4 Ways to Avoid the Pitfalls of Bad Audio

Bad audio can ruin your film, so here are some tips on how to avoid it.

Nothing will sideline your cinematic efforts quicker than bad audio. The minute your audience hears crackling, humming, or distortion, you better believe they’re not going to want to stick around to hear the next minute, which is why it’s paramount that you know how to both record good audio and fix problematic audio in post.

In this video, Jordy Vandeput of Cinecom lays out a few tips that will help you do just that, including protecting your mics from noise to treating a room to avoid reverb. Check it out below.

Get Rid of Noise

There’s more noise going on around you than you might realize—even if you don’t pick it up, your mic definitely will. Traffic from a nearby road or freeway, the hum of a refrigerator, or even the engine of a passing commercial jet can make its way into your recording without you even realizing it, so it’s important to survey the area in which you’re recording and take note of what you hear.

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Sundance 2020: What To Expect At This Year’s Film Festival

María Mercedes Coroy and Mara Teln appear in “La Llorona,” a film by Jayro Bustamante, which is also an official selection of the Spotlight program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

Filmmakers, from returning directors to up-and-coming artists, submitted a record of 5,100 submissions this year to Sundance 2020 across its program, with selected films representing 27 countries in all. Diverse stories fill the slate and include some impressive work from independent artists that have already attracted buyers.

This Friday, festival attendees can take in Josh Ruben’s feature directorial debut “Scare Me” and Jayro Bustamante’s Venice-Award-winner “La llorona,” which were both quickly nabbed by AMC Networks’ genre-streaming service, Shudder, ahead of their respective screenings.

A still from “Scare Me” by Josh Ruben, an official selection of the Midnight program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Brendan Banks

“Scare Me” seeks to send shivers up festival-goers’ spines during its world premiere at Sundance’s Midnight Section. The film follows two strangers that swap scary stories during a power outage in the Catskills. The more the duo commit to their tales, however, the more the stories come to life in their dark cabin haunt. We’ll see if it makes for a good scare at its late-night premiere.

“La Llorona” also arrives with much heat, after winning the Venice Days Director Award. Featured in the Spotlight category, it follows Enrique, a retired general who oversaw the Mayan genocide but is now haunted by his devastating crimes of the past. The intense genocide revenge drama re-interprets the Latin American folktale of “La Llorona,” a weeping woman doomed to haunt the earth mourning her dead children.

Olivia Colman and Anthony Hopkins appear in “The Father” by Florian Zeller, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Sean Gleason

It’s important to note that the festival doesn’t purposely sidestep stars. But what separates the festival films from the rest of Hollywood mainstream is that star power is used to lend distinctive voices to the work. A great example of this is the film, “The Father,” starring Anthony Hopkins and Oscar’s favorite Olivia Colman. It’s billed as a universal prophecy of loss that comes with age. What’s more is that the film attracted Sony Pictures Classics, which acquired rights for its US and international release before it screens in the Premieres category.

Jahi appears in “Charm City Kings” by Angel Manuel Soto, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

Sony Pictures Classics also nabbed “Charm City Kings,” a film of note in the U.S. Dramatic Competition and billed as a gutsy coming-of-age story that follows fourteen-year-old Mouse, who desperately wants to join an infamous group of Baltimore dirt-bike riders hailed as the Midnight Clique who rule the summertime streets.

Elsewhere in buys this year: “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” garnered Focus Features’ attention, buying a film that plays as an intimate portrait of two teenage girls in rural Pennsylvania that make a trek across state lines to New York after one of them unintentionally becomes pregnant. We’ll review this compelling film when it plays during the U.S. Dramatic Competition.

Sidney Flanigan appears in Never Rarely Sometimes Always by Eliza Hittman, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

Netflix also arrives with a host of titles, including their high-profile Taylor Swift documentary “Miss Americana” from director Lana Wilson, playing in the Documentary Premieres section. Netflix also offers the intriguing doc “Into The Deep” in the World Cinema Documentary Competition. Billed as a profile of amateur inventor Peter Madsen, the documentary ends up turning into something darker when Madsen is discovered to have murdered someone aboard his homemade submarine.

Sundance Alumnus Dee Rees returns with the much anticipated, “The Last Thing He Wanted.” Rees was the first black woman nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Adapted Screenplay category for “Mudbound” back in 2017. Her latest film features Anne Hathaway as journalist Elena McMahon, inadvertently finding herself in the middle of a series of unfinished and unsavory arms deals and suddenly wrapped up in the very story she’s trying to break. Ben Affleck and Willem Dafoe co-star in this thriller.

Anne Hathaway appears in “The Last Thing He Wanted” by Dee Rees, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

Other top titles generating buzz include “On The Record,” a documentary focused on accusations of sexual assault against music mogul Russell Simmons. The film comes from Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, two-time Emmy Award-winning and two-time Academy Award-nominated filmmakers. “On The Record” seeks a buyer after Oprah Winfrey backed out of the project, originally set for release on Apple TV+. Its compelling subject matter is sure to attract attention when it plays in the Documentary Premieres section.

While films cover a large part of the festival, we’ll also focus on lectures and events. We will be at several informal chats with special guests, including filmmaker Ron Howard, as well as interviews with a diverse range of cinematographers, directors, editors and more as the festival rolls. So, stay tuned…

The post Sundance 2020: What To Expect At This Year’s Film Festival appeared first on HD Video Pro.

In Depth Look – Filmconvert Nitrate

We spent years trying to move away from film to the digital world.  It was cheaper, quicker and easier to work with, especially when it comes to visual effects work.  However, in the last few years, some more high profile directors have moved back to film, but for most productions out there, digital is still where it’s at.  With that said, many people still want to work digital, for all the reasons I mentioned above, but they want their end result to have the feel of film, without all the step it obviously takes in production, to have a film master.  That’s where Filmconvert Nitrate comes into play. Designed to give your harsh digital footage a nice “film” feel, Filmconvert recently released the Nitrate update to their product line, and in this lesson, we’re going to take a look at the Resolve version of the effect, and see if it does as expected, and if it will break the bank in the process.

