December 15, 2010

How to take great Holiday Photos

Well it’s that time of the year again, Christmas season. For some us that means trying to squeeze in some time to get out with the camera and shoot some of those special outdoor Christmas light displays or maybe it’s just getting photos of the family on Christmas day. A lot of you might be trying out that new camera with the hopes of getting some great photos. But either way, whether you are photographing the symbolic subjects of the holidays or your friends and family, getting creative with your composition certainly cannot hurt. This means that by paying special attention to how you organize the various elements in each photo, you too can create your own set of great holiday memories.

For Better Family and Group Portraits

The most important thing to keep in mind when photographing groups and families is this: you absolutely must take a lot of photos.
There is often a great deal of pressure when photographing groups. A lot of people complain about having their picture taken and want the experience to be over quickly so you'll need to work quickly in order to get the job done within the limits of their patience while trying to keep the experience as fun and friendly as possible. Since there is always someone blinking or looking off to the side or facing another member of the group, having a large number of photos will give you the best chances of catching everyone looking their best.

Shoot First, Ask Questions Later
This is usually the case especially if your subject is a child opening a gift or playing with a gift for the first time because you know that within a split second the whole scene can change. There are often just a few brief moments when that "magic spark" appears. Of course this means having your camera on hand and the batteries fully charged and its always it good idea to have back-up batteries ready also. After all, you can't capture the moment if you don't have your camera turned on and ready to go. Remember, you have to be ready to press that shutter button at a moment's notice, anticipating when the magic spark will surface. If you have a digital camera that suffers from a bit of a delay when taking the picture, then you will have to become even more intuitive and skilled at anticipating the moment. Another good tip; make sure you have enough space on your memory card and carry an extra card with you. Too often people will run out of space and either have to delete some photos or end their shooting for the day. Remember, these days memory cards are very inexpensive, so pick up an extra one and you’ll be glad you did.

Fill Your Frame
One of the most common mistakes I see in Christmas photos (or any party or event) is that people often end up with shots of their subjects off in the distance on the other side of a room with lots of space all around them. Fill your frame with your subject either by using your zoom or just getting up and moving yourself in closer. While this is one of the simplest tips I ever give it is one that can have the most profound impact on your shots. Try it out, you’ll be amazed.


Don’t Forget Your White-Balance

Now if your totally new to photography, your probably shooting in JPEG format with your camera set to auto and most digital cameras do a pretty good job with auto-white balance, but if you want to get better photos, try setting to white-balance. If you are shooting in RAW mode, you know you can always go back and change it afterwards if you forget.

Photographing Christmas Lights

The best time to shoot is before it gets totally dark, plus arriving around sunset will give you time to plan your shot before the good light happens. Try to compose your shots with as much sky as possible, getting down real low. Then, once you get your photo framed, set your white-balance to Tungsten as if you were shooting indoors. All those little bulbs are tungsten balanced and as an added bonus your sky will look even better. Needless to say, you’ll need a way to steady your camera, preferably a tripod or mono-pod or even a beanbag for those long exposures. Plus a remote trigger or cable can come in real handy. Shoot a test shot every minute or so constantly checking the LCD. Somewhere between sunset and full dark your Christmas lights and the ambient light with start to mix beautifully. Usually you’ll have about a 10-minute window with nice light. After that, the good light will fade very quickly and you will know it is gone when your photos start looking like the "bad light" photos you used to take.

Bonus Tips:

If you plan to use flash, nothing screams point-and-shoot like using an on-camera flash. Red-eye reduction is nice, but a shoe-mounted flash is so much better. When shooting indoors, not only can you bounce off of a wall or ceiling you can add a diffuser and make it hard to know a flash was used at all. Of course you might be able to avoid this just by using a nice wide aperture like f2.8 and bumping up your ISO a little.
Remember, its always a good idea to plan ahead, maybe even making a check list for things to remember like batteries, cards etc. Another good tip if you already own the camera, read and re-read your manual and get to know it even better. I can’t tell you how important this is.
Well until my next post, I hope you all have a very safe and happy holiday season and remember, as always, keep shooting and have some fun!

November 15, 2010

How to Make Money From Your Photos

If you’re like almost everyone new or semi-new to Digital Photography, you’ve probably noticed that your photos are starting to multiply. No, it’s not some new computer virus creating new photos on your system; you keep taking photos and your collection is just starting to take up more space. Maybe, the dreaded photography bug has bitten you?

Believe me, you’re not alone. Millions of people are purchasing Digital Cameras every year and a lot of them are starting to get the photography bug. Now not everyone who picks up a camera wants to be a professional photographer, but just about everyone who has ever taken a shot that makes them proud and gives them pleasure, has dreamed of making money from their photography. Maybe they’ll see a photo somewhere and say to themselves, I can do better than that or they might imagine one of their photos in the local newspaper or on a billboard, or maybe even hanging in a gallery somewhere?

