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Flash Triggers on the Cheap

Cowboystudio Flash Trigger Set

If you want to work with off-camera flash, but don't have a built-in system like with the Canon T3i, there are affordable alternatives to expensive systems. A poplar choice on the cheap is the Cowboystudio 4-Channel Radio Remote Trigger and 2 Receivers Set($37). I've heard consistently good comments about Cowboystudio gear. One thing to keep in mind, if you go this route, is to properly set your expectations.

To help you with that, here's a good article, A Guide to Buying Cheap Wireless Flash Triggers, that lists key differences between expensive sets and their low-price counterparts.

Regardless of the gear you employ, off-camera flash is an important technique that's perfect for many portrait situations.

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


It's Free Bag Friday on the Lowepro Blog. This week you have a chance to win a Flipside 400 AW (use Code LP20 for a 20 percent discount if you want to buy it after the giveaway is over). All you have to do is add a comment to the Free Bag Friday post on the Lowepro Blog about how you'd use the Flipside.

On Monday morning (June 6), Lowepro will randomly select one winning comment from their blog and announce the winner there and on their Facebook Fan Page. The Flipside 400 AW is a terrific bag that holds lots of gear, has secure backside access, and includes an All Weather cover.

Check it out!

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

Using the "Places" project in Flickr, you can type in a location and see interesting photos from that area. It's a great way to explore the world from the comfort of your own home. And the page itself is well-designed, giving you a feel for life there.

To see how this works, plus more tips, take a look at this movie from my Flickr Essential Training title, and see what you think.

More Training Available

We have many more informative movies available in the title, Flickr Essential Training. Stop by and learn how to get the most from your favorite photo sharing application.

Previously on The Digital Story

Become Your Own Museum Curator with "Galleries" on Flickr

Using Google to Search Within Flickr

Flickr Keyboard Shortcuts

Flickr Updates Share Tools for Facebook, Twitter

Introduction to Flickr Essential Training

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

Christine McAuley

For the April'11 Photo Assignment, TDS shooters searched for the imperfect to create this gallery titled Broken. Fractured? Yes. But often beautiful too. And which one will be the SizzlPix Pick of the Month?

The June 2011 assignment is "True Grit." Start working on your contribution now. Details can be found on the Member Participation page. Submit your photo assignment picture 800 pixels in the widest direction. Deadline is June 30, 2011.

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: June 2011." 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.

Photo by Christine McAuley. (Click on it to see enlarged version.) You can read more about how Christine captured this shot, plus see all of the other great images on the April 2011 Gallery page.

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

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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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Those of us who were photographers in the Analog Age (pre-2000), have an inventory of 4x6 prints, negatives, slides, and enlargements. For months I've been thinking about what to do with all of these boxes I've been lugging around for years.

Finally, this past weekend, I set a course of action. I hadn't really planned on making such dramatic decisions. Actually, it all started with a garage sale. And as often happens in life... one thing led to another.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (30 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

Shades of Green is the May 2011 Photo Assignment. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is May 31, 2011.

TDS Oct. Photography Workshop and Nov. Aperture Workshop

We're making plans now for the Fall 2011 TDS Photography Workshop. I'm also considering adding an Aperture Workshop in Nov. or Dec. If you want your name on the reserve list, or just more information, drop me a line.

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 -- Try the $7.99 Sample Kit.

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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Tips for Great Graduation Photos

Graduation season is underway, and it's an opportunity to capture memorable shots for sharing with family and friends. As with any photo opp, a little planning goes a long way toward coming away with successful images.

Boys in Tuxes Photos before the event give you a little extra time to have fun and play with camera angles. Fill flash helped balance the contrasty outdoor lighting.

Here are a few tips to make sure you're ready to go.

  • Travel Light - You're not off to shoot the Olympics. Unless you're there on assignment, you want to have a good time, show support, and not be a distraction to others. Plan ahead. Find out about the setting, lighting, and the flow of activities. Choose your lens and know how you're going to set your camera before getting in the car. Once there, try to get a good seat. By being prepared, you'll need less gear and be able to enjoy the event.
  • Get Shots Beforehand - You don't have control over what happens at the event, but before things get started, you can flex your creative muscles. If possible, take a series of images prior to things getting started. They'll most likely be your favorites of the day.
  • Consider Fill Flash Outdoors - Typically, you have to work fast when you get a photo opportunity, so you don't always have control over lighting and positioning. By using fill flash outdoors, you can even-out the lighting and come away with good photos regardless of the environment.
  • Play with Angles - Once you get the basic shots, play with compositions by rasing and lowering the camera. I've noticed that kids, in particular, like dramatic viewpoints.
  • Don't Forget that Your Camera Shoots Video Too - Some moments are perfect for short movies that you can mix in with your stills for a truly professional presentation. Remember to record some video too. You'll thank yourself later.
  • Bring an Extra Battery and Memory Card - Just put them in your pocket.