Before I wrote this article, if you had asked me about film grain effects, whether it was in my NLE or After Effects, I probably would have told you that they’re all the same, and something I don’t really use that much as I found them to be a very “one trick pony”.  They were okay, but didn’t really do much to enhance my productions as they were more distracting than anything. Then, a little while ago, I was asked to take a look at Filmconvert Nitrate from Filmconvert, and I have to say that it really got me thinking about film grain in a whole new way, especially when it comes to adding it to my productions.  There’s a time for crisp, clean video and there’s a time for that “grainy” feeling of film, and Filmconvert Nitrate may have turned me into a grainoholic!

Now, before we get rolling, it’s important for me to point out that Filmconvert Nitrate is currently only available for After Effects, Premiere and DaVinci Resolve.  Other NLE’s (OFX – i.e. Assimilate Scratch, Media Composer and Photoshop) are still working with FilmConvert Pro, as updates may/will be coming in later 2020 (FCPX has an expected shipping date of March 2020)


I normally like to get this out of the way, right off the bat, as I can do a write up about how awesome something is, and then when people find out it actually costs money, they’re like “Forget it!”.   I have to say I was a little surprised to read that you can get Filmconvert for all supported NLE’s and compositing applications for $199. That’s Adobe (Premiere and AE), Resolve, Scratch, Media Composer, FCPX and Photoshop.  For an individual license of Premiere/AE or Resolve, you’re looking at $139, so for an extra $60 to have support across all potential applications you might be using, that’s a pretty darn good price. I was figuring at least $499 for all application support, but I won’t look this gift horse in the mouth.  For $199 it’s a steal! Alright. Let’s get in and take a look at exactly how Filmconvert Nitrate works, and how it’s going to help enhance your footage.

How It Works

Now, this confused me a little right off the bat.  Once you’ve applied the effect inside of Resolve, you’re greeted by the Camera Settings.  Now, my initial thought was that this was for situations where you have multiple cameras in your timeline, and you want to make all the footage look “similar” before you added the grain to it.  However, this is not the case. What you are doing with each shot in your timeline that Filmconvert Nitrate is applied to, is telling the plug-in what camera shot the footage, so that Filmconvert Nitrate can ensure the best color translation between the footage recorded by your camera, and the target film stock that you’ll be choosing.

Filmconvert Nitrate - Choose Camera Profile

Now, to sidestep a little into how the process was set up in development is basically each supported camera was set up iPhone, BMPCC, etc) and test scenes and charts were shot. Same scenes, same charts all the different cameras. 16 manufacturers, 87 cameras. That’s a lot of work. Then, the exact same scenes were so with the supported film stock looks, 19 in total, to give you a pinpoint accurate look at exactly what the film stock would look like if you had actually shot your footage on film.  Now, with all that being said, how does that camera information come into play when working with Filmconvert Nitrate? By assigning the specific camera profile to your shot, you’re making sure that your shot will look and behave exactly the way it should, based on the tests that Filmconvert put the same camera through. To show you how really in-depth this is looking at the Arri Alexa camera, you can have your color space set to 709, DCIP3, LOGC or LOGC Film, to be as specific as possible. The amount of control you have over the camera is pretty staggering.  So, with all that being said, before you get rolling, you will have to download the camera pack (or packs) for the footage that you have in your timeline. This can be done right from within the Open FX tab of the Inspector.

Filmconvert Nitrate Camera Profile

These profiles are not tiny by any stretch. The Alexa profile alone was almost 300 mb. Once it’s downloaded and installed, the splash screen will disappear, and you’ll now have access to the parameters. For the rest of the article we’ll be sticking with the Arri Alexa Profile to keep things as simple as possible.

Now that we have our Camera Profile set, we can make “simple changes” like Exposure, Temperature, Tint and Saturation.  Keep in mind that I’m accessing Filmconvert Nitrate through the edit module for this lesson, but it can be added through the Color module as well, depending on your Resolve workflow.

Filmconvert Nitrate Lightning Fast

Before we move on, I want to point something out that I noticed at about this point in my work with Filmconvert Nitrate.  And that is that it’s fast. Lightning fast, as you can see from the GIF I posted above. I’ve worked with other OFX plug-ins that are great in theory, but sluggish when working with them in the timeline.  Filmconvert Nitrate is definitely not that. The parameter drag bars are smooth, the playback of the effect in my timeline is real time (when only Filmconvert Nitrate is applied), and this speed just helps make the effect….for lack of a better term…..nice to work with.  

The rest of the effect is broken down into five categories, so let’s take a brief look at each of them now.

Film Settings

Once your camera is set, this is where you’re going to next.  This section is where you tell Filmconvert Nitrate which film stock you want to apply to your footage.  You have 19 different film stocks to choose from, with the ability to adjust how much of the film color, as well as Cineon to Print Film influence you want added.  AND, something that I thought was pretty cool is that you can even choose the film size that you want to work with from 8mm all the way up to 35mm Full Frame. It really makes a big difference in the look and feel of your film effect.

Grain Settings

Obviously going hand in hand with Film Settings is your Grain Settings.  Strength, Size, Saturation and Softness can be adjusted here, based on your needs.


Here, basic adjustments can be made to the Black, Mid and White points (S/M/H, L/G/G), again, based on the needs of your production.

Export & License

This one, again, is fairly self explanatory.  Once you make your Filmconvert Nitrate purchase, you can download the license, and quickly access it from here to unlock the application, and get started.  One thing that is also very cool is that you can also export LUT’s of your film looks to send to other users, add them to a local library of looks for other editors and colorists to access or send to another application (Filmconvert Nitrate for Adobe, for example), and access the looks you create in Resolve there as well!  What’s important for me to mention here, though, is that your look will be sent via the LUT, but no grain information will be sent, so keep that in mind.

Overlay Parameters

This one really blew my mind, and to be honest, really should have been higher up in the interface, as opposed to tucked away at the bottom, below where you enter your license.  Here you have access to, not only your Grain curve, but to your Color Wheel Highlight, Midtone and Shadow Wheels. However, you don’t actually have access to the wheels or the curves here either.  And this is the very cool part about Filmconvert Nitrate. You can access these tools via Overlay controls, right in the Viewer.

