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"Ready, Set... Go!" Grab Shot 182

"The picture was taken at our son's school fete back in June," writes Michael Haley. "It's a very English kind of event -- a great fund raising event for the school put on by the parents. All funds from the event are used to fund school outings for the children."

Michael used a Canon 450D with a Canon EF-S 55mm to 250mm F4 - 5.6 IS lens, ISO 200, f5.6, 1/1250, colourspace RGB Adobe 1998.

Photo by Michael Haley. 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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On June 22, 2009, Kodak published A Tribute to KODACHROME: A Photography Icon. The initial idea for the page was a good one: have top photographers Steve McCurry, Eric Meola, and Peter Guttman share their thoughts and images about the world's most famous film. But now, weeks later, there are also dozens of anecdotes, tributes, and frustrations contributed by photographers who had an affinity for Kodachrome.

It's quite an interesting read. And combined with the great slideshow of Kodachrome images, you really get a sense of this product's place in photographic history.

Here's my own flashback photo: Birthday party in Southern California. I'm the one in the red shirt. Click photo to enlarge.

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You can make photo art notecards that won't be just good; they'll be professional too. And I'll show you how. This workflow uses Aperture software, an Epson printer, and Red River paper. It's fast, efficient, and archival. Once you're set up, you can print just a few cards whenever you need them, or for larger runs, spend a rainy afternoon creating entire sets of cards to sell or give as presents. Of course you can make substitutions to this workflow, but if you have the tools listed here, that's where I'd start.


  • Quality ink jet printer. I'm using the Epson R2400 for this project.
  • Red River notecard stock. For glossy surface, use 60lb. Pecos River Gloss (#8451) and for matt surface, I recommend Premium Matte C2S (#1567). Both stocks are 7" x 10" and fold down to a 7" x 5" note card.
  • Photo software. I highly recommend Aperture 2 (or later) for this project. Why? Because I create the notecards using Aperture's book making tool. This allows me to design everything precisely as I like, and then it remembers all my settings so I can revisit the project at any time and print more cards that look *exactly* like the original set.
  • Envelopes. You can use what ever you want here, I found Darice 5" x 7" envelopes at the craft store for about 10 cents each.

Designing Your Card

Since I'm using Aperture, all of my images were already organized. I decided to make a themed set of cards featuring my recent shoot at Bodie State Historical Park in Northern California. I highlighted half a dozen shots for this project, then clicked on File > New from Selection > Book. This is the first step to opening the layout tool. Next, in the following dialog box, choose "Custom" from the "Book Type" popup menu. We won't be using any predesigned templates for this project. Click the New Theme button, give it a name, such as "5 x 7 Notecard," and enter the following information:

Page Size - Width: 7", Height: 10", Margins - Top: 5.5", Bottom: 0.5", Inside: 0.5", Outside: 0.5". Then click OK.

The Aperture layout tool. It was originally designed for books, but it's great for notecards too. Click to enlarge image.

Your selected images will be added to the new project you just created, and you'll be greeted with the layout tool interface. Open up Master Pages (Gear icon > Show Master Pages), and click on the 1-up template. Go back to the Gear icon and choose "Show Layout Options." You'll see new dialog boxes appear above the Master pages that allow you to specify settings.

Go back to the Gear menu, choose Add > Photo Box. A placeholder box will appear on your 1-Up Master page. Click on it to select, then add these numbers to the Size & Position box that's above the Master Pages box:

X: 0.50, Y: 0.65, Width: 6.00", Height 4.00", Angle: 0°. You can adjust these settings later to your particular tastes, but this will get you started. Then right-click on the photo placeholder and choose from the popup menu: Photo Box Alignment > Scale to Fit Centered. You've now set up your template. You can add text by choosing Gear > Add > Text box. Type your text in it, then click on the "T" at the top of the interface to format it. You'll probably have to rotate it 180° if you want it to print correctly on the back of the card.

Now go to the Pages box (below Master Pages) click on the 1-Up thumbnail, and drag a photo from the Filmstrip to the empty placeholder in the big browser window. To make sure your Master Page settings are honored, I recommend going back to the Gear icon and choosing: Reapply Master. You've now designed your first notecard. You can add more notecards by going to the + icon and selecting "Add New Page" from its popup menu. I created eight of these 1-Up pages for my Bodie notecard set.

Get Ready to Print

As with any big printing project, make sure your screen is calibrated and your printer is full of ink and ready to go. I choose the R2400 for this project because it handles card stock easily, plus it seems to like Red River paper. To avoid paper feed problems however, I only load one sheet at a time for notecards.

For notecards using the 60lb. Pecos River Gloss, use the following settings in Aperture.

The Aperture Print Dialog. You can save your settings as presets so it's easy to print the job later on. Click to enlarge image.

