While today’s post is not necessarily about photography, there are many, many photographers that enjoy a really incredible chicken sandwich; this is a well-known fact (you can Google it). It’s on this very thin premise that today I bring you “The Ultimate and Definitive Chicken Sandwich Wars taste test” to end all chicken war taste-tests.

You may not know this about me, but I consider myself to be somewhat of a “Chickenado,” and so I personally visited all the fast-food locations that claimed to be in the current “chicken sandwich war” to taste-test their latest entries (sometimes twice, sometimes three times just to be sure). I took this seriously and wanted to be certain of the results because…ya know…this stuff is important to photographers (and other humans).

Now, it’s time to share my carefully researched findings, so let us don our ceremonial robes, light the candles, repeat the sacred chant, and begin:

Popeyes is the target

Their amazing chicken sandwich and its off-the-chart runaway success is why we have a “Chicken Sandwich War” in the first place. Their sandwich is what every chain is aiming to at least meet or, better yet, beat.

If you haven’t tried one of Popeye’s chicken sandwiches yet (available in regular or spicy) — it’s pretty incredible. Life-changing. It makes you rethink the entire trajectory of your life and why we’re all here in the first place. You will come to a place where you realize that you would crawl across 3-miles of fishing hooks and rose thorns just to lick the discarded wrapper from the last person that ate one. Yes, they are that good. It turned the entire fast food industry upside down with people waiting literally in mile-long lines just to get one of these magical chickeny beauties.

So, Popeyes (for the sake of our test) is ranked a “10 out of 10.” It’s generally accepted (by photographers and other people who move infrequently) to be the best fast-food chicken sandwich of all time. So, all my rankings will be based on a scale where Popeye’s is a 10 (10 being best), and one being the worst, (probably the chicken sandwich at Checkers), but I digress. Let the rankin’ get to crankin’ (note: should be on a t-shirt).

McDonalds Crispy Chicken Sandwich | 5/10

The new McDonalds Crispy Chicken Sandwich (available in spicy and regular, and deluxe with added lettuce and tomato) I believe is the best chicken sandwich McDonalds has ever made. Way better than the McChicken sandwich we’ve been saddled with all these years, so it’s a step in the right direction, but Popeyes has nothing to worry about whatsoever from this entry. It’s fairly small size wise, and it’s not anywhere near the crispy crunchiness of the Popeyes sandwich — it’s not even close. So, good on McDonald’s for making their chicken sandwich better, but they’re on the outside looking in. In the context of the Chicken Sandwich War, they’re a 5 out of 10. Maybe a 5-1/2 on a good day. Before we move on, take a look at that image of it above again (also note the dry-looking bun). Now move to the next one, and compare it.

Burger King’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich | 9/10

I need to say this upfront — I am not a Burger King fan. Never have been, and if I go there, it’s probably to get my wife their plant-based Impossible Burger, which she loves, but as I said — not a fan. Which is why I guess I was so surprised at how great their new chicken sandwich is. It’s like they sat in a conference room, gave everyone a Popeye’s chicken sandwich, and said, “We need to make our version of this. It has to be at least as good if not better” and it shows. It’s really, really good! Great, in fact. Blows away McDonald’s by a mile. Just look at it — it even looks like the Popeye’s sandwich (and comparing this image with the one of McDonald’s chicken sandwich — that tells a lot of the story right there). Then bun is excellent (it’s not one of Burger King’s usual sesame seed buns); the chicken is big and crispy and juicy, and folks as much as I hate to admit it (as a non-Burger fan), maybe now I’m a fan. They’ve got a real winner with this one, and if I passed a Burger King on my way to a Popeyes a couple miles down the road, I’d probably just stop at Burger King — it is that good.

Wendy’s New Classic Chicken Sandwich | 4/10

I need to say this upfront. I love Wendy’s. I’ve been a fan forever, and I love their burgers and their salads, and I love their baked potatoes, and frosty’s and well…pretty much everything. But their new Classic Chicken Sandwich is pretty awful. Awful! It is just about tasteless. I actually went back to a different location to try one again to make sure I didn’t order the wrong one, or I got their old chicken sandwich, or something went wrong in the kitchen, or there was somehow a mix-up. Nope. Still bad.

