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Artistic Gifts You Can Make in an Hour

You want to give something special to your close friends and family, but you don't have a lot of time. Sound familiar? Here's an idea that just might save the day. Print your own fine art greeting card, then put a holiday gift certificate inside.

holiday_greeting_cards Fine art greeting cards that I printed myself, with Amazon downloadable gift cards that can be output with any inkjet printer.

There are a variety of ways to accomplish this. I'll explain what I use, then you can tailor to your own tastes. This year I started with Red River Linin 60lb card stock. It's beautiful high quality paper, scored, and folds to a 5"x7" fine art card. I choose a favorite image, then make a print run of about 30 cards. I like to have a few extras.

Red River has a Card Help Center that provides you with tips, templates, and more. I use Aperture for my fine art cards because I can create a template then drop in the photo. But you can use Photoshop, Lightroom, or Photoshop Elements too.

I then add a holiday gift certificate. This year I chose Downloadable Amazon Gift Cardsthat let me set the amount and choose the design. They then send me a PDF of the gift that I can print out and include in my fine art greeting card.

Put everything in a 5"x7" envelope, add a holiday sticker or two, and you're set. You may have heard me mention before that people love these fine art cards. I've had many recipients tell me that they've framed them so they can enjoy year round.


Find great deals at the TDS Photography Store on Amazon.


Accessible time lapse photography is a gift of the digital age. And now, thanks to Boinx Software, it's easier than ever to create stop motion and time lapse video with just an iPad 2. I've been testing the beta version of iStopMotion for iPad ($4.99 in the App Store), and I can tell you right now... it's a blast.

"The Overlook" - recorded with the camera on an iPad 2 with iStopMotion, then finishing touches added in iMovie for iOS. No additional cameras or computers used. By Derrick Story.

To test the nimbleosity of this app, I set out to record, edit, and publish a time lapse movie using just the iPad 2. I put the iPad in a studio clamp with rubber protectors, then mounted it on a Joby Gorillapod Focuswith Ball Head X and launched iStopMotion.

iStopMotion Recording at the Golden Gate Bridge iPad 2 rig for recording "The Overlook."

The excellent battery life for the iPad, and iStopMotion's judicial use of it, allowed me to record over the course of an entire afternoon, into twilight, without having to recharge.

You have three shooting options with the software: front iPad camera, back camera, or via WiFi with the iPhone 4S (using the free companion app, iStopCamera.) I used the back camera for recording "The Overlook," but also tested the iPhone 4S camera via WiFi for making this stop motion movie. I typically shot one frame every 3 seconds when using just the iPad 2, or switched to one frame every 6 seconds when using the iPhone 4S on WiFi. You have control with the duration using this software.

Once you've recorded your images, you can play them back at a variety of frame rates. I typically watched the movies at 12, 15, 24, or 30 fps. If you notice a few images you don't want in there, they can be deleted individually by tapping on the wrench icon.

istopmotion_interface The iStopMotion interface

Other helpful features include onion skinning, exposure setting, and grid lines. Once you have the movie to your liking, you can add a soundtrack from your music library and upload it to your Camera Roll, YouTube account, or share via email. There are three resolution options for export, including HD.

For "The Overlook," I saved scenes to my Camera Roll, then opened them in iMovie for iOS to stitch them together and add the finishing touches. I'm going to discuss this process more in next week's TDS Podcast.

The Bottom Line

iStopMotion for iPad earns a Nimbleosity Rating of 4. That's impressive considering this is the first release of this ambitious app, and we should see further enhancements up the road. Used by itself, you can create simple, but impressive stop motion or time-lapse movies, enhanced by the ability to delete frames and control frame rate. When used in combination with iMovie for iOS, iStopMotion becomes even more powerful. You have an entire recording, editing, and publishing environment, right there on your iPad.


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When we're very busy (as most are this time of year), it can be difficult to adhere to your formal archiving plan. Even I struggle at times with this (it's true!). But I do have a Plan B in force that keeps me protected.

I call it the "Mini 2-Drive Approach with Color Labels." I keep one WD My Passport 750 GB portable hard drivein my backpack and another at the studio. After I upload a shoot to an Aperture library on my MacBook Air (but before I erase the memory card), I copy that project to both external hard drives. It only takes a few minutes. Now I have my photos, plus any work I've done to them, in at least two different places.

Pictures Folder

But here's the real trick: keeping track of the "workflow state" of each library. When looking in the Pictures folder on my MacBook Air, I might forget what I've done, or not done, to each library in there. Has a library been backed up on external drives? Has it been incorporated into my main Aperture library? How do I know?

I use color labels to keep track of these libraries. A yellow color label means the library has been backed up, but not incorporated into my main Aperture system. A blue color label means it's been incorporated into the main Aperture library on my desktop computer. And so I don't forget what's what, I create two empty folders titled "Blue Means Copied to Master Aperture Library" and "Yellow Means Backed Up." That way, I always immediately know the state of any given library on any device.

As for creating the master system itself, take a look at Organizing and Archiving Digital Photos for some new ideas. If you start building your plan now, you should be ready to implement it on Jan. 1, 2012. And if you want to learn more about Aperture itself, such as how to merge libraries as I do here, I have a few titles on lynda.com for that too.

