Monthly Archives: July 2010

Life is Hectic… Summer of 2010

I’ve been awfully quiet on my blogs and social media accounts over the last few weeks — but I’m not just being lazy. Most of you probably don’t give a hoot one way or another, but for those who are interested, here’s what I’ve been up to lately…

At the end of June, my wife took the kids up to North Idaho for their annual “summer vacation with the grandparents” routine. While she was up there, she saw that the house across the street from my parents was for sale. She’s been wanting to move back to that area for some time, so naturally, she pestered me about the house for a solid week. At first, I blew it off and found excuses for not moving back home. Then I found myself rationalizing such a move.

We started talking with the Realtors and banks a few weeks back and life has been hectic since then. Sign this, sign that, answer the phone 15 times a day, jump through flaming hoops while juggling chainsaws, etc, etc. Things have been moving very fast and I’ve been busy for about three weeks straight. But…

We’re buying a house!

The price was right and the location is perfect — I would love to raise my kids where I grew up. We’ll be close to our immediate families again, and I’m hoping we can settle down into a more relaxed lifestyle. For about the last 9 or 10 years, we’ve been living in apartments in college towns and cities in New Jersey and Southern California. Up in Idaho, we’ll be sitting on 5 acres and the neighbors are barely visible.

We’re moving out this Friday and we should be in the new place by Monday or Tuesday. It’s crunch time with the packing and all the other last minute arrangements, so I’ve been hard pressed to get near my computer. Once we get up there and settled in, I’ll be working from home while looking for a new job, so I should have some time to get back into the blogging scene.

I do love San Diego and all that it has to offer, but I love North Idaho more. I’m glad I got to take part in the Southern California scene and I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t experience more of it, but it’s time to move on. I’ll be trading beach towns & street scenes for wilderness & landscape — but I’m fine with new and interesting photographic challenges. Here are a few Idaho photos (mostly from my last visit in the winter 1.5 years ago).

Casting Shadows Reaching Rays Walking on Water Arctic River Best View on Earth Calm Waters

So I’ll post what I can over the next week or two, but life has to come first. So long California, it’s been fun! And I hope to see all my SoCal friends again soon — you guys are great!

The 10 Second Pre-Shoot Camera Check

[tweetmeme]I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve ruined shots because I failed to check my camera settings before shooting. Haven’t most of us been in that situation? You’re shooting something out of the norm (maybe some manual controls, exposure compensations, ISO settings, etc), and you don’t set your camera back to the “regular” settings. So you pick up the camera again after a few days and start shooting, only to realize that you completely screwed up a bunch of shots because the camera was still set for that last outing.

After doing this a few times, I’ve gotten in the habit of spending 10 or 15 seconds checking my camera settings before I shoot. Of course, all cameras are different (as are shooting styles), so this is just my own personal checklist of things I look at. Yours may be different, but the point is that you should have that habit of checking the settings prior to releasing the shutter. Here’s a rundown of what I look at and how I typically set my camera.

1. PRIORITY MODE

My usual setting is aperture priority mode, but I’ll sometimes switch to shutter priority or full manual. I always make a note to set it back to aperture priority before I start shooting, unless the situation calls for something different.

2. SHUTTER / F-NUMBER

This one varies on the lens attached, but I usually preset my 50mm lens at f/2 or f/2.4 while in aperture priority mode. The reason I do this is because I know that’s fast enough for most lighting situations, and it reflects my personal shooting preferences (I like somewhat shallow DOF most of the time).

3. EXPOSURE COMPENSATION

For me, this setting usually stays at zero, but sometimes I’ll move it around in difficult lighting situations. This one is a big deal — I’ve been burned more than once because I didn’t set it back to zero. If your compensation is way off, you can’t recover a bad shot.

4. ISO SPEED

My usual ISO setting is “auto” — and my auto is allowed to vary between 200 and 1600. In bright situations, I’ll set it to 100. And in dark situations, I’ll set it to 3200 or 6400. I always check that I set it back to auto-ISO so I don’t go out in full afternoon sun shooting at ISO 3200.

