Imatag Uses Invisible Watermarks to Protect Your Photos
Imatag is a new service that uses invisible watermarks to protect photographs from copyright infringement. With the development of AI technology that can easily remove physical watermarks, more covert solutions could be a solution for photographers looking to identify and prove ownership of copied images online.
Once protected, Imatag will also track your photos on the web. You can use the website to see where your photos are found online and take appropriate action.
The website has an online demo you can use to try out the technology. You can upload your own image, allowing you to check it out with a magnifying glass and compare the original with the modified version. As you can see from the comparison images below, the watermark is invisible.
You can then adjust the JPEG quality, size, and crop to see if Imatag can still identify your photo via its watermark.
Very small sections of the image will not necessarily be identified, but you can still find surprisingly small crops with the watermarking technology.
Sections of the same size, but in the darker background with little detail, were not identified.
At a first look, the technology seems impressive. Identifying an invisible watermark within such small and low-resolution images is clearly something that could make a real difference when battling copyright infringement. Infringers are often modifying and cropping photos, but this could be a weapon that is resistant to that.
You can register a free account with Imatag, which allows you to upload up to 1GB of photos. If you need more storage, premium accounts with 100GB of storage are available for €10 per month (~$12).
The job listing was just posted to USAJOBS, the governments official employment website. The full-time “Photographer” job has a pay scale and grade of GS 12, comes with nice government benefits, and has a salary range of $79,720 to $103,639 per year.
The Homeland Security photographer will be based in Washington D.C. and will be responsible for creating DSLR photos and videos for standalone usage, social media, and articles.
Work responsibilities include things like documenting the Department’s activities/people/mission, keeping up to date with photography trends, managing photo equipment, and representing the Department to the world.
You may be expected to travel in the position (including on military aircraft), but it’s estimated to be 50% or less. You may also be required to be on call 24 hours a day. Applicants must be able to obtain a Top Secret Security Clearance.
“Just like the National Parks Service position, jobs like this don’t come open very often…” a Homeland Security spokesperson tells PetaPixel. “The last time this position came open was 2004.”
Review: Sony Gets It Right with the FE 24-105mm f/4 G Lens
Here’s one of the first in-depth reviews of the new Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS lens, comparing it for reference to the Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 and Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L lenses using precise and reliable measurements.
A Much Anticipated Lens
When I started to photograph with the Sony a7R II in the summer of 2015, the selection of Sony FE lenses was quite limited. You could count them on the fingers of both hands: Sony 28mm f/2, Sony Zeiss 35mm f/2.8, Sony Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 ZA, Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 ZA, Sony Zeiss 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS, Sony 70-200mm f/4 ISS, Sony 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS, Sony Zeiss 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS and Sony Zeiss 24-70mm f/4 OSS.
Sony has certainly made impressive progress in expending this lineup in the last two years. It now includes 28 lenses, 14 zooms lenses and 14 prime lenses.
Their latest offering, the Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS Lens is the lens I have been waiting for literally since I started using the Sony Alpha system.
First, although back in 2015 the Sony Zeiss 24-70mm f/4 was the better of the three trans-standard zooms on offer, it isn’t a great lens, especially for one bearing the Zeiss name. I found it a step back in optical performance compared to the equivalent Canon offerings.
The blog of Pulitzer Prize-winning celebrity photographer Brian Smith is a must-follow if you want to keep up to date with the latest Sony FE developments. In his post “Are Sony FE Lenses as Sharp as Canon & Nikon Glass?” the sharp-eyed reader can notice that all sorts of lenses are compared using DxO Mark scores, but the category 24-70mm f/4 is missing.
Second, when I was shooting Canon, my go-to-lens was the 24-105mm f/4L. I had been using it for a decade, since it was introduced in 2005, and such a habit is hard to die. I am sure the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM is outstanding, but having used a 24-70mm f/2.8 in the past, I much prefer the additional reach and lighter weight of a 24-105mm f/4.
