A Forgotten Skill Among Photographers?

When digital first starting shifting the world of photography, one of the topics I covered the most was color management. In fact, the second book I ever wrote–many years ago–was on the subject of color management.

Top among the issues in color management that I encouraged among photographers was to calibrate their monitor display. Back in those days, it felt that most photographers took this subject seriously, and calibrated their displays on a relatively frequent basis.

These days, it seems I never hear photographers talking about display calibration, and when I ask about the subject many say they simply don’t perform a display calibration.

In fairness, with today’s digital displays and more advanced operating systems, it isn’t as important to take an active role in color management as it was in the early days of digital photography. But that doesn’t mean you can expect accurate results among different devices–such as monitors and printers–if you’re not calibrating your monitor display.

While calibrating a monitor with today’s equipment won’t cause as dramatic an improvement in your workflow as was the case with older analog displays, calibration is still important. You don’t need to calibrate as frequently today as we did in the past, but calibrating every six months or so is still a very good idea.

There are a variety of tools available for calibrating your display to improve the accuracy of what you see and the quality of your workflow. One product I highly recommend is the X-Rite ColorMunki Display, which you can find here:



The Only Filters I Carry

Back in the days of film photography, it was common to see photographers carrying a wide variety of filters in their camera bag. These days, I often find photographers who don’t carry any filters at all. And one of the most common questions I hear from photographers about photo gear is which filters they are supposed to buy.

In my mind, there are really only a couple of filters that most photographers should probably carry in their bag. Of course, whether this is true depends on the type of photography you do. But the list of filters that I don’t really think you need is much longer than the list of filters I should most photographers could put to use.

Solid Neutral Density Filter

The first filter I think most photographers would enjoy putting to use is a solid neutral density (ND) filter. This is something like sunglasses for your lens, reducing the amount of light that passes through the lens without altering the color of the scene.

A solid neutral density filter enables you to achieve longer exposure durations than would otherwise be possible. Even at a minimum ISO setting, and with the lens aperture stopped down completely, you might not be able to achieve a slow enough shutter speed to render blurred motion in the scene.

To really have tremendous flexibility for long exposures, I prefer to use a ten-stop neutral density filter. With such a filter, I’ve been able to capture 30-second exposures even in full sunlight.

I have been using a ten-stop filter from B+W, with excellent results. You can find this particular filter here:

B+W 10-Stop Neutral Density Filter:

Of course, in some cases a ten-stop neutral density filter results in an exposure that is longer than you’d like. In some cases you might simply be able to open up the lens aperture or increase the ISO setting in order to get an exposure of a shorter duration. However, you may want to also carry a neutral density filter with a lower density rating, such as a six-stop filter.

One option I’ve used with great success is the six-stop filter from Breakthrough Photography, which you can find here:

Breakthrough Photography 6-Stop Neutral Density Filter:

Note, by the way, that for most photographers I don’t consider a graduated neutral density filter to be critical. In situations where I might otherwise use a graduated neutral density filter–such as to prevent a sky from getting blown out–I will instead capture a series of bracketed exposures. Later in my workflow I can then assemble those captures into a high dynamic range (HDR) image, using software such as Aurora HDR 2019.

Circular Polarizer Filter

In addition to a solid neutral density filter, I recommend that most photographers consider carrying a circular polarizer filter.

In my experience most photographers think of a circular polarizer as a filter for making a cloudy sky look more dramatic. In addition, a circular polarizer can help cut back on reflections, enhance color saturation in many situations, and even enable you to “magically” see through the surface of water.

A circular polarizer filter can be rotated to adjust the effect, from minimum to maximum polarization. I’ve been very happy with the results I’ve gotten with the circular polarizer filter from B+W, which you can find here:

B+W Circular Polarizer Filter:


A $50,000 Camera System

If you have $50,000 to spend on a new camera system, and you crave incredible detail and image quality, Phase One has a new product just for you.


The new Phase One IQ3 Trichromatic digital back features an incredible 101-megapixel resolution with a sensor that is 2.5 times larger than you’ll find on a digital SLR camera.

In addition to the sheer resolution featured with this digital back, you can expect exceptionally low noise levels thanks to a remarkable base ISO rating of ISO 35.

The suggested retail price for the IQ3 Trichromatic digital back is $44,990. For a complete camera system that includes this digital back, the XF Camera Body, one prime lens of your choice, and a 5-year warranty, the suggested retail price is $49,990.

Beyond the obvious potential for amazing image quality, Phase One has focused on color fidelity as well. As noted by Niels Knudsen, the Phase One Image Quality Professor:

“The ability to capture an image that reflects exactly what you see the moment you press the shutter button, with little interpretation or conjecture, is a fantastic leap for photography and more importantly, for the integrity of image quality.”

Phase One has long had a reputation for providing medium format digital backs offering exceptional image quality. The latest IQ3 Trichromatic digital back is clearly aimed at building on that reputation.

To learn more about the Phase One IQ3 Trichromatic digital back, visit the Phase One website here:


Fanboy Confessions: Xume Adapters

I like photo gear as much as any photographer, but what I really love is gear that makes my work as a photographer easier or more fun (or both!). Well, I’m only slightly embarrassed to admit that I’ve become a bit of a “fanboy” for Xume Adapters. These clever magnetic adapters enable you to effortlessly attach a filter to a lens, and then remove that filter just as easily.

If you’ve ever attached a filter to a lens, you know how frustrating it can be. You know what I’m talking about:

“Why do those threads need to be so small?!”

“Why won’t the filter go on?!”

“How am I ever going to get this @&$%*#$ filter off?!?!?!”

Well, all of those frustrations magically (well, magnetically) disappear with Xume adapters. You attach a lens adapter to your lens, then attach a filter holder to a filter. Both of those parts have a magnetic ring, so attaching a filter is as easy as placing the filter against the lens. There’s even a magnetic lens cap available for 77mm lenses!

It is worth noting that because the Xume Adapters place the filter further away from the lens than would normally be the case, there is a risk of some vignetting caused by the assembly with wide-angle lenses at an effective focal length of less than about 24mm. But for any longer focal length, I consider Xume Adapters absolutely indispensable. I predict you’ll agree 100% if you test these adapters just once.

Here are some links to Xume Adapters in the 77mm size:

Set of 2 Filter Holders (77mm): http://amzn.to/2va5QG3

Lens Adapter (77mm): http://amzn.to/2vceli3 

You can also see the Manfrotto Xume Adapters in action in an episode of Tim Grey TV here: