Category Archives: DAM

Copyright: The most important $45 you can spend

The article last week about using the Olympus 21/3.5 on the 5D generated an amazing amount of traffic to my humble little blog. Today I want to talk about something exponentially more important than wide angle lens performance. I want to talk about the most important $45 you can spend this month.

Disclaimer: Before we proceed, remember I’m a photographer, not a lawyer. This isn’t legal advice – I’m just trying to help other photographers understand this important issue.

OK. Here’s some background reading for this important assignment:

Unless you have signed a contract that says otherwise, your work is copyrighted the moment you press the button on your camera. But unless you are registering your work with the US Copyright Office, you don’t have much protection.

Photographer A: shoots some images of an event and posts them online. A magazine grabs an image and publishes it without contacting the photographer. Photographer A’s friends scream: “Get a lawyer!” But if the image is not registered, Photographer A can only sue for actual damages (i.e., the fee the magazine would have paid for the usage). The cost of the lawsuit will most likely be way more than the amount of actual damages. With what magazines are paying these days, one hour of a lawyer’s time might be more than the actual damages.

Photographer B: registers their images with the US Copyright Office. If an infringement occurs, Photographer B can sue for actual damages, statutory damages, and legal fees. Photographer B has a much bigger stick to fight infringements because the image is registered.

Well that sounds great, you say. I want to be like Photographer B and protect my images. But this whole registration thing seems complicated.

Once you’ve done it the first time it’s easy. Here is some motivation:

  • Copyright registration only costs $45
  • Register a CD/DVD of web sized jpegs of all your unpublished images from 2006 all at once, for $45
  • The form is easy to fill out, it’s 2 short pages — see a example PDFs on Peter Krogh’s site
  • Tip: Use a trackable shipping method like Fedex to send in your registration

Depending on the volume of images you shoot in a year and what you do with your images, you may want to register monthly, quarterly, or twice a year. Even if an image has already been published, you can register published images within 90 days of publication and the copyright is retroactive to the published date. Again, the links above to Michael Grecco’s primer and Peter Krogh’s how-to pages are a huge help.

I’ll discuss the process of creating web sized jpegs for copyright registration in the next few days. Stay tuned.

Photoshop CS3 Beta

The reports are flying in on Photoshop CS3 Beta. While you may be tempted to install CS3 now, here’s some sound advice from DAM expert Peter Krogh on keeping your machine running smoothly and your precious files safe:

  • Don’t put the beta version of software on your primary hard drive

I’m excited about CS3, but I’m going to let the early adopters test it out for me. I can wait until the official release when the major bugs get fixed. If you only have one hard drive, I wouldn’t install the beta — your settings could get easily screwed up when you install the official release down the road.

If you want to be smart about testing beta software, use a separate hard drive. On the Mac you can use SuperDuper! to make a bootable clone of your primary drive. Then install CS3 beta on the clone. If things get screwed up, then just copy your primary drive, which doesn’t have CS3 beta on it, back onto the secondary drive. Making a bootable clone is a great way to create a safe playground for testing new software, assessing OS upgrade stability, or trying a new workflow.

Or you could just sit back patiently and wait a few months until the kinks get ironed out.

RAW preview vs. DNG preview


Photo of comedian Will Franken — by Joe Reifer

What you see above is a screen capture from my cataloging software, iView Media Pro, that illustrates the difference between the preview embedded in the original RAW file, and the preview in the DNG version. Which preview would you rather use to assess the quality of your images on the virtual lightbox?

Here’s the deal — if I take my RAW image and adjust it in a converter so it looks pretty, then it looks pretty in the RAW converter, and as any kind of derivative file from the RAW (PSD, JPEG, etc.). But when I look at that original RAW image as a thumbnail or in a cataloging program, the embedded preview is based on the original camera settings. Contrary to popular belief, Will Franken is not orange.

If I use Adobe Bridge to adjust RAW files, the adjustments show as long as I’m still in Bridge or Photoshop. If my now adjusted RAW file is viewed by another program, I’m back to square one. As far as I know, the same holds true for any other RAW conversion software. RAW adjustments are not portable between programs — each company has their own proprietary way of storing these adjustments.

One of the huge benefits of the DNG format is the JPEG preview contained inside your file reflects your RAW adjustments. If your cataloging software is set to show the preview embedded in the file, then you will be happily organizing, rating, searching, and sorting images that look how they should — not how your camera saw them at the time of the exposure. It’s way easier to assess image quality if you’re looking at a properly adjusted file. This little feature makes a huge difference to my workflow, and is alone almost worth the extra time it takes to convert to DNG.

So how do you setup Camera RAW and iView Media Pro to make this work? Yet again, I will recommend Peter Krogh’s The DAM Book for a detailed explanation. Here’s the short version:

Save Options for Camera RAW or the Adobe DNG converter

  • Format: Digital Negative
  • Check – Compressed (lossless)
  • JPEG Preview – Full Size

Camera RAW Preferences – DNG File Handling

  • Check – Ignore sidecar “.xmp” files
  • Check – Update embedded JPG previews: Full size

This means when if you update the Camera RAW settings for an image, the embedded JPEG preview inside the DNG gets updated, too. You take a small speed hit, but it’s worth it. See pages 126-127 of The DAM Book for more info.

iView Media Pro – Preferences – Media Rendering – RAW

  • Make sure “Use embedded preview (if available)” is checked

With these settings you’ll be using a preview in iView that reflects your RAW settings in both the Thumbnail and Media view. If you’re an iView user, try it out with a test file. Makes a huge difference.

I’ll be writing about another big benefit of the DNG file format in an upcoming post about copyrighting your work. I’ll also be discussing the acquisition of iView by Microsoft, and how DNG really is the best file format for the paranoid. Stay tuned.

A productive year pt I

As the end of 2006 draws near, I was thinking back on all the fun I’ve had shooting at night and doing urban exploration this year. I photographed during 10 of the 12 full moons this year, including multiple nights some months. Friends in the San Francisco Bay Area night photography and urban exploration community really came through with some great photography locations this year. I would particularly like to thank Riki Feldmann, Steve Walsh, Troy Paiva, Tim Baskerville, Todd Lapin, and Gunnar H. for location assistance.

From a digital asset management (DAM) perspective, the year in review process was made quite simple by using iView Media Pro to sort images in my 2006 catalog that were rated 2 stars or higher. The benefits of being organized are immeasurable sometimes. I hope you all had a wonderful year and made some great images.

Mac wireless

I’ve got a Mac desktop computer that’s hooked up to DSL, and a Mac laptop. If I shoot when traveling, I backup to a small firewire drive, and then plug that drive into the desktop when I get home to move the files over. I’ve thought about getting a Macintosh base station to create a wireless network. This would allow me to use the laptop to get online from any room in the house, and share files between the laptop and desktop.

The Airport Base Station is a white orb that costs $200. The other Mac option is to use an Airport Express Base Station ($129), but this would also require buying an Airport Extreme Card for my desktop computer (the laptop has one already). Either way you slice it, it’s about $200. The Airport Express would allow me to do fancy stuff like using my computer to play music over my stereo. A cool idea, but right now extra time on the computer does not interest me.

I talked to a friend who has been networking Macs for awhile, and he recommended a less expensive option. The Linksys WRT54G Wireless Router is $49.99 from Amazon and ships for free. The WRT54G lets you share a DSL connection, move files between computers, includes a four port 10/100 switch, and uses 128 bit encryption. We’ll see how it works after I set it up over Thanksgiving weekend. Stay tuned.