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The Joy of Manual Flash

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I just finished a big two-month project for a Northern CA credit union, and I did not use TTL flash once for my strobe lighting. Instead, I relied my manual flash rig that's been serving me well the last year or so.

I've never been happier. The results have never been better.


My photo assistant, Leah, posing while I test my lighting on location for a client assignment. I used the manual flash rig described in this article.


I cover the gear and techniques I use in the article, Manual Flash in the Digital Age. The concept is simple. Using manual exposure settings for my camera - a Canon 5D Mark II in this case - and variable power settings on a pair of old Sunpak hotshoe flashes, I'm able to capture exactly the lighting effect I want, and enjoy extremely consistent images over the span of hundreds of frames.

Because the camera exposure and flash output is "locked in," I don't have to worry about variances if I recompose, focus on a different part of the composition, or change camera angles. This exposure consistency looks very professional when clients review the proofs.

If you want to learn more about this technique, and possibly put into use those old strobes stashed in your closet, take a look at Manual Flash in the Digital Age on the lynda.com Article Center.


Recover Photos from Memory Cards

What should you do (and more importantly not do) if something goes wrong with your camera's memory card? Help is on the way! Check out my lynda.com title, Recovering Photos from Memory Cards, and save those valuable pictures.

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The new Photos app in iOS 8 not only adds functionality to our iPhones and iPads, but it's a preview of things to come in Mac OS X Yosemite. So it's worth a look at its image editing tools. Here's a tour on my iPad Mini with Retina Display.

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Basic Editing Tools

Most enthusiast photographers will want to head over to the Light/Color/B&W panel that is activated by tapping on the icon that is fourth from the top. Apple logically displays options for Light, Color, and B&W - the basics of image editing.


Adjusting with the Light Tools

Tap on Light and you can make a global adjustment by sliding up and down on the thumbnails that represent tonal adjustments. It works fine, but the real goodies are revealed by tapping on the menu icon beneath them.

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Now it gets interesting. There are six additional adjustments that you can play with just by tapping on them. Here's what they do:

  • Exposure - Adjusts the bright values of the image. For those familiar with Histograms, Exposure effects the right side of the graph.
  • Highlights - Enables recovery of highlight detail. If you have tones that are "blown out" in the brightest areas of the image, this will help you bring them back.
  • Shadows - Helps you recover lost detail in the darkest areas of the photo.
  • Brightness - This is a midtone luminance adjustment. For those familiar with Histograms, Brightness effects the middle of the graph.
  • Contrast - Impacts the bright areas and dark areas at the same time. Increasing contrast makes the darks darker and the brights brighter. Decreasing contrast does just the opposite.
  • Black Point - Adjusts the dark areas of the image. For those familiar with Histograms, Black Point effects the left side of the graph.


Adjusting with the Color Tools

As with Light, you can make an overall color adjustment by sliding up and down on the color thumbnails. Tap on the menu icon beneath them, and there are three additional adjustments: Saturation, Contrast, and Cast. Here's what they do.

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  • Saturation - Increases or decreases the intensity of the color for all values.
  • Contrast - This is a new control, and it behaves similar to Saturation, but also impacts the tonal values. I like this new effect.
  • Cast - It's not really warm to cool, or magenta to green, but more of a hybrid color adjustment that seems to combine the two. Bottom line, if your color is a bit off, this slider is designed to help you correct it.


Adjusting with the B&W Tools

The engineers at Apple must like B&W photography. The tools here are pretty sophisticated. Here's what they've included.

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  • Intensity - This adjustment attacks the color conversion to B&W. As you slide it up and down, you'll notice that it effects the colored areas of the image, but doesn't have much impact on the neutral tones.
  • Neutrals - On the other hand, Neutrals has a powerful effect on the whites. So you have a separate control to work with the conversion of the brightest objects in the image.
  • Tone - This slider seems to impact everything in the image: blacks, whites, and middle tones. It's almost like a contrast slider for B&W.
  • Grain - Do you want to add a little grit to your image. Maybe Tri-X pushed to ASA 800? Grain is your slider for that.

