Web hosting for photographers

top ten web hosting companies for photographers

Being a graphic designer, photographers would oftentimes ask me which web host to use for their portfolio websites and blogs. I compiled a list of reputable and reliable web site hosting companies for my fellow (street) shooters. I have used a wide range of web hosts during my long career as a web developer and here my top web host for geeks and photographers. hostgator offers all the geeky tools and installs one could wish for on shared hosting… ssh, Ruby on Rails, I was able to install Django for a project I’m working on and managed to hook my account up with git. Hands down, hostgator is #1 and I will not make any other recommendation from here on out.

Use Coupon Code t9ivnCa4K4 for a 25% discount on their already insanely low pricing
$3.96 with unlimited space and traffic, free domain name included. tons of extensions available, most notably Ruby on Rails, ssh and git for the Über-geeks. hostgator is currently my go-to web hosting company and this site is running on hostgator.

Pretty much very web host provides the basics like bandwidth and disk space, with excellent uptime guarantee. Photographers who want to showcase or sell their work, may want a few extras like a content management system (I’d suggest wordpress for a blog and easy updates), or an e-commerce solution to sell photos and merchandise. Most web hosts today offer c-panel or other solutions for backend access and maintenance, which automatically includes statistics, database tools and software installs like Joomla, wordpress, phpbb and many more…

Be careful with your consideration, and don’t let price alone be the determining factor, as you may stick with your provider for a few years. Uptime is just as important as speedy delivery, especially with larger images. I’d definitely suggest using a CDN (Content Delivery Network) like cloudflare to make your website as fast as possible, the free plan is fine for starters and I’d suggest to update to pro when traffic increases.

Cloudflare integration
If you plan on running your website on wordpress, cloudflare offers a plugin that takes care of everything for you, all you need to do is plug in their provided app codes, change the domain name servers and your site is super-charged within 5 minutes.

AdWord Credit
Many web hosts offer free google adword credit ranging from $25 to $300, which you can use to run ads on google to boost traffic hostgator just sent me an additional $300 credit in the mail

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Composition and timing 101

composition pointers by Markus Hartel, NYC
composition pointers by Markus Hartel, NYC
click on image for larger view

a great decent frame at first sight… everything seems to fall into place – the guy with the paisley shirt taking a pic, the woman filling the left corner and on top of that the frame is full of textures and patterns, yet something is awry… can you spot it?


the young woman walking by with the white rimmed shades is taking most of the attention! that being said, my timing was off by a step-and-a-half (on her end)… either way, her doing one more step, and the person on the left would be – you get the idea…

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Massimo Dutti 5th Ave Coming Soon

black and white street photography by Markus Hartel, New York
black and white street photography by Markus Hartel, New York
click on image for large view

There are rare moments when I have the time and opportunity to shoot sequences – when a scene strikes me as being interesting, I position myself and I set the scene through my viewfinder. I almost never use continuous mode on my camera, as I prefer to define my own rhythm. In this case I shot 16 frames within one minute, which in turn would be one frame every 3.75 seconds, but it doesn’t pan out that way – it went like this: notice scene – set framing – double check settings – click – start shooting – 21 second gap – find rhythm – wait for right frame – click one more…

sure, I could shoot a 20 fps camera and get something decent, but I’d still risk missing *the* shot – a camera’s computer simply doesn’t know *when* to hit it – I prefer to define my own rhythm and press the shutter button at my own pace (my subject’s pace, really). in the accompanying contact sheet you can somewhat follow my thought process

markus hartel street photography nyc
click on image for larger view

frame 1 – interesting scene, let’s see how I can frame it
frame 2 – car in the way, let’s wait and keep shooting
frame 3 – something moving
frame 4 – I’m waiting for something to fill the corners… traffic light… 21 second gap
frame 5 – people walking east (into left corner, away from me) may work – damn, backs only
frame 10 – crowd coming towards me
frame 11 – find rhythm
frame 13/14 – inching in, I have some maybe’s in my viewfinder
frame 15 – I think I nailed it
frame 16 – one more, that’s it…

intuition comes to play and the second to last frame in a sequence is (as it oftentimes is) the winner in my book

you may have noticed the 3rd pic in the top row (good one) and so did I… to mark shots in Lightroom – simply hit “P” for a pick, “x” for a reject and the numbers 1-5 for ratings. I normally give a “3” for photos I like on any given photo and go from there…