The folks at Wendy’s apparently skipped that meeting the folks at Burger King had about making something to compete with Popeyes. Part of the reason may be there is not a Popeye’s in Dublin, Ohio (where Wendy’s is headquartered), so maybe they weren’t able to get a fresh Popeye’s sandwich to compare it to, so they just made their new chicken sandwich anecdotally — on hearsay, not actually tasting or even looking at a Popeyes sandwich. It’s like someone in a Wendy’s meeting said, “Hey, Earl in shipping went to a Popeye’s in Columbus, and he said their chicken sandwich is much better than ours. So, let’s tweak ours a little,” and they did. But even Earl would have to admit, Wendy’s missed the mark by 10 miles. It’s bland, lifeless, dry, and just so totally “meh” of a chicken sandwich that I’m surprised Wendy’s can sell this into the chicken sandwich war with a straight face. In fact, I would have to say Wendy’s has withdrawn from the Chicken Sandwich war altogether. They lost the battle. They have surrendered. They may as well sign just the truce and get back to making great burgers.

The New Zaxby’s Signature Sandwich | 9.8/10

Zaxby’s wasn’t even on my Chicken Sandwich Wars list, but just by chance, I was driving by the Zaxby’s near our office, and I look over to see a banner across the front of their restaurant that read, “The Chicken Sandwich WAR ain’t over yet!” so I turned around to give it a try. Now, I’ve been a Zaxby’s fan for years (I love their chicken, but their homemade potato chips and dipping sauce is legendary). I would get their chicken tenders on my way to shoot Bucs games (I pass one on my way to the stadium), but I didn’t realize they had “entered the war” until that moment. I went through, ordered both the regular and the spicy — tried both and was BLOWN A-WAY!!! They nailed it. NAILED IT!!! Fantastic, soft, fresh bun — great sauce (and enough of it); perfect pickles, crispy super-yummy chicken, and the spicy version is spicy enough without being too hot — really just about as great of a Popeye’s competitor as you could come up with. So much so, if they were across the street from each other, I’d just go to the one with a shorter line at the drive-thru. Yes, it is that good! I did not see that one coming.

NOTE: Because Zaxby’s homemade potato chips are so much better than any side item you’d get with a Popeye’s combo meal, this just might tilt the overall “combo meal experience” to Zaxbys. That’s sayin’ something. A big High-five to the Zaxby’s folks for not only making a sandwich that looks and tastes about as good as Popeye’s, but to their marketing folks for hoisting that banner on the front of the building. They are right — they war ain’t over yet, and they are massing their troops on the border!

KFC New Chicken Sandwich | 9.8/10

I knew that being a chicken chain and having great crispy chicken tenders already, this was not going to be a big stretch for Kentucky Fried Chicken. I was expected a lot, especially after seeing their TV ads this past week about their entry into the war, and they did not disappoint. They totally rocked their chicken sandwich. Rocked it! They clearly were going after Popeye’s, and the look, feel, taste, and texture is spot-on!!! Seriously, just amazing, and I’m so glad there’s not a KFC anywhere near me (the closest one is about a 20-minute drive), because I would soon wind up in a circus sideshow as the world’s largest human. Plus, their sides (like their Mashed potatoes with gravy, Mac & Cheese and their delicious biscuits) might put them over the top if both were across the street from each other and I could only pick one, even if the line were a bit longer at Popeye’s, I’ll still probably still head to KFC. I wasn’t a big KFC fan before, but I surely am now.

So why not 10/10 for Zaxby’s and KFC?

It’s Popeye’s bun. I think it’s their secret weapon. There is something magical about their bun (my buddy Terry tried just their bun alone as part of his own chicken wars research and he feels there’s something sweet-tasting about their bun, and I have to agree with him). Zaxby’s and KFC nailed the rest (the chicken, the crispiness, the juiciness, the sauce, the wedged pickle chips — all of it). Still, there’s something about that Popeye’s bun that gives it that 2/10 of 1% edge over the rest, but it’s so close that honestly, any one of these three is a truly great warrior in this Chicken Sandwich War of 2021 (and honestly, Burger King is pretty much right there with them — it’s all so close).

What about Chick-fil-A?

