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As happy as Lightroom fans are about the announced posting of the Adobe Lightroom 3 beta, Aperture users are dismayed by Apple's silence. During my stay in New York, I've met with many photographers comparing notes about our shared community. One question seems to come up more than any other: What About Aperture?

Concerns seem focused on two issues. First, we've had Aperture 2 since Feb. 2008. That's a long time between releases in the hotly competitive field of advanced photography. And there's been no communication from Apple to photographers as to when they can expect an upgrade. During that same period, Aperture's primary competitor, Lightroom, has been very active and gaining market share. Many Aperture users are feeling left behind while their Lightroom counterparts are seeing their software move forward.

The second complaint centers on Raw file support. Many cameras are simply not supported. And the ones that are often see Raw updates long after the competition has released theirs. For example, the very popular Olympus E-P1 still is not supported in Aperture.

One photographer commented today, "I understand Apple controlling the message on new iPods, iPhones, and Macs. But when your professional software doesn't support the gear you want to use, we should at least hear what's going on with that."

Many shooters, myself included, had pegged PhotoPlus as the event for an announcement about Aperture 3. It seemed like the perfect time. New York is buzzing with top tier photographers. Nikon, Canon, and Adobe have muscled up their respective product lines. Photography news is getting lots of attention. And we don't have another major photo show in the US until PMA, which is having its own problems right now.

So, when I'm asked the question, "What about Aperture 3?" I have to say, I'm out of guesses. I put my money down on PPE, and the dealer has just swept it away. I know Aperture 3 is out there somewhere. But your guess is as good as mine as to when we will see it.

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Adobe Lightroom 3 beta Available

Adobe has put much work into the beta version of Lightroom 3. Now it's your turn. Lightroom 3 public beta is available now for download at the Adobe Labs site. This is your opportunity to test the next generation of Adobe's comprehensive photo management software.

Although there are plenty of new features in this beta release, a key focus is image processing. Adobe is striving for the best image quality possible and has once again paid lots of attention to the Develop module. You'll be able to see the difference with your own eyes because you can process a Raw file with either the older Lightroom 2 algorithms or the new beta 3 processing -- in the same application. This "processing versioning" is a first for Lightroom. They are retaining the version 2 processing for older images. Adobe doesn't want to change an image you've already adjusted. But you will have the option of reprocessing an older picture with beta 3 algorithms too. You'll be able to compare notes with others via Adobe's community forum. In the tests I've seen from Adobe, there's an improvement between Lightroom 2 processing and beta 3.

Screenshot 1 :You can now create HD slideshows with music... and export them as movies. Click to enlarge.

In terms of features, a few improvements that I really like include:

  • Image import interface redesigned. Instead of having the import dialog as a completely separate function as it was in Lightroom 2, it's now integrated into the main program interface. It's quite attractive and easy to use.
  • Slideshow authoring has also been improved, but what I really like is the ability to export your slideshows to movies using the H.264 codec. You can also include music in these HD beauties.
  • Major improvements to sharpening and noise reduction. From what I've seen, these built-in tools look as effective as third-party plug-ins.

Computer Requirements

Mac users will need to have an Intel processor running Mac OS X 10.5 or 10.6 to launch Lightroom 3. Windows users can use Windows 7 or most of the currently supported operating systems by Microsoft.

Screenshot 2: The import dialog has been integrated into the Lightroom interface. Click to enlarge.

You don't have to be a current registered Lightroom user to try beta 3. So if you've been curious about this application, here's your opportunity to see the latest version for free. The beta will be in English only. Adobe wants your feedback, so be sure to participate in the forums if you give this a try.

Remember, this is beta software. Keep your important Lightroom libraries in version 2 and create test libraries for this beta 3. You won't be able to import version 2 libraries into beta 3. I recommend that you grab a handful of duplicate Raw files and just play.

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Like many others, I'll be flying out of San Francisco and heading east to PhotoPlus Expo in New York City. We've already seen some important announcements for the show: Nikon D3S, Canon 1D Mark IV, delay of the Leica S2, and more accessories than you can shake a monopod at.

But there's still more to come, and by the end of the week we should know where we stand both hardware and software wise. I'll be working at the show as the Lowepro Photography Evangelist. I'll post updates on both my Twitter page (which also appears on the home page of The Digital Story), and I'll be posting inside info on the Lowepro Twitter page too. If you follow both, you'll have a pretty good idea of what's happening.

So, I've got to go. I have a plane to catch...

Fine art notecards are such a satisfying product to create. They are beautiful, functional, and affordable. When you hand someone a notecard that you made, they know you're an artist. More than once recipients have told me that they can't wait to get them in a frame.

Until recently, I was using Red River 60lb Premium Matte C2S for my matte surface cards. It's a beautiful stock that really shows off my images. But for this last print run, I tried the 60 lb. Paper Canvas because of the textured surface. And I love it.

First of all, I didn't have to change any of the print settings that I was using for my other matte notecards in the Epson R2400. I stuck with the Enhanced Matte Paper ICC profile, and the color and tone reproduced beautifully. Once out of the printer, the cards dried quickly and were easy to fold along the score. Personally, I like to use a roller to get a nice, crisp crease. The end product is a 5" x 7" fine art card that is textured on the outside, but is smooth on the inside for easy writing.

I also highly recommend the 5.25 x 7.25 Premium White Envelopes (Item#7163) for $12.59 for a box of 100. They're such a nice finishing touch.

If you want to know more about how I actually produce these notecards, be sure to read my article, Professional Photo Art Notecards Using Aperture and Red River Paper. I think once you produce a few of these beauties, you'll be just as thrilled with them as I have been.

