Monthly Archives: January 2009

Link Roundup 01-30-2009

I failed to post the link roundup for the last two weeks, so I’ve got a big pile of links to share this time around. Due to the high number of links, I’m only going to post the title of the article — no additional commentary. Next week’s roundup should go back to normal.

Birthday Gift #2 – Three Equipment Rentals

The second gift for the birthday party will be camera equipment… but you have to give it back. Yup, three lucky winners will get their choice of equipment rentals from BorrowLenses.com.

BorrowLenses.com

BorrowLenses.com offers up a rental service for photographers in the United States. You can get a wide selection of lenses and camera bodies for the Canon and Nikon systems, along with things like tripods, camera bags, and lighting equipment.

For the birthday party, they’re giving out three two-week rentals. Here are the terms and conditions attached to the offer:

  • You need to be in the US.
  • The order will need to be made online and you will need to provide a credit card number. This won’t be charged but they will need it to ensure you don’t run off with their lens :-) BorrowLenses.com is a reputable business but if you don’t feel comfortable with this condition please don’t enter.
  • The offer excludes super telephoto lenses and pro camera bodies.

… so anything else is game!

TO ENTER THE RAFFLE…

Same as the last one — leave me a comment and let me know you’d like to be entered. REMEMBER — this offer is limited to US participants and it excludes pro bodies and super-telephoto lenses. I would highly encourage you to visit their site and browse their inventory before entering the giveaway. And if you’re not a Canon or Nikon user, you might consider picking up a rental for a tripod, camera bag, or lighting equipment. The winners will be randomly chosen one week from the date of this post.

Calling the Shots at Weddings – Tips for Amateur Photographers

This article is contributed by Sarah Scrafford, who regularly writes on the topic of Photojournalism programs. She invites your questions, comments and freelancing job inquiries at her email address: sarah.scrafford25@gmail.com.

Endless love
Creative Commons License photo credit: millzero.com

Getting married is one of the most significant events in our lives, and we’re all looking to cement memories of that special day for posterity through videos and photographs. This makes wedding pictures exceptional, as the occasion does not repeat itself for most of us. While professional photographers are likely to do a great job of capturing the event, there are times when the bride and groom prefer a close friend or relative to step up to the occasion. If you’ve been designated as the photographer for the day because you own a pretty good camera and are known for your amateur photography skills, here’s how you can make sure you do a pretty decent job that earns you more than a pat on the back:

  • Make sure your equipment’s up to scratch
    You cannot afford to be caught unaware with a camera that refuses to bow to your wishes while the ceremony’s taking place. Make sure your gear is in working condition and that you have an equally good backup camera. Besides this, you’ll need memory cards, batteries and chargers (I’m assuming you’re going digital) to back you up in your efforts. You’ll need between 8 and 10 megapixels in strength on a digital SLR camera in order to get the best pictures. If possible, find yourself an assistant who can help with your equipment and also take a few candid shots while you handle the more formal ones.
  • Case out the location before the actual day
    You need to be familiar with the location well before the actual event so that you can decide on the vantage positions from where you can get the best shots. Besides this, if you’re supposed to get pictures of the bride and groom and their parties on the way to the venue of the wedding and the reception, you need to know where you can position yourself along the way so that you can get some good shots.
  • Talk to the bride and groom to discuss the kind of pictures they want
    Some couples prefer a minimum amount of pictures while others want to go the whole hog and get everything that’s happening on camera. Discuss the needs of the bride and groom and make plans accordingly.
  • Make sure you get all the formal shots needed
    You don’t want to be the one responsible for the displeasure of disgruntled relatives who find they’ve been left out of the photo album. So make sure you get everyone who counts on camera. To ensure that you don’t mess up, get someone from the groom’s side and someone from the bride’s side to help you out with the arrangement and preparation for the shots.

  • Be ready and prepared
    There are no chances for action replays or reshoots at weddings, so make sure you’re prepared with a fast camera and faster fingers. Also, don’t delete any pictures from your digital cache until you’re sure you don’t want to print them as part of the final album.

Make sure your efforts make the day even more memorable, no matter how many years go by.