Once upon a time this was limited only to professional photographers and it used to be that the equipment needed to capture quality images like we see daily, was very difficult to operate and far too expensive for the average person to go out and purchase. But luckily, this has all changed in recent years. Anyone who can afford just a few hundred dollars can get a camera capable of capturing these shots, and these days’ the buyers are more concerned about the quality of the image rather than what type of camera was used, how long the photographer that shot it has been shooting or what kind of formal education they have.

The good new is, that with a little effort and some research on the Internet, you too could find a way to sell some of those images that you’ve got sitting around on a hard drive or a disk somewhere. Wouldn’t it be nice to make a little extra cash to buy that new lens you’ve wanted or maybe you’ve thought about how you could turn you’re hobby into a side business? Whatever your reason might be I wanted to let you know about a new book out there that might help you out.

One of the websites I go to quite often is one aptly named: Maybe you’ve even visited it yourself. The site originated in 2007 and has since become a huge hit because this site is dedicated to helping people fulfill those dreams. It has tons of articles and new ideas on different ways you might market your own collection of photos. They have topics ranging from how you might start a photo business and selling the pictures you love, to articles about scams you might want to watch out for, and they even throw in some new shooting ideas now and then.

Well these fine people over there at have put together a book titled ‘99 Ways to Make Money From Your Photos’. Like the cover says, the editors there have come up with 99 different ideas on how you too might start marketing your photos. They’ll show you some easy ways (and some not so easy ways) to turn your images into cash with proven ideas from experienced photographers who are doing it in today’s market. This book will give you tips on how you might sell your own vacation and travel photos and even give you ideas on how you might organize photo exhibitions yourself.

Maybe you’ve thought about shooting some stock photography? This book will teach you various ways on how you might get started and how to license your photos for selling to stock agencies. This book can be a very useful tool to get your creative juices flowing and spark some new ideas. Maybe this is something that interests you or you have someone on your Christmas list that might enjoy it? Either way you can check it out here at “99 Ways to Make Money From Your Photos”.

Remember, as always, keep shooting and have some fun!

October 17, 2010

Shooting Macro-Style Photography

Recently one of my camera buddies asked me if I ever shoot any Macro and my answer was yes and no. What I meant was, I shoot Macro type shots, but I don’t even own a dedicated Macro lens.
The best Macro lenses are the latest Autofocus models and there are a lot of companies that put out great ones. The most common lengths are the 60mm or 100mm; and usually each lens will focus in close for a 1:1 ratio. Keep in mind whether you’re shooting with a crop sensor body or full frame, because they are different lenses.
One thing to note; a Macro lens and a Macro Zoom Lens are not the same thing. Macro Zooms are not actually Macros at all. They just focus closer than normal lenses and most of the time the quality suffers. Quite a few Point and Shoot cameras also have a Macro setting. Canon also makes the 500D close-up lens, which is actually a filter that screws on your lens. Canon even makes these to fit Nikon lenses. It isn’t Macro but it magnifies quite a bit. They sell from $85.00 to $150.00, depending on what size filter you need.
By definition, true Macro isn’t achieved until the subject is reproduced on film or on a sensor at life size which means 1:1 ratio or greater. There is also Extreme Macro, which is larger than that. Canon also offers the MP-E 65 mm f/2.8 . This lens is capable of shots up to 5:1, which is pretty wild. Another example of Extreme Macro is when a camera is attached to a microscope, now that really opens up a whole new world.

What I use normally are Extension Tubes. Basically all the tubes do is move your lens further from your sensor, enabling your camera to focus closer. There are no moving parts and some can even use autofocus.

The most popular brand is Kenko. Canon and Nikon also make tubes but they are not as popular as these, plus they are sold individually and are more expensive. The Kenko Extension Tubes come in sets of three, which includes a 12mm, a 20mm and a 36mm. You can usually purchase a set from about $100.00 - $175.00. The nice part is you can use one tube or any combination of the three. Keep in mind though, just like using Tele-Extenders, you lose a lot of light so a Tripod is a must and it’s a good idea to use a Cable Release to avoid any shake.

It is always better to turn off your autofocus and focus manually. Depth of field is very shallow, so you’ll need to be at f /22. You’ll notice you can focus on the front of a flower and a petal just an inch behind will be completely out of focus. Plus a lot of the newer SLR cameras also offer Live-View, which is great for doing Macro-type work.

