The dream of taking a photography hobbie to pro level is something that intrigues a lot of amateur photographers. Photography is a tough business in the pro leagues and you need to make sure you have the right advice.

We have collected a few pretty cool resrouces that have been written on the topic of photography as a business in the last couple of months by people who know what they are talking about.

If you have seen any other cool blog posts on the business of photography, then share them in the comments!

The Business Side of Photography – How to Allocate Resources - This guest post on well-known photographer, Chase Jarvis' blog, from renowned author & business expert Ramit Sethi helps creative artists + entrepreneurs decide how to allocate resources for profit & growth.

30 Things you Should Know to Help you Start a Photography Business - In this post Gina Milicia – author of Digital Photography School's brand new eBook, “Portraits: Making the Shot” shares 30 lessons for those wanting to get into the photography business. “Follow your bliss

25+ Resources for Starting a Freelance Photography Business - Photographer” is one of those professional titles that many people want. And why not? Taking pictures is fun and exciting. But you'll need a first-class.

Why Your Photography Business Should Have a Newsletter - It seems like every time I turn around, another social media outlet is changing the way they are showing our information to the people who “like/follow” us. 

How to Keep Your Photography Business Busy During the Slow Times - How to keep your photography business busy during the slow season winter months.

The Number One Reason Your Photography Business is Failing - So many photographers are terribly frustrated at the constant flux of photographers in their markets. They say, "There are so many photographers in my area who are charging so

How to Promote Your Photography Business with Video Showreels - If you're trying to grow your business and connect with clients on a personal level, then learning how to promote yourself with video showreels is a great step

Give Your Photography Business A Holiday Boost - The holidays are a great time of year for photographers to have some fun with their clients while also boosting business.

The Best Things I've Done for My Business - Jasmine Star takes a moment to share things that've helped her photography business in hopes of shedding light into her "mangled path" to becoming a full time photographer.

14 Respected Photographers' Plans to Jumpstart Their Photography Business - The new year might already be underway, but that doesn't mean it's too late to solidify – or start! – planning for 2013. We were curious what plans photographers had in mind to help jumpstart their photography business, so we

Last week, the developers of an iPhone/iPad app contacted me about using my RSS feed to pull content for their new application. It’s a pretty cool idea, so I said “go for it!”

PhotoVerse collects photography related news and blog posts like any RSS reader, and makes it handy for anybody interested in photography to keep up on their reading while also allowing them to share the articles on social media networks. In essence, it’s a preloaded feed reader just for the photography nuts.

The developers also asked me if I would like to test out the application… but I’m on Android, so no luck. Instead, I asked if you guys could have some freebies or discounts. Here’s what we have to hand out.

ENTER FOR A FREE COPY OF PHOTOVERSE

I have 5 coupon codes for a free copy of the app. It goes for $0.99 in the iTunes store, so you can go buy it if you don’t want to wait for the raffle.

If you do want a free copy, watch the Epic Edits Twitter account for the start of the raffle. I’ll do it within the day, and the first 5 to reply will get the coupon.

Anybody out there have this app already? How is it?

By the title alone, you may be thinking that this article has something to do with composition and perspective in photography. While that may be a useful topic at some point, that’s not what this is about… not directly anyway.

I’m speaking more about the big picture stuff here. Life in general.

My life has been in a state of drastic change over the last five months, and a lot of ups and downs have come with that change. The whole situation allowed me to really evaluate what was and was not important in my life. So here are a few thoughts on photography from the viewpoint of a hobbyist.

MY UNINTENTIONAL DISAPPEARANCE

Five months ago, I had no intension of putting the camera down or stepping away from my blogs. But life happens and I wasn’t left with much of a choice. Back in August 2010, I announced that I had packed up from San Diego and moved back to North Idaho where I grew up. That one event sparked a drastic change in my life.

Not only did we move (which is a painful and expensive process in itself), but I also decided that it would be a good time to become self employed as an engineer. It made a lot of sense because we live so far out in the boonies, the commute to the nearest city would eat up several hours of my day. I got all set up to pull work from my previous employer to get me off and running.