5. DRIVE MODE

Most of the time, I’ll leave my drive mode on machine gun mode (or hi-continuous). I don’t use it very often, but it’s nice to have it ready if I do need it (sucks when you need it and it’s turned off). On occasion, I’ll switch over to single shot if I keep firing too many accidental continuous shots.

6. AUTOFOCUS MODE / AREA

For the most part, I like to keep my camera in AF-S (single shot) mode. I find that continuous AF and auto AF slow down my continuous drive when I do need it, and Manual focus is rarely used on my digital camera.

7. METER MODE

I’ve grown to like spot metering, and I rarely change it from that. If I do, I try to make sure to set it back to spot so that my exposures are closer to what I expect.

8. COLOR SPACE

I don’t think I’ve ever changed this setting, but I glance over it to make sure I didn’t change it by accident last time out.

9. WHITE BALANCE

Another setting that I rarely change. Auto white balance usually does an OK job (except for incandescent lighting), and it doesn’t really matter much when shooting in a Raw format.

10. BATTERY POWER

Although this item is near the bottom of my screen and the bottom of my list, it’s probably the most important. ALWAYS check your batter power before you even walk out the door. I messed this up just once… haven’t done it again.

11. FILE FORMAT

Yet another setting that I rarely change, but a good one to double check. I’d be kinda pissed if I spent a whole day shooting only to realize that I shot all JPEG images rather than Raw.

12. REMAINING SHOTS

I usually have the same memory card in the camera and I know that I can get a bit over 400 shots on my card. So if I see less than 400 available photos, I know that I need to format the card and clear out the old photos.

Again, these are just the things I quickly glance over before shooting. Other cameras and other photographers will have different needs and different checklists. But the point is that you should have some sort of camera setting checklist burned into your mind.

What other things do you check before shooting? And what are your typical settings for some of these items?

Link Roundup 07-17-2010

Before we get to the links, I apologize to anybody that visited the site recently and found it to be infected with a malicious redirect exploit. I became aware of the issue this morning (thanks to an email from a reader) and I had it fixed within an hour. These things happen from time to time, and I appreciate folks letting me know when something is wrong with the site. Now for some weekend reading!

13 Night Photos You Never Thought You’d See

[tweetmeme]Here are the results from another great round of Epic Edits Flickr Challenge! #4 was all about “night” photos (chosen by the winner of the last round), and we had some nice looking entries once again.

The winner this round was Dustin Michelson, also known as “i_shoot_minolta” on Flickr. As the winner, he gets to choose the next topic:

CHALLENGE #5: “ENVIRONMENTAL PORTRAITS”

FLICKR TAG: “EE-EPORTRAIT”

So basically a portrait, but taken in the subject’s natural environment (work, home, etc) — see Wikipedia for more explanation. Just remember that the photos must be in our Flickr pool and tagged with “ee-eportrait”. Now for the vanishing point photos, starting with my favorite:

365.20
365.20 by i_shoot_minolta

This photo stood out for me because it’s very clean with strong lines and focal points. The light draws my attention, but the vertical lines lead me away. The window in the middle of the wall adds a nice little break in the lines, and the texture on the ground looks great with that light. Oh, and what’s that sign say? Let me look closer… “NOTICE: SOMETHING SOMETHING ONLY… Damn it!” So there you go, the light draws you in and the unknown sign keeps you interested.

On with the other selections I made:

Perspective.
Perspective. by Tomas Webb

driving home
driving home by topfloor

Color Alley
Color Alley by topfloor

Moonlight
Moonlight by RussHeath

Rockstar Teri
Rockstar Teri by cabbit

Cafe del Bokeh
Cafe del Bokeh by topfloor

Blurry Night
Blurry Night by RussHeath

San Diego Skyline
San Diego Skyline by i_shoot_minolta

The lights that never sleep
The lights that never sleep by photo_gratis

source of money
source of money by topfloor

Night time by the bay
Night time by the bay by nathanTHEchan

Autostadt nights
Autostadt nights by topfloor

Photographer and Artist Notification Lists

I’ve mentioned this a few times in the past, but this is an update to those posts. My local printer also runs a couple of notification lists for artists and photographers, and the sign-up location for them has moved.

