Sony Cybershot DSC-HX1 9.1MP Review

I had deliberately not taken my camera to a recent friend’s wedding as I didn’t want to be seen to be ‘treading on the toes’ of the official photographer.

However, it didn’t take me long to get chatting to the ‘snapper’ and he introduced me to his ‘spare’ camera for the day. “Why don’t you take a few shots”, he naively said.

I was soon hooked on the Sony Cybershot DSC-HX1 and thought that I would undertake a review.

HX1 Specifications

  • Brand : Sony
  • Model : Cybershot DSC-HX1 9.1MP 20x Optical Zoom Digital Camera with Super Steady Shot Image Stabilization and 3.0 Inch LCD
  • Model No. : DSC-HX1
  • Dimensions : W x H x D: 114.5mm x 82.8mm x 91.8mm (4 5/8″ x 3 3/8″ x 3 5/8″)
  • Weight : Approx. 1.8oz. (504g) – including battery and Memory Stick
  • Mega-pixels : 9.1
  • Optical Zoom : x20
  • ISO Range : 125 to 3200
  • Continuous Shooting Mode (frames per second) : 2 frames / 5 Frames / 10 frames
  • Viewing Screen Size : 3 inches
  • Viewing Screen Tilt Angle : 90 degrees
  • Memory : Built in 11mb. Plus removable memory stick

Adam’s Cybershot Summary

I’ll be honest and say that Sony don’t normally build my ‘cameras of choice’…… until now. The HX1 has actually been around for three years and I’m surprised that this has not caught my eye sooner.

The first thing that struck me about the Cybershot DSC-HX1 camera is that it is quite light for its class. Sony Cybershot DSC-HX1

Secondly, it’s very intuitive. Okay, I’m a ‘professional’, so I should know what I’m doing. However, even someone with limited digital camera experience will soon be taking great professional-looking photographs with this Cybershot. For example the panorama mode is very impressive and easy to use.

One of the reasons the wedding photographer wasn’t using this model is that he was doing a lot of tri-pod work and when using a tripod access to the memory card was impossible. A small point, but it’s one for the professionals to note.

For the high action photographers, there is a very impressive 10-shot high speed mode. Whilst that might not be enough shots for the professional sports photographer, it’s more than enough for the keen enthusiast. You need to be aware that you will need to wait for quite a while (16 seconds) before you can take further photos.

The internal flash performed well, with a range of over 9 meters. Of course the flash is not available with the continuous shooting mode.

The zoom feature, whilst effective, is a little on the slow side for my liking. But that is a relative small point for an overall excellent unit.

Here are the pros and cons at a glance :

Pros :

  • Robust design
  • Good for low light photography
  • Powerful internal flash
  • Impressive panorama mode
  • Movie capture zoom feature
  • Overall performance is very good
  • A feature packed camera at an affordable price

Cons :

  • A few small ‘niggles’ (e.g. slow zoom speed) but nothing to write home about
  • Whilst the picture quality is good at computer screen digital level, if you are looking to produce large prints then the photo quality is not the best I’ve seen. However in my mind I am comparing this with some top end products, so perhaps I’m being a little harsh.

Overall, I really have taken to this excellent piece of equipment and can fully appreciate why it gets so many rave reviews.

I award the Cybershot HX1 a review score of :

87 out of 100

But don’t take my word for it, click here to see some Amazon customer reviews.

If you are looking for more information or are considering purchasing the Cybershot HX1, then please click on the Amazon link below.

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Professional Portrait Photography Tips

Welcome to Professional Portrait Photography Tips the 5th part in the series about “How To Start A Photography Business“.

In this article, we are going to look at the fundamentals of portrait photography. This could actually be linked into the previous article Greeting Cards Photography in that you could easily turn some of the outputs of your portraits photography into greetings cards.

Many people are now using professional photographers to capture moments from their own, or their loved ones lives.

Reasons Why People Want To Be Photographed Professionally Professional Portrait Photography Tips example image

  • Celebrity and the X-Factor factor – Looking good is constantly being shoved down our throats at the moment. For some, having a portrait done gives them confidence and their ‘moment to shine’ because good portrait photography ALWAYS turns out looking good.
  • Families are now living further apart and see each other less. For many parents, having a large family portrait is their way of ‘keeping the family together’.
  • Another benefit of having a large portrait of a family member (or members) is that it can actually be a cheap, flexible way of decorating. It might sound silly, but you could easily get a photo in a frame very cheaply. Put the portrait up against a plain painted wall and there you go. Simple and cheap way to decorate a whole wall.
  • Finally, portraits can make great talking points. They say that a picture tells a thousand words….. They certainly do.

