Monthly Archives: April 2008

We’re Ready for Real Advertisers

Your Ad Here

Epic Edits has shown ads for a loooong long time now — mostly AdSense, Chitika, and some affiliate programs. Those things were fine for the early days, but it’s time for the site to grow up a little. From here out, I’ll be working on bringing in real advertisers. What you see now are affiliate programs and house ads for my photoblog (plus a tiny bit of AdSense to fill in the gaps).

Over the last month, I’ve been busy getting setup with my own ad server, creating email accounts, adjusting the settings in my PayPal account, writing an “Advertise Here” page, getting rid of AdSense, and looking for advertisers to contact. One of these days, I’ll actually find someone who’s interested in putting a banner up.

WHAT WILL CHANGE?

Nothing much, other than the fact that you’ll see some new and different banners on the site every once in a while. I won’t be placing any additional ads above or inside of the content; it makes it too hard to read. Placements and sizes will remain constant for the time being.

Eventually, I might experiment with small half-banner ads at the bottom of the feed (similar to what you see at the Strobist and other popular publications). If that happens, I’m going to be extremely particular about who will be able to fill those spots — I’m not willing to lose subscribers because of cruddy ads in the feed.

In addition to the ad banners themselves, you can expect to see a small posting giving some background on new advertisers as they come on board. This will give them a little extra exposure, the feed hobbits will get to see what’s happening, and I’ll then have a nice little archive of past business partners.

HOW DOES THIS BENEFIT YOU?

Every new advertiser will be pre-approved by me personally. This means that their business needs to be of high quality and relevance to you guys. The goal is to provide the visitors of this site with useful information — not a bunch of useless crap.

So… once these advertisers start signing on, you might actually want to check them out and see what they have to offer. I’m going to try targeting a mixture of businesses that offer equipment, software, software add-ons, and services. In the end, I’d like to keep the ads inline with the content of the site.

HOW DOES THIS BENEFIT ME?

It’s no secret, I’m trying to make a few bucks from the blog. Hey, why not? I put in plenty of hours to keep things going — it’s just not feasible to work that hard for free. What I was making with the previous ads wasn’t enough to even matter. My goal is to have some reasonable percentage of my income be from this website.

I’m not just greedy, I actually have a good reason for this. The more money I can make here, the less I need to make from my day job. If I need less money from my day job, I can work fewer hours. Fewer hours there equals more hours here. More hours here results in more content, projects, contests, and other fun stuff for all of us.

Plus I don’t like working for somebody else.

So that’s it; I just wanted to let everybody know what’s happening. If any of you reading this have a lead on possible advertisers, let me know and I can follow up. And, certainly, if anyone out there IS an advertiser, now is a great time to get a campaign started while prices are still low.

Ballhead or Panhead?

Basketball Head
Creative Commons License photo credit: auer1816

Since we just talked about tabletop tripods, it got me thinking about tripod heads. Personally, I’m a fan of ballheads, but some people swear by 3-way panheads. So which is it for you? And why do you have that preference? I’m sure there are a few folks out there who are looking to get their first tripod, and having some insights on tripod heads would be helpful.

{democracy:45}

Also be sure to check the results from last week’s poll having to do with autofocus methods. Almost 50% of us use “Single Shot” autofocus, while 25% use “Auto”. And as always, take a read through the comments for some additional insights from fellow readers.

A Fresh New Photography Podcast!

Visit PhotoNetCast

PhotoNetCast has just officially launched with its first two podcast episodes. The new production is a group effort between four photographers and bloggers, discussing many of the current topics in photography-land. The site’s creator, Antonio Marques of Words: irrational puts it best:

Our idea is to stand out from the crowd and turn this podcast into a more relaxed and dynamic feature with a roundtable format. Instead of delivering the common “how to’s” we intend to bring our own opinions and discuss the latest news going around in the photography world with a special focus on what is released by photography bloggers. This, of course, doesn’t mean that we will not try to make it educational.