I almost never shoot wide-open, so I don’t care for the beautiful bokeh of a f/2.8 lens. In addition, I also prefer a 100-400 lens to a 70-200 lens, and the former pairs better with a 24-105. My photography is outdoors and often required me to carry gear all day for long distances in the wilderness, in particular for my recent Treasured Lands photography book about the 59 U.S. National Parks.
When Sony announced the FE 24-105mm f/4 after Brian mentioned in a tweet that it was much improved over the FE 24-70mm f/4, I promptly pre-ordered three copies to test, so this is likely the first in-depth review of this lens you’ll read. Why three copies? My past experience of testing lenses has taught me that sometimes sample-to-sample variation is quite significant, to the point that it compares with model-to-model differences.
Specifications Compared with the Sony 24-70mm f/4
The size and weight of the Sony 24-70mm f/4 made it a delight to carry. The Sony 24-105mm f/4 is larger and 50% heavier but offers 75% more focal range, so that’s a reasonable trade-off, especially considering improvements in magnification, aperture (more blades result in smoother bokeh), and controls. It is extremely similar in appearance to the first version of the Canon 24-105mm f/4, with almost exactly the same size, weight (664g), finish, and controls – the current version II of the Canon is quite larger and heavier (795g), though.
The 24-105mm costs $1,300 and the 24-70mm costs $1,100 (as of late 2017).
Like with other Sony FE lenses, the focus ring functions like an electronic dial, not physically connected to the lens, and there are no focus markings. Focusing is internal and doesn’t extend the lens. The lens is not parfocal, which means that when you zoom, the focus changes, however that change is minimal. The lens extends when zooming in. The zoom ring is solid and doesn’t suffer from zoom creep even pointed straight up or down.
AF is quick and silent. The lens is equipped with optical stabilization, which works in conjunction with the IBIS system. A button on the left side of the barrel can be customized. Compared to the Sony 24-70mm f/4, the 24-105mm f/4 also gains two switches for stabilization and AF. Those switches behave quite differently on the a7R II.
Stabilization is controlled only by the switch on the lens. The body cannot turn it on or off. I find that unfortunate. Currently, I have my two custom modes on the dial set up for hand-holding and working on a tripod. The hand-holding setup turns stabilization on, while the tripod setup turns it off – using stabilization on a tripod reduces image sharpness in a small but measurable way. With the 24-105mm f/4, in addition to turning the dial, I’ll have to remember to operate the switch on the lens.
AF is controlled by both the switch on the lens and the camera. However, AF is active only if both lens and camera are switched to AF. I find it all too easy to brush the switch on the camera by accident and put the camera in manual focus mode, so I would have preferred that the lens switch has priority over the camera.
I hope that Sony will allow a different behavior via a future firmware update.
The main issue with the 24-70mm f/4 is that corners and edges are rather soft, and stopping down does not improve them. Let’s see if the 24-105mm f/4 is an improvement by looking at a section of my photography library. The detail is a 600×400 pixels crop of the upper right shelf, the one with the small books.
Below is a 100% detail view of pictures from the Sony 24-70mm f/4 at respectively f/4, f/8, and f/16. Notice how the title of the book with the grey spine, the author of the André Kertész book, and the Chinese characters are illegible at all apertures.
Below are pictures from the Sony 24-105mm f/4 at respectively f/4, f/8, and f/16. Even wide-open is already better than the best from the Sony 24-70mm f/4. Stopping down improves image quality further, and at f/16, diffraction degrades it.
Below are pictures from the Canon 24-105mm f/4 (Metabones adapter) at respectively f/4, f/8, and f/16. Sharpness is better than the Sony 24-70mm, but not as good as the Sony 24-105mm, and there is more chromatic aberration than in any of the two Sony lenses.
Visual evaluations are all good if you don’t have better, but measurements are more precise and remove any subjectivity. I used a target and software from Imatest, the leader in image quality measurement. Based on photographs of the target, Imatest automatically computes measures of lens performance.
This resulted in a lot of data, here is how to read it:
The five sets of graphs are for the focal lengths 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 70mm, and 105mm.
