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Lynda.com just announced the release of my latest title, Digital Photography Principles: The Camera. And they've made 14 movies from the title available for free. That's more than 40 minutes of instruction that you can go watch right now. I hope you check them out, because they are useful and fun. But what I really want to talk about today is how we made this movie. I think it's a real departure from what you normally see on Lynda.

First of all, this isn't your standard screencast type training. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we were able to use Samy's Camera in Santa Barbara as the set for many of our live action movies. It's quite fun having the run of a camera store after hours. During the shoot in Samy's, they lost some of the B-roll footage that showed the close-up shots of equipment that I was explaining. To compensate for this, the next day they photographed every piece of equipment I discussed in the Chapter 13 movies in the Ventura studio, then inserted the stills where the B-roll was supposed to go. The upshot? I think the still photos work better than the B-roll would have. It was more work, but in the end the viewer benefits.

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Then, for other pieces, such as discussing flash mode options, we connected digital cameras via their video output jacks to the recorder. Doing this allowed us to show in real time the various camera menus just like you'd see them on you LCD. I wanted pretty backgrounds while demonstrating the function controls that show the live image as you made adjustments, so I rigged up a light booth and focused the camera on mounted photographs while I discussed the controls.

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You can see an example of this technique above. The picture of the cruise ship is a mounted photo in my rigged-up light booth. I have a camera on a tripod (Sony T200) with a live histogram showing on the LCD. We took the video feed off the LCD from the camera and plugged it into our recorder. Meanwhile, I'm in a closed sound booth with controlled audio to make sure my voice comes across clean and clear. As I said, this isn't your standard Lynda.com training.

We also did fun stuff such as going to a mountain top to shoot a panorama, recorded live face detection demos in the lobby of Lynda.com, and even visited a parking garage to talk about the usefulness of mobile devices. My favorite part in the parking garage is where they shoot me teaching through the back-up video camera on a Toyota Prius.

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Yeah, that's me behind the Toyota. Here's another fun insider story. I mentioned the panorama movie earlier shot on a mountain top. Well, the wind was really whipping that day, as you can see by my tussled hair. There was no way we could capture clean audio. But we really wanted to keep this piece in the title.

So our solution was to make a written transcript of my monologue on the mountain top, then send it to me after I had returned home. I went into the Digital Story podcasting studio and read the transcript while watching the video. I sent my new audio back to Lynda headquarters in Ventura, and they synced up the studio audio with the video. If you watch closely, you'll notice it's a little like a dubbed Japanese horror flick. But it's also fun. I'm really glad we kept the panorama piece in the title.

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There's plenty of other goofy stuff too, but I think you get the idea. When it's all said and done, Digital Photography Principles: The Camera will help lots and lots of people master their camera and take better photos. It's the first installment of a trilogy. I'll be heading down south soon to begin work on the second title. Stay tuned.

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Lots of reader mail has been flowing in lately, and a few of the questions have me stumped. So I thought I'd occasionally run one or two by our adept virtual camera club members to see if anyone has an answer.

Dale writes: "I've been using burst mode on my D300 and noticed something odd that perhaps you could comment on. Whenever I shoot in burst mode I find that the camera records the images slightly out of order."

"For a portrait session, that wouldn't matter of course, but for sports it's a little annoying because I like to have the images in the correct order when I view them on the LCD or in software later."

"For example, when I shoot basketball games, a player might be going up for a lay up, and in the next image, he or she is still driving to the basket. I sometimes will delete images during timeouts, and it's very disconcerting to have the images out of order. Perhaps this is a minor thing, but it sure would be helpful to have them in the correct sequence."

"Have you experienced this or know any solutions?"

Dale, I haven't shot much with a D300 (though would like to), so I don't know what is going on here. But hopefully a few of our readers will have some idea of what may be causing this.

Please post a comment if you think you have an answer... or something interesting to add.


Now Available! The Digital Photography Companion. The official guide for The Digital Story Virtual Camera Club.

  • 25 handy and informative tables for quick reference.
  • Metadata listings for every photo in the book
  • Dedicated chapter on making printing easy.
  • Photo management software guide.
  • Many, many inside tips gleaned from years of experience.
  • Comprehensive (214 pages), yet fits easily in camera bag.

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I'm heading out to Photoshop World this week, and I should have lots to report.

