Monday, October 27, 2008

onOne Software has some great stuff on the way this holiday season

I just got the inside scoop from onOne Software that they have some goodness on the way. I had given them a pretty hard time a while back when providing "critical feedback" about their previous versions, but it seems that they listened. If what I'm hearing from them (mentioned below) is true, then I can see myself spend a lot more time using onOne PhotoTools 2 and Genuine Fractals over the next year.

Coupon Code

Don't forget that if you use coupon code RMART20 you can save 20% off onOne Software products.

PhotoTools 2

PT2_BOX_2-web

Here's a list of some of the new features you can expect to see:

New Effects Library – The new Effects Library in both editions of PhotoTools 2 make it easier to choose from the collection of over 300 effects. Photographers will be given several new options for finding the perfect effect or combination of effects including:

  • Improved Category Mode – This mode is organized in a common photographic workflow that will be familiar to photographers. Effects are organized by categories such as Image Optimization, Portrait Enhance, Landscape Enhance, Color Tints, etc. Choosing a category reveals the available effects within.
  • New Keyword Mode – Using emotive keywords and descriptors, photographers narrow down the list of effects to just those that match their unique search criteria. For example, a photographer can click on a keyword like Black-and-White and then click on a mood descriptor such as Warm and Grainy. Effects that match those two search criteria will be displayed for the photographer, greatly improving the process of locating a type or style of effect.
  • New Preset Mode – This new mode displays a list of presets or effects “recipes” that are included with PhotoTools or any presets that a photographer has created for themselves. Additionally, any presets that a photographer has downloaded for free from the onOne Exchange (http:/www.ononeexchange.com), a community site dedicated to PhotoTools users, will appear in this list as well.
  • New Effects Preview – Knowing what an effect will do to a photo is critical in the decision making process and PhotoTools 2 provides a new preview mode that includes dozens of new before and after previews for each effect to help photographers make the best choices for communicating their vision through enhancing their photographs.

New Photographic Effects – Designed by photographers for photographers, PhotoTools 2 includes dozens of new effects to meet the needs of today's digital photographers. PhotoTools 2 Professional Edition expands upon the Standard Edition with additional photographic effects developed by Photoshop guru Jack Davis and professional wedding photographer Kevin Kubota.

New Support for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 and Apple Aperture 2.1 – To provide photographers using Lightroom 2 with a seamless, integrated workflow solution to go between Lightroom and Photoshop and back to Lightroom, all of the PhotoTools 2 Professional Edition presets are accessible from directly within Lightroom 2. When a photographer chooses a PhotoTools 2 Professional Edition preset from within Lightroom 2, the file will be handed directly to Photoshop where the PhotoTools 2 Professional Edition effect is applied and then returned to Lightroom 2 automatically. Photographers will benefit from this new integration as they will be able to send multiple photos to Photoshop in a single step and have all files returned to Lightroom 2 without having to edit each file individually.

In the same manner in which PhotoTools 2 Professional Edition supports Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2, it will also support Apple Aperture 2.1. Aperture 2.1 users who also have Photoshop CS3 or CS4 installed can employ PhotoTools 2 Professional Edition in their image editing workflow to apply any of the included 300+ photographic effects or their own custom presets

New Masking Support – New in PhotoTools 2 will be the ability to create masks on each effect. This will allow the photographer to paint an effect in or out from directly within PhotoTools. Effects can still be sent back to Photoshop with a layer mask for future editing.

Easy Access to the onOne Exchange – The onOne Exchange is a new community website managed by onOne Software that enables users of PhotoTools to download free presets (or combinations of effects) for their own use. Users of PhotoTools can also upload any presets that they have created in PhotoTools to be shared with other PhotoTools users. Access to this new site is built directly into the PhotoTools user interface.

Pricing

PhotoTools 2 comes in two editions – a Professional Edition and a Standard Edition and are available for $259.95 and $159.95 respectively direct from onOne Software and select, authorized resellers in the United States and around the world. Upgrades from PhotoTools 1 to PhotoTools 2 are available for only $99.95.