They never really entered the Chicken Sandwich Wars. They serve the same chicken sandwich they always have, and they have a huge dedicated fan base for theirs, so they’re not going to mess with it. To me, their chicken sandwich is “OK,” but if you took a real Chick-fil-a fan and did a blind taste test with it against any of these mentioned above (except for Wendy’s, which is trash), I’ll bet Chick-fil-a would lose a lot of long-time fans, or at the very least Popeye’s, KFC, Zaxby’s and Burger King would gain a lot more (though you still cannot beat the service at Chick-fil-a which is second-to-none, and I love their chicken minis for breakfast. Ask them to add American Cheese on top. It activates the chicken).

Honorable Mention to a Neutral Country Goes To…

PDQ, particularly their Baby Bleu sandwich, which up until the Chicken Sandwich Wars, made the best fast-food chicken sandwich anywhere, and it’s still incredibly good. It’s like a gourmet chicken sandwich and everybody I’ve turned on to it has fallen in love with it. One more worth mentioning, but it’s not fast-food, so it’s not in the war, but Chili’s Buffalo Chicken Ranch sandwich is very, very good, and they’ll even bring it out to your car for curbside delivery. Thought they deserved a shout-out.

OK, but if I had to pick just one…

I would choose Zaxby’s, even over Popeyes, but certainly over the rest. It was shockingly good and their sides put it over the top.

We’ve got so many great choices for chicken sandwiches now, to which we owe a big thank you to Popeye’s. They elevated everyone’s game, which should be used in schools as another example of how competition drives the creation of better products for everyone.

Thanks for taking the time to read this deviation from the regular photography, Lightroom and Photoshop stuff I usually post here. If you miss that stuff today, pop on over to LightroomKillerTips.com where I rarely talk about chicken sandwiches, which quite frankly is a shame. ;-)

Have a crispy, crunchy, juicy, saucy, week everybody!

-Scott

It’s “Photo Tip Friday” and photographer Rick Sammon is rockin’ it in this super quick video with five great tips for bird photography in just one minute (actually, just 54-seconds), but they are all right-on-the-money tips. Check it out!

How ’bout that!!! Thank you, Rick! (here’s the link to his class he mentioned at the end of the vide).

Thanks to everybody who attended the Wildlife Photography Conference

We had a fantastic turnout (way more than we were expecting, which is awesome!), and we had such a great group of folks. Thank you SO much to everybody who spent a few days with us (and who came to my sessions on organizing your wildlife images in Lightroom, and printing your images out of Lightroom). We’re very grateful (and we sure had a ton of fun).

Wildlife photographer Scott Bourne was one of our fantastic instructors for the conference, and he tweeted this about the event:

Thanks for the kind words, Scott, and thanks for helping to make the conference rock!

Have a great weekend, everybody. Stay safe and I hope to see you here again next week. :)

-Scott

The Personal Side with Peter Hurley with Kalebra

You’ve undoubtedly heard of Peter Hurley as the king of headshots, but there’s so much more to his story than that. From his early days as a competitive sailor to his modeling career to how that led to him having another career on the other side of the camera, join Kalebra as she sits down with Peter for an hour of insightful conversation about his life choices, pivotal moments, and his continued love of sailing.

In Case You Missed It: How to Get Started in the Headshot Business

Everybody needs a headshot, shouldn’t you be the one to take it? Join Peter Hurley as he teaches you how to get started in headshot photography! Peter has been making his living as a headshot photographer for 18 years, and in this class he gives you a game plan for getting started, goes over different lighting set ups for a range of budgets, shares his tips and techniques for making clients feel comfortable from the moment they arrive through the end of the shoot, and shows you his streamlined workflow for putting it all together. Don’t let fear hold you back! Use your talent and skill to give people the gift of a beautiful photo of themselves.

Oriana in Ensenada, Baja California, while shooting a cookbook for Penguin Random House.

On Building Safe, Equitable and Inclusive Photography Sets

For about the last half decade, there’s been a lot of talk about diversity and inclusion in the photo industry, and primarily, these discussions tend to crop up after reported incidents of toxic workplace, sets, and individuals in our industry. I’ve found, as a Black photographer, these industry wide discussions don’t often enough turn into action that encourages the real life practice of building equitable, safe, and inclusive sets and workplaces, and that’s primarily because we all have to commit to doing the work of creating equity and safety while also setting an example for embracing inclusion.