In addition to Antonio’s voice appearing in the podcast, you’ll hear Jim Goldstein, Martin Gommel, and Myself co-hosting in this twice-a-month discussion of photography. Along with each podcast release are show-notes that highlight the topics of discussion along with links to the stories we’re referring to. The other photographers/bloggers in the show are guys that I have high respect and admiration for, and I’ve known each of them for quite some time. So if you’re looking for something to listen to while you process your photos or surf through Flickr, give the PhotoNetCast a try.

For those who do end up listening to the first few episodes, we’d really appreciate some feedback and future suggestions on how to make the show better. And for those of you with a blog of your own, we’d certainly love it if you helped spread the word to your readers. Thanks everyone!

Carry a Tabletop Tripod Just In Case

Sometimes it’s not convenient to carry a tripod with you — especially the big bulky sturdy pieces of equipment that some of us like to use. But not every occasion requires a heavy duty tripod, and something much smaller will suffice.

A while back, I picked up one of these tabletop tripods (well… my Mom got me the Sunpak Mini-PRO Plus for Christmas). It’s really nice to have since I rarely want to carry my Slik Pro 700DX equipped with the Slik AF2100 Pistol Grip Ballhead because it looks like a rocket launcher and weighs as much as a tank. My tabletop tripod, however, fits in a lens compartment in my camera bag and I can use it in a pinch. Of course, if I want to do some serious landscape or sunset work I’ll break out the big guns.

Most tripods in this category are about the same size and price — approximately 7 inches folded down, about 12″ fully extended, as big around as a typical lens, and under $30. One thing to look out for when researching one of these tripods: make sure it can hold the weight of your camera — some are intended for compact cameras while others are capable of supporting a dSLR.

So if you’ve ever found yourself without a tripod in a time of need, check out some of these tabletop versions shown here (especially the one at the top of the post… it’s new and it looks awesome for dSLR users).

Share the Love

Share the Love

My buddy Neil Creek is running another photography project, and this one is titled “Share the Love“. He’s asking us to submit a photo of something in our lives that we love. I’m bending the rules a little with my triptych, but it’s still a single image file.

The people in the photos are my family – Rex, Candice, and Bailey (from left to right). I sure do love these guys. All three of them are so very different in personality, though all three are highly energetic. They keep me on my toes. I did this as a triptych because it’s a rare occasion that I get all three of them in the same shot looking at the camera and not making faces. Oh, and the dog — that’s Pinky. She’s not ours; we were dog-sitting for some friends. I think I love her too.

The three photos were taken on April 20th at my Grandfather’s house. We had a little family get-together and I took the opportunity to burn through a few rolls of black & white film (which also happens to be a new love in my life). The photos of Rex and Candice were taken with a roll of Ilford Delta 400, and the photo of Bailey was with some Ilford XP2. All three shots were done with my 135mm f/2.8 lens on my Minolta SRT-Super. The negatives were scanned and post processed with ACR for dust removal and slight tone adjustments.

If you’re interested in participating in Neil’s project, better do it quick. The deadline is April 30, and he’s got a form on the project announcement page.

Link Roundup 04-26-2008

Your Guide to Adobe Bridge: Organizing

Adobe Bridge: Organizing

In the last part of this series, we went over File Processing with Adobe Bridge. So now that the images have been skimmed and processed on a very basic level, it’s now time to start picking out the good ones and organizing.

Before I spend any more time keywording or adding titles and descriptions, I thin out the herd so I’m not wasting time on photos that will never be used for anything. To do this, Adobe Bridge offers several tools such as stars and labels. Bridge also offers tools for finding images, so we’ll cover searching and creating collections.

