Monthly Archives: July 2009

Who’s Your Favorite “Undiscovered” Photographer

Over the past couple of years, I’ve mentioned some of my personal favorite “undiscovered” photographers (part 1 and part 2). I say “undiscovered” because these folks are not your mainstream hotshots known by every other photographer on the face of the Earth — but, you never know what the future holds (plus they’re still freakin’ awesome)!

So this time around, I’d like to give all of you the opportunity to highlight an “undiscovered” photographer. Simply leave a link in the comments to the website or portfolio of your favorite non-mainstream artist (please don’t link to just an image file). Limit your choice to ONE photographer — somebody who does outstanding work. Oh, and try to refrain from promoting yourself… this article is about promoting other people (but don’t worry, you’ll get credit for pointing them out!).

When the comments die down (maybe a week or two), I’d like to get in touch with some of these photographers and exhibit their work here on the blog. I can’t say that I’ll show the work from every photographer mentioned, the exact numbers will depend on the number of entries and the quality of their work. So dig deep and find that “diamond in the rough”!

Link Roundup 07-26-2009

Save A Life – How To Get The Most Out Of Your Camera Battery

This article has been authored by Neil Austin. Neil likes to write about digital wedding photography for his blog: www.DigitalWeddingGuide.com. Neil’s blog mainly focuses on wedding photography tips.

Get the Most out of Your Batteries

Digital cameras are packed with lots of great features and spiffy enhancements. But a lot of the goodies are big culprits when it comes to power usage. And there is no worse feeling in the world than having your digital camera battery run down in the middle of a crucial shot.

While you can quickly stop and put a fresh battery in, you can’t always go back and recreate what would have been a great moment for the camera. And even though you may have a few backup batteries, the real trick is to maximize the life of the one that you’re using so you can get the most shots per charge possible.

Here are some things you can do to help get more out of your battery’s life.

  • Give your LCD screen a rest and use the optical viewfinder. What ends up happening is with each picture you take, it will appear on your digital camera’s LCD screen, eating up valuable battery power. Looking through the viewfinder saves your power for taking more pictures. Of course, be aware that what you see on the viewfinder isn’t exactly what you’re going to see on the actual picture. Some of the scenes to the sides of the frame may be cropped off so make sure you’re focused on your subject if the LCD screen is off.
  • The same idea applies to previewing pictures on your LCD screen. Taking a picture, then pulling it up on the LCD screen to show your friends is a wasteful use of battery life. You can save more power by only looking at a previous picture on the LCD screen if it’s going to help make the next shot better. Save the photo sharing for when you’ve uploaded your pictures to your computer or burned them to a disc.
  • If leaving the LCD screen off isn’t practical, look at lowering the screen’s brightness to save power. Lower it to an acceptable level, remembering that you may have difficulty in bright sunlight viewing the screen. Shade it with the palm of your hand if this is the case.
  • Using your camera’s menu function, try adjusting the “sleep” option. What this will do is put your digital camera into a power-saving sleep mode after a designated period of time, but it still remains ready to be used and can usually be “awakened” by touching one of the camera’s function buttons or the shutter. You may even be able to leave your digital camera in sleep mode to squeeze more shots out of your battery’s charge.
  • Use the single focus feature whenever possible. You’re asking your battery to work that much harder when your camera is using continual focus, and that feature is really only necessary if you’re taking pictures of subjects with lots of motion – say, children playing or maybe shots of a sporting event.
  • Many amateur shutterbugs find themselves playing with the zoom out of habit. Use your zoom sparingly. The motor that zooms your camera’s lens in and out is another unwanted power drain, and you should only use it when you’re ready to shoot.
  • Only press the shutter button when you’re ready to actually take a picture. Pressing it halfway puts the camera into a preparation mode that drains power because it thinks it’s about to take a picture and needs to be ready – and it gets ready by resetting and refocusing the camera – a big expense of power.
  • Don’t charge your battery if it still has a relatively strong charge. This can diminish a battery’s ability to hold a charge, and that is something you will start to notice when you begin getting fewer shots per charge. Avoid dropping the battery too. This can affect its polarity and therefore its ability to properly charge.
  • If you’re shooting pictures in cold weather, keep your camera warm by keeping it close to your body. Colder temperatures cause batteries to drain faster, and your body heat can help battery performance remain at optimal levels.
  • Save the video clips for a video camera. Recording and playing back video clips eats up lots of power, and if you’re really wanting to shoot videos, get a camera dedicated for that use.
  • Don’t go cheap on the recharger. It’s true with some things you get what you pay for, and battery chargers are one item you don’t want to skimp on. A good charger will extend your batteries’ lives and charge them more efficiently.
  • Keep spare batteries handy, and rotate through the batteries you use so they all get used as equally as possible. This helps to ensure that battery life remains constant from battery to battery, and more importantly it also means you’ll grab a battery that’s been recharged, instead of the dead one you kept forgetting to charge.
  • Use the flash only when necessary. Most professionals will tell you that the flash on digital cameras don’t really add anything to a picture anyway, even at night.
  • Wait until you’re back safely at home before you start deleting pictures. Deleting shots only drains more power, and you can get rid of unwanted pictures after you’ve uploaded them to your computer for review.
  • If you’re using lithium ion batteries you’ll get more life out of them by making sure they’re charged completely and regularly. Lithium ion batteries typically hold a charge longer than regular alkaline batteries too.
  • When storing your camera for a week or more, remove the batteries to prevent an accidental discharge.