    • General Tips

      You can view the original version of the image by tapping and holding on it. Lift your finger and you're returned to the edited version.

      The tool bar can be positioned on any side of the frame. Rotate your iPad to place it on the side that works best for you.

      When cropping, you can pinch to zoom the image in the frame. Very handy. You can lock-in aspect rations by tapping the icon in the lower right corner next to Cancel.

      There's no sharpening feature (that I could find) at this time. For that, you'll need to move over to another app.


      Final Thoughts

      Overall all, Photos App in iOS 8 is a big step forward. I like the tools that are there now. And I'm hoping for more to come with future updates.


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      Photos for iOS 8 has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

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Now that everyone has put their cards on the table in Cologne Germany, it's time to separate the wheat from the chaff. My favorite camera from Photokina is the diminutive Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GM5 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds digital camera with 12-32mm lens ($899).

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If you haven't studied this little guy yet, here are the basic specs:

  • 16MP Digital Live MOS Sensor
  • 1,166k-dot electronic viewfinder
  • External flash hotshoe
  • Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Highly Compact Magnesium Alloy body
  • LUMIX G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 lens
  • Approx. 2.19 x 0.94" (55.5 x 24 mm) at 2.47 ounces

Compared to the sexy new compacts announced, such as the Canon G7X and the Leica D-Lux 24-75mm, the Panasonic GM5 provides me with a large Micro Four Thirds sensor, an interchangeable lens mount compatible with my current collection, an electronic viewfinder, WiFi, and great performance... in a body the same size as a premium compact that costs as much.

Of all the tempting cameras from Photokina, the GM5 is my pick.


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The Panasonic GM5 has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

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Leica is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the birth of the legendary Leica rangefinder system with a strictly limited special edition - the Leica M Edition 60.

"In the place of a monitor screen, you find only an ISO setting dial. All exposures are saved exclusively as RAW data in DNG format. Working with the Leica M Edition 60 demands the same care and attention as when working with analogue models."

The front of the camera is beautiful, featuring a Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH prime lens. If you watch the unboxing movie on the Leica site, you'll notice that it comes with a very nice pair of white cotton gloves -- just in case it's going straight to the display case.

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How much will this interchangeable lens beauty set you back? You can preorder it from B&H Photo for $18,500.

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This week on The Digital Story Photography Podcast: Panasonic's Smartphone with a 1" Sensor, Lowepro's new ProTactic Urban Backpack, and Olympus Announces the 40-150mm f-2.8 PRO Lens - All of this and more on today's show with Derrick Story.

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Story #1 - Panasonic announces Lumix DMC-CM1 smartphone with 1-inch sensor. "The 1" sensor is around seven times larger than the 1/3"-type sensors that are common on more conventional smartphones. The large sensor is coupled with an F2.8 Leica lens that offers an equivalent focal length of 28mm. This is by far the best camera specification on any smartphone and the 20MP resolution should even allow for a good-quality digital zoom. The CM1 is also capable of recording 4K-video and Raw images. Focus, aperture, shutter speed, ISO and white balance can all be adjusted manually, and there's a mechanical click-wheel around the lens "barrel" on the front of the camera/phone." (Source: DP Connect).

In other news, Panasonic LX100 takes its own road: RX100-series rival boasts 4/3-inch sensor, blazing performance. "Panasonic has opted for the same 4/3"-type sensor size it uses in its mirrorless cameras, and that offers almost double the surface area of a 1"-type chip. The difference shows itself in a sensitivity range that tops out at a lofty ISO 25,600." (Source: PhotographyBlog.com).

And finally, Panasonic Gives Its GM Series a Boost with the EVF-Toting GM5. "... just to the left of its hotshoe you'll find an all-new EVF with 1.1 million dots, designed to work seamlessly with the included external flash. The update also brings a new control dial on the back to compliment the touchscreen interface; and despite using the same sensor as the GM1, the GM5 is now capable of pushing out 1080p video at up to 60 frames per second." (Source: PetaPixel).