FOLLOW THIS SERIES OF ARTICLES!
VISIT THE TABLE OF CONTENTS
BACK — ADOBE BRIDGE FILE PROCESSING
NEXT — ADOBE BRIDGE USEFUL TIPS AND TRICKS

STAR SYSTEM

Adobe Bridge Star System

Adobe Bridge offers the ability to star your photos based on a five point scale. This gives you six levels of separation to use however you like. I personally don’t use the stars because my own organizing scheme works fine without them, but you may find a use for them. Once you add stars to a photo you’ll have the option of filtering your files by this rating system.

I say that I don’t use the stars, but I actually utilize them as a temporary means of choosing files. If I have several photos of a very similar scene, I typically want to choose just one of them. So I add stars to photos in the group based on technical and artistic merits. This helps me narrow down my selection to just a few photos that can be compared side by side. After I choose the winner, all the stars are removed.

LABEL SYSTEM

Labels are similar to stars, but they’re not so centered around a ranking scale. I use labels heavily because they can be filtered easily and the colors associated with them make it very convenient to spot labeled photos and folders. In addition, the label system can be customized to match your needs. Labels can be applied via the right-click menu or by pressing “Ctrl+(6-9)” while one or more items are selected.

Adobe Bridge Labels

The default labels offered in CS3 are No Label, Select, Second, Approved, Review, and To Do. These may be fine for your particular workflow, but I’ve customized the text of my labels to make them more recognizable. This can be done through the “Edit >> Preferences… >> Labels” dialog. I use To Do (need to be processed), In Process (started but not finished), Complete (finished processing), Revisit (reprocess later), and For Sale (anything on the market).

I only apply labels to the photos I’m going to process on a deeper level, so very few of them actually get a label. I also label my folders with red, yellow, or green based on what I have going on inside. Red folders have not been processed at all. Yellow folders have some photos started. Green folders are complete and need no attention at the moment. And Blue folders were complete but need more attention now. So while looking at my folders, it’s easy to see what needs working on and what doesn’t. Once inside of the folder, it’s a simple matter of selecting the “To Do” or “In Process” filter to see what needs work. The filter is also handy for bringing up the completed photos in case I’m looking for new material to sell.

SEARCH FEATURES

Filters are fine if you’re working in a single folder of photos, but sometimes you need to expand your reach to a set of folders encompassing multiple photo shoots, months, or years. Finding what you’re looking for is no problem if you’ve done your job with adding keywords, labels, and other metadata.

Most of us are familiar with search and find functions commonly found in software. Bridge is no exception, but the tool is much more powerful than most. Before you start your search, be sure to navigate to the location you want to search under (this will make your job easier). To open the “Find Dialog” just press Ctrl+F or find the item under the “Edit” menu. Here’s what we see:

Adobe Bridge Find Dialog

Adobe Bridge Search Results

The Source option will be pre-filled with your current location, but you can also choose other common locations or browse for a specific directory. Criteria can be added or removed to suit your needs, and there are a vast number of metadata options that can be used for the search. In my example, I’m searching for a “beach” photo that I need “To Do”. There are several other options for the Results that dictate how the search behaves. When you’re ready to search, hit the “Find” button.

USING COLLECTIONS

If you find yourself conducting the same search over and over again, a collection is what you need. Collections are like saved searches, but can be carried out from any location with the same criteria. The results are similar to albums in other organization software, but it’s not quite a drag-n-drop operation.

For example, I’d like to be able to find all of my “To Do” photos without having to look in each folder and filter things down. By creating a collection with the criteria for the label “To Do”, I can run the collection for a set of photo shoots, an entire year, or the whole archive. You can also create collections to search for specific keywords or other items in the metadata.

To start a collection, follow the instructions for a regular search. But instead of hitting “Find” we’re going to hit “Save As Collection”, which will bring up a save file dialog box. Choose a location for your collection, give it a name, and save it — I store mine in a top level directory called “Collections” within my photo archive. Also in that save dialog, you’ll see a couple of other options down near the bottom. I typically select the “Start Search From Current Folder” option so I can execute the collection from any location.