Both PhotoTools 2 Professional Edition and PhotoTools 2 Standard Edition may be pre-ordered from onOne Software today and available through the worldwide network of authorized resellers in January 2009. Customers who pre-order PhotoTools 2 will initially receive PhotoTools 1 and then receive a free upgrade to PhotoTools 2.

Genuine Fractals 6

GF6_BOX_2-web copy

Here's a list of some of the new features you can expect to see:

Texture Presets – Genuine Fractals 6 now includes texture presets allowing photographers to get the most out of the patented resizing algorithm that powers Genuine Fractals. The presets are designed to give users an easy way to set the key algorithm parameters to get the highest quality enlargement based on the type of image the user is starting out with no matter the size or subject matter.

New Gallery Wrap Feature – Photographers are often faced with losing part of their subject when some of the image is wrapped around the thick frames used to create canvas gallery wrap prints. With Genuine Fractals 6 Professional Edition, photographers have an easy way to increase the edge areas of the image by reflecting or stretching the margins to allow for canvas wrapping without having to sacrifice important details in the image. (I could have REALLY used this when ordering canvases here recently).

New Batch Processing – Photographers who need to resize multiple images can now do so in a very efficient workflow thanks to the new Batch Processing feature in Genuine Fractals 6. Based on the Batch Processing Engine developed initially for onOne Software’s PhotoTools Professional Edition, photographers can choose which files to resize, change file names, save files to a new location and file type, change and embed a specific color space to the new file and optionally add a customized watermark to help protect the photographers work.

Tiling for Smaller Printers – This new tiling feature allows photographers to resize their images to any desired size and then have Genuine Fractals 6 create the necessary documents so that the image can be printed on a smaller format printer. For example if the photographers desired output size is 24" x 30" but their printer can only print a maximum size of 8" x 10" they can use the new tiling feature to break the final 24" x 30" file into a matrix of nine 8" x 10" images that are returned as separate files in Photoshop.

Support for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 and Apple Aperture 2.1 – In addition to support for Adobe Photoshop CS4, Genuine Fractals 6 Professional Edition will also support Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 and Apple Aperture 2.1 putting the industry standard for image resizing inside these photography workflow applications.

Additional Enhancements – Several other features of Genuine Fractals have been improved including the document size presets which make resizing and cropping to fit much easier; an improved crop tool that allows photographers to define a crop in any direction as well as additional user experience improvements.

Pricing

Genuine Fractals 6 comes in two editions – a Professional Edition and a Standard Edition and are available for $299.95 and $159.95 respectively direct from onOne Software and select, authorized resellers in the United States and around the world. Upgrades from previous versions of Genuine Fractals are available for $99.95. Genuine Fractals 6 is also available as part of Plug-In Suite 4, an integrated suite of six plug-ins for Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Photoshop Elements, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 and Apple Aperture 2.1.

Genuine Fractals 6 does not support the 64-bit version of Photoshop CS4 for Windows but does support the 32-bit versions of Photoshop CS4 for both Mac OS X and Windows

Time to start saving!

With the release of the Canon 5D Mark II, Adobe Photoshop CS4, and this it seems it is going to be an expensive holiday season - start saving! You buy the products separately or you can save a ton of money and get the new Plug-In Suite 4.5 bundle.

Plug-In Suite 4.5 will be available in January 2009 to new users for $499.95 - a savings of $799.75 if purchased separately. Registered users of Plug-in Suite version 4 will automatically receive a free upgrade to version 4.5 via a downloadable software update. Existing users of Plug-in Suite version 1, 2 or 3 can upgrade to Plug-In Suite 4.5 for only $199.95. Customers who own any other product from onOne Software can upgrade for $399.95. For more information on the Plug-In Suite 4.5, please visit http://www.ononesoftware.com.

Don't forget that if you use coupon code RMART20 you can save 20% off onOne Software products.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Great Quote from a Famous Photographer

"The fact is that relatively few photographers ever master their medium. Instead they allow the medium to master them and go on an endless squirrel cage chase from new lens ... to new gadget, never staying with one piece of equipment long enough to learn its full capacities, becoming lost in a maze of technical information that is of little or no use since they don't know what to do with it."

