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Yesterday I talked about how sharp the Canon 70-200mm f/4 L zoom is. This is one of my favorite lenses for portrait work. The only problem is, sometimes I don't want razor sharp optics for certain subjects. A little diffusion can go a long way toward making a client happy.

There are lots of great softening filters out there, often with a hefty price tag. But you can make your own portrait filter for just a few dollars, or even less, if you can wrangle an old pair of pantyhose -- or better yet, knee-highs (you can use them just as is).

All you have to do is stretch a layer of hose over the lens and secure it with a strong rubber band. The more tightly you stretch the material, the milder the effect. The looser the material, the softer the portrait. It works terrific, and makes a good conversation piece to boot...

Featured here are Lenobis Elite SOFFIO DORATO Ultra Sheer TANNING Pantyhose. Tan pantyhose will produce a warming effect too, so experiment to get the color temperature you like best.

This tip adapted from Digital Photography Hacks by Derrick Story.

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There are very few lenses that I would label as "flawless," but the Canon 70-200mm f/4 L is one of them. For about $575 US, you can get a solidly built "L" zoom that is tack sharp at all focal lengths (center and edge sharpness), even on the most demanding sensors, such as the full-size Canon 5D.

I know many pros prefer the f/2.8 version of this lens because of its light gathering power, but that lens costs twice as much and is much heavier and larger. Photographers on the go who want the best image quality possible, and can live with f/4, will be thrilled with the lighter version.

Last year, Canon also released an Image Stabilized version of this lens for about twice as much. Not only do you get the same great optical performance as the original f/4, but you get up to 4-stops of stabilization. You can find out more by reading this review on SLRGear.com. This is really the only way to improve upon the original.

Either way, depending on your budget, the Canon 70-200mm f/4 is one of the most pleasurable lenses you'll every shoot with. And if that isn't good enough, the pictures it produces are outstanding. Keep your eye on the used market too. A lot of the non-stabilized lenses might be showing up as fans upgrade to the IS version.

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Thinking about getting a serious fine art printer? I've just posted an interview with Rick LePage on Inside Aperture where we discuss the latest offerings from Epson, Canon, and HP. Rick has been testing printers in his "editor at large" role for Macworld Magazine. He has some great insights about the Epson 3800, HP B9180, and Canon's elusive 9500. If you're in the market for a new printer, you should listen to this show.

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CRE8 Conference, Orlando FL
Join Derrick Story for a Digital Photography Field Trip in Orlando Florida on May 11. And don't miss his sessions on Camera Raw and Photoshop Lightroom. CRE8 Conference - May 9-11, 2007

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The Lightroom "early adopter" discount ends on April 30. For customers in the US, that means the price jumps from $199 to $299 on May 1. The early adopter program in Canada and UK also ends today, with the UK price increasing from £125 to £175 (ex VAT).

Lightroom is available for both Mac and Windows, and is an outstanding photo manager that provides an easy workflow from upload to output. It's a bargin at $199, so if you've been thinking about making the move, go over to the Adobe Store before the offer ends.

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Quickie Coleman Cooler Light Tent

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I was browsing Strobist this morning and discovered what he termed as the coolest free white background ever. Photographer Mike Schellenberger had figured out that by opening up a standard ice chest, such as a Coleman, turning it on its side, and placing small objects inside, you could use it for a photo background for product shots. It's actually very cool (oops!~) and worth a peek.

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What to do About Sensor Dust?

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Digital SLR shooters have several advantages over their comrades who use point and shoot compacts. But the cross that every DSLR photographer must bear is sensor dust. Unless you never change your lens, at some point you will have to deal with this problem.

Ben Long has gathered some helpful information over at Complete Digital Photography. He points to an excellent feature he wrote over at Creative Pro, plus offer lots of other goodies too such as video on cleaning techniques.

Ron Galbraith also touches on some of the new devices available to help identify and battle dust in his post about the Sensor Loupe.

There's plenty of good information in these articles. And if you haven't been thinking about sensor dust at all, you might want to investigate a little. It could save you lots of post production work up the road.

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Nearly every digital compact these days records movies. But... when's the last time you took advantage of that capability? Here's a little incentive.

You can record movies with your digicam, then move the best of them to your iPod to share with others. It's really simple. You'll need QuickTime Pro, which is a $29 download from Apple (Mac or Windows version). Open your digicam movie in QuickTime Pro, choose File > Export... In the Export popup menu, choose "Movie to iPod." Click Save.

Now all you have to do is drag the iPod movie to iTunes and sync your iPod. You now have home movies with you on the go.

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You can add geocodes to your existing photos with a nifty new Mac application called HoudahGeo. What's interesting about HoudahGeo, is that if you have a GPS device, you can provide a track log file from the receiver and have the application add the data to your photos. What's really helpful though, is that you can add the geocoding yourself with a user-friendly interface that requires you only to point to a location on a provided map.

I tested HoudahGeo by having it add geodata to a handful of pictures I have, then I opened the images in iPhoto and looked at their EXIF data in the Get Info box. Sure enough, the latitude and longitude information was there in Get Info.

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You can download a trial version right now, and if you like it, can buy for $24.95.

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Sponsor Note...

Add Magic to Your Slideshows -- FotoMagico presentations are so amazing that your audience will be asking how you did it.

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Like many digitally curious photographers in the early 1990s, I tried my hand at Kodak Photo CDs. I couldn't afford an expensive film scanner at the time, so I would have Kodak scan my negatives as part of the film finishing process. I would receive back from the lab the prints, negatives, and yes, a CD with high resolution scans of my images.

Now, 13 years later, I'm looking at that stack of CDs in my studio and thinking that I should import my pictures into an Aperture library. After all, who knows how long those discs will last?

The first thing I discovered is that Aperture can't import directly from a Kodak Photo CD. The encoding was proprietary, and Aperture can't read the file format. "Rats!" I thought. But then I remembered that iPhoto could once read those discs. I gave it a try, and sure enough, iPhoto imported the "16-base" versions of the images on the Kodak Photo CD. The resolution was a decent 3072 x 2048 with a file size around 7 MBs. Not bad, even by today's standards. There was no useful metadata to speak of, but I could fix that later in iPhoto or Aperture. I put the Photo CD images in a iPhoto custom album.

I then opened Aperture, selected File > Import > Images... and pointed to my iPhoto Library folder. Aperture (in its infinite wisdom) reads the custom albums you create in iPhoto, and it allows you to import pictures organized by album. I chose the iPhoto album that I had created for the Kodak Photo CD, renamed those awful Kodak file names with Custom Name with Counter, added some metadata, and clicked Import.

I've now safely relocated all of my Kodak Photo CDs into my Aperture Library for my 1990 images. That wasn't so bad after all...

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CS3 users as well as Elements 4.01 for Mac and Elements 5.0 for Windows have a new Camera Raw plug-in available for download. The latest version supports the Panasonic FZ-8, which is a camera that I've favorably reviewed.

For more information about the Camera Raw 4.0 update, you can read about the Mac version or the Windows version on the Adobe site. Mac users can also read how to install the plug-in on their systems.

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CRE8 Conference, Orlando FL
Join Derrick Story for a Digital Photography Field Trip in Orlando Florida on May 11. And don't miss his sessions on Camera Raw and Photoshop Lightroom. CRE8 Conference - May 9-11, 2007