Review — Craft and Vision Lightroom presets

Anybody that’s followed this blog for long knows how much I like the photography eBooks published by Craft And Vision.  Well, now they’re selling presets for Adobe Lightroom — so I thought it only right to give them a look.

FWIW, the presets were developed for Lightroom 4 — they also seem to work beautifully in the Lighroom 5 beta, but if you’re using an earlier version of the software, they are unlikely to play well with your setup.

In any event, most photographers would rather spend their time taking photographs (vs. sitting in front of a computer), so good presets can be a good shortcut in getting your raw images into good shape for presentation.  They are also a good way to shorten the learning curve when (like me) you’re a bit new to some particular post-processing software.


Delnea presets spread

The first set of presets was developed by Dave Delnea for his own photography.  $10 gets you 46 presets and a 28-page PDF instruction manual.  The manual explains how to install the presets (if you’ve not done this before), and gives you complete before & after photographs for each preset, so you can see just what each does.

To give you an idea of what you get in this package, here’s the whole list of Delnea’s presets by name::

Delnea preset grab

The second set of presets is by David duChemin — here, $10 gets you 36 of David’s most-used presets and an 18-page PDF guide.  

DuChemin preset grab

As with the first set, the manual has a how-to section, and complete before and after photographs for each preset.


Presets bundle

If these sound interesting to you and you’d like to save a few dollars, you can get both preset packages together in one bundle — all 82 presets, used daily by two working photographers, for $18. Obviously, this deal is just of use to photographers using Lightroom 4 (or for folks contemplating the jump to Lightroom with version 5).  But if this describes you and the way you work, I think it’s a fantastic deal.  When you want to tweak some photos quickly, these presets will get you going with a few clicks and for a reasonable price.

eBook Review — Craft and Vision’s Timelapse: An Introduction to Still Photographs in Motion

Anybody who’s followed this blog for long knows I’m a big fan of the eBooks published by Craft And Vision. They’ve just released another one, so I’m giving it a quick review here — hopefully it’ll be a useful addition to your library.

Timelapse cover

This particular eBook is written by Dave Delnea, and is titled Timelapse: An Introduction to Still Photographs in Motion. $5 will get you 43 tabloid-sized pages/sheets, with links to example video on the internet (on Vimeo, to be precise). Here’s a quick summary of what’s in the eBook:

  • Introduction — why do time lapse photography, what you can do with it
  • Demystifying Time Lapse — a simple overview of the work involved
  • Getting Geared Up — a fairly detailed discussion of the equipment you’ll need (or at least, want) to use for time lapse photography. This comes in four parts — Essential Equipment (cameras, lenses, tripod), Essential Extras (intervalometer, power, etc.), Not-so-essential Extras (collapsible seat, smartphone with essential apps), and Computers / Software.
  • Getting Ready — what to do before you get to your site, and what setup you need to do once there (setting up your tripod, framing, focus, camera menu settings, etc.)
  • Flicker — causes and fixes
  • Post-Production Workflow — Ingesting images, editing, deflickering, converting the images to video.
  • Advanced Techniques — motion control, bulb ramping, etc.
  • Case Studies — 5 examples, with explanation of the challenges involved in each, and links to helpful time lapse video clips hosted on Vimeo
  • Conclusion

All-in-all, Timelapse is a very solid introduction to time lapse photography if you’re (relatively) new to it. Even if you’ve done time lapse work before, you’ll likely pick up some good tips from the eBook. Dave uses Nikon gear, but his discussions of camera settings translate pretty easily to other makes. His post-processing discussions are focused on the use of Lightroom and a bit of software called LRTimelapse. This section doesn’t seem to me to translate as well, and LRTimelapse isn’t exactly cheap (a free version with limited capabilities is available; a license for non-commercial video costs 89 euros, one for commercial video costs 249 euros).

Timelapse Horizontal

So depending on whether you want to make time lapse videos for fun, or for potential sale, and depending on what software you already own, the eBook’s software section (taking up a bit under 1/4 of the book) will be more or less useful to you. Even without it, there is quite a bit of good material in the rest of the eBook.

eBook review — Portraits of Earth: An Introduction to Landscape Photography

Every few weeks, the folks atCraft & Vision release another title in their fine series of photography eBooks. Their latest contribution was just released today — it’s Portraits of Earth: An Introduction to Landscape Photography, by David duChemin. As you might expect from the title, this eBook is a thorough discussion of landscape photography. And given that David cut his photographic teeth (so to speak) as a portrait photographer, it also makes sense that the eBook to some degree chronicles the learning process he went through in applying what he knew of portraiture to the world of landscapes.


Here’s a quick overview of the eBook’s sections:

  • Gear — lenses, tripods, filters
  • Light — soft, dramatic, reflected, side, warm vs. cool, mixed sources
  • Line — composition, leading lines, etc.
  • Land — scouting tricks, visual scale, finding a new angle
  • Water — tips and tricks, safety, scale
  • Snow — metering, white balance, condensation, capturing snowfall
  • Details — macro landscapes

Along with its text, Portraits of Earth includes images from all seven continents, taken from 2009 through 2012. And all its images are presented with their EXIF data, so along with composition ideas, you can gain a wealth of practical knowledge from each.