There is now a single page that has two forms: one for photographers, and one for artists. When you sign up for a list, you will be notified of new juried shows and exhibitions for photographers or artists. The notifications are mainly aimed at southern California residents, but some are more broad.

If you’re into doing shows, exhibitions, or contests, you might want to sign up for the appropriate list and see what comes through.

PHOTOGRAPHER AND ARTIST NOTIFICATION LISTS

A Simple Method for Creating Composite Photos

[tweetmeme]Composite photos are made up of two or more different images. There are several different types or styles of composites, but I’ll be focusing on just one in this tutorial.

The type of composite we’ll look at is made up of multiple images with exactly the same framing, exposure, and lighting. Using this method, you can add or subtract objects from a scene. Obviously, this isn’t something you want to do in photojournalism, but it does have applications in other sectors of photography.

Here are seven basic steps for creating simple composite photos.

1. CAMERA SETUP

First off, you need to use a tripod so each frame doesn’t move. To make your post-processing easier, you’ll want to shoot in manual mode if you can. This will give you the ability to produce multiple images with the same exposure (assuming your lighting situation is constant).

2. CAPTURE MULTIPLE EXPOSURES

Once you have the camera ready to go, take as many images as you think you’ll need. Then take a bunch more. You can always throw out the extras, but you can’t go back and get one or two more after you’ve taken the camera off the tripod. I shot 29 different poses for my example composite.

3. OPEN IMAGES

If you shoot raw format, just be sure to process the images with the same settings. After raw processing, open them all in Photoshop, The Gimp, or any other software that allows you to use layers and layer masks.

4. CREATE LAYERS

Choose one photo to be the base image for the composite. Place all other images in layers above that base image. We’ll be grabbing bits and pieces from these layers to create the composite.

5. MASK LAYERS

On each layer above the base image, add a layer mask and hide all or fill with black. The black layer mask will block out the pixels from that layer, so you should only see the base image at this point.

6. PAINT THE COMPOSITE

Now you can go back to each layer mask and paint white over the areas that you want to show. This could be the addition of objects present in that layer, or the subtraction of objects present in the base layer. If you need to see what’s in your working layer, press “shift” and click on the layer mask. This will temporarily disable the mask and show just the image. Press “shift” and click the layer mask again to enable it again.

7. FINISH POST PROCESSING

After you get the composite image looking good, you can either save it out as a new image or continue working with it in Photoshop. Any adjustment layers that are applied above the composite layers will act on the composite as a whole.

And here’s the finished product.

I See Three of Me

That’s about it… there’s not a whole lot to it. If you get the initial shots identical in composition, exposure, and lighting, the rest is pretty easy. Here are some other examples of composite photos.

Mirrored self-misidentification
Creative Commons License photo credit: eqqman

paradox v2.0 (1 of 2)
Creative Commons License photo credit: pochacco20

Composite
Creative Commons License photo credit: j-william

Kestrel Composite
Creative Commons License photo credit: markkilner

04/50 - everyday is a mindless routine.
Creative Commons License photo credit: eleven days into april.

bmx stunt
Creative Commons License photo credit: katiew

Too many babies
Creative Commons License photo credit: PhotoBlackburn

Anthony Equals Three?
Creative Commons License photo credit: Ben Chau

366 • 65 • Shadow monster
Creative Commons License photo credit: Pragmagraphr

Fool-Proof Photoshop Airbrushing for Dummies

Guest post by Alexis Bonari… A quick and painless way to “airbrush” a picture in Photoshop. I showed a method for digital airbrushing using Photoshop in a past article, but this method takes a slightly different approach.