In each set left quadrants (A,B) are two different copies of the Sony 24-105mm f/4 lens. Top right (C) is the Canon 24-105mm
f/4 lens. Bottom right is the Sony 24-70mm f/4 lens
Each quadrant represents lens performance for the five f-stops between f/4 and f/16.
Red is image center, green is part-way, blue are corners, and black is a weighted average of the three previous values.
The value plotted as bars in the graphs is MTF 50, a good indicator of sharpness.
A wealth of information can be found in the graphs above, but here are a few general observations. Some will be well-known to some readers but are worth repeating for others.
Aperture. Lenses are sharpest at middle apertures (sharpness is limited by aberrations at wide apertures and by diffraction at smaller apertures. In fact, by f/16, all lenses perform almost the same, which is why I didn’t bother to make measurements at f/22). If given the choice, use a middle aperture such as f/8.
Corners vs. Center. Center sharpness is always better than corner sharpness. At wide apertures, sharpness is less uniform across the image, with corners lagging behind. Stopping down often improve corners more than the center, making sharpness more uniform.
Here are some specific observations:
We find that there is a small, but measurable sample-to-sample variation between the two different copies of the Sony 24-105mm f/4 lens. The sample A is clearly better. For the sake of presentation simplicity, I have omitted graphs from the third sample, but they are in the same ballpark. Based on experience testing other lenses, Sony’s quality control is better than average, since I have seen larger sample-to-sample variation.
The first set of graphs at 24mm validate what we observed visually: that Sony 24-105mm f/4 has the best corner performance and it keeps improving as the lens is stepped down, and Sony 24-70mm f/4 has the weakest one, with no improvements brought by stopping down. The Canon is in between the two. The Sony 24-105mm f/4 performs great at f/8 and 24mm, my most used combination!
Based on visual observations, I expected the Sony 24-105mm f/4 to measure better than the Sony 24-70mm f/4, but the magnitude of the difference at all focal lengths surprised me. To be totally fair, the Sony 24-104 f/4 is new out of the box, while my 24-70mm f/4 has been knocked around quite a bit. I didn’t baby it while climbing mountains.
It is possible that its alignment was off. This has happened before. One time, while testing new lenses, I included my Canon 24-104 f/4 for reference and noticed that its performance wasn’t as good as what I remembered measuring in the past. I sent the lens to Canon Professional Services for checking, and sure enough, they found that it needed re-alignment!
Like many trans-standard zooms, the 24-105mm f/4 is not particularly well corrected for distortion. It suffers from barrel distortion at its shorter focal length, and pincushion distortion at the longer focal lengths. This is readily observed on the images of the Imatest target, respectively at 24mm and 105mm. Those images were shot wide-open, and vignetting is visible.
In practice, this is easily and automatically corrected in Lightroom with lens profiles. You can also use Photoshop’s Lens Distortion filter with the opposite of the coefficients below. However, you have to make sure that the compositions are not not too tight to the image edges to leave room for the lost pixels. In fact, with its barrel distortion at 24mm, the field of view is probably more like 22-23mm, and after correction should be very close to 24mm.
Here are the measurements from Imatest.
I took a quick mid-day walk at Alviso. The two last photographs were made from the same viewpoint to illustrate the difference in field of view between 105mm and 70mm.
The wait has been worth it. Sony finally gets it right for this supremely versatile lens. Optical performance is much improved compared to the Sony 24-70mm f/4, in particular with respect to the main weakness of that lens, corner sharpness. It also compares well with the excellent Canon 24-105mm f/4L. Like for this lens, a compromise has been made with vignetting and distortion, which is a minor issue if images are post-processed.
About the author: QT Luong is a full-time photographer and author with a broad range of work on natural and cultural landscapes, noted for being the first to photograph each of the 59 US National Parks and in large format, the subject of Treasured Lands, winner of six national book awards. You can find more of his work on his website, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. This article was also published here.
Catwalk Calling: Gianni Versace’s FW92 Collection Takes A Page Out of S&M
Since the inception of Italian fashion house Versace in 1978, founder and designer Gianni Versace quickly began to dominate the runway—along with forming the league of iconic supermodels that graced his catwalk. At the height of his fame, Versace was a pop culture icon, delivering hit-making collections and starting his very own fashion revolution.