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Story #2 - Lowepro Debuts the ProTactic 350 AW Camera and Laptop Backpack ($199). This urban backpack features access points on top, sides, and back. It accommodates up to a 13" laptop. Includes 5 modular accessories, removable waist belt, newly designed dividers, tripod holder, AW cover, and brand new ActivZone System Harness system. And if you need more storage space, there's the ProTactic 450AW.

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Story #3 - Olympus Announces the 40-150mm f-2.8 PRO lens ($1,499). Specs include: 16 elements in 10 groups, 9-blade aperture, 72mm filter ring, two high-grade lens elements using dual linear VCM (Voice Coil Motor) motors, minimum focusing distance of 20 inches, dedicated function button, sliding lens hood, and it's just over 6" in length. Available in November.

Story #4 - From the Screening Room - Foundations of Photography: Night and Low Light with Ben Long. Ben says in this movie, "In this course, we are going to take a look at all kinds of low-light shooting situations, from trying to get good results in a dimly lit room in your house to prowling around in the dark, looking for photos that cannot exist with higher light levels."

You can watch Ben in action by visiting the TDS Screening Room at lynda.com/thedigitalstory. While you're there, you can start your 7 day free trial to watch other design, photography, and computing titles, plus every other topic in the library.

Virtual Camera Club News

The SizzlPix September Discount Order early, starting today, and for every day between now and the end of September, SizzlPix will subtract 1% (one-percent) from the cost of your order. Remember the rhyme, "30 days hath September ..." You can see how much you'll save! Remember to put TDS September Discount in the comments field.

Visit the Red River Paper Card Shop. You can peruse top selling cards, order the card sample kit, and read tutorials on card printing. Save on Ground Shipping for Red River Paper. Use coupon code ground50c to receive a 50 percent discount on UPS ground shipping for Red River Paper. No minimum purchase required.

Photo Assignment for September 2014 is "Shot from Behind".

If you haven't done so already, please post a review for The Digital Story Podcast in iTunes.

BTW: If you're ordering through B&H or Amazon, please click on the respective ad tile under the Products header in the box half way down the 2nd column on thedigitalstory.com. That helps support the site.

Download the Show

In addition to subscribing in iTunes, you can also download the podcast file here (28 minutes). You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. And from those images, I choose the TDS Member Photo of the Day.

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SizzlPix! - High resolution output for your photography. You've never seen your imagery look so good. SizzlPix.com. SizzlPix! now is qualified for PayPal "Bill Me Later," No payments, No interest for up to 6 months, which means, have your SizzlPix! now, and pay nothing until January!

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The Olympus 40-150mm f-2.8 PRO lens (80-300mm in 35mm equivalent) is the first telephoto in the M.ZUIKO PRO series to feature dust, splash, and freeze proof construction. Mount it on the OM-D E-M1, and you have a powerful pro rig that weighs far less than its DSLR cousins.

Specs include: 16 elements in 10 groups, 9-blade aperture, 72mm filter ring, two high-grade lens elements using dual linear VCM (Voice Coil Motor) motors, minimum focusing distance of 20 inches, dedicated function button, sliding lens hood, and it's just over 6" in length.

The M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40-150mm f2.8 PRO Lens will be available in Nov. 2014 for $1,499.

Need more reach? The MC-1.4x teleconverter boosts the zoom range of the 40-150mm f-2.8 PRO lens to a 420mm equivalent. It offers the same dust, splash, and freezeproof build quality of the PRO Series zoom. The MC-14 1.4x Teleconverter will be available in Nov. 2014 for an estimated street price of $349.

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I love shooting with my Olympus 75 to 300mm II f4.8-6.7 zoom lens. I've captured many beautiful images with it.

The temptation with a long lens such as this, however, is to push it beyond its capabilities. The most common scenario is at sporting events, especially indoors or at night when there isn't as much available light. In those situations, you'll have a difficult time "stopping the action" because the lens isn't "bright enough" to achieve a fast shutter speed.

