Monthly Archives: November 2009

Site Review (Plus Giveaway): FotoTV

FotoTV

Photography resources can be found in every corner of the Internet, but not all are created equal. There’s free, expensive, outstanding, terrible, and everything in between when it comes to these websites. Recently, I had the opportunity to explore an outstanding (and moderately priced) subscription website built around education through video.

FotoTV Screenshot

FotoTV was founded on the mission to provide an online learning resource for photographers based on the principle of ‘learn by watching the experts’. They offer instructional and inspirational videos to avid photographers on a very wide range of topics and lessons. Photoshop, digital image editing, photography equipment, photo art, analog photography, black and white, fine art nude, landscape photography, sports photography, photo techniques, exhibitions, history of photography, darkroom, photo technology, physical basics of photography, art work, portfolios of photographers, presentation of images, composition, studio lighting, interviews with leading photographers, and many more videos ready to be released. So… you get the idea!

I was provided with an opportunity to explore the entire FotoTV website (full access to all videos), and I must say that I’m quite impressed with what they have to offer. I spent several consecutive nights watching videos from each of the main categories and each of them taught me something new. The videos are very professional — not something you would expect to run across on YouTube by random chance. And the best part is that every video held the same set of standards, so I was never let down with the quality or depth of knowledge presented.

FotoTV Video Interface

Most of the videos are between 10 and 20 minutes in length — so not too short, but not so long that you lose interest. The video quality is great too, with a size of about 750px wide with the height depending on the aspect ratio (click the image for a full size view). Videos loaded quickly and the buffer never cut out on me (I’m using a cable Internet connection tested at approximately 12 Mbps download rate). The video player also has basic options for viewing full screen, controlling volume, and rating the video. Technically, the site is well prepared to handle most visitor needs.

From what I understand, FotoTV.com was launched off the back of FotoTV.de (hint, hint, for you German-speaking readers) — a German based photography site. The German version launched about 2-3 years ago and it’s very popular with over 500 videos available to subscribers. The English version (FotoTV.com) is basically the same resource with fewer videos available at the moment — I believe they launched with just over 100 videos several months ago, and they’re adding more each month.

Some of the videos on FotoTV.com are strictly English, while others are English voice-overs from the German videos. So I would assume that they have a huge pool of videos in the queue for translation — and thus, I would not expect a shortage of new videos on the English site. And I must say that the voice-over videos are not any less educational/intriguing than the native English videos.

In addition to the video archives, FotoTV has a forum available to registered members. Even if forums aren’t your thing, it’s still another resource available to you. They also have a blog that they use to announce new videos and other topics of interest.

FotoTV News (coming soon)

And one other thing — these guys are planning on launching yet another service that has done well on the German site: FotoTV News. It should be available to all registered users in the very near future (though, I’m not sure if you’ll also have to be a paid subscriber). It’s basically going to be a once-a-month photography show with approximately 1/2 hour of news, tips, artist spotlights, and updates on new videos coming out. Pretty cool!

So here’s the deal…

You can visit the FotoTV website and view 3 of their videos absolutely free of charge and obligation. If you want more, you can register for free and get access to 15 free videos and the forum. I would suggest at least checking out the 3 free videos. If you want more convincing, register and check out the 15 videos. If you want even more, subscribe and get full access!

ABOUT THE FREE STUFF…

You guys know I’m always looking out for you, so I have some goodies for you! The folks at FotoTV are giving away 2 — THAT’S TWO — one year subscriptions to the FotoTV.com website!!! Totally FREE!!! Awesome stuff — I’m sure we won’t have any trouble filling the two spots.

In order to get a free one-year subscription, here’s what you need to do: check out the FotoTV website, sample the free videos (and maybe even register for free to see more free videos), then — LEAVE A COMMENT HERE STATING THAT YOU’D LIKE TO BE ENTERED IN THE RAFFLE (yes, random drawing this time). I’ll be giving away two free one-year subscriptions to FotoTV.com on November 18th, 2009.

Before entering the raffle, be sure to read through the Terms and Conditions and the Privacy Policy. Something I would always suggest you do for any online resource — read the fine print and decide if the terms are acceptable to you.

New Partner: Proud Photography

Online Photography Courses

Please join me in welcoming Proud Photography as a sponsor to Epic Edits. You can see their banner (shown here) filling a sidebar position for the month of November.

Proud Photography is an online photography school currently offering two courses: General Photography and The Expert Wedding Photographer. Additional courses and resources will become available in the near future.

The General Photography course is organized into 13 interactive units developed by professional photographers and prize-winning enthusiasts. But this is more than just a collection of lessons to consume — you’ll have homework and quizzes along the way to supplement your course and gauge your progress. Some of your work will be graded by the tutors, and you have the opportunity to receive photo critiques. And though you can’t move on to the next lesson until you’ve completed each previous lesson, you can work at your own pace.

Here’s a quick overview of the 13 units in the course:

1. Introduction to Photography — Overview of cameras, lenses, and other gadgets, and what you’ll need to achieve certain types of photos.

2. Digital Photography — Film vs digital, technical aspects of digital images, and working with digital files.

3 & 4. Exposure: Shutter Speed & Aperture — Detailed explanations of these two very important exposure controls and how to use them effectively.

5. Composition — Rules of good composition, perspective, and viewpoint.

6. Light — Working with natural, artificial, and mixed lighting in various situations.

7. Shooting Black and White — Comparison of film vs digital, black and white films, and lens filters.

8 & 9. Travel Photography I & II — Sunrise, sunset, filters, landscapes, extreme weather, seascapes, reflections, capturing local people, architecture, still life, and more.

10. Portraits — Formal, informal, backgrounds, viewpoints, makeup, and lighting.

11. People and Their Environment — Utilizing natural light, working in weather, candids, close-ups, young folks, and old folks.