I shoot mostly indoors under controlled lighting and I like to shoot tethered to my laptop so I can see it on a large screen and can focus on all the finer details. You can purchase dedicated Macro Ring Flash set-ups but they’re expensive, so I just use an off camera flash and a couple of daylight balanced desk lamps and they work fine. I like to get in real close and capture the fuzzy little parts of the inside of flowers. For example, did you ever see all the texture on a petal or a leaf? Maybe you’re asking yourself if something would make a nice Macro shot, just take out a magnifying glass and check it out before you set up all your gear.

One of the most common practices for Macro work involves shooting bugs and insects or for shooting flowers and plants. Shots like this take a lot of patience and practice. Plus, if you’re shooting outdoors, you have to watch out because even the slightest breeze is greatly magnified and there is always the chance that one of your little bugs will take off on you.

Outdoor nature type Macro shots are really nice, but shooting indoors there are tons of different ways to get creative. Textures, shapes and details take on a whole new dimension when captured with a Macro lens or Extension Tubes. Indoor shooting also allows you to be a little more imaginative. Using Gels on your flowers can open up all sorts of possibilities. Using colored backgrounds is also nice. Macro photography can be a lot of fun, but like I mentioned, it takes patience and practice to get those fantastic shots you see in magazines.

Sometimes I like to take shots of everyday items like coins or jewelry, but watch out, your items might be a little dirtier than you might imagine. This shot of the coin, was taken with a 24-105mm lens, racked all the way out to 105mm, with all three Kenko Extension Tubes on it, for a total of a 68mm extension. That means my lens is about 3 ½ inches away from the body. Check out the details like all the scratches and the dirt.

This shot of the frog was taken on a full frame camera with a dedicated Macro lens, a Canon EF 100mm f / 2.8 Macro Autofocus lens. This lens will set you back over $500.00. This shot wasn’t taken out in a tropical swamp or in the wild; it was shot through an aquarium glass. The image of the plant with the water droplets was taken with another fine lens, Canon EF-S 60mm – f / 2.8, a crop sensor lens, which goes for around $400.00. The background is actually just some colored paper, and because most Macro’s will not focus to infinity, it is nicely out of focus. Check out the background on the car keys, each one getting more and more out of focus.
And lastly, another benefit to shooting Macro type photography is, it can be a lot of fun when the weather isn’t too friendly, especially if you have a dedicated space you can keep set up, like a spare room etc. You can probably think of tons of new things to shoot. Experiment, get creative, have some fun. The possibilities are practically endless.
Remember, as always, keep shooting and have some fun!

September 16, 2010

How to get 100% Reliable Flash – every time!

I know, I know, I get kind of lame when it comes to putting up new articles on this blog. For those of you out there that have blogs and websites that you feed with new info daily, or even weekly, my hat goes off to you. Coming up with new content that you think someone might find useful can often be difficult. Recently I found something that you might enjoy.

For the last five years or so, I’ve been constantly trying to improve my portable lighting techniques and I've found the easiest way to do this is with Speedlights. Of course when you’re in a studio environment, most of the time you’d probably be using Mono-Lights or Studio Flash set-ups, but out in the field or on a remote location, Off-Camera Flash units, usually called Speedlights, are a quick and easy way to get the lighting your looking for with minimal effort.

Unfortunately even these units can be rather difficult to use. You can either ask someone who knows how to use them that might have the time to take you through the process or can try to find the right Internet site (or sites) or read books and magazine articles and devote the time to learn how to use them that way. For myself it’s actually been a little bit of all of these methods.

I actually started out by going online and checking out a fantastic Blog called “The Strobist” put out by a guy who was a 20 yr career-newspaper shooter, David Hobby. David actually created it in 2006 to avoid doing a lecture at a photo class for someone. He quickly found out how many people are into using Speedlights these days, myself included! It has since turned into a full-time job for him and he’ll be the first to admit he spends about 8 hrs a day researching and writing articles to “Feed the Blog”. You’ll find a link to his site on my Blog List also.

Another one of my favorite Blogs to get Off-Camera Flash tips and tricks is a site by a fellow photographer named Neil van Niekerk. Neil’s home base is in New Jersey, but his work these days take him all over the country. Weddings and portraits comprise the majority of his work, but he also holds workshops and seminars teaching digital photography and lighting. Neil also has a great book on Off-Camera Flash and you can click on the Amazon link on this site and type in Neil van Niekerk to check that out. You’ll also find a link to his site – Tangents, on my Blog List.

But now you’re probably saying to yourself, those are great ideas if you’ve got tons of time on your hands, but I just want to be able to take my Speedlight and get the lighting I want quickly and easily without all the fancy lighting ratios and all that creative stuff - Fair enough.

