Recently in Photography

  Page 250 of 296 in Photography  

As the author, I'm one of the first people on the planet to get my hands on the just-printed The Digital Photography Companion. This seems like a good opportunity to provide you with insights about the book that you won't find anywhere else.

Before I get to the anecdotes, let's start with the basic specs. The trim size is 5.5" wide by 8.5" tall. It's a nice size that fits in a lot of places. Companion is 228 pages, full color, and printed on 60# coated stock. Personally, I would have preferred a slightly denser 70# stock, and may get my way in future editions (depending on how the first run sells). The good news about the lighter paper stock is that it does keep the thickness of the book to about .5", which makes it easy to stash in the camera bag or jacket pocket. Overall, the book has a very nice look and feel, with good robust binding and clean printing. I'm always nervous about sending the work off the the printer. For the first printing of Companion, they did a great job.

dpc_pge100.jpg
A galley print from page 100 of The Digital Photography Companion. I had some excellent contributors to the book too. This candid was captured by Paige Green.

Who Is This Book For?

Companion is for the average amateur who is passionate about photography and wants to take better pictures. So if you're a seasoned pro, you're not going to get as much from this guide as someone who is more at the enthusiast level. That being said, I've been taking pictures since I was 11 years old, and there's plenty of good stuff in here that I continue to refer to. Companion is also designed to be the official manual for The Digital Story virtual camera club. (The TDS logo and URL is on the back cover.) And we have a dedicated Companion area on the site for us to add more techniques and reader contributions to keep this a living, breathing project.

The Cover

dpc_cover_sm.jpg

The cover turned out beautifully. The photo reproduction is spot-on, front and back. One interesting tidbit that I want to share has to do with the main cover image. The composition features the Sentinel Building -- now occupied by American Zoetrope. The photo was captured with a Canon G1, a somewhat elderly compact camera. This sets the tone for one of the major themes of the book: You don't have to have "professional" equipment to shoot professional looking images. Learning how to use the tools you have is what's important. When you get your hands on Companion, take a close look at this picture, and see what you think. The cover shot also sets the tone for another theme: get closer. Most shots that you'll see of this tandem (the Sentinel building and the Transamerica Pyramid) will be more loosely composed. I decided to shoot them tight.

Types of Cameras Used for Illustrations and Metadata

Speaking of different types of cameras, one of the new features in Companion is a metadata table in the Appendix (starting on page 196). It lists every shot in the book with its basic information such as camera model, exposure settings, focal length, ISO, location, and photographer. This is to help you understand how each photograph was recorded, and to some degree, drives home the point that camera type doesn't matter nearly as the other variables. A large percentage of images in the book were captured with compacts and entry-level DSLRs. (The best camera is the one you have with you!)

This doesn't mean that we compromised on the images. No way! One mistake that I made in earlier books was that I would use a shot that happened to be a great example of a particular technique, but the photo itself might not have been as appealing as it could have been. For this book, I wanted every shot to be compelling, and be a good example. This was a good call. Companion is my most attractive book to date.

This Book Has an Interface

There's definitely a "look" to many photography software applications these days. The charcoal or neutral gray background that is perfect for picture viewing. When you open up Adobe Bridge or Lightroom, or Apple's Aperture, or even the Events in iPhoto, you see what I mean. I like this look and wanted to bring it to Companion. Not only is it appealing to the eye, it feels in sync with what we're seeing on the computer these days.

As part of this, the tables had to be redesigned to fit in with the rest of the interface. This particular area was actually the brainchild of the book's editor, Colleen Wheeler. After many conversations between the two of us, she decided to bring our ideas to life so we could show the designer exactly what we had in mind. Colleen built samples and templates in Apple's Pages program. We played with the look, and ultimately submitted them to the designer, David Futato.

dpc_p187.jpg

It seemed to resonate with him. David refined the look that Colleen created in Pages, and I think it's quite attractive. Then, by adding lots of photo examples, tons of tables, extensive table of contents and index, plus a full blown Appendix, we have what Colleen calls, "the most reader friendly book I've ever worked on."