Filmconvert Nitrate OpenFX WIndow

Now, with that being said, this is not without its issues. You have to be very, very careful when working with the OFX Overlay that you don’t start zooming in or out of your image, as you can’t pan around in this interface.  I’ve got myself working pretty well with the layout you see above, and if I run into problems, normally either exiting the OFX Overlay and going back in fixes it, or I switch modules (Edit to Fusion and back) and that normally clears it up. Keep in mind that this is not a Filmconvert Nitrate issue, it’s a Resolve issue, so no foul on them!

Now, with all that being said, FilmConvert Nitrate is not without its issues, and the issues actually have nothing to do with the software at all.  It’s actually in the documentation and training. I’m someone who likes to jump into the manual, or the “Getting Started with” documentation, or at least check out a tutorial before I get rolling but, to my surprise, there aren’t any.  There’s no real manual, no “Getting Started with”, or even any current tutorials on the site to get yourself up and running.  Now I can appreciate that the software is “simple” to use (for the most part), but some of these concepts need to be gone into with a little more depth here than what is provided in Filmconvert’s very small help section on their website.  To be honest, it’s nothing that I would actually read as it’s pretty basic for advanced users who know all about curves, color wheels, ect.. With that being said, there are videos out on YouTube of “influencers” who are doing videos on how it works.   Review videos, basically, but for me, I’d rather have this information coming directly from the horses mouth (i.e. – Filmconvert), rather than YouTuber’s.


In the end, I really, really like Filmconvert Nitrate.  The looks you can create with it really are stunning, and the speed that the effect works at inside of DaVinci Resolve is surprisingly good to say the least.  You can also work with LOG footage, and have Filmconvert Nitrate do the color space conversion for you as well, which is just a great workflow enhancement.

Filmconvert Nitrate Before & After

As I mentioned before, its only real downside is that Filmconvert really needs to up the amount of training they have on their site, as I would want 20-30 videos showing me not only how the effect works, but some cool looks you can create.  Also, a proper manual with a “Getting Started with Nitrate” document would be also super helpful, as the documentation on the site currently leaves much to be desired. In the end, this is a small gripe, as the effect itself, once you’ve been working with it for a while, becomes like second nature, as it’s almost like Filmconvert has added another mini color correction tool inside of Resolve specifically for adding film looks to your footage, and the price tag of $199 for all the supported apps was shockingly cheap.  The other thing that I didn’t mention in the article is that if you prefer working with all of your effects via Fusion inside of Resolve, you obviously have access to Filmconvert Nitrate through the OpenFX drop down in the Effects library of Fusion as well.  If you are looking to soften up your “harsh” digital footage with the nice feel of film, Filmconvert Nitrate is definitely a product you should check out.  For more information, or to download a free trial of Filmconvert Nitrate, you can check it out at https://www.filmconvert.com .

Is Back-Button Focus Becoming an Outdated Photography Technique?

As camera technology continues to progress, the way in which we operate them is changing as well. Photographers should always use the most familiar and effective technique to get the shot, and to that end I want to be clear about the purpose of this article: I’m not trying to convince anyone to blindly stop using back-button focus.

This article is a check-up on the back-button focus technique as it relates to the cameras of today and moving forward into the future. For me, this resulted in a realization that the use of the back-button focus technique was no longer advantageous as my camera’s evolved. For you? Read on and decide.

First, a very short paragraph on what back-button focus is so everyone is on the same page. By default, autofocus is activated on a camera when the user presses down halfway on the shutter button. When the user presses down all the way on the shutter button, sure enough the shutter is triggered and an exposure is made. Back-button focus is a popular customization that many cameras are capable of where the user will de-link the autofocus from the shutter button and instead program one of the back buttons on the camera to activate it instead.

There are two popular reasons for using back-button focus and the first is the belief that one button should have only one function. With the camera’s default programming, the shutter button has two primary tasks: autofocusing and releasing the shutter to take a picture. To some, this multi-tasking doesn’t sit well with how their brain is wired. Having two functions on a single button is viewed as overly complicating things, especially when the back of the camera is ripe with more buttons to be used in tandem. The result? The shutter button solely releases the shutter, and the AF-On button on the back of the camera solely activates autofocus.

The second popular reason for using back-button focus is the ability to focus and recompose shots once without having to refocus again after the shutter is released. The side benefit is that the camera can act as if it’s in both AF-S or AF-C mode without changing settings. Holding down the AF-On button keeps the AF-C autofocus running, however by letting go and being able to recompose with no further focus movement when the shutter button is pressed, it’s as if the camera is in AF-S mode.

What’s overlooked though is that it’s actually just as easily done with the default shutter focus method too by using AF-L (autofocus lock). The difference is that releasing the AF-On button in the case of back-button focus would stop AF-C and emulate AF-S, however with the default shutter focus setting, AF-C can be stopped to emulate AF-S by holding the AF-L button and then pressing the shutter button.

Tip for Sony camera users: Customize the AF-L button to “AF/MF Control Hold” instead of the regular AF-L. It achieves the same result as AF-L for holding focus changes while also gaining focus peaking and the ability to manual focus the lens if desired without toggling any other switch.

Camera Advancements That Are Eliminating Back-Button Focus

In recent times as cameras get better and better, there have been a number of new advancements that are causing back-button focusing to get in the way, becoming more cumbersome or redundant to use. Following the current trends listed below and imagining where they lead to, the desire for de-linked control over autofocus is becoming less meaningful.

Focus Points and Coverage

Today’s newest cameras have an incredible number of selectable focus points that cover much of the sensor. On my Sony a7R IV there are 323 focus points I can manually choose from that covers the image area 99.7 percent vertically and 75 percent horizontally. With so many focus points and coverage, this has all but eliminated any need to focus and recompose. I can choose a focus point exactly where the subject is in my composition with no compromise.

With my focus point always on the subject and no need to recompose my shots, I’m laying on the autofocus so that I’m always ready to release the shutter for the sharpest image. There is no advantage to adding a second button into the mix, and if anything it’s now obstructing a much better use for my thumb: focus point selection.

Focus Point Selection

There are now more functions on the back of the camera we may want to use near the time of exposure and if our pointer finger is on the shutter button and our thumb is occupying the AF-On button all the time, how are we supposed to quickly use them? The most standout problem here is using the focus point selector D-pad or joystick (also called the multi-selector or multi-controller depending on the camera brand).

