Category Archives: Photo Tech Tip

Beautiful on the Inside

New Eye Candy

In the past couple of years I have been lucky enough to be asked to photograph some really beautiful properties in the French and Italian Alps. Some are commissions by private individuals for their own websites and others are photos requested by Airbnb and other companies doing rentals and sales of apartments, chalets etc. in this region.

I have created a selection of my favourite interior photography images from the past year – head on over and check them out by clicking on the below photo !


New portfolio of my interior and exterior architectural photography

Tech Talk

For those of you photographers out there who maintain your own websites, you may find the following observations useful.

I have started to move more of my portfolio over to my Alps Photo Smugmug site which I use to deliver images to my clients. The SmugMug site is already integrated with my current site by going to the menu item for customer downloads and the sites link back and forth to each other on the menus so there is no getting “lost” between them.

For a downside, I find that the Smugmug platform has very weak page building and blog support, with little variety possible from one Smugmug site to the next. So I won’t be changing to that as my main platform. I also like idea that some day I may want to change my theme and WordPress gives me so many options (and such good plugins for SEO and for translations of the same page into more than one language with Qtranslate etc.) which Smugmug totally misses out on (a multi-language site is something they absolutely price gouge you on and they are extremely USA-centric – I still am annoyed that they do not list sizes in centimetres for ordering photos).

However the Smugmug galleries for displaying your work in my opinion are so much more attractive than what is offered by WordPress plug-ins (very poor security and usually really wonky) or the “for photographers”  Photocrati theme I am using here on WordPress.

Smugmug also has great integration with several photo labs including one in the UK (they really really need to add one for continental Europe!!) so that you can sell directly from your site, and they have an option you can turn on or off to allow downloads of photos from your galleries, or ways to purchase photos that are superior to what Photocrati offers. You can also lock galleries to a password or hide them from anyone without the link to make client deliveries a snap.

There is also really great integration between Adobe Lightroom, which I love to use to catalog and work on my images – and Smugmug. I also have Photoshop but I find that 98% of what I do on a daily basis can be accomplished more quickly in Lightroom, and I love the non-destructive editing that lets me export my edited image to any size I need.

Whereas (listen up Photocrati) the integration between Photocrati and their own “slide show” galleries (NextGen galleries or legacy Photocrati Galleries and Albums – another confusing concept you must learn) and Lightroom is pretty bad – requiring a 3 step process. First I must upload photos from Lightroom using the NextGen Lightroom plugin. Then in WordPress, I have to “import” those NextGen gallery photos into the default Photocrati gallery. And albums and galleries are two different things which I can never keep straight. I don’t use NextGen directly because I couldn’t stand how NextGen originally looked, and though supposedly it looks better now, just reading the hundreds of online bug reports and people screaming about it not working when it’s upgraded gives me the heebie jeebies). Then you have to associate the Photocrati gallery to your WordPress post, which is not the same as adding media to your post.

The interface that Photocrati gives you is so mixed up now that they purchased NextGen too, that it’s usually difficult to tell if the settings you are trying to tweak are for their own legacy galleries or the NextGen product they purchased. But I’ve never gotten either of them to look beautiful on a page the way that the Smugmug galleries do.

And I can’t get Photocrati to acknowledge, much less fix, a bug that every time I upload photos from Lightroom into my NextGen gallery and then put those into the Photocrati galleries, it creates one duplicate image – and if I try to delete the duplicate, it duplicates a different one. Clearly there is a programming error but they don’t care.

So for me, it’s just impossible to do easy updates to my portfolio – stored as Photocrati slideshows –  from Lightroom, and it looks dated to boot. Also the database in WordPress is constantly mismanaged by the Photocrati software, resulting in dozens of copies of the same photo to litter up your WordPress database (I have had to go in to manually tweak the database on multiple occasions when setting up my portfolios).  As an added bonus – the photos you upload to WordPress via Photocrati will never show up in the Media Library so you can’t re-use them as “featured photos” to make the newer WordPress post styles work easily – it’s just a “lose-lose” proposition.

