California Wildflower Season Is Getting Started!

Went out scouting for wildflowers yesterday with a friend. The weather was variable ranging from sunny and windy to overcast and moody. We found this area near Arvin, close to the junction of Rte 223 and Rte 58 (not too far from the Grapevine). Fiddlenecks and pygmy Lupine were up, some lonely poppies here and there (too early for them). My guess is that this season will give us patches of good color, but it will take a bit of hunting around over a period of a few weeks to get some good shots.

wildflowers march 2013 b crop vib copy

Click on the image for a larger version. Have a great weekend!

David Saffir

Product Review: The Flashpoint DG600 300 w/s AC/DC Monolight

I’ve been testing a studio strobe from Adorama, the  Flashpoint DG-600. Intended for use in both studio and location work, this is a 300/WS workhorse (published guide number of 58m/190ft ISO 100) that offers flexibility in many types of shooting situations. It can run on normal household power (US) or a 12v DC power pack.

The housing of the light is made of heavyweight plastic, and seems quite durable. An attached carrying handle is provided, as is a  8” metal reflector – the latter is attached using a locking bayonet-style design.

On the front end, one sees a conventional semi-circular flash tube mounted in front of an LED-array modeling light.

hero shot angle

At the back, most controls are push-button variety, with the exception of the power switch, which provides on/AC, off, and on/DC positions.

hero shot rear

The unit is provided with a nice long power cord (which is a good change – it seems lately that power cords are shrinking in length, or are not provided at all), and a PC/sync cord for those of use who haven’t yet gone to wireless triggers. The sync plug on the housing is of mini-plug variety, not the full-size “stereo” plugs one often sees.

Push button controls include flash test, sound on/off, modeling light, and slave operation. Flash intensity is read through a digital numeric display, and is controlled through a rotating knob. Flash intensity numbers are not linked to f/stop, but are displayed relative to total flash output, from nil to maximum.

Flash output is consistent in intensity right from start up, and stays that way throughout a shoot. Max recycling time is 1.5 seconds at max power (AC) – but at lower power settings is near-instantaneous. The cooling fan is quiet and unobtrusive. Stated flash duration is 1/800 to 1/1500/sec.

I also tested the light with a color meter. While I found that the light easily hit daylight color temperature (5500k) a from a cold start, it needed to fire a few times before settling in and stabilizing at this color temperature. (In other words, color temp varied a bit from shot to shot from a cold start to warm-up).

Once warmed up, variance in color temperature in the mid- to ¾-power range was not a significant issue. At full power, it took a bit longer for the light to warm up and stabilize – if you are shooting at full power, and the light has been resting a while, fire off five or six test shots to bring everything into line.

The modeling light is an LED array, which operates in proportion to flash output settings. This is a great idea – those of us who engage in day-long shoots will appreciate this. Completely cool, with no appreciable heat generated, so less wear and tear on umbrellas and soft boxes, not to mention one’s fingers!

Also, unlike tungsten or halogen-based bulbs, it is roughly the same color temperature as the flash tube, which is a significant convenience. However, the modeling light is challenged to provide enough illumination used with a diffuser or soft box, and I’d like to see available luminance increased. Otherwise, a brilliant idea (no pun.)

One might think that the lower power usage of the LED modeling light would bode well for its use with a battery pack – however, Adorama doesn’t recommend this.

Accessories available include a NIMH portable battery pack and spare battery, a speed ring for soft box/light modifiers, a beauty dish, umbrellas, and related items.

At this price point, $199, this light is a good value vis-à-vis overall build quality and light output, and it appears that it would deliver sold performance in the field or in the studio. In my opinion, at 300/ws, a couple of these would fill an average room nicely – even at levels below full power. All you location shooters and real estate photographers, take note!

The Flashpoint DG-600 is available through Adorama:

To be placed on the notification list for new posts, workshops, or webinars sign up for
my blog subscription here.

First Impressions, Fuji X-E1

I’ve had the X-E1 for a little while, courtesy of Fuji and Photo Techniques Magazine. I’m working on an article for the magazine, and I thought I’d share a few thoughts along the way:

First Impressions, Fuji X-E1:

  • A very lightweight camera body, due in part to its largely magnesium-based construction.
  • Controls are well-placed on the camera body.
  • LCD-based menus require some studying of the instruction manual.
  • LCD is bright and easy to read, even outdoors.
  • Camera automatically switches from LCD view to electronic viewfinder.
  • Image quality is very good (more on this later).
  • RAW processing software is subject of debate (more on this later).
  • The 18-55 kit lens provided with this camera exceeded expectations.

