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Postcards present great advantages. In a mailbox full of bland envelopes, postcards radiate like desert flowers. They're easy to send: stick a 32-cent stamp on the back, write an address, and drop them in the mail. Postcards will bring smiles to the faces of good friends, or catch the eye of potential clients. And you may not realize it, but they're easy to make. Yes, you could use outside printing services for this, but why not create your own?

Monterey Postcard Delight friends and family when a beautiful landscape appears amongst the bills and ads in their mailboxes.

By downloading the postcard "backs" on this page for 4" x 6" and 5" x 7" versions, all you have to do is add your artwork on the front, and you have a professional-looking mailer that you can send, share, or even sell. You can use your choice of paper surfaces. Take a look at the Red River Postcards Info Page for affordable paper options, tips, and specs.

4x6_postcard_back.jpg 4"x6" postcard back template. Right-click to download.

5x7_postcard_back.jpg 5"x7" postcard back template. Right-click to download.

The best papers to work with are those that are at least 8.5 mil thick (which exceeds postal regulations) and have plain paper backs that make it easy to print the template and write an address. The links on the Red River page offer some good suggestions that meet these requirements.

I like to print up a handful of templates to have on hand, then just run them through the printer again when I have an image I want to add. I also keep the digital templates on my iPhone, so I can create new postcards anywhere I find an AirPrint printer.

If you want to stand out from the crowd, both for business or pleasure, postcards are a great way to do so. Print up a few, and see what you think.

Like Red River Paper on Facebook -- Free paper give aways, printing tips, and lots more.


The folks at have published an excellent image comparison test with the Canon G1 Xand a batch of its competitors, including the Canon G12, Canon T3i, Nikon J1, Olympus E-P3, and Sony NEX-5N.

The lab shots were captured at base ISO and then at ISO 1600 and ISO 3200. You can read the report and see all of the photos here: Canon PowerShot G1 X Preview.

Bottom line: The Canon G1 X definitely held its own, or surpassed, all of these cameras in this test.

The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!

Curious about what the Mac App Store has to offer for photographers? You might want to take a look at the Apps for Photographers collection.


Three sections are featured there: Organize & Share, Digital Darkroom, and Cool Creations. There's plenty of interesting software to peruse and experiment with, such as the just-released CameraBag 2, that's 20 percent off right now to celebrate its launch ($18.99).

One of the things I like about buying programs through the App Store is that the updates are easily managed there, very much like new version notifications on your iPhone or iPad.

To see the Apps for Photographers collection for yourself, use this link, or launch the App Store and look for Apps for Photographers in the right hand column under Categories.

The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!

The new Lowepro Event Messenger is a good looking shoulder bag that holds your DSLR, Compact System Camera, lenses, and laptop or tablet computer. It has a distinct urban style that doesn't scream "camera bag!," yet provides fast access to all of your gear.


Aside from the looks and functionality of this shoulder bag, I like the pricing. Suggested manufacturer's price is $79, $69, and $59. TDS members who use our Shop Lowepro store and add the discount code "LP20" at checkout will get an addition 20 percent off.

I've had a chance to play with this bag in person, and I have to say... it's sharp

The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!

For the Dec. '11 Photo Assignment, TDS shooters looked close to home for exploring the theme Family. One of the things I enjoy most about this gallery are the captions that accompany the images. Make sure your read them as you view the pictures. And which one will be the SizzlPix Pick of the Month?


Photo by Fred S. Brundick. To see all of the other terrific shots from Dec., visit the Family gallery page.

Participate in This Month's Assignment

The Feb. 2012 assignment is "Rule of Thirds." To qualify, the entry image should take advantage of the rule of thirds in its composition. Details can be found on the Member Participation page. Deadline is Feb. 29, 2012.

Please follow the instructions carefully for labeling the subject line of the email for your submission. It's easy to lose these in the pile of mail if not labeled correctly. For example, the subject line for this month's assignment should be: "Photo Assignment: Feb. 2012." Also, if you can, please don't strip out the metadata. And feel free to add any IPTC data you wish (These fields in particular: Caption, Credit, Copyright, Byline), I use that for the caption info.

Good luck with your Feb. assignment, and congratulations to all of the fine contributors for December.

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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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Compact Camera Sales Continue to Slip

Canon S100

You have to wonder how secure manufacturers feel right now as they release the barrage of new compact cameras in a declining market for them. In Canon's latest financial results, sluggish sales of compact cameras were a primary culprit for their annual shortfall.

This trend persists throughout the market affecting both hardware manufacturers and accessory companies. Unfortunately for everyone, it's a fairly long pipeline for hardware product releases. So those compacts you see announced today were conceived some time ago.

It will be interesting to see how the low end market shakes out in 2012. My feeling is that DSLR sales will remain strong, but mobile devices, such as the iPhone 4S, will continue to erode compact camera sales.

The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!

I've had a chance to work with Lightroom 4 public beta and publish an article about it for Macworld Magazine. That release has led to speculation about an upcoming Aperture 4 update. While all of this was going on, Corel rolled out their non-destructive pro photo management app, AfterShot Pro. In this week's podcast, I start with a basic review of Lightroom 4 public beta, then discuss some of the features I'd like to see in Aperture 4. I wrap up with a few thoughts about AfterShot Pro. It's great to be back!