What's Different in Companion Compared to Pocket Guide

You may be familiar with Companion's little brother, Digital Photography Pocket Guide, 3rd Ed. I've had owners of the previous book ask me why they should be interested in Companion. There are a number of reasons.

First, Companion is completely up to date. So regardless if we're talking about camera specs or the latest version of Aperture (2.0), Companion is right there on top of it. Next, I have two completely new chapters that aren't in Pocket Guide, "I've Taken Great Pictures, Now What?" and "Printing Made Easy." Both of these chapters are designed to help you once you're uploaded your images to the computer. I think the printing chapter is particularly useful, because I've taken all of the voodoo out of getting great prints. Just follow these steps and your prints will look great.

Also, I've added more tables, better pictures, and put them all in a more attractive design. In a lot of ways, this is the book I wanted to do from the beginning. And thanks to solid Pocket Guide sales in the past, I was able to get the resources that weren't available before.

Final Thoughts

My goal for this project was to create a book that would appeal to the eyes, be informative without attitude, and help empower whoever embraced it to take pictures that were a cut above the general photography aptitude. And, I wanted to make people smile. No so much a ha-ha smile that follows a good anecdote, but more the smile that results from feeling confident. And in the end, you will be the judge as to whether I accomplished that or not.

The Digital Photography Companion is available now on Amazon.com, and for less than $20. The revenue it generates helps support our virtual camera club, The Digital Story, which will always be free and open to any photographer who wants to participate.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

applescript_banner.jpg

Have you seen this? Sal Sogholan just published an amazing Aperture-InDesign Integration Demo on Apple.com that enables you to use Aperture as the database for an InDesign-based publishing system, complete with maintaining direct links to the related master images in the Aperture library. "Placed previews can be updated as needed and even replaced with high-resolution exports in preparation for offset or direct-to-plate printing."

And the best part is, you can try it for yourself by downloading the Aperture-InDesign demo installer. Sal had warned me that there were some powerful scripting hooks baked into the latest version of Aperture. This manifestation is one of the first of many cool automation tools to pop out of that oven. Take a look for yourself.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

flickr_edit.jpg

In this week's podcast on mobile photography, I talk about how easy it is to upload your photos directly from the mobile device to an online service such as Flickr. I often post mine using the email application on the iPhone. (And remember, we have a Digital Story Public Group on Flickr.)

The problem is, the iPhone doesn't have an image editing application. So what do you do if you want to make a few adjustments to your picture after it's posted online? A while back, Flickr struck up a deal with Picnik to enable roundtrip image editing from your Flickr library. You have all the common tools available, and when you're done, Picnik updates your Flickr library with the adjusted photo. It couldn't be easier.

picnik_edit.jpg

I do this post editing with a computer when I have the opportunity later (either on a laptop or in an Internet cafe). Why not use the iPhone for online editing too? Well, not until they are Flash-enabled. Picnik needs Flash for online editing. Sigh, maybe someday...

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

canon_iris_mode_dial.jpg

According to a recent story in Photography Bay, Canon has applied for a patent to use Iris watermarking to help photographers protect their images. In short, you have the camera read your iris, then it embeds your unique biological data into every shot. You can have additional metadata added if you wish. (Notice the callout 106d that indicates Registration mode.)

This is really interesting stuff. If you want to read more about how Canon envisions this, take a look at the Photography Bay article. It may be available on your next camera...

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

mike_doel_hidi.jpg

"I had been trying to consider how to tackle the theme of "Empty" for a recent TDS photo assignment, when a significant snowstorm provided the inspiration," said Mike Doel. "In addition to knowing that the golf course would be empty, I figured that it would also be a good example of one of the tips I've learned from The Digital Story - try to find photos that catch views that are unique or unexpected."

How Mike Did It

"When I arrived at the course, the first thing I did was to get permission to take photos. Having received that (as well as a "you've got to be nuts" look) from the staff member in the pro shop - surprisingly still open for business - I headed out with my Canon 5D, my Canon EF 24-105 f/4.0 L IS USM lens, and my tripod. The first tee box was cluttered with fallen branches and other debris, so I hiked down the ninth fairway to get a better shot."