Edward Weston (1886 - 1958)

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Canon G10 does well versus a $40,000 DSLR?

I know it is crazy talk, but I thought this article was interesting none-the-less. Sure the DSLR is still the better camera, but he has a good point in that the new Canon G10 is certainly creeping into DSLR performance. I won't be tossing my DSLR for a G10 anytime soon, but it provides a great option for when you need to travel light like I did for my trip to Disneyland with a G9. I got decent results with the G9 during that trip and it appears the G10 is significantly better, so perhaps it is time for me to finally order one to stop the madness of bringing my big 1D Mark III with the flash to the dinner table!

Thanks Tanka for sharing this article with the photo club!

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cloning: Good or Bad?

To clone, or not to clone, that is the question. You see, in the photo below I chose to remove a bunch of distractions using the clone stamp tool in Photoshop CS3 to eliminate some distractions. If you hover over it, you'll see the before image to see what I've removed.

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after

The net result to the casual viewer is a big improvement, but if you look carefully you can see the details where I didn't do such a great job with my cloning. There in lies the rub, how much time can you realistically spend cloning to get the results right? For me, I go nuts after about 10 minutes, so problems occur.

Of course, the real goal would be to get this right in-camera, but sometimes like in the case of this parade, there's no choice.

Oh well, I think that it's probably good as long as I don't make a poster of this image, and in this case it helped to make a neat picture even better, so what the hell. It may not be perfect, but it's good enough, right?

Feel free to leave comments and let me know what you think.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Fun in the Fall

I recently realized that there are two things I really haven’t photographed using my DSLR:

  1. My car
  2. Fall colors in the Northwest

With only a few hours of free time on Sunday, I tried to do both and the pictures here are the fruits of my labor. Comments appreciated.

Ron

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Comparing Macro Lenses (a.k.a., why I suck at macro photography)

Like most people, when you see cool macro shots you think "wow", I want to do that. If you shoot with a Canon body then you know that the EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM is one of the best lenses out there, so most of us end up borrowing or getting one. We are thrilled when we get shots like the ones at the beginning and end of this article, but we think - can we do better? What if I had the REALLY good macro lenses?

As luck (I think) would have it, I had two friends loan me their macro gear at the same time on Friday. As a result, I felt obligated to play around with the gear this weekend and do a simple comparison test.

So to cut to the chase, I set up a little piece of tile in my "studio" and took a few pictures from a tripod using mirror lockup and a remote release. I figured with a controlled environment I'd be able to test the three lenses better, but what I quickly learned is that I suck at this stuff - with all three lenses.

Here's the results, which also includes before post-processing results when you hover over them. I didn't do much post-processing on them, but I treated them as I would my normal photos to see what type of results I'd really get from these lenses. In addition, if you click on the images you can get a full-size version to inspect until your hearts content.

Here's my unscientific results:

Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM with Canon MT-24EX Macro Twin Lite Ringlite Flash

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after

I was pretty disappointed with this lens as I had high hopes for it (after all, it was on my "dream" list - it wasn't even on my "wish" list). While it was definitely the easiest to use, I think I'd rather keep my Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM. However, I did find the macro ring light to be quite nice when shooting outdoors, but I didn't prefer it in the studio environment. Of everything I tried, this is something I still would consider owning one day.

Sigma 70mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro with flash through umbrella

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after

According to SLRGear.com, this is one of the sharpest lenses on the planet (excluding telescopes) for a Canon camera. While it was indeed very sharp, I found it very difficult to use and its lack of a USM style focus ring was sorely missed. If you want a super sharp macro lens, then this is worth considering, but this reminded me while I still prefer Canon lenses and why sharpness isn't everything (did I just say that?). In short, I hated it.

Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Manual Focus Lens with Canon MT-24EX Macro Twin Lite Ringlite Flash and umbrella

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after

If you really want to explore the world of macro photography, this is your lens. However, be warned, this is the most difficult lens I've ever used and it needs a lot of light. If you plan to use this lens, you must have the twin ringlite otherwise forget about it. It is super sharp and does everything that you'd want from a macro lens, but you have to use your body or a macro rail to focus effectively. As a result, you'll have a tough time shooting anything that moves. Yeah, dead bugs are you friend with this puppy. The results are amazing if you have the patience to use it, but I don't, so this is another lens that is good to know about but I'll never own it.

Conclusion

This was a great learning experience and it taught me the following:

  1. My Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM is the best and most practical macro lens I've ever used. It easy to use and offers a decent working distance, and it makes a great portrait lens (which none of the others mentioned above can do).
  2. Macro photography requires a lot of specialized gear and even more patience. I don't have either, and don't plan to get either anytime soon. I enjoy macro photography, but my EF 100mm is exactly what I need to get shots.
  3. The shots at the beginning and end of this article taken with my 100mm macro are good enough for me now, and its ease of use is very much appreciated. Thank you, but I'll stick with that thank you very much!

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Where should I display my pictures online?

 

Check out my review of the ALL NEW Smugmug at http://www.ronmartblog.com/2013/07/the-all-new-smugmug-has-arrived.html.

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The following article article applies to the older version of Smugmug that no longer exists. All of these features are still in the new version but it has been radically improved.

***************************************************************************************************************

 

So you've read How do I manage and edit all of my photos? and you've got your photos looking their best after reading Scott Kelby's 7 Point System for Photoshop CS3, so now you are ready to share them with the world (or at least your Mom). Now what?

Choices, choices, choices

When I started this article, I thought I would list out some of the bigger name photo sharing places like Shutterfly, Picasa, PhotoBucket, Flickr, etc... and talk a little bit about each one. However, as I started looking through emails from friends and the web, I discovered there are TONS of sites out there! The problem is that most of them suck.

Sure, you can find free places to put photos on the web - that's no problem, because there's tons of sites willing to give you a few gigabytes to store pictures, but when sharing with friends and family you usually want more than that. You want the ability for them to see thumbnails of a photo album, sideshows, larger versions of your masterpiece, and you want them to be able to order their favorite pictures. What's more, you want to be able to add your own look and feel so that you don't have a site that looks like everything else out there. In short, you want more than a hard drive in the sky, or some pathetic low-res picture viewer.

Hello Smugmug

I've tried a bunch of services, and in fact still have photos on flickr, photobucket, photosig.com, and shutterfly. However, none of those services gives me all of the features I want PLUS makes it brain-dead easy to upload my photos (okay, well flickr does rock for that one). Here's some of the things I get with Smugmug, that I honestly can't live without anymore:

  • Unlimited storage
  • No ads or spam
  • EXIF data - (this is huge for a geek like me)
  • Password enabled galleries for privacy
  • Custom themes
  • Photo email
  • Numerous photo sizes available instantly
  • iPhone support
  • I can buy and sell professional prints & gifts at a very reasonable price, with outstanding quality (WAY better than Shutterfly)
  • Post photos in blogs & forums
  • Basic photo editing tools for things like last minute crops
  • USER CONTROLLED download high-res photos or originals
  • Organize via slick drag and drop
  • Dedicated human readable URL (i.e., http://ronmart.smugmug.com)
  • Photo traffic stats
  • Support for comments and rating of photos
  • Photo communities
  • Geotagging with display on Google Maps
  • Can order backup DVDs of uploaded photos
  • and more

Sure, some of these features can be found on other services, but so far Smugmug is the only one that I know of that has everything I'm looking for - which is why I love it so much!

You get what you pay for (and it's easy for Mom)

Okay, I know what you are thinking. But, hey wait a minute. With all of these free services out there, why on Earth would I pay for a service?

