Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Dealing with Unreadable RAW files

Ever get stuck with new RAW files that for some reason will not update through the usual Adobe Camera RAW updater? 

Here's an easy solution - batch convert all the errant RAW files to the DNG file format using Adobe's free DNG converter for Mac or PC.


Adobe DNG Converter from Robin Nichols on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Photo Tour of Iceland announced for October 2018

It's been quite a hassle getting this tour together as the prices keep going up and up in Iceland - it seems everyone wants to visit... 

I can't say I blame them - it's a stunningly beautiful country, with a very friendly, highly-educated population, wild countryside, very comfortable accommodation and superb food.

My tour is planned for the second week in October - 8 - 23rd, and includes 12 nights accommodation, most meals when we are in the countryside, transport with an English-speaking driver (nearly everyone speaks English in Iceland), entrance to several museums, plus two Northern lights evening excursions (weather permitting - October is a good month to witness this amazing phenomena).

Get the full information here

Monday, 18 September 2017

Photoshop Fails

Keep your hands off me!

Google the words Photoshop and Fail and you'll see a mass of hilarious responses gleaned from the pages of the internet.
From the press, from magazine stands, newspapers, billboards, TV and more - all classic examples of where a  retoucher took their eye off the ball and produced something that might, to the casual observer, appear just a little weird, but on closer inspection, they look funny, painful, grungy, curious or hilarious. Here are just a few from the 'net...

Not a Photoshop Fail - but a regular, and very clever ad for Snickers.
The retoucher was obviously suffering from sugar withdrawal.
 American Airlines advert
The plane is landing on two wheels but cleverly, (the badly added) tyre smoke is only coming from one set of wheels
Photoshopped model? With a broken neck...
A political quickie
For some reason Jeb Bush has a white right hand and an African American left hand...

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

New eBook Online Now

Like many careers, you never just get a job to 'take photos', you have to specialise, sometimes very specifically, to fit a niche that you are comfortable working with.
This ebook outlines 16 of what I think are the best options, either for a new career (if currently employed in a different job), a shift in what you already do with your photography, as well as ideas for extending what you currently do as a photographer, to generate a passive income stream. All for $1.99


Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Seen Outside Bunnings

No parking on the grass...
Seen parked outside Bunnings in Rydalmere

Friday, 14 July 2017

My favourite shot for today

I have spent most of the day sorting through a bunch of images shot in Africa prior to submitting them to a stock library and came across this little bird pic - it's not good enough to send in but nevertheless I love it. This little fella is called a rattling cisticola and falls under that generic description as an 'LBJ' (little brown job), because it looks like all the other little brown birds that you see in your travels.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Get more from Photoshop with the Google Nik Collection of plug-ins

The Google Nik Collection might be old hat to some of you but if not, read on. This is a suite of Photoshop compliant plug-ins that was bought by Google a few years back and is offered online for free.  Before Google bought the company, the collection retailed for US$700.

Being a plug-in it won't work as a standalone application - you must have the above software to get it to work (once loaded it appears at the base of the Filter Menu).

Reason I am writing about it now is that I have read that this might not be supported by Google in the future so now is the time to get it for free. You might find in a year or two that it ceases to work with the newest version of CC or Elements but it's worth having in the meantime...

Here's a brief overview on the product plus a closer look at two (of the seven) plug-ins that come for free in the Collection...

BLOG NikCollection from Robin Nichols on Vimeo.

BLOG Analog EFX Pro 2 from Robin Nichols on Vimeo.
BLOG SilverEFX from Robin Nichols on Vimeo.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Learn High Dynamic Range Photography at UDEMY

Here's a link to my latest UDEMY class - Mastering High Dynamic Range Picture Making.