Listen to the Podcast


You can also download the podcast here (37 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

Mobile Phone is the Jan. 2012 Photo Assignment. Entries must be captured with a mobile device. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is Jan. 31, 2012.

Special Offer from SizzlPix!

20% Discount for Jan. 2012 - So we can build up a gallery of SizzlPix! made from cell phone images. Any TDS listener/reader gets a 20% discount on SizzlPix!™ Hi Definition Photography™ made from pictures shot with T-Mobile My Touch Slide 4G, Samsung Galaxy S II, or Apple's iPhone 4S.

SizzlPix! may be from 18" to 60" in the longest dimension. Photographer's cropping will be honored.

Shipping will be within one week. Photographer gives us permission to publicize, with credit, their SizzlPix! made from a cell phone original in yours and our on-line galleries and blogs, Twitter, FaceBook, Google+. etc.

When you fill out your order form for the SizzlPix, add "TDS Jan Offer" to get the discount.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. And from those images, I choose the TDS Member Photo of the Day.

Podcast Sponsors

Red River Paper -- The $7.99 Sample Kit is back! And with free shipping.

You might also want to check out my article, Artistic Gifts You Can Make in an Hour.

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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Olympus E-PM1 - Quality Nimbleosity

I keep waiting for the charm to wear off. But it hasn't. My favorite camera when heading out the door for a walk is the Olympus PEN E-PM1with the 17mm f/2.8 pancake lens.I barely feel it around my neck. It lies flat against my chest. And I get terrific looking RAW files that look great for printing and Web publishing.

Mural on Concrete Captured during a stroll by the shore with the PEN Mini and 17mm lens.

I often carry the 14-42mm zoom (that comes with the camera) in my pocket, just in case I need a bit more reach or width. But I enjoy shooting with a prime lens when possible. I feel so much, like, well... a photographer.

BTW: the entire Pattern & Texture set was shot with the PEN Mini.

More on the Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1

DP Review Examines the Oly PEN Mini

Action Photography with the Olympus 45mm f-1.8 Lens

On the Road with the Olympus PEN Mini

Find great deals at the TDS Photography Store on Amazon.

Focusing on Pattern and Texture

Creative exercise is much like physically working out: it makes you stronger. And one of my favorite creative activities is focusing on a compositional element over the course of a day. On a recent vacation to Monterey, CA, I decided to work on pattern and texture. (What a great place to do so!)

Two Boats

The original shot had more boats in the scene, but the pattern and textures weren't hanging together the way I wanted. When I cropped to just two boats, I thought the image became more powerful.

It's interesting when you begin to look for certain compositional elements. After a while, you'll see them everywhere. When I experience this, I begin to wonder if I should "creatively exercise" more. Should I shoot with a mission in mind instead of just letting the visual world come to me?


Once again, cropping was used to isolate the pattern. There were a few distracting elements just outside this frame that I wanted to eliminate so I could focus the eye more precisely.

The thing about texture and pattern is that it is bountiful in both nature and the manmade world. In both cases, however, beware of distracting elements that disrupt the effect.

Two Pelicans Blue Sky

In this shot, I'm back to two main subjects with a soft textured background. Color helps carry the overall image.

The bottom line here is that by taking time to focus on an aspect of your photography, you can improve it overall. Pattern and texture is a great place to start.

You can see more images from this series in my Flickr set, Pattern & Texture.

The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!

Testing the HP TopShot 3D Scanner

The HP TopShot LaserJet Pro M275 multifunctional printer produces fast B&W or color output (17 PPM black & 4 PPM color), is network enabled including AirPrint for iOS devices, and has a 3D scanner. Since its scanner is the most unique feature, I wanted to explore that function first.

hp_topshot_scan_screen_edit.jpg The bundled HP Scan software includes basic image adjustments so you can create a final product quickly.

The TopShot uses a raised arm with camera and LED lights to capture the image. You simply place an object on its white platform, raise the arm, and set up the job. You can scan directly from the TopShot's built-in LCD panel, but I preferred to use the bundled HP Scan software that provides more control over the process.

hp_scan_setup.jpg Set up is quick with HP Scan software.

Once you set up the job and make the initial scan, there are handy controls to straighten, crop, adjust tone and color, or even extract the background. You can then save the file to your computer.


The idea is to enable individuals and small business types to quickly create photos of objects without having to use a camera, set up lighting, transfer the images, edit them, etc. This ability could be particularly handy in a steady volume business where quick turnaround is important.

The image quality is sharp with good color. But the lighting isn't "soft box" quality, nor would I expect it to be. You'll get a dark shadow outline, and with shiny surfaces, probably a hotspot or two.

The HP TopShot LaserJet Pro M275 sells for $399 US. For that investment, you get a fast laser printer, unique scanner, and plenty of wireless and online features. It won't replace the photography studio for product shots, but it certainly can save you time when turnaround is the top priority.

The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!