Blogging Online Life Photo Journal Photography Reviews Thoughts

Pixoto – A Year Later

A little over a year ago, I blogged about my first experience with the photo contest site Pixoto, and during that time, my logs suggest that this was an interesting topic, so I thought I would follow it up.

As mentioned, I have been on Pixoto for over a year now, and I have done essentially the following:

  • Uploaded over 100 images (88 currently online)
  • Received 115 Awards
  • 477,033 Points

Your mileage many vary…


After a Player/User uploads a file, and submits it to a Category, the fun begins.

Your image is now presented to the world, side by side, with another image, and from there, it is either a “Choose” or not… The ImageDuel™…

Sounds pretty straight forward.

If you start to win, your Image Score goes up and vice versa…

In the background, from what I have read, Pixoto has developed an algorithm that analyses the Rank of each Image, as they are presented, and scored accordingly.

So if a New “Image A” (0-0) [Win-Loss], which goes again “Image B” (5-10), and “A” “Wins”, “Image A” gets more points, than a Win against a (4-10) or less image… Simple.

It’s all about the algorithm…

and over the course of time, the Awards, hopefully, start to appear on your profile!


The Awards are broken up into the following basic groups, based on Time –

  • Day Number (Top 10 Only)
  • Day Top (5%, 10%, 20%)
  • Week Top (5%, 10%, 20%)
  • Month Top (5%, 10%, 20%)
  • Year Top (5%, 10%, 20%)

Each Time and Percent Level increases your Image Point score, as well as the Category it is entered in.

What this means, is that I can have several different images that are in the Top 5% for the Week, but because they are in different Categories, they will score differently.

In playing Pixoto for a year, it appears to me, that the Landscaping category is the hardest to score in, but can bring big rewards because of its popularity.

It is also very important to choose your Categories correctly.

Gaming the System

As with any system, folks are going to look for ways to use that system for their personal benefit.

Similar Images

One of the easiest and most common for a Newbie, is to submit their image into the wrong Category to begin with, and then switch it later.

Thankfully, Pixoto ‘zeros’ out the Image Score when switched, but that does not stop one from submitting several similar images across several categories.

Is this Cheating?

According to Officials at Pixoto, they monitor the ImageDuel™s, and deal with them accordingly.

But with a little effort, it can be easy to find “Top Players” that have numerous ‘similar’ images adding to their high scores.

Example #1 – Similar Images (#15 & #30)

Which was ruled “Okay”, because the background was changed, i.e. a Photoshop 101 Tutorial change or edit…

Example #2 – Similar Images

In several cases, it looks like the Photographer just walked around the object taking pictures. No real difference between the images.

I have also seen cases of several images submitted from a single modeling photo session – no change in clothing, makeup, etc…

Example #3 – Similar Images

Someone who clearly seems to have Mastered basic Photoshop layers…

Additionally, there are countless Threads on the Pixoto Help Forum that strongly suggest that the Points System is Broken or out right cheating.

To be fair, Pixoto does seem to take time to investigate Reports, and seems to have gotten better, but there seems to be a need to improve.

The bottom line, Pixoto’s lack of enforcement hurts the credibility of the site.


Now, I have to be legal, and disclose that I have apparently made money with Pixoto over the last year.

About 8 months ago, Pixoto started an Affiliate Program, and I immediately signed-up, and implemented the code into my website.

I did not see much activity at first, and I did seem to have found an early ‘bug’ at one point (see the Comments section [“Oh S*%#!” error]), but…

Since then, I am happy to report, as of this posting, my “Lifetime earnings” are $12.81 USD, which I have not claimed, yet…

and well over 2500 personal credits


From a monetary standpoint, I am not quitting my day job any time soon.

As an exercise to see how my images compare to others, this is definitely one of the many that now are available, and I will continue to use it.

It would be kind of cool, if they could connect Google Analytics for the data nerds…

Is this a site for Artistry?

I have seen many beautiful images over the year, and some real junk, but that is to be expected.