But then I started looking for work with other clients — more previous employers, previous associates and bosses, local companies. This takes a lot of time, and I don’t get paid to do it. But I did land a few other jobs via my contacts and I ended up being very busy. Not just a little busy — I’m talking 12-14 hour days, 7 days a week. Of course, that type of thing doesn’t go on forever, but there was a solid month where I couldn’t leave the house, watch TV, see friends, etc. Honestly though, I’m not complaining… the paychecks make it worth the effort.

It hasn’t been all profit though — it takes money to make money. The move alone set me back $15,000 out of pocket between all the house stuff and the move. Then I had to drop another $8,000 on a piece of software for my engineering business. So yeah, a couple hundred bucks for Photoshop looks a lot different to me now. At any rate, I’m finally starting to get caught up with the money situation.

In short, I’ve been busy either working or trying to scrape up future work for myself. I wouldn’t have it any other way though — I absolutely love working from home, setting my own rates, deciding what to work on, and wearing pajamas and slippers all day. So far, it seems to be working out and I plan to continue being self employed as long as I can.

THINGS THAT FELL OFF MY PLATE

With the self employed gig keeping me busy, I really had to evaluate what other activities were important enough for me to spend time on.

My family has to come above all else, so any small amount of time I have off has to be directed toward them. And now that I live across the street from my parents, next door to my grandmother, and within 30 miles of my brother and the in-laws, I have more family to spend time with on a regular basis. It’s great though, I do enjoy being back home (as does my wife).

The next two biggest things in my life are photography and blogging. With everything else going on, I just haven’t been able to justify spending much time on them. Sure, I posted a couple things here and there, shot a few rolls of film from time to time, but nothing at the level I was at before the move. Hell, I even managed to acquire a bunch of “new” film cameras and darkroom equipment in the last few months… but I’ll get into that on the film photography blog later this week.

Part of me feels terrible for letting things go for so long, but I always remember to take a step back and look at the big picture.

BIG PICTURE FOR A HOBBYIST

I’m not a professional photographer or blogger. Not even close. I make about 30-40x more per month with engineering than I do with photography and blogging combined. So when push comes to shove, it doesn’t make sense to spend a bunch of time on my hobbies. The first priority has to be putting food on the table and paying the bills.

I enjoy doing both of these things, and I don’t see myself giving up either of them completely. I just need to come to terms with the fact that they are, and will be in the near future, only a hobby. Just for fun.

The other interesting thing about photography and blogging, for me, is that they continue to make a small amount of money even when I stop doing them for several months. The blogs have been earning consistent numbers for the last five or six months — I even picked up a couple of direct advertisers and saw some spikes in affiliate payouts. Photography has been fairly even too — a couple of small sales plus a signed print.

So I don’t get terribly stressed out when I have to step back from my hobbies for a while… they seem to just keep going on their own at some moderate level. Of course, by taking time off, I’m not growing these hobbies. My goal is to eventually make a decent income from blogging and/or photography so I can decide if it’s a viable career path, but engineering is my primary career and money maker right now.

LESSONS FOR MY FELLOW HOBBYISTS

Most of you can probably relate to having photography as a hobby/passion. And most of you can relate to having ups and downs in your life.

So when you find yourself short on time, don’t sweat the small stuff. Photography shouldn’t come before the really important things, like your family or your job. Even if you have a lot of followers on a blog or on Flickr, most of them will still be around when you get back to it.

And taking a bit of a break from time to time might not be a bad thing. I’m getting to the point where I really want to get back into things — shoot some photos, get the darkroom up and running, post some stuff on the blogs. If you feel obligated to pursue your hobbies in rough times, they’re not fun any more.

Of course, it’s a different story for those making a significant income from photography and/or blogging. They don’t have the same luxury of choice — it is an obligation. As a hobbyist, be happy that you can choose where to spend your free time.

This is getting drawn out, so I’ll end it there. My big message here, is that I’m still alive and I plan on continuing with the photography and the blogging. I’ll be too busy for these hobbies from time to time, but I’m still around.

[tweetmeme]This guest article was written by Ellen Berry, a member of the BrainTrack writing staff. She writes about a variety of job and career related topics.

It’s hard to find photographers who aren’t passionate about what they do. Perhaps it is the boundless potential of what can be done with photography – and the images that it captures – that inspires such enduring interest. Used to create art, document details or tell a story, photography is both an artistic and scientific medium – unlike any other.