These battery maintenance tips will help you dramatically extend the life of your battery, while getting the most out of each charge. They’ll help you prolong your enjoyment of your digital camera. And they’ll help you and your camera to always be ready to take a great picture – no matter when the right photo opportunity arises!

This article has been authored by Neil Austin. Neil likes to write about digital wedding photography for his blog: www.DigitalWeddingGuide.com. Neil’s blog mainly focuses on wedding photography tips.

Your Guide to Making Fine Art Prints

Your Guide to Making Fine Art Prints

So here it is — everything you ever wanted to know about producing fine art prints! Well… probably not everything, but definitely more than nothing. This is a HUGE topic and it’s difficult to discuss because the official rule book for making fine art prints has been missing from the holy temple of photography for quite some time.

So we did our best to discuss the important aspects of the subject, and the fellow artists leaving comments on the articles have been more than helpful. If you haven’t read through the entire series of articles, take a stroll through the archive. And definitely read through the comments at the very bottom of each page — they probably contain more content than the actual articles. I offer up a big thanks to all who participated in the discussion — you guys are great!

INTRODUCTIONS: Making prints sounds simple at first — just hit the print button, right? Well… yes and no. Prints can actually be quite involved depending on how far you want to go with them. Once you cross the line of producing a signed print, you’re basically putting your integrity on the line. A signature is a “seal of approval” when it comes to prints, and this is something you shouldn’t take lightly. This is an intro to an upcoming series.

PREFACE: Before we dive into the main topics for this series, I wanted to mention a few things to set the tone. These are things that should hold true for the length of the series, and I don’t want to waste precious real estate on repeating myself with each article.

PREPARING: With fine art prints, preparation is probably the most important step in the process. So many things are dependent on other things, it’s imperative that you have a clear path defined. The end product is your goal, but the process is the path you must take. If that path is ill-defined, your final product will be something less than fine art. In this article, we’ll simply talk about the preparation that must take place before producing your final work.

PRINTING: I think we’ve covered the bases for general preparations, so now it’s time to start making that print! This is really the first step in producing a fine art print, but it’s not any more or less important than the other steps. If I could give just one piece of advice in this article, it would be to make the final print at the highest quality humanly possible. Here’s a few tips and advice for making that happen.

SIGNING: Finally, we’re getting to the less discussed topic of producing fine art prints: signing. I’ve had a few people ask the same questions about where to sign, how to sign, what to sign with, etc. If there existed an official rule book, set of laws, or holy parchment that contained the answers I’d direct everybody to the web page. But I don’t think something like that exists, and I know the process of signing fine art is less than defined.

FRAMING: We’re really coming along on this series! Almost to the finish line now! In this article, we’ll be covering the topics of matting, mounting, and framing your fine art prints. These are really the final steps in producing the artwork, and they’re equally important as the other steps. Read on for some tips and guidelines, and be sure to share your thoughts and insights in the comments!