One of Versace’s most notable collections is from Fall 1992, provocatively titled Miss S&M, a thematic collection that even photographer H…
When Midnight Strikes: 3 Party-Ready Looks Guaranteed To Stun
No holiday fete would be complete with out a dazzling party-ready outfit to take you through any and every occasion. This holiday season, slinky dresses, fitted jumpsuits and shimmering tops have received a Studio 54 spin, with enough sparkle and shine to leave any disco diva green with envy. With parties destined to last until the early hours on New Year’s Eve, now is the time to prepare the sequins, silks and peekaboo panels that will make an instant impression, especially on the dance floor….
The 20 Most Expensive Photos Sold at Auction (As of 2017)
As one of the more “recent” art forms, photography’s popularity in the art market has grown and grown, with the highest amount paid for a photograph sticking at $838,000 in 1999 until being bumped off the top spot 4 years later with a sale of $922,488, and then again 2 years later when the first million-dollar photograph was sold for $1,248,000.
Ever since, the auction houses of Sotheby’s and Christie’s have vied for the title of ‘the most expensive photograph’ as photography’s popularity continues to grow as a smart investment.
Andreas Gursky is by far the most successful photographer when it comes to selling the most expensive photographs at auction (with 9 prints selling for over $1 million), followed by Cindy Sherman, who is the most successful female photographer to sell at auction (with 7 lots selling for more than $1 million).
The overwhelming majority of these photographs were created via analog cameras, suggesting that film photography is considered far more valuable than digital. The most recent image to have been captured in the list is Tobolsk Kremlin, a digital print from Dmitry Medvedev, taken in 2009, and the oldest is Joseph Philibert Girault de Prangey’s Daguerreotype 113 Athenes, Temple de Jupiter captured in 1842. These photographs were taken 167 years apart.
Some photographs feature several times on the list, such as Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Still 48 and Untitled 96, and Richard Prince’s Untitled (cowboy) with different editions of these prints selling in different years and, sometimes, different auction houses.
One of the most recent additions to the ultimate list was the 2017 sale of Orphaned Cheetah Cubs, Mweiga, near Nyeri, Kenya, March 1968 by Peter Beard, which sold for over $672,000 at Christie’s New York on 10th October 2017 in the ‘Photographs Including Property from the Museum of Modern Art’ auction. Though it did not break into the top 20, it was by far one of the most expensive photographs to sell this year.
But there were two stand-out sales this year, both of which came for Man Ray, who not only entered the list for the first time but entered the top 20 with 2 sales. In May, Man Ray’s Portrait of a tearful woman became the first photograph to enter the top 20 since 2015, selling for $2.1 million (Christie’s New York). This was a world record for the artist, which was broken 6 months later with Noire et Blanche, which became the 14th most expensive photograph to ever sell at auction (2.6 million euros, Christie’s Paris), making it the most expensive photograph to sell this year.