But there are so many ways that photography is used – in almost any industry and location – and it can be hard to choose which career or careers are best suited for you.

Careers in Photography

Now more than any time in history, images are used to make money. Trends in innovative design, documentation methods, diagnostic approaches, and Web-based services combine with technological advancements in camera equipment and image processing to create an ever-increasing demand for skilled photographers. Industries that rely on photographers to conduct business, and the careers within them, include:


My camera makes an ideal travel companion, and taking photos that I plan to sell allows me to write off expenses from my trip.

News / Publishing – still photography is used in combination with multimedia to record and present what is seen by the photographer

  • Editorial photography used to illustrate stories in magazines and books in print or online
  • Photojournalism for newspapers and news websites
  • Paparazzi candid photography of celebrities and newsworthy figures
  • Teaching photojournalism students

Fine Arts / Craftsmanship – producing original works of art using artistic techniques for display, production and sale

  • Fine arts photography for exhibition, commission and print sales of frameable art; includes still life, abstract, portrait, documentary, nature, botanical, and landscape
  • Crafts photography for creating pieces of art sold as crafts or used to create art pieces such as fashion accessories, tableware, giftware, etc.
  • Teaching of artistic techniques and use of camera equipment

Learning graphic design changed the way I take photos – now more than just to capture an image, photography allows me to create the foundation for a final product.

Scientific – used in scientific research and applied sciences, business, military, and the arts

  • Medical photography for keeping medical records, publishing journal articles, and diagnostic purposes
  • Forensic photography to aid in investigations and courtroom cases by accurately reproducing a scene of a crime or accident; black and white, infrared, and spectroscopy may be used
  • Astrophotography to record astronomical objects and large areas of sky and space
  • Aerial and satellite photography for use in the archaeological, geophysical, and cartographic sciences
  • Stereophotogrammetry used in archeology to combine photos to create mosaics which document and reproduce large areas. Equipment uses satellite GPS technology to map specified areas
  • Geologic photography for surveying, mapping, and documenting rocks, minerals, and formations
  • Photomacrography and photomicrography for capturing magnified images through lenses or microscopes
  • Infrared, ultraviolet, fluorescence, and high-speed photography, and thermography for capturing unseen scientific elements or processes
  • Industrial photography for documenting equipment, production processes, work organization, employees, products, and layout for administrative or industrial relations use
  • Teaching scientific photography techniques and use of camera equipment

I try to keep things simple by taking pictures of my jewelry on my kitchen table using household knick knacks and natural lighting.

Commercial / Industrial – used to create images (as compared to works of art) for sale

  • Stock photography for creating collections of photos sold in catalogs or online that are purchased for use in brochures, websites, magazines, posters, etc.
  • Advertising photography for illustrating and presenting products; used by marketing departments and ad agencies
  • Fashion and glamour photography for taking pictures of clothing designs or products presented by models, or the models themselves
  • Restaurant / food photography for use in packaging, advertising, magazines, and websites
  • Real estate photography presenting the structure and decor of commercial buildings and private homes for sale or rent; includes 360 degree panoramas
  • Event photography for ceremonies, parties, conferences, and promoted events
  • Studio / portrait photography for families and individuals, pets, school pictures, and headshots for performers
  • Teaching of commercial photography techniques and use of camera equipment

Underwater photography is used in many of these industries, and uses special equipment to capture images that cannot be captured by standard camera equipment.

Choosing a Photography Career

Most careers in photography require a combination of creativity, knowledge of specialized photographic equipment, specific knowledge of the relevant industry, a keen eye, patience, and the ability to travel frequently and carry equipment. Some jobs in dangerous situations require courage and risk. Many photographers are self-employed (so business training is essential) and expected to own their own equipment. Additional considerations when choosing a photography career include:

  1. Building a portfolio

    Even before you know what industries or kinds of photography interest you, start taking photos. In every aspect of your life, look for ways that you can try different camera equipment, take photos of different subjects, experiment with techniques, and create pieces for your portfolio. Challenge yourself to tell stories with images, capture telling moments, make objects look aesthetically irresistible, and portray commonplace things in uncommon ways. Nothing is more important in photography than being able to demonstrate your talent and skill.