Kelley & Elkins TTD - Explored!!!  Yippie!
Creative Commons License photo credit: kel niemann

This article is contributed by Sarah Scrafford, who regularly writes on the topic of Photojournalism programs. She invites your questions, comments and freelancing job inquiries at her email address: sarah.scrafford25@gmail.com.

Birthday Gift #1 – Two Flickr Pro Accounts

January 12 marked the 2 year birthday of Epic Edits… and January 14 marked the beginning of my (much needed) vacation. So needless to say, we’ll be kicking off the birthday gifts a few weeks late this year.

To start things off, Antoine from All Day I Dream About Photography (or ADIDAP for us regulars) will be giving away the gift of Flickr with a Flickr Pro Account! Antoine also has a great Flickr Group where you can submit photos to be eligible for his yearly calendars. And Flickr Pro is such a great gift, I’m handing out a second to match Antoine! Here’s what you’ll get with a Flickr Pro Account:

  • Unlimited Storage
  • Unlimited Bandwidth
  • Unlimited Photo Sets
  • The Use of Collections
  • Ad-Free Interface
  • Photo Statistics
  • Video Uploads

TO ENTER THE RAFFLE…

All you have to do is leave a comment telling me that you’d like to be eligible for one of the two Flickr Pro Accounts. The winners will be chosen randomly from the comments and I’ll announce them after one week — so don’t miss out and leave a comment!

I’m On Vacation

Just a quick note to everybody who didn’t already know, I’m on vacation in North Idaho with my family. I had planned on keeping up with the blogging, but I figure if I’m on vacation I might as well take a little time off to relax. We’ve been visiting friends and family, taking photos, and trying to stay warm. I’ll be heading up to the ski slopes in a few days and I’m bringing a camera, so I’m pretty stoked about that. I might even take the kids skiing one day… so we’ll see how that goes.

As for the stuff here on the blog, everything is still going to happen — it just might be a little delayed from my original plan. I’ve got the photo backup recap and PDF to publish, the Photoshop Action project results to post, and a few birthday giveaways (yup, we turned 2 on the 12th!). So hang tight — I’ll start posting some of this stuff over the next week once all the family activities die down a little.

Update Your Camera Firmware

Digital cameras need software to operate, and that software can be updated for improved functionality and performance. This software in your camera is called firmware, and it acts much the same as software on your computer. And please, no arguments about the terms firmware and software… that’s not what this article is about.

Updating your camera firmware can improve things like menu navigation, bracketing options, noise reduction, high ISO performance, focusing precision, auto white balance improvements, and more. Updates to firmware can also include proper functionality with new camera accessories such as vertical grips, flash units, and lenses. And, brand new cameras will often have some “bugs” that get resolved through firmware updates (“5D’II black dots” ring any bells?).

So here’s the basic process of updating your camera firmware — it’s not hard, you just have to follow the directions given by the manufacturer. And this stuff should hold true for ALL digital cameras, not just dSLR cameras.

  1. CHECK YOUR FIRMWARE VERSION
    Every camera has a different way of doing this, but most cameras should have the ability to display the firmware version. Instructions for checking the version can likely be found in your camera manual or through the manufacturer’s support website.
  2. CHECK FOR FIRMWARE UPDATES
    Once you know which version you have, check the web for the latest version of the firmware. If the latest version isn’t the same as the version you’re using, it’s time to update.
  3. DOWNLOAD NEW FIRMWARE
    Navigate to the correct page through your manufacturer’s support website, read everything, and follow the instructions to download the firmware.
  4. UPDATE YOUR CAMERA FIRMWARE
    Again, each brand or camera has a different way of actually updating the firmware. Instructions for completing this process can be found on the website you downloaded the firmware. And always update your firmware with a full battery.
  5. CHECK YOUR CAMERA SETTINGS
    After the update is complete, run through your menus and check that your settings are correct. You may even have some new settings that weren’t there before. After you check your menus, take a few test shots and make sure the camera is working properly.

