40-year ban lifted: Visitor photography allowed again in the White House


Michelle Obama on photos at White House

For 40 years, visitors to the home of the United States President could not take pictures.

Today First Lady Michelle Obama literally tore up that policy in a video she posted to Instagram, with the accompanying text: “Big news! Starting today, we’re lifting the ban on cameras and photos on the @WhiteHouse public tour. Visitors are now able to take photos and keep those memories for a lifetime!”

The White House press office later released an official statement, saying “Today, the White House is lifting its longstanding camera and photo ban on public tours. This ban has been in place for over 40 years… Effective today, guests are now welcome to take photos throughout the White House tour route and keep those memories for a lifetime.”

Permitted items now include phones and compact still cameras with a lens no longer than 3 inches. Still prohibited are video cameras (which is weird, seeing as how all phones and compact cams capture video) cameras with detachable lenses, tablets, tripods, monopods, and camera sticks, as well as flash photography and livestreaming.

Also: The White House is now posting here the new pictures taken by tourists.

white house photos


ISO 51,200 film lit by Moonlight

Lit by Moonlight

Without a big SFX budget, how can you make a short sci-fi film look like it was shot on an alien world?

Use Sony’s A7s, the mirrorless full-frame camera known for its extreme light sensitivity, and shoot the whole movie under moonlight, that’s how.

The director also used Canon prime lenses and the Metabones Speed Booster, and shot at ISO 51,200.

The 7-minute film Refuge is available here. It’s reportedly the first narrative film shot by moonlight, and has some R-like action and language.

Distinctions disappearing: InfoTrends studies interchangeable lens cameras

infotrends study

The distinction between SLRs and competing compact interchangeable lens cameras is disappearing, reports research firm InfoTrends, “given recent camera introductions and their positioning in the market.”

“2014 represented a year of change in the digital camera market, with significant decreases in unit shipments and sales across multiple global regions,” the company says. “Nevertheless, InfoTrends expects the ILC market to remain profitable for innovative imaging companies that continue to introduce new products and respond to consumers’ needs.”

“At this junction of the DILC market, vendors need to boldly move forward and not be deterred by the decline in sales that the market has experienced recently,” adds InfoTrends’ Ed Lee. “Opportunities still exist in this market. Smartphone owners are now the breeding ground for first-time DILC camera owners. There is a segment of smartphone owners who are graduating from casual photographers to photography enthusiasts and are beginning to seek out education opportunities to learn more about the art of photography.”

The company’s studied the U.S. interchangeable lens camera market since 2008, and the 2015 edition of its report looks at the relative importance of product attributes, as well as buyer demographic characteristics such as age, gender, income, parental status, and photographer type, and compares the demographic profile of smartphone only, point & shoot, CILC, and DSLR camera owners.

Here’s more information.


Sony claims growth in Mirrorless camera sales

sony Alpha 5100

Amidst overall declines in camera sales, many claimed market share gains are mere larger slices of a smaller pie — but Sony Electronics says it’s instead actually selling more interchangeable lens cameras of late.

Sony says it is “experiencing record growth in sales of mirrorless cameras, a rapidly expanding segment of the interchangeable lens camera business.” The company sites NPD Group research data showing “overall mirrorless camera revenue has grown 16.5 percent over the past 12 months… Sony has experienced a robust 66 percent boost in their company’s mirrorless camera sales.”

Sony adds that it’s held “the dominant position as the #1 overall mirrorless brand” for four years” — and notes NPD data showing “DSLR sales declining approximately 15% over the same period.”

Also noted: InfoTrends’ surveys showing more than 61 percent of first-time ILC buyers are under the age of 35, up from 54% approximately two years ago.

Sony is also the overall largest image sensor manufacturer.

Try capturing a “Panoselfie”


Is the much-maligned selfie better when it’s wider? That’s the idea behind the “panoselfie” — get more of the environment in your shot, so it’s not just a distorted close-up of your own ugly mug.

“They’re fun and look great,” writes MetaFilter founder Matt Haughey, “letting you fit both large groups and giant landscapes into a photo.”

Taking one is as simple as you might think, although it might require a little trial and error, Haughey adds. “Set your stock iPhone camera app to panorama mode. Hold your arms out straight away from you as far as possible. Turn the phone 90º to the right so you’re staring at the side of your phone, hit the camera button to start the shot, then smoothly spin your phone clockwise 180º towards you until the phone finishes, pointing at your left shoulder.”