  2. Exploring careers

    Start with an assessment of your current interests and skills – perhaps with the use of career tests and books, or career counseling. Consider which industries (like real estate or news) elicit a deep interest in you and offer lots of areas for discovery, and then become familiar with the details of the various kinds of photography careers relevant to those industries. Research blogs and websites about different kinds of photographers and their careers. Find successful photographers and ask if you can shadow them on the job, or apprentice with them, to get practical experience. Check out the many professional associations for different fields of photography. Be sure to include the creative, technical, and business sides of photography in your exploration.


  3. When taking stock photo images, I try to think of all the ways the image might be used – by graphic designers or administrative assistants in specific industries for use on websites, in brochures or presentations, etc.

    Identifying complementary careers

    Once you’ve identified three primary areas of interest, consider how you can combine them. By developing skills and knowledge in complementary areas, you create a unique skillset that distinguishes you from the competition, and establishes a wide foundation for career growth and stability. For example, knowing how to use Adobe Photoshop and other post-processing programs, scanners, and graphic design techniques can infinitely enhance your skills and hireability. Adding formal training in marketing, business, science, food photography, or fashion are examples of ways to further increase your earning potential.

  4. Personal branding

    As early as possible, begin to consider yourself as a marketable commodity when it comes to your career. Consider becoming self-employed (even if you are working or in school full time) as soon as you’ve identified your career path, since becoming a sole-proprietor is easy, usually free or low cost, and can provide tax benefits and support your business learning. Keep in mind that your presence online, in addition to in-person, reflects your personal brand so be sure to put your best foot forward when networking and interacting through social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

  5. Gaining skills

    Having identified a career path that appeals to you enough to warrant formal training, compare different options for learning. Photography programs are readily available through four-year colleges and vocational schools, both on-campus and online. College degree programs for photographers are usually in the fine arts, and can vary in length from two to six years. Any program should be accredited through the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the United States Department of Education (USDE).

Ellen Berry is a member of BrainTrack’s writing staff, and contributes regularly to BrainTrack’s Career Planning Guide, which features additional articles about developing career goals, matching passions with careers, and job searching.

[tweetmeme]This guest post was written by Jason Acar. Jason is currently a content writer for MyCamera.co.za. He has extensive journalism experience and a keen interest in photography.

Many budding photographers still debate whether to buy digital cameras, or opt for older analogue film models. The truth is, technology has advanced so much that digital cameras can achieve just about anything you want when it comes to photography.

To easily display the rise and fall of both digital and film eras, we have compiled this interesting timeline, highlighting some of the most important moments in the history of photography:

1826 - Nicephore Niepce took the first permanent photograph in history. Although there may have been other photographs taken during this time, the photograph of the exterior of his home is the oldest photo on record. He took the image using a camera obscura and a sheet of pewter coated with bitumen of Judea, which hardened permanently when exposed to light. Capturing the image took eight hours.

1839 – William Fox Talbot invents the positive/negative process. Although essentially a negative photograph, which he dubbed as the “photogenic drawing process”, he streamlined the process a year later and renamed it the calotype. This effect remains popular today.

1854- André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri became known for the introduction of the carte de visite (French “visiting card”). Disdéri’s rotating camera could reproduce eight individually exposed images on a single negative.

1861 – Renowned physicist and mathematician James Clerk Maxwell took the first ever first colour photograph. He created the image of a tartan ribbon by photographing it three times through red, yellow and blue filters before combining them into one colour image.

1868 - Louis Arthur Ducos du Hauron of France became a pioneer in the field of colour photography. Using additive (red, green, blue) and subtractive (cyan, magenta, yellow) methods, he turned colour photography into an art form. He would go on to patent some of his methods, while one of his most famous, and earliest, photos is a landscape portrait of Southern France, taken by the subtractive method in 1877.

1887 - Gabriel Jonas Lippmann, a physicist and inventor, landed the Nobel Prize in 1908 for using the phenomenon of interference to reproduce colours on a photographic basis. This later became known as the Lippmann Plate.

1888 – The Kodak No. 1 Box camera was introduced, allowing the mass market to finally try their hand at photography. Once one hundred photos had been taken, owners would ship the camera back to Kodak and have the images printed at a price of $10.