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Diagonal Method for composition in photography

photography color street photography by Markus Hartel, NYC
photography color street photography by Markus Hartel, NYC
click on image for larger view
click on image for larger view

A popular topic during my one-on-one workshops is composition and many photographers have heard about the rule of thirds – I personally think the rule of thirds works better with the older aspect ratios 4×5, 8×10 as the frames weren’t as wide as the modern 35mm frame with its 2×3 aspect ratio. Yet, the Rule of Thirds is nowhere as flexible and true to nature as the Golden Ratio, which in turn is based on the Fibonacci sequence. Now, no one wants to do math when they’re out shooting, so there are other methods…

Fibonacci Sequence with Diagonals overlay for composition
Fibonacci Sequence with Diagonals overlay for composition

…like the Golden Ratio (Golden Mean), or the Golden Spiral, or even the triangular method, all of which one can use in Lightroom as a crop guide overlay. I personally swear by teaching the “Diagonal Method”, as it allows for very dynamic compositions and the system is easy to understand. follow the link for more info and examples. What’s really cool about the Diagonal Method is that it is so insanely easy to use, once you got the hang of it.

Like any other rule, it is not hard and fast… feel free to experiment and put it through its paces by breaking it – that’s what great artists did for centuries to come up with inspiring pieces.

Fibonacci Sequence for composition
Fibonacci Sequence for composition

Lightroom has the guides built in, if you turn on the crop tool (R), you can change the crop guide overlay to diagonal tools > crop guide overlay > diagonals

Photoshop CS6 has a bunch of crop guides built in as well, and you can download a smart vector objectby simply clicking on this link

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camera sensor technology – slash my ex

black and white street photography by Markus Hartel, NY
black and white street photography by Markus Hartel, NY
click on image for larger view

The recently filmed video documentary , which was shot with two different cameras, a Sony NEX-7 and a Canon Rebel t3i, led to a discussion about sensor technology and how they record the image (both have CMOS sensors btw., the Leica M9 has a CCD sensor).

For the intro, a running subway train was shot from the platform and due to the motion of the train – and the horizontal, scan line recording pattern of the camera the car’s windows appears to be distorted, something film makers call “rolling shutter”.

eventually, I mentioned the Sigma DP-1 with its Foveon sensor, and went through the archives to demonstrate the fantastic detail it captures, irregardless of the low megapixel count. I imagine the Leica M9 monochrom to be along those lines in terms of quality, as it simply doesn’t have a color filter in front of the sensor.

much less less of an issue with still photography, and a great example is Jacques Henri Lartigue’s photo of a race car

looking back at the 2,910 shots I have taken in a little over a year, the DP-1 didn’t work out for me, I’d go through my photo library and kept remembering what a horrible experience it was… the shot above “Slash my ex” was taken with the Sigma DP-1 and processed in Lightroom 4

CCD vs CMOS sensor technology further reading

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Top tips for black and white shooters

top tips for black and white photographers
top tips for black and white photographers
click on image for larger view

Avoid flat lighting like the plague and avoid shooting mid-day in the sun, find spots with interesting light and shadow details. Look for interesting textures and patterns.

top tips for black and white photographers
click on image for larger view

Try shooting at night – the light, or lack thereof, is much more dynamic at night and looks fantastic in black and white

top tips for black and white photographers
work print on final stock

A calibrated computer monitor is a must and the print is the ultimate goal, make work prints/proofs for better control.

top tips for black and white photographers
Lightroom Histogram with slightly blocked shadows

Check your levels/histogram for punchy blacks, it’s ok to block the shadows a little. when using levels in Photoshop, turn on the warning tool by pressing the alt/option key when moving the sliders. In Lightroom turn on the warnings in the histogram palette.

top tips for black and white photographers
Digital grain overlay

Digital files look more natural with film grain imposed. In photoshop add grain layer and adjust opacity. In Lightroom use the grain palette.

