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I'm heading out to Photoshop World this week, and I should have lots to report.

First, I'll be recording interviews in the O'Reilly Media booth with some great photographers including: John Paul Caponigro, Vincent Versace, and Stephen Johnson. I'm also going to chat with Mikkel Aaland live from Tasmania via AIM as he reports on the Lightroom Adventure II from way down under.


During my stay in Orlando, I'll also promote my new book, The Digital Photography Companion. O'Reilly Media, the publisher, is giving away Photo Companion Cards that I designed, which include tables for exposure compensation, lighting, white balance settings (with Kelvin), and an "After Every Shoot" checklist. The cards look just like the tables in the back of Companion, so if your attending Photoshop World, be sure to come by the O'Reilly booth and get your hands on one. Can't wait to grab a few myself.

If anything hot catches my attention while I'm in Orlando, I'll post here about it. Otherwise, stay tuned for some terrific audio interviews coming your way.


Events! See the TDS Event Calendar for photography workshops, speaking engagements, and trade show appearances, including my Beginning Workflow with Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom on June 22-28, 2008 in Sante Fe, New Mexico.

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There's so much to like about Aperture 2.1, but the game-changer is Edit API. Apple has created a bonafide plug-in architecture for Aperture that enables 3rd party developers such as Nik Software (Viveza) and PictureCode (Noise Ninja) to place their technology within Apple's pro level photo management application.

In order to give you a glimpse at the possibilities, Apple is providing the first plug-in for free and part of the 2.1 download. Dodge and Burn works just like tools in your favorite external editor, except you don't have to go anywhere. Consider it your "internal editor" that provides very elegant tools for lightening and darkening specific areas of a photo. But wait, there's more. Go to the popup menu in the interface and you'll also see options for saturate, desaturate, sharpen, blur, contrast and fade. This is one heck of an example plug-in.


The file handling is similar to roundtripping with an external editor. You choose an image in your library to edit, Aperture opens it in the plug-in window, your make your adjustments, then when you save, a new master Tiff is placed in your Aperture library. As always, your original file remains safe. And, if that original is located on an external drive, the new edited plug-in Tiff will be stored there too.

Tablet users will really enjoy this editing experience. Dodge and Burn is fully tablet compliant. This means you can work quickly and accurately with a pressure sensitive pen. And if you're a custom keystroke kind of dude, you can set your own combination for any of the plug-ins enabling one-touch activation.

Developers interested in creating plug-ins for Aperture will be happy to read that the SDK will be available soon. You can find out more by contacting

In the meantime, enjoy using Dodge and Burn. It's a much welcomed addition to the Aperture toolset.

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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I attended the San Francisco stop of the Aperture World Tour today and had the opportunity to listen to New York pro shooter David Bergman talk about his workflow. This is a guy who sometimes captures as many as 4,000 Raw images in a single assignment.

Since a hobby of mine is appreciating the different ways photographers apply star ratings in their photo management applications, I thought I might pass along David's approach. He starts by going through the entire shoot once applying either a single star on no star to every picture. If a shot gets a single star, it's a legitimate photograph. It might not be a winner, but the focus, exposure, and composition are acceptable. If an image doesn't get a star, then it will most likely never be used.

David then sorts the images, and goes back through the one star images. This time, he looks at them a bit closer, and applies two stars to the pictures that he thinks have potential. He then makes one more pass, this time through the two star images, and applies three stars to the handful of keepers from the shoot. These will be the photos that he will perfect and pass along to the client.

What about four and five stars? David says that four stars are reserved for portfolio pieces, and it's very rare that he would rate an image five stars unless he felt is was a true hero shot.

I know my approach to rating has changed over the years. I thought you might enjoy reading this approach by a big time shooter.

Four star ladybug shot by TDS member Ruth Cooper

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I have this fun talk I've been doing at conferences and user group meetings titled Five Ways to Make Your Photos Look Better, and this coming Thursday, March March 27 at 10 am Pacific Time (17:00 GMT), I'm going to share it online via a live webinar hosted by O'Reilly Media.

The gist of it is this: Thousands of pictures are recorded every day. Many of these shots are personal and not meant to be viewed as art. But what if you could capture the world everyone else sees, but in a more beautiful way? Derrick (that would be me) shows you five ways to make your pictures look a cut above those snapshots we typically see.

You can sign up here for the webinar, but you might want to do so soon; there is a limited number of seats.

It's my first whack at this medium. I think it's going to be loads of fun.

