Moo business cards – a short review

Moo business cards

I’ve been a fan of Moo.com’s “mini-cards” for a while. I feel that as a photographer, why would you limit yourself to a single photo on your business card, when you could have 5 or 10 or even 50 different designs… The problem with the mini cards is that they were kind of awkward, being a non-standard size and all. They didn’t fit well in a wallet/business card holder and tended to get lost in a bag etc…

So when I heard that Moo now has normal sized cards, I was quite excited and ordered a batch immediately. I just received my first order, and I’m impressed. The colors are excellent, a tiny bit dark, but still quite good. Image quality is excellent too (although how hard can it be when your print is 2″x3″! 🙂 The cardstock is the same as the mini cards, it’s a very satiny matte surface, almost plastic-y (in a good way) and the stock is very heavy. The card really has a substantial presence in the hand which I like – obviously not a flimsy “print it yourself” dealy… The cards also came with a nice little slipcase that holds 50 cards, with little dividers to separate your cards from other’s cards that you get – a nice touch, it will be easy to throw in the camera bag!

All in all I’m very impressed with the quality of the cards. The ordering interface was very straightforward (upload images, drag around to crop to size, layout the text on the back either with a premade template or upload your own, and done). They are a bit more expensive than your normal run of the mill cards (about 80 bucks with shipping for 200 cards) but I think it’s worth it, as I’ve always gotten a favorable response when presenting them – people like to look through them and pick one, instead of just handing them a generic card. It’s also a little mini-opportunity to show off some of your work, which is always good!

Buying knowledge…

I’ve been a big fan of the “Strobist” flickr forum, been following it pretty much since David Hobby started up his little blog 🙂 It was always a great place to pick the brains of some great photographers about lighting concepts, techniques, and yes even gear (although the slogan used to be “*less* gear, *more* brain…” hmmm). Recently though, it seems the focus of the group has shifted from discussions on controlling speculars and bright field lighting to “hey I have an xti and a 430ex and I want to do strobist stuff (whatever *that* means) what should I buy?”

To opine on the topic in a more general fashion, I would like to propose the following answer to most any “what should I buy” question.

Buy Knowledge.

when I look back at the evolution of my own skills as a photographer I cannot think of *any* instance were a particular piece of gear made a quantifiable difference in the quality of my photos. I can, however, directly attribute each and every improvement in my photography to *learning* or *understanding* something new.

To that end, the money I have spent on photo classes/seminars or even just having out watching more experienced photographers work has been exponentially more beneficial to me than any piece of gear. Sure the whole “it’s not the camera it’s the photographer” is cliched, but just look through flickr at the amount of absolute crap coming out of cameras like the d3 or 1ds… Folks are dropping 10k on gear who would make exponentially better images with an xti and spending the other 9k on a semester of photography classes at uni.

The bottom line is if you have a camera, you can make a picture. if you have a light you can light it (whether it’s a 20 year old vivitar or a profoto 7b). But you have to *know what* you want to make and *know how* to light it first. Once you do that, you will *know* what gear you need. Believe me, spending a weekend at a seminar with a serious photographer will improve you images so far beyond buying a 1D or set of profotos, it’s amazing.  It may not be as sexy as the latest toy, but when it comes down to it you just have to ask yourself – is it the gadgets, or is it the images? (and don’t get me wrong, I’m as much of a gadget-head as the next guy!)

If you *think* you need more gear to make better images, you don’t – you need more knowledge.  If you *know* you need a specific piece of gear for a specific application, well then by all means go crazy 🙂

end rant.

Quick and dirty radiopopper mod for Canon strobes (that won’t void your warranty!)

I love my radiopoppers. They are just super-awesome and make doing off camera strobe work sooo much easier. The only problem is that (by virtue of design) they are rather clumsy to use – you have to position the bead in front of the sensor, have some way of holding it there (tape? ugh…) and then affix the actual receiver body so that it won’t jiggle the bead off the sensor etc…

I’ve been playing around with a few different mods to affix the popper without drilling holes in the case or covering my flash with tape/velcro. So far this is the best I’ve come up with. It works extremely well, allows you to attach the popper super quickly and securely, and is dead easy to do (no actual “modding” of the unit required.) The one compormise is that it involves putting a little velcro on the flash body, but there is even a workaorund for that 🙂

So without further ado:
you will need the exact same materials described in my DIY snoot/bouncecard

  • velcro wrap (the kind that is hooked on one side and looped on the other (so it can stick to itself, often used for wrapping computer cables)
  • a small piece of self-adhesive velcro (loop side, this will form the mount points for the
  • “Foamies” craft foam (thin sheets of flexible foam, available at craft/art stores (pearl etc..))  If possible get the sheets that are self adhesive on one side, which allows you to skip the next ingredient 🙂
  • glue (optional, if you didn’t get the self-sticky foamies)

the procedure is simple.  Cut a strip of velcro wrap long enough to reach halfway around your flash body, with a little extra.   Take 2 small pieces of the self-adhesive velcro, and mount them on each side of the flash, these are the “mounting points” for the popper/strap.  Cut 3 pieces of foam with an x-acto, the width of the velcro strap, and long enough to go across/cover the IR sensor.   On one of the pieces of foam, cut a “channel” about the width of the radiopopper bead, splitting it in two.  Now stack the 3 pieces together and glue (with the “channel” piece on top obviously).  Hot glue works well for this, or if you got the self-adhesive foamies that will work too.   Once done the whole assembley should look like this.