The most expensive photograph ever sold is a contentious topic as more and more photographs are sold privately, directly to the buyer. However, here is an up-to-date list (at the time of this writing) of the 20 most expensive sold at auction (in ascending order):
#20. Cindy Sherman, Untitled 92 1981
Chromogenic color print. Sold at Christie’s New York in November 2013: $2,045,000
#19. Man Ray, Portrait of a Tearful Woman 1936
Hand-coloured Gelatin Silver print. Sold at Christie’s New York in May 2017: $2,167,500
#18. Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still 48
Chromogenic color print. Sold at Sotheby’s New York in November 2014: $2,225,000
#17. Unknown, “Billy the Kid” (Fort Sumner, New Mexico) 1879
Tin-type. Sold at Brian Lebel’s Old West Show & Auction in June 2011: $2,300,000
#16. Andreas Gursky, Paris, Montparnasse 1993
Chromogenic color print. Sold at Sotheby’s London in October 2013: $2,416,475
#15. Andreas Gursky, Chicago Board of Trade 1997
Chromogenic color print. Sold at Sotheby’s London in June 2013: $2,507,755
#14. Man Ray, Noire et Blanche, 1926
Silver print. Sold at Christie’s Paris in November 2017: EUR 2,688,750
#13. Cindy Sherman, Untitled 153 1985
Chromogenic color print. Sold at Phillips New York in November 2010: $2,770,500
#12. Cindy Sherman, Untitled 96 1981
Chromogenic color print. Sold at Christie’s New York in May 2012: $2,882,500
#11. Andreas Gursky, Los Angeles 1998
Chromogenic color print. Sold at Sotheby’s London in February 2008: $2,900,000
#10. Edward Steichen, The Pond – Moonlight 1904
Gum Bichromate print over Platinum. Sold at Sotheby’s New York in February 2006: $2,928,000
#9. Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still 48
Chromogenic color print. Sold at Christie’s New York in May 2015: $2,965,000
#8. Richard Prince, Untitled (cowboy)
Ektacolour Print. Sotheby’s New York May 2014: $3,077,000
#7. Andreas Gursky, Chicago Board of Trade 1997
Chromogenic color print. Sold at Sotheby’s London in June 2013: $3,298,755
#6. Andreas Gursky, 99 Cent II Diptychon 2001
Chromogenic color print. Sold at Sotheby’s London in February 2007: $3,346,456
#5. Jeff Wall, Dead Troops Talk 1992
Transparency in Lightbox. Sold at Christie’s New York in May 2012: $3,666,500
#4. Gilbert & George, To Her Majesty 1973
Gelatin Silver print. Sold at Christie’s London in June 2008: $3,765,276
#3. Cindy Sherman, Untitled 96 1981
Chromogenic color print. Sold at Christie’s New York in May 2011: $3,890,500
Ektacolor print. Sold at Christie’s New York in May 2014: $3,973,000
#1. Andreas Gursky, Rhein II 1999
Chromogenic color print. Sold at Christie’s New York in November 2011: $4,338,500
About the author: Amy-Fern Nuttall is the editor of Photographyatauction.com and a committee member and Web Content Manager for the Royal Photographic Society’s Analogue Group. This article was also published here.
On December 15th, SpaceX launched their 13th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA. This launch was special for many reasons. First, I was the first time NASA has been willing to use a SpaceX flight proven booster.
This first stage booster had previously flown on an earlier commercial resupply mission, CRS-11, and it flew itself back to the Cape after separating from the second stage where it proceeded to land only a few miles away from where it lifted off just 8 minutes earlier.
Second, this mission reused a Dragon capsule, the capsule that contains all of the cargo being carried to the International Space Station. It splashed down into the Pacific Ocean after a successful mission and was subsequently refurbished and prepped for another flight into space.
Lastly, this marked the reopening of SLC-40, the launch pad that was destroyed last year after a SpaceX rocket carrying the AMOS-6 satellite exploded just before the test firing of the nine Merlin engines. For all those reasons, I knew I had to be at this launch, hell or high water!
Being from Michigan and living in the country, we don’t get to see too many exciting things like rockets launching and coming back to land themselves. At most, we have a tractor that might set itself on fire every couple years. Starting back in May 2016, my fascination with spaceflight got the better of me and I realized that I could take a vacation from my day job as a portrait, wedding, and sports photographer to photograph rocket launches.
As a kid, I had been absolutely enamored with footage of the Space Shuttle lifting off so getting to be at Kennedy Space Center for a launch was a dream come true. From my first time in 2016 to now, I have photographed four SpaceX missions, two of which for NASAspaceflight.com.
Shooting for one of the largest space news outlets in the world gets me incredible access to set remote cameras on the launch pad, meet the people within these aerospace companies, and photograph launches from some pretty incredible places. For instance, for this latest launch, I was shooting from the top of the Vehicle Assembly Building, the building that assembled every Saturn V rocket that took us to the moon as well as every Space Shuttle that flew. It also happens to be the largest single-story building in the world.