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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From June 22 to June 28, 2008, I'll be facilitating a Digital Lab at Santa Fe Workshops titled, Beginning Workflow with Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. I'm very excited about having the opportunity to teach this lab, not just because I'll be working in Santa Fe for a week (although, not bad either), but because I'll be able to share one of my favorite workflows for photographers who want to work efficiently.

The basic approach is to use Adobe tools to identify your best shots quickly, then perfect and move along without getting bogged down in Photoshop. I have lots of great techniques that empower you to be in control or your workflow, and shift your focus back to capturing great shots.

Part of this formula is keeping a few tips in mind while shooting your Raw images. If you know how you want to work on the back-end, then you can capture to optimize that process. I think this approach makes us better craftsmen, and it builds confidence while working in the field.

Plus, we'll all be in Santa Fe. What a great location to share our thoughts and improve our photography. You can register online here, or call (505) 983-1400. If you download the Summer Catalog, (7.5 MBs) you can peruse all the great opportunities available in Santa Fe this coming year.


Events! See the TDS Event Calendar for photography workshops, speaking engagements, and trade show appearances, including my Beginning Workflow with Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom on June 22-28, 2008 in Sante Fe, New Mexico.

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Second-curtain flash is a technique where the flash fires at the end of a long exposure instead of the beginning. This puts the motion blur in the right location: behind the subject.


I discovered a PDF online from my DP Hacks book that provides a great tutorial for this technique. You can grab it by downloading Second-Curtain Flash for Cool Effects.

My personal advice. Find that setting on your camera, and just leave it there. I can't think of an instance when I would want the flash to fire at the beginning of the movement instead of at the end. And if you have more to add on this, please post a comment.

Photo by David Goldwasser.

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One of my biggest complaints about the Canon lens arsenal are their 50mm options. There is the sharp, but grindy 50mm f-1.8. This is the lens I use, but not the one I want. Canon's 50mm f-1.4 is only slightly better design wise, but soft at the edges when wide open. And the 50mm f-1.2 is huge and way to expensive for my budget. Therefore, I've begrudgingly stuck with the high-value but low sex appeal 50mm f-1.8 for all these years.

But Sigma may be coming to my rescue. They just announced their 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM, and boy does it look sweet. It will be available in Sigma, Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and Sony mounts. Their specs are exactly what I'm looking for:

  • Standard lens with large maximum aperture of F1.4.
  • It creates sharp images with high contrast and ensures superior peripheral brightness.
  • Incorporates molded glass aspherical lens, perfectly correcting coma aberration and creating superior image quality.
  • Super multi-layer lens coating reduces flare and ghosting.
  • Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) ensuring silent, high-speed AF with manual focus override.

Sigma had not announced price and availability yet. Oh please make it soon and affordable. I'll follow up as soon as I get my hands on one.

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"The new trim size [of The Digital Photography Companion] will make it more appealing for bookstore shelving, but we wanted to make sure it stayed portable too," wrote Colleen Wheeler in her post, It's Still a Pocket Guide at Heart. (The Companion is someone you want with you, not home on the shelf when you need to figure out your exposure compensation setting.) So we went with a 5 1/2 by 8 1/2" size that will fit nicely in camera bags. Oh, and it still fits in some (larger) pockets. (Author carrying case not included.)

Photo by Colleen Wheeler (editor of Companion). Pocket by Derrick Story.

Event Calendar

Events! See the TDS Event Calendar for photography workshops, speaking engagements, and trade show appearances.

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The good news about an updated monitor calibrator, such as the Spyder3Elite by ColorVision, is that it reminds us that we have to calibrate in the first place.

By way of anecdote, I'm setting up a just-arrived MacBook Pro 17", and wanted to make a quick print yesterday. After making sure I had the right drivers for Leopard, I then noticed that the image looked a little different on the screen than what came out of the printer. Oh rats! Calibration.

The Spyder3 has been on my radar, and fortunately, PhotographyBLOG has just reviewed the Spyder3Elite. Here's their introduction to the product:

"The Spyder3Elite is the top-of-the-range product in Datacolor's new line-up of display calibration devices. You need to calibrate your monitor to ensure that the colours you see on your screen are the colours seen on someone else's screen, or on the paper when you print. The Spyder3Elite uses a 7 colour detector engine and a larger light aperture to improve performance and colour accuracy over both the previous Spyder2 and competing brands. It also features an Ambient Light Control which will automatically measure the light in a room at regular intervals. Jon Canfield recalibrates his entire studio to find out if the Spyder3Elite delivers on its promises..."

The Spyder3Elite is available on Amazon for $236.

Now I've got to get back to my MacBook Pro and get that monitor looking right...

