Category Archives: Quick-Tip

Get Photo-News with the PhotoVerse App

Last week, the developers of an iPhone/iPad app contacted me about using my RSS feed to pull content for their new application. It’s a pretty cool idea, so I said “go for it!”

PhotoVerse collects photography related news and blog posts like any RSS reader, and makes it handy for anybody interested in photography to keep up on their reading while also allowing them to share the articles on social media networks. In essence, it’s a preloaded feed reader just for the photography nuts.

The developers also asked me if I would like to test out the application… but I’m on Android, so no luck. Instead, I asked if you guys could have some freebies or discounts. Here’s what we have to hand out.

ENTER FOR A FREE COPY OF PHOTOVERSE

I have 5 coupon codes for a free copy of the app. It goes for $0.99 in the iTunes store, so you can go buy it if you don’t want to wait for the raffle.

If you do want a free copy, watch the Epic Edits Twitter account for the start of the raffle. I’ll do it within the day, and the first 5 to reply will get the coupon.

Anybody out there have this app already? How is it?

3 New Photography eBooks

A lot of eBooks have been coming out lately, and I just don’t have the time or energy to do full reviews for all of them. Here are three books that came out on the last few weeks that I probably won’t have time for a full book review. You can see other book and eBook reviews in my archives.

This post contains affiliate links.

Transcending Travel – A Guide to Captivating Travel Photography

This book from dPS is all about travel photography. It is designed to give you the skill and inspiration to take riveting travel images. Written by Mitchell Kanashkevich, the book is divided into four main sections: preparation, composition, light, and making photos. It covers topics such as preparing for your trip, how to communicate effectively with your viewers, creative uses of light, and various other tips for producing great travel photos.

VENICE, A Monograph The Print & Process

This eBook is a collection of over 30 photographs created along themes of loneliness and solitude over a 5-day period in Venice in May 2010, and followed by a discussion of the Why and the How behind the images. The first half of the book is a wonderful collection of photos, while the second half dives into the process behind each photo. This includes technical settings along with some important background information from the photographer.

Vision in Motion

This eBook is an introduction to digital video for stills photographers. Written by Trevor Meier, both a professional stills photographer and film-maker, this eBook discusses the core issues of motion storytelling. Topics include vision, story, sequence, and technique (which is a big one that covers exposure control, frame rate, motion rendering, DOF control, and so on). The end of the book also talks about basic equipment like cameras, lenses, filters, tripods, and sound.

A Secret Tip to Becoming a Better Photographer

This little tip has nothing to do with your camera or post-processing your images. In fact, it has nothing to do with your images at all. Over the last several years of blogging, I’ve come to realize a very important method for improving your photography skills.

BECOME A PHOTO EDITOR

The type of editor that selects photos for publication. Anybody that has been in such a position knows how difficult it is. They should also know how important it is for indirectly sharpening your own photography skills.

SAY WHAT?

Here’s the thing… when you’re forced to select a few photos from a large possible set and show them off to a public audience, you put your artistic eye to the test. Here’s the other thing… it’s hard as hell to do. You want to be “nice” and select over half of the possible photos to show off? Information overload for your audience. You want to be “stern” and only select the best of the best? You’ll have 3 or 4 photos to show off — who cares? Seriously, putting on the “photo editor” hat is a difficult task, but a very rewarding one.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?

Over time, you’ll learn a few things about yourself as a photographer. If you do enough of this stuff, you should start to see that you gravitate toward certain types of photos, styles, and genres. Personally, I’m a fan of film, street, xpro, portrait, and quirky images. I like things that stand out from the norm. The images that you like most ought give you a clue as to which types of photos you should be shooting. You like flowers so much? Go take some flower photos! Curating galleries and publications with other people’s photos will also give you a hint about the quality required for a photo to be “interesting”.

On that note, you’ll also raise your bar for quality control. If you see enough amazing photos, you’ll start to desensitize yourself to the “ho-hum” photos — including your own. This should lead you to improving your quality and trying harder.

One other benefit of being a photo editor is the “feel good” aspect of promoting other artists. It’s always nice to have somebody else recognize your work as a photographer, but it’s just as nice to have other photographers recognize your recognition of them.

HOW TO BECOME A PHOTO EDITOR

This part is easy… online publishing is simple and accessible to just about everyone with an Internet connection.