Icebergs off the coast of Amassalik, Greenland
 As the course name suggests this is all about the High Dynamic Range process and includes topics such as:
- How to create truly impressive HDR images from a single shot (JPG and RAW)
- The best HDR software to try, some free, some paid 
- Working with multiple RAW files
- Batch processing files to make HDR video

Old, fifties American car on blocks in a back street of Havana

- How to set up shooting exposure brackets for the HDR process
- Controlling the results - working with Tone Compression methods
Burj Khalifa 'glimpse', Dubai

PLUS: How to troubleshoot files when they don't come out quite as good as you'd hoped for. 
This includes videos on:
- Removing sensor spots (Photoshop and Photoshop Elements tutorials)
- Removing chromatic aberration
- Effective4 frame alignment techniques to get your hand-held shot to line up and produce sharper results
- Removing ugly haloes using a retouching brush and selected Blend Modes
- Getting started tutorials using Photomatix Pro and Aurora HDR Pro software plus many others

Three hours of video tutorials, 35 lectures/tutorials, no time limit, cost a mere $55 (or $20 when discounted). Check this link as my class is frequently discounted!

Mastering HDR Picture Making from Robin Nichols on Vimeo.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Sri Lanka Small Group Photo Tour 2018

Here's a short promo video showing some of the places, locations and experiences you can expect on my upcoming small group photo tour of Sri Lanka in March 2018...
Sri Lanka Small Group Photo Tour Promo from Robin Nichols on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

MCP, a New Three-day Photo Course at CCE

If you want to develop more from your photography, try this new class I'm running at the Centre for Continuing Education: Mastering Creative Photography.

It's really designed as a follow up to my two-day Essentials class - but you don't have to complete this to take on the MCP class. We deal with the business of creative photography - ways to make your images look different from everyday, run of the mill stuff we see around the 'net. There is some emphasis on using neat software apps such as Jixi Pix or products from Nik, but there's equal emphasis placed on the ability to see an avenue, a theme in any set landscape - whether it's just at the park or on a trip overseas.

We spend half a day looking at how photography has developed over time, from Henry Fox Talbot to Henri Cartier-Bresson, to modern day sports and newspaper photojournalists, advertising photography, wedding and portrait photographers and much more. Everything has been 'done' in photography, but there's still plenty of room to make a statement.

Next Mastering Creative Photography class is on September 1, 8 and 15

Two and a half days are spent shooting on location, plus students get three assignments to upload and get assessed on.

As a bonus, I also offer an ongoing feedback session, four times a year, as a way of encouraging those that like shooting to have a bit of a goal to work towards.

Here's a glimpse of some of the great images created by students on the first session of this class:

The 3rd quarantine cemetery by Clayton Maxwell - no special effects - just a nice juxtaposition between a great city skyline and a headstone. It begs the question: why? Is this an omen? Is this symbolic of city life - a good picture should generate a response in the viewer - even if it is a simple "I like what I see..." response. To generate multiple questions, I think, is better because it insists that the viewer be immersed in the shot.
This is a very effective miniature effect - also called tilt-shift - created by radically blurring the top and bottom of the frame. It works very well in this example - because the composition is accurately divided in to three clear sections: foreground, mid-ground and background.
The post-production de-focussing by Eshan Abab effectively splits the scene into three parts and makes everyone on Bondi beach appear to be tiny.
A very effective creative effect.
Fantastic olde-worlde 'look' applied to this recent shot of Quarantine Beach, near Manly
Photo by Sophie Almin

Bamboo signatures from Phil Young
This is an HDR processed image - the software really helps ramp up textures and detail that might otherwise be lost.
With an eye on both composition and content, Phil Blackford produced a series of effects like this. Shot in-camera with some post-processing to add the distressed look to the final image.
This is a good example of where having a vision before you start out really helps the execution and finalisation of the creative process.