Adobe Bridge Save Collection

To run a collection search from any directory, you’ll need to also add that collection to your “Favorites” so you can access it while browsing your folders. When you get to the level that you want to search from, just run the collection by double clicking it and the search will begin from your current location. Some collections I’ve put together include one for each of my labels and one for seeking images that I’ve posted on various websites (I keyword them with things like “Flickr” and “ImageKind” after I’ve posted them online).

Features such as searches and collections only work well when you’ve put the effort into your photos up-front. Keywording, labeling, starring, and adding other metadata is a key process that has substantial benefits down the road.

WHAT’S NEXT?

I’m sure we could drag this thing out for many more weeks, but I think we’ve covered a majority of the key points with the software. In the next part of the series, I’ll talk about various tips, tools, and techniques for using Adobe Bridge efficiently and effectively.

FOLLOW THIS SERIES OF ARTICLES!
VISIT THE TABLE OF CONTENTS
BACK — ADOBE BRIDGE FILE PROCESSING
NEXT — ADOBE BRIDGE USEFUL TIPS AND TRICKS

Here’s a video I found that goes well with the content discussed in this article.

How Do You Autofocus?

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post on Understanding Autofocus, I’d like to run a poll to find out which methods are most commonly used. So refer back to the previous post if you need some definitions, and if your camera has something I didn’t mention, let us know in the comments.

Day 79 - f o c u s
Creative Commons License photo credit: margolove

I also realize that many of us use more than one setting, so choose the one that you most commonly use… or the one you couldn’t live without.

{democracy:44}

Also, take a peek at the results from last week’s poll asking “What’s Your Choice Brand for Digital Cameras?” Looks like Canon still has a 50% stronghold, while Nikon moved up to 35%, and Sony dropped to a measly 4%. Really? …4%? …yikes.

Understanding Your Autofocus Options

I spent some time recently talking about manual focus with film SLR cameras, but I don’t want to give the impression that I hate autofocus. In fact, I love it. Autofocus is fast, mostly reliable, and occasionally smart.

Messing with manual focus can be a cause of lost opportunities. Likewise, a shallow understanding of autofocus systems can cause missed or improperly executed shots. Newer autofocus systems (especially those on dSLR cameras) are getting smarter, but they still rely on some sort of input from the user. So here are some basics on the various autofocus options — read up and go experiment with them.

Do note that I’m covering the most basic settings and that some cameras may have more, less, or differently labeled options. Read your manual if my notes aren’t making sense.

(A) AUTO

This most basic of the autofocus options. The “Auto” setting gives you a single autofocus when the shutter is depressed half way down. Take the shot and do it again — you’ll get another autofocus. If you shoot in continuous drive mode (or rapid fire), the camera will attempt to refocus between shots. This will slow down your rapid fire rate, but each shot will be focused. This setting is good for most situations that don’t require special setups.

(S) SINGLE

The “Single” setting is very similar to “Auto”. The only difference is how it handles rapid fire situations. Rather than refocus between each shot, “Single” mode will focus prior to the first shot and keep that focus until you release the shutter button. The upside to this is that your rapid fire will run faster, but at the expense of possibly losing focus on moving objects. This setting is good for situations where speed is critical and your subjects are not moving across multiple focal planes between shots.

(C) CONTINUOUS

When it comes to moving objects, “Continuous” mode is the way to go. This setting is very different from “Auto” and “Single” modes because the focus is never really locked until the image is captured. Depressing the shutter half way will cause continuous focus tracking to activate. The camera will constantly adjust the focus as long as you hold that button down. This setting is good for sports photography or other situations where your subjects are moving in or out of focal planes.

(M) MANUAL

Not really an autofocus setting, “Manual” is the opposite the other settings. This will require you to manually adjust the focus ring — depressing the shutter half way will do nothing for your focus. This setting is good for low light situations or any other time your autofocus is having a hard time getting it right. It’s also the fastest way to get a shot off since the camera doesn’t have to focus prior to capturing the image.