You are currently browsing the Mikhail Lavrenov Photography archives for February, 2008

I finally sold my old camera. My Canon EOS 350D was collecting dust on the shelf since last September (when I bought 40D). I thought I might need a backup camera, but I didn’t use it a single time. Finally I decided to let it go. I put it on eBay and to my surprise it went out the same day (with “buy it now” option).

I don’t think I need an SLR as backup at this moment (and in case my photographing regime will change I would go for another 40D). However I am thinking about having some backup, that would also be suitable for use by other family members. Some compact automatic camera… but then I am thinking whether to go just for some camera (i.e. not too expensive) or to go for a powerful compact like Canon G9 (but that one is rather pricey). Not an easy choice…

Picture of Leuven – passage over railway

Another twilight picture of Leuven:

This is passage over railway, between Brugstraat and Tivolistraat.

Picture of Leuven – Ladeuze parking

Continue showing pictures of Leuven. This is underground Ladeuze parking, just under the square shown a couple of posts below.

What I like in this picture is a combination of strong symmetry and random chaotic elements.

Evolution of professional photo business

I have a strange feeling when I read comments of long-time photo professionals about non-professional photographers that harm photo business.

There is so obvious controversity in what they say that it makes me wonder how blind some people are.

What I’ve heard/read from well-known successful pro photographers is that you should treat your photography as a real business enterprise, and run it as a business company. Diversify; explore opportunities; build and maintain customer base; make conscious business decisions; book keeping; costs; equipment depreciation are all the terms that even self-employed individuals should use.

The same time the same people react purely emotionally to non-professional competition stepping in their area of interest. Of course it’s painful. Of course it does hurt the business. But why reacting emotionally and not with facts and proper actions?

Digital photography is the fact of today’s life, together with personal computers and internet. These things made photography available to anybody more than ever before. Making decent quality shots is much easier now than in the past; and distributing pictures is extremely easy with the help of modern digital communication.

This is reality of life, and any business decisions in any industry are made based on reality. Yes indeed the grass was greener, the sugar was sweeter, the music was better and the kids were polite 20 or 30 years ago… But this is just emotions, while business operates on facts.

You have a successful business model that used to bring you good and stable money; and you are top-level professional in your area; and common public recognizes you as such as well as the customers…. and then the day comes when you start seeing the amateur mass starting doing the things you are used to do. And they are doing that cheap/free. It is obviously an unpleasant situation. But is it uncommon? No it isn’t. There are many examples in history when some activity that was only done by a small group of professionals eventually became a commodity.

Take computer programming. Back in 60x there were few thousand people worldwide who could do that. It was science and magic. They were paid top premium indeed. Today any student can do programming. There are probably more people today who can do programming than car mechanics. Did programmers complain that they aren’t highly valued anymore? However today there is still a difference between real good programming and just programming. The profession has changed, but it isn’t dead and is not going to be any time soon.

Take writing as a different example. Internet has made virtual publishing accessible to everyone. Many amateur writers started publishing their books in internet; and services like appeared that allow self-publishing of paper books. Plus journalists, plus bloggers – huge flow of text went to internet. What impact does it have on writers and on book publishing business? Does it change their business? Of course it does. Did it kill their business? No it didn’t and will not.

So, the only thing I am trying to say is the following:
Professional photographers teaching beginners to treat their photography activities as business, need to re-apply their own words to themselves in the new context of changing business environment. Don’t complain – it will not help. Don’t boycott – it will not help. If something harms your business – act on it. Take it in your business model if you can. Or adapt your business model. Or build a new business model.

Real good photography requires talent, hard work, education and lots of practice. Professional photographers are used to earn money not only from great pictures, but also from some generic ones. The latter piece is now starting getting taken by amateurs. What I see myself is a) professionals can successfully compete with amateurs b) there will always be demand for real great pictures where professionals will never get a competition other than other professionals.

Selling digital artwork via Internet

The work on my website continues. Today I’ve done with the major re-work of my article about selling photographs via internet. The previous version of the article was revised, partially rewritten, completely restructured and significantly extended. You can see it at

I still have to write the last part about stock photography evolution and photographer evolution (made just a brief outline so far) and I already know what I will add next (how to edit digital photograph for stock).

Nothing special to report today. The nice weather stays (and the forecast is still good for the next week) so I am getting use of it going around with my camera.

Today’s picture made in the center of Leuven – University Library at Ladeuzeplein.

Leuven photo

It was nice weather yesterday and I went out to make a few pictures of Leuven railway station in sunset. It has a nice roof that has been built for several years and got completed recently (well, almost completed, there are some little things here and there that still need to be made, but the roof itself is now done). I like how it looks and I like how it is lit in the night. This is one of the pictures I made yesterday:

Leuven railway station at sunset(architect: Samyn)

One of my To Do items is to photograph the station in low morning sunlight, in high contrast…

YXTM C40DS Grip (Canon BG-E2 equivalent) and Phottix BP-511A Battery Review

Having had my Canon 40D for several months now I decided to buy a battery grip.

The grip gives photographer a vertical/portrait grip with its associated controls and shutter release. And it gives you room for two BP-511 batteriess.

I don’t feel comfortable paying well over hundred Euro for a piece of plastic so I decided to give it a try with a 3rd-party device instead of genuine Canon BG-E2 (or BG-E2N).

Searching on eBay I found a few options and finally selected one offered by HK Supplies (Hong-Kong eBay vendor, with eBay username etefore. I bought some accessories from that vendor in the past and was quite satisfied with the quality, price and speedy delivery). Their offer also included 2 Phottix bateries (Canon BP-511A equivalent).