1900 – If the No 1 Box introduced the average Joe, the introduction took things a step further. This camera made low-cost photography popular and introduced the world to the snapshot. This basic cardboard box camera offered simple controls and a price tag of just $1.

1902 - Arthur Korn discovered practical photo-telegraphy technology, meaning that images could be sent via wires. Europe quickly adapted the technology, sending photographs locally by 1910. Eventually inter-continental delivery was done by 1922.

1923 - Doc Harold Edgerton introduced the xenon flash lamp and pioneered strobe photography. This paved the way for improved portrait pictures, as well as photographs in areas with little or no light.

1936 - The world was introduced to the first single-lens reflex (SLR) camera. This 35mm SLR camera was named Ihagee Kine-Exakta and made in Germany.

1948 – Edwin Land, who founded the Polaroid Corporation in 1937, released the instant film camera in this year. This device would become their most popular product line for decades to come.

1959 – There was a time when AGFA was close behind Kodak as a leader in the world of photography. It was at this point that the company introduced the first ever fully automatic camera, the Optima.

1972 - The rise of digital happened a lot earlier than many people realise. Texas Willis Adcock, a Texas Instruments engineer, actually created a design for a filmless camera and applied for a patent in 1972. Unfortunately, nobody knows if it ever came into existence.

1973 – Fairchild Semiconductor paved the way for digital imaging, releasing the first integrated circuit, just ahead of Texas Digital.

1975 –Steven Sasson unveiled the first digital camera using CCD image sensor chips. This groundbreaking device took black and white (recorded onto a cassette tape) and offered a resolution of 0.01 megapixels. The first image ever captured on this prototype took 23 seconds to record.

1981 – Sony released the Mavica, the first commercially available digital camera. Although this was a revolutionary product in the photographic industry, it was actually digital video recorder that took freeze frames.

1986 – Leading photographic company, Kodak, brought out the first megapixel sensor, which was able to record 1.4 million pixels. By 1991, the company had created the first professional digital camera system (DCS), a Nikon F-3 which was targeted at photojournalists.

1994 – Only a select few were able to enjoy digital technology up until now. Apple introduced the Apple QuickTake 100 camera in February 1994, a digital camera aimed at the average Joe which was able to work with a home computer. Others soon followed including the Kodak DC40, Casio QV-11 and the Sony Cyber-Shot.

2006 – Digital photography steadily edged out the use of a film camera, so much so that Polaroid announced that it was halting production on all of their instant film products.

2010 – Digital cameras are introduced monthly, if not weekly. Each with more advanced features, better quality picture quality and enough on camera space for thousands of images. To top it off, printing of images is quick, cheap and never wasteful as you select the images you want without have to deal with overexposed or dud images.

This guest post was written by Jason Acar. Jason is currently a content writer for MyCamera.co.za. He has extensive journalism experience and a keen interest in photography.

We had a great response on the “freebook” raffle last week! 76 photographers entered to receive a free copy of Wayne Radford’s Portrait Tips and Techniques eBook (see my review here). I said I had 3 free copies to hand out, and here they are:

Numbers 59, 6, and 69 match up with Connie, Marc H, and Adrian. Congrats to the winners!

For the non-winners, you can still buy the book at a discount price of $19.95 until December 12.

I have a few more book reviews to do in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for another chance to win some reading material.

Portraits… a very broad topic with deep technical and artistic aspects. A portrait photographer must have control and understanding of the subject, surroundings, light, and camera in order to create images with impact. This is generally the case in any type of photography, but portraits demand a higher level of control.

Educating yourself on the subject of portraiture can be difficult because of the inherent technical material. But with the right teacher or author, this material can be absorbed with minimal pain to the brain.

Volume 1 of Wayne Radford’s Portrait Tips and Techniques is a book that covers the many aspects of black & white natural light portraiture (and the material applies to color portraits as well). The lessons and teachings are somewhat technical, but the material is presented in a “down to Earth” fashion that anybody can understand. You can download an 8 page sample of the eBook here [PDF].

Check the end of this review for your chance at a free copy of the full version!