Here are some of the support websites for the various camera manufacturers. Do note that other websites may be more appropriate for non-US photographers — some camera manufacturers have separate support websites for other countries. DISCLAIMER: I take no responsibility if you mess up your own camera while trying to update the firmware. Do this stuff at your own risk, and read the manufacturer’s instructions VERY CAREFULLY.

So how often do you update your firmware? And do you have any other tips for those who haven’t done this yet?

PhotoDump 01-11-2009

More great stuff from the Epic Edits Flickr Pool! We’re approaching 1,000 group members and 15,000 photos in the pool — not bad considering I’ve got everybody capped at 1 photo per day! You guys are awesome!

She was thinking a mile away by Maureen BondFujairah Beach by rey_amioAll Curled Up by Chris FarrugiaWatching from shadows... by funkyforkWinter Dusk by RoryW by ★ Mathias Pastwa ★red by earmerriganSailing by gh patriotMen @ Work by Ananda NiyogiBlood Red Wake-up Call by Chris NixonFlight by ergatesLil' Fisherman by erbephoto365-006 by cyoungConfiguration by Chris FarrugiaCleaned Up by JanneMGraphic Designer. by the_wolf_brigadeCoffee Chest by theprint by ★ Mathias Pastwa ★thank_you3.jpg by ebreidySara in studio 2 by cabbitOld Age III by The Creative ControlMe and my street by mustanirWe are not the messengers by henrikjWaken by aaronkoolenSan Diego Administration Building by Brian Auersunshine sisters by marvinnetfeeding the gulls by gottofrBanyan by amathadFeather by mgrovesConversation by laanba

Link Roundup 01-10-2009

A few selected links from this week…

  • Ambrotype Photography
    Photocritic
    If you think film photography is a pain-in-the-butt, check out this stuff! I think I found my next personal challenge!
  • How to Photograph a Convention
    digital Photography School
    Conventions can be a great place to photograph some interesting characters — here’s a good set of tips for doing just that!
  • Creativity Ideas for Photographers
    My Camera World
    We all hit creativity blocks from time to time. Here are some ideas for getting past those blocks and getting back on track.
  • Four compact photo printers under $150
    Photodoto
    Printing is becoming a long lost art among photographers. So check out these four (inexpensive) photo printers if you want to actually see some photos on paper.
  • Playing With Fire – How to Photograph Fire
    digital Photography School
    Fire can be a tricky subject in photography. Here are a few good tips for getting better fire photos in a variety of situations.
  • Chase Jarvis’ 5 Tips for Exceptional Photographs
    silberstudios.tv
    An Interview with Chase Jarvis as he gives out his 5 tips for exceptional photographs.
  • “Share-a-Link” Saturday
    LeggNet’s Digital Capture
    Rich opened up the floodgates for people to leave comments with links to their favorite photography sites. Check out the list, and leave a few of your own favorites!
  • City of Lost Carts
    Doc Challenge
    An interesting documentary on a photographer who primarily photographed a very specific subject for an extended period of time.

Photo Backup: Strategy

the chess and the rooks
Creative Commons License photo credit: regolare

I’ve really been dragging this series out — so far we’ve talked about all the major types of hardware, and the last article talked about software. Now it’s time to put it all together and set a strategy. It’s important to make a plan of attack when it comes to backing up photos, and this includes things like hardware choices, software choices, amount of redundancy, storage locations, schedule, and more.

FOLLOW THIS SERIES OF ARTICLES!
TOC — PHOTO BACKUP GUIDE
BACK — SOFTWARE

And what do we have after this article? Well, maybe just the recap of the whole series! I’ll try to get everything wrapped into a single PDF for your reference.

tips
Creative Commons License photo credit: estherase

REDUNDANCY

The first step in creating your backup strategy is deciding on the amount of redundancy you’re comfortable with. More redundancy means more protection, but it also means more effort and expense. Less redundancy is easier to deal with, but you may be putting yourself at risk.

I would suggest a minimum of two complete and independent backups.

No matter what type of hardware you decide to use, you will greatly reduce the risk of data loss when you have 2 independent backups. The chances of losing the originals and two additional backups is very slim. Going beyond the minimum of 2 will give you less risk, but with a diminishing return.