My order arrived in about 1 week and my first note is that it was nicely packed.

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The grip appeared to be not a completely no-name but an Asian local company named YXTM. Their model name for this grip is C40DS (which is equivalent to Canon BG-E2)

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You can see the content of the box on the picture above. I took one of the batteries out of it’s little red box; and the grip is still in the larger box.

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Besides the grip itself there are 2 battery containers – one for 2x BP511 and another for 6x AA-size batteries. Comparing this grip with the photos of genuine BG-E2 they appear virtually identical. The C40DS grip is made quite well – no cheap feeling, strong, attached without any problems to my camera, and the buttons feel good. The tripod socket also feels sturdy. No flimsy parts, good solid feeling.

Talking about batteries I should note that I used some no-name ones in the past and never got any problems. I had one battery out of 4 suddenly died after 1.5 years of use but with the price under 10 Euro per battery I believe it’s much better deal than the brand-name batteries.

The new Phottix batteries that arrived with the grip are marked as 1600mAh, slightly more than the Canons 1390mAh so they should perform better (at least on paper). I don’t have time or desire to do any formal testing/measure, but my feeling is that the batteries aren’t any worse than the original ones. They look well made from outside, they fit without any problems to camera, charger and to the grip; and camera works just fine. Again, I didn’t measure the number of shots I can make with substitute battery but it feels quite similar to the original.

I would definitely recommend both the C40DS grip and Phottix batteries to anyone thinking of increasing their shooting capacity.

Remark: Please note that there are other battery grips on the market that are marked “BG-E2 equivalent”. Some of them don’t have the index and focus point buttons; and some reviews suggest that some of the grips are flimsy – so be careful which one you select!

Call center movie

Not related to the subject of this blog at all – very well made funny call center movie.

I’ve seen it a while ago and enjoyed it. If you ever had to deal with technical support – and especially if it was somebody on the phone sitting thousands kilometers from you – then you know what I am talking about. I had such experience recently (not the first time unfortunately) and it reminded me about this movie… helps to relax when you are getting angry with those guys. 🙂


Alternative to Photoshop

I was wondering for a while whether there is a decent alternative to Adobe Photoshop. I mean a serious photographer shooting always in RAW, who doesn’t want to loose any of the data captured by the camera – i.e. processing the files in 16-bit until the last save.

Remark: To outline my photo editing needs:

  • minimum: Full 16-bit editing, including layers, noise removal plugin, curves/levels, blurring, cloning, color adjustment;
  • optional: Support of Canon EOS 40D RAW format;
  • important: easy to use interface suitable for intensive workflow

Recent version of Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 looked promising, so I decided to give it a try.

Unfortunately it isn’t suitable for people like me. I will list the limitations in the order I experienced them, not in the order of importance:

  • PSP X2 can’t open RAW files from my Canon EOS 40D – not critical;
  • PSP X2 can’t properly handle TIF files saved with ZIP compression – not critical;
  • PSP X2 can only save 8-bit and/or flattened files in common formats (TIF, PSD), and can only save multi-layer 16-bit picture in it’s own format – not critical;
  • Most filters/effects only work in 8-bit mode as it was with photoshop several years ago. – not critical, as long as layers, curves, levels and blur work in 16-bit mode;
  • Some tools only work in 8-bit mode, e.g. clone – this is critical for retouch;
  • Using on the same PC, PSP X2 works much slower than Photoshop CS2 or CS3 – may be critical, but probably can be addressed by a faster PC with more memory.

Overall functionality of PSP X2 is quite impressive; and many (most?) of Photoshop plugins work with PSP. The price of PSP X2 is much more attractive comparing with Photoshop. Also, some workarounds are possible to overcome the above listed issues.

However, considering limitations altogether, and considering intensive workflow my conclusion is that Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 is not a decent replacement of Adobe Photoshop CS+ for serious photographers. Perhaps one of the next versions will make it suitable…

Other alternatives?

  • GIMP isn’t – not only it is very uncomfortable to use but it still doesn’t support 16-bit editing.
  • Photoshop Elements 6 isn’t an alternative either because of very limited 16-bit support – only a few filters supported in 16-bit; and adjustment layers don’t work in 16-bit mode.
  • Googling for 16-bit programs I found Picture Window Pro 4.0. Tried that one – yes, it supports full 16-bit editing, but the interface isn’t convenient and no layers supported at all.

Conclusion: At the moment there seem to be no other software than Adobe Photoshop CS3 that can suite my needs. It is priced high, but not without a reason. And, despite it’s high price there are options available to obtain it cheaper than a standard price (I mean, legally). Checking on eBay I found quite a few offers in a range of 250-350 USD for a full-boxed-retail-version.

GIMP isn’t too bad, but lacks 16-bit support and has non-friendly interface
PSP X2 is actually quite good, the only serious missing point is lack 16-bit editing.

Remark: 16-bit editing is very important in case of intensive digital manipulation. Editing in 8-bit will result very quickly a non-continuous color representation. You can easily see that effect as a comb when executing Levels command. This might not be an issue for personal photographs or for minor editing, but this is not acceptable in most professional use.

Remark #2: I’ve got impression that PSP X2 beats Photoshop Elements 6 if you compare them. Actually PSP X2 is positioned in the same market area as PS Elements and isn’t competing with the “real” photoshop. However, adding 16-bit support and keeping it low-price would make it a serious alternative to Photoshop itself rather than just Elements.