My main complaint still being the liberal use of similar images.

What is also different, to me, is the general un-natural feeling to the top images.

One does have to remember that Pixoto allows and encourages the User to sell their images as Stock, which might account for exaggerated vibrancy, saturation and starkness, that can also be found on other, more well-known Stock agencies.

If you shoot a lot of Stock based photography, you will probably do well, but don’t be surprised, when an image, that might have been well received elsewhere (Facebook, Flickr, G+, etc), may not do well at all on Pixoto.

Blogging Photography Reviews Software Tech Talk

SCRAP Photo Editor 1.2 Review

Kea Sigma Delta software logo
Kea Sigma Delta software

I was contacted by the nice folks at Kea Sigma Delta in Wellington, New Zealand, to do a review of their product SCRAP Photo Editor 1.2, which is currently only available on Windows XP, Vista, 7 & 8, and appears to be only a 32-bit application.

When I arrived on the site, , to download my free version of SCRAP Photo Editor 1.2, I am immediately told, that SCRAP is an acronym for Scale, Crop, Rotate and Publish, along with a very flashy 50 second YouTube video, extolling the virtues of the program.

Downloading the application is simple enough, but when I got to the point of Installation, I had to be especially careful, because of all the additional “Special Offers” that are included during the installation script.

When the First “Special Offer” window popped up, my security concerns were raised immediately, especially when the offer is for something called “SpeedyPC”. I do not wish to knock down this product, but it is not one that I normally run across. I did selected the Skip button to continue.

I was immediately confronted with the Second “Special Offer” for “blindbat”, again an application I’ve never heard of, that was even more forceful, in the sense, that it popped up a secondary window asking if I was sure that I wanted to skip the installation. Needless to say I declined.

Then there was the Third “Special Offer” (TidyNetwork) at which point I was seriously considering jettisoning the whole installation process, but I continued to the Fourth “Special Offer” (YAC (Yet Another Cleaner)), and finally into the main installation, which eventually launches your browser to a final “Congratulatory” page, thanking you for the installation.

Initial user experience – Very Poor

Once I was in the main program, I took a look at Task Manager and noticed that SCRAP had a small footprint of about 55 MB.

From there, I opened up a simple PNG file that I had recently done from the screenshot, to test out the basic capabilities of SCRAP.

Scale – In my current task, I did not need to do any scaling, but I did double-click on the scaling tool and was pleased to see an advanced set of tools presented in a simple dialog box.

Crop – Since cropping was the main nature of my task at hand, this tool was immediately put to use. I found it to work very similarly to those provided by other programs, but it was pleased to note, that after the cropping has been performed, the original image has not actually been cropped, i.e. non-destructive, until you save out the final file. A simple double-click of the crop tool, will also bring up the advanced dialog box, filled with numerous easy controls.

Rotate – I did not mean much use of the rotate tool during my testing, but the illustrations done in the video tutorials offer some very helpful tips on using the tool.

Publish – The most observable Publish tool, directs one to the Zazzle website, that offers photo based gifts, such as mugs and T-shirts. The Secondary publishing, is done by being able to saving various file formats (BMP/DIB/RLE, EXR, GIF, HDR, JPEG (2000), PBM, PGM, PNG, PPM, TARGA, TIFF), which still needs to be attached to a Posts or email, i.e. No Right Click and a Context menu pops-up to allow you to do whatever.

Conclusion –

After the initial irritation of the installation, SCRAP does what it sets out to do.

It can open up some 30 different file formats, perform very rudimentary geometric edits, and then quickly saves files back out, in a variety of formats, to be used by another application.

Will I keep this application on my computer after this review, very doubtfully.


I am already at Adobe software user, and I normally have either Lightroom or Photoshop open at any given time, so for me to have something like SCRAP, involved in my workflow, seems rather pointless.

If you need a quick utility to convert one file format to another and don’t have money to spend, then SCRAP may be of interest to you.