Recently I found a little eBook called 100% Reliable Flash Photography by Edward Verosky. He has a regular website and a nice little blog featuring techniques and tricks for using Off-Camera Flash and I actually found it quite by accident while browsing through another photographers website. I’ll tell you what, I wish he had put this eBook out about 5 yrs ago because it would have saved me tons of trial and error time, not to mention hours of researching on the Internet.

Ed’s eBook is about 75 pages long with tons of useful diagrams and examples of his set-ups and photographs on how he gets his images. He does not get into all the fancy mumbo-jumbo talk, instead he just tells you how to do it quickly and easily. Ed has a technique he calls Standardization, in which he tells you exactly what camera / flash settings he starts with when shooting outdoors or indoors to get consistent results. Of course you can modify these yourself, but it makes your work so easy, you’ll say to yourself “why didn’t I think of that?”

These days, I start with his Standardization settings and then go from there if I want to get a little more creative – just a quick and easy method, ba-da-boom! Like I stated, if your into using Speedlights, either on or off your camera, and want to get quick and reliable results, you owe to yourself to check out his eBook. You’ll find a link right on my site, 100% Reliable Photography.
Remember, as always, keep shooting and have some fun!

August 16, 2010

Third Annual Scott Kelby’ Photowalk

Recently I had the opportunity to be part of Scott Kelby’s 3rd Annual Worldwide Photowalk on July 24th. The walk I attended was held in Providence Rhode Island. Like always, it is a great way to get out there and meet other photographers and have a good time. This year was no different. I met a lot of great people from my area who share my passion for photography. Some operated studios and photo business’ and some were regular Joe’s like myself who just like to get out there and shoot. I also met some people in my area who ran a “Photo Safari” which is a group that organizes local outings and photo shoots regularly....nice huh?

The whole Photowalk idea was originated by a man named Jeff Revell. Jeff owns and operates a website called PhotoWalk-Pro. The idea is to get a group of photographers together (usually around 50 walkers) and then walk around in predetermined locations for a few hours and afterwords, get together and share their imagery. Alone or with a group, the purpose is still the same and that is to get out there and shoot. It’s a great way to share ideas and boost your own photography skills, not to mention, meet new people who enjoy photography.

Three years ago, Scott Kelby, president of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) and the number one selling computer and technology book author, organized the first Worldwide Photowalk to celebrate the release of his book, Lightroom 2 Book for Digital Photographers and to help raise funds for the Springs of Hope Orphanage in Kenya. Their original expectations were blown away.

On the first Photowalk, there were 8,324 photographers registered in over 47 countries. There were Photowalks held in 44 states and over 236 cities worldwide. Over 1 million photos were taken on the first walk, and now it has become an annual event. You can also view entries from other walkers around the country (and the world) on a special Flick’r site dedicated to this event.

This year there were about 1150 walks and over 33 thousand registered walkers attending Worldwide Photowalks around the globe. Did I mention it is also a great way to compete and win some great prizes? All Photowalk leaders (organizers of local walks) receive a copy of Scott’s newest book, (this year was his Lightroom 3 Book for Digital Photographers) and all walkers can submit entries to compete for some really great prizes from sponsors like Adorama and Kelby Training.

Maybe next summer you’ll be able to attend the 4th Annual Photowalk in your area? They’re a lot of fun and great way to meet photographers in your area......Remember, keep shooting and have some fun!

June 10, 2010

Adobe Configurator – finally customizable Photoshop!

Every now and then I come across a program that makes it feel like I’ve won the lottery. I had heard about Adobe Configurator and had even watched quite a few videos on it, but at the time I was using Photoshop CS3 and it does not work with anything before CS4. Myself, I usually upgrade about every other version and when CS5 was released I upgraded within the first week or so.

I spend a lot of time in Photoshop editing and manipulating photos and graphics, so anything that makes it quicker and easier I definitely like. I immediately went out and did some more homework on the Configurator. You can download it online for free at Adobe Labs

At home I’ve got a two-monitor set-up and most of the time I would just put my panels on the other screen. I’m a big fan of Wacom Tablets and I’ve been using them for about 4 yrs. When I’m in Photoshop I rarely ever use a mouse so I’m using my pen to navigate and edit. I’ve been using Photoshop since 6.0, so I already knew tons of shortcut keys and commands, but even so, sometimes I had to use two hands to hit some of the shortcut keys and it would be much easier to just tap a button. If you are like me, you don’t use half of the items in the menus anyhow? I know that you can customize the menus and create your own shortcuts, but some times you still have to go hunt for certain tools and then you have to dig through menus or scroll through dialog boxes just to activate them. For years I thought that with all of Adobes technology that they should come out with a program that would let me create my own panels and add just the things I use daily, finally Configurator is that program!

