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We've been able to apply watermarks in Aperture since the beginning, but the problem is they usually don't look the way we want. Unless you create your watermark with a transparent background, you'll get what looks like a rectangular label instead of the more elegant type without a box.

Watermark Applied Watermark with transparent background created in Photoshop, then applied in Aperture 3.

The procedure for a better watermark is relatively simple. Start in Photoshop. Go to File > New, then choose "Transparent" for the Background Contents popup menu in the dialog box. Click OK. Once you've created the file with a transparent background, use the text tool to type and style your watermark. You may want to shade the text light gray instead of black (even though you do have an opacity slider later on in Aperture for fine tuning). If you want a diagonal watermark, go to Image > Image Rotation > Arbitrary and set the angle you want. Once everything looks good, then Save As Copy in the PNG format. You'll also want to save your master as a PSD file for easy editing at a later date.

transparent_background.jpg

Now go to Aperture. Pick the image you want to apply the watermark to, then choose File > Export > Version. In the Export dialog box, choose "Edit" at the bottom of the Export Preset popup menu. Click the "+" icon in the lower left to create a new preset. Set your basic parameters, then check the "Show Watermark" box. Click the "Choose Image" button and navigate to the graphic you created in Photoshop. If you go diagonal, you'll probably want to position it in the center.

Aperture Export Presets

Once everything is set up to your liking, click OK, then click Export Versions. You may have to run a few tests to get everything the way you want. Once you do, you can watermark many images at once by batch exporting from Aperture. You can also set up different export presets for watermarks placed in different positions, such as lower left and lower right.

I don't have to watermark often. But when I do, it's nice to have this set up ahead of time.

More Aperture Tips and Techniques

My next Aperture Workshop is May 23, 2011 in Santa Rosa, CA. write me if you're interested in attending.

To learn more about Aperture 3, check out my Aperture 3 Essential Training on Lynda.com. Also, take a look at our Aperture 3 Learning Center. Tons of free content about how to get the most out of Aperture.



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onOne Software has borrowed one of Photoshop's most hallowed features, Layers, and created a plug-in for two of our favorite nondestructive photo management applications: Lightroom and Aperture.

Perfect Layers is currently available as a free public preview for Lightroom users. The 1.0 version of the software is due to be released later this year, with added compatibility for Aperture and Adobe Bridge. I've tested this current 0.9 release, and have a brief overview for you.

Perfect Layers This image started in Perfect Layers, then went to Photoshop. When I opened it back up in Perfect Layers, it had been been flattened.

Perfect Layers behaves as a typical plug-in. You can access it in Lightroom via File > Plug-in Extras. First I had to enable it via the Plug-in Manager. To do that, I navigated to the Perfect Layers folder that was installed in Applications folder after I downloaded it from the onOne site.

You can start with any file in your Lightroom library: Raw, Jpeg, etc. Perfect Layers creates a separate Photoshop file and opens it in its interface. You don't get something for nothing at this point. I started with a 29 MB Raw file, and ended up with a 160 MB PSD file (for a 2 layer document). Like most plug-ins, I recommend that you only tap it when you really need its functionality. Otherwise, stay within the nondestructive workflow.

You have the essentials of Layers in Photoshop, but certainly not all of the functionalty you'd find in CS5. You have nine blending modes: normal, lighten, darken, screen, multiply, overlay, soft light, hard light, and color. You also have basic masking tools. There are opacity sliders for both blending and masking.

At this point in its development, Perfect Layers doesn't play well with Photoshop CS5. You can open a Perfect Layers document in Photoshop, and have those layers available to you. That's nice. But, in my testing, if you make any changes to the document in Photoshop, you lose your layers upon returning to Perfect Layers. Also, you can't import a Photoshop layered document in to Perfect Layers and use the layers. It comes in flattened.

I'm hoping that this problem is resolved by the time onOne finishes the software. This is in public review now, and my feedback is that I would like layer compatibility between Perfect Layers and Photoshop for final release.

As for using the software, I very much enjoyed the experience. To me, it feels like a more modern version of the Layers interface. I'm sure some Photoshop experts might not like it because they are already comfortable with the legacy tools. But for photographers trying to get their feet wet with layers, I think this is a nice introduction. And it's a handy tool within the Lightroom environment.

Will Perfect Layers be worth the estimated $150 price tag? That depends on the improvements that are added during the public review period. It also depends on your personal workflow. If you use layers often, I think the tools in Photoshop are more robust. But if you're primarily a Lightroom or Aperture user who ocassionally wants to use layers for a particular image, then this plug-in might make sense. It will be easier to judge its value in the coming months.