If you’re scanning software does not provide these fundamental functions, then definitely you should investigate further usage of this product.

I hope you enjoyed my review, or found it at least interesting, please feel free to leave me a comment in the section below.

- Andrew
§ § § § §

If you found any of the images or information useful, why not consider making a donation today!

Blogging Information Online Life Photography Reviews Tips Website

Looking at Pixoto

Over the past several months, I have been watching several of my Facebook contacts using Pixoto, and during that time, I would check out the site every now and then, but stopped short of signing up.

Until a couple of days ago…

What is Pixoto?

It is an online Photography competition site, at has recently added other graphic arts formats to the array of seemingly endless images, all vying for Top honors and the potential of money.

How does Pixoto work?

Basically, one uploads their images, with at least a 900px long side, no water-markings to their account.

From there, one selects from several main Categories (Abstract, Animals, Babies, People, etc.) and sub-categories, adding a Title and some keywords that best fit and describe the image.

Once submitted, your image is now in one of several competitions within the Category for Daily, Weekly, Monthly and Yearly recognition(s).

“Playing” Pixoto

This is the easy, fun and potentially beautiful part of “playing” Pixoto!

Clicking on the “Vote” button in the top menu, sets up the ImageDual™ environment, where two images are sent to the screen, and you click on the one you like more.

Two competing images continue to pop-up on-screen until you decide you are done, and by selecting images in the shoot-out, you are also collecting 1 Credit that can be used later for submitting more images, or giving them a “boost”.

One can spend hours in front of the computer screen with the television or something else is going on in the background.

Not all the images are great, but that is the point, to select or weed out that do not reach the mark, for what ever reason.

Your Submissions

Within seconds, you will see feedback on how your image is doing, based on a ‘secret’ formula for scoring.

The algorithm apparently factors in the Win/Lose ratio and the ranking of competing image, to come up with the scoring.

It is not uncommon to see an image rise quickly, and then level off as its ‘final’ ranking is being solidified over the course of time.

The course of time

If an images starts to reach various percentage levels (Top 1%/5%/10%, etc.) during the course of time (Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Yearly) additional points will be awarded, and if your image can get to the top, there is the possibility of earning money.


Flickr – Flickr is by far the bigger of the two sites, and has many more competitions, but that is also a big distraction for some. It can be complicated, take a long time to figure out and to compete in various contests. Pixoto is far simpler!

Paid vs Free – Like most sites these days, there are two versions, and a side-by-side comparison can be found on the website, but for me, at least at the moment, I can not justify the expense see so few benefits in my case.

Selling Stock Images – This is a new feature on Pixoto, and sounds very interesting. On the surface, I like the idea of the higher payout compared to some of the other micro-stock sites I belong to, but I have not tried it yet.


If you do move forward and get yourself an account, here are some things that I have already run into:

Watermarks – I am of the school of putting a watermark on all my images, if nothing more as a form of advertising and some copyright protection.

On Pixoto, images are displayed in competition without watermarks, but are shown with the sites default user copyright on your page/gallery, and are some what protected via simple right-click efforts.

Why? – In competition Pixoto is trying to reduce any bias during the ImageDual™, which is easily understandable, and they do take it seriously.

I accidentally uploaded a few files with my watermark, and they were reported.

I did receive a nice, informative Notification from Pixoto that my images had been removed, but it did cost me my ‘earned’  ImageDual™ points, and additional Credits to up load them again.

Upload Issue – I have, on several occasions, tried to upload an image, only to find ‘scan line’ errors on the thumbnails and larger images.

My work around, has been to delete the image quickly, because you do not want to lose points, delete my browser cache (Firefox), and then try again.

So far, this seems to work, but it is a time killer.

If interested, I can be Followed on the site as well!

Click Here is a special Invite Code!


It is very easy to connect to Pixoto via Facebook or Twitter, even though I dislike using those services to link to accounts, but that adds to the simpleness of using the site.