The Adobe Configurator is a utility that lets you create custom panels (palettes) for use in Adobe Photoshop CS4 or CS5. It also works in Adobe InDesign CS5 for those who work with that program. Think of Configurator as a box of Legos--an application that lets you drag and drop all the tools and menu items in Photoshop, and then even lets you add actions or scripts, and even add various widgets complete with images or videos. Adobe Configurator makes it all this pretty easy to do. You can create your own panels in the Configurator panel and them just export the results into Photoshop or InDesign, nice huh?

I know it sounds pretty complicated, but seriously, I sat down with a cup of coffee (or two) and played around with it for a couple hours. But I finally created just the perfect panel for me. One of the biggest obstacles for me was making the panel the correct size. I wanted mine to look exactly like it was built into the program at the factory. I had to play around with it for quite awhile until I got the exact measurements for my own personal panel. The one I have in the photo is 230 wide by 372 height, but you can change yours to fit your own layout. You can also change the size of the buttons or re-arrange them to get just the right look. Once you get the hang of it, you can go back in anytime and easily edit your panels in minutes. Another nice feature is that if you have another PC (maybe a Laptop) you just download Configurator onto it and then you can just export the panel or panels you just created and instantly load them on that computer too! Through trial and error, I created the panel that works for me and now I have a custom panel that has all my favorite tools and actions loaded on it in one spot and I can control them all with the simple click of a button. One of the only obstacles was when creating or loading a Configurator Panel, you had to sign into Photoshop as the administrator. Believe me, it took quite awhile to overcome that problem. But, now I've got a Panel that does everything I want it to do and don't have to go hunting for a tool or remember the shortcut keys........Nice huh?

If you’re a trainer or you teach Photoshop or InDesign, you can also add video panels or text panels with buttons for any of the commands. Configurator will let you create as many panels as you’d like and set them up exactly the way you want. Load one at a time or load all of them, its up to you. I’ve included a few links to videos, grab yourself a coffee and check them out. One of these is narrated by John Nack of Adobe online and you might want to check that out. If you’re like me, you’re going to love Adobe Configurator too! I'm sorry to say that Configurator will not (at least I can't figure it out) on the Cloud, but if you've got a full version of CS4, 5 or CS6 your all set. I hope you enjoy this article. And remember, as always, keep shooting and have some fun!

May 12, 2010

Captured By the Light by David Ziser

This book is aptly subtitled “The Essential Guide to Creating Extraordinary Wedding Photography”, and for good reason. If you have ever shot a wedding, or were just thinking of shooting one, this book is like the instruction manual for wedding photographers.

Some you of you might not know anything about David Ziser, but his work is very well known in the professional wedding circuit. David has been shooting weddings for over 30 years and because of his skills, he has also been a much sought after lecturer and teacher on the art of wedding photography for many years. His bio reads: “David is an internationally renowned portrait and wedding photographer, and has shared his knowledge with tens of thousands of photographers in five languages and in 14 countries worldwide”. David has also been teaching at Photoshop World for the last few years and when Photoshop World comes to Boston, I always make it a point to catch his lectures.

I enjoy his style of teaching because he lays it out, plain and simple. I especially like his work with speedlights and off-camera flash and this book is loaded with tips and techniques everyone will find useful. He emphasizes the fact that you’ve got to get your flash off the camera because in doing so you will add detail, depth, dimension and color saturation to your images.

His blog; Digital Pro Talk, is one of my personal favorites that I try to read daily. I like the fact that it is always fresh because he submits new articles to it every day. In it he covers everything from camera and flash tips, how to use umbrellas and soft-boxes for lighting effects, some product reviews, some of his own shooting and personal experiences and even sharing his business knowledge and expertise on how to increase your sales and boost your own profits.

In his book, he goes from describing simple posing techniques designed to make your clients look their very best, to tips on how to get the most out of your lighting with speed lights and off camera flash. He describes how and when to utilize front and back lighting, how to get the most out of natural light and even some great tips on composing your shots. David even devotes one chapter entirely to his personal choice of gear – cameras, lenses, and lights and why he chooses those particular tools. His personal choice of equipment might surprise you!

David has two chapters where he takes you out on a sample-wedding shoot and covers everything from packing the equipment to take with you on your shoot, to saying goodbye at the end of the evening. He really covers everything from the alter shots and posing the family, to tips and tricks to boost your own creativity. He then takes you through the whole reception and describes some of his favorite shots to get, and covers everything from the cake cutting, the first dance, and shooting the entire evening right up to packing up your gear at the end of the night. Then, to finish it all off he devotes over 20 pages of sample page layouts designed to get your creative juices flowing.

