How to print custom page sizes with the Epson XP-970

November 21st, 2023

I have a few photography printing videos on my YouTube channel and one of the questions I get asked most is; How do you set up the Epson XP-970 to print custom page sizes.

It’s actually quite simple, and I’ll explain the steps to do it below. A couple of things to note first though; A. You have to use the rear, manual paper feed and B. You have to print from a computer to the printer (not directly from the printer). I am using Lightroom on an Apple Mac computer, but it should be similar steps when using a Windows PC and/or your software of choice.

1. Select Page Setup

In Lightroom this is located in the bottom left corner of the screen after you have selected the ‘Print’ tab in the top right.

2. Select Paper Size Options

In the window that opens, click the dropdown next to ‘Paper Size’. Right at the bottom is ‘Manage Custom Sizes…’. select this option.

3. Create a Custom Paper Size

In the next window that opens, click on the + symbol in the bottom left. This creates a new profile and allows you to fill in the input boxes on the right of the window. Type in the width and height of your paper. You can also input margin sizes here, for space around your image. Click ‘Ok’ when done.

4. Send the Job to Print

Select any other print options as required and send the job to the XP-970. The printer will prompt you to insert your paper.

It’s as easy as that. I also have a video on how to set up the Epson XP-970 to print custom sizes.

5 Low Cost Full-Frame Z Lenses

September 24th, 2023

If you own a Nikon Z camera, you’ll know that there are some really great lenses available, particularly the Nikon S-Line lenses. But you’ll also know that they’re quite expensive as well. Here I’m looking at five low-cost, full-frame options, which hopefully won’t break the bank but will still offer some decent performance and quality.

Nikkor Z 40mm F2 lens.

This is not an S-Line lens, even though it’s made by Nikon, and that’s why it’s a little bit cheaper. You can pick it up for around about £200 pounds in the UK (about $245), but the quality is still surprisingly good. It handles really well, focuses quickly, and is really small and super light. The only drawback for some people is that it’s a 40mm focal length, which is a little bit odd. It’s somewhere in between the more traditional 50mm and 35mm focal lengths, so you might not know what to do with it. However, I get good results when doing landscapes and also street photography with this. So, check it out and you might get some good results as well.

TTArtisan 50mm F2 lens

If you prefer a more traditional focal length, though, you might want to take a look at the TTArtisan 50mm. This is the cheapest lens that we’re going to look at here, coming in at around about £80 ($98), and you do get some compromises with that. It’s a manual focus-only lens and it’s a non-cpu lens, so it won’t communicate with the camera, and you’re going to have to tell the camera (through the menu system) what the focal length is and the maximum aperture in order to gain the benefits of in-body stabilisation. Having said all that, it’s very well made. It’s really, really small (about the smallest full-frame lens I’ve seen for the Z system), and it’s quite light. You get some average to decent image quality with it, but you are going to suffer from things like flaring because it doesn’t have any fancy coatings or elements inside. However, for a cheap, really small, really light lens, you can’t really go far wrong. It’s definitely worth trying out for the price alone.

Nikkor Z 28mm F2.8 lens

Moving on to something a little wider now, we’ve got the 28 mm 2.8 Nikkor Z lens. Again made by Nikon but not an S-Line lens – you can get this for around around £230 in the UK ($281). It performs much like the 40mm Z lens in that it’s very quick and snappy, it’s very small, lightweight and it’s pretty much all plastic. You do get some fairly decent results out of it considering the price though. The main drawback, like the 40mm, is that it’s a slightly unusual focus length for some people. I don’t mind it and if I want to do some street photography where I get a little bit closer to my subjects, I think 28 mm is a pretty good focal length for that. You can also use it for landscapes as well and get some great results.

7Artisans 10mm F2.8 Fisheye lens

Let’s look at an ultra wide option now with the 7Artisans 10 mm F 2.8 fisheye lens. Personally I don’t think there are many good wide-angle budget options for full-frame Z cameras, so a fisheye like this is about the best alternative you can get. Obviously, it’s fisheye and will create distorted images when used at extreme angles, but you can also get some great landscape images with this and it’s only about £250 ($306). It’s very heavy because it’s all metal and it’s manual focus only, but on the plus side, it does have fairly decent image quality and you’ve got a pretty fast maximum aperture at f2.8. So if you’re looking for a budget wide angle lens, then this could be the option for you.