What Will You Need ?

If you want to be a professional and earn life changing income from this business then you have to act professionally…….and that means buying a bit of professional equipment. Look the part !!

  • A good camera. I highly recommend the Nikon D3100. I also have a review of it here : Nikon D3100 Review.
  • A tripod : Obviously buy one that is compatible with your camera and is flexible enough for the most unorthodox of shots.
  • Studio Lighting Kit : You can buy these items separately, but as a great ‘all-in-one package’, I highly recommend the ePhoto K103 Studio Lighting Kit, which offers tremendous value containing :
    • 2 x 7 Feet light stands/1 x Background light stand/2 x supporting tripods 8ft
    • 3 x Sectional cross bars 8.5 ft wide and 8.5ft height/1 x carrying case for backdrop stands
    • 3 x Swivel light AC umbrella holder sockets/2 x 32″ shoot through soft umbrellas
    • 3 x 45W perfect day light bulbs 5500K
    • 1 x 6’x9′ Black and white muslin backdrop included
  • Light Reflector : Essential to avoid harsh ‘undershadows’. Again available from Amazon. This ‘kit’ will cover all of your needs : Light Reflector Kit.

Portrait Photography – On The Day

  • Setting up – Always check basic camera and light settings before the clients settle into position. You don’t want to be messing around whilst they are in position. They might have to sit, or even worse stand, there for long enough as it is.
  • It’s all about the clothing – You don’t want the group to look like a kaleidoscope of different colours. Try to get them to, at least, wear matching or complimentary clothing.
  • The pose – Remember they are related (or at least be good friends) and they should, in theory, want to be close together. Sitting with their backs to each other might be sending out the wrong message.
  • Saying “cheese”, is actually too cheesy. Try to make them smile, or even better laugh, with some amusing stories or jokes.
  • Remember to keep the photography session upbeat and lively – If it’s not going to plan, don’t huff and puff and throw a tantrum. Keep it professional and suggest that things are good but you want to you try something a little bit different.
  • Closed eyes – There is little you can do with the speed of a blink and you certainly don’t want them staring at you. However, a simple count down will give the subjects time to compose themselves and blink at the ‘right’ time. And of course, always check the result whilst the clients are still in their positions.
  • Remain flexible – Allow your customers to have their say (after all, they are the ones paying) and never get into a long argument regarding positions – There’s nothing worse than photographing someone who’s just been in a stand up argument.
  • Don’t forget the pets. They could be a useful ‘add on’, whilst you are in the house. It’s very difficult to get them to stare straight into the camera, but waving a toy just out of shot can result in a very memorable natural looking photo.

Final Tips For Portrait Photography

  • Remember this is a business and, as with any other business there are always opportunities for joint venture partners. These can include :
    • Hairdressers
    • Make-up artists
    • Costume Outlets
    • Pet stores / Vets / Pet grooming shops
    • Photo-Frame Makers
    • In all of the above cases, there will be opportunities to cross-sell and provide leads to each other.
    • Schools are also a good place to find work. Can you undercut their current photographer’s prices ?
    • Remember, you do not need an expensive studio. All of your work can be done ’on the road’ in people’s homes (where they will be feeling more relaxed, which will result in better portraits).
    • Ask permission if you can use some of the shots as part of your own portfolio – This will come in handy later on when show-casing your work – especially any photos of pets, which could be used in specialist pet magazines.

A Word About Professional Modelling Photography

Just a small step up from portrait photography is the world of professional modelling. Whilst fashions come and go, the models that do the modelling of these fashions are always en vogue. That means this niche of photography work is effectively evergreen.

Simple ‘in studio’ shots and the more ambitious ‘out in the field’ portfolios are both legitimate business models here. And of course you also have two options.

  • Taking photos that you retain the rights to in order for you to sell to relevant agencies (clothing retailers for example)

OR (slightly easier)

  • You help produce a photographic portfolio for an up and coming model (where they will effectively just buy the portfolio from you for their own marketing of themselves

With the latter, there is certainly a chance of repeat business as models should always be looking to update their portfolio and, in addition, they tend to get comfortable and more relaxed with a familiar photographer they know and can trust. Plus, of course, there is always a chance that the model themselves could refer you to other models in the industry – there is nothing like the positive ‘word of mouth’ for generating excellent business leads.

To get a foot in the door in this business, contact local clothing stores, catalogues, or modelling agencies. You might have to offer to produce a small freebie portfolio to get yourself noticed – but a little free work now could lead to massive on-going contracts further down the line.

