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To Critique or Not to Critique

An interesting thread appeared recently on The Digital Story Public Group that posed the question, Are we going to make this a constructive critique site?. If you read the comments on the thread, many of our virtual camera club members are interested in having more meaningful conversations about their photos than "Wow, great shot!".

I think this is a valuable discussion. From my point of view, I think those who want to have critiques about their photos, and to critique others, should have a mechanism to do so within our group. At the same time, TDS members who are just getting their feet wet with showing their images to others, may not be ready for honest critiques. if you're wondering which side of the aisle best suits you, take a look at the comments posted to this photo of mine and see how you feel about them. I think this is the level of discussion we can expect for critiques on our site.

So here's the plan. If you'd like a critique on a photo you publish to The Digital Story Public Group, then simply add the tag "critique" to the image. You should already be adding the "tds" tag to our camera club photos, so adding "critique" is simple enough. Then others can find photos that are available for critique by searching within our TDS group pool, as shown below.

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Guidelines for Critique

Here's how I recommend we approach critique of one another's photos:

  1. State the things you like about the shot as specifically as possible. So instead of saying, "Nice shot!," try "I like the way you've balanced the colors."
  2. Offer suggestions to adjust the things you don't like in the photo. Comments such as, "if you moved a little to the left, you might have a better angle on that subject" can be quite helpful.
  3. It's OK to ask questions. "What lens did you use, how did you do that B&W conversion, etc. are all legit and help others understand the creative process.
  4. Share the love. If you have some time to critique, try not to focus just on one photographer, rather; pick a photo from a few photographers and comment.
  5. If you feel that someone is abusing this opportunity, please contact me directly and include the url that contains the offending material. I have no problem pulling comments that cross the line of decency.

And most importantly, if you're not ready to participate in critique, that's just fine. We want you submitting grab shots, working on photo assignments, submitting photos to the TDS pubic pool, and joining in the conversation. We welcome you at any level you're comfortable.

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New Photoshop Action Pack for CS3

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Mac Photoshop users can automate many of the mundane processing functions using tools built right into the operating system. All you need are the scripts to make it happen.

Fellow photographer and all-around good guy Ben Long has just released version 3.5 of his Photoshop Action Pack. This set of more than 80 actions includes handy tasks such as change resolution, invert, resize image, and on and on. You can use Automator to combine these actions into time-saving workflows. It's actually quite fun.

Version 3.5 is fully compatible with PowerPC and Intel-based Macs. In addition to the action bundle, an assortment of sample workflows is provided. The included 71-page manual gives you a reference for all of the included actions, as well as an introduction to using Automator, and strategies for building Photoshop workflows.

Scripting doesn't get any easier, or more fun, than working with Automator and these actions. The entire set is available as a donationware download. Get yours today.

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Sponsor Note...

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Digital Photography Review has just published an excellent report titled, Compact Camera High ISO modes: Separating the facts from the hype by Simon Joinson. Simon states early in the report:

"Perhaps unsurprisingly there's a lot more to high ISO performance than mere numbers, and - particularly with the latest 6-10MP compacts - we believe consumers are being misled by the manufacturers when it comes to the actual performance of most cameras at higher ISO settings and in low light. So we decided to put together a short article on the truth behind those headline high ISO modes."

Reading this article is time well spent. You'll learn about the relationship of noise to sensor size, high ISO modes compared, and more. It's a very comprehensive piece.

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In this week's podcast, I discuss the new version of the Bridge (2.0) and Adobe Camera Raw (4.0). Both come bundled with Photoshop CS3. My question is: Are you upgrading to CS3, and if so when?

Some compelling reasons for me personally are that CS3 is Universal Binary, so it runs faster on my Intel Mac. I also like many of the new tools such as the B&W conversion function, the rewritten Brightness/Contrast control, and of course, ACR 4.

The standard upgrade price in the US is $199. That's a substantial investment. Are the new tools good enough to entice you to shell out nearly $200? If you're a member of our Flickr Public Group, you can add your opinion here, or you can state your case in the Comments area of this post.

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I've been a big fan of Canon's S series compact cameras. Great optics, good performance, and lots of features in a compact body. Canon Europe has announced the latest version of this popular super zoom, the PowerShot S5 IS.

Basic specs include a 12X optically stabilized zoom lens, 8 megapixel CCD image sensor, DIGIC III processor, 2.5" vari-angle LCD monitor, flash hotshoe, ISO range of 80-1600, red eye correction in playback, long play movies with stereo sound, and a good software bundle. You can capture in burst mode at 1.5 fps until the card fills up. And road warriors will appreciate that the S5 uses AA batteries.