Granted, these days the weddings he shoots personally are more upscale than the ones we all start off shooting, but his work speaks for itself and has earned him the reputation of being one of the very best in the business. These days his weddings are the cream of the crop and because of that fact, he uses assistants and extra shooters, which can definitely help your creative style, but this book is loaded with tips and tricks of the trade that every photographer will find useful. It’s eleven chapters filled to the brim with over 30 years of experience, laid out in over 275 pages and crammed with tons of beautiful full color images.

The whole idea of this book is to help you make the best possible images so that you stand out from the crowd. This book will show you how you too can deliver an album of treasured memories to your clients that both of you can be proud of. To order this book you can click here: Captured By The Light and get yourself a copy today. So, if you’re a wedding photographer, or just want to be, I know you will definitely enjoy this book…... Remember, keep shooting and have some fun!

April 24, 2010

The Digital Field Guide by J. Dennis Thomas

These days more and more people it seems are getting into photography. Really, if you think about it, the cameras are getting so sophisticated that even people with no experience can take good photos. Granted, not everyone knows how to compose their photos or has a good eye, but these days the new cameras can take most of the guess work out of getting good shots and do most of the work for you. My personal photos have evolved quite a bit over the last 5 yrs or so. I’ve learned new techniques and tricks, have improved my composition, and now I slow down and take my time. With my style of photography, mostly landscape and portrait, I’ve found if I take my time and “set-up” the shot, my photos improve ten-fold. I wrote an article back in December 09’ about a book I was all excited about, On-Camera Flash by Neil van Niekerk. What I didn’t realize was, quite a few people really don’t understand their off camera flashes units that well or know what they are really capable of.

Like a lot of people, when I get a new camera toy, like a Speedlight, I’ll usually skim through the owners manual and then jump right out and start shooting. But you know how that works, I’ll run into a situation where I don’t understand why I’m not getting the results I was expecting and then I go back to square one, the owners manual. This is why I always recommend having your manuals in your camera bag or on your person when you’re out shooting.

This brings me to the topic of this article, a book called the Canon Speedlite System – Digital Field Guide. For those of you shooting Nikon, there is also a book called Nikon Creative Lighting System – Digital Field Guide by the same author, I would definitely recommend these books to help improve your knowledge of these powerful, yet very compact lighting systems. The Canon book came out shortly before the new 580 EX II came out, but the only thing really different on those units is the hotshoe footing and a very slight increase in power.

These books will give you practical knowledge of your Speedlights as well as tips and techniques on Wireless shooting with your 580 EX or 430 EX units as well as using the ST-E2 remote master unit. He gives useful tips on setting up portable portrait studios and on location lighting set-ups. Very useful for anyone trying to get the most out of their off camera flash units. The author also explaind the various types of portrait lighting, like broad or wide lighting, (also called wide or short lighting). He explains the difference between High-key and Low-key set-ups as well as various posing techniques.

One thing great about these books is everything is described in detail and is loaded with diagrams and full-color photos to make learning these techniques even easier. ( I know I need all the help I can get ). He gives tips on photographing pets and children, plus wedding and events tips, how to compose groups and even how to shoot macro, all done with your own Speedlights!

I really can’t say enough about these little books (they easily fit in your camera bags too) These days you can pick these books up right here at Amazon for under $15 dollars. Do yourself a favor and pick one up and remember, keep shooting and have some fun!

March 28, 2010

How Well Do You Really Know Your Camera ?

These days Digital Cameras are sophisticated pieces of technology. With all those buttons, menus, options, and features comes a steep learning curve and it takes a good investment of your time to master the equipment. So today, rather than give out advice on how to operate your camera, I’m asking a list of questions to get your gears turning.

I’m not really asking you to answer the questions directly – it’s just kind of a way to test your own camera knowledge. If you read through these questions and you either don’t understand what it’s asking or you don’t know the answer, you may not know your camera as well as you thought you did. It’s always a good idea to carry your camera manual in your camera bag, just in case.

These questions are really aimed at the digital SLR users, so if you’re a compact camera user some of these questions don’t apply. Even so, a good chunk of them apply to almost any digital camera made today. These days video is making the scene on digital SLR’s and that opens up another can of worms, I won’t delve into that today, maybe another post?