Here are a few examples of what I recommend you should, and should not shoot with a consumer telephone under these conditions.

Should: Portraits and Human Interaction

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There are so many opportunities for interesting people shots, and your zoom can help you isolate them. Both the fan image at the top of the article and the portrait of Yasiel Puig were terrific long zoom opportunities. Fan Shot: Olympus E-M1, 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 zoom, set to 78mm, ISO 3200, f/5.6, 1/200th. And the portrait of Puig: Olympus E-M1, 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 zoom, set to 300mm, ISO 3200, f/7.1, 1/400th.

Should Not: Action on the Field or Court

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In all honesty, it's not so much that you should not shoot these images. It's more that you should not expect them to look like a pro-caliber capture. Generally speaking, they won't.

Why? It really comes down to shutter speed. Even at a high ISO, there just isn't enough light to provide the shutter speed you need. This shot of Puig sliding back to second base was captured at 1/200th of a second. There's lots of motion blur. Plus it looks like I moved the camera a bit during the capture also. To have any hope of freezing the action, I would need at least 1/500th, and probably 1/1000th of a second.

With a pro lens I would have an aperture of f/2.8 or f/4. With this lens, I could only get f/6.7 at 270mm. That's 2.5 stops darker than f/2.8. With an f/2.8 lens, I could have had a shutter speed in the neighborhood of 1/1000th instead, and that's without raising the ISO any further.

What I'm really saying here is to manage your expectations when using consumer gear in these situations. And by adding plenty of portraits and fan moments to the mix, you'll feel that your overall shoot was more successful.

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Fall is a wonderful time of year for photographers to explore nature. And a location that's prominate in many a bucket lists is beautiful Yosemite. Maybe this is the year you finally get there?

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I just read an excellent article by Colby Brown titled, A Photographer's Guide to Visiting Yosemite. Colby covers getting there, when to visit, accommodations, places to photograph, and more. And it's all from a photographer's perspective. You might want to bookmark this article... especially if this turns out to be the year you pack your gear and visit.

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

Fujifilm X100T Makes a Good Camera Better

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The just-announced Fujifilm X100T camera ($1,299) adds a host of improvements to the very popular X100S.

Highlights include:

  • Advanced Hybrid Viewfinder (OVF/EVF) equipped with an electronic rangefinder
  • Electronic shutter option up to 1/32000 seconds (and totally silent)
  • High-definition 1.04M-dot 3" LCD (big improvement over the 460K-dot predecessor)
  • New Classic Chrome and other film simulation modes
  • Full HD video 1080p at 60fps; bit rate of 36Mbps
  • Jack for stereo microphone
  • New aperture ring that now has positive click stops in 1/3 increments
  • Interval timer shooting (1 second to 24 hours up to 999 frames)
  • Built-in WiFi with remote control capability
  • New Hand Grip MHG-X100; possible to swap the battery and media while the grip is attached to the camera

And you still get the excellent specification that has made this series so popular: 16.3MP APS-C X-Trans sensor, 35mm f/2.0 lens, and outstanding build quality.

The X100T in silver or black should be available by mid-November.


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The Fujifilm X100T has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

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You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

This week on The Digital Story Photography Podcast: New Camera in iPhone 6, Apple Watch Blockbuster, Free U2 Album - All of this and more on today's show with Derrick Story.

Story #1 - Western Digital launches My Passport Wireless hard drive ($179) with built-in SD card reader. When a memory card is inserted into the drive it can be set back up your photos or automatically ingest all images, then wipe the card clean afterwards. To view your images you can either connect the drive to a computer using USB3, or you can connect to it wirelessly using the free WD My Cloud mobile app. (Source: DP Review).