SHIPPING: This article will dive into some of the discussion about packaging and shipping your fine art prints. With each step in the process of print making, the piece becomes a little more complete. At the end, you might have to send it to a new owner, and all that hard work is out of your hands during the transit. Here are a few tips to keep your print safe!

WHAT DID WE FORGET???

Speak up if we left out any topics that you’d like addressed! This is a big subject, so I’m certain that some things have slipped by.

PhotoDump 07-19-2009

More great stuff from the Epic Edits Flickr Pool! This selection of photos is from those entered in the pool between 7/5 and 7/19.

distortions by .f_}x{look at me by pragnyan by the_wolf_brigadeDay 199/365: Patterns in boardwalk by Mali42Dog Days by 4500!Inside the Snake by brdavidsMaquillage / Make up by pawoliBryan by Brian Auerchicken run by rince_77No Bicycles Parking by JanneMClear Lake Sunset by Gary SimmonsVS by Brian AuerBone by XA22Glad to see you by henrikjHannah by Ian MearsDay 010 by cyoungAt Home by fromBrandonThao & Dan :: Engagement by Tasha {Redwall Photo :: Portraits}Mr. Toothy by Yury TrofimovJodie, Rollright Stones by Magical PlacesFoggy San Francisco & Golden Gate Bridge Sunrise by jimgoldsteinColorado Dunes by dpatrick3Hamburg II by Khalid Al-Issa7.6 by *ojoyous1*

Salton Sea Sunset


Brian Auer | 02/22/2009 | Salton Sea, CA | 10mm * f/5.6 * 1/350s * ISO200

This photo was taken over at Salton Sea on the way to the Sonny Bono Wildlife Refuge at the south end of the lake. The three dead oak trees in the photo are somewhat of an icon for the area, and I’ve seen many photos of them before. I just so happened to arrive at this location a few minutes prior to sunset and the clouds on display were quite amazing. Shooting with my wide angle lens gave me the opportunity to catch the great textures in the ground along with the clouds in the sky.

I took several shots from this location and perspective, but I liked this one the best. I think that the strong symmetry right at center frame works well for this photo, and the difference in scenery between top and bottom frame helps to break things up. Looking back now, I probably would have shot at f/8 rather than f/5.6 to get a little better DOF and sharpness. And a graduated ND filter would have produced a much more balanced exposure, resulting in higher quality shadows and highlights. But… too late now! Maybe next time.

Salton Sea Sunset Post-Processing

This image did fairly well on Flickr recently, probably because of the extreme colors presented. Above, you can see my workflow from start to finish. And below, you can read how I processed the image using Adobe Camera Raw (all of which can also be done with Lightroom). The reason for the crazy colors is because I was trying to reproduce a cross processed effect similar to that of Velvia 100 slide film. I don’t know that I made my goal, but I’m not too disappointed with the results of this one.

  1. UNPROCESSED RAW
    A bit underexposed in the foreground, but I wanted to keep the highlights from completely blowing out. This is where a graduated ND filter would have helped out.
  2. BASIC ADJUSTMENTS
    Temperature = 6750; Tint = 0; Exposure = +.35; Recovery = 18; Fill Light = 48; Blacks = 12; Brightness = +65; Contrast = +80; Clarity = 0; Vibrance = 0; Saturation = 0; I warmed the photo up a little bit while also pulling out some of the shadows and pushing down the highlights. Basically, I tried to get the foreground in good shape without worrying about the sky (which is where this next step comes in).
  3. GRADUATED FILTER
    Since the sky was totally blown out from the previous settings, I needed to get things back to normal. I used a horizontal graduated filter with a -1 exposure just above the horizon. I also used a vertical graduated filter with a -.5 exposure to take the left side down a bit more. These filters allowed me to keep the foreground where I set it while pulling the sky back to a usable state.
  4. TONE CURVE
    Highlights = -32; Lights = +40; Darks = -8; Shadows = 0; This was just a quick adjustment to the tones in order to get a bit more contrast out of the image while holding back those bright highlights.
  5. SPLIT TONING
    Highlight Saturation = 0; Shadow Hue = 30; Shadow Saturation = 80; Balance = -59; This is where most of the crazy colors come from. I pushed all of the shadows and midtones into a very red hue, which is what usually happens with the Velvia 100 when cross processed.
  6. HUE, SATURATION, LUMINANCE
    HUE: Orange = +100; Yellow = +25; Green = -70; Blue = +30; SATURATION: Red = +100; Orange = -100; Blue = +50; Purple = +50; LUMINANCE: Orange = +15; Green = +40; Aqua = +20; EVERYTHING ELSE = 0; In this step, I toyed around with the colors a bit more to give me something other than pure red tones. Mostly, I wanted to get the portions of the sky to turn purple since that’s an effect I’ve seen with the xpro’d Velvia film. I also tamed down some of the orange and red in the water areas.