First, I'll be recording interviews in the O'Reilly Media booth with some great photographers including: John Paul Caponigro, Vincent Versace, and Stephen Johnson. I'm also going to chat with Mikkel Aaland live from Tasmania via AIM as he reports on the Lightroom Adventure II from way down under.

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During my stay in Orlando, I'll also promote my new book, The Digital Photography Companion. O'Reilly Media, the publisher, is giving away Photo Companion Cards that I designed, which include tables for exposure compensation, lighting, white balance settings (with Kelvin), and an "After Every Shoot" checklist. The cards look just like the tables in the back of Companion, so if your attending Photoshop World, be sure to come by the O'Reilly booth and get your hands on one. Can't wait to grab a few myself.

If anything hot catches my attention while I'm in Orlando, I'll post here about it. Otherwise, stay tuned for some terrific audio interviews coming your way.


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Events! See the TDS Event Calendar for photography workshops, speaking engagements, and trade show appearances, including my Beginning Workflow with Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom on June 22-28, 2008 in Sante Fe, New Mexico.


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There's so much to like about Aperture 2.1, but the game-changer is Edit API. Apple has created a bonafide plug-in architecture for Aperture that enables 3rd party developers such as Nik Software (Viveza) and PictureCode (Noise Ninja) to place their technology within Apple's pro level photo management application.

In order to give you a glimpse at the possibilities, Apple is providing the first plug-in for free and part of the 2.1 download. Dodge and Burn works just like tools in your favorite external editor, except you don't have to go anywhere. Consider it your "internal editor" that provides very elegant tools for lightening and darkening specific areas of a photo. But wait, there's more. Go to the popup menu in the interface and you'll also see options for saturate, desaturate, sharpen, blur, contrast and fade. This is one heck of an example plug-in.

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The file handling is similar to roundtripping with an external editor. You choose an image in your library to edit, Aperture opens it in the plug-in window, your make your adjustments, then when you save, a new master Tiff is placed in your Aperture library. As always, your original file remains safe. And, if that original is located on an external drive, the new edited plug-in Tiff will be stored there too.

Tablet users will really enjoy this editing experience. Dodge and Burn is fully tablet compliant. This means you can work quickly and accurately with a pressure sensitive pen. And if you're a custom keystroke kind of dude, you can set your own combination for any of the plug-ins enabling one-touch activation.

Developers interested in creating plug-ins for Aperture will be happy to read that the SDK will be available soon. You can find out more by contacting aperturedeveloper@apple.com.

In the meantime, enjoy using Dodge and Burn. It's a much welcomed addition to the Aperture toolset.


Now Available! The Digital Photography Companion. The official guide for The Digital Story Virtual Camera Club.

  • 25 handy and informative tables for quick reference.
  • Metadata listings for every photo in the book
  • Dedicated chapter on making printing easy.
  • Photo management software guide.
  • Many, many inside tips gleaned from years of experience.
  • Comprehensive (214 pages), yet fits easily in camera bag.

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I attended the San Francisco stop of the Aperture World Tour today and had the opportunity to listen to New York pro shooter David Bergman talk about his workflow. This is a guy who sometimes captures as many as 4,000 Raw images in a single assignment.

Since a hobby of mine is appreciating the different ways photographers apply star ratings in their photo management applications, I thought I might pass along David's approach. He starts by going through the entire shoot once applying either a single star on no star to every picture. If a shot gets a single star, it's a legitimate photograph. It might not be a winner, but the focus, exposure, and composition are acceptable. If an image doesn't get a star, then it will most likely never be used.

David then sorts the images, and goes back through the one star images. This time, he looks at them a bit closer, and applies two stars to the pictures that he thinks have potential. He then makes one more pass, this time through the two star images, and applies three stars to the handful of keepers from the shoot. These will be the photos that he will perfect and pass along to the client.

What about four and five stars? David says that four stars are reserved for portfolio pieces, and it's very rare that he would rate an image five stars unless he felt is was a true hero shot.

I know my approach to rating has changed over the years. I thought you might enjoy reading this approach by a big time shooter.

Four star ladybug shot by TDS member Ruth Cooper

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I have this fun talk I've been doing at conferences and user group meetings titled Five Ways to Make Your Photos Look Better, and this coming Thursday, March March 27 at 10 am Pacific Time (17:00 GMT), I'm going to share it online via a live webinar hosted by O'Reilly Media.