One method for trying your hand as a photo editor is through Flickr. They have a feature that allows you to curate a gallery of photos from other photographers. Flickr galleries are usually created with a specific topic in mind and you’re limited to 18 selections. This method is great because it’s quick, easy, and very open.

Another method is to publish photos on your blog. Just be aware of copyright infringement and look into the Creative Commons as a way to publish photos.

Once you have a method for publication, just pick a topic or theme and start searching for some photos. See what you come up with, and share it with your audience.

EXAMPLES!

I do the photo editor thing every day, every week, and every month in one place or another — mostly on my blogs.

At the Fine Art Photoblog, we opened things up for guest contributors. I get several new submissions each day and I have to choose whether or not to publish them.

Here on Epic Edits, I’ve been doing the PhotoDump feature for a while. I cut it back to once every other week, but I still have to go through several hundred photos and select about 30 to show off. I also started up the Flickr Challenge thing recently, so that’s a theme based evaluation. And then there are the infrequent posts that exhibit certain types of photos along with some occasional tips (see here, here, here, here, and here).

I do the same type of stuff on Feeling Negative with our Flickr pool photos, and with random theme-based exhibits (see here and here).

NOW YOU GO

Feel free to share some links in the comments below — Flickr galleries, blog posts, and any other publication that you’ve put together as a photo editor.

Learn Your Camera With the Flip of a Dial

Get off the Green Box (aka AUTO): These are where you should be.
Creative Commons License photo credit: MoHotta18

This quick little tip is aimed mostly at the dSLR users out there who are still learning the ropes. I know how easy it can be to leave the camera in an “auto mode” so you don’t have to worry about all that technical crap. But the non-auto stuff really isn’t that bad, and it opens up a world of possibilities for you.

[tweetmeme]So this little exercise might be somewhat disappointing on your first go, but it should get you rolling in the right direction. You can do this in a single outing or split it up over multiple days — whatever works for you. And if you don’t feel enlightened after your first try, do it again. Alright, here’s the technique:

  1. SHOOT IN AUTO MODE
    If this is what you’re used to doing, just go ahead and get warmed up. Don’t think about that comfort zone you’re about to step out of, just shoot some photos.
  2. SWITCH TO APERTURE PRIORITY
    When you move to aperture priority mode, you control the f-number and everything else is automated. So now you need to start thinking about depth of field. Look for photo opportunities where you might want to blur the background or have everything in focus. Lower f-numbers equate to lower depth of field and higher f-numbers equate to greater depth of field. Pay attention to your foreground and background subjects, and experiment with different f-numbers on the same shot to see the results. You’ll also need to pay attention to your auto shutter speed chosen by the camera — low f-numbers on a sunny day might max out your shutter speed, and high f-numbers on a cloudy day might result in long exposures.
  3. SWITCH TO SHUTTER PRIORITY
    When you move to shutter priority mode, you control the shutter speed and everything else is automated. Now you need to think about motion blur. Look for opportunities where you might want to blur a fast moving object or freeze everything in the frame. Lower shutter speeds equate to more motion blur and higher shutter speeds equate to freezing action. Pay attention to moving objects, and experiment with panning your camera as you take a shot. You’ll also need to pay attention to your auto aperture chosen by the camera — slow shutter speeds on a sunny day might max out your aperture, while fast shutter speeds on a cloudy day might pin your aperture wide open.
  4. SWITCH TO MANUAL
    If you have a handle on the aperture and shutter priority modes, try switching over to full manual controls. The only difference is that you determine both aperture and shutter speed at the same time (and it’s not as hard as it first seems). Modern dSLR cameras have built-in light meters that tell you if your exposure is correct when shooting manual. That little scale in the viewfinder… that’s your light meter. Move the shutter speed and f-number around and you should see an indicator move across that scale at some point. If your exposure is correct, you should be somewhere around the center of that scale. As you experiment with the manual controls, you’ll probably notice that you prefer to leave the aperture or shutter in a steady place while modifying the other. This will tell you which priority mode you lean toward.
  5. Again, if you’ve never shot the priority modes or the manual mode before, this might be brutal on the first round. You’ll mess up a bunch of shots, you’ll miss shots entirely, and you’ll probably be pissed off. Stick with it though!

    The best way to learn the semi-manual and fully-manual controls is via practice. You can read about this stuff all day long, but that will only take you so far. So get out there and learn your camera!

    Any of you experienced folks have tips for those experimenting with the mode dial? Things to watch out for? Things to try?

Canvas People Offering FREE 8×10 Canvas Prints!