I have also been very interested seeing how my Top images on Flickr are doing on Pixoto, which is helping me to better select images for promotion on my main website, but at the moment, Flickr edges Pixoto in easy of direct feedback on an image.

I do like the idea of being able to sell stock images from Pixoto, but I have not had a chance to test this feature yet, but I do plan to!

With all the above being said, I would recommend using Pixoto to increase your exposure to a larger audience, while fine-tuning your portfolio, and maybe making some money!

Click Here is a special Invite Code!

- Andrew
§ § § § §

If you found any of the images or information useful, why not consider making a donation today!

Camera Cleaning Equipment Gadgets Hardware Milestones Photography Reviews Tech Talk Utilities

Cleaning My Sensor

Clean Me Please!
Clean Me Please!

I have had my Canon XTi since 2007, and all during this time, I have used numerous tools to dust out the sensor chamber, including my old spray paint brush and compressor.

But lately, the dust monsters have really taken a toil on my productivity, only increasing my touch-up skills, and it was during my processing of some foggy morning pictures, that I knew, something had to be done.

Turning to my online connections on Facebook and Google+, I asked the question if anyone had done their own sensor cleaning, and if they had any tips, suggestions.

While waiting for responses, I started my own research, with a reference page, as well as reading various reviews on Amazon, Adorama and B&H Photo.

A great place to start, is, which has a lot of comprehensive information on various tools and techniques.

After reading various pages, I knew that I needed 1) a very careful “Dry” cleaning; and if that did not work, 2) a “Wet” cleaning with swabs, and the two main vendors to look at were VisibleDust and Photographic Solutions.

What am I looking for?

I searched the internet for what it would cost me to get my camera Professionally cleaned, and although prices varied, be prepared to spend $60+ per cleaning, and being without your camera for a period of time, and in some cases, not as clean as you hoped (or paid for).

So, I am looking for a “Beginner” kit that can offer me both a Dry and Wet sensor cleaning option that does not cost a great deal.

As my daughter says, I’m cheap…

I like to think frugal…


The VisibleDust systems are very cool looking and many different options to suit your needs, and I almost purchased their Christmas Special, but after reading some of the reviews on Amazon, I became very hesitant.

Photographic Solutions

According to Photographic Solutions, they actually worked with NASA to develop the BrushOff system, and is endorsed by most of the major camera manufacturers.

They offer two different “Digital Survival Kits“: Basic and Professional.

The Basic offers the same basics as the VisibleDust Christmas Special, but one still needed a brush, and with that additional cost, the price for the two systems is about equal.

The Professional version offers a Brush, Magnifying Glass and Air Blower, all in a nice nylon pouch for around $125.00 USD.


I recently upgrade my Adorama account to a VIP status (what ever that means), and was eager to see if this might affect my order in any way.

On Wednesday, December 26th, I placed my order for the “Photographic Solutions Pro Digital Survival Eclipse Kit #2” and opted for the 3-5 Business Day shipping for an added  $3.95, and figured I would see my package early next week, just in time for the new year!

Saturday (30th), the snow is still falling, and my son and I, are finally finishing the plowing of the driveway by hand, and in checking the mailbox, I was very pleased to see a package from Adorama!

I know what I get to play with tonight!


Finally, around 11PM Saturday night, the house is quiet, and I am able to unpack and examine my new toys.

Knowing that I wanted to start with a dry cleaning, I once again reviewed the BrushOff video provided on the Photographic Solutions website.

Note 01 – In the video, the instructor mentions an ECLIPSE packet that comes with each brush. This is NOT true for this Kit. Instead you have to create your own using a “PEC*PAD with ECLIPSE Optic Cleaner” –

“Be sure your fingers do not touch any of the PAD that will come in contact with the unique and patented fiber materials. If the brush should become contaminated, simple saturate a PEC*PAD with ECLIPSE Optic Cleaner and gently wipe the bristles. Air dry for a few seconds and replace protective cap being sure cap itself has not become contaminated. To further protect the BRUSHOFF fibers, they are fully retractable into the handle when not in use and a protective cap is also supplied.” – BRUSHOFF Information

Note 02 – The video suggests placing a PEC*PAD on clean area, so I placed mine on top of the Sensor Swab box, and then added a couple of drops of ECLIPSE Optic Cleaner.