And that’s basically all there is to it!  Now simply slap the body of the Popper on the still exposed loop side of the velcro, and loop the fiber optic over placing the bead in the channel.  Position the whole shebang on top of the sensor on the flash, and attach the loose ends of the strap to the velcro mount points on the side of the flash body.  The channel in the foam hold the bead securely in place, while the thickness provies a “cushion” that makes a flat/secure surface for the popper body to mount on.  I find that this is a very stable/secure method of mounting the poppers – once on I don’t have to worry about the bead coming loose or the body flopping around.  (I cut the fiber optic in half to make it “neater” but you dont have to)

a few caveats:

  1. because of the position of the IR sensor this will really only work for Canon strobes (nikon has the sensor on the side of the body, not the front).   I use it on a canon 580exII and a 550ex – it may work on others or not depending on the location of the sensor, as always YMMV.
  2. when mounting the poppers this way, make sure you rotate the flash head around 180deg.  (pointing “backwards” from it’s normal orientation)  The RadioPopper folks have pointed out that the electromagnetic pulse from the front of the flash head can damage the RP units if it is in direct proximity – as long as you turn it around it should be fine.

Hope that helps all you RadioPopper folks out there.  I’ve been very happy with this mounting system so far!

Thoughts on Photokina ’08

Now that Photokina is all wrapped up something occurred to me – I can’t say I was really all that excited about it.  Surprising, as Photokina is usually the main “gear lust inspiring” event out there, and you can practically hear the mobs of photographers panting and salivating over each new announcement.  And sure there was some pretty cool stuff this year – (Olympus micro-four-thirds prototype? – Awesome.  5DmkII? – sweet.  The new paradigm of video on SLRs? – very interesting development.)  Overall though, it was just kind of like “oh yeah, new gear…”

I dunno, maybe it’s the economy or maybe I’m just becoming one of those crotchety old photographers who is more concerned with light and composition than with gear 🙂  I think as is common with many photographers as our skills and experience improve, our interest in gear for the sake of gear decreases.  I’ve been doing this long enough that I know what I want out of a camera (high quality, light weight, fast wide glass- particularly primes) and I’m happy with what I’ve got.

I’ll probably take a hard look at the olympus “pseudo rangefinder” micro four thirds camera when it comes out (probably not for another year is my guess) but for now I just want to go out and take pictures 🙂

Eye-fi redux!

Earlier this year I got rather excited over a new product from a little company called “eye-fi” – it was basically a SD card with a wireless transmitter built in.

My master plan was to use a laptop to set up a ad-hoc network (meaning the laptop acts as wireless router, creating it’s own network) and set the eye-fi to auto-upload shots to it, in essence creating almost like a wireless tethering solution.

Unfortunately, speaking with eye-fi support, they informed me that this would not work, as the card needed an actual “internet connected” router to send the photos through. Bummer.

However, their new offerings are enough to make me look at them again. Notably they have 2 new models in addition to the basic eye-fi card the Eye-Fi Home, which strips out the internet functionality and just has “upload to computer wirelessly” and the Eye-Fi explore which adds *geotagging* to the photos.

The “Home” looks promising as it may finally do what I need (connect via ad-hoc network), and the “Explore” is simply cool. I love the idea of geotagging. Maybe it’s not a big deal for studio work, but it would be awesome to throw one of those in my G9 and tag my street/travel shots. From what I can tell it needs a wireless AP to do this, so it’s not as good as a dedicated GPS module, but still. very cool concept and definitely something new and cool in the world of photography.

And how often do you say that about a memory card!

Eye-Fi homepage

Olympus makes pancakes!

And here I was getting all excited about the DP-1, along comes olympus and drops this unexpected bomb:

The e-420, a brand new e410 form factor slr (tiny), with the e-3 sensor, *and a 25mm/2.8 PANCAKE prime!*

Very cool stuff, this is practically a pocketable SLR – smaller even than my k100d+40mm combo. Plus the 50mm equiv. offering is a great general purpose focal length.

This is very encouraging – along with the success of the canon G9, the DP-1 and now this seems to indicate that there really is a strong market for a compact form factor paired with high IQ and robust features. If Olympus makes a 17mm pancake to go with this (35mm equiv), it could almost tempt me to switch from Pentax! olye420top-down.jpg