With back-button autofocus, my thumb is constantly bouncing back and forth between the AF-On button and the joystick. If my thumb is on the joystick, I can’t focus, and if my thumb is focusing, I can’t change where it’s focusing. If the shutter button went back to controlling the autofocus as well, I would have a free thumb to rest on the focus point joystick to keep pace with my composition changes.

Focus point selection has even now entered the rear touchscreens on some cameras. On the Sony a7R IV, Sony a9, and a9 II for example, I can be looking through the viewfinder and with the swipe of my thumb on the touchscreen make very fast, dramatic changes to the focus point’s location. My thumb never has to go back to the rear AF-On button if my camera is set up for focusing with the shutter.

Speaking of the Sony a9 II, it brought an underrated game-changing feature that strictly gives shutter button focus the advantage: active AF-C while moving the focus point. Rather than having to stop autofocus in order to move the focus point, with the a9 II I can continue to half-press the shutter with AF-C on and use my thumb to move where the camera is actively focusing in the frame.

Another company that I believe is participating in this future is Canon who has a relevant feature on their upcoming EOS-1D X Mark III. The new camera has what Canon is calling a Smart Controller built into the AF-On button and it’s a small trackpad able to control the focus point without the user’s thumb moving down to the joystick.

To me, this brilliant design is an acknowledgement that the previous camera layout wasn’t keeping up with the way people are now using them. It also accomplishes something good for both sides of the fence. For back-button focus, it takes away the need to constantly relocate my thumb to the multi-controller joystick. For shutter focus, it places the focus point selector in prime real estate at a natural resting position for my thumb.

Now the trickle down to these companies’ non-flagship cameras begins. In Sony’s case, I’m hopeful that comes in the form of firmware updates to enable the active AF-C functionality. With any luck these reassessments spread out to other camera manufacturers as well.

Autofocus Tracking

Many new cameras come with various autofocus tracking capabilities that are working to eventually make the above section on focus selection matter less and less. We are now able to reliably track broader shapes, figures, and colors throughout the frame, all the way down to human faces and eyes.

At this point, some cameras can even be told which specific eye to focus on. Dogs and cats amazingly have their own eye autofocus tracking, with support for more animals coming along. Olympus has subject detection for motor sports, trains, and aircrafts. The advancements in this area of A.I.-based subject recognition is revolutionary for photography.

Behind all of these new tracking abilities is continuous autofocus, and behind continuous autofocus is a button being held down to activate it. These days I’m almost never pressing the shutter without also autofocusing at the same time because all the technologies behind AF-C have made it the smartest and most accurate way to shoot. I get a near real-time update in focus at all times which gives me the highest chance at a sharp image.


Taking stock of these new advancements is what made me realize that it was time for autofocus to come home to the shutter button. Relearning to use my camera this way was no easy task, but I challenged myself to stick through the awkwardness in order to give it a fair chance.

As suspected, pressing a button versus not pressing a button to stop autofocus was a difficult adjustment and will probably be the toughest mental hurdle for others too. The other difficult task for me was to remap my thumb’s muscle memory so that it would rest on the multi-selector joystick rather than the AF-On button. I gave myself one month to try out the change, but that one month quickly turned into two.

After all that time, today I feel like I’m finally reaping the benefits of unrestricted compositions through faster focus changes, and moving forward I’m in a good spot for the future of cameras.

Back-button focus probably isn’t going away any time soon, but there is a trend that has started that minimizes its value. Of course the camera will never fully know the photographer’s intent with an image, but it’s close-minded to think it can’t assist at a much higher level than it did in the past. Cameras will continue to evolve to new technological heights, and that may require photographers to evolve the way we use them.

About the author: Ryan Mense is a wildlife photographer based in Wisconsin. You can see more of his work on his website, Instagram, and YouTube.

Sundance Institute’s Anne Lai Named New Executive Director of SFFILM

Anne Lai, who is currently the Director of Creative Producing and Artist Support at the Sundance Institute, has been named the new Executive Director of SFFILM. “The board, the staff, and I are very pleased to announce the appointment of Anne Lai to the role of Executive Director of SFFILM,” said Nion McEvoy, President of SFFILM’s Board of Directors, in a press release. “We are thrilled that the search has yielded such an excellent match for our organization and for the Bay Area arts community. We are excited to have Anne, with her incredible vision, exceptional leadership and management skills, […]

The Price of a Flickr Pro Subscription is Going Up Starting Today

Flickr just sent an email to all of its members announcing that—as mentioned in CEO Don MacAskill’s recent open letter—the price of Flickr Pro is officially going up. The price hike will help Flickr’s parent company SmugMug keep the photo sharing platform alive as they continue to improve the service and (hopefully) add more paying members.

This news should come as no surprise to anybody who read MacAskill’s letter last month. The plea for new Flickr Pro subscribers made it clear that prices would soon go up, because “we intend to keep investing in making [Flickr] even better, but it cannot continue to operate at a loss.”

To that end, effective today, the price of a Flickr Pro membership has increased to:

  • 1 month: $6.99, plus tax
  • 3 month: $18.99, plus tax
  • 1 year: $59.99, plus tax
  • 2 year: $117.99, plus tax

You can read the full email below or by clicking here:

Current Flickr Pro members will have the opportunity to extend their Pro membership at the current pricing at this link. As explained in the email, monthly subscribers can lock in a one or two-year term at the 2019 rate, annual subscribers with a renewal date prior to July 1 can add two years, and all other Pro subscribers can add a one or two year term.

However, after that extension expires, everyone will be paying the same higher prices.

To learn more about this change, read the full email at this link. Unfortunately, this means that non-Pro members have missed their chance to lock in the more affordable pricing, but if you’re a Pro member looking to renew, this’ll be your last chance to do so without incurring an additional charge.

7 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started My Photography Business

A few weeks ago, I was in town when I heard a lady say to her friend, “That photo you posted of Sebastian was soooooo beautiful. While you’re on maternity leave, you should totally start doing photography as a business…”

Before I write anything else, I just want to say that this is exactly the kind of thing that my friends would tell me a few years back. And it’s lovely when your friends encourage you to pursue your passion and turn it into a business. But in my experience, starting any kind of business isn’t something that you should decide to do on a whim.