Here’s an image taken to test resolution and color:

Test shot, Fuji X-E1, Studio Lighting

Test shot, Fuji X-E1, Studio Lighting

Photo Plus Expo, New York City, October 2012 – David Saffir and David Tobie

Will you be attending PhotoPlus Expo in New York City, October 25-27? If so, David Saffir (me!) and David Tobie will be speaking at the Midwest Photo Exchange Stage, booth # 1027 at the show. We are currently scheduled:

Thursday 10/25
11:30: David Saffir- Screen to Print Match for Photographers
1:30: David Tobie- Moving into Motion: Video and Video Color for Photographers

Friday 10/26:
11:30: David Tobie- Moving into Motion: Video and Video Color for Photographers
1:30: David Saffir- Screen to Print Match for Photographers

Saturday 10/27:
11:30: David Saffir- Screen to Print Match for Photographers
1:30: David Tobie- Moving into Motion: Video and Video Color for Photographers


Be sure to visit Datacolor, nearby at booth #1239. See some of the latest technology in color calibration, the Spyder4, and
lots of other cool stuff!

© David Saffir

New Free Webinar: Calibration for All of Your Display Devices

Calibration for All of Your Display Devices: including iPhones, iPads & more
Tuesday, October 16, 2012 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM EDT, 12 noon – 1 PM PDT

Most photographers, artists, and designers own more than one display device – be it a laptop or desktop computer, projector, iPhone or iPad. It can be a challenge to get them all to work together and provide accurate and consistent color, hue, saturation, and brightness – which enables the user to work with confidence and transition between display devices efficiently and effectively. One should for example, be able to edit images on a desktop computer, and be assured that those images will be color-consistent when shown to a client or colleague on a laptop or iPad.

Join us Tuesday, October 16th from 3PM-4PM EDT (12 Noon – 1 PM PDT), as Datacolor Color Management Experts, David Saffir and David Tobie discuss the issues photographers encounter when calibrating displays for use in photo studios and related workspaces. Some issues to be discussed include: accurate color calibration, ambient light and studio setup issues, studio calibration standards, and side-by-side tuning of displays for visual matching.

An interactive Q&A will take place throughout the webinar to answer any questions you may have.

Register here:

Color Comparison: Canon 5D Mark ll and Mark lll (article by C. David Tobie – Link)

Color Comparison: Canon 5D Mark ll and Mark lll

Posted by cdtobie on March 29, 2012
As the next generation of Nikon and Canon cameras hit the street, one of the questions that always occurs to me is how these new bodies interpret color, in relation to the tried and true models they are replacing. I will be testing more than one such pair, but lets begin with the newly released Canon 5D Mark lll, and its predecessor the Mark ll.

read more….


Join us for our next big photography workshop in the Palouse in June 2012 – click on the WORKSHOPS tab at the top of this page.

Screen to Print Match for Photographers – Updated/Revised March 29 2012

Most people have experienced an issue with screen to print match at one time or another. Some have told me that they have just given up on the idea. But screen to print match can save you a lot of editing time, and wasted paper making proofs (you know: proof-tweak, proof-tweak, etc.)

This is an issue that can usually be solved without breaking a sweat. Think of this article like a cooking recipe – put it all together, and cookies turn out fine!

Examples of Issues

1. It is hard to see the screen in my office or studio

2. Colors I’m familiar with don’t look right on the screen

3. Screen brightness does not match print/print looks too dark

4. Screen shows highlights and/or shadows differently than the print

5. Some colors differ on screen vs print

6. All the color in the print just looks wrong, compared to the screen


1. It is hard to see the screen

This is a big cause of headaches and fatigue.

I suggest that if you need glasses or an updated prescription, get them. Bright light in the room, whether ceiling lights, windows, or other sources, can cause reflections on the screen or cause you struggle with differences in brightness. I use a room that has a big window with a set of louvered blinds. Not expensive, and effective.

If you are using a laptop, you should know that most laptop screens are just not good enough for editing color in digital photographs. The color palette is too narrow. Also, the screen has a small sweet spot, or angle of view – if you move around a bit the appearance of color and/or contrast may change. If your budget permits, get a decent flat screen display and plug it into the laptop.

Another issue – your room setup is important. The screen should be the brightest light source in the room. Competing light from windows and such can affect your perception of color, and cause eyestrain and fatigue. Here’s a photo of a room that does NOT get the job done!

2. Colors I’m familiar with don’t look right on the screen

First, you usually get what you pay for. A bottom-dollar low end screen probably can’t get the job done.

Next, the screen has to be calibrated – this means adjusting the screen so it shows color accurately as possible. The tool used for this is a display calibrator. (I discourage use of the display calibration software included with Mac OS or Windows OS. They improve things, but not enough for editing photographs).

