Review: The Picture Company @ One Utama

Due to the ranting nature of this post, reader discretion is advised. Some language may be offensive.

We found The Picture Company in One Utama some time ago and decided to try it out. We were out of time and unable to look for more options. We called the place to make an appointment and asked about the rates. The person at the other line told us since it’s a birthday the session fee is waived – that’s all, no more explanation. Not really exciting, but okay. Free stuff usually comes with strings attached.

When arrived, we were brought directly inside the studio for a 40-minutes session. The photographer doesn’t speak Malay but weird English. The studio is basic with thick white paper background and two soft boxes as lighting source. I personally was too busy trying to make our son laugh to look at the camera model but it was a Canon.

After the session the photographer took 30 minutes to select and crop the photos. It was when the photos are ready we learned that we have to select and purchase the photos we like for RM68 each, 8R size.

We were too excited to ask for the package details. There is a concept of pay only what you want (no package). The question is only why didn’t they explain to us the rates for the printouts.

They told us that they make money by printing, that’s why the RM150 photography session was free. The only soft copies they will give us are small “email size” – and the photographer even told us we shouldn’t print those as they will come out pixelated on paper. They also told us that they have copyright on those photos.

For RM68 per piece, I would expect we get the high resolution soft copies (at least for the ones we ordered for print) so that we can do anything with them (i.e. nice computer wallpapers, canvas prints). It’s not like we’ll order more prints afterwards anyway, and their retention period is only 3 weeks for non members. They don’t have canvas printing yet, and when available next year it’s gonna cost a fortune. This means, in order for us to get canvas prints we need to become member to make sure they will keep our files for a year. They are that greedy, yes. Heck, if they ask us to pay for the soft copies I would gladly pay.

So this is what I would call perniagaan yang hina dan keji. It’s despicable and dishonorable not to explain to customers beforehand, and it’s obvious that after spending a family session we would love the photos and will pay for them in the end. It’s a smart and dirty trick taking advantage of excited parents.

We ended up paying RM68 (each!) for all the photos we shortlisted (more than 10). It’s going to be ready in a week, I hope they will be high quality prints or I will definitely make a scene. Since they talked about copyright, if they make a mistake by using our photos commercially they will hear from our lawyer as we didn’t sign any model release or any agreement for that matter.

For RM68 each the photos are only bare printouts, inside a huge envelope. The colors are too soft, and the printouts are not sharp. It’s not worth the money.

If it wasn’t such a special day (and since we have spent precious time) I would have paid the RM150 session fee, and told Jo to delete the photos off the Mac and shove the CF card up her ass.

Next time we would consider going to those photographers who specializes in family photos. 90% of them provide soft copies and also photobooks.

I know, we are difficult customers. There will always be difficult customers like us. We’re hard to please, and we don’t take things lightly. Malaysian customers are too kind to businesses so they give crappy service and taking things for granted. Not us.

On a separate note, Cupcake Chic @ The Curve is nice. People are friendly and helpful, the cakes are nice. Highly recommended. They are too small to talk about much, but they are good in what they do – that deserves a good word.

Photo Printing Experience

On Friday I dropped by the Ferry Sabak photo shop at Equine Park to drop a digital photo for printing. It’s for a birthday present we planned for our sister – a family photo. Since A4 is not a standard photo paper size I asked the guy to print out a 9R size (8″ x 12″) which should fit fine in the frame we bought.

The price was RM15. The time taken was considerably alright, but when he called me out and said the photo was ready, I was stumped. There were grime and stain from the roller inside the machines! It’s either he thought that I was blind, or he was blind. Go figure. I asked him to reprint and the next print out was also stained. I argued with the fact on how can I frame this? His answer was that I can use Zippo lighter fluid to clean that up? What?

I asked him, “Why should I go buy Zippo lighter fluid to clean this up? It should come out flawless.” and he asked, “So you don’t want these photos?”. Since I am very strict about privacy I took both of the printouts for the price of one.

On Saturday I decided to visit the MyKamera.com shop in Jusco Equine. Although the girl on duty was not very technical, she explained to me that the price is RM12 and the photo would be ready by Tuesday. When I asked whether there is any express service, she said I would need to add RM3. Okay, cool! So the RM15 price is the standard price for an express service. I received the photo the same day and was happy with the result. I noticed that Ferry Sabak used “Kodak Professional” digital paper while MyKamera.com used “Kodak Gold” digital paper. The difference is that the Kodak Gold is not glossy and would not leave a finger print when touched. I am not sure whether that’s the effect of the printer or the paper.

Also, I noticed that Ferry Sabak may have not color calibrated the old machine because their photo came out too turquoise and the whites are not pure as you can see below. Skin color was affected too. Maybe they didn’t realize that I have already converted the JPG to CMYK?

Left – original JPG, middle – Ferry Sabak, right – MyKamera.com. Circled are are the stain from the printer at Ferry Sabak. The photos above were scanned after printed so the brightness might differ a little and should be ignored.

That will be the last time I visit the Ferry Sabak photo shop.