I think that photography is one of those industries where it’s easy to consider making money from it because the start-up costs are perceived to be low, and it’s not regulated. I’ve never heard anyone tell their friend “I really enjoyed that meal you cooked, you should buy a restaurant” or “your child has neat handwriting, you should find a job as a teacher.”

Anyway, I’m glad I overheard that conversation because it inspired me to write this blog and give any future photographers an insight into what it’s really like to start a photography business. Because the worst thing is when you start something and feel like you want to give up half way through because you didn’t realize what was involved in the first place.

Now compared to a lot of my local photographers who have been in business for 10+ years, I’m relatively new to this game. And I’m not pretending that I know everything there is to know. In fact, I know that I have got so much still left to learn and that there are others out there who are so much more together than I am. But what I didn’t want to do was leave writing this blog for so long that I’d forgotten how hard it really is at the start. And I don’t think that running your own business really gets any easier with time, I just think that the challenges change and what you have to focus your energy on shifts a bit.

If you want to be a professional photographer, being able to take good photos is a given, but what’s it actually like to set up, own, and run a photography business? Everyone’s experience will be different, but this is what I’ve learnt so far:

1. Comparison is the thief of joy

It’s a well known quote, but not one I’d really thought of until I started my business. But within about 5 minutes of deciding that I was going to take the plunge, I understood it. 100%.

When I was starting my business, I was looking for inspiration. I was looking at other people’s work to see their styles, their creativity and their talent. And I quickly felt overwhelmed by how amazing everyone else’s work was in comparison to mine. I felt like an imposter; like I really shouldn’t even be trying to start a business. I was suddenly seeing photos that had brought me joy in the past in a whole new and negative way: comparing them to photos taken by better, more experienced, more well known photographers and feeling like mine were rubbish.

I’m not sure if you ever stop comparing yourself to others, but I think that what does happen is that you choose to ignore those feelings of inferiority and remember why you love to take photos in the first place. For me, this is because I want to preserve moments in time—for myself and for my clients.

2. Social media is a necessary evil

Some people love social media, and they’re great at posting and engaging with followers. But before I started my business, I didn’t have any social media accounts. And no, I’m not 80. I found that I was better off not being able to compare my life to other people’s.

But in 2020, owning a business without having a social media account is like trying to ride a horse without tack: not completely impossible, but not ideal either.

If you do follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll quickly realize that social media still isn’t my strong suit, but I do give it a fair go. And it does make it worth it when some of my clients find me through my social media pages. I only follow people who inspire me, and as soon as I start comparing myself to someone or their work makes me feel like I’m not good enough, I’ve found it useful to unfollow or mute them for a while, for my own sanity.

If you’ve noticed that I’ve recently unfollowed you, take it as a compliment 😉

3. SEO is worth the work

As I’ve mentioned, I’m not great at social media – and you’re probably thinking “So how do clients find you?” Well, all of the energy that I don’t pour into my socials gets used up on keeping my website in tip top condition as well as working on my SEO.

Search engine optimization (SEO) involves making lots of tiny changes and tweaks to your website that make Google (and other search engines) rank your website when clients search for keywords to do with your business. It’s not an exact science and Google is quite cagey about what exactly it is that you need to do to rank higher on those pages. But the reason my clients find me is that when they search for “Cardiff Photographer,” “Family Photoshoot Cardiff,” or “Newborn Photographer Cardiff,” my name comes up very near to the top of the list.

It sounds easy doesn’t it?! But I promise you that I have worked behind the scenes on my SEO for hours and hours to get those results. I’ll also take this opportunity to thank the two ladies who have helped me understand what I should be doing to improve my SEO: Lynsey at Front Door Communications and Nina at Nina Mace Photography.

4. Continued Professional Development is important

In my previous career as a teacher, it was expected that a certain amount of hours per year were spent on CPD. Courses, lesson observations, and peer reviews were all par for the course and my friends who are dentists, doctors and lawyers tell me that it’s the same in their industries.

When you run your own business, and it’s not a legal requirement to invest in CPD, it’s so easy to see it as an optional extra and to put it at the bottom of your list of “things to do when I have the time and money.” But challenging yourself and finding people who know what they’re talking about is one sure way to grow your business.

Find someone you admire, someone who is further along the road than you, who has it more sussed than you, and invest in their skills and knowledge. Courses, workshops and mentoring are all worthwhile as long as you choose your provider wisely.

Just a quick tip: anyone claiming to be able to make you rich quickly is not a wise choice of teacher or mentor.

5. Don’t expect to make an easy profit

In my first year in business, I earned a decent amount of money… I also invested 90% of it back into the business, so by the end of the year, my bank balance wasn’t as buoyant as I would have liked it to be. But what my bank balance didn’t show was that I did have a growing client base, higher spec equipment, more skills, and a plan of how to keep taking my business forward.

Photography isn’t a business to get into if you want to make money quickly. Yes, you can charge whatever you want for a photoshoot, but even if you haven’t got a studio, your overheads will take a good chunk of your monthly income in the early days – software, hardware, equipment, professional body membership, insurance (yes – you 100% need it), subscriptions… it all adds up.

One thing that I quickly learnt was that I needed to pace myself when it came to buying new equipment. I took the approach (and still do) of not buying anything new unless I couldn’t do my job without it. So when I felt like I wanted a new lens, I only allowed myself to consider it if the one I currently had was limiting me in my work. There obviously comes a point when the technical spec of your equipment actually is holding you back, but there’s no point having all the latest gear and no idea of how to use it.

6. There’s always something to do

It might be my personality (I like to be busy), but my to-do list is never-ending. When you think about what a photographer actually does, it’s shoot-edit-admin-admin-admin-admin-admin-repeat.

I’m always tweaking my website, updating my accounts, sending out contracts, working on my SEO, thinking about marketing, ordering prints. And while I do enjoy that side of running a business as well, it’s not necessarily what springs to mind when you think about being a photographer. No hanging round in cool coffee shops admiring the pretty light for me!

7. A good work/life balance is difficult (but not impossible) to achieve

I’ve seen it written so many times that people want to get into photography so that they can quit their current job and “spend more time with family.” Realistically, whatever kind of business you’re growing, spending more time with your family in the early days is a difficult thing to do. It isn’t impossible, but the temptation to send one more email, pay one more invoice, post one more thing to social media… it never goes away. You seem to be “on call” 24/7.