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In addition to showing off your work on Flickr, you can become a museum curator and create galleries of images by other photographers. Each gallery can display up to 18 images, and it's a great way to show others interesting shots that you've discovered. It's a feature that many Flickr users are aware of.

To see how this works, plus more tips, take a look at this movie from my Flickr Essential Training title, and see what you think.

More Training Available

We have many more informative movies available in the lynda.com title, Flickr Essential Training. Stop by and learn how to get the most from your favorite photo sharing application.

Previously on The Digital Story

Using Google to Search Within Flickr

Flickr Keyboard Shortcuts

Flickr Updates Share Tools for Facebook, Twitter

Introduction to Flickr Essential Training


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I was thrilled to read that Eye-Fi has enabled a direct mode feature to its X2 series of cards. I had read in some of the reviews on the new iPad/iPhone app page that this functionality was difficult to enable. I decided to give it a spin (was going to anyway!).

Eye-Fi Direct Mode Direct mode transfer with an Eye-Fi Pro X2 card to an iPad. Click on image for larger size. Photo by Derrick Story.

The first thing I had to do was update the Eye-Fi Center software to the latest version. You can do this easily within the app. I then connected my Pro X2 card to the MacBook Air via the Eye-Fi card reader. I could use the built-in SD card slot on the Air, but I've learned that Eye-Fi cards like their own reader if one is available. Things just work better.

I then was able to update the firmware on the X2 card. This took about 30 seconds. Once I did that I could go to settings in Eye-Fi Center and enable Direct Mode.

eye-fi_direct_mode Enabling Direct Mode in the Eye-Fi Center software.

After I hit Save, I checked my other settings, then ejected the card. I put the Pro X2 in the Canon 60D, and took a couple of shots. My iPad was ready to go. I had downloaded the latest Eye-Fi software from the iTunes App Store. So all I had to do was enable Direct Mode on the iPad app, and then I could try a transfer. I picked one of the images on the 60D, protected it (I have selective upload that uses the protect function to determine what gets uploaded), and within 30 seconds, the image appeared on the iPad.

So my advice is to explore all of the settings in the Eye-Fi Center and in the Eye-Fi iPad/iPhone app to make sure you have all the Ts crossed. I'm going to continue to test this setup in different environments. I'll report anything new I find out. But so far, so good!


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This project recorded with an Olympus XZ-1 and Canon T3i, both shot at 720p. The studio demo footage employed the Rode VideoMic Pro plugged into the external mic jack of the T3i. The SF footage was captured with the XZ-1 without any accessories.

The Lowepro CompuDay Photo 150($65) is a messenger bag designed specifically for photographers. It has a clever camera compartment that allows access on-the-go to your DSLR, or that can be compressed when not in use to reclaim space in the bag.

I have a nice demo on the CompuDay Photo 150, then I take it on a business appointment in San Francisco to meet with pro shooter, Mikkel Aaland.

I really enjoy using the Lowepro CompuDay Photo 150for this type of work. I can carry up to a 17" laptop, DSLR, iPad, and misc gear, while not attracting attention to myself. Perfect for the urban environment.

Thanks to Mikkel Aaland for his help with this project.

More Lowepro Gear Videos

Lowepro Versapack 200 AW: Great for Biking Too

Stylish, Compact Bags for ILC Cameras

"10 Tips for Packing Your Camera Bag" - Digital Photography Podcast 265

Fashion Shooter Vered Koshlano Sports Tech Vest


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Exposure, color, and composition... the basics of photography. In this week's episode, we're going to review how the camera sees light, and how you can tame it to see the world the way your eyes do.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (34 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

Broken is the April 2011 Photo Assignment. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is April 30, 2011.

The SizzlPix Pick of the Month for the "Loved One" Photo Assignment is Kevin Miller for his shot, "Andrew, a special needs friend, loves his dogs."

TDS Fall 2011 Photography Workshop

We're making plans now for the Fall 2011 TDS Photography Workshop. If you want your name on the reserve list, just drop me a line.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. It's a blast!

Podcast Sponsors

Red River Paper -- Try the $7.99 Sample Kit.

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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Bee on Lavender 3

Canon offers the Rebel T3i with the EF-S 18-135mm IS Zoomas a step-up to the shorter 18-55mm lens (it's an actual kit at a special price). Aside from the extended telephoto range, is it worth spending an extra $250 for this upgrade?