The gist of it is this: Thousands of pictures are recorded every day. Many of these shots are personal and not meant to be viewed as art. But what if you could capture the world everyone else sees, but in a more beautiful way? Derrick (that would be me) shows you five ways to make your pictures look a cut above those snapshots we typically see.

You can sign up here for the webinar, but you might want to do so soon; there is a limited number of seats.

It's my first whack at this medium. I think it's going to be loads of fun.


Now Available! The Digital Photography Companion. The official guide for The Digital Story Virtual Camera Club.

  • 25 handy and informative tables for quick reference.
  • Metadata listings for every photo in the book
  • Dedicated chapter on making printing easy.
  • Photo management software guide.
  • Many, many inside tips gleaned from years of experience.
  • Comprehensive (214 pages), yet fits easily in camera bag.

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From June 22 to June 28, 2008, I'll be facilitating a Digital Lab at Santa Fe Workshops titled, Beginning Workflow with Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. I'm very excited about having the opportunity to teach this lab, not just because I'll be working in Santa Fe for a week (although, not bad either), but because I'll be able to share one of my favorite workflows for photographers who want to work efficiently.

The basic approach is to use Adobe tools to identify your best shots quickly, then perfect and move along without getting bogged down in Photoshop. I have lots of great techniques that empower you to be in control or your workflow, and shift your focus back to capturing great shots.

Part of this formula is keeping a few tips in mind while shooting your Raw images. If you know how you want to work on the back-end, then you can capture to optimize that process. I think this approach makes us better craftsmen, and it builds confidence while working in the field.

Plus, we'll all be in Santa Fe. What a great location to share our thoughts and improve our photography. You can register online here, or call (505) 983-1400. If you download the Summer Catalog, (7.5 MBs) you can peruse all the great opportunities available in Santa Fe this coming year.


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Events! See the TDS Event Calendar for photography workshops, speaking engagements, and trade show appearances, including my Beginning Workflow with Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom on June 22-28, 2008 in Sante Fe, New Mexico.


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Second-curtain flash is a technique where the flash fires at the end of a long exposure instead of the beginning. This puts the motion blur in the right location: behind the subject.

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I discovered a PDF online from my DP Hacks book that provides a great tutorial for this technique. You can grab it by downloading Second-Curtain Flash for Cool Effects.

My personal advice. Find that setting on your camera, and just leave it there. I can't think of an instance when I would want the flash to fire at the beginning of the movement instead of at the end. And if you have more to add on this, please post a comment.

Photo by David Goldwasser.

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One of my biggest complaints about the Canon lens arsenal are their 50mm options. There is the sharp, but grindy 50mm f-1.8. This is the lens I use, but not the one I want. Canon's 50mm f-1.4 is only slightly better design wise, but soft at the edges when wide open. And the 50mm f-1.2 is huge and way to expensive for my budget. Therefore, I've begrudgingly stuck with the high-value but low sex appeal 50mm f-1.8 for all these years.

But Sigma may be coming to my rescue. They just announced their 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM, and boy does it look sweet. It will be available in Sigma, Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and Sony mounts. Their specs are exactly what I'm looking for:

  • Standard lens with large maximum aperture of F1.4.
  • It creates sharp images with high contrast and ensures superior peripheral brightness.
  • Incorporates molded glass aspherical lens, perfectly correcting coma aberration and creating superior image quality.
  • Super multi-layer lens coating reduces flare and ghosting.
  • Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) ensuring silent, high-speed AF with manual focus override.

Sigma had not announced price and availability yet. Oh please make it soon and affordable. I'll follow up as soon as I get my hands on one.

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"The new trim size [of The Digital Photography Companion] will make it more appealing for bookstore shelving, but we wanted to make sure it stayed portable too," wrote Colleen Wheeler in her post, It's Still a Pocket Guide at Heart. (The Companion is someone you want with you, not home on the shelf when you need to figure out your exposure compensation setting.) So we went with a 5 1/2 by 8 1/2" size that will fit nicely in camera bags. Oh, and it still fits in some (larger) pockets. (Author carrying case not included.)

Photo by Colleen Wheeler (editor of Companion). Pocket by Derrick Story.

Event Calendar

Events! See the TDS Event Calendar for photography workshops, speaking engagements, and trade show appearances.


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