Display calibration is one of the easier things to do. Open the box, follow the directions, and voila!

Spyder4 Elite from Datacolor

I have some recommendations for settings. Some may disagree here, but these work for me. You will see the adjustment screen for these if you choose the “advanced” option in your calibration software.

Use color temp of 5500k, or 6500k, depending partly on which color space you use. Adobe 98 white point is 6500, ProPhoto RGB is 5500.

Use luminance of 90-120 cd/square meter to start. Use gamma of 2.2.

When you set up your display like this, it will look kind of dull compared to its previous state.

By the way, most new displays come new out of the box set up to much higher color temperatures, close to 200cd/sqm, gamma native or 2.2. That’s useful in an office where one is working on email or similar stuff; near useless for photography.

You can, of course, experiment until you find a set of adjustments that suit you. These have worked for me for a long time.

One last thing: capture RAW whenever practical, and work with your images in Adobe 98, or ProPhoto RGB,  rather than sRGB.  The only reason to keep an sRGB workflow is if you are a wedding or event photographer and your lab requires it.

3. Screen brightness does not match print

The screen will always look brighter than the print. Put another way: “the print looks too dark!” Think of the screen like a lightbox with a big transparency on it – it gives off light. The print can only reflect light.

The answer comes in three parts: Control your room lighting, use the screen brightness settings provided above, and control the light used to view the print (view the print in indirect daylight, gallery halogens, or a dedicated light box).

4. Screen shows highlights and/or shadows differently than the print

Two of the biggest reasons in the matching screen-vs-print category for this are 1) a cheapo screen, and 2) a non-calibrated display.

Other causes usually involve editing techniques used in Photoshop or another editor, when preparing to print, or in settings used in the printing software dialogue box. That’s a subject for another article.

5. Some colors differ on screen vs print

First, think about display calibration. Got to do it – at least once a month.

Next, think about setting up Photoshop so you can actually see what the printed image’s colors will look like. This kind of preview is called “Soft Proofing”. Here’s an excerpt from an article I wrote on the subject:

You can set Photoshop to display a simulation of how your your print will actually look, using the paper/ink/printer combination you’ve chosen. This is often called 
“soft proofing”.

The benefits? You can see, in real time, what color impact your editing will produce – in other words, each time you adjust color you’ll see what it is going to look like in the final print. You can also choose different soft proofing setups to see the impact of changing papers, or even changing printers!

With your image open, click View>Proof Setup>Custom, as shown below:

Step OneThe next dialogue box that appears will look like this:


Note that just below the tag “Proof Conditions” there is a title “Device to Simulate”. This designates a drop down menu that looks like the screen shot shown below. You will see a list of the ICC profiles that you’ve installed, either along with a printer driver, or manually. Scroll down and choose the one you want.


Once you have chosen the correct profile, you can save this as a pre-set for your convenience. Click on Save, and name your pre-set, and click save again. Click OK to close this out.


For most photography purposes, Perceptual rendering intent is fine. Enable black point compensation, and leave the others alone – don’t need them. As long as “Preview” is enabled, your calibrated display will show you what your image is going to look like in print!

6. All the color in the print just looks wrong, compared to the screen

The biggest reason this happens to me is that, somehow, the display calibration goes haywire. This usually happens after a system crash.

The first thing to do is to check the printer – is the right paper loaded? Are you using the right printer settings? Have you performed a print head check for clogged nozzles?

If the problem continues, reboot the computer and recalibrate the display. Sometimes settings files go haywire, or get corrupted. If the display is over three or four years old, and the problem persists, try another monitor on the computer and see if that solves the issue. You may need a new display.

7. SPECIAL NOTE: This post is Photoshop-centric, and the screen shots are from CS5. However, soft proofing in CS6 is identical, as far as I can tell (I’ve had CS6 for a day and a half!). In the next week or two, I will make another post that describes soft proofing in Lightroom 4.

Additional tips and tricks:

Remember that you can always change your display calibration back to the way it was, or re-calibrate using different settings.

Color editing that seems impossible late at night will usually be easy after a good night’s sleep.

Use manufacturer’s ink, not a substitute, in your printer.

Experiment with different papers, but often the manufacturer’s paper will look the best.

If you have trouble with color on a print, try making a print from an image that has done well before. If that also looks different, it is the printer or the printing settings.

Change the background on your Photoshop screen to grey or white.

Let the screen warm up for 30 minutes before you start work.

When you are printing, try using ICC profiles for printing instead of printer managed color.


NEW WORKSHOP: Join us in the Palouse in June 2012 for a combo photography/image editing extravaganza! Go to the top of this page and click on the WORKSHOPS tab!