This is especially true for me—trying to fit a full time venture into (very) part time hours when my daughter is at nursery and looking at other working mums thinking that they must have 27 hours in their day with everything that they get done. And suddenly I’m back comparing myself to others. Again.

With all that said, I really do enjoy my new career and the days where I feel like giving up are few and far between. Anyone who says they never have those days must be a) lying or b) lying.

Hopefully this blog has been useful to anyone who is considering setting up a photography business. I promise it’s not meant to put you off! Are you new on this journey? What advice would you give to those just starting out? Are you way further down the line than I am and have any pearls of wisdom?

I’d love to hear your comments, so feel free to add them below.

About the author: Clare Harding is an award winning family and baby photographer from South Whales who loves working with natural light (and still has a lot to learn in business!). You can find more of her work and words on her website and blog, or by following her on Instagram and Facebook. This post was also published here.

Paris Musées launches online portal with thousands of historic photographs

Eugène Atget (Jean Eugène Auguste Atget, dit) (Libourne, 12–02–1857 – Paris, 04–08–1927), photographer

Paris Musées, the public institution that manages all of the museums in Paris, has launched a new Collections portal that offers the public access to more than 100,000 high-resolution digital reproductions of classic artwork and photography. All of the content offered in the Collections portal is available under a CC0 license.

In addition to high-resolution images of artwork from such notable names as Rembrandt, the online collection also includes a portal with more than 62,000 high-res photo scans showcasing some of the nation’s earliest photography from photographers that include Pierre Emounts ou Emonds, Eugene Atget, Ernest Charles Appert, Hippolyte Blancard and Roger Henrard.

Maison de Balzac, 16th arrondissement, Paris. Eugène Atget (Jean Eugène Auguste Atget, dit) (Libourne, 12–02–1857 – Paris, 04–08–1927), photographer

Because the photos are all under a CC0 license, anyone can download high-resolution copies of the images alongside documents with full details on the photos, including when and where they were taken, which museum they’re located at and the materials and techniques used to produce each print. The institution will also make copyrighted images from its museums available as low-resolution previews.

In its announcement of the new online collection, Paris Musées explains that it receives a large number of requests from students and others who want to view and/or use some of the images from its museum collections. This portal now makes it possible for anyone to quickly locate and download the content.

Lightroom Keyword Hacks: Making the Most of Your Keywords

Confession time. I hate keywording my photos. I’d rather be cutting the front lawn with a pair of scissors or ironing wallpaper. But about the 10th time it took me an hour or more to find photo, one that I knew was in my Lightroom catalog somewhere, I had to do something about keywording.

The point of keywords is to make my photos searchable—both for me and for those looking online. Keywords are particularly essential for stock photographers.

Keywording is supposed to save me time. But the thing is, I didn’t want to trade time searching for a photo for time spent keywording my images.

Over the years, I’ve developed a few keywording tricks to make this ongoing process quicker and as painless as possible. In this article, I’ll share my tricks with you. Most are ways to effectively use existing tools built into Lightroom. The tools are there, I just had to find them and make the them work for me.

Locating Keywording Tools

In Lightroom, keyword windows are located in the right-hand-side metadata column. One is labeled “Keywording” and the other is labeled “Keyword List.” Both are useful.

Screenshot of my Lightroom. The very useful Keywording and Keyword List windows circled in red.

Under KEYWORDING, you should see three sections: Keyword Tags, Keyword Suggestions, and Keyword Sets. I’ll unpack these tools as I go.

What to Keyword

Before I get started, let’s talk about what to keyword. They say a photo is worth a 1,000 words. That’s a lot of keywording!

I’ve tried to simplify the process by asking myself some questions:

  1. What type of photo is this? (Genre)
  2. Where was the photo taken?
  3. When was the photo taken?
  4. What is the subject of the photo?
  5. How does the photo make me feel?
  6. What photographic techniques were used?

The last question is optional but useful since I do a lot of photography education. Examples might be “long exposure” or “leading lines.”

So, for this photo, I might enter:

Landscape, Nature, Tennessee, Smokey Mountains, Little River Gorge Road, Autumn, River, Colorful, Foliage, Trees, Peaceful, Long exposure, Panorama

It’s sometimes hard to come up with good keywords. But there will be patterns to your photography. The same keywords will come up again and again. Finding your pattern will greatly speed up the keywording process.

But wouldn’t it be nice if my images were automatically keyworded?

Hack #1: Auto Generate Keywords

One day, maybe AI will be smart enough to completely automate keywording images. But until then there are tools that make keyword suggestions.

Lightroom’s KEYWORD SUGGESTIONS window gives me tags based on other images in my catalog. The more I keyword, the more useful this tool becomes.

Don’t worry if you only see 9 suggestions. As you start applying tags to the image, more will appear.

Screenshot of my Lightroom with Keyword Suggestion box highlighted in red.

There are a lot of auto-keywording tools outside of Lightroom as well. One of the easiest I’ve found is Keywords Ready: I just drag my photo into the site and *poof*, instant keywords.

I uploaded this photo to the online keywording tool Keywords Ready. The words that came back were a good start.

Most tags generated for this photo are spot-on: steel, spiral, design, architecture, indoors, abstract, modern, futuristic, technology, circular, pattern, vertical, steps, geometric shape, no people, iron – metal, diminishing perspective, point of view, distant, vanishing point, durability

I simply copy the suggested keywords and paste them into the KEYWORD TAGS box in Lightroom.

Screenshot of my Lightroom showing how to copy the automatically-generated keywords into the Keyword Tags window.

Keyword plug-ins for Lightroom are also available. I’ve used MyKeyworder to auto generate keywords for images in my catalog. It will even fetch synonyms. Some apply to my photo and some don’t. I can choose whether to include each keyword or not. It’s easier on my brain to look through a list and decide what applies then it is to think up the keywords from scratch.

Screenshot of my Lightroom showing what the MyKeyworder plug-in looks like when applied to a series of wildlife photos.

Hack #2: Quick Search by Keyword

If you don’t already know the hotkey combination “Command > F” (Control > F for Windows), then start practicing! This is the “find” command in Lightroom and I use it all the time. It allows me to quickly find photos by keyword.