While the title is billed as “An Introduction to Landscape Photography,” it goes into significant depth and is a worthwhile read for even experienced photographers and is a fantastic value for $5 — you get a DRM-free PDF eBook with 62 (double-width) pages, full of explanatory text and a wealth of helpful example images.

eBook review — Craft and Vision’s “Finding Focus”

FINDING_FOCUS_newrelease_coverspread_550.pngEvery month, the folks at Craft & Vision release another title in their fine series of photography eBooks. This month’s contribution was just released today — it’s Finding Focus: Understanding the Camera’s Eye, by Nicole S. Young. As you might expect from the title, this eBook is a top-to-bottom discussion of the use of focus in photography. It’s comprehensive, and doesn’t assume you know very much of the subject (which has its pros and cons, obviously, depending on where you’re at photographically-speaking).

Finding Focus costs $5 for a PDF with 36 (double-width) pages, full of explanatory text and plenty of helpful example images. It covers the following topics:

  • Aperture
  • Depth of field
  • Lens compression (of the subject’s apparent depth)
  • Tilt-shift lenses
  • Related camera functions (pre-focus, DOF preview, etc.)
  • How to focus (for portraits, landscapes, etc.)
  • Focus & storytelling
  • Software (focus stacking, adding blur, etc.)
  • Common mistakes

The eBook’s coverage of focus is technical and comprehensive, but given the nature of its subject, may be a bit basic for some people. From my perspective, Finding Focus will likely be more useful for a beginner or beginner / intermediate photographer than for a more advanced shooter. That being said, it’s a well put-together eBook if it answers a need for you. I have only one complaint about this title: example images are labeled with their EXIF data, but many of the labels don’t include the focal length used (for shots taken with a zoom lens). This is an odd oversight, given that telephoto compression of a scene is part of the ground this title covers.

eBook review — Forget Mugshots: 10 Steps to Better Portraits

mugshots_thumb.pngCraft and Vision has just released a new eBook — this one’s called Forget Mugshots: 10 Steps to Better Portraits, and as usual, it’s a good one. $5 gets you 32 tabloid-sized pages full of good tips on making more engaging portrait shots.

Right up front, I have to say that the book’s title is a bit off — because the 10 steps aren’t really “steps” that you’d take one after the other. But then, calling it “10 Factors to Keep in Mind in Order to Make Better Portrait Shots” would have been cumbersome.

So, about the book. After a brief introduction, Forget Mugshots dives into the 10 “steps,” each explained in depth and illustrated by a couple of fairly quick examples, and nearly all of them wrapping up with a “Portrait Profile.” The profiles consist of a portrait or two of an individual annotated with the camera settings used to make them, and accompanied by the tale of the subject themselves.

By the way, here are the titles of the 10 steps:

  1. Relate
  2. Wait for the moment
  3. Use the “right” lens
  4. Use more than one frame
  5. Understand the smile
  6. Watch the eyes
  7. Play with the light
  8. Control your background
  9. Get level
  10. Pose carefully

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that David duChemin’s 10 “steps” are some sort of hard and fast rules, they’re not. But they really are aspects of the inter-personal process of portrait photography that you need to think about before you start to make your next portrait. And of course, thinking about them while you’re making a portrait would be a good thing too. So as far as I’m concerned, Forget Mugshots is a fantastic deal for $5, even if you only occasionally do portrait shots.

eBook review — Craft and Vision’s Exposure for Outdoor Photography


It’s been a few months since I’ve written up a book review, so right on time here comes another title from Craft and Vision — this eBook is Exposure for Outdoor Photography by Michael Frye.

I don’t know about you, but when I first saw the title, I thought — “Outdoor Photography, that’s a bit broad, isn’t it?” It turns out that in Frye’s use of the term, he’s talking primarily about landscape photography, but includes some wildlife and outdoor macro / close-up photography in the definition. So, no pictures of the family on a picnic here, but the same principles would apply.

But I digress.

If you buy Exposure, $5 will get you a 51 page PDF eBook — not counting the covers, that’s 48 tabloid-sized (!) pages of material on all the ins and outs of photographic exposure, including example images and 10 really good case studies (rapidly becoming my favorite part of Craft and Vision books!). So let’s break this down to see if it’s something that would be of use to you…

The first 20% or so of the eBook is a thorough if somewhat elementary discussion of the exposure triangle (shutter speed, aperture, ISO), metering and exposure modes on a camera, and using a histogram for better exposed images. Nothing Earth-shattering, but a good introduction to the topic if you’re relatively new to photography, and an excellent refresher otherwise.

But the majority of the eBook is devoted to case studies. A few of them are on scattered aspects of photographic exposure (using the histogram, the zone system, HDR and exposure blending, etc.). But most of them use example images to explore all the various aspects of the exposure triangle:

  • Maximizing depth of field for scenic shots

  • Minimizing depth of field to isolate a subject from its background

  • Short exposures to freeze motion

  • Long exposures to blur motion

  • Pushing ISO for low-light work

You get the picture — the eBook covers the exposure triangle very thoroughly, and with well-chosen example images to help you see the effect of changes in various settings. Then Frye wraps up with a short discussion on breaking the rules — when choosing a deliberately unusual approach to exposure can be a good creative choice.

So all-in-all, I’d say that for most people, it’s a very good value at $5.