As I mentioned above, I can get access to put remote, sound triggered, cameras on the launch pad. For this launch, CRS-13, I placed four cameras on the pad. One wide angle, two medium shots, and one telephoto to try and get the ever elusive shot of the nine Merlin engines passing through the frame.
Normally this is a relatively simple process. You simply point the camera at the rocket, focus, plug in your sound trigger, and you’re pretty much good to go. For this shot though, it was a bit more difficult. First of all, we didn’t have the rocket to focus on while we set up our cameras. There had been an issue with the second stage so they had to keep the rocket lowered and horizontal on the pad so that meant we had to find the closest object to where the rocket would be, focus on that, and predict its trajectory upward.
Second of all, I really wanted to get the engine shot. It’s something I’ve been dreaming of ever since my first time setting up remotes earlier this year. It’s hard enough to set up this shot when you can see the rocket, but when you can’t it’s nearly impossible.
For the shot of the engines I was using a Nikon D3200, a MIOPS Smart Trigger set to “sound” mode, and an old Nikon 70-300 manual focus lens. Typical exposure settings for launches are 1/1000th of a second, at f/8, at 100 ISO, but I kicked the exposure down a few stops to make sure to get the plume detail coming from the engines. Once I got everything focused and plugged in, I then traced an imaginary line from the launch pad base to where the rocket would be as it lifted off and then locked the camera down as firmly as possible because once you leave the launch pad to go back to the press site, there is no back. All you can do, in that time from leaving the pad to the moment it launches, is hope that your cameras all work and you get the shots that you need.
As launch approaches your heart begins to beat faster and even though you are 4 miles away it feels like the rocket is close enough to touch. As the launch director counts down, T minus 3,2,1, you see an enormously bright light coming from beneath the rocket. If you are like me, you are motor driving the camera you have on you to get as many good shots as you can in the extremely brief time that it is visible, only 2-3 minutes if you’re lucky.
This launch, being a relatively low energy mission to the International Space Station though, also contains a landing. After the 1st and second stages separate, the first stage flips around and flies it’s way back to the Cape, landing only 8 minutes after launch. It was one of the most jaw-dropping experiences of my life!
After launch, you have to wait about an hour to go retrieve your remote cameras as they declare the launch pad to be safe. As you approach the pad on the bus you begin to see everyone’s cameras. Some blown over and even some destroyed by the exhaust if they got a little too close. Luckily though, all four of mine survived but were absolutely covered in the dirt and water that was blown out of the flame trench. Before all of that debris covered my cameras, however, they managed to capture these incredible shots of the Falcon 9 making its way into orbit.
Rocket launch photography is like no other genre that I’ve experienced. The adrenaline that kicks in during the countdown and as you see it liftoff is indescribable. It’s going to be hard to shoot better photos than these but with SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy in January, I’m going to do my best!
Although I had to travel a thousand miles lugging around nearly 100 pounds of camera gear and spending a lot of my own money to stay in Florida for the whole week, that engine shot makes it all worth it. It’s a shot that a lot of people attempt but very few get it exactly right. I couldn’t be happier, especially with this being my first try at it!
Creative calls are part of the bidding process for advertising work. They give creatives a chance to assess their chemistry with a photographer, and they give photographers a chance to show their ideas—and their enthusiasm—for a particular job. When we asked Jason Lau, art and content producer at creative agency 180LA what advice he had for photographers about how to present themselves on a creative call, here’s what he told us:
“Sound engaged. Don’t go overboard and sound overly happy. We want to hear your ideas. This is a collaborative process. The work is what gets you in the door, but the steps that follow are about how you engage with us and how you collaborate. If you need maybe 20 minutes to have a Zen moment and pull yourself together [before the call], take that 20 minutes. In the 13 years I’ve been doing this, I can probably count on one hand the number of bad phone calls I’ve had. The agent will say: ‘How did that go? I’ll say: ‘To be honest, that was bad. You may need to pick it up in the treatment,’ or maybe we won’t even move forward with that person.”
I’m an Annie fan through and through. I own several of her books, and I’ve watched her interviews with Charlie Rose about a dozen times.