So there you go! If you have ACR or Lightroom, try out some of these settings and see what you can come up with. It’s always fun to experiment with these things.

In addition to the settings above, I applied sharpening and noise reduction as needed.

Making Fine Art Prints: Shipping

Making Fine Art Prints: Shipping

I think we’re finally winding down on this series of articles — maybe just one more to pull it all together at the end. This article will dive into some of the discussion about packaging and shipping your fine art prints. With each step in the process of print making, the piece becomes a little more complete. At the end, you might have to send it to a new owner, and all that hard work is out of your hands during the transit.

So I’d like to discuss the various methods for packaging prints depending on their final state: print only, large prints, small prints, mounted prints, and framed prints. On all of these points, I’d like to hear from those who have packaged and shipped prints of their own. There are a lot of little ins-and-outs when it comes to this topic, so I’m sure we could all learn something from each other.

PRINT ONLY: SMALL

Packaging and shipping prints without the mount, mat, or frame is generally the most cost effective. If you go this route (also assuming that the recipient is ok with the idea) there are a few options for packaging the print. Smaller prints, such as 8×10 or 11×14 (or smaller), will fit into things like photo mailers. These are reinforced envelopes that resist bending and folding. They’re inexpensive (on the order of $1/envelope) and you can find them at most office supply stores or other stores online.

The downside to these envelopes is that they can be damaged rather easy depending on their construction. I had a few prints go out only to arrive all chewed up and bent because of poor handling at the post office. The lesson here: use a photo mailer that’s large enough to house the print sandwiched between two pieces of cardboard. The extra material will help protect the print.

For small prints, you can also use things like shipping tubes or boxes, but it’s often not necessary if you take the extra steps to protect the print.

PRINT ONLY: LARGE

Any print over 11×14 will be more prone to damage if packaged in a photo mailer or envelope. In this case, shipping tubes provide a good means of protection at a fairly low cost. Yup, prints can be rolled up without damage — they’ll just have to be flattened upon arrival. If shipping via tube, I’d suggest getting a 3-inch diameter tube with the thickest wall you can find. Tubes will get crushed pretty easily, and it doesn’t take much to damage a print that’s rolled up inside.

I actually had a tube (and print) get damaged in the mail recently. So my professional printer, Oscar Medina, suggested a packaging technique to me: roll the print between 1/2-inch to 1-inch smaller in diameter than the tube, then use packing paper to “float” the print in the center of the tube. This method allows for the tube to encounter some amount of damage without harming the print inside. And if you really want to be careful, double-tube the print with something like a 2-inch tube floating inside of a 3-inch tube.

FRAMED PRINT

Airfloat Systems

Whether the print is only mounted or completely framed, you now have a rigid piece to work with. Smaller prints can be packaged inside cardboard boxes with lots of packing material to keep it away from the edges. But larger prints will require heavier box material, foam liners, and other safeguards. Just doing a quick search, I found a company that produces boxes and sleeves for fine art shipping: Airfloat Systems. I haven’t tried their products, but it looks promising.

I actually haven’t packaged and shipped any framed work, so I’m going to have to lean on you guys for this part of the discussion. Anybody out there have some tips for what to use and what not to use? At any rate, I know that larger framed prints can cost several hundreds of dollars to package and ship — so be aware of this extra expense if you plan on doing this.

