to borrow my EF 8-15mm fisheye lens too to get some awesome crowd shots.

Canon’s range of lenses is remarkable and unmatched. There is a reason why the pros primarily shoot Canon. Even if you can’t afford many of the most expensive professional grade lenses, you can borrow them or even rent them from many places online. Their line up is unmatched, which is optimal for expanding your work with new lenses or renting specialty lenses from time to time.

Another positive about Canon is their great service and support. Many times I’ve sent my Canon bodies in for cleaning, my overworked lenses in for minor repairs, the service has always been quick and top notch. Although I’m more self taught and don’t have as much patience for training and education, Canon does have some great resources for the new DSLR user with the Canon Live Learning Center and Canon Live Learning.

These days I usually recommend new users go one of two ways when they want to take the next step with their photography and invest in a DSLR system.

For those on a bit tighter budget, I recommend getting the Canon EOS 70D Digital SLR Camera with the EF-S 18-135mm STM Lens. This is a perfect starter combo and runs around $1,500. While there are other cheaper Canon set ups, I think the EOS 70D provides significantly better quality for a little bit more in cost. This camera holds its value well and is a great camera to learn on. If you decide you want to spend more, you can always sell it back on eBay or somewhere else and upgrade to my next recommendation, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III.

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III, is the camera that I personally use the most. It is the workhorse of digital SLRs. It is the best camera I have ever owned. It also costs around $3,400 for the body alone though — so this camera is either for people who have that sort of money to spend, who are very committed to honing their DSLR skills (and maybe even selling photos to offset the cost), or who have tried another Canon system, like the EOS 70D and are ready to take the next step up.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I am going to give more detailed reports on the gear that I use in 5 different blog posts, one on the EOS 70D EFS 18-135mm STM lens set up for starters, and then one each on the four professional grade lenses I took on my Vegas Trip. I’ll provide photographic examples from these different set ups and talk about why I would recommend you consider each.

Although I’ve written several “what’s in my bag” type posts before, by way of full disclosure, I want to disclose that part of the reason for my writing this post now is because Canon recently contacted me about working closer with me as a Canon photographer. They have agreed to sponsor this post and I’m receiving compensation from them.

While I’ve turned down many sponsored type posts from other products in the past, because I’ve been such a passionate Canon user for so many years prior to being approached, I had no problem saying yes to this sort of arrangement with them. When I love a product I’m happy to endorse it. It’s exciting to me to be working closer with Canon and especially exciting to me that Canon is interested in the various social networks and what social photographers working on the web are doing today.

I’m also very open to this post being a conversation about the current state of photography gear — so feel free to give your own input on what works best for you and why. I’m happy to consider your input and also to answer any questions you may have about my gear or recommendations from my perspective.


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