More on Organizing and Archiving Digital Photos

Prepare Your Photo Archiving Plan for 2012

Organizing and Archiving Overview Movie

Choosing the Right Hard Drive for Your Photo Backup

Roundtripping from Lightroom to Photoshop

"Organizing and Archiving Your Photos" - Digital Photography Podcast 290

Quick Keywording Tips in Lightroom 3

Backing Up Aperture 3 Via My Local Network


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Nimble photography isn't just for still photos. Our nimbleosity can extend to movie making too. This week I cover iMovie for the iPad and discuss an easy to adopt workflow. Even though the tools are simple, you'll become comfortable with filmmaking concepts that could prove very handy up the road. All of this, plus a Denny's waitress anecdote, and a whole lot of fun.

iMovie for the iPad 2

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (32 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Family is the Dec. 2011 Photo Assignment. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is Dec. 31, 2011.

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

Red River Paper -- The $7.99 Sample Kit is back! And with free shipping.

Make Your Photos Sizzle with Color! -- SizzlPix is like High Definition TV for your photography.

Need a New Photo Bag? Check out the Lowepro Specialty Store on The Digital Story and use discount code LP20 to saven 20% at check out.




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When in Doubt - Use Burst Mode

I like to set the Drive Mode to "continuous" when shooting animals, children, and people in general. Yes, you take up a bit more space on your memory card. But you also increase the odds of getting the best pose possible. Once you have your favorite shot, you can delete the others if you wish.

To replay the above sequence, I've had the best luck by refreshing the web page.

All you have to do is find Drive Mode on your camera. It's usually represented by clock-like symbol (representing self timer) or a series of squares that illustrate a sequence. In the menu, choose the series of squares. Then start shooting. This setting is particularly good for natural light portraits.


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I packed the new Olympus 45mm f/1.8 prime lens for a high school basketball game to see if could keep up with the action. The glass was mounted on an Olympus PEN Miniusing the VF-2 Electronic Viewfinderinstead of the LCD to compose the shots.

Jumper Jump shot captured the the Olympus PEN Mini and 45mm f/1.8 prime lens. Photo by Derrick Story.

olympus_45mm_lens.jpg

At first, you might think this is an odd rig for action photography. I can tell you, it's actually quite impressive. The focusing is blazing fast with this camera/lens combination -- and by any standard, not just within the world of compact system cameras. Plus, I had 5 fps for burst mode. And to be honest, it felt faster than that.

I set the ISO to 1600 and shot wide open or at f/2 for the entire game, and the resulting images were crisp and clean. You can see a gallery of 10 shots here to give you a better feel for this lens in action.

I had read user reviews of this lens, and everyone said that "you would not regret this purchase." Very seldom that you see such wide agreement about optics. But I'm adding my voice to the chorus. The $399 Olympus 45mm f/1.8 prime is now my favorite Micro Four Thirds lens. Fast, sharp, and affordable.


Find great deals at the TDS Photography Store on Amazon.


DP Review reports that Instagram and Snapseed are the Apps of the year for the iPhone and iPad respectively. The apps are part of Apple's Rewind 2011 selections.

Snapseed for iPad

Obviously, both are excellent choices. For more on Snapseed, here's a review I wrote back in June. The photography tools available on the iPad are quite amazing these days... and affordable.

More Articles About the iPhone 4S

Maximum HDR with iPhone 4S Camera

Gymbl Tripod for iPhone 4S - Hands on Review

Time Lapse Boogie with iPhone 4S

Glif Tripod Mount and Stand for iPhone 4

"iPhone 4S Camera, Ready for Prime Time?" - Digital Photography Podcast 296

iPhone 4S Camera Pros and Cons

iPhone 4S Camera Exceeds My Expectations


The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!


Twilight Photographers

I was working on a project last night at the Golden Gate Bridge north of San Francisco, when I noticed these two photographers in the distance. I always keep a second camera on-hand for unexpected shots. Fortunately, I captured these two before they changed position.

Twilight Photographers

I have two goals on every photo shoot: 1) Make sure I capture what is expected for the assignment, and 2) Be ready for the unexpected.

Only when I have good images in both categories do I consider it a good shoot.


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It's not often that you get to sit down with a Sports Illustrated photographer and learn about life in the end zone. But on Monday, Dec. 12, from 11 am to 12 pm PST (2 to 3 pm EST), you can have a seat at the table with Robert Beck sharing his secrets to sports photography. And it's free.

robert_beck_pro_shooter.jpg Robert Beck hanging out at a football game. Photo by Derrick Story. Click on image for larger version.

I had a chance to hangout with Robert on the sidelines a while back. He's incredibly down to earth for a guy who's published numerous cover shots and double gates. Now you'll have a chance to hear those same stories and insights that I enjoyed so much.

To reserve your spot, sign up now, then log on Monday Dec. 12. It will be time well spent.


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Triple Flash Bracket

Things are sometimes better in threes. Three flashes on one lightstand; three exposures on one frame. Yes, this week I'm talking about multiples. I cover the Adorama Triple Shoe Adapter that costs less than $20, but allows you to put three flashguns on one lightstand. By doing so, you can increase your output while cutting down on the amount of time the flash takes to recycle.

I also cover working with in-camera multiple exposures. My sample shoot is with the Pentax K-5 DSLR. But this technique works with any camera that can accommodate multiple exposures. I like the K-5 because it allows for up to nine images on one frame. For my example, I photographed the lovely Alyssa in three different poses. You can see the image and read more details about the shoot in the post, Multiple Exposure Model Shoot with the Pentax K-5. I guess you could say that this week's show is triple the fun.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (28 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Family is the Dec. 2011 Photo Assignment. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is Dec. 31, 2011.

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

Red River Paper -- The $7.99 Sample Kit is back! And with free shipping.

Make Your Photos Sizzle with Color! -- SizzlPix is like High Definition TV for your photography.

Need a New Photo Bag? Check out the Lowepro Specialty Store on The Digital Story and use discount code LP20 to saven 20% at check out.




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