I started out using Smugmug with it’s clean interface, beautiful presentation pages and excellent integration to Lightroom – to deliver wedding photos to my clients. But then I realised the photo galleries there looked better than my portfolio of wedding photos on my Photocrati site.

Expect an eventual update of all my portfolio images to Smugmug at some stage (at the moment it’s a lot of work that I don’t have time to finish just now).

I love that Smugmug makes updating my online portfolio a such an easy process indeed. Using Lightroom settings you can tell LR what types of changes to a photo should trigger a notice to “republish” your images to the publishing services when you have tweaked one, and it lists all those photos as requiring a refreshed upload to Smugmug.

Press the “publish” button from Lightroom and  it neatly replaces the old copy with the newer changes – no database messes.

On Photocrati because they have no linked plug-in from the Photocrati slideshows to Lightroom and you have to “pass” through NextGen as an intermediary, this simply is too tedious to bother with any longer.

And then we have customer satisfaction issues with NextGen. Using the WordPress ratings as a guide, I have avoided updating to the latest NextGen (which may or may not have actually better looking slide shows to try) – simply because 1. NextGen has as many one star ratings as five star – have the users seem to have very large problems with their releases and 2. The NextGen customer support says the same repetitive things on internet forums – never resolving problems and always blaming the users – this kind of defensive customer-blaming support is exactly the kind of software one should RUN from. They do not seem to fix any bugs much less acknowledge them.

PS – In case you wonder since I live in France – Yes, I did try out a couple of French sites for portfolio and delivery to clients – one called Jingoo. Many French photographers do use it, especially event photographers it seems and some wedding shooters. It’s not bad, but it’s not great either. It seems to have been designed on Linux or something geeky so it has a lot of choices to make to actually get to the stage of uploading photos and it’s a bit confusing but once you go through it, you can manage. It was free to host photos, which was actually amazingly great so I did try it for many months. The galleries are also attractive and apparently they are working on improving the photographer dashboard interface to not look like a 1990s x-windows interface. It does easily integrate to your main site as a way to do photo delivery to customers.

But – there is no direct integration to Lightroom from Jingoo so that is a kluge. But then there was the one downside which totally turned me off and which in the end I could not ignore.

On Jingoo – whatever order you upload your photos in to a gallery online – that is the order they stay in ! (??? Really ??? A grade school programmer could fix that ! ) When I enquired about this lack of most basic feature – which was basically a show stopper for me – I got some extremely lame and defensive excuse about how impossible it would be to program a fix (do not say that if you yourself are not a programmer. I am also a programmer and I know that is a lie someone told you from the r&d department).

So  – had it not been for that problem, I actually was going to use them as they have a fully French interface with English translations and many other things were great such as working with European photo labs for delivery of prints and photo books.  I had kluged a way to publish shots from Lightroom to a hard drive folder which then became my Jingoo upload gallery (though further updates or re-ordering were impossible on Jingoo).

Because when I deliver photos into galleries, I do not always upload them in the exact order I took the photos. Often for weddings I deliver a smaller set of photos first (obvious stand-out shots or important moments), followed by more of them at a later date and sometimes I will do this over a period of a few weeks. Sometimes after editing at night or if I was tired, I will decide to tweak a photo after I’ve uploaded it and see it in daylight. I want that photo replaced (not replicated) on the site – and I do not want to be limited by showing them to a client only in “the order you upload them”.  I want to be able to order the photos in the way that I want to once they are on the site so that they look nice and usually in time order for my wedding clients as an example. I think even Facebook can do this !

I also tried another site that was French-developed called Zenfolio. It’s really beautiful and similar to Smugmug. It ticked so many boxes. But it is ridiculously expensive to get any features you want to use to deliver to end clients – you can’t even justify the prices they charge – it’s highway robbery. I also felt their SEO possibilities were very limited (as are Smugmug’s but since it’s attached to my WordPress site I don’t need to worry about that). And once again I had the defensive response to my complaint (after direct mail asking for my feedback) about lack of ability to control my own SEO.