If you want a single lens that ranges from an effective 29mm to 216mm range, non-rotating front objective lens (better for polarizing filters), and metal lens mount, then you might be tempted by this upgrade. But if you're looking for a bump in image quality over the 18-55mm kit lens, then hang on to your wallet: the two lenses are about the same in terms of sharpness and distortion control. Now that isn't necessarily bad news, since both the 18-55mm and 18-135mm are solid performers.

"Bee on Lavender" photographed with a Rebel T3i and 18-135mm EF-S zoom at 135mm wide open (f/5.6). ISO 500, 1/250th second. The Jpeg image was first processed in Aperture 3, with a bit of additional sharpening in Photoshop CS5. Click on image for larger version. Photo by Derrick Story.

I've been testing the the 18-135mm on a Canon EOS Rebel T3i, and have enjoyed using it. Even though it's a bigger lens and does weigh more than the 18-55mm, it feels good on the Rebel body. And I liked not having to change lenses as often as I had previously with the shorter kit lens.

Canon EF-S 18-135mm IS Zoom Lens Canon EF-S 18-135mm IS Zoom Lens mounted on a EOS Rebel T3i. Click on image for larger size. Photo by Derrick Story.

If you want to go to the next level of image quality, however, I recommend the EF-S 15-85mm zoom that has a wider angle of view, quiet USM focusing motor, better build, and better sharpness, especially on the corners. However, this zoom costs about 3X more ($795) because it isn't a kit option, and doesn't have the same reach as the 18-135mm.

So, for essentially $250 (when purchased as part of a kit), the 18-135mm is a very good deal. (Keep in mind if you buy the 18-135mm separately, it's about $650.) And after shooting with it for a few weeks, I would have a hard time going back to the shorter 18-55mm kit zoom. I'd consider the upgrade if you're looking at the new Rebels.


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Until recently, I had considered the Lowepro Versapack 200 AW as primarily a hiking backpack. But I've discovered it's terrific for biking too. Here's a short movie on how I pack it for two-wheeled adventures.


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I've had photographers tell me that they would patiently wait -- sometimes for an hour -- for people to clear out of a scene so they could photograph it. This becomes a bigger challenge once school lets out and family vacation season begins.

But, do people really ruin your scenic shots? Take a look at the comparison below, captured at Ledson Winery in Sonoma County. (Cast you vote for which image you like best in the comments section of this article.)

Ledson Winery, Sonoma County, CA Do people really ruin this scenic shot? Personally, I don't think so. Click on image for larger version. Photos by Derrick Story.

Sometimes people add visual interest to a composition. Plus they can help with sense of scale. Yet it's true, there are those situations where they are an annoying distractions no matter how you compose the scene.

So the answer for me is to try to capture the photo both ways, then decide later which version I like best. And if it's not possible to eliminate those pesky humans, then I wait for a decisive moment where they're doing something interesting.

As for the photo above, which way to you vote? People... or not?


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"Rocket Launch" - Grab Shot 213

"I've been trying to capture a rocket launch from Vandenberg for almost a year now," writes Thomas Emmerich. "I finally got my chance tonight, and it came out pretty good for my first try. I almost missed it by mis-judging the launch angle from Ventura (CA)."

"Rocket Launch" - Grab Shot 213 Thomas Emmerich "Rocket Launch" - Grab Shot 213 by Thomas Emmerich. Click on image for larger version.

"I had to move the camera at the last moment and missed the first few seconds of the launch. The hard part about taking these shots is you can't see anything in the viewfinder while setting up, and then once you open the shutter, you can't tell where the rocket is in the frame or if its even in the frame. There are no second chances."

"I used my Canon T2i with a borrowed Canon 17-40mm F4L lens. Settings were F/8 and bulb mode with a infrared remote trigger to start and stop the exposure of 95 seconds. ISO 400. I found tips on photographing rockets at night by doing a Google search for 'Photograph Vandenberg Rocket Launch'".

There was quite a bit of water vapor in the air, which was made visible by the long exposure and the parking lot lights behind me.

This is our 213th Grab Shot! Wow. If you want to review the collection that began back in 2006, go to our Grab Shots page.

If you have a candid you'd like to share, take a look at our Submissions page, then send us your Grab Shot. We'll try to get it published for you on The Digital Story.

And you can view more images from our virtual camera club in the Member Photo Gallery.


The Digital Story Podcast App is the best way to stream or download weekly TDS podcast episodes. No more syncing your iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, or even your Android phone just to get a podcast. And the best part is, The Digital Story Podcast App is your way to help support this show. Download it today!


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