Almost immediately, the ink from the box began to leach through the pad.

I should have known better.

I ended up using folded over white paper, and will seek a better setup.

Into the Chamber

I used the included magnifying glass to first look at what I was getting into.

I was pleasantly surprised to see, that it included a working LED light, and a magnification that was useful!

Using the magnifying glass, I could easily see some dust, and first used the included small Giotto Rocket Blower, and checked again.

I could still see some dust, so I decided to take the more dramatic measure of using the BrushOff.

I very carefully whipped the sensor a couple of times, blew with the Rocket, and then checked with the magnifying glass again, again.

The dust appeared to be moving, but not off the sensor.

Attaching the provided grounding wire, I ‘charged’ the brush, while tapping it firmly, and returned to cleaning the sensor.

This time, there did seem to be a difference.

Preliminary Testing

After the sensor cleaning, I took a couple of test shoots in my office, but the lighting at midnight is not really a good test.

What I could see, gave me encouragement.

I really need to get out, shoot some landscapes at f22, and then see the results.

Updates to follow…


It is still to early to make a definitive conclusion, but I have learned, it is not as hard as one might think, as long as you are very careful.

I also learned several new ways to clean my camera’s sensors, which should also carry forward into future cameras. There alone saving on time and money associated with Professional cleanings, and my costs moving forward should be relatively low since I now have some base equipment, which should last for years.

- Andrew
§ § § § §

If you found any of the images or information useful, why not consider making a donation today!

Camera HDR Long Exposure Photography Reviews Software Tips

Triggertrap Mobile – Review


For several years now, I have been doing more and more photography work in High Dynamic Range (HDR), and I have been trying to find a way to make the required bracketing easier and more efficient.

The Canon XTi does allow for auto bracketing, but only over three exposures.

120912 Marsh Creek Spillway hdr 12
120912 Marsh Creek Spillway hdr 12

I have been able to figure out ways to make it easier to get nine stops, but after that, it is not as automatic.

Back in 2010, when I was doing my covered bridges, it was not uncommon for me to do exposure bracket of 13 to 15 stops, and I would do this by manually making the three clicks, per stop, on the camera dial, and then trigger the exposure with my Canon Remote Switch RS60 E3.

The biggest problem I ran into when doing this method, was the potential for both camera shake on the tripod or misalignment due to movement on the tripod head and the only real way to find out if this has occurred, is when you are back at the office, while evaluating the images on a big screen.

I have also detected blurred images due to the mirror in the camera going up and down during exposure. As far as I know,  there is no way to lock the mirror “up” on the XTi.

Then in early August, while reading my Google+ page, I noticed one of my contacts had just received their “Trigger Happy Remote” and was excited to use it. I continued to read the comments, and someone also mentioned TriggerTrap.

In doing further investigation, I ended up writing the blog entry, “Searching for the Remote” in which I compare several different remote triggering devices.

After a couples of days, I was contacted by Haje Jan Kamps at, and was asked if I would be interested in doing a product review in exchange for a free set up.

I was all too happy to say Yes!

Equipment Used

  • Canon XTi (circa 2007)
  • iPod Touch / iOS 5.1.1
  • Bogen Model #3020 tripod
  • RAP-B-121-UN7U Cell Phone Clamp


When one does go to the website to purchase the dongle and cable, they will find a wizard that will walk them through the choice of a cable for their particular camera. In my case, a CL-E3 for the Canon XTi and iPod Touch.

While waiting for the cables to be delivered, you can download either the free or paid version of the software directly to your device, and begin to explore the application, and possibilities.