Exposure Mode
What exposure modes are available on your camera? Manual, aperture priority, shutter priority, program, auto, presets? Do you know how to use them or why you would want to?
Drive Mode
What drive modes are available on your camera? Single frame, continuous, bracketing, self-timers? What uses do these have in different situations?
Focus Mode
What options do you have for focus control? Single shot, automatic, continuous, manual? Why would you use one over the other?
Metering Mode
Which metering modes does your camera offer? Evaluative, Partial, Spot, Center Weighed, or Nikon’s Matrix mode? Do you know how each of these responds to different lighting conditions? All of these are very important when you’re trying to balance the light in your shots.
Flash Mode
What are you telling your flash to do when you release the shutter? Auto, fill flash, red-eye removal, slow-sync, high speed sync, wireless? Hopefully these will make you think more about you’re flash techniques.
Flash Control
How are you controlling your flash? Through the lens (TTL), manual, auto, or some other type of control? Do you use off camera flash? If so, do you know how to use its controls? I could get into using gels etc. but that’s definitely another post.
Flash Compensation
Do you know how to control flash intensity separately from your exposure? Do you know how to increase or decrease you exposure or why or when you would want to do this?
Camera Sensitivity

What ISO ranges can you use? How sensitive are your auto settings? At what point does the noise become too noisey? These days some cameras go over 100,000 ISO, but what kind of quality do you want. There are some nice noiseware products out there that really help with noise levels. My camera can easily shoot at 1600 ISO with nice clean images. If I shoot higher ISO’s I can clean them up nicely with my noiseware program.
White Balance
What are your options for setting white balance? Auto, presets, or custom? Do you know how to set your white balance to the location you’re shooting? Do you know how to create a custom white balance. If your new to this an Expo disk could help you out.
Exposure Compensation & Exposure Lock

Do you know how to compensate for exposure when your using auto or semi-auto exposure modes? Do you ever use your histograms? Can you lock your exposure? Can you do it without locking the focus? Can you lock it across multiple shots?


Image Quality
What resolutions and qualities are available? Can you shoot JPEG, RAW, or both? Can you change the size of them? I shoot only in full size RAW mode because I want the best images my camera can possibly get unless I know I’ll only email them or if I’m shooting in studio conditions where I control all the light.
Color Mode
Which color modes are available? Why would your change this? Pro-Photo RG B, Adobe RGB, sRGB or maybe some others? Do you color manage your workflow? This is extremely useful if you do your own printing.
JPEG Processing
What processing adjustments are available for JPEG’s? Can you control sharpness, saturation, contrast, hue, etc.? Do you know how to change these to give you better results?
Bracketing Order
Are you doing any HDR work or exposure blending? If you are then this is very useful. It’s comes in handy when your shooting quick and want to make sure your exposure is in the ballpark.


Diopter Adjustment
Can you adjust the diopter on your viewfinder? Do you know the correct way to do this? This is useful for people might wear glasses or are slightly far-sighted. Have you adjusted yours?
DOF Preview
Do you know if you have this feature and if so, how to use it? Do you know how to interpret the results? This is especially nice if you shoot landscape photos.
Mirror Lock
Why would you use this? All great landscape shooters know this feature and it’s a big plus for getting those tack-sharp images from your camera. This is where a cable release comes in very handy also.
Sensor Cleaning

Do you know how to enter the sensor-cleaning mode on your camera? Nowadays quite a few cameras have automatic sensor cleaning when you turn it on, but its nice to know how to operate this. Some people send theirs out to have the sensor cleaned properly, but it’s not that difficult to do on your own if you decide to do it yourself. You can find places on the web to learn how to do this, but keep in mind if you mess up you could void your cameras warranty.

So do yourself a favor, especially if you’re new to SLR photography, read your manual and learn how to utilize the all the wonderful features your camera offers. Make it a habit to carry your manual in your camera bag and you’ll find the more photos you take, the less you need to refer to it. Feel free to print these out as a little quiz and see how you do. Remember, keep shooting and have some fun!

January 8, 2010

My Favorite Tool – My Wacom Tablet

I know, I know, I’ve been really lame in getting new articles posted so I figured it was about time for a new one. This one is about my favorite tool in my photo editing toolkit, my Wacom Tablet.

Wacom recently released a new tablet called the Intous Pro, but at the time of this original post it was the Intuos 4. (June 2010) Wacoms top of the line tablet, called the Wacom Cintiq, is aimed at serious professionals, and you actually draw directly on your images right on the screen with your pen. Check it out here.  

The update version of my table is currently called the Intous Pro and the price on them hasn't gone up. I'm sure this is another excellent tablet in their line-up. I’ve been using both of mine, the Intous 3 versions, since they were first released and absolutely love them. (purchased in 2004) Once I used one, I wondered how did I ever live without it. I was debating whether to get a small version to carry in my laptop bag and found a great deal on a smaller version of mine, and I picked it up. It fits right in my laptop case and comes with me everywhere now. I seriously don’t know how I would work on my photos or artwork without them. 