Tokina SZX 400mm F8 Reflex lens

At the opposite end of the focal length scale, we’ve got the Tokina 400mm f8 reflex lens. Reflex lenses use mirrors inside, and this allows them to have massive reach but still be really small and light like this one is. The downsides are that it’s manual focus only, it has a fixed f8 aperture, and the image quality is only average. You can get some good results on bright days, but if you’ve got any atmospheric haze, you’re going to get low-contrast images. Although this can be fixed with post-processing, the lens also suffers from flare and glare issues and that can be harder to fix. However, considering it is only £240 in the UK ($294), you’re not going to find a regular 400mm lens for anything like that kind of price. It’s definitely worth checking out and can be a great option for when you need to travel light.

All prices are approximately accurate at time of publication.

All of these lenses feature in my landscape photography video at Stanage Edge in the Peak District. Check it out to see some of the images captured with this lens, as well as links to other videos where I review each lens in more detail.

Is Threads a Good Platform for Photographers?

September 16th, 2023

In the ever-evolving world of social media, new platforms continually emerge, each catering to different preferences and needs. One such platform gaining traction is Threads, a creation by Meta—the tech giant behind Instagram. But is Threads any good for photographers? And how does it differ from Instagram? Here I’m looking a little deeper into the app, and how suited it is to photography enthusiasts.

Threads: A Fusion of Twitter and Instagram

At its core, Threads draws parallels with Twitter but is also closely aligned with one of Meta’s other apps – Instagram. Unlike Instagram, which primarily revolves around video and image sharing, Threads places a stronger emphasis on fostering conversations. However, this doesn’t mean it disregards visual content.

Amplifying Visual Expression

Photographers will find Threads to be a refreshing departure from Twitter’s limitations on image sharing. Threads allows users to share up to 10 images per post, compared to Twitter’s meager 4-image limit. This enhancement in visual capacity provides photographers with a better opportunity to showcase their work in a single engaging post.

Breaking Free from Image Compression

One standout advantage of Threads is its image handling. Unlike Twitter, Threads doesn’t compress images as aggressively, preserving the quality and essence of the photographs. For photographers, this means a chance to present their art in its truest form, enhancing the viewing experience for their audience.

Embracing Portrait-Oriented Creativity

Another notable feature is the ability to post images in portrait orientation without the constraints of cropping. Instagram limits images to square or landscape orientations, restricting artistic freedom. Threads liberates photographers to share their work in the format that best suits their vision.

Bridging the Gap: Recent Updates and Future Prospects

Though Threads initially faced criticism for its limitations in topic searching and absence of hashtags—a critical tool for artists and photographers—Meta has been proactive in addressing these concerns. Recent updates include an improved search functionality, allowing users to search for specific topics of interest. This enhancement broadens the platform’s usability and utility for creatives.

Conclusion: Threads—A Canvas for Photographic Expression

While Threads may seem a tad unfinished in its current state, it holds immense promise for photographers seeking a platform that values both conversations and visual storytelling. As Meta continues to roll out rapid changes and expand its feature set, Threads is poised to evolve into a dynamic hub for photographers, providing them with the canvas they need to paint their creative narratives.

In the ever-expanding landscape of social media, Threads possesses the potential to be a harmonious blend of conversation and visual expression.

You can find my own account on Threads here – feel free to follow me.

The Impact of AI on Photography: Embracing Creativity and Navigating Boundaries

July 8th, 2023

In the world of photography, there is currently a lot of buzz surrounding artificial intelligence (AI), and it’s not without reason. AI has the ability to accomplish remarkable feats, but it also poses a threat to what many consider the essence of photography. As AI increasingly permeates the field, it’s bound to stir up diverse opinions and divide photographers. However, one thing is certain: we cannot ignore its influence, as it is poised to play a significant role in the creation of images.
Take, for example, Adobe’s recent release of a beta version of Photoshop featuring an AI-powered feature called Generative Fill. While purists may not appreciate this development, as a graphic designer, I believe it has the potential to revolutionise my approach to working with photography.
Let’s consider the nature of photography itself. Even without AI, capturing an image with a camera is already a departure from reality. It freezes a single moment, compresses a three-dimensional scene into two dimensions, and relies on post-processing to determine colours, clarity, and sharpness. So why should an image be a strict representation of real life? Isn’t the enjoyment we derive from images more important? Should the means of creation matter? For most people, drawing the line will depend on personal preferences, but I believe in maintaining an open mind and pushing that line at least a little.

Personally, I appreciate creating “real” images while also exploring the possibilities offered by AI. However, I’m not yet comfortable fully merging the two approaches. It’s important to note that other advancements in photographic technology have felt like tools that operate under our complete control, yielding results within our intended scope. AI, on the other hand, introduces an element of chaos. Although we provide input, the output remains unknown until we witness it. We can refine our input to approach our desired outcome (a skill that requires more finesse than some might think), but in essence, we are relinquishing some control to an entity that feels like another contributor to our art.