This camera presents lots of options for flash photography. You can mount Canon EX flashes in the hot shoe, apply flash exposure compensation, and even use second curtain sync.

The 12X USM optical zoom is a 36-432mm equivalent with one aspherical and one UD element with f/2.7 - f/3.5 maximum aperture. Shutter speed range was 15-1/3200 of a second.

This is a lot of camera squeezed into a handsome, compact body. I love the large rotating LCD screen and the hot shoe. Very nice. Canon's optical stabilization is very effective. And to have 8 megapixels with a 12X optical zoom is quite a luxury indeed. My only complaint, as you might guess, is that there's no Raw format option, which I don't think is unreasonable for a camera of this caliber.

But that nit aside, this is an impressive, versatile, and powerful picture taker for those who need the extra reach of a 12X zoom lens. Definitely worth a closer look.

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Three Point Lighting Setup

Have you ever played around with the lighting equipment you can get at a regular hardware store? You can create some decent (though low-powered) schemes that are useful for shooting objects and even people... if they promise to hold still.

Here's a free downloadable PDF titled, DIY Studio Lighting Set Up (100 kb). It's fun; it has some useful info, and you can share it with your friends.

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Al Gore spoke at the CRE8 Conference on Wednesday, essentially giving a live performance of his compelling Inconvenient Truth movie. If you haven't seen the film, I recommend it. The presentation is both scientifically gripping as it is humanly compassionate. And yes, there is a sense of urgency.

Tipper Gore is an accomplished photographer who contributed images to Al's presentation. I was once again reminded of the power of photography when photos resonate with head and heart simultaneously. From Al's opening picture of the earth from space, to Tipper's devastation shots from New Orleans, to the beautiful glaciers in Greenland, photography was a vital ingredient in Gore's argument.

Who knows... you may someday have the opportunity to impact the world with one of your pictures.

Photo of Al Gore speaking at the CRE8 Conference in Orlando, FL on May 9, 2007 by Derrick Story. Canon 5D, 70-200mm L f/4 lens, ISO 1600, 1/45 @ f/4

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Wanna Talk Shop?

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One of the fun side benefits to establishing The Digital Story Flickr Group is that we now have a discussion forum too. Here we can ask photo questions, suggest podcast topics, point out interesting things to shoot, and get to know each other better.

So even if you're not ready yet to share your images on the Member Photo Gallery page, you can still participate in the discussion. All you have to do is sign up for a free Flickr account, then join our public group. You'll see "Discuss" right there in the middle of the page. Jump in and join the conversation.

If you'd like more information about posting a photo to TDS, read how to submit. So, whether you're sharing your photos or your thoughts, we're happy to have you as part of our virtual camera club.

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The Digital Story now has a Member Photo Gallery where you can post up to 5 pictures a week to share and discuss with other virtual camera club members. Participation is simple. We've established a Flickr Public Group to manage the submissions. Once you post an image to the Public Group, it appears on the TDS Member Photo Gallery within 24 hours. It's that easy. Here are the detailed steps.

  1. Establish a free Flickr account (if you don't have one already).
  2. Join The Digital Story Public Group. Look for the "join" link on the Public Group page.
  3. Go back to your flicker home page (by clicking on the "Home" link in the upper left corner).
  4. Click on "Upload Photos" link and add your images.
  5. Choose one of the pictures that you've just uploaded that you want to add to The Digital Story Member Gallery, and click on it. This will open it up on a new page where you can add tags and a caption. You can even change the title if you want.
  6. Once you have everything in order, click on the "Send to Group" link right above the photo. You will see the link to The Digital Story in the popup menu. Select it and you're done!

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Within 24 hours, your picture will appear on the Member Photo Gallery page. We'll also use the Flickr Public Group to communicate with each other, such as sending out special notices and alerts.

Visit the TDS Member Photo Gallery to see what your peers are publishing. Feel free to comment on any of the photos by clicking on them (you need to be a Flickr member to comment on these photos).

I'll continue to evolve this page and its functionality. So stay tuned... and start sharing your photos today!

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If you have a photo collection on your iPod that you'd like to move to a different computer (Mac or PC), iPod Access Photo puts you back in control.

You've probably realized that the iPod stores photos in ithmb files. These files contain all the photo data for your iPod to display but can not be read by regular photo programs. iPod Access Photo solves this problem by allowing you to select individual photos and albums to be moved back onto your computer or an external hard drive.

You can try iPod Access Photo, and if you like it, you can buy it for $12.99 US. Findley Designs, the maker of this software, also offers iPod Access for Mac OS X that enables you to copy your music and videos off your iPod.

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