Here is the full article.

Online storage revitalizes old photos, takes no rights

The industry often talks about the Yeas and Nays of various storage methods; two recent articles also show some strong pros and cons.


VentureBeat editor-in-chief Dylan Tweney writes of uploading all 24,280 of his family’s photos to Google Drive, and how “what happened next blew my mind.” The photo collections dates back “over a decade, back to when we got our first digital camera in 2000. Google gradually worked its way through our photo library, creating animations and stories year after year, and in the process bringing up moments I had forgotten about and photos I hadn’t looked at in years,” he says. “Some of the animated GIFs were goofy and funny. Some were amazing little snippets, moments in time captured and suddenly reappearing a decade later. Some of the enhanced photos were odd and unbeautiful, but still intriguing. The stories didn’t have much narrative, but they stitched together key moments of big days in ways I hadn’t bothered to do myself. In short, Google had reached into the depths of an overwhelmingly large photo library, identified some highlights, and put them together in a way that surprised and delighted me… They provide entry points into our my family’s memories, and our photo library, in a way that no other tech product I can remember has done.”

The full story is here.


Meanwhile, many worry about the legal rights they may or may not lose when turning over the images to an online service. Petapixel lays it all out and takes a look at “What Top Cloud Storage Services Say About Your Photo Rights.”


Their conclusion? “It would appear the privacy hysteria of online file storage and photography is exactly that — exaggerated. Apple iCloud, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, and Amazon Cloud all allow you to keep full control of your content and do not use your data outside the service. However, Google’s terms of service may be somewhat concerning for some as they are not specific and do note that Google gains a license over your content.”

Read the full article here.


Requiem for Photoshop Touch: an app users loved or hated

— by Hans Hartman

Adobe Photoshop TouchAdobe announced here that it will discontinue Photoshop Touch, its comprehensive photo editing app, as part of a strategy to release apps with narrower use cases, such as Photoshop Mix (compositing), Photoshop Sketch (drawing), Adobe Shape (bitmap-to-vector conversion), and the soon-to-be-released Rigel, for retouching.

Customer Feedback
Let’s look at what Photoshop Touch users thought of the app. We did a qualitative analysis of 125 iTunes reviews in March of 2013, back in the heydays of Photoshop Touch for iPad (the iPhone and Android versions came out later), as part of an analysis of the potential for tablet-specific photo apps (although dated, there might still be valuable takeaways in the white paper; you can download it here).

Three things stood out:

  • Photoshop Touch’s overall user ratings were low (3.5), as was the case for some other well-known and not “mobile-first” brands that struggled to make their mark in the app world (Shutterfly for iPad was even lower, at 2.5).
  • “Features” were an important factor as to why some liked Photoshop Touch and others didn’t. They liked the features because there were so many of them – not unlike Photoshop on the desktop. They didn’t like the features because they were hard to master and, most importantly, because retina support was missing at the time. Telling for the perceived complexity of the app was that quite a few reviews blamed Adobe’s tutorials for their struggles, e.g. “The app is fantastic if you know how to use it. But if you do not and try to follow the tutorials, you will just end up confused and frustrated. Please improve the tutorials.”touch postive
  • As one of the highest priced photo apps ($9.99), price was actually an important reason why they liked the app, summarized as e.g. “Are you KIDDING me? I can hardly believe all I can accomplish in this one app. And, seriously, it’s TEN DOLLARS people. The desktop version is SIX HUNDRED.”


Justifiable Strategy
The last point is one that Adobe is not highlighting in its discontinuation announcement. With a slew of excellent, multi-faceted photo editing apps on the market – many of them free and virtually all priced less than $10 – Adobe was simply not in a position to raise its Photoshop Touch price anywhere near enough to that of its desktop program to mitigate cannibalization from the mobile app with many of the same features.

From Adobe’s perspective, the discontinuation of Photoshop Touch and release of single use case apps makes a lot of sense. With its Creative Cloud service in place, Adobe can now offer narrower use case apps, allowing its customers to access their images and continue working on them in different single use case apps and even on different devices.