Select the notecard you want to print, then click the "Print" button in the lower right corner of the Aperture interface. A dialog box will appear with "Custom Book Preset" selected in the left hand column. Make a test printing one card, so I recommend that you use the "From X to X" setting instead of Print All. Next, select your printer from the popup menu. And for paper size, I've had great luck with 8" x 10" sheet fed (even though the paper is really 7" x 10"). I set the ColorSync profile for Epson glossy paper (in this case, SPR2400 PremGlsy Photo.icc), then click the Save As button in the lower left corner to save this preset. Give the preset a descriptive name, such as "R2400 7x10 Notecard Glossy," click OK, then print. Aperture will remember this preset, and you can use over and over again.

Sample notecard before folding. Red River paper is scored in the middle so it's easy to fold and get a professional looking card. Click to enlarge image.

You have other options in this dialog box too, such as setting Black Point (which opens up the shadow areas) or increasing gamma (which brightens up midtones). The nice thing about these adjustments is that you can tweak your output without having to mess with the picture itself. If I do make print adjustments, I note those settings in the description area of the photo so I can use them again next time.

To print matte surfaced cards, I swap out the black cartridges in the R2400, then create a new preset in the Aperture Print dialog box that uses the Enhanced Matte Paper ICC profile. I then load up a sheet of Premium Matte C2S and make a test print. If I'm not satisfied with the initial output, such as the shadow areas rendering just a little too dark, I make a "New Version from Version" by right-clicking on the image. Now I can adjust the image for the matte surface and try another print.


Since all of my print settings are saved as presets, and my card layouts are saved as templates, I can come back to this project when ever I want to print additional cards. If you use Aperture's Vault, it will save your settings to a backup drive.

Final Touches

Once all the printing was done, it was fun to spread out the cards and choose my favorites. Some images looked better with the glossy surface while others were really nice on matte. I carefully folded the cards along the score, then bundled each one with its matching envelope. I even found 5" x 7" cardboard boxes at the craft store that I could use for packaging sets of notecards.

Obviously there are variations to just about every step in this process. You can use other photo applications or printers. The tools I chose were the result of testing, with these being the easiest and most efficient.

And I have to say, now that the project is over, making custom notecards from my own pictures is very satisfying.

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Our own Stephanie Scheetz attended the CHA Summer Convention and Tradeshow in Orlando, Florida, and sits down with Derrick to report on interesting things there for photographers and creatives looking for new opportunities. We talk about trends, specific products, and business endeavors that you might be interested in.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (25 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Transport is the August 2009 Photo Assignment. Think both literally (car, bike, bus, etc) and figuratively. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is August 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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Podcast Sponsors

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Backing up your pictures is much easier when you know where they all are. But as I've discovered over the years of teaching photography, students aren't always sure about the locations of their images. Verbatim might be able to help. Their PhotoSave DVDs are preloaded with Windows software that scours your hard drive, finds all of the pictures on it, then gives you the option of burning the entire collection on to one or more DVDs -- depending on how many photos we're talking about. This could be particularly handy if you're about to wipe Mom's PC hard drive and want to make sure you don't lose any stray pictures in the process.

Since PhotoSave is Windows only, Mac users have to run VMware Fusion or a comparable virtual machine to use PhotoSave. But you can do that. I tried it on a MacBook running Vista, and it worked.

After you insert the PhotoSave disc, its built-in software launches and you have the option of automatically scanning your hard drive for photos, reading images off an attached memory card, or manually picking the folders you want backed up. Since you can manually burn images with any writable DVD (that costs less than $3 each), that doesn't seem like the best use for this product, so I imagine most folks with choose to have PhotoSave autoscan their computer or a large directory.

If you have more pictures than will fit on a single disc, PhotoSave will burn to multiple discs for you. Once you put it in motion, it seems to work fairly quickly gathering the images and placing them on the disc in their originally named folders.

Once the disc is burned, it is recognizable by both Windows and Mac computers (running Leopard) -- although very slow on a Mac. On my MacBook, it shows up with the burn date as the name of the disc, and inside are my file folders full of pictures. I was able to browse the DVD using Adobe Bridge 5. But this requires patience since DVDs read much slower than hard drives. And it seemed to me there was extra work involved creating the thumbnails than with a standard DVD full of photos. Nontheless, it did work. On Windows, the experience was more pleasant.

I could see using Verbatim PhotoSave DVDs for special situations, such as backing up images from an unorganized amateur photographer who had hundreds of photos, but not thousands. But impatient photographers who have lots of big images should stick to hard drives and other speedier backup systems. And even though you can use a Mac, I would say that PhotoSave DVDs are best left to Windows computers (unless you have *a lot* of time on your hands). Verbatim PhotoSave DVDs are available on for $15.64 for a five pack.

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It's official -- the iPhone is now my compact camera. This dawned on me yesterday while I was documenting my garage clean-up project with my iPhone 3GS, then actually uploading a picture of the completed work to my Flickr and Facebook pages. It's the image capture device that's always in my pocket.

A few things have led to this change:

  • Tap Focus: This has been the single biggest improvement for me with the iPhone camera. Being able to control the area of the composition where the camera focuses -- and sets the exposure -- is huge. I now feel like I have the essential control that was lacking in previous versions.
  • Improved Low Light Performance: Let's face it, most of the shots we take on the fly are not in full sunlight. I've found that if I steady the iPhone and use my "hold the finger on the shutter button then softly release it" method for shooting, I can work in low light environments surprisingly well.
  • Video: I was just showing a movie to a friend that would have been far less illustrative as a still photograph. The video feature is huge for telling a story.