When it comes to graphic design work, I feel entirely at ease incorporating Generative AI. Often, the most efficient and high-quality method to achieve results is the best approach. However, I feel less comfortable sharing images on social media or my personal channels when AI has been involved. In this context, it boils down to how we wish to be perceived by others. There is inherent value in the effort expended to create an image using non-AI tools, as it represents our individual artistic contributions without additional interpretations from AI.

Ultimately, photography involves using tools to capture light and create an image. AI, on the other hand, generates images through digital input, bypassing the need for light altogether. While these two practices are related, they are not the same. Photography has always been a distinct form of image creation, but moving forward, the distinction will become even more pronounced, emphasising the creation of images solely through the manipulation of light. Generative image creation will emerge as its own genre, encompassing elements of photographic image creation within it. Furthermore, I predict that the resurgence of film photography will continue to gain momentum, much like the comeback experienced by vinyl records in the age of digital streaming.
As the realm of photography evolves alongside AI, it’s important for photographers to embrace the new creative possibilities while also understanding and navigating the boundaries that align with their artistic principles. By doing so, we can continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible in image creation and explore the fascinating intersection of AI and traditional photography techniques.

Check out my video on Photoshop’s new beta AI feature – Generative Fill.

Top Smartphone Cameras for Photography

May 8th, 2023

There are times when even the keenest photography enthusiasts are not carrying a DSLR or mirrorless camera. In these situations, having a good camera on your smartphone is essential to capture those fleeting moments that you can easily miss. Today’s smartphones come equipped with advanced camera features that rival many dedicated interchangeable lens cameras, making them a popular choice for photographers of all levels.
Here I’m taking a look at the top smartphone cameras for photography, specifically the Apple iPhone 14, Google Pixel 7, Samsung Galaxy S22, OnePlus 11, and Sony Xperia 1 III. I will give a brief overview of the camera features and performance of each of each one.

Apple iPhone 14

The Apple iPhone 14 boasts a triple-lens camera system that includes a 12MP ultra-wide, a 12MP wide, and a 12MP telephoto lens. The camera system is powered by Apple’s A18 Bionic chip and features advanced computational photography capabilities, including Night mode and Deep Fusion.
The iPhone 14’s camera also includes ProRAW support, allowing you to capture images in a RAW format for more advanced post-processing. The device also supports ProRes video recording, providing high-quality video capabilities for content creators.

Google Pixel 7

The Google Pixel 7 features a dual-camera system that includes a 12.2MP wide lens and a 16MP ultra-wide lens. The device is powered by Google’s Tensor chip, which includes advanced AI capabilities for image processing and enhancement.
The Pixel 7’s camera system includes features like Night Sight, which allows you to capture low-light photos with incredible detail, and Super Res Zoom, which provides high-quality zoom capabilities without sacrificing image quality.
For those looking for extra flexibility, the Pixel 7 Pro includes a third, 48MP telephoto lens with 5x optical zoom.

Samsung Galaxy S22

The Samsung Galaxy S22 features a quad-camera system that includes a 108MP wide lens, a 12MP ultra-wide lens, a 10MP periscope telephoto lens, and a 10MP telephoto lens. The device is powered by Samsung’s Exynos 2200 chip, which includes advanced image processing capabilities.
The Galaxy S22’s camera system includes features like 8K video recording, 100x Space Zoom, and Night mode. The device also supports Pro mode, providing advanced manual controls for experienced photographers.

OnePlus 11

The OnePlus 11 features a triple-camera system that includes a 50MP wide lens, a 48MP ultra-wide lens, and a 8MP telephoto lens. The device is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip, which includes advanced AI image processing capabilities.
The OnePlus 11’s camera system includes features like Nightscape, which enhances low-light photos, and Hasselblad Pro mode, providing advanced manual controls for experienced photographers. The device also supports 8K video recording.

Sony Xperia 1 III

The Sony Xperia 1 III features a triple-camera system that includes a 12MP wide lens, a 12MP ultra-wide lens, and a 12MP telephoto lens. The device is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 chip, which includes advanced image processing capabilities.
The Xperia 1 III’s camera system includes features like Real-time Eye AF, which tracks and focuses on the subject’s eyes in real-time, and Dual PDAF, providing fast and accurate autofocus. The device also supports 4K HDR video recording.

The Apple iPhone 14, Google Pixel 7, Samsung Galaxy S22, OnePlus 11, and Sony Xperia 1 III are all excellent choices for photography enthusiasts looking for a smartphone with advanced camera features. I personally use a Google Pixel 7 Pro – here’s one of my videos using it to capture some urban low light photography.