[tweetmeme]You can purchase Volume 1 of Portrait Tips and Techniques from Wayne Radford’s website. Links in this post are affiliate links to the product.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Portrait Tips and Techniques, Volume 1 is a 126 page downloadable eBook containing 4 main chapters encompassing 10 distinct lessons. The end of the book also contains a selection of sample work from the author and a couple of clean and concise guides to facial analysis and lighting. And the supporting graphics… this book has over 90 great sample shots, diagrams, and charts. Click on the images below for a larger view.

The book starts off with an introduction from the author in addition to some extra background material on his journey as a portrait photographer. Then we jump into “Facial Recognition”, or posing techniques for your subjects. The next main section is “Lighting Techniques”, all of which are in the realm of natural light. The last two chapters cover “Exposure” and “Composition” as they relate specifically to portraits. The book wraps up with a sample gallery of work from Wayne Radford and two single-page charts for lighting and posing (very handy).

Throughout the book, sample images and illustrations are used to convey the lessons found in the text. Wayne also deconstructs his photos to convey a particular technique and show how it was used to create that photo. All in all, this is a very visual guide.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Wayne Radford is an Australian professional portrait photographer specialising in Black & White, and he’s been doing it for over 25 years. While he’s done his fair share of weddings, in 2000 Wayne switched over exclusively to children’s environmental portraiture.

Throughout his career he has received numerous State and National awards for his unique style of photography including the Australian Professional Photography Awards category; “1996 Wedding Photographer of the Year” at both National and State judging. In addition he also received the classification of “Master of Photography”. On two occasions he has won the “Highest Scoring Black & White Print” at these awards.

You can see some of Wayne’s work on his Radford Photography website and on Flickr. For his non-portrait work, also check out his Radford Editions website.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

This is a wonderful, educational, and inspirational book on the topic of portrait photography. I love the fact that it focuses on natural light techniques and uses black & white images for illustration. It’s direct, focused, and it cuts out the extra fluff and off-topic discussion.

This would be a great book for two types of photographers: those wanting to learn portraits from the ground up, and those wanting to add more to their existing knowledge of portraiture. Either way, this book will certainly step up your game.

You can purchase Volume 1 of Portrait Tips and Techniques for $19.95 until December 20, at which point it will return to the regular price of $24.95. (the image says Dec 12, but the end date is really Dec 20)

WANT A FREE COPY?

[UPDATE 11/22/2010] The winners have been chosen. You can see the results here.

Of course you do! I’ve got 3 copies of the eBook to hand out and we’ll run this as a simple raffle in the comments below. Here are the rules:

  • One entry per person.
  • Leave a comment with the word “freebook” in there somewhere.
  • Do it on or before 11/19/2010.

After the deadline, I’ll pull 3 random numbers and see if the corresponding comments have the word “freebook” in them. If not, I’ll pull additional numbers until 3 winners have been chosen.

[tweetmeme]This is a guest post by Rob, from robnunnphoto.com.

If, like me, you’re a photographer on a very tight budget, one of the hardest things to come to terms with is how expensive lenses are for your dSLR. Apart from the “Nifty Fifties”, which for most manufacturers can be had for around $100, new lenses are hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

Fear not though – there is another way, where you can buy lenses for a few dollars, rather than a few hundred – M42 Lenses. M42 refers to the type of screw mount these old lenses use, and it was a standard for companies like Zenit, Praktica, and Pentax for many years. There are also lots of other lens manufacturers who produced M42 lenses from the ‘50s to the ‘70s, when Auto-Exposure, and a little later, Auto-Focus, rendered a screw type mount impractical.

To fit these lenses you’ll need an M42 adapter (available on eBay), which is normally just a piece of machined and finished metal, with a bayonet fitting on one side and a screw mount on the other. Having no electrical connection, you then have to focus, change the aperture, and meter manually, but this is a good learning experience and gets easier with practice. If you’re using Canon you can set your command wheel to Aperture Priority, and your camera will adjust the shutter speed automatically as light levels change or you change the lenses aperture.

Some M42 Lens Mount Adapters include an optic, and it’s always best to check compatibility of your camera body with a particular lens. Some old lenses protrude into the body of the camera, and this can cause problems with hitting the mirror.