Generally, the idea with this type of photography is to keep the model moving during the photography shoot. A flowing ‘natural’ shot always looks better than a ‘sit them there looking really rigid’ pose.

The next article in the series is :

Professional Wedding Photography Tips (Coming Soon !!!)

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Greeting Card Photography

Welcome to Greeting Card Photography – the 4th post in the How To Start A Photography Business series. Put simply, this is the process of turning your pictures into greetings cards.

Some pros say that this business model might not be the most lucrative of ways to start a photography business. However, it is an easy method, and it’s also far safer to cut your teeth doing something like this, than to dive straight into a 150 guest all day wedding.

Options for Greeting Card Photography Greeting Card Photography example

As I suggested in a previous article, you might want to employ the services of a photography, or printing, store and particularly when we are talking about the production of cards. The sort of cards I’m referring to can include anniversary type cards : birthdays, Weddings, Valentines, Easter, Christmas, or even Leaving Your Job, ‘Thank You’ cards and also Holiday Cards (a particularly good opportunity to practise your local scenery photography).

But aren’t greetings cards seasonal ?

No at all. Remember, with good planning (mentioned in the planning and organizing article), you could have a year round business, based on particular days of the year. Ideally, you want to make sure that your ‘project’ is completed at least three months prior to the particular event of the year. This is to allow for distribution and also many stores start there themes at least six weeks before any seasonal event (larger stores might even have a two month lead in time). So, for example :-

  • For Valentine’s cards in February – complete your project by the preceding November
  • For Easter cards in March – complete your project by the preceding December
  • For Mother’s Day cards  in May – complete your project by the preceding February
  • For Father’s Day cards in June – complete your project by the preceding March
  • Thanksgiving cards and Halloween in October and November – complete by July
  • For Christmas cards in December – complete your project by the preceding September
  • All year round – Birthday cards, wedding anniversary cards and new babies : even small portraits of family members turned into cards (see my article on Portraits for additional information). You can build up some real long-term relationships with this type of work

What should your Greeting Card Photography project consist of ?

  • Establishing your theme or idea
  • Prepare / make some prototypes
  • Finding a source for your finished product (could be a local store, or an on-line store)
  • Agree a contract of products that you will deliver to them
  • Preparing or sourcing your props
  • Establishing a setting for your props (if applicable)
  • Photographing
  • Developing / touching up the photographs
  • Having the photographs made into cards

Now depending on how busy you are getting, it might be that you are able to outsource some of this work. Certainly props could be prepared by friends, family, local craft schools – or purchased cheaply, depending on your budget. And the final step should certainly be outsourced to a specialist printing firm. They will look more professional and, through economies of scale, will work out cheaper to produce.

Theme Recommendation

The one thing I would really recommend in your early forays into the photography business is to stay with a local theme. Regardless of what seasonal them you are looking to exploit, if you could work this in with a well-known local landmark, you should have no difficulty with selling these cards to your local stores, who are always on the look-out for locally produced goods, depicting local scenes.

As a final thought, it is much easier to sell to a previous customer, then to get a new one (assuming you have done a good job previously). Therefore, it is always worthwhile getting as much information about your clients as possible and you can send them reminder cards that a certain event is looming and that you could source their cards requirements again.

The next in the series :

How To Start A Photography Business (Part 5 – Portraits)

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Selling Your Photos For Profit

Welcome to the third in my series of articles on how to start a photography business. In this article, I’m going to look at the traditional and the modern approaches to selling your photos to people who really want them.

Selling Your Photos to Newspapers and Magazines

This is the traditional method of earning money from selling your photographs. Now, I’m not suggesting that you turn yourself into your town’s local paparazzi and stalk any Z-list celebrity 24/7. Selling Your Photos image

But, there is always a market for someone with their ear to the ground, who can take quality pictures of newsworthy events. Perhaps talk to your local newspaper and ask what sort of things they look out for when their ‘official’ photographers are in the field (if, indeed they have any).

Remember, it’s not just about what’s happening now. These types of publications are always on the look-out for ‘exclusive’ types of photos that are not going to be appearing in their competitor’s pages.

Go out and purchase some of the newspapers and a selection of magazines to see what topics are being covered in them. From here, you can build up your portfolio of similar photographs, for presentation to them.

