Lightroom Presets

Lightroom presets are a waste of money. At least according to this guy.

In the six years that I’ve been using Lightroom, I’ve never paid for a preset. In the past, I’ve downloaded a few free packs, clicked laboriously through every preset and decided that they were all useless: blunt tools creating over-edited results and deploying settings that I could easily have achieved myself had I wanted to ruin one of my photos.

Man, I agree with him. There are a lot of people out there pimping either their Lightroom presets or their Photoshop actions; all with the promise of replicating a look without, apparently, learning what the hell you’re doing. I can understand Photoshop actions a little better because they can actually aid in the learning process, but I’d never pay for them either.

A while ago I posted this image up on Flickr:

Portrait of Yana sitting on stairs
Yana on Stairs: ISO 100, 50mm, f1.8, 1/160

It ended up getting featured on Flickr Explore which resulted in a lot of views, likes, and comments. Consequently, I had a few people reach out to me asking me if I used a Lightroom preset or if I could make a preset and if so, would I mind sharing it. It was kind of interesting.

I have never made a Lightroom preset. I don’t even know how to create a preset. This image was pretty much me experimenting with a bit of a different approach to post processing. And, honestly, it was processed a bit in Lightroom, but mostly in Photoshop. In fact it has 13 layers and a substantial amount of masking, too, to apply the layers selectively.

It did make me understand the appeal of creating some presets or actions and trying to market them, though.

But, really, I don’t understand the appeal of some magic preset to be applied over multiple photos. I took the color grading inside of Lightroom that I did on this pic and replicated it on other images in my library just to experiment. It was a disaster. Now, I did take several photos in this particular garage and on different levels of this stairwell during this particular session. Applying the grading I did in this image to those images was OK because the lighting, mood, and location was pretty much the same. But other images taken at different locations?

No way.

For my approach each image or small set of images are unique thus requiring a mostly unique approach. There seem to be things that I’ll try on every image just to see how it works as a starting point, but it may or may not work. For example, on almost every image I’ll bring down the highlights a bit, open up the shadows a bit, and bring down the blacks a bit just to see if it starts going in a direction I want to go. I’d say probably a little more than half the time it works as a starting point. Often times I’ll just hit Auto just for the hell of it, too. You’d be surprised how often it actually results in a decent starting point. It used to be, until a couple versions of Lightroom back, that the Auto was absolutely horrid. Apparently Adobe has done some work on it.

The big takeaway, though, is that like the author of the linked to article above says, spending money on Lightroom presets is a huge waste of money.

Your time is way better spent just learning the tool.

Trust me on this.

Nikon Z6 and Z7 Mirrorless Cameras

Nikon Z6 and Z7 mirrorless cameras have finally been released. I admit that I’ve been waiting for this for a while. A long while. I’ve wanted to get into mirrorless because of IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization), and EVF (Electronic View Finder), and silent shutter along with other benefits of mirrorless, but I’ve been holding off because I’m invested in the Nikon ecosystem and wanted to see what Nikon would come out with. Plus, I’ve been very happy with my D750. That camera just rocks.

But, if Nikon were to come out with something that was comparable to, say, the Sony A7III and they included a good F-mount > Z-mount adapter at a similar price point I would seriously consider going for it. With that in mind I was really looking forward to the Nikon Z6.

What is the Z6? It’s actually pretty awesome. 24 mp, 12 frames/second, IBIS providing up to 5 stops of stabilization and 273 phase-detect AF points along with some other awesomeness. All for a price of about $2000.

Sounds pretty good, right?

Well, wrong. It’s actually a turd in many ways.

Since the release of the Nikon Z6 and Z7 Mirrorless cameras they have taken a lot of pounding for various issues. Issues like the fact that many early reviewers who got to use a pre production camera for a couple of hours noted that the auto focus was a erratic and a bit sluggish; especially in low light. There have also been concerns over the perhaps weak battery performance. Granted, by the time the production models come out they may have addressed those issues via software updates.