The command calls up the library filter and searches metadata, including keywords. In the search box, type in a keyword. By default, I am searching all fields, though I can change it to search only keywords. I rarely bother.

To find all my photos from Cuba:

  1. Click Command > F
  2. Type “Cuba”

Ok, so I get photos from Cuba, Missouri as well as the country, but it’s a start. Adding another keyword refines the search.

Type “Cuba Havana” or “Cuba Havana car” and now I’ve got what I want.

Screenshot of my Lightroom showing the library filter search tool and the results if I search for “Cuba Havana car”.

Hack #3: Create Personalized Keywords

Keywords can be anything: a word, a phrase. Keywords can even be a random combination of letters, numbers and symbols. There are a few symbols that aren’t allowed as they have some functionality in Lightroom (e.g., comma, asterisk), but most are usable.

As long as the keyword makes sense to me, Lightroom will let me use it.

When I apply for an exhibit or enter a competition, I use unique keywords to label the organization and year. When I create an e-book or a portfolio, I create a unique keyword for the project. Even this article has its own keyword “LRKeywordingPetapixel”.

You may not understand my unique combinations, but I can easily search for and find the photos I’ve included in a particular project.

Hack #4: Keywords as Collections

In the past, I used the Collections feature a lot in Lightroom. I don’t know if it’s just me, but collections took forever to load. Even if there weren’t that many photos in the collection, I had to wait.

I’m loading a collection now while I write this. I’m still waiting for it to load.

Waiting… Waiting…

I’ll let you know when it loads.

Then I discovered the little arrow to the right of each keyword on the Keyword List. Click the arrow and every photo with that keyword appears almost instantly!

The number tells me how many photos will appear. I have 1808 images tagged as “Waterfalls.” By clicking the arrow, I can see them all.

Screenshot of my Lightroom highlighting the arrow next to tags on the Keyword List. Clicking the arrow next to the keyword “waterfalls” brings up these images.

I was recently selecting my best images from 2019. I keyworded my favorite shots with the keyword “Best of 2019.” I tagged with this keyword 82 images on my first pass. Too many.

So, I created a second keyword for images that made it into the second round “Best of 2019 2.”

Then the third and final round “Best of 2019 3.”

Screenshot of my Lightroom showing a winter image from my keyword “Best of 2019”.

I can easily see my progress and switch photos to a different collection by changing the keyword.

Hack #5: Click Box Toggle

Notice that there is a check box next to entries on the Keyword List. Use the check box to toggle keywords on and off.

If, in my “Best of 2019” example, I decide to move a photo from one category to another (“Best of 2019” to “Best of 2019 2”), I click the check box next to the new category. This applies the new keyword to the image. Unchecking the box removes the keyword.

If there is a minus sign next to the click box, it means that the keyword is applied to only one or some photos in a series. To apply the keyword to all of the photos, click the box. This will change the minus sign to a check mark.

I use this process when I keyword inconsistently. For instance, some of my photos are tagged “animal” and others “animals.” This doesn’t really matter to my searches, but I sometimes get on a keyword cleaning kick.

I select all the plurals by clicking the arrow next to “animals.” In grid mode (grid mode is important), I select all of the entries and then I click the empty box next to the keyword “animal.” This applies the singular keyword to all of my photos. The number next to the keyword will increase.

Then I deselect the box next to “animals.” This removes the keyword from the photos. The number next to “animals” is now at zero and I can delete this keyword.

Screenshot of my Lightroom highlighting the check box next to the tag “Animals” in the Keyword List.

This hack works any time I want to quickly reassign keywords to a series of photos, like if I misspelled a keyword in some images.

Hack #6: Hashtags as Keywords

I mentioned earlier that Lightroom lets me use symbols as part of a keyword, and this includes the hashtag symbol.

Like keywording, my least favorite part of uploading to Instagram is adding hashtags.

I’ve done a bit of research and found the hashtags that work best for my photos. These I add as keywords to my images in Lightroom.

I can easily search for hashtags across many photos and see which hashtags I applied to similar photos in the past. Also, I can copy the hashtags. This is easy as symbols are alphabetized first in the keyword list and won’t get mixed in with my other keywords.

Screenshot of my Lightroom showing a waterfall in southern Illinois. I copy the hashtags in the Keyword Tags window to paste into an Instagram caption.

I copy and paste my keywords directly into the Instagram caption. I then use a user-agent switcher to post to Instagram from my desktop, but apps like Later also allow me to set up Instagram posts on my desktop.

If you don’t know about user-agent switchers, you can learn about that here.

If you post photos from your phone, copy the list of relevant hashtags into a Dropbox or Google Drive file for easy access from a mobile device.

Bonus Tip: While we’re talking about copying keywords, remember to copy a few of your most relevant keywords into the caption or the ALT tag section of any photos that you upload to your webpage. This makes the image visible to search engines.

Hack #7: Apply Synonyms

Often when I apply one keyword, others also apply. For instance, every photo from the spice market in Delhi can also be tagged:

India, Travels, Delhi, Chandni Chowk, Market, Street Photography, People, Colorful, Chaos, …

Screenshot of my Lightroom. By double clicking on the keyword “spice market”, a dialog box appears where I can enter synonyms.

Double click or right click on the keyword and select EDIT KEYWORD TAG. Enter any other keywords that you want to be applied automatically every time you enter the primary keyword.

Rather than entering 9 individual keywords, I enter only “spice market”.

Don’t worry if you can’t see the synonyms in the KEYWORD TAGS box. Change the “Enter Keywords” drop down menu to “Will Export” and you’ll see all the synonyms. Most importantly, the synonyms will show up in keyword searches.

Even if you’re not uploading to stock photography websites, keywording tools available through these sites are useful for finding synonyms. I’m always surprised at some of the synonyms that come up.

A free and easy tool to get started is Microstock Keyword Tool.

Bonus Tip: When choosing hashtags and keywords, I look at photos similar to my own online. Some photographers are great at tagging!

Hack #8: Chaining Keywords

The only drawback to using synonyms is that I can’t copy the list of keywords in the “Will Export” box. This means I can’t copy hashtag synonyms into my Instagram captions. When I apply the #illinois hashtag to a photo, I also want to apply other similar hashtags.

Adobe: Please make the “Will Export” box copiable!

Instead of using synonyms to apply multiple hashtags to one photo, I chain them together.

By chaining I mean listing many keywords as one entry without comma separation. The list looks like this in my Lightroom Keyword Tags box (notice no commas in between hashtags):

#illinois #illinoisphoto #illinoisphotography #illinoisphotographer #enjoyillinois #onlyinillinois #illinois_shots #illgrammers #visitillinois

Instagram doesn’t care if the hashtags are separated with a comma. With one click, I can apply a chain of hashtags to a photo rather than having to apply individual hashtags to my image.

The Keyword List shows only the first couple of entries, but all the hashtags show up as keywords.

Screenshot of my Lightroom showing a chained hashtag list appears in the Keyword List.

Hack #9: Keywording on Import

To limit the amount of time I spend keywording, I’ve made it a habit to keyword when I import my photos. I enter global keywords that apply to all the photos in the images I’m importing.

Well… most of the images anyway.

Even if the keyword doesn’t quite fit all the photos, that’s ok. I’d rather over-keyword than not be able to find a photo later.

I was taking photos at a local aquarium lately. When I imported the photos, I applied “fish” into all the images. Not all the images are photos of fish, but if I’m later looking for a fish photo, my search will find all the aquarium shots. I can always refine the keywords later if it bothers me.

Screenshot of my Lightroom showing how to enter tags in the import window. Typing brings up a shortlist of other keywords I’ve used.

Bonus Tip: Notice in the screen shot that as I start typing, Lightroom suggests previously used keywords. I can select from this reduced list.

Hack #10: Batch Keywording

I’m a great fan of batch keywording, i.e. applying keywords to many photos at once. Who has time to keyword photos individually!?

In grid mode, I select multiple photos and enter keywords that apply to all of the photos. This only works in grid mode, which I sometimes forget. If I’m in Loupe mode, even if I have multiple photos selected, keywords will only be applied to the primary photo.

Screenshot of my Lightroom showing how to enter keywords for many photos at once in grid mode.

Hack #11: Drag & Drop Batch Keywording

Another way to batch keyword is to select multiple photos (again in grid mode) and drag these photos to one of the keywords on my Keyword List.

This keyword is applied to all photos.

Screenshot of my Lightroom showing how to search the Keyword List to limit selections. Selecting and dragging many photos onto the keyword “bridge” applies that tag to all.

Bonus Tip: I freely use the search box under KEYWORD LIST. Typing just a few letters of the keyword I have in mind will bring up a shorter, more relevant list.

Hack #12: Keyword Sets

In the Keyword window, there is a section I ignored for years: Keyword Set. I was missing a very powerful keywording tool.

Keyword Set allows me to create lists of my most commonly used keywords. The tool defaults to recently added keywords, but the dropdown menu allows me to create keyword presets.

For instance, I created a preset for Architecture and listed the types of architecture I most often photograph.

The set is limited to 9 keywords, but each of my 9 keywords contain synonyms, which exponentially expands the power of this tool.

You can make as many presets as you want. These can be general or specific. For instance, I also have a “Genre” preset that lets me choose quickly the type of photograph (e.g., street photography, landscape).

Bonus Tip: The option key will add numbers to the list for hotkey selection.

Hack #13: Remove Asterisk

I’m sometimes inconsistent in my keywording. If I select a series of photos in grid mode, I will see a master list of all the keywords applied to these photos. An asterisk means that the keyword is applied to only one or some of the photos.

By simply removing the asterisk, I apply the keyword to ALL of the photos in this series.

Screenshot of my Lightroom showing Keyword Tags for a series of Smokey Mountain sunset images. Notice that some keywords have an asterisk. This means the keyword is only applied to one or some of the images. Removing asterisk applies the keyword to all images.

Hack #14: Keyword Hierarchies

Tags in the Keyword List can be embedded into hierarchies. Rather than the keywords listed alphabetically, I can keep similar keywords together.

For instance, I use hierarchies for geographical locations. Tower Bridge is embedded under London, which is under England, which is under UK, which is under Europe (at least for now).

When I tag a photo “Tower Bridge,” the parent keywords are automatically applied.

Screenshot of my Lightroom showing an example of a Keyword Hierarchy. Images from Westminster Bridge are also tagged with parent keywords: London, England, UK, Europe.

Hack #15: No Keyword Filter

When I decided to get a handle on my keywording, I wanted a quick way to find the photos that didn’t have keywords. I must not be the only one, because Lightroom has this tool built right in.

Just above the film strip to the right, there is a list of filter presets. “No Keyword” is listed. Click that and you’ll see how many photos don’t have keywords.

I about had a heart attack when I first saw how many photos I’d neglected to keyword. These are mainly earlier photos, before I found these keyword hacks, or photos imported from my iPhone.

I try and spend a little time each week keywording these older photos—if I’m sitting in a boring meeting or waiting on hold.

Screenshot of my Lightroom showing the location of the library filter preset “No Keywords”.

Final Thoughts

There are many ways to keyword in Lightroom. Find the ones that work for you.

As far as I can tell, there’s no limit to the number of keywords you can create or apply to an image—at least I’ve never hit a ceiling. I apply on average about 20 keywords per image (including synonyms).

I’ve read some scuttlebutt online about long keyword lists slowing down Lightroom performance, but that hasn’t been my experience. I’ll add a few more keywords and let you know.

There are a few tools in Lightroom that I didn’t talk about, such as Keyword Shortcut. I’ve never quite been able to get this tool to work for me. Adobe: Maybe you could add a hotkey for this feature?

Keywords applied in Lightroom are part of the metadata for the image and by default will export with the image. Many online platforms read the metadata directly from the image during upload. So, when I upload to Flickr for instance, my keywords come along! No need to double-keyword.

I’m sure you’ve found other keyword hacks. Share them in the comments section below!

About the author: Jenn Mishra is a travel and landscape photographer based in St. Louis. She is a classical musician by training and author of the book iPractice: Technology in the 21st Century Practice Room. Her photos have been featured in a number of solo exhibitions. Her studio is Wits End Photography. You can see more of Jenn’s photos on her website or by visiting her Instagram @jennatwitsend. She photographs with the Sony system.