WordPress makes this so easy to get to with plug-ins – why in the world do you think you can defend taking control of someone else’s website SEO and giving them no say in how it is presented to a search engine Zenfolio? It’s just not good business. Sites that try to make things “simple” for people are all well and good but if you don’t give more advanced users a way to get in there and tweak things to their liking you will not capture the big market. To be fair, I have no idea what Smugmug does for SEO but I don’t care as I use my main WordPress site for this.

Anyhow – enough tech talk about the hows and whys of where I have decided to start moving my portfolio images and how I chose my client delivery platform !

I do hope you enjoy the new nicely presented portfolio of my interior and exterior photography of chalets, houses, apartments, B&Bs, hotels and more ! For once I can say I truly enjoyed putting it together 😉

Thank you Smugmug for your easy to integrate platform. Please get a Continental European photo lab on board – one that uses centimetres- and don’t imagine that everyone in the world speaks English or that you should charge triple or double price for being able to have your site in more than one language when WordPress offers this as a FREE plug-in.

Also posted in Photography

Save Your Memories with the Right Digital Photo Backup Strategy

Tips on Digital Photo Backup

Most professional photographers are artsy geeks – photography is a fairly technical practice and many of you may already have a digital photo backup strategy even more thorough and complex than mine. But in case you are not a techie geek – maybe you are just the person in your family who takes the most photos and is thus are more or less “in charge” of recording your family history – here are some important backup considerations for you.

With my digital photos now taking so much more space per image on my Canon EOS 7D compared to my old Canon EOS 20D, I very quickly eat up hard drive space.  A couple of years ago I stopped being able to store all my images on my MacBook Pro due to hard drive space limits. I went from keeping all images, to keeping the past 2 years on my hard drive, then only the current  year … and now I can’t even store a full year of photos on it. Aside from getting a desktop like a MacPro, I will never again be able to store all my photos on my main computer.

So, it presents a problem, in that Time Machine can no longer automatically back up my photos as they are not on my main computer. Hmm. What should I do for backups ? My initial reaction was to copy my photos manually to another drive. Two copies. One was my Mac which TimeMachine backed up, and the other was a plug-in desktop external drive. I did that for a few years. I guess I was lucky …

Three is better than Two

Always keep at least 3 backups of each image on 3 physically different drives (not partitions of the same drive), ideally with one of those backups in another physical location to the main one you use daily.

I heard from Corey Rich at photography workshop that 3 was the least number of backups to keep, based on his experience with near-misses in the past. He should know, he has shot for major magazines and made his life off of photography since he got out of school. Lucky and talented bastard. 😉

I am glad I listened, because this year I had 2 backup drives go out within a week of each other, leaving me with a single copy of all my digital photos for the past 11 years ! I could have lost them all if I had only copied the images to disk twice. Whew. Drives just do not last very long these days.


Some photographers additionally burn their files to DVD after every shoot. This is OK assuming you might only need to get those photos out again in the next year or so for your client for reprints – but DVD media, all by itself, will degrade over time. It just does. There are a lot of articles on this out there about disappearing movies etc., trust me. So absolutely 100% do not use DVD as your only photo backup type. Use hard drives as well.

In the old days of negatives, you had one original and if you had some natural disaster that affected your storage area, your entire career’s worth of negatives could be lost in the process, leaving you only with any prints you had made that were stored elsewhere. But natural disasters were rare, and you could buy water proof storage units (fires were more problematic however).

Now with digital recording media you do have a chance, if properly planned, to escape that fate entirely. But if you do not plan it properly (keep multiple copies of your backups), a hard disk error can wipe out your entire photo collection in one fell swoop.  And it is practically guaranteed that every computer hard drivewill fail within 3-5 years of heavy use – so one could say that photographers are definitely under more threat of their photos disappearing now than in the “old days” since computer hard drives fail at a much higher rate than a natural disaster would occur.