SHIPPING

air mail
Creative Commons License photo credit: ‘smil

Once you have your print all packaged-up and safe, it’s time to get it in the mail! I won’t get into the differences between the USPS, FedEx, UPS, etc — they all ship stuff. I find that the USPS tends to be the inexpensive option, even for international shipping. But I also find that they’re pretty rough with the merchandise.

So no matter what shipping service you decide to use, there are a few things you should be doing with your prints. First of all, insure them! The cost isn’t usually outrageous, and it’s an easy way to help recover the cost of a damaged print. Sure, the claims process is painful and your print will never be damaged if you pay for the insurance (half joking here, but it always seems to be the case). But it’s good for peace of mind. Insure the package for at least the cost of the materials — that way the damaged print won’t be coming out of your pocket.

Another thing to do is cover the package in stickers and stamps that say things like “Fragile”, “Photo Inside”, “Do Not Bend”, etc. This isn’t a safeguard, but it might help catch the attention of a careless mail handler and make them think twice about what they’re doing.

WHAT ELSE?

Do you guys have any further tips and suggestions for packaging and/or shipping prints? Like I said, there are a lot of little tricks to this stuff and I’m sure I don’t know all of them. What have you had success with? And what has failed? Any horror stories on this topic?

FOLLOW THIS SERIES OF ARTICLES!
BACK — FRAMING

Link Roundup 07-13-2009

Lots of great photography links from the last few weeks!

What’s Your Favorite F-Number?

In previous polls we’ve discussed topics such as your favorite focal length, camera modes, autofocus modes, exposure modes, and types of cameras. So this time around, we’ll dive into the f-number.

What's Your Favorite F-Number?

The f-number directly affects the depth of field in your shot. It’s also one of the three exposure controls, in conjunction with shutter speed and ISO. Based on our previous polls, I see that most of us are using a dSLR in aperture priority mode, so I’d expect that most of us have a “favorite” number or range of numbers. Personally, I favor F/2.0 on a ~50mm lens on a full frame camera. The DOF isn’t as crazy-shallow as F/1.4, but it still gives a nice amount of separation between background and subject at the distances I’m used to shooting at.

Now, I realize that your choice of f-number will vary depending on focal length, sensor/film format, subject distance, and subject matter. But try to answer the poll with the number that you usually gravitate toward. And feel free to elaborate in the comments!

{democracy:62}

And be sure to check out the last poll on the topic of “Why Are We So Compelled?” Lots of good thoughtful discussion there with 27 comments (and a few of them are quite lengthy)! As always, I appreciate the participation in these polls and discussions.

Improve Your Productivity With Labels

I included this topic in the Guide to Adobe Bridge: Organizing a while back (has it really been over a year?), but I wanted to mention it again. This quick little tip is aimed directly at the users of Adobe Bridge and/or Adobe Lightroom, though it may apply to other photo organization software as well.

Sometimes we get busy with things and the photo archive keeps filling up. If you don’t have time to process all your photos immediately, you should at least label the photos and/or their containing folders rather than try to remember which photos have been processed. Simply adding a color-coded label to my folders and photos has saved me a ton of time by eliminating the need to sift through thousands of photos each time I want to process a few.

Folder Labels

As soon as I create a new folder in the archive, it gets a red label (that’s my “To Do” color). As I start to work on photos in that folder, I’ll change it to yellow (“In Process”). And when I’m done, I’ll change it to green (“Complete”). These labels at the folder level keep me on track and tell me which sets of photos are being worked on or still need work. As you can see in the image above, there’s no guessing at what needs to be done next.

Photo Labels

I do the same type of labeling system with my photos — red, yellow, green. One of the first things I do after importing is apply red labels. These are the photos that I’ll consider for processing at some later date, usually 1/4 to 1/3 of the full set. Now, using your label filters, you can weed out the junk and focus on the good stuff. After a photo has been processed and exported, I’ll apply a green label so I don’t have to keep looking at it while processing the unfinished photos. This method also gives you a sense of accomplishment as you watch the red counter go down and the green counter go up over in the filter panel.

What do you use to keep track of your unfinished and finished photos as they stack up in the archive? Labels, tags, stars, folders, something else? Everybody seems to have a different way of handling these things, so I’m curious what’s working and not working for others.