To get free shipping, be sure to start at the Digital Story page on the Red River site. Red River Paper is a sponsor of The Digital Story, and we're thrilled to be working with them.

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"I was out in California visiting my mother and sister, and we rode up from Roseville into the Sierras looking for fall scenery," writes TDS member Jim Stocking. "We came back through the Carson Pass, stopping just before the summit at the Red Lake Vista. To our astonishment, a car drove up with a young female eagle that they were releasing back to the wild. Armed with my wife's Canon SD850, which she let me use for the trip, I caught the shot of the bird making its way to freedom after being tossed into the air."

As Jim mentioned, he used a Canon PowerShot SD850 IS set to ISO 100 for this wonderful shot of the eagle being set free. The shutter speed was 1/400 and the aperture was f/8.

Photo by Jim Stocking. Click on image to zoom to larger size.

If you have a candid you'd like to share, take a look at our Submissions page, then send us your Grab Shot. We'll try to get it published for you on The Digital Story.

And you can view more images from our virtual camera club in the Member Photo Gallery.

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Which Image is the Sharpest?

Here's a fun quiz: Which of these six images is most likely the sharpest? You'll need to click on the picture to zoom it out to see the real clue.

For those of you who have my Digital Photography Hacks book, the answer is actually one of the hacks. This is a trick that I've used for years when I have to turn around photos quickly and don't have time to examine each one of them at 100 percent magnification. Often, I'm just looking at thumbnails in Adobe Bridge, as described in my Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers, and I need to pick one quickly, process in Adobe Camera Raw, then send it on its way.

So, use this article's "Leave a Comment" to state which of these six thumbnails you think represents the sharpest image. I'll post my answer at the end of the day.

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Using only natural light for your portraits, you can produce absolutely stunning results. Or the pictures can be extremely unflattering. I have two videos, right here, that you can watch to help you prepare for this type of shoot.

The first movie is an introduction to my Natural Light Portrait Assignment on Here I set up how this, and subsequent photo assignments, are structured.

Then in this second video, we go on the computer and analyze natural light for portraiture. Here I show you the difference between "good lighting" and "bad lighting," and the effects they have on your final images. This is a very instructional movie that I think you'll find useful.

These are the first two movies in the Natural Light Portrait Assignment. In the third movie, we go out into the field for the actual model shoot using a variety of techniques. Then, in the fourth video, I go back to the studio and analyze those images. Finally, I do the "call to action" where I encourage you to go shoot your own natural light portrait and share the results on our Flickr Natural Light Portrait public group page.

I have more photo assignments coming up. I'll keep you posted.

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Bottle Video Frame

Ever wonder how those dramatic shots of water shooting up from a bottle are created? Take a look at this video by Gavin Hoey titled, How to Create Amazing Photos with Water and a Bottle. You don't need a specialized gear for this weekend project. A DSLR, a flash that can be triggered off camera, and of course, water in a bottle. When you're done, just rotate the image 180 degrees in Photoshop. It's a lot of fun.

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Is social networking valuable to photographers? Do you need Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr to be successful? That depends upon your goals. Whether you're an avid amateur shooter or an aspiring professional, you need to at least have an opinion about social networking, and the better informed you are, the more intelligent your thoughts will be on this subject.

I'm going to discuss a little bit about what's worked for me. I believe in diversity. I like to have multiple revenue streams. I think photography and its related skills can be a great source of revenue in addition to being satisfying artistically.

The danger of course with these new communication tools, is that you become absorbed with social networking and you lose sight of your original goals. I've heard photographers remark that they didn't "get any work" done today because they lost so much time online. And do you have to blog about every activity or post every shot you take? Like so many things in life, moderation is most likely the key to successful social networking.

I'll discuss all of this and more during the show.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (26 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Feet is the Oct. 2009 Photo Assignment. Shoes, bare feet, paws, manmade objects, my gosh there are so many possibilities. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is Oct. 31, 2009.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. It's a blast!

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Photoshop LIVE Comes to Washington DC

Photoshop Live Logo

Headlined by Photoshop super instructor Michael Ninness, Photoshop LIVE is coming to Washington DC on Nov. 2, 2009. If you want to improve your Photoshop skills, and have fun doing it, you need to take a look at this affordable, two-day conference. And in fact, I can sweeten the pot even more because I have 10 conference passes to give away. More on that in a minute.

I'm teaching two courses myself: How Adobe Camera Raw Made Me Love Photoshop (which is a class I just love teaching to photographers) and Five Things Photo Hobbyists Need to Know About Photoshop CS4. And there are other great courses too. Here's just a sampling:

  • Creative Black and White and Color Effects
  • How to Retouch Like a Pro
  • Get Smart: Smart Filters and Smart Objects
  • Photoshop Power Shortcuts

And a whole lot more.

Register Now and Save Big

You can register before Oct. 23 for only $125 if you use this discount code: DSPSLMM09 (case sensitive). After Oct. 23, the price is $295 for both days. The event will be held at the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation and Naval Heritage Center, 701 Pennsylvania Ave, NW Washington, DC. I always love an excuse to visit DC, and in fact, I'm adding on a day so I can spend time as a tourist too.

The Free Passes

I have 10 free passes to give away. If you want one, all you have to do is be one of the first 10 people to post a comment to this article stating which session at the conference (mine excluded) that you're most excited about seeing. You can see the entire line-up here. Those first 10 comments (that have filled-in legitimate email addresses in the "Leave a Comment" box) will receive a code from me via email that can be used during online registration for free admission. When you see 10 comments to this article, then you know that all the passes have been given away. One free pass per person please!

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