I haven’t seen any reviewers rail on about the lack of included adapter, though, however for me it’s a big deal. Not because I want a free adapter (well, it would be nice) but because I just think it’s a colossal blunder from Nikon from a business perspective. Think about it. Nikon has the second largest market share of interchangeable  lenses floating out in the wild. They are second only to Canon.  Sony is a distant third. Though Sony is third, they are arguably the largest contender regarding mirrorless competition. In other words, Sony is who any camera manufacturer getting into the mirrorless game is going to have to compete with.

Plus, Canon is coming out with something, too.

What better way to compete than to incentivise the millions of current owners of F-mount glass to jump into your new mirrorless system? What better way to incentivise current owners of Nikon F-mount lenses to jump into your new mirrorless system than to include the adapter for the cost of the camera and that cost is on par with your competition?

But, like I said, not including an adapter doesn’t seem to be on many people’s minds. But it should have been on Nikon’s

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the release, and the one that has gotten A LOT of blow back from many people is the lack of dual memory card slots.

Yes, the lack of dual memory card slots.

That is why the new Nikon Z-mount cameras are turds.

What in the hell was Nikon thinking by releasing a camera line that people have been waiting for and that competes directly with Sony A7III and A7RIII that does not have a SECOND CARD slot? It is utterly stupid and for many (including me) a complete deal breaker.

It’s been a bit humorous watching the various hardcore Nikon supporters defend this indefensible decision. In fact I’m currently working on a post going over the various goofy things people have said defending why dual card slots are no big deal. They’re wrong, of course, but I’ll get into why on another post.

At the end of the day, cameras costing $2000 and $4000 respectively should be coming with dual card slots in today’s age.

Period. End. Of. Story.

Some apologists are saying that since this is a first gen mirrorless offering from Nikon we should give them a break. We should be patient. Don’t worry, it’s a process.

Nonsense. Nikon should want to compete with what’s already out there. All they had to do was come out with something that was at least on par with the Sony A7III and Sony A7RIII. Just doing that should have been the goal. They didn’t even do that. Cameras with a single card slot can never be on par (all things being equal) with a camera that has dual card slots.

Shame on Nikon.

Back to the Little Sahara Recreation Area

I went back to the Little Sahara Recreation Area to follow up on some test shots I did there back in November of last year. We had a lot of fun, but to be honest it was kind of a pain in the ass because of just how freaking dirty it is. Blowing sand gets everywhere. I mean everywhere; eyes, mouth, gear.


I’ve been wanting to go out again because I had an idea on something that I thought would look cool in that environment. Plus, I’ve had a couple people ask me about going out there to do some shots. But every time I thought very seriously about it I thought about the pain in the ass factor and put it off.

Finally I said screw it. Let’s do it and we did indeed go back to the Little Sahara Recreation Area. Before heading out we stopped at a fabric store to pick up a large piece of cloth for the idea. 

For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to take some flash gear; you know, catching that awesome shot with a breathtaking sunset as a backdrop. Note to self: Never take flash gear to The Little Sahara Recreation Area. It’s way too windy and way too much crap flying around. If you’re a photographer wanting to go to Little Sahara and you’re thinking about taking some flash gear, don’t.

Well, I suppose if you have an assistant it might be doable, but really. I wouldn’t bother. I wasted a bunch of time trying to deal with it. Time that would have been better spent just shooting with natural light.

I timed it to be there about two hours before sunset and that part worked out well. Here is the shot I think I like best:

Woman On the Sand Dunes, Model: Anna, ISO 100, 85mm, f4.0, 1/500

I love this shot. The fabric works great in the windy environment. A big reason that I love this shot is that it exactly represents the vision I had in mind; the mood, the colors. It’s exactly what I pre visioned.

The biggest failure for me on this trip was that I didn’t spend all of the time just shooting natural light. Keep in mind that I love off camera flash. It would be great to do some hss flash work out here, but without assistants it’s just not possible.

Of course by the time we had everything packed up we were a sandy mess. “No,” I said to myself. “I’m not doing this again. Not worth it.”

But looking at this shot I know damned well that I’m going out there again.

There is just too much potential for great shots at the Little Sahara Recreation Area.