Review in Professional Photographer Mag: SpyderGallery: Color Calibration Now a Reality for Your iPad

A new product from Datacolor, SpyderGallery, makes it dead easy to calibrate your iPad—versions 1 or 2—and the results are noticeably better: image quality, color accuracy, saturation, shadow detail, and detail in highly saturated areas are improved,

For more, continue here..


Best of the Palouse Photo Workshop – June 19-23, 2012

Jack Lien and David Saffir, June 19-23, 2012

Early Bird registration, before May 1, 2012 is $650. After that, $795. Call Jack Lien (360) 481-4575

On a Palouse Country Photo Tour and Workshop, you’ll capture the uncommon photograph in a region described by National Geographic Magazine as “A Paradise called the Palouse.”

This 4,000 square-mile region sprawls across the Washington-Idaho border, encompassing uncommonly rich farmland.  Crop patterns form a vibrant patchwork appearance and a wild sea-like wave as the winds cause fields of wheat and barley to bend and sway. The Palouse offers photographers the opportunity to capture a diverse landscape and a chance to witness an unforgettable land formed by the Lake Missoula glacial flood path of 15,000 years ago.  Palouse Country Photo Tours is the only photography tour company that specializes in and is intimately knowledgeable with this amazing country.

This 5-day workshop, includes intensive field work, plus hands-on, practical, image-editing and printing instruction.


Field Work: Images From the Palouse

 In the field portion of this photo workshop we will capture images of the rapidly developing stages of crop growth and farmers working the fields. This is an excellent time to photograph the deep rich green fields against the freshly plowed ground and the pastoral scenes only found on the Palouse. The bold colors, patterns, lines, and contrast against the contours of the Palouse landscape is breathtaking. 

 Field Workshop leader Jack Lien has lived on and photographed in the Palouse for over 40 years. He’s discovered countless photographic opportunities throughout the region and has gained access to private land, nostalgic buildings and landscape that are often unknown or off limits to others.

Jack will get you into the heart and soul of the land and its people and you’ll have abundant opportunities to photograph historic buildings, barns, windmills, and fields. He also knows where to catch the best light for every shooting situation. You will have the opportunity to meet and photograph area farmers preparing their equipment for a long day in the field.

Segment Two: “Make Your Images Sparkle From Start to Finish” 

 In these segments, you’ll learn to optimize camera setup, get the right color from your computer, and edit your images to give them the sparkle and depth they deserve! We’ll emphasize Photoshop, Lightroom, Camera RAW, and fine art printing in these sessions.


Workshop Leader: David Saffir is an internationally-recognized photographer and printmaker. The author of two books, he provides color and imaging consulting services to individuals and organizations worldwide. He is the author of Mastering Digital Color: A Photographer’s and Artist’s Guide to Controlling Color, published by Thomson/Cenlar. His second book, focused on his photography, is titled The Joy of Discovery, published in Spring 2009. Other publications include Rangefinder Magazine, Professional Photographer, Pro Photo West, Great Output, Digital Imaging Technology, and others.

Details, Workshop Itinerary:

June 19

•     3pm – 4pm Orientation meeting

•     4pm – 5pm Briefing on camera settings for color and exposure before we head out into the      field (handout included)

•     5pm – Head out into the field until dusk to photograph this incredible land and its endless photo opportunities

June 20, 21, 22

•     Each morning we will depart from the motel at 4:30-5:30am and return around 11 am for a much needed rest.

•     2pm to 3pm – Review and critique of images shot in the morning (w/ David Saffir).

•     3pm return to the field and shoot until after sunset.

June 23

•     8 am to 12 noon – Classroom instruction, “Make Your Images Sparkle From Start to Finish” – David Saffir
Includes image editing and final critique of images captured during the week, plus printing.

Learn how to manage image quality from capture, to editing, and on to display or print. Get the most from your camera, computer, software, and printer, and create images that meet or exceed your expectations!


 •     Camera settings – white balance, ISO, shutter and aperture, color settings, JPEG vs RAW

•     Review: Transferring and backing up images after the shoot.

•     Organizing and selecting images for further processing and editing – including cataloguing and adding keywords for accessibility

•     Setting up the computer and display for correct color

•     Processing images in Camera RAW/Lightroom

•     Image editing in Photoshop

•     Printer setup and printing fine art images



Limit 8 photographers – Workshop Fee: pay on or before April 1, $650, after that $795

Local transportation and lodging not included in fee

To register for this “Best of the Palouse Photo Tours and Workshop” go to our website at or contact us at: or call Jack Lien: (360) 481-4575

We suggest early registration as classes fill up quickly. A laptop is recommended but not required.