I was reluctant about getting one for quite a while and had to do my homework online and watch some videos on the use of the tablets to see what all the hype was about. But when I actually saw a live demo of someone using one, I knew first hand what they were capable of and went right out and bought one the next day. Let me tell you, I have never regretted it.  I'm updating the original post 6 yrs after the first one for a good reason. Yesterday, I went to help someone with some PC / Printer problems and had to edit a few photos to do some test prints. What a nightmare. Have you ever had to make a fairly complex selection using a mouse? The funny part was, my friend actually owns a Wacom and doesn't even have it hooked up! Anyhow, back to my post. Wacom even has some tutorials on their website to get you going quickly with all sorts of tips. Gone are the days of making complex selections using a mouse. Don't think you could use one?  I gave my friend a simple test, I told him to try to write his name on one of his images with a mouse. Case closed.  

My Intuos 3 tablets give me the power to quickly and professionally edit photos and create digital artwork by turning on the full power of Adobe Photoshop, Corel Painter, and believe it or not, over 100 other leading software applications.

Intuos pen tablets use Wacom's Pen-abled technology to give you the natural feel and superior performance of Wacom's patented cordless and battery-free tablet technology. You will find that using the Intuos pen and mouse gives you a lot more control, comfort, and productivity. I alternate between the comfortable Grip Pen and the ergonomic five-button mouse. It is an easy and natural way to work. 

I’m also a big fan of the Express keys and Touch Strips built into the tablets. I use them every time I’m on my computer.
We are all used to using a regular pen or pencil so using a pen tablet comes really easy. The tablet makes it is easy to use the pen because every point on the tablet has a matching point on the screen. When you move your pen over the tablet the cursor moves in precisely the same way on the screen. Where you touch your pen tip to the tablet is where you click. Also, the tablet automatically configures itself to whatever size monitor(s) you have, and I personally have two monitors and the Wacom knows this and works great. Nice huh?

The Intuos 3 cordless pen features a larger grip for comfort, 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity, a Duo-Switch and even a built-in eraser on the end. It even comes with its own pen stand for when your using the mouse. The Duo-Switch on the side of the pen and is nice because you can program the buttons for various functions. I have mine set to double-click and right-click to open programs or to use menus etc.
The pressure option is also really cool. You can program it to use pressure sensitivity or turn it off, usually in the program you're using. It’s like using coloring crayons, press hard for dark color, lightly for light color, or if set for pressure, it will determine how large or small your brush size is. This is an excellent feature when using regular brushes or adjustment brushes in any of your favorite editing programs.
The pen and the mouse both work without any batteries, just by plugging the tablet in to a USB port. The pen comes with 3 tip feels: standard, stroke, and felt, but I’ve only used the standard and it suits me fine. They also have optional air-brush pens which are supposed to be great for artwork and graphics.

The 5-button mouse on the Wacom is great. These days most mice have 2 buttoms and a scroll wheel. Well this mouse has 5 buttons. It has the usual left and right buttons and a scroll wheel, but on both sides is a little button that is automatically set to activate the back and forward keys on your web browser. You know when you open a web page and then click a link, it takes you to another web page. Usually you use the back and forward arrows to navigate back or forward, well with the Wacom there is a button on both sides of the mouse to do just that, one for forward the other for back. I had my first Wacom Tablet for over a year before I even knew they were there! (so much for reading owners manuals huh?) It’s just another nice feature that Wacom added which I use daily.

Some other great features are the Express keys and the Touch Strips. The finger-sensitive Touch Strip allows for quick zooming, panning and scrolling or you can set them up to change brush sizes etc. I don’t really use the Touch Strips that much because I’m a big fan of keyboard shortcuts, but I definitely use the Express keys. You can program these to do just about anything or open any program you want. I’ve got mine set up to open various programs I use all the time. So if I want to check my mail, I press one key, (the red one in the photo) or if I want to go on the Internet I press another. I’ve got others set to open Photoshop, the Bridge, Lightroom and Corel Painter, Word and Excel, all with the touch of a single button! These will work with all your favorite programs on your computer so there’s no more clicking on an icon on your desktop or scrolling through menu’s anymore. Nice huh?

I could go on and on about how much I love my tablets but if you spend any amount of time using Photoshop, Lightroom or Painter you’ll regret putting off buying one for so long. It’s not a huge investment, but definitely worth it. I've been using both of my Intous 3 tablets since they first came out (2004) with no problems ever, you got to love that. There are many models to choose from ranging from hobbyist to pro and they even offer cordless tablets. If you ever get the chance to use one or see one in use, you owe it to yourself to check them out. I’ve included this link to the Wacom Tablet section of B+H Photo, go check them out. If your a designer or a photographer you owe it to yourself to check them out and see all the new models. 

Remember, keep shooting and have some fun!
© D. Gould Photography