In other news, Sony QX1, QX30 debut: Transform your smartphone into an APS-C ILC or 30x superzoom - The Sony QX1 sports a large 20.1-megapixel Exmor APS-C CMOS sensor a la the Sony A5000, and a fully functional E-mount lens flange. The QX30, has a resolution of 20.4 megapixels, and it's paired to a 24-720mm-equivalent, f/3.5-6.3, 30x optical zoom lens. (Source: PhotographyBlog.com).

And finally, Lomography Unveils the LC-A 120: 'The World's Most Compact Fully-Automatic 120 Camera' ($430). Features include multiple-exposure mode, rear curtain flash sync and a four-step zone focusing system with the closest focusing distance being roughly two feet. (Source: PetaPixel).

Story #2 - iPhone 6 with New Camera is Announced by Apple. As reported by The Verge: "It has a 8-megapixel camera with a f/2.2 aperture and 1.5µ pixels, just like the last model. But the sensor has been upgraded. The "next generation iSight sensor" has what Apple's calling "focus pixels." Those pixels offer DSLR-like phase detection autofocus, which is supposed to be twice as fast as the 5S. And now it's easier to take high-dynamic range (HDR) photos. Both iPhones can take HDR shots with a single click of the shutter, rather than a series of shots as before."

Also, a difference in image stabilization. The iPhone 6 Plus employes an optical stabilizer. And finally, "Video has also been improved across both phones. The smartphones can shoot 1080p video in 30 or 60 frames per second, and there's a fairly stunning 240fps slow-mo video mode, too. If you like taking pictures of yourself, you'll be glad to hear that the front-facing iSight camera has improved face detection and a new "burst" selfie mode to help you get the best shot."

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Story #3 - The Impressive Apple Watch and a Free U2 Album, "Songs of Innocence." Will report on all of these in segment 3 of today's show.

Story #4 - From the Screening Room - Photographing and Assembling a Lunar Eclipse Composite with Seán Duggan. Ever wonder how photographers create those cool lunar composites? Now you can get the inside scoop. Sean shows you how to capture, organize, and assemble the elements for a lunar composite.

You can watch Sean in action by visiting the TDS Screening Room at lynda.com/thedigitalstory. While you're there, you can start your 7 day free trial to watch other design, photography, and computing titles, plus every other topic in the library.

Story #5 - Telezoom Test. Slide Scanners Tested, Wildlife Photo Tips, Mobile Raw Processing Apps, How the Fine Art Market Works, and more - A preview of the Fall Issue of c't Digital Photography Magazine. If you're not a subscriber yet, here's a 20 percent discount.

Virtual Camera Club News

The SizzlPix September Discount Order early, starting today, and for every day between now and the end of September, SizzlPix will subtract 1% (one-percent) from the cost of your order. Remember the rhyme, "30 days hath September ..." You can see how much you'll save! Remember to put TDS September Discount in the comments field.

Visit the Red River Paper Card Shop. You can peruse top selling cards, order the card sample kit, and read tutorials on card printing. Save on Ground Shipping for Red River Paper. Use coupon code ground50c to receive a 50 percent discount on UPS ground shipping for Red River Paper. No minimum purchase required.

Photo Assignment for September 2014 is "Shot from Behind".

If you haven't done so already, please post a review for The Digital Story Podcast in iTunes.

BTW: If you're ordering through B&H or Amazon, please click on the respective ad tile under the Products header in the box half way down the 2nd column on thedigitalstory.com. That helps support the site.

Download the Show

In addition to subscribing in iTunes, you can also download the podcast file here (39 minutes). You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. And from those images, I choose the TDS Member Photo of the Day.

Podcast Sponsors

lynda.com - Learn lighting, portraiture, Photoshop skills, and more from expert-taught videos at lynda.com/thedigitalstory.

Red River Paper -- Keep up with the world of inkjet printing, and win free paper, by liking Red River Paper on Facebook.

SizzlPix! - High resolution output for your photography. You've never seen your imagery look so good. SizzlPix.com. SizzlPix! now is qualified for PayPal "Bill Me Later," No payments, No interest for up to 6 months, which means, have your SizzlPix! now, and pay nothing until January!

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You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.