I also have switched from shooting .jpg to always shooting the much larger and richer RAW files. When I stopped shooting film professionally in 2001 and moved to France, I spent a few years between 2001-2005 shooting rather crummy (now that you look back on it) digital with a Nikon 775 because it was easy to use for casual shots and even had a screw on wide angle lens, and saving film for “special occasions” as film was very expensive to process in Europe. The file sizes were minuscule even on “large” – just around 1MB and RAW was not an option.

When I made the “final switch” in 2005 from film to digital upon purchase of my  Canon EOS 20D, replacing my beloved old EOS 1N film camera (I had 2 but had sold one already), I “wanted” to shoot this thing called RAW and knew from reading articles it was better in detail, but in practice I found shooting RAW was difficult because you had to Photoshop each image separately and that was slow. Workflow was difficult. This was back when the RAW format was relatively new and most computer programs did not even support showing it in a preview window.

So if I was shooting something I knew was really interesting I shot both RAW and .jpg, but as I was not shooting professionally anymore at that stage I often shot just .jpg to preserve card space on longer trips. The file sizes then were around 2MB for a .jpg and 8MB for a RAW CR2 file. Now, on my 7D the RAW CR2 files are close to 25MB a piece … and if I ever get my dream Canon EOS 1DX … watch out. RAW files do eat up disk space, but they are far superior to .jpg files.

RAW is of course better – you can compare the quality difference to having the original negative in film days, rather than keeping the 60-minute photo store’s print as your only copy of your image. It holds vastly more data about the image than the in-camera processed JPG file does. I now shoot only RAW … but this is because of improvements in the digital darkroom realm.

Workflow Management in Digital

I changed my mind entirely about always shooting RAW when I researched photo management software and bought Adobe Lightroom, where the RAW workflow is totally automated. Another good good product for Mac is Apple’s Aperture and it has the same features regarding RAW processing. You can read many comparisons of the two and make your decision. Be sure to compare the most recent versions of the software, as that is what you would purchase. Both offer free trial versions for about 30 days so you can use them for a bit and make your final decision. It is money well spent – I don’t know why I waited so long to try it – I had no idea how much easier these workflow tools could make my ability to produce decent images for sharing and selling.

The RAW files will be exported in whatever format you need after you do your adjustments in Lightroom, with all your changes automatically applied, no matter what size or format you are exporting. It integrates with Photoshop and other editing software if you need to do major work on the image that Lightroom does not do (retouching sections of the shot to get rid of logos for stock use etc.) and you can make a separate copy for this export so that your original is always there, just like your negatives in the old days. Again, a dream come true. If I am shooting a fast-moving sports event I can use up 3-4 16GB media cards in a day ! Now I never shoot .jpg – I just buy more CF cards for long shoots, and always always shoot RAW.

Oh … I do not recommend iPhoto as a photo management tool if you take a lot of pictures. Or care about your photos. I started to use it and thought it was really not so bad. I often still had to use Photoshop for my important images, but for those casual shots between friends it seemed just fine. Then as my hard drive got full and I wanted to move images to external drives, I had issues in iPhoto.

iPhoto could not be reset to find the photos under the new drive automatically – I had to click on every single photo individually and answer thousands of  “helpful” messages that iPhoto sent out telling me my original photos were missing whenever I would try to use them after moving the underlying folder. In Lightroom or Aperture you can redirect the software to the new folder very easily by clicking on the parent folder and pointing it to the new drive. Not so in iPhoto – each photo must be re-directed one by one. When you have thousands of images to re-direct, this is just unbearable.

Secondly, in iPhoto you stand a very good chance of accidentally losing the original photo and being stuck with only a thumbnail if you do not realise what all the import options really do in iPhoto (the descriptions of what they do are not well-worded).  Luckily this never happened to me … it *almost* happened but I still had the photos on my CF card – and I consider myself a seasoned intelligent end-user of computer software. If you decide anyhow to use iPhoto because it is included on your Mac and integrates with other iLife programs, be sure to always download your photos into a separate folder using your camera’s import software and then import them into iPhoto in a separate step, without deleting the original.