Here is the MasterClass trailer in case you haven’t seen it:
Going into Annie’s class, I knew that Annie Leibovitz is not a technician. I’ve listened to lectures and interviews with Annie’s former assistants, and they all basically said the same thing: that Annie is a brilliant, driven artist that knows exactly what she wants — but not specifically how to get there.
And in Annie Leibovitz Teaches Photography, she admits as much:
I photograph people. It allows me to have a point of view, and have a voice, which makes my photographs stronger, I believe. Having done this so long, I’ve sort of clung to the notion that what I’m doing is portraiture. But I’m actually a creative artist using photography. —Annie Leibovitz
So I wasn’t looking for Annie Leibovitz to tell me why she underexposed a background by 1 stop instead of 2. And I wasn’t expecting her to show me the difference between an umbrella and a beauty dish, or how to retouch skin.
I was hoping for:
Insights into her creative process
A general understanding of how she runs a portrait sitting
How her editing process works
These seemed like entirely reasonable expectations based upon the sales page, which states:
In her first online class, Annie teaches you how to develop concepts, work with subjects, shoot with natural light, and bring images to life in post-production. You’ll see the world through her eyes, and change your approach to photography forever.
In this review, I’ll go over:
What’s in the course
How the MasterClass Platform Works
Annie’s Teaching Style
My final verdict, including who this class is for, and who it’s not for
Additional recommendations for Annie Leibovitz fans
What You Get
The Annie Leibovitz MasterClass includes 14 videos totaling just under 3 hours, each with an short accompanying PDF. There is also a class-dedicated forum, plus an “office hours” section where Annie answers student questions.
Here are the chapters:
Introduction: Get a look at Annie’s stunning body of work
The Evolution of a Photographer: How Annie got started in photography and made her way to Rolling Stone Magazine
Photographic Influences: A discussion of Annie’s influences, including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, and Richard Avedon
Portrait Photography: Annie’s philosophy on portraiture
Photographing People Who Are Close to You: The importance of photographing your family and friends
Looking Back at Your Work: The value of self-reflection in your development as a photographer
The Technical Side of Photography: Annie’s transition from film to digital, and why content is what matters in the end
Creating Concepts: The concepts behind Annie’s incredible shoots with subjects like Keith Haring, Whoopi Goldberg, and Meryl Streep.
Working With Light: Annie’s simple but effective approach to naturalistic portrait lighting
Studio vs. Location: Why Annie’s best work is done on location
Working With Your Subject: How to relate to the person in front of your camera
Student Sessions: Annie critiques the work of students from the San Francisco Art Institute
Case Study Part 1: Photographing Alice Waters: See a photo shoot with chef and author Alice Waters
Case Study Part 2: Digital Post-Production: Annie sits down with her retoucher for an editing session
The videos can’t be downloaded. They must be streamed on your computer or mobile device. Each video has an accompanying PDF that reviews the material and gives you assignments that help you progress as a photographer.
Here’s the top of one of the PDFs:
The MasterClass site is fairly well-organized. The Annie Leibovitz Teaches Photography course home page has links to:
The Lesson Plan (where you watch the videos)
Office Hours (where you can submit questions for Annie to answer)
Clicking on ‘Start Lesson’ or one of the individual titles will bring you to that particular lesson.
Annie’s Teaching Style
Most of the videos are interview-style with Annie, with occasional cuts to photos that relate to the subject matter. It quickly becomes obvious that Annie Leibovitz Teaches Photography is not a recipe-type course.
Annie’s an artist and philosopher, not a technician. And this is where the course gets tricky.
Let’s look at the message on MasterClass’ sales page one more time:
In her first online class, Annie teaches you how to develop concepts, work with subjects, shoot with natural light, and bring images to life in post-production [emphasis mine]. You’ll see the world through her eyes, and change your approach to photography forever.
MasterClass could have been more clear in their messaging. This is not a “how Annie Leibovitz shoots” class. It’s a “how Annie Leibovitz thinks and feels” discussion of sorts.
