I’m currently on a 3 month roadtrip with my family in Australia. We are travelling in a campervan with our two boys: a 3,5 year old and a 1 year old. It’s been a wonderful journey so far.
Choosing my gear for this trip was rather easy. As a photographer I wanted to be able to make great pictures, but as a dad, it had to be compact & light. And to be honest, there wasn’t much room left in our bags. My camera bag (Retrospective 30) actually doubled as a diaper bag on the plane.
What did I bring on this trip? A Fuji XT1 with the XF18 (27mm) and the XF35 (50mm) lenses and a Fuji X100S (35mm). A couple of SD cards, 4 batteries each and that’s it! I haven’t regretted this decision for a second. Most of time I tend to take just one camera and lens with me when we go walking. It makes me work with whatever I have with me at the time. Because of the built in ND filter the X100S has seen the most action so far. The XF35/XT1 combo is still my favourite (but eagerly awaiting the firmware update). The camera’s have been through a lot, they live on the dashboard or get tossed in a backpack. Most of the time I just have one dangling of my shoulder, on the beach, on a boat, through the rainforest.
I’m not here as a photographer, I’m not hunting for the perfect picture, I don’t sit around and wait for perfect light. I just try to take some decent honest snaps of our time here, as a dad.
You can follow our adventures on http://jadekinderengaanmee.be (dutch). Follow this link for a (google) translated english version.
One year of weddings with the X camera’s. Surely I must struggle with the slow AF and Low Light performance ?
Evening pictures // Wedding acts
It’s dark outside, the venue doesn’t have the best lights (or in this case .. almost none), things move around. A Pocketwizard TT5 & 580EXII on a stand. TT1 on top of my XT1.
Did you know you can even get your AC3 zone controller to work with Fuji’s ? I followed this handy guide from Zander White.
More acts, different venues
Off camera flash
An example of the same action but with on camera flash.
(You can see my gorillapod in the background)
Same off-camera set-up to get these shots.
A canon 580EXII on top of my XT1. The speedlight is bigger than the camera, it looks funny, there is no ETTL but chimp in your settings once and you are good to go. For party pictures like this I tend to switch to manual focus. F8, slow shutter speed .. adjust Flash accordingly. Aim it to their face. *boom*
I never used a flash in a ceremony before, this wedding had an awesome location and the ceremony was held in a renovated barn. When scouting the location I noticed that the place where the brides would be talking would have no natural light hitting them. Somehow I felt trouble lurking around the corner. Just to be sure I placed a 580EXII/TT5 behind the wall (camera left). 10 minutes into the ceremony the barn’s electricity went out….
All pictures in this post were taken with a Fujifilm X-T1.
Title & Post inspired by Photo’s fuji’s can’t take
To most photographers the album is the final-product to be handed over to the client, your pictures are no longer hidden on a DVD or hard drive somewhere… they now exist in the physical world (yes, I shoot digital). And that album will probably be along for a while to come, it will visit family, friends.. and it will later be shown to their children.
But to be honest , making albums was never in my list of “things I love about my job”. (And that is an understatement)
I’m still happy with my workflow on how clients help me pick favourites for the album but this year I got frustrated again with my album software. I lost too much time aligning & sizing image placeholders . It took too much time searching the perfect templates (NB. in my own template catalogue) and I found myself recreating the same templates time after time … Exit photojunction.
The thing with changing your workflow after 5 years is that in your head you are a bit glued to that workflow. You got to have an open mind towards change. But I also didn’t want to lose countless hours figuring everything out before being up to speed again. I went out on google to see what else was on the market. I downloaded the trial for Fundy, Album stomp and SmartAlbums and I gave all three a quick test drive to see which one suited me best.
There really was only one package that stood out from the others. Enter Smart Albums!
SmartAlbums is very different from what I’ve been doing all these years but boy is it rewarding! I’ll try to explain how SA approaches the design process. You set-up your album size (or choose from a very complete list of suppliers) & load in your pictures. The interface is divided in 3 parts. The spread, the timeline & the images. You choose what photo’s go well together to tell the story and drag them to a spread and SmartAlbums chooses a layout with that number of photo’s for you. Add or remove a picture from the spread and SA changes the layout instantly.
The whole thing is very dynamic and it makes experimenting fast & easy. If you are not happy with the layout you can cycle through them super fast or you can open a pop-up library to show you all available spreads for the amount of pictures you have on the spread. Although there are a lot of shortcuts available everything else can be done with drag & drop: replace an image, swap images, add an extra spread, reorder the spreads, ….
Check out the 1-minute demo to see it in action.
Why SmartAlbums really works for me
The simplicity of the layouts are a very close match to my way of designing albums.
I was also very pleased to see a no nonsense approach to the design of the interface. You keep a good overview of everything (but a nice big screen comes in handy) and it’s not crammed with icons, options & features.
For me the true marvel of SmartAlbums lies in the timeline control. I drag groups of images from to the timeline and I’ll create the page breaks so I get a clear idea how many spreads I’ll end up. I then fine tune the layouts, isolate some pictures by adding more page breaks so the best images get more space and stand out. For the other spreads I cycle some layouts to see what works best.
Now, coming from a software where you have full manual control there are of course some things about SA that can be seen as “limitations”. (the trade-okf of keeping a clean UI) If a certain layout is not in their “gallery” your can’t just create your own template and save it for re-use later. (a template builder would be awesome). There is a work-around, and the end of the process you can export your spreads to CS or Indesign and adjust them there. (or export a single spread, adjust it, export as jpg and reimport that image in SA). If you are not familiar with either CS or Indesign it can get a bit tricky. For simple things like scaling a group of images, or nudge them to the left or right it would be wonderful if this could be done from inside the application.
+ It will save you tons of time
+ Simple & clean UI
+ Fast image import
+ The ability to filter images using the rating & color labels of your pictures given to them in Lightroom
+ Keyboard navigation! If you can handle 4 arrow keys you are already an expert!
+ It seems limited at first but it already comes with a very complete template library. (other will be added in the Future)
+ Images can be kept inside different folders & reload automatically when changed
+ Available as a one time fee (299$)
- You will start to like creating albums
- If you are into classic album layouts this isn’t the software for you. No picture in picture in picture with a sepia background, no red-rose saturation
- Not being able to create your own layouts
- No “watch” folder. Images added to a folder don’t get imported automatically. (but there is a quick refresh button)
- No Windows version
- Bleed & Crop is only visible in the small preview on the right pane but that something is a bit too small
- A full screen spread preview with bleed & crop lines.
- Nudge / Scale the complete layout.
Within the first hour into the software I already found myself to be productive and I’m not exaggerating when I say I now really enjoy making albums. I’ve more than cut my design time in half. Just learn to limit your picks first, kill your darlings, keep only the strongest pictures.
Here are two example albums designed with Smart Albums. (click on the picture to open in a new window)