In addition, Adobe can now afford to offer these apps for free and attract new users to its 25-year-old Photoshop franchise, making the connecting glue – an upsell to a Creative Cloud subscription – the real winner, while killing any cannibalization in the interim.

Hans Hartman is president of Suite 48 Analytics and co-host of the Mobile Photo Connect conference.



Interesting ad approach: Olympus will “cure DSL-ARM”

olympus slr arm

in an effort to promote the size and weight benefits of its smaller interchangeable lens cameras, Olympus is lampooning a poor enthusiast picture-taker whose arm has stretched grotesquely due to his SLR’s weight.

“Many people living with DSL-ARM are suffering silently,” the video proclaims, “unaware that there’s a cure… DSL-ARM can only be cured with a smaller, lighter camera. …You’ll get all the power of a DSLR without all the size. Don’t you think you’ve suffered long enough?… Let the healing begin.”

What do you think — a good approach to marketing the completive differences in ILCs?

Here’s the video.

Take a Selfie for Mom

mother selfie NYT

They may often be derided as narcissistic, or simply bad photos — but I think selfies are a very important part of photography today. They get everyone more involved in taking pictures of important or meaningful events, and a shot with yourself in it is a much better memory trigger of, say, that camping trip you took 5 years ago then yet another landscape picture with no one recognizable in it…

In recognition of Mothers Day, the New York Times published an interesting article with another reason for taking a selfie: to capture an image with that family memory keeper who is often behind the camera instead of in front of it.

“After my mom died, the funeral home said that we needed photos to make a memory board,” the article begins. “Mom did take a lot of photos over the course of my two sisters’ and my lifetimes… But while I found plenty of photos of myself that I had forgotten existed, I found relatively few of my mother either by herself or with me. It was then that I realized that she had been behind the camera for so many of the photos I had treasured over the years…

“I realized then that I was not going to repeat this pattern. When my daughter was born just a few months later, I began to take photos of us together. It did help that we had a digital camera and thus clicks were cheap and instantly rewarded. I not only wanted to capture my daughter’s life, but also our life together.”

Here is the full article.

Photo Cloud services, Watch out – Flickr is on a roll

— by Hans Hartman

new flickrIt took a while and a few false starts, but Flickr has not only caught up with the leading photo storage and syncing providers — they’ve actually steamed ahead and left others in the dust (for now) with the release of ambitious new photo organizing and syncing features, as well as an overhauled user interface for its website, apps and desktop software.

Flickr now fully syncs the user’s photos and videos across devices, auto-uploads them from smartphones, features a timeline browsing interface, automatically tags and categorizes photos by image content, and enables users to search for photos and retrieve them thanks to Flickr’s advanced image recognition technology.

That’s quite a bit. And all for free with one terabyte of cloud storage.

If I were Apple, Dropbox, Lyve, Mylio, or any other vendor in the photo syncing/storage space, I’d be concerned.

As we discussed last year at Mobile Photo Connect, deep learning-based image recognition technology is a promising approach to solving the consumer photo-organizing problem. All major photo storage and/or syncing vendors have either acquired image recognition startups or are working on building image recognition technology in-house. A few, notably Google+ Photos and Microsoft OneDrive, have already released image recognition features to their end users.

Flickr, leveraging the expertise brought in-house from several image recognition startup acquisitions, has now joined this exclusive club.

So, going forward what does this mean for Flickr? For eleven years the company has been a photo publishing and photo browsing platform focused on the advanced hobbyist. Now it has a real chance of becoming a major “any device” consumer photo organizing and storage platform.

However, just offering one terabyte of free storage two years ago apparently didn’t do the trick.
– Consumers want to be able to find the photos that matter with close to zero effort.
– Consumers want any-device access to their photos with close to zero effort.
– Consumers want photo backup with close to zero effort.

Flickr is now offering all of that. Probably not all perfectly yet, but they’re certainly focused on pushing the envelope.

What about those who don’t trust the cloud or feel they can’t rely on any one storage vendor to be around for decades to come? Flickr now enables users to bulk-download thousands of their photos in a single zip file – assuming they have a big enough hard drive to download them on!

You can hear more about Flickr’s strategic objectives from Rajiv Vaidyanathan, Flickr Head of Products, at Mobile Photo Connect, September 29 in San Francisco.


hans hartmanHans Hartman is president of Suite 48 Analytics, and co-host of the Mobile Photo Connect conference.