One thing we seem to have difficulty understanding in these conversations about equity and inclusion is that diversity isn’t something we do. Diversity exists already in our society — human beings come in all colors, sizes, genders, sexualities, and abilities— but the real issue is the exclusion of folks who are marginalized in our society and, as such, in our industry as our workplaces often reflect the biases of the large society in which we work and are a part of. 

Exclusion happens in a myriad of subtle ways that we have to consider when hiring for crew on projects, from newspaper assignments to large, commercial photo shoots: who typically has access to jobs, by way of arts institutions, family connections, and other pipelines in our industry that allow for the easy of exclusion of folks who may not have gone to prestigious art schools or programs, or who don’t have access to familial or other social connections in the larger photo industry? What about the folks who begin their careers later in life, without formal photographic training?

Once I was able to articulate this idea to my clients, it became clearer to them that inclusion was the goal we were after.  

The cast and production crew of the television show, Queen Sugar, photographed for the Washington Post.

In my thirteen year long career, I have often always been the only Black person on set and that’s why inclusion is a priority in my larger photographic practice. It’s why I make it a priority for my clients when approached for assignments and commercial bids. The primary challenge of being The Only One is that the idea reinforces stubborn and incorrect ideas that there are not enough talented Black photographers— or other photographers of color, or women, or queer or trans folk, or differently abled photographers— to hire for photo jobs. 

This also means that my work is regularly devalued and overlooked. 

These sorts of hurdles are reinforced by systematic inequality and racism in our larger society, which makes it increasingly difficult to build the sort of career many of my white colleagues can often take for granted. When opportunities and resources are limited, it means career choices and trajectories are equally limited. 

I decided since I understood very clearly and personally the challenges of being The Only One, I would find ways to build equity and champion inclusion while also building my career: I would hire as inclusively as possible for every single one of my commercial jobs. 

Lighting assistant, Yasara Gundawardena, sits during a lighting test for a New York Times assignment.
Lighting and digital tech, Se Collier, poses for a portrait during a shoot for Caulipower.

I knew I had to begin to fashion the environments I wanted to see and be a part of. I wanted to show clients, in real time, what it looked like working on inclusive sets, and show them that the quality of the work didn’t suffer because everyone was given a seat at their tables. Slowly but surely, when bids and commissions came my way, clients often mentioned hearing about these inclusive sets, how the atmosphere of collaborative team work was so impactful on morale and overall final product, that they wanted to experience it for themselves.

(more…)

Dave Williams here, and it’s #TravelTuesday again! I’m working hard on a project right now (clues on my Instagram), and it’s occupying a lot of my thoughts, but in between those thoughts are dreams of the adventures I’ll have once the ‘rona situation is over. One of my favourite kinds of places to have adventure is among mountains, so today I want to share some hot photo tips for shooting in the mountains.

First off, a mountain photo doesn’t have to show the entire mountain. Cropping in on a feature of the mountain, like this awesome waterfall in Norway with the light dispersing into a rainbow through the mist, is a way to show off a part of the mountain without showing the whole thing.

Next up is scale. Mountains are huge by their very nature. Showing the sheer, gargantuan size of these behemoths by including a recognisable feature, such as a person, a building, or a vehicle, really shows off their size.

Sunrise and sunset in the mountains are different. I’m not just talking about how it’s awesome, but it actually is different. The horizon is displaced somewhat, so the sun doesn’t breach the horizon as it does on a flat earth. If there’s a mountain to the east, sunrise will be slightly delayed. If there’s a mountain to the west, the sunset will be earlier. We can play on this by shooting the light hitting the opposing face, or the rays soaring over the mountains, but we need to bear it in mind so we can be in the right place at the right time.

Silhouettes can really show off the shape of a mountain and using compositional methods we already know, such as the rule of thirds, diagonal lines, and others, we can turn out some great shots of entire mountain ranges silhouetted against a nice sky.

And to wrap up this week’s post, my top tip for mountain photography is to get on top of it! Climbing mountains, whether they’re enormous alpine wonders or simple, gentle lumps of granite, is a great achievement and gives us a great feeling, as well as some great photographs.