Shoot RAW for flexibility and adjust -1/3EV to protect highlights. Some cameras allow for a b/w preview on the LCD screen (Leica Akademie tip)

purchase & download directly from amazon:
Adobe Photoshop CS6 | Adobe Photoshop Elements 11

Redefine your digital black-and-white photography with TopazLabs plug-ins
Purchase TopazLabs B&W White Effects today!

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Lightroom Printing on Epson K3 printers (OS X Lion)

color street photography by Markus Hartel, New York City
color street photography by Markus Hartel, New York City
click on image for larger view

download the latest driver for your Epson printer and install them on your machine
– download the manufacturer’s ICC profiles for the paper you’re using. I highly recommend Epson Exhibition Fiber for color and black and white work. find Epson profiles here
– select the correct paper size under “page setup”
– hit command-p, or go into the print module

let’s do color first…
for color select the appropriate profile from the list and set intent to “perceptual”
resolution 300ppi is optimal for a normal viewing distance, 150ppi is still ok for larger prints and larger viewing distances
sharpening depends on taste and paper, matte papers may need a little more sharpening
16-bit printing may give you an advantage with certain images, I have not seen a need for it yet, as 99% of my prints are b/w

if you shoot jpgs with the intent of printing, it’s a good idea to set your camera to Adobe RGB, as the color space is larger than sRGB (s stands for small, as in smallest common denominator). For sharing on the web, resize and convert the images to sRGB before posting. I’d advise to shoot RAW for more flexibility, but that’s a topic for another day.

now it’s finally time to hit the “print” button
which then gives us another set of options… again, make sure your selected paper “media type” is correct and set the print quality to SuperFine – 1440dpi, I’m sure 2880 is much better, but I fail to see the difference and it takes much longer to print. turn off “High Speed” as this option makes the ink heads spray bidirectional, i.e. in both directions and that may cause mayhem, depending on alignment, vibration etc.

there’s nothing to select in “Advanced Color Settings” because we’re pros and print with a profile. Some printer models may require special settings for heavier/thicker stock, but EEF works just fine without further adjustments on the 3800. Your print should pretty much resemble what you see on your computer monitor, which should be calibrated to begin with.

b/w works a little differently… back to the print box… for b/w select “Managed by Printer”
and under “Basic” select your media type/paper, and set color to “Advanced B&W Photo”and the toning to “Neutral”

if your monitor is calibrated, and the goal is a neutral print, you won’t need to mess with other settings, except setting the Tone to “Darker”, which by now I think is the standard setting. the same theory applies for sharpening and thicker paper stock, it all depends.

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resizing film grain vs digital noise

street photography in black and white by Markus Hartel, New York

Oh I’ll bet this has been asked and answered a billion times, but has anyone ever seen a good explanation between the difference between film grain and digital pixels.

What I mean by that is that you can take a nice “clean” digital image from a good sized noiseless sensor and with some interpolation you can go very large with it even though you are beginning with a file that is actually much smaller than a full 35mm scan which is about 78 MB (or somewhere in that area if it’s RGB and 16 bit).

But as I say – I can take a much smaller digital file and easily go to that size with an interpolation program without seeing any noise or artifacts.

I’m not really saying it clearly but I remember when I began the switch from film to digital I had an idea that those grains corresponded to pixels and they just don’t. Anyone ever go through the same conceptual enigma?

film grain is somewhat organic and random, where pixels are ordered in a rigid grid and normal linear (or cubic, bicubic) algorithms just work better with that sort of “order”.

if you take a film scan with organic grain, it pretty much interferes with the pixel pattern and your imaging software doesn’t know exactly what to do with that seemingly random mess.

also, film grain looks differently in the highlights, midtones and shadows and that makes it even harder to compensate.
digital noise on the other hand is somewhat ordered and repetitive, hence makes sensor specific/heat map noise reduction in camera possible… it also explains why noise reduction algorithms (there, math again) work so well with digital, but fail miserably with the randomness of film.

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