Go Local

Local newspapers should be an easy way in to this career (and it’s where many professional photographers actually start out). It is actually an excellent place to start for the following reasons :

  • The competition will be non-existent (assuming you live in a smaller town and not a major city)
  • There will be less ‘stock’ photos of your surrounding area – so if a ‘big story’ does break (like a major fire), you might be the only person in the world with a photo of that burnt out church in its original state
  • Local amateur sporting events, whilst written about, rarely have photos to go alongside the commentary. And they take place a weekends – so you can perhaps work this around an existing job
  • There should also be a plethora of school, charity and social events worthy of your camera – and again small local publications are unlikely to have a full-time snapper at these events
  • Don’t forget to factor in human interest stories. Does someone in your area have an unusual hobby worthy of photographing ? (Remember pictures tell a thousand words, you won’t be expected to write articles, the publications will already have people who can scribe wording around your pictures)
  • Of course you might want to take a few shorts initially for a portfolio and show them to an editor to gage the chances of them taking on any freelance work from you

For magazines, in particular, think about specialist periodicals (like pets, boats, horses), are they likely to want pictures to ‘fill space’ ? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’.

Selling Your Photos to On-Line Photo Stockists

One area of photography that has boomed in the past couple of years is on-line photo stockists. If you have never seen them, the system goes like this :

  • On-line stockists hold thousands of ‘stock’ photos
  • They are catalogued by relevance
  • People (or organizations) that want particular photos sign up to these sites and purchase credits
  • They can then use these credits to by one, or a number of photos
  • Usually the better the quality of photo, the higher the charge (so always use high pixels for each photo)
  • You, being the author, will either get paid upfront for your pictures, OR you will get paid as and when each of your photos are bought by purchasers – For example 50%, with the on-line site taking the other 50%
  • Photos can be about anything (people, or everyday objects like a picture of a computer, a banana, or a telephone) – Basically, if you can see it, you can photograph it. Think of the type of pictures that appear in informational magazines (not the adverts of a particular product though, as it’s not wise to be taking pictures which may cross trademark boundaries)

I will be drawing up a list of the best on-line stockists shortly and will provide a link here when I it’s completed. It will detail what their current rates and any restrictions which are in place.

Until then, the next article in the series is :

Greeting Card Photography

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Organizing Your Photography Business

Welcome to the second in the series of articles titled How To Start A Photography Business. If you missed part 1 you can get to it here : How to start a photography business (part 1 – Introduction). Part 2 looks at what you have to do in organizing your photography business.

Objectives and goals are crucial in any business – especially one that you are attempting to create from scratch. You need to have a definite plan, which you stick to. But you also need to be flexible in your approach. If something is not working then clearly you need to make changes.

Inevitably, you will make mistakes and dead-lines won’t be met. However, do not be discouraged by this, and accept this as part of the ‘learning process’.

Organize Yourself & Set Goals

You certainly need to have good organizational skills. Start by asking yourself some basic questions :

  • How many hours per day / week are you going to put in at the start ?
  • Is your photography business going to fit in around an existing job ?
  • Are there opportunities to gradually remove yourself from your existing job, until there comes a point when you can ‘break free’ completely ?

I personally work with a wall planner. In fact, I would go one further and say that I couldn’t work without one. It’s that important. I also start off the year (as it is always a quiet time for me after Christmas and the New Year’s mayhem) setting my objectives and goals for the year. These usually include :

  • Financial goals (including a review of my costs and income from the previous calendar year)
  • Types of photography jobs I want to take on during the year (This will depend on my personal plans for the year – Do I want to spend more time with my family, or do I need a new car !!)
  • Any new tricks or techniques I want to experiment with throughout the year
  • Any specialist or overseas work (I usually start to plan this two years in advance)

I will then break these annual goals down to quarterly (seasonal), monthly, and then weekly. Organizing Your Photography Business image

What you must do is appreciate your current limitations (be those financial, time, or skill limitations). Remember, things will take longer to complete when you are first starting out, and whilst mistakes are not as costly as in the old 35mm film days, they are still inevitable. Always have a back-up plan.

Training

Certainly do not even think about going into business without at least a modicum of training, experimentation, or research to (at least) give the impression that you know what you are talking about.  And I’m not just talking about the technicalities of the photography itself, but also the business of photography. You will need to factor all of this into your goals and objectives.

How much are you willing to spend on the above mentioned training and also the cost of the actual equipment required ? Don’t get sucked into buying too much, too soon. Let your business profits pay for any upgrades, or specialist equipment.

Who Is Your Market ?

Who exactly are you going to target as your initial market (or markets). I personally would only concentrate on one market – and get that right first – before branching out into other areas of photography.

Be Professional

Remember, you want to come across as professional as possible as you certainly do not want to ruin your reputation before you have even developed one. Again, your professionalism will only be as good as the goals and objectives that you set yourself.

If you are ready, then let’s go to work………..

Part 3 – Selling Your Photos

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