Reverie: A DSLR Masterpiece in HD

Yes, I am busy again that’s why I have been so quiet.

As usual Rizal pointed me to an interesting post that leads me to Reverie. It caught my attention so much I had to write this short post.

I was astonished by the quality of the movie, especially since it is taken using a 21 megapixel DSLR. Yes, it’s too expensive and no, I will not buy it and no, I didn’t develop a passion to make films after seeing this movie.

By the way, it’s not the movie that matters for Reverie, it’s the quality of the picture.

Chromatic Aberration Is My New Enemy

For those who know me, they know that I am a beginner photographer equipped with a Nikon D50 DSLR and have bought a Sigma 18-200mm DC OS lens back in February when I visited Singapore.

Since I usually take casual photographs I have never really paid that much attention to people in my photos. My subjects are usually buildings, landscape and views that I find interesting.

Earlier this month I offered to take pictures at my niece’s wedding, and also last weekend at a friend’s engagement ceremony. I was too busy to notice that aberration has occurred to my photographs for both occasions!!!

Here are the 100% crops for both occasions. Directly converted to JPG from Nikon Capture NX without any other processing.

Do you see the almost purple glow at the border between the subject and the background? I have yet to understand this phenomenon but this must have something to do with my lens or the technique I am shooting the pictures. It became a lot worst when there is high contrast between the subject and the background as you can see in the first sample above.

Right now I am totally disappointed. Any photography expert or enthusiasts reading? Opinions are mostly welcome!

Photography As Passion

Do you photograph? I have owned a Nikon D50 DSLR for about a year now, and also a Sony T30 for casual shots. It is indeed an expensive hobby as many people would put it once they see my camera. But this hobby can be converted to a source of income, and that is what I like about it. I haven’t reach that level yet though.

Nikon D300

The Sony T30 is classified as a prosumer or a point and click camera, while the Nikon D50 is a DSLR. Nikon D50 is the most affordable DSLR at the moment I bought it, but even now that D40 and D40x has been released I was thankful that I got my D50 on time before it was taken off production. The D40 models are not preferable in the sense that it does not have a built in auto-focus motor and if you use lenses that don’t have built in auto-focus motor you’ll have to manually focus each time. One great example of such lens is the AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D.

Even though the Sony T30 have more megapixel (7.2 to be exact), shots from the Nikon D50 (6 megapixel) seems to be much much better. This is actually very normal as there is a huge difference in the size of sensor and lens between those two. And with a DSLR you can tweak the settings any way you like which can result in a very good result, or an ugly one 😉 Trust me, when you have been learning and shooting with a DSLR you can feel the freedom and satisfaction after you process the results in your favorite “darkroom” software.

I have an eye on the new Nikon D300 that will be released very soon but I don’t think I will get it anytime soon. I need to practice more!

This post is brought to you by RitzCamera.com

Nikon Capture NX on Linux

I am feeling a little bit slow today, because my notebook is slow. LOL. I think this relates directly to the fact that everyday at work I am using a new Lenovo T60 notebook which is much faster than my 2 years old personal notebook. I used to dual-boot the notebook with Debian where the speed is acceptable but since I acquired a DSLR it is a hassle to switch OS. And I am not supposed to install non-approved software on the company computers.

My main issue not to run 100% Linux is that most of the graphics editor will not run properly, and most of the time fail to run on Wine. One of the software I use a lot is Adobe Photoshop. A couple of month ago I tried running CS2 on Wine and it didn’t work. I gave up on that. Recently, CS3 was released but I didn’t bother to try at all to avoid any disappointment.

Nikon Capture NX

Since I take all of my photos as RAW, or to be more precise in NEF (Nikon Electronic Format) I need either Photoshop or Nikon software to process the pictures I took. I’ve tried using dcraw and other open sourced RAW programs but the results just ain’t the same. Too bad. Or perhaps I am the one being not an expert in using those tools because some people do get better output. Quote from dcraw: “when used skillfully, produces better quality output than the tools provided by the camera vendor“.

Anyone have ever tried running CS3 or Nikon Capture on Linux (and succeeded)?

Get More From Your Nikon D50

dsc_0003.jpg

This magazine, or we can also call it a booklet, is produced by Digital Photography Magazine UK. I previously bought this magazine on a monthly basis, until its local publication came into the market. This booklet costs RM59.00 (~USD16.00) and at a glance you might think that it’s another way for the magazine to make money. Well, they succeeded.

The booklet contains page by page information on all the functions available on the Nikon D50. Sure, you have the manual but it only tell you how to do things, without explaining what they are for, and no suggestions given.

As a proud owner of a D50 I would recommend this publication to any D50 owner wanting to know deeper about their camera. Finally I can say “oh, that’s what that button is for”. 😉

This reminds me that I have yet to download the goodies for Digital Camera Magazine Malaysia for November and December.

Just one thing that caused me to be disappointed – the condition of the book. As Borders The Curve allows people to browse through magazines and this is the only copy left, its condition is awful! I even asked the information counter to see if there’s any copy left in storage. I wish people would appreciate books more!