Also posted in Photography

Having Problems with WD External Drives for Mac ?


Western Digital My Passport Essential SE

WD MyPassport Essential issues with MacBook Pro

Just a quick note in case this helps anyone else with the same problem with WD External drives for Mac – specifically  MyPassport Essential – working properly on their Mac.

In the past 2 years I have had to return 4 different Western Digital (WD) MyPassport Essential series drives to the manufacturer. I use these to hold redundant back ups of my photographs. The drives were a dream made reality when they came on the market – totally portable, powered off of the connection cable to your Mac and they hold a whopping 1TB of data. How great is that ?

I immediately bought a few of the drives – they were priced right as well. The first one had to be returned 3 times to get one that worked (early versions of these drives had cable issues where the cable was not robust enough to support powering the drive). Then after that, they stabilized and I started to trust them as true backup copies of my data, not just as portable “part time” drives when traveling.

Usually when I am in Adobe Lightroom importing new shots, I automatically copy the images first to a more sturdy desk top non-portable hard drive, and make sure I end up with 2 additional copies to the WD smaller portable drives. These let me work on my images when traveling and make it easier to carry things around and work wherever I am if I have the chance and also provide redundant backups of my data.

But while I have been impressed with the size and portability of the drives, I have had several of them give major problems on the MacBook Pro. I had the same problems on my OS Leopard and Snow Leopard. I even had the Geniuses at Apple Geneva check my Mac in case that was the issue, but the drives did the same thing on their machines too. They do disappearing acts. Often in the middle of copying a large set of data they simply stop working. I get a message saying I cannot power off the drive because it is in use or to be exact the phrase the Mac tosses up is :

“WD My Passport 0740 Media is in use and cannot be powered off.”

– of course, I am not trying to power off my WD External drive for my Mac … something in the operating system is dropping it for some reason, right in the middle of copying data to it. Or other times, they do not appear when plugged in and must be unplugged and plugged in again a few times. Or I must even re-boot the Mac to get it to recognise the drive. Not so much fun if you had work to do with that drive and are hours away from your other data copies.

I had searched high and low on internet forums for an answer, and finally yesterday I found and did something on MacRumors forum that (fingers crossed, knock wood) seems to have worked to fix the random power down issue.

I had  just received a brand new drive in the mail and returned the old drive (which I thought was failing) on an RMA. By the way, WD support is actually quite good and prompt for drive replacement – the website is easy to use and the support team answers your mails. (Good customer support – what a concept !) They just don’t seem to know the answer to this problem, except to diagnose it as a failing drive. As I was trying to copy my data onto the new drive, it repeatedly disappeared, often with that message and with another one saying the file could not be copied and an error code. I was told to go ahead and use the RMA process to replace the drive. Oh … I could read the drive from a friend’s PC … another hint.

Following the MacRumors forum suggestion I found via Googling the exact error message, I uninstalled the WD SmartWare from Applications by using the WD “uninstall” icon on my Mac and …. violà ! I have been copying data onto the new drive for 2 days now without issue.

Prior to that it would not go more than a minute or two – sometimes only 30 seconds – before shutting itself down. What stupid software you have created Western Digital … and in case anyone from your company is listening, you are probably wasting a lot of money on replacing people’s drives simply because of that poor drive management software.

If you are on a Mac and want to use a WD MyPassport as a Time Machine, uninstall the WD SmartWare. There is no need, it is redundant and provides you no benefit and it seems to interfere with drive power.

If you are someone like me using the drives for copies of digital photo backups, again there is also no real need for that WD software – I have Lightroom automatically create the 2nd copy and then manually copy a 3rd version. If I wanted to, I could (and some day will still do) set up an automated Mac job with Automator or another tool to keep them in sync automatically. In any case, I had installed SmartWare thinking it would make the drive run better as it also has some drive monitoring technology (temperature monitoring or something like that) … But in reality, it seems to mess things up more than it helps.


Also posted in Photography