The website also offers several tutorial videos to help explain the various settings and modes available within the application. Some of the App screens may look a little different, and that is many due to the tutorials being done on an earlier version, but the concepts are the same.

Once you have the cables, you connect the dongle directly to your camera, and then the additional cabling directly into the iDevice/Android, and your ready to start!

Features & Testing

Needless to say, there are a lot of things that one can do with this system, and it is only really up to the imagination of the photographer, what they can do with it.

Here is a list of the Modes that are currently available, and I do plan to at least test all of them at some point, but there are definitely some that I do not see myself using.

Trigger Modes

Cable Release Mode (Free)

Works without issue, just make sure you are in Bulb mode

The cable release mode is by far the easiest mode to work with right out-of-the-box, and works just as you would expect it to.

Your iDevice  can be used as a simple remote trigger, two different types of bulb triggers and program mode.

Long Exposure HDR Mode (Paid)

Abandoned Paper Mill hdr 05
Abandoned Paper Mill hdr 05

This was the Mode that I really wanted to Test the most.

All you really need to do is to find your middle exposure, enter “it” into the App, select the number of Stops, and the EV value between the frames, and push the button, and sit back and relax.

There is no need to make the mental calculations or be present during the triggering operation!

Not having to stand at the tripod, allowed me to walk away, and scout for the next shoot!


When I first started to test this Mode in my office, I found that I was not getting the correct number of exposures within my requested bracket.

Doing some reading within the Triggertrap website, the issue seems to be related to the minimal exposure length supported on your camera in the Bulb setting.

Once I was in a situation where my minimal exposure length was greater than 1 second, I did not run into the issue again.

I do need to figure out a shooting workflow to get around this, and once I have, I’ll post it.

Motion Mode (Paid)

  • Tested
  • Undetermined at this time

When I first read about the various Modes available, this was another that piqued my interest.

The basic concept is that you register a base image into the iDevice, and if anything changes, trigger the camera.

Well, this did not work for me.

I could not get a preview, so I was unable to use this mode.

I did visit the support section of TriggerTrap, and really did not find anything that described my issue, and plan to post a question when I try again.

I do wonder, again, if it is the age of my equipment, so I am not writing off the whole mode. Maybe because the XTi does not support “Live View” could be the issue?

Time-lapse Mode (Free)

  • Have Not Tested
  • Long Term testing

I have ideas, but I’m not sure about letting my camera and equipment stay setup for that long.

Seismic Mode (Free)

  • Have Not Tested

Distance Lapse Mode (Paid)

  • Have Not Tested
  • Not likely to use

Eased Time-lapse Mode (Paid)

  • Have Not Tested
  • Long Term testing

LE HDR Time-lapse Mode (Paid)

  • Have Not Tested
  • Long Term testing

Tesla (magnetic sensor) Mode (Paid)

  • Have Not Tested
  • Long Term testing

Star Trail Mode (Paid)

  • Have Not Tested
  • Long Term testing

Peek-a-boo Mode (Paid)

  • Have Not Tested
  • Long Term testing

Bang (Sound Sensor) Mode (Paid)

  • Works

I have not really tested this Application to its fullest extent, but from my basic setting up the controls, I was able to trigger the camera when I snapped my figures or clapped my hands.


If you are doing HDR or Long Exposure photography, this iOS software application is well worth the look at, and it’s flexibility both in terms of Cameras and Modes makes it all the more interesting!

In terms of my favorite mode so far, the “Long Exposure HDR” Mode”, which to a HDR photographer, is almost as easy as ‘point-n-click’!

Tips and Tricks

If you really would like to make your life easier when working with iDevice and Tripod, I would strongly suggest that you take a look at the offerings.

In my case, I purchased a RAP-B-121-UN7U The RAM Universal X-Grip Cell Phone Holder, which at first I thought it was a little expensive, but after using the clamp with a TriggerTrap for a while, I found it well worth the worth the financial investment.

– Andrew
§ § § § §
[adrotate banner=”1″]