I understand you my friend, because I was the same way. I resisted Smugmug initially, and even built my own web site to host my photos (what a headache that was!). However, I kept lusting after these nice photo galleries I was seeing from friends, and some of the customized galleries I saw just blew my mind. Frustrated by the poor experience my dear Mom was having with my other sites, and the hassle of slow uploads, I decided take up Smugmug on its offer of a free trial. After all, I had nothing to lose, and I could finally see just what it was like to use Smugmug versus my previous favorites Flickr and Shutterfly.

WOW, the first thing I noticed was how easy and fast it was to upload photos. Sure, Flickr and Shutterfly are pretty good at this too, but the speed sure felt faster to me on Smugmug. However, the best part was that I now had a site that allowed me to upload, tag, and store photos in easily (or protected) galleries like Flickr, PLUS the ability to have Mom place orders for prints with no hassle using the best photo shopping cart I've seen on the web.

After using the site for 14 days, I decided to give it a try and haven't looked back since. It's the best thing I ever did because it allows me to focus on other parts of my photography, and presentation is now just a simple drag and drop from my hard disk to the web browser. No hassle, and great results.

Show me da money

While I think Smugmug's basic account is great for most people, what I really love is the pro account that allows me to sell my pictures with custom pricing. This is great because I now have an eStore for my photos where I'm in control of the prices (sorry Mom, no discount coupons until 2009). It also allows me to customize the site so that it can have its own domain name and look like a stand-alone web site, yet I can still take advantage of the rich Smugmug API to avoid having to re-invent the wheel.

Now there's even more goodness- support for video for Power and Pro users. I don't have any video yet, but when I get my Canon 5D Mark II, you can bet I will!

Great Customer Support

The one thing I REALLY like about Smugmug is their fantastic customer support, and their overall commitment to customer satisfaction. Now really, how many sites do you know that have the CEO blog about the good, the bad, and the ugly of their company?

There's lots of written support too! There's a wiki for common questions, an excellent help system, special topics for pros, a non-nonsense guarantee for great prints, a great forum for advanced topics and an API for the ultimate customization.

And if all else fails, you can always contact them and get a response from a REAL human being who knows what they are talking about and isn't just pasting boilerplate responses or reading from a script.

Okay, I'm convinced - Special Offer for Blog Readers (Coupon Code: SmugRon)

Well hopefully I've convinced you to AT LEAST try out the free trial, but should you decide to join then I've worked out a deal with Smugmug to give you 20% off your first year membership when you use the coupon code SmugRon. I know it's not a huge discount, but hey it beats full price right?

Be sure to visit my Smugmug Pro gallery at http://ronmartinsen.com or my personal gallery at http://ronmart.smugmug.com to see what smugmug is really like!

 

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Canvas OnDemand versus Brian Morgan (ordinary guy :-)

A while back I wrote about my experience using Canvas on Demand to print out my favorite F1 photo shown above. Overall the results were great, but this story ended up taking a funny twist.

A co-worker of mine, Brian Morgan, contacted me after reading my article and let me know that he'd like to see how his work using a Epson 9800 (now replaced by the Epson 9880) would compare to that of the "professionals" at Canvas on Demand. To that end, he offered me free canvases in matte (Epson Piezo Pro) and glossy (Epson Canvas Satin) format so I could review the results.

The Verdict

While my favorite price is always free, I warned Brian up front that I wouldn't say his work was good unless it really was. After all, I have no incentive to publish bogus information because it only hurts my creditability, but he agreed that he'd take his lumps if his work wasn't up to standard. He then proceeded to send me two prints using the same identical file I sent to Canvas on Demand, and the results were surprisingly good!

Tone-wise, his prints were slightly brighter than those produced by Canvas On Demand, but I felt his were more accurate to how I had modified my picture on my PC (i.e., he didn't intervene as much and kept my artistic intent - or lack thereof). He did have to upres the photo a bit, and he informed me he use Genuine Fractals (group discount link also part of Plug-in Suite 4) for that. When I had talked to Canvas on Demand about their print they also confirmed they used it as well. He did some selective sharpening (using Nik Sharpener Pro) on the hood (just like CoD). Lastly, he had to add some black borders for the wrap, but other than that he simply printed what I had given him with his minor edits. The results were great, but they didn't include wrapping on wood, so that was a bit of a bummer. However, this made shipping easier, and it was free, so who am I to complain eh?