Once you've organized your images and touched them up, share them with others via online galleries or email. They'll love having such an adept (and organized) photographer in the family.

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

We've updated the TDS Podcast App so it now looks great on the iPad, as well as the iPhone and Android devices. The interface is redesigned to take full advantage of the iPad's expanded real estate. So now you can manage all of your TDS activities from within the podcast app.

tds_podcast_app_movie.png Movies now play in the main window of the podcast app. Just click Extras (gift icon) to access the latest video.

Located on the left side of the interface are the podcast episodes that are avaialbe for listening. The Extras icon (gift box) in the upper right corner contains the latest movie and wallpaper image, and there's now a new feature called View All Extras that consolodates all the recent items uploaded.

tds_podcast_app_extras.png Bonus content is located in Extras.

If you want to watch a movie that's loaded in the Extras, it plays in the main browser window of the application. The wallpaper images are now a full 1024 pixels so they look great on the iPad's display.

The icon (@) to the right of Extras is where all the connections to The Digital Story are located. You can email me directly from there, go to the TDS webiste, hop over to my Twitter feed, and visit the new Facebook Fan Page for the show... all easily managed on your iPad from within the podcast app. (When you go to the Facebook page, be sure to "Like" us!)


You can check-in on our Facebook Fan Page and other TDS sites from within the podcast app.

The podcast is designed to stream shows via a live Internet connection. If you want to download an episode ahead of time, you can. (Great for when you know you're not going to have connectivity.) Just tap on the episode name that you want to download. Then tap the "Download" button that appears. You can also "Star" the episode at this time to store it in your favorites list. I recommend this so you can manage the shows that you've downloaded.

Another new feature is that you can continously play one episode after another with this update. If you don't like that ability, you can turn it off in Settings.

The TDS Podcast App is available for $2.99 in the iTunes App Store. The current update (1.9.2) is free to all existing owners. Just run your "Updates" to get the new version.

After you try this new version, please rate it in the App Store. The TDS Podcast App is your way of helping to support this show.

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

SpyderGallery for the iPad


Just when you thought you didn't have to worry about color calibration for your tablet, along comes SpyderGallery for the iPad to make you feel guilty again. It was much easier when you couldn't calibrate your mobile device.

The software is a free download from the iTunes App Store. It works with a Spyder3 device (Express, Pro or Elite). You can learn more about it at Datacolor's web site.

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

My default metering setting on all of my cameras is "pattern." Depending on the brand, this setting can be called evaluative, matrix, multi-segment, or some other label. What it means is that the camera is evaluating various parts of a scene, then analyzing the information to create an exposure. And most of the time, this works great.

But there are those scenes that require human intervention. For me, it's usually when there's an illuminated area, such as a band on light reflecting off this bed of nasturtium.

Nasturtium with Spot Meter Spot metering on the bright area allowed me to get the exposure I wanted.

I love it when I find these situations. Unfortunately, most of the time that bright area will be overexposed with pattern metering, as shown below.

Nasturtium with Evaluative Meter Pattern metering overexposed the brightest flowers.

Fortunately, the adjustment is simple. I switched to spot metering on my Canon 5D Mark II, then exposed for the brightest area. These two shots, with no exposure editing, show the differences in this metering approach.

If you like "getting it right" in the camera, keep this technique in your back pocket. It feels good to see the image on the LCD the way you pictured it in your mind.

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

Aperture Workshop Recap

On May 21 and 22, I conducted an Aperture Intensive workshop at TDS headquarters in Santa Rosa, CA. Our goal was to sharpen our post production skills to work more efficiently and creatively using Apple's Aperture photo management software.

TDS Spring 2011 Aperture Workshop The May 2011 Aperture Workshop crew after a photo shoot at Schulz Museum.

The first day we focused on library management. Setting up the proper library for each photographer's needs, then how to better organize it. We spent time discussing "managed" vs "referenced," plus explored different ways to set up the Library pane once the images have been uploaded. We then tackled metadata management, rating, stacks, versions, and more.

To make sure we had new images to practice with, I sprinkled-in photo shoots throughout the weekend. Since I have Schulz Museum directly across the street from the studio, there's always something interesting to photograph. On the second day, I brought in a model for a few hours so we could practice some portraiture.

For Sunday the focus was image editing and sharing. As a group, I walked them through the steps to retouch portraits (using the images we had shot), enhance landscapes, and work creatively, such as in B&W.

We also discussed sharing images online via social networks and using Apple's MobileMe service. And finally, we created our own dynamic movies using the Slideshow module, complete with effects and music.

If you're interested in attending an upcoming photography workshop (next open event is Oct. 15-16, 2011) or an Aperture Software Workshop like the one described here, just send me a note for more information and to be put on the reserve list. You can also see upcoming workshops by clicking on the Events icon on The Digital Story Facebook Fan Page.

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