There’s a lot of discussion about her philosophy, but not much about how a photographer can put these ideas into action. Annie Leibovitz Teaches Photography is more of a look into Annie’s mindset than her photographic process.
That’s causing a bit of a split among buyers, based on comments I’ve seen on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and inside MasterClass.com itself. Some people love this approach. Other like me, not so much. Many people are complaining that this “MasterClass” is more of an interview than a class, and it’s hard to argue with that point.
This is a big problem because there are many great interviews with Annie streaming free on YouTube right now. (I’ll post some at the bottom of this article).
My Final Verdict
I give Annie Leibovitz Teaches Photography MasterClass2.5 out of 5 stars.
I felt let down. The production quality was generally good, but there were some very awkward edits where points of conversation just suddenly cut off. It feels like the editors didn’t have enough good material to work with, and there were scrambling to just get something out.
And the quality of the sections was very uneven. The segment about photographing one’s family was incredible — I could have heard Annie speak on that subject for 12 hours. Everyone should watch that part if they can. I also enjoyed hearing Annie talk about her influences like Robert Frank and Richard Avedon.
But the segment with students showing work? That felt like filler. I bought the class to learn about Annie’s process, not to watch gentle critiques of college students.
This is what the class should have been:
90 minutes of Annie talking about her background, influences, and philosophies
90 minutes of an Annie shoot – Annie walks us through developing a concept, going over pre-production with her assistants, and then performing the actual photo shoot so we can watch her work
30 minutes of editing with Annie and her retoucher
That would certainly be worth paying for.
Again, I don’t need Annie to tell me why she’s shooting at f/8 instead of f/16. I just want to watch her shooting process so I can learn from observation.
Let’s look at a perfect example of photography education through observation. Recently, Profoto released a video called “The Light Albert Watson Shapes”:
I would KILL to see an extended version of something like this with Annie Leibovitz… and this wasn’t even a class! It was a showcase for Profoto lighting equipment!
Albert didn’t discuss exactly how he positioned his light or give his camera settings, but by watching him work, we get an idea of how a true legend runs a shoot and captures an iconic portrait.
Annie’s class had barely any actual shooting, despite being nearly 3 hours long. As I said before, I wasn’t looking to learn lighting ratios or Photoshop techniques or what her favorite lens is. I was looking for insights into her creative process, but there just wasn’t much meat on the bone.
Obviously, if you are looking for a step-by-step instructional video, this course is not for you. And if you want a mere behind-the-scenes look at one of Annie’s photography sessions, you’ll be disappointed. The one scene where Annie is shown shooting is very short.
Ultimately, the Annie Leibovitz Teaches Photography MasterClass is for 3 types of people:
Photographers that are more interested in concepts and ideas than technical details
Diehard Annie Leibovitz fans that want everything she puts out
Beginners looking for a heavy dose of inspiration, but whom don’t want to be drowned in details or technical matters
If that’s you, check it out on MasterClass.com. They have a 30-day money back guarantee, which is a good thing because this class clearly isn’t for everyone.
It wasn’t for me, and I’m a HUGE Annie fan.
If you don’t have $90 for this class, or you think you don’t like it, I have several recommendations.
The first is to pick up one of Annie’s many excellent books. I read At Work at least once a year. It’s an in-depth retrospective of her career in which she details many of her most famous pictures. There’s also a technical section in the back where she discusses camera choice, lighting, how she uses assistants, and more.
I’m also a big fan of Annie’s Olympic Portraits book. It’s an amazing collection of portraits of the 1996 U.S. Olympic team. And you can usually pick it up for under $5. You’ll see many of Annie’s lesser-known photographs, including an iconic portrait of a teenage Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Here’s a quick little video of Annie photographing Keith Richards:
Annie photographing Lady Gaga for Vanity Fair:
Here is Annie’s 1999 interview with Charlie Rose:
And here is the documentary Life Through a Lens:
About the author: Michael Comeau is the editor of OnPortraits.com, an online community dedicated to portrait photography. And when they say portrait photography, they don’t mean blue-toned pictures of hipsters drinking coffee. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Click here for more information about OnPortraits.com. This article was also published here.