I have two backups myself: an external hard drive and DVDs.

LOCATION

The next thing you need to think about is where your backups will be stored. Obviously, the easiest place to store them is in your home. This is fine, but it doesn’t entirely protect against things like natural disasters or robbery. Storing your backups in multiple locations will also greatly reduce your risk of losing your photos.

I would suggest storing at least one of your two backups off-site.

Storing off-site can be done in a variety of methods. You could keep a backup at the home of a friend or relative. You could store a backup at your office. Or you could get a safe deposit box at your bank. For the backup you store at home, you can also guard yourself by keeping it in a fireproof safe — this will further reduce the risk of loss via fire or theft.

I keep my primary backup in a fireproof safe at my home and my secondary backup at my office.

HARDWARE

You have all kinds of choices for backup hardware: internal hard drives, external hard drives, RAID towers, DVDs, and online services. Each has its pros and cons, so go back and familiarize yourself with them if necessary. What you choose will largely be a factor of personal preference, cost, and ease of use.

I would suggest using the best hardware you can afford.

Skimping on your backup hardware will only lead to problems and possible disaster. It’s silly to spend hundreds of dollars on a new lens, but fret over a few bucks on that external hard drive.

My primary backup is an external hard drive and my secondary backup is a book of DVDs (which are kept off-site).

enchulated cidis
Creative Commons License photo credit: dorotea…

SOFTWARE

Once you have your hardware picked out, you’ll need some software to accommodate it. Most backup software will get you by, but some features and options will be exclusive to certain software packages. In the end, you have to be comfortable with the software because you’ll be the one using it on a regular basis.

I use Norton Ghost as my backup software.

SCHEDULE

Now that you’ve got all the hardware and software picked out, it’s time to decide on a backup schedule. Some people prefer to have real-time backups, while others are fine with daily, weekly, or monthly backups. It all depends on your volume of work and your comfort level with your backup status. If you decide to only backup once per month, you’re at risk most of the time. Then again, if you backup on a daily basis, you may be spending more time dealing with backups than the actual photos.

I would suggest at least a weekly backup for your primary hardware.

You can also set different schedules for each of your backups. Your primary should be more accessible than your secondary, so you may consider updating that one more often. In the end, you have to balance time and effort with data security.

My primary is backed-up once per week and my secondary is backed-up once per month.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

In addition to the points above, you’ll have to sort out a few other things on your own. You need to decide on a budget, for both money and time. Some options cost more than others, and some require more time and effort. You’ll also need to think about the long-term stability of your backups. Hardware doesn’t last forever, and no matter which options you choose you’ll have to replace them at some point in time.

But regardless of how you decide to backup your photos, you should definitely back them up. Don’t leave your photos open for disaster.

What’s Your Newest Inspiration?

I feel that inspiration is an important driving mechanism for photographers. Its the thing that pushes us to take photos and improve ourselves. And the interesting thing about inspiration is that everybody’s is different, yet it drives us to do similar things (like photography).

The other day, my friend Vivien from InspirationBit asked me what my new sources of inspiration are this year. I’ve written about my sources of inspiration in the past, but it was a good question to ponder at the start of the new year. Here was my response:

I’m going to have to say that my new darkroom is quickly becoming my inspiration for photography. There’s something magical in loading a piece of film into the enlarger and creating a photo from light, paper, and a few chemicals. The tactile and visual qualities of paper far outweighs the additional cost of printing. Seeing one of your own photos on a silver-gelatin print is pretty amazing. So with that, I’ll be shooting a fair amount of black and white film this year. I’ve also discovered the awesomeness of printing from medium format film, so I’ve vowed to get more use out of my old Twin Lens Reflex (which is crazy-sharp even though it’s over 50 years old)!

[UPDATE] Vivien has posted her blog post displaying answers from select bloggers she contacted.

So I’m turning Vivien’s question to all of you now. I’d like to hear about your newest source of inspiration and how it’s impacted your work.

What’s the latest thing (or person) that gets you fired up about photography?

What direction is your newfound inspiration pushing you?