12. Insiders’ Tricks and Techniques — High ISO, fisheyes, macros, filters, flash tricks, panoramas, and lots more.

13. Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them — How to avoid improper exposure, flare, bad framing, poor focus, camera shake, reflections, sensor dust, and more.

While I haven’t been through the course myself, I’ve seen multiple reviews from photographers who have and they’ve all been quite positive. I think the main attraction to a program like this lies in the organization of content in addition to the content itself. Having one-on-one interaction with the tutors, doing homework, and taking quizzes are all icing on the cake.

I would recommend this online photography course from Proud Photography to beginner/intermediate enthusiasts. If you’re still a bit rusty on the technical details of photography, wanting to learn more about the many facets and styles of photography, or if you just don’t know where to start, this course might just be for you. And while it isn’t free, it’s much cheaper than most camera equipment — plus, this is one tool in your camera bag that won’t break or wear out with use.

The Expert Wedding Photographer course is aimed more at those looking to get into the wedding photography business. It covers the topics of setting up and running your business, equipment needed, how to capture formal and informal shots, post production work, and presenting photos to your clients.

If these courses sound at all interesting to you, I encourage you to visit their website to learn more: www.proudphotography.com

Link Roundup 11-07-2009

Doing things a little different this time around… trying to save a bit of time by skipping the descriptions I usually add to each link. What do you guys think? Would you rather have the 1-2 sentence commentary that I put on each one, or are the titles enough of a description? Does anybody even read these lists?

How to Wet Clean Your Lens

Lens wipe
Creative Commons License photo credit: ant.photos

Just admit it… you haven’t cleaned your lenses in a while, have you? Let alone a good wet cleaning. I know, it’s easy to let it go and forget about it. So go do it now!!!

Here’s a little refresher course on wet cleaning your lens elements (and some product suggestions in case you don’t have the stuff already). Keeping your equipment clean is a important part of basic maintenance and it will make your gear last longer. Lenses are no exception, and it’s easy to forget about deep cleaning the front and rear elements because they usually appear to be quite clean at a glance. But if you haven’t given them a good wipe-down for a while, it’s more than likely that you’ve accumulated some dust and grime.

Here are the basic steps for wet cleaning your lens. If you’ve never done it before, make sure you’re comfortable with the process and you understand the risks involved. As for the products involved… we’re talking less than $40 and the only consumables are the cleaning solution and tissues which should last a year or more.

1. BLOW

Before you even think about touching your lens with any type of cloth, blow off all the big stuff that might scratch your glass. My favorite blower is the Rocket Blaster from Giottos — these things put out a great stream of air and I use mine for lens cleaning, sensor cleaning, film cleaning, and scaring the kids when they least expect it. If you don’t have one already, you can purchase a Giottos Rocket Blaster at Amazon.com for about $10.

2. BRUSH

Even if you blow off the lens, you’ll still have some particles hanging on for dear life. A lens brush will help pull off the rest of the “big stuff” before you hit the glass with a cloth. You can purchase a lens cleaning pen with brush on Amazon.com for about $8.

3. WET

Wet the wipe, not the lens! This is important! Don’t drop any kind of liquid straight onto your lens — it could cause damage to the inside parts. Instead, wet a lens tissue with a few drops of lens cleaner or alcohol (which is what lens cleaners are for the most part). You can purchase Eclipse Cleaning System Solution at Amazon.com for about $10 — this stuff is amazing, plus you can use it to clean your sensor.

4. WIPE

They make these special little wipes called lens tissues that are super soft, ultra clean, lint free, and intended for single use. This is exactly what they’re made for, and they’re cheap — so use them! You can purchase PEC-PAD Lint Free Wipes at Amazon.com for around $8 per 100 pack.

A WORD OF CAUTION: Just be careful when making physical contact with optical quality glass — this stuff is really smooth and it can be scratched with something as small as dust. Just don’t be careless. But at the same time, don’t be afraid to do this simple task on your own. When done correctly, you should have nothing to worry about. Here’s a pretty good instructional video I found that should boost your confidence.

And listen, there’s always more than one way to do the job — so don’t take this stuff as the Gospel. For you seasoned photographers out there, how do you clean your lenses?

PhotoDump 11-01-2009

More great stuff from the Epic Edits Flickr Pool! This selection of photos is from those entered in the pool between 10/18 and 11/1.

Rock & Roll themed shoot by Ian Mearssquare underwater by javiyfollow the stream by jk+tooMarissa-1.jpg by BrianLarterBox by BrycejohnsonLame D700 by Yury Trofimovresting stranger by Victor Bezrukovtooth fairy time by rince_77Zabriskie Point - Death Valley National Park, California by jimgoldsteinGetting to Carnegie Hall by JanneMkitty by sam_samantha by davebcohenFerris wheel | 298.365 by Conny LundgrenYou're So Far, It's Good to Hear Your Voice by nathanielperalesFerris Wheel by Tasha {Redwall Photo}Urban portraits by sebastian.yepes.inHomeless, Names UnknownThe Frantic @ The Metro by Tasha {Redwall Photo :: Music}Parque de las Naciones by dannyonemalin  by bildterapiCamille by sebastian.yepes.inPort Authority by ncarlingJust Walk Away by Dave Patrick PhotographyThe Ghost Files by Alvaro's PixGOA BLUES by robinn.Day 266: Vacancy by __multifacetedI'm blowin' this popsicle stand by makaio14Stairs by marctonysmithThe Feeling Of Satisfaction Because We've Finally Made It by nathanielperalesIsaac by fromBrandonGangstaTim on Film by sevennineAtomium by libeco18Hope Gardens: Under the Banyan Tree by CharleneCollins.Jamaica by Larry Leone by the_wolf_brigade