"The shot was composed with five main elements - the red sign that tells the viewer we're at a golf course, the "empty" bench which reinforces the theme of the assignment, the two trees on either side, and the background with the lake and foot bridge. The shot is perhaps a bit too symmetrical (it would have been better if I gotten the bench a bit more to the side), but I was having a tough time doing that without obscuring the bridge. I especially liked how the red of the sign stood out against the white background, and it was the sign that I focused on."

"From another one of Derrick's tips, I knew that snowy scenes like this can fool your camera's light meter, which expects to find scenes with lots of midtones. Since snow is white and not 18% gray, I knew I had to over-expose the image to get the right color. I figured about 1 and 1/3 stops of over-exposure would do the trick, but I ended up using Aperture's exposure slider to actually boost it a bit more in post-production. The shot was taken in manual exposure mode at an aperture of f/16, shutter speed of 1/60th of a second, and an ISO of 100. The 1/60th of a second shutter speed is just long enough to provide a bit of motion to the falling snow."

"When shooting in really cold temperatures like this, you have to be careful about bringing your camera back into warmer temperatures - especially if it's into a room with any significant humidity in the air. The water in the air could condense onto your cold camera equipment (similar to what happens when people with eyeglasses come inside from the cold) and cause all kinds of havoc. A good tip is to put your camera into a gallon ziplock bag before coming inside. Once the camera has warmed up to room temperature, it is safe to take it out of the bag."

Photo of 9th Tee by Mike Doel.


More Tips from The Digital Photography Companion

"How I Did It" is a new feature of The Digital Story featured on The Digital Photography Companion mini site. These are techniques from virtual camera club members who have built upon information in The Digital Photography Companion, or have come up with new tips altogether.

We're building a living library of knowledge for everyone to use (and contribute to). If you have a "How I Did It" tip to share, just send it to me with the sample photo, and put "How I Did It" in the email subject.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

tethering_web.jpg

Tethering a camera to your computer allows you to capture images directly into it. This is particularly handy for product shots and in-studio portraits when you want to see a full resolution version of the photo right away. With a tethered camera, you click the shutter and the image appears on your monitor. Just like that.

Many DSLRs will have tethering software bundled in their kit. Both Canon and Nikon provide this feature on most of their advanced cameras. Check their software disks for more information.

Aperture 2 also provides tethered shooting. You can refer to this chart to see if your Canon or Nikon camera is supported. In general, tethered Nikon DSLRs work with both Tiger and Leopard, and Canon shooters must be running the Leopard for this feature.

If you have a camera and software that supports this technique, I suggest you give it a try. It's a great feeling to click the shutter, and then see the image appear instantly on your computer monitor.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

If you have your own web site, QuickTime Pro makes it easy to take video snippets off your digital camera and post them there. Its "Export for Web" option under the File menu presents you with some sophisticated publishing options... except now they're as easy to implement as checking a box.

export_to_web.jpg

The process couldn't be simplier. Open the movie you want to publish. Choose "Export for Web" from the File menu. Select the options you want: iPhone (WiFi), iPhone (cellular), and/or Desktop. Choose as many as you want. When you hit the Export button, QuickTime will create a folder with the different versions of the movie in there. It also creates a web page with instructions for publishing to your site.

My little bonus tip is this. Open that web page of instructions in your text editor, change the text to what you want to say, save the html file as a new name, and upload the entire folder to your web server. That page contains all the scripts you need, perfectly formatted, and pointing to your movie. As long as you leave everything in the same folder, you're set.

That's how I created this version of A Visit to the Tampa Aquarium. It is viewable in a web browser, on Apple TV, or on an iPhone. The built in script identifies what type of device is accessing the page, then serves the appropriate movie for that device. It's really quite clever.