[UPDATE 7/7/2010] This offer has expired, but a new one has taken its place.

I got an email today from the folks at Canvas People asking if I was interested in giving away some free canvas prints. At first I’m like “ok… what’s the catch?” — but after looking into it, the deal seems to be legit.

They’re offering up a $55 credit for any first time customers! This will get you one FREE 8×10 canvas print, and you just pay for shipping and handling.

You could also use that credit toward a larger size at a reduced cost (an 11×14 will run you $9.99). That’s a pretty awesome deal if you ask me.

[tweetmeme]The prints are also gallery wrapped and protective coated at no extra cost, meaning it will be ready to hang when it arrives. If you’ve been thinking about having a photo printed on canvas, try these guys out — you probably won’t find a better deal out there!

(This is an affiliate link — it costs you nothing, and it helps support Epic Edits)

Updates on the Twitter Situation

[tweetmeme]I’ve been on Twitter for nearly three years under the alias of @auer1816 (it was my email handle in college and I use it for a lot of social media accounts just out of habit). The Twitter account has been a mixture of personal and blog related items and I’ve used it anywhere from several times per hour to only a few times per week. Up to this point, that account has been associated with Epic Edits.

I figured it was time for a change and I wanted to separate my personal stuff with the photography blogging stuff. So I went ahead and made a new account for Epic Edits.

This account will post blog updates, links to photography articles around the web, photography related news items, etc. I’ll also use this account to follow other photography bloggers and hardcore link-sharers so I can keep up with the current events a little better. So if you want those types of Twitter updates, go ahead and follow @epicedits.

My personal account will be used to post random thoughts, updates on my photography-related doings, and my daily out-and-about stuff. On this account, I’ll be following personal friends and other photographers that have interesting things to say. If you’re into that kind of stuff, follow @auer1816.

I also have a joint account for FeelingNegative.com that we use to post site updates, film related links, film news, etc. Like the Epic Edits account, we’ll be following other film photography bloggers and hardcore link-sharers so we can see what’s happening out there. If you’re into that sort of thing, follow @feelingnegative.

And since I did it, feel free to share your own Twitter account(s) in the comments below… and maybe tell us what you Tweet about most of the time.

Tone Up Your Curves Skills

Yesterday, I posted a poll asking “How Well Do You Know Your Curves?” and I’m seeing a slightly skewed response toward the “less experienced” side of things. That’s totally cool, and I’m glad so many of you chimed in to let me know!

As I gear up to post my next article on “processing via histograms” I’m coming to the conclusion that I should put up a bit of background info on the curve adjustment tool. This tool is deserving of a book just because of the flexibility and complexity that it encompasses… but I’m not going to write a book on this stuff. Instead, I’ve put together a few thoughts and screenshots followed by links to articles far more comprehensive than my own.

So let’s get started with curve adjustments, tones, ranges, slopes, color channels, and all the other associated fun stuff.

Keep in mind that this post is somewhat of a teaser intended to get you thinking about the topic at hand. Read it through, check out the images, and follow the links at the end. I’m hoping that you’ll have a better grasp of the curves tool by the time you’re finished.

WAIT… WHAT’S A CURVE?

If you’ve worked in Photoshop, The Gimp, Lightroom, Adobe Camera Raw, and many other pieces of photo editing software, you may have already used curves or at least seen them. It’s that box with a diagonal line through it, and you can usually manipulate that straight line into a curve through various methods.

A curve adjustment is a simple input-output tool that changes the tonal value of pixels by stretching or compressing portions of the histogram. So let’s say that you want all pixels with the tonal value of 190 to change to 200 (making the light tones lighter). The curve tool does this for you, but it also moves nearby tonal values to maintain a smooth appearance in the image.

Essentially, you need to know that as you move the curve down and to the right, tones will darken from their current values. Move the curve up and to the left, tones will lighten from their current values. A curve can have many bends and inflection points, so it is possible to apply different adjustments to different sections of the histogram.

THE INPUT/OUTPUT RELATIONSHIP

As I mentioned above, you can use the curve adjustment to designate tone transformations across the entire tonal range. If you want one section of tones to become brighter, you move the curve in one direction for that local area. If you want one section of tones to become darker, you move the curve in the other direction for that local area.