[tweetmeme]Hi dummy! So glad you could join us today. Just kidding, just kidding. With the advent of Myspace, then Facebook, and who knows what’s coming next, the whole world has become an endless source of perfect skin and magazine cover worthy supermodels. Now that Photoshop is a verb and household name, you might as well get in the know and make yourself (or your girlfriend/boyfriend) uncommonly perfect.

Here’s what you do.

We’ll be using this image, available through Wikimedia Commons:
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bangalore,_India_Model.jpg

Save it to your computer.

1. Open your image in Photoshop. ( FILE -> OPEN )

2. Immediately duplicate your image’s layer. ( LAYER -> DUPLICATE LAYER )

3. Make sure your new layer is selected, and then Surface Blur that layer, so that your image looks like this one. Play with the Radius and Threshold to achieve this effect.

4. Now, create a layer mask with this newly blurred layer, and make it set to HIDE ALL.

5. Select your paintbrush, make it big, and reduce its “hardness” considerably. Then change your brush color to WHITE (#FFFFFF).

What has happened so far? You will notice now that you are back to your original image. What has happened behind the scenes is that that blurred image is still there, only that it is now hidden behind the layer mask. This mask will only show parts of the image that are painted in white. So, your next step is where the fun begins!

6. Making sure that your blurred layer’s Layer Mask is selected, you will now generously paint over the areas you want to “airbrush”. You will notice that as you paint, the blurred image will start appearing. Be cautious to not paint over eyes and lips, as you will want their defined textures. You will also find it useful to change your brush size to accommodate around the eyes and lips or any other nooks and crannies that might need you to get in there. It doesn’t have to look perfect at this point. We’ll fix that in a minute.

7. This is what my layer mask actually looks like.

8. Now, with that all done, we’re going to smooth this out even more. Select your GAUSSIAN BLUR filter and blur stuff even more. I like setting it to about 5.0 pixels for this image.

9. Finally, making sure that your blurred layer is selected, adjust that layers Opacity, to blend the blurred effect with the original. In this case, I settled on 72%

Once your image looks the way you want it to, it is ready for saving or exporting for web, or whatever you would like to do.

Less than 10 easy and quick steps, and you’ll have your images looking like the pros! I knew you could do it. Great job!

Bio: Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at onlinedegrees.org, researching areas of online degree programs. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

New Discount on Canvas Prints

A few months back, I mentioned a deal from Canvas People for getting a free 8×10 canvas print. Well, that offer has passed, but they have another one up for grabs right now.

Canvas People is giving a $25 discount plus free shipping on any of their canvas prints. This evens out the playing field for those of you not living in the US (I’m assuming there are no location restrictions since I didn’t see any on their site). This post contains affiliate links.

8×10 canvas prints start at $50 without the discount, and go all the way up to 18×24 for $100 without the discount. Not bad pricing considering that includes a gallery wrap and protective coating. Frames and photo touch-ups come at an extra cost.

[tweetmeme]Canvas people has also added some features and helpful hints to the upload/order process. They give you a preview of the image as it will appear on the gallery wrap and they’ve added some extra explanations for sizing your images prior to upload.

I don’t know how long this offer will last, but if you’ve been thinking of doing a canvas print, now is the time!

10 Online Photography Portfolio No-No’s

[tweetmeme]Online portfolios can be an important tool for photographers wanting to share portions of their work with an audience. When done right, they portray your work in a highly professional and concise manner. When done wrong, you just look like a hack. I wrote about this topic some time ago, but I’d like to cover it again.

I should also state right up front that I don’t have a dedicated online photography portfolio in the traditional sense. Perhaps one of these days when I take some decent photos I’ll put one together. But I’ve had to look through many other portfolios and I’ve seen a fair amount in passing.

What I can say from those I’ve seen is that some of the same mistakes and nuisances are common to a good number of them. Now, it’s rare to find a portfolio site that exhibits all 10 offenses listed below, but it’s also rare to find one that exhibits none. (also keep in mind that some of these things are only my personal preferences and opinions)

If you have an online photography portfolio (or, more likely, a collection of portfolios housed under one website), here are a few things worth paying attention to if you want the user experience to be a good one.