A very dramatic representation from times past.
This headstone, shot by Jane Jewel in North Head's third quarantine cemetery, marks a darker part of Australia's history. Most of the people buried here are quite young, teenagers, kids under ten, some coming from overseas or from the inland areas - on those days there was little anyone could do to prevent fatalities other then quarantining them from the general population.  I think the low angle, the dramatic sky and the black and white treatment really lends itself to the subject matter.
Shot from one of the most dramatic lookouts in Sydney, Vinnie Nguyen's panorama captures something of the massive vista afforded form the North Head National Park.
Very often 'one shot' is just not enough for a 'big' scene, so a five-frame panorama manages nicely to capture some of the grandure of the view.
Vinnie also added an FX filter with a heavy vignette that goes a long way to emphasise the nature of the subject.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Two Exciting New Photo Tours for 2018

I have just posted the final details about two new and exciting photo tours for next year: Sri Lanka in March and Madagascar in May 2018.

Sri Lanka is one of my all-time favourite destinations because it's such a diverse country with a long and fascinating history, terrific cuisine, fabulous wildlife, impressive scenery, plus it's relatively inexpensive and easy to get there.

The mood of this trip is to experience some of the antiquities of the country, as well as its wonderful cuisine, while journeying through some of its best wildlife parks. And did I mention tea?

To  make a reservation on the Sri Lanka trip, call Frederick Steyn at Academy Travel (02) 9235 0023 or 1800 639 699, or email him directly: 

Madagascar is a different destination completely - this trip is really all about the amazing flora and fauna to be found in this unique habitat.

Travel in Madagascar is more of a challenge than many other locations I have been to in the past but you are guaranteed to see some of the world's most endearing and endangered animals on this two-week trip across the island...

If you are interested in either or both, please contact me (details in the downloadable PDFs online.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Anzac Day, 2017

Here are a few shots from this year's Anzac Day pilgrimage.

Pic by Alan Stern

Iconic image of a Scots piper at dawn
Pic by Alan Stern

Diggers at the Anzac Day parade
Pic by Alan Stern

Young and old applaud the returned
Pic by Alan Stern

Evocative avenue of trees
(Post-processed with Nik Color Efex Pro)
Pic by Carolyn Grattan

Pic by Carolyn Grattan

Landscape by Carolyn Grattan
(Post processed using Silver Efex)
This is in negative format and looks like it was shot 150 years ago...

Cute wombat
Pic by Peta Blake

Wombat (who's just realised he's on camera...).
Pic by Peta Blake

Tree fern from a tree top walk
Pic by Lucie Loane

Highland cattle #1
Pic by Lucie Loane

Highland cattle #2
Dramatic post-production EFX
Pic by Lucie Loane

Homage to the fab four
Pic by Peta Blake

Unreal colours, eucalyptus tree
Pic by Peta Blake

Fitzroy Falls
Pic by Lucie Loane

Monday, 1 May 2017

Vivid Night Photography Workshops

This year Sydney's Vivid light extravaganza runs from 26 May to 17th June - I'll be holding two workshops during this time: one on 5th and 11th June...

Cost $100p.p.

Location: meeting place TBA
Includes instruction on the night, plus feedback on your work after the event.

For more information, call me on 0426 748 652 or 
email me:

Here's a timelapse video I made at last year's Vivid event

Vivid timelapse from Robin Nichols on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Using High Speed Flash Mode

One of the drawbacks to using an accessory flash gun is with the maximum shutter speed it can  synchronise to  (trivia note: "Flash", or "flashguns", as I was brought up to call them, are now generically termed speedlights. Those produced by Nikon are called Speedlights, while those produced by Canon are spelled differently; Speedlites).

This synchronisation problem is caused by the shutter design. A modern electronic shutter is usually made from fabulously thin, but strong, metal blades that open and close by rolling a two-panel 'blind', or curtain, over the frame opening. Press the shutter button and the curtain opens fully, waits for the appropriate shutter delay time, then a second curtain is dragged, in the same direction as the first, across the aperture and therefore 'finishes' the exposure.

For shutter speeds slower than 1/200s, the aperture fully opens before the second curtain is dragged across it to finish the exposure. But if you want to use flash with faster shutter speeds, the camera has to move the second curtain before the first curtain has finished opening to achieve a very fast shutter speed - like 1/4000s.