I get my M42 lenses from car-boot sales, second hand shops, thrift stores and charity shops. There’s a thriving market on eBay, but the most popular and highest quality can demand steep prices. I normally just look for old 35mm Film Cameras that are clean, I make sure the lens works, then pay a couple of quid at a car-boot sale.

Most M42 lenses are fixed-focal length prime lenses – zooms just weren’t made for M42 in great quantities, and their optical qualities weren’t as good. Using a prime teaches you to zoom “with your feet”, a good skill to develop for everyone anyway!

The most common focal length of lenses you’ll find are 28mm, 35mm, 50mm and 135mm. Wider lenses are very rare, but you may come across the odd ultra-long telephoto prime – and normally at prices that are unbelievably cheap.

LENS CHECK LIST

Before you hand over the cash for a M42 lens, you want to check a few things:

  1. Is it really an M42 Thread? Make sure you bring your lens-mount adapter (I actually use an extension tube) along to test it is what you think it is. There are other screw-mounts that aren’t compatible.
  2. Is the glass clean? You’re looking for mould, fungus or big scratches. Any lens that looks a bit cloudy or has things growing in it should be passed over. Expect to see surface scratches on most old lenses – don’t worry, it won’t affect your photographs.
  3. Does the focus turn smoothly? We don’t want any grinding or stiffness.
  4. Do the aperture blades work? A real important one this. If a lens has been sitting in an attic for 40 years, chances are any lubricants inside will have dried out, so those blades could be stuck. Look for a pin sticking out of the back of the lens. Press it in, then look through the lens while turning the aperture ring. You should see the aperture blades opeing and closing. Ask yourself if the lens is opening up all the way to its biggest aperture (biggest hole, smallest f number), and closing up to its smallest aperture (smallest hole, biggest f number). You’ll often find lenses where the blades only open up so far. Put the lens down and move on.
  5. Is it a decent piece of glass? A tricky question this – unless you’ve got a really good memory, chances are you won’t be able to remember which are the lenses, brands and models you should be looking for. My rule of thumb is to look at the maximum aperture. Lens manufacturers don’t tend to make poor fast glass. So if the lens is a 50mm, I’m looking for at least an f/1.8 aperture. For 28mm to 135mm I’m looking for f/2.8. With longer glass the bigger the aperture the better, and be aware that Zoom Technology wasn’t at it’s best in the M42 era, so don’t expect great results from non-primes. (Although M42 Zooms, combined with extension tubes, are great for macro work.)

ACCESSORIES

That brings me nicely onto the accessories that you want to be looking for as you’re on your hunt for M42 lenses. First up we want a selection of extension tubes. These are simple hollow tubes of various lengths, that allow you to take incredible macro shots.

Teleconverters look like extension tubes, but have a small glass optic inside. These handy gadgets multipy the focal length of your lens, usually by 1.6 or 2 times. Inspect them for scratches and fungus. Using a teleconverter does cut down the amount of light coming into your camera, and they do degrade the image, but they are fun to play around with.

Filters. With all your new lenses you’ll need filters. Don’t bother with UV protection filters, these lenses are cheap anyway, so why put another piece of cheap glass in the way? Look for CIrcular Polarizers (C-PL) to reduce glare and increase colour saturation. You may find Linear Polarizers. These have the same effect, but could affect the metering of your camera. If you’re shooting fully manual, this doesn’t matter one bit. Look out for special effects filters – soft-focus, star-bursts, grads and neutral density. Coloured filters aren’t that useful if you shoot in colour and convert to b&w in post, but they can add a fun look to your images. Keep an eye out for Cokin Filters, holders, and adapters – a whole world to explore!

Lens Hoods. Very, very, important. The coatings on modern lenses that keep our photographs contrasty and flare-free are probably missing from these old M42 lenses, so the best practice is to always use a lens hood.

MY EXPERIENCES

I particularly like my Pentacon 29mm f/2.8, and my Helios 135mm f/2.8. I use my Soligor 90-230mm with extension tubes for macro work, and I’m currently playing around with a Hanimex 200mm f/3.3. There’s no way I could afford to buy the equivalent Canon EF primes of these focal lengths, and half the fun of using these lenses is paying a couple of pounds for them at car-boot sales, then seeing the wonderful images they produce.