Red crown
Creative Commons License photo credit: sunnyUK

1. SPLASH PAGE

Do you really need a whole page dedicated to your name or the word “Enter”? I probably know your name if I’m visiting the home page, and you ought to have your name present somewhere on every other page in your portfolio. Don’t force me to find your frilly little entrance link on the splash page, just get straight to the point.

2. MUSIC

I don’t encounter this one much anymore, but it’s still out there. Seriously people, don’t put music on your photography portfolio. It’s not adding to the mood or ambiance, it’s just annoying. I usually have music going on my computer and nothing pisses me off more than some website with music or audio ads messing with my tunes.

map
Creative Commons License photo credit: robpurdie

3. DIFFICULT TO NAVIGATE

A photography portfolio should be quick and easy for the viewer. Navigation is a key component here — make it as simple as possible for me to see your photos. If I spend too much time digging for the images, I’ll just leave.

4. PHOTO SIZE

Most photographers are pretty good about sizing their photos appropriately, but I do see some extremes from time to time. Images that are too small (< 600px) don't show enough detail to be interesting to the viewer. Images that are too big (> 1200px) won’t fit on some screens and you lose a lot of impact when you have to scroll. I find that somewhere in the neighborhood of 800-900px on the long edge is a good compromise: large enough to be viewed, small enough to load quickly.

too many dices
Creative Commons License photo credit: BovenX

5. PHOTO QUANTITY

A portfolio isn’t a dumping ground for every photo you’ve taken in the last 10 years — it’s supposed to be a small collection of your best work that represents you as a photographer. Each portfolio should contain 10-20 images on a specific topic or subject (maybe 30 or 40 depending on the subject and how they’re presented). Any more and I’m bored. Any less and I’m unimpressed.

6. PHOTO DIVERSITY

While photos in a specific portfolio should be on topic, they should also show differences in subjects, locations, styles, etc. If your portfolio for “fashion photography” has images from only one studio session, it just looks like you have almost zero experience. Show some diversity, and show that you’ve done this more than once.

7. PHOTO ORGANIZATION

How you organize your photos and portfolios is totally up to you — the important thing is that they’re organized. Unless you shoot only one specific subject/topic, you shouldn’t be presenting every photo on your site in the same place. Break it up and make it easier for your viewers to understand what they’re looking at. Even if it’s something as simple as “Landscapes”, “Plants”, “Animals”, “Waterfalls”, “Portraits”, “Weddings”, etc. Portfolios should be topical and concise.

8. ALL FLASH, NO INFO

Flash sites don’t bother me and I’m not going to start a flame war on the subject. But if you use Flash for your entire site, have the decency to also place a title or image number on the same screen as the photo (since most flash sites don’t have a separate url for each image). It’s so frustrating to contact somebody and say “I’m interested in that image of the staircase. If you click on the menu item that says “patterns”, then click on the other menu items that says “3″, then click the right arrow 14 times. That’s the one I want.” It’s a lot easier to grab a url from a non-flash site or just state the title of the image.

cookie cutters
Creative Commons License photo credit: danmachold

9. STANDARD TEMPLATE

This isn’t a huge deal, but it’s something to think about if you have some spare time. For sites that use templates or standard designs, a little customization goes a long way. The cookie-cutter design can sometimes send the message that you’re not serious about your work.

10. NO NAME, NO EMAIL

Similar to #8… if you don’t want people to contact you, then don’t put your name or email on the website. Contact forms are usually fine too, but some people prefer to send an email so they have some record of what they’re inquiring about. This is not a joke, I’ve actually seen portfolios that had no way to contact the photographer.

ANYTHING ELSE?

What other things with online portfolios bother you? What really gets under your skin from a viewer perspective? Any good examples of portfolios done right?

Link Roundup 07-02-2010