Out of the two prints, I much preferred the matte printed on Epson Piezo Pro much more than the glossy. The glossy just looked kinda cheesy and attracted too much unwanted light no matter where I put it. CoD appears to print on matte too, so despite my preference to print on glossy or lustre for my personal prints, this is the one (and only) case where I really prefer the matte look.

Cool, so how much does Brian charge?

While these prices will probably be subject to change (i.e., don't quote me), Brian seems to have some pretty affordable prices compared to the competition. In fact, if you ask me, he doesn't charge enough when you consider the fact that his printer alone was well over $5000 after you consider shipping, setup costs, and ink. This doesn't even include the supplies like canvas, but he feels it is worth his effort (and the little extra he generates on the site from his printing business):

Height Width Canvas Fine Art Luster
40 60 $ 170.00  $ 140.00  $ 120.00 
30 40 $   85.00  $   70.00  $   60.00 
24 36 $   60.00  $   50.00  $   40.00 
20 24 $   40.00  $   35.00  $   30.00 
16 20 $   30.00  $   25.00  $   20.00 
11 14 $   20.00  $   15.00  $   12.00 
8 10 $   15.00  $   12.00  $   10.00 

These prices do NOT include shipping, and more importantly don't include mounting (i.e., you are just getting the rolled canvas as it comes out of the printer, so you'll need to get it mounted yourself).

Sweet, so how do I contact Brian?

You can reach Brian by email at bmorgan@msn.com or by phone at 770-856-1600. He did great work for me, and I'm sure he'll do the same for you. In addition, if you are a printer junkie and want to learn more about how to do your own, I'm pretty sure he can give you some helpful tips as well.

Enjoy!

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Having fun with Photography

 

Photography is a tough business because the competition is fierce and the critics are merciless. Sure, you think you have an awesome photo, one that the pros are sure to praise, so you decide to put it up on the web at a place like photosig.com, 1x.com or flickr to get that praise that you know is coming to you. After all, this is THE ONE, the shot that is going to make you respected by other photographers.

You know what I'm talking about, and of course you know what really happens. Your beloved photo that you are so proud of, that your mamma says is the best she's ever seen, and your significant other says you should send to the top magazines, gets ripped to shreds. Your told things like "what's that object coming out of her head", "it looks over saturated", "it looks oversharpened", "it's too dark", "it's too soft", "it's too grainy", "have you ever heard of the rule of thirds", and on and on and on. By the time you are done reading the comments you are so dejected that you are ready to sell your gear and give up even point and shoot photography. However, I'm here to tell you that you are not alone and you shouldn't give up, because remember who your most important critic is - it's you!

 

Enjoy your photography, and really look around at what is being published. I'm sure you'll notice that there are tons of post cards, plenty of brochures, and even a few high-end magazine shots that have the same problems your photos are accused of having. However, you just haven't got your lucky break yet, so hang in there and keep shooting. Try to find a good outlet to share your work, and enjoy the praise of friends and family. Let it motivate and inspire you, but also take your medicine and try to listen to what the critics tell you because they just might be a little bit right. If you use the feedback to improve, then you just might end up becoming a better photographer and turn your hobby into a career.

Why am I writing this? Well because every shot featured in this article contains shots I am personally very proud of, yet everyone has been bashed with some pretty harsh feedback. Sure, some of them got some great praise too, but that's not the ones you remember because it's the tough feedback that really hits where it hurts, but I've gotten a lot of that over the last year and half I've been shooting with a DSLR.

Still not convinced? Well, then spend a little time reading books like these and applying the knowledge and perhaps you'll save yourself some of the harshest feedback:

Oh, and do yourself a favor - stay away from stock photography services - they are crazy brutal! :-)

 

Happy shooting - Ron!

UPDATE: Here’s a parody on how some world famous photographers would fair if they had to get their work reviewed by critics today.

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