With that, I’m going back to my project and I’ll catch you all again next week.

Much love

Dave

When I first heard about Photoshop’s (well, Camera Raw’s) new “Super Resolution” feature, and its ability to let you scale up your image up to 4-times its original size and have it look just about as good as original, I was really skeptical, but I have to admit — this thing is legit! It’s powered by AI (using Adobe Sensei technology), Machine Learning, and some Adobe engineering magic, and folks, I’m tellin’ ya — this here’s a game changer.

Think about what this means — shots from my new 21-megapixel EOS R6 now can rival the resolution of an 80-megapixel medium format digital back. You can take a standard 12-megapixel iPhone camera shot, and make it essentially a 24-megapixel shot with a click of a button and it looks as if you shot it at that size. You can take it up to a 48-megapixel shot with a 2nd click or two. An iPhone shot. That’s crazy!

Now you can crop in on your image like crazy and not lose a ton of resolution you’d need, and you can make huge prints without losing quality getting it up to the larger sizes. This is bonkers (in the best possible way).

Best of all, it’s incredibly easy to use

Here’s how to use it:

STEP ONE: Open your image in Photoshop’s Camera Raw plug-in (It can be a JPEG, TIFF, PNG or RAW), then right-click anywhere within your image and from the pop-up menu that appears, choose Enhance (as shown above). You can also get to this pop-up menu if you have the filmstrip open — just click on the little three dots in the top right corner of the thumbnail. of the image you can to Enhance

STEP TWO: This brings up the Enhance preview window shown above, where you’ll click the “Super Resolution” checkbox (as seen above) to use this new feature. You get a really zoomed in tight preview of a very small section of your image on the left side of the window. You can change the location it is zoomed in one by just clicking on the area you want magnified by clicking on your actual image (not inside this preview window — out on the full size image itself). It’s showing you the “after” image.

Above: if you want to see a preview of what your image would look like doubled in size without it working its AI magic, click and hold inside the preview on the left and you get the “Before” view (without the enhancement). Look at how much blurrier this enlargement would be without this AI-based technology.

It give you an estimate how long it will take to double the size of the image so you’ll know if you have time to run to Starbucks (you don’t by the way).

STEP THREE: Click Enhance and it creates a copy of your original image, but at the bumped up doubled size. This is the image doubled in size (I know — it’s about impossible to tell much at these small size here on the blog), but in comparing it to the original, it looks just about the same, or maybe a tiny bit sharper, and that is just pretty incredible. Like I said, game changer when you need more resolution or a larger size for print.

Some Tips:

(1) This feature works on JPEGs and TIFFs, but Adobe says that essentially the better quality the file you start with, the better quality you’ll get from Super Res, so it helps to start with a RAW image.

(2) If you want to go to 4x your original size, you’ll need to open the copy in Photoshop; save this 2x copy; Re-open it in Camera Raw then run the feature again on this saved copy (you can’t just run it again in Camera Raw without opening it and saving it again).

(3) Adobe has announced that this feature is also coming to Lightroom Classic and the cloud version of Lightroom soon, which is awesome.

(4) You can apply this upsizing to multiple images — just make Camera Raw’s filmstrip visible; select the ones you want, right-click on any one of them and choose Enhance.

(5) You can bypass the “Enhance” window altogether by holding the Option key before you choose Enhance from the menu, and it will just apply it.

The Bottomline

This is pretty incredible all the way around, and the results are truly amazing. Does this make the need for high megapixel cameras less necessary? It seems so at this early stage, but we’ll see how this all develops, but I’m really jazzed that this feature is now available to us, and I imagine we’ll see people doing some crazy things size wise with it very soon.

The Wildlife Photography Conference kicks off Tomorrow

…but it’s not too late to join us. In fact, even if you can’t join us the next two days for the conference, if you sign up now you get access to the entire online conference for a full year so you can stream any of the sessions on demand. How cool is that! Tickets and info right here (it kicks off today with a special pre-conference session from Moose Peterson on “What makes a great wildlife photo”).

Here’s wishing you a great week, and I’m looking forward to answering some of your questions in my live Q&As over the next few days at the conference. We’ll see you there. Stay healthy out there! :)

-Scott

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