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"I read about the lunar eclipse just a few hours before it was to start, in an urgent email from a friend," said Marty German. "I had just enough time to Google the local start times for each of the main phases."

How Marty Took the Shots

"I setup my 1980s Leitz Tiltal tripod and mounted my Nikon D200 camera with its 1980's Nikon 80-200 f/2.8 ED AF lens manually focused to infinity, and set it to its maximum 200mm zoom. It was the longest lens that I own. I shot everything in raw so that I could 'tweak it' later. As it turned out, this made all of the difference! To minimize vibrations I used the self timer to trigger the actual shots."

"Because my first shot was of the full moon at 'first contact', it was basically a 'full sunlit' object. So the same exposure to photograph someone on the beach in full sun, is perfect for shooting the full moon."

"I guessed my starting exposure using the f:16 rule. This rule says to use f:16 at the shutter speed nearest to your ISO setting. In this case this was 1/500th of a second (because I was shooting at ISO 500) but after bracketing a few shots, f:11 turned out to be the best exposure. I think this was because the eclipse had already begun."

"As quickly as possible, I made a dozen shots before retreating into my warm house. It was 22 degrees here in CT. This is good for a 'dry' clear sky but challenging for the photographer to endure! When the wind blew, my tears froze to my eye lashes making it difficult to compose the moon in the viewfinder."

"An hour later, I went back outside and repeated the same basic procedures, but this time the luminance of the mostly eclipsed moon had decreased. The best test exposure histogram changed to f:9 at 1/500th of a second with everything else remaining the same."

"After another dozen 'duplicate' CYA shots, I went back in to thaw out, again. Unfortunately, gloves don't work the controls of a DSLR very well so I didn't have any on. Did I say it was really cold out?"

"Another hour later and the moon was dark except for the 'earth shine' created by our atmosphere catching and bending our star's light and acting as a giant filter!"

"The rust color is created by the dust particles and gases in our atmosphere. From the look of the moon, our atmosphere was pretty dirty that night! The same as it looks through the smoke of a campfire at night. Because our atmosphere is so thin, only a small ring of sunlight around the rim of the earth gets bent enough by the atmosphere to illuminate our moon when it is in this totality of our eclipse. For this final shot of the rusty moon, I opened up the lens to it's maximum f:2.8 aperture and the exposure was all the way down to 1/10th of a second."

"All night, I'd been watching high cirrus clouds moving in and in this final shot they softened the moon noticeably. The secret to getting a shot through 'steady' air is to make lots of repeat shots and hope you get a clear one. Patience and persistence is required! That's why I made a dozen duplicate exposures of the first two phases. But for this third shot, with the clouds getting heavier and the exposure much longer, I made two dozen exposures for this last shot of the moon."

"As it turned out, only one out of all of these final shots was good enough to use! This kind of photography often comes down to luck no matter how good your gear and preparedness is."

How Marty Processed the Images

"I used my Aperture 2 trial software to 'process' the three shots. Thanks to Derrick's, "Aperture 2: New Features" tutorial on, it took only a couple of minutes for me to adjust each shot, fine tuning exposures, boosting contrast and reducing color noise. Now I have to come up with the money to buy Aperture, and it's all your fault, Derrick ;-) (BTW Great tutorial! Thanks again.)

"Normally I'd have used Capture NX to process my Nikon raw shots, but I found that the new Aperture interface was faster and easier to use, and IMHO, the raw converter in Aperture 2 is as good as NX's and both NX and Aperture produce noticeably better Nikon raw conversions than ACR does."

"Because my longest lens is only a 200 mm lens, the moon shots required a lot of cropping and the final moon image of each ended up being only 500 pixels square. This was also simple to set precisely so that they were all exactly the same size in Aperture 2."

"I took these three images and combined them in Photoshop CS3 to make up the final montage, and then up-sampled the final image to 300 dpi and 4" x 6" which is 1800 pixels by 1200 pixels."

"I made this montage for my 9 year old nephew, Clay. I hope you enjoy my pictures as much as I've enjoyed looking at all of your best shots on the Digital Story Public Pool on Flickr."

Photo of the Lunar Eclipse Phases by Marty German.

More Tips from The Digital Photography Companion

"How I Did It" is a new feature of The Digital Story featured on The Digital Photography Companion mini site. These are techniques from virtual camera club members who have built upon information in The Digital Photography Companion, or have come up with new tips altogether.

We're building a living library of knowledge for everyone to use (and contribute to). If you have a "How I Did It" tip to share, just send it to me with the sample photo, and put "How I Did It" in the email subject.

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