At 1/4000s, for example, the second curtain is so close behind the first curtain that it resembles just a thin slit travelling vertically across the sensor. So, if the flash is fired in combination with a fast shutter speed, it will only illuminate part of the sensor, producing a horizontally-flashed stripe through the frame while the rest of the exposure has no flash. It's a disaster.

To prevent this happening, manufacturers now place a top limit on flash sync shutter speed - this varies slightly depending on the manufacturer, but it's usually 1/200s - to find out either check your camera's tech specs, or place the camera into Manual metering mode, pop up the flash and try to increase the shutter speed - it will not go past the maximum allowable - the flash sync speed.

The trick to getting over this technical shortcoming is to use the speedlight's special High Speed Flash Mode (called FP Mode on Nikon Speedlights).  This very neatly gets round the problem of a single, quick flash of light (typically at 1/1000s). The speedlight actually fires a burst of many thousands of flashes in a very short space of time, creating - effectively - one single, but much longer burst of light that covers the time it takes to move the shutter curtains across the sensor. This all happens, well, in a flash, to our eyes with the amazing result that in this mode, we can shoot at any fast shutter speed, from 1/200s up to and including 1/8000s.

This function provides photographers with the benefit of being able to shoot at very wide apertures (i.e. f1.4) for an extreme shallow depth of field, in bright light. Without this mode, you'd have to shoot at 1/200s at f22, producing a good depth of field, which is not what we want...

Cat wrangling tips:
To make shooting easier I placed the (large) dog bed in the centre of the frame to give the cat something soft to land on.

The white background material is clipped and stretched between two lighting stands to give a seamless background.
A new $2 K-Mart cat toy ensured the correct amount of interest from stunt cat Sooty.
(One thing to bear in mind before you start shooting is that any type of flash synchronisation, on-, or in particular off-camera, is reliant on having the right gear. If you plan on working with multiple flash units, it really pays to have the same gear. Mixing and matching different speedlights with non-standard triggers can prevent you from using all the speedlight's features, in particular its high speed flash sync mode).

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Mastering Your Speedlight Class at CCE

Left: Caroline by Les Harvey using an SB910 speedlight and honeycomb grid to limit the spread of light. At right: Emma, again by Les Harvey using a far softer, modified speedlight source to present this sensitive portrait.
Water being sloshed into a glass - this was an exceptional result from Tanya Kastoumis. Without an audio trigger this technique is easy to set up but a matter of persistence and repetition to get the 'moment'.
Portrait of Kristina using an Orbis ring flash adaptor, shot by Beate WildnerThe advantage of this process is that the 360 degree illumination around the lens produces a soft, indistinct shadow around the subject.
Obviously Beate like the Orbis ring flash adaptor - here's another striking portrait of Emma, one of the students taking part in this class.
Team effort!
To combine the potential of a single light portrait plus a bit of background interest, we fired a speedlight behind the model towards the camera (Beate at right, Emma at left).
Two assistants sprinkled flour in between model and speedlight at the moment the shot was taken to give additional highlights to the black background.
(see the "how it was done" picture at the bottom of this post).

Another great result from Tanya Kastoumis
Because of the backlighting, it's necessary to punch as much reflected light back into the front of the model to lighten the face...
Two more cracking flash portraits taken in the Uni grounds.
Caroline by Beate Wildner at left and Emma Foster by Les Harvey at right.
A great example of how a simple and inexpensive honeycomb grid can stylise a portrait
This looks like a still from a film. Kristina, shot by Emma Foster.
In this nice multicoloured portrait Emma Foster used red gels over the back speedlight left-hand side, and nothing on the front flash which adds a little more natural light to thew face.

Camper product shot from Emma Foster
Using nothing more than a Caonon speedlight and a honeycomb grid to achieve this impressive-looking studio shot.

Fun product shot from Beate - a couple of remedial balms and their packaging
Shot using a speedlight fired through a translucent scrim to soften the shadows and provide ore of an even illumination.
Amazing what you can create in nothing more than a regular office location, several speedlights and a lot of assistants...