WHAT TO DO NEXT

Go on eBay and buy a lens-mount adapter for your digital body. Just search for “M42 Lens adapter Canon” or whatever model of camera you’ve got. Do a little research on the ‘net as to what lenses you could be looking for, then get out at those garage sales, thrift stores and flea-markets to hunt out those bargains. Have fun and marvel at the prices you’ll pay for lenses that are perfectly good enough for the majority of photographers.

Thanks for reading! Rob.

You can read more about Rob and his photography at robnunnphoto.com.

(All photos in this article were taken with a Canon 350d dSLR and M42 Lenses).

FURTHER READING

M42 Lenses On Wikipedia.

M42 Lens Mount Adapters On Ebay.com.

Compatibility list of M42 and manual lenses on Canon EOS 5D. (And Other Makes)

M42 and dSLR’s Flickr Group.

HAVE YOUR SAY!

Have you used M42 lenses, on a dSLR or perhaps on the original Film Body? What have your experiences been? What are your favourite lenses, and what has been your best buy? Please add your comments below!

[tweetmeme]Last week, I posted a review of Filter Forge, an advanced Photoshop plugin. I also posted a way for three lucky winners to get a free license for the software — a photo contest using the trial version of Filter Forge.

We had some great work entered in the contest and I had a difficult time picking only 3 winners. A big thanks goes out to all the participants!

THE THREE WINNERS ARE…


Devin Hayes, Lomo Filter

This one took me a minute to figure out because I’ve never seen a photo of the building. This is a tilt-shift photo of the Milwaukee Art Museum and it sits at an angle as shown in the image (no tilt on the composition). The Lomo filter used maintains a relatively “clean” look while shifting the colors just a bit.


Roy Moore, Grunge Filter

The Grunge filter was a popular choice among participants, but this photo exhibited the best use of the filter. The simple subject and color set gains strength from the busy texture of the grunge filter and produces somewhat of a visual cross between painting and photo.


Robbie Ewing, Dreamy Filter and Film Frame

The dreamy filter applies well to portraits because of the softening effect. Highlights and colors are also pushed up a bit, producing a slightly high-key and high contrast/saturation image. The film frame adds a nice organic border to the image, keeping the viewer interest near the center of the photo.

OTHER PROJECT ENTRIES

These entries are shown in the order they were received. Great work from everyone — I had a hard time bringing my top 6 or 7 down to my top 3.


Gilberto Agostinho, Vibrance Filter and Film Frame


Paulus B. Weldy, Dreamy Filter and Photo Frame


Victoria Pickering, Colorize Filter


James Kammin, Old Photo Filter and Photo Film Frame


Mark Ledingham, Plastawrap and Bridge Lighting Filters


Susan Pollard, Grunge Filter


Malcolm Smith, Old Photo Filter


Justin Kuhlers, Real Contrast Filter and Film Frame


Rob Anderson, Grunge Filter


Heather Katsoulis, Watercolor Painting Filter and Watercolor Frame


Steven M., Sunburst Filter


Leszek Leszczyński, Watercolour Frame

Again, a big thanks to the folks who participated.

Just a quick note to the regular readers of the blog about the commotion earlier today. I found some malicious code that had been placed in every single file on every single website today by some jack-ass hacker or something, so things were a bit wonky for a while. My web host (Media Temple) helped me clear out the malicious code, but a bunch of the files were still damaged.

Lucky for me, I carry backups and I only lost a few days worth of material. I’ve never had to go this extreme before due to an attack, but I had to delete the entire website and database before reinstalling my backup files. Everything seems to have gone smoothly and the site is back to it’s old self. I reposted the last 2 articles manually, so you feed readers shouldn’t be alarmed when you see those fly through again. Now to fix the other two blogs in a similar fashion…

I’m also extending the deadline for the current contest and giveaway for a few reasons. Mainly, because I don’t know if the site was reachable this weekend (I didn’t even turn on my computer on Saturday). Another reason is because I’m going to be busy over the next day or two fixing my other blogs that got screwed up. And also because we only have a few entries (like in the range of 4 or 5, and I’m giving away 3 prizes). So the new deadline is the 13th of this month — that’s only a few days away, so hurry up and get those entries in for a chance at some free software.