And then you have all of the connectivity options that you don't have with most cameras. Using an application such as Pixelpipe or Flickr Mobile, I can post images for others almost immediately. Add the variety of image editing tools available on the iPhone itself, and the options grow even more.

This doesn't mean that I'm shooting less with the Olympus E-P1, Canon 5D Mark II, or Canon T1i. What the iPhone means to me is that I'm capturing more of my life, images that I would have missed otherwise. And I'm just thrilled about that.

More on the iPhone 3GS

DIY Copy Stand for the iPhone 3GS

iPhone 3GS Movie Making Basics - Video for All

"iPhone 3G S from Photographer's POV" - Digital Photography Podcast 180

Flickr and iPhone 3GS are Great Companions

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"I was walking through Chicago's Millennium Park during the early evening," wrote Rick Brandt, "and noticed that just about everyone had a camera (or camera phone) taking photos at the Cloud Gate -- a 110-ton elliptical sculpture that reflects the Chicago skyline and clouds above.

"One photographer in particular caught my eye since her subject was a bride and groom. As the trio wrapped their photo session and headed away from the sculpture, I thought there was an interesting photo in the making -- I just had to get to the spot where I could frame up the subjects with the Cloud Gate behind them. So I took off on my 20-yard dash. With their emotions getting the best of them, the photographer and bride didn't take much notice of me. However, the groom seems to be wondering -- 'Who is this guy running at us?' -- just as I slammed on the brakes and made the exposure. Post-processing done in Aperture with the help of Silver Efex Pro from Nik Software."

Rick captured the image with his Canon G9 set to ISO 80 and f/2.8.

Photo by Rick Brandt. 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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This must be the week for unusual camera announcements. First, we had the Nikon Coolpix S1000pj, a compact camera with a built-in projector so you can display your images on the wall. Now we have the Sony Party Shot DS1, a robotic mount that you place the camera in, then it uses Face Detection to scan the room, look for shots, and take them.

The mount pans a full 360 degrees horizontally, and it tilts up and down. When the camera (either a new TX1 and WX1 Sony compact) detects a face, it focuses, sets exposure, and grabs the shot. In theory, you can place the Party Shot in the center of the room, turn it on, and enjoy the festivities. After the last glass has been cleared away, upload the images to your computer and relive the experience all over again.

If you were a wedding photographer, imagine setting a couple of these up at the reception and letting them do their thing while you focus on your shot list. You may get some wonderful surprises, especially when curious guests eye the device and get their picture taken while doing so.

The only thing you'd have to figure out is how to lock it down. It appears that there's a security slot on the back of the device, but what about the camera itself? You'd hate for a guest to snatch your Sony while you were off elsewhere.

Pre-orders should be available now at and at selected retailers nationwide. The Party-shot camera accessory will be available for about $150 in September.

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Well, has confirmed what many of us had already experienced firsthand: the Olympus 14-42 mm micro zoom is a sharp lens. In their comprehensive test they write:

"Optically, the Olympus 14-42mm Æ’/3.5-5.6 tested quite well, showing sharp results wide open, and even better when stopped down slightly. CA [chromatic aberration] is a bit higher than we'd like at wide-angle, but happily the worst of it manifests only when the lens is significantly stopped down. At 25mm, the lens offers excellent performance, tack-sharp at f/5.6. Results for Distortion and Corner shading were both excellent. As kit lenses go, the 14-42mm is quite nice, and its compact design is quite welcome when handling the E-P1."

The only real concern with this lens is the chromatic aberration at wider focal lengths. I too had seen this in some of my high contrast pictures. In my case, I didn't notice any at longer focal lengths, and only sometimes at the wider angles. But it is something to be aware of with this zoom.

Overall, I think most of us agree that this is a heck of a good kit lens for the Olympus PEN E-P1

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In my latest Macworld article, Recover from digital photo disasters, I show you how to protect your digital images -- from memory card to computer. For example, here's a simple tip that many people overlook.

Photographers tend to overlook the most obvious booby trap: losing the memory card itself. Memory cards are misplaced all of the time. Often they're found by honest people, but if you don't have your cell phone number or e-mail address written on each card, how is someone going to return it to you?

I label the back of all my memory cards with my contact info.Start by writing your contact information on every memory card you have. (I affix a small label to my cards.) And don't stop with memory cards. Every hard drive you own, laptop computer, digital camera, and memory card reader (which could have a card in it) should be labeled with your name and contact information This is your first line of protection against losing valuable data. And I've seen this work. A friend of mine got a call from a rental car company informing her that three CF cards full of pictures from Iceland were found in the auto she had just turned in.

But what about SD cards you might ask? There isn't enough room for writing. That's why I use a labeler for them. In the article I show an illustration with my SD cards labeled.

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