You already know that I'm a big fan of the movie mode on our digital cameras. Now sharing those movies on your own web site is as easy as capturing them in the first place.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

On first encounter, the Sony DSC-T200 is just too beautiful to be taken seriously. I was seduced by its slim design -- about the same proportions as an Apple iPhone -- with "folded" 5X Carl Zeiss Vario Tessar zoom lens, an 8 MP image sensor, and a 3.5" touchscreen LCD, all housed in a brushed metal housing that feels as good as it looks. There's no way this camera can perform as well as it looks.

sony_t200_web.jpg

Field Test

I decided to take it out in the field and test its mettle (or test its metal in this case). Well, for starters, it just slid into my front pants pocket. Oh man, that was too easy. But, when I got in the field, I did encounter my first aggravation. The touch screen wasn't responding very well to my finger taps. "I just knew it," I muttered. Only to discover that there's a nifty stylus that attaches to the very nice wrist strap, and it totally solves the problem.

In bright light, the LCD was a bit hard to see. And there is no optical viewfinder. So this is a legitimate complaint about the camera. However, the screen is quite viewable in all but the harshest of light.

When you slide down the front cover to reveal the 5X Zeiss lens, the camera fires up quickly. In fact, overall response time, including shutter lag, is fantastic, especially for a compact of this size. Oh, and that lens: sharp.

Improved Menus

Sony's menu system has really come a long way. I once not cared for their approach, but now I like em. If you get lost, just hit the Home button in the upper left corner. From there, you can access submenus for: Shooting, View Images, Output, Memory Tool, and Settings. It took me about 15 minutes to get the hang of this. To make things even easier, the Display had three modes: Normal (lots of controls), Simple (just a few basic controls), and Image Only. When you're in Normal mode, it seems like there's an icon for just about any control you would need. Oh, and there's a button to turn off and on the live histogram. Very nice.

Good Technology

The T200 includes all of the current technology you would want: Face Detection, image stabilization, full frame SD movies at 30fps, and an nice array of scene modes. The macro mode is terrific on this camera, and what really impressed me, is that I could use the flash when only inches away from the subject and still get a great exposure. And if I didn't like it, there's a nifty pair of flash exposure buttons to increase or decrease it a tad.

As for the pictures themselves... very good for a compact. All the normal rules of the road apply: keep the ISO down to 400 or below and you're in great shape. The movies were solid too. The prints I made from the T200 were sharp with good color.

Pros and Cons

There are a couple things I don't like about this camera. I'm not a fan of Memory Sticks, but that's what you have to use with Sonys. The camera has an accessory HD cable for viewing your still photos on an HDTV, which is cool, but the camera doesn't include an HD movie mode, or even a 16:9 movie capture. Seems like a missed opportunity. And for an 8 MP compact, the DSC-T200 seems expensive at $350 US.

But the pros are strong indeed: beautiful design, great lens, big LCD, sharp pictures, easy controls, latest technology, and very easy to carry around.

I really didn't want to like this camera. I was planning to use it for a while, then sell it to recoup my investment. But darn, if I didn't really get attached to it. I just couldn't help myself.

Sample Pictures

sony_t200_boat.jpg

sony_t200_harbor.jpg

For the second shot, I turned on the "Flash" WB to warm up the scene.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

microwave_sneaker.jpg

I've found another great use for the microwave over. I was shooting some water shots recently and actually found a way to soak my sneakers. I'm not talking about a little wet, I mean drenched from stem to stern.

I tried just letting them air-dry for a couple days, and got nowhere. Because I was staying in a hotel, I didn't have a traditional clothes dryer available. After a few days, my good ole sneaks started to smell a little funny.

It occurred to me, that when sponges in the kitchen start to smell funky, a good way to reverse the tide is put em in the microwave for 30 seconds or so to kill the little critters causing the offending odor. Why not for sneakers too?

So I started alternating shoes in the microwave for 45 seconds a pop, and sure enough, they began to transform from waterlogged sponges to wearable shoes. Just make sure you don't have any metal plates in the soles...

Technorati Tags: , ,

duncan_logo.jpg

There's an interesting post over on Inside Lightroom about whether To Delete or Not to Delete. Working photographer James Duncan Davidson grapples with the same issue we all do: how much of our image data should we hang on to?

Duncan puts forth some interesting ideas. And even though he probably shoots more pictures than the average guy, it's interesting to read how he deals with the mountain of gigabytes he accumulates annually.

Technorati Tags: ,