A side effect of curve adjustments is the increase and decrease of contrast for different tonal ranges in the image. The slope (or how steep the curve looks from left to right) determines how much contrast adjustment will be applied to that local area. A steep slope (closer to vertical than horizontal) will give you a higher contrast. A shallow slope (closer to horizontal than vertical) will give you a lower contrast. The interesting thing about the curve adjustment is that slopes changes will alway negate each other. So if you increase the slope in the midtones (thus increasing the contrast) with a traditional s-curve, you also decrease the slope in the highlights and shadows (thus decreasing the contrast).

Simple curve adjustments are applied to a combined rgb channel. Advanced curve adjustments can be applied to individual channels in any color space such as RGB, LAB, or CMYK. This type of thing gives you ultimate control of the tones for each color representation in your image across multiple color channels, but it can be difficult to visualize and control unless you have experience with the tool.

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE

To best understand curves, I would suggest starting out with grayscale images rather than color. Working with a single channel will be about three times more clear than working with three channels. This scenario will allow you to explore the relationship between input and output tones without having to worry about color effects.

If you have a good handle on how the curve tool works, try messing with the color channels in the RGB space to get a feel for how they work. It’s the same concept as with grayscale, but applied to each color (red, blue, green). You can also convert your image to LAB or CMYK color space and experiment with the curve adjustment.

FURTHER READING

This topic is huge just from a technical standpoint. So rather than regurgitate a bunch of stuff that’s already been said, be sure to check out these following articles. I’ve narrowed my choices down to four articles that I feel cover the main ideas.

Tonal Range and the Curves Tool
This link from Chromasia is actually an entire series of articles on the topic of curves adjustments and everything associated with them. If you have time to read through it, I would highly suggest doing so.

Using the Photoshop Curves Tool
While not as comprehensive as the first link, this article from Cambridge in Colour covers many of the basic lessons in curves adjustments. I like this one because of how concise it is with each topic.

Photoshop Curves: Stepping Up From Levels
This article from Earthbound Light is similar to the previous article, but it hits a few different points and presents the material in a slightly different manner. Both are worth reading.

Color Correction in Photoshop with the Curves Adjustment Tool
And finally, for those of you wanting to dive into color curves, this article from PSDtuts+ gives a good introduction. It doesn’t get terribly technical, but it should give you a good idea on how the color channels are affected by curves adjustments.

As I said, this article is just a precursor to my next article on the curve adjustment and how it affects the image and its histogram from a practical standpoint. So if you’re unfamiliar with curves, read these links and practice on some of your own photos to get familiar with the tool.

More to come later this week…

Some Photography Q&A

I get a fair amount of questions on the post comments and direct contact. I should try to make a habit of highlighting some of those questions and responding to them because I’m sure others could benefit from that.

I dug back into the archives and pulled a few of the more general questions and answers. Hopefully these will help out some of you that may have the same questions. And if you have other questions, definitely ask in the post comments if it is specific to the article, or contact me directly if it’s something we haven’t covered yet. I’ll try to hang on to those from now on so I can share the answers with everybody.

So here we go, 10 Q&A bits from the archive.

Bill on “Quick Tip: Format Your Memory Card

I have a memory card that we have already used. Now the computer is asking us to format the card. Is there a way to format the card without losing the photos on the card?

No, formatting clears all the data from the card. Try downloading the photos from the camera to the computer with a usb cable (most cameras have this). If that doesn’t work, try a card reader (if you have access to one). You might even bring the card to a local computer or camera shop to see if they can access the images with a different card reader/computer.

Julia on “How To Create Photoshop Actions

I’ve done a couple actions, but how on earth do I share them with friends? Can’t find the files on my computer… Do I have to save in some special way?

You have to save them out — you should see an options for loading and saving selected actions in the pull-down menu of the actions panel. This will allow you to save out a .atn file. Just make sure you have the action or group of actions highlighted before you save.

Jim on “Flickr Etiquette Basic Guidelines

One thing I have noticed is that there seem to be many people who have no photos of their own, in fact they do not even have a buddy icon, and of course no real name given. These people tend to have amassed hundreds or thousands of favourites of women, some scantily dressed, some not. Many seem to be cross-dressers, perhaps looking for fashions to favourite. Most of these people never leave comments. Should I be concerned if photos of my wife are made favourites by these people? [...]

I know the type you speak of. I’ll usually block them just because they’re not trying to be part of the community and it’s really creepy when you look at their faves. Obviously, you can do whatever you wish with these followers, but I’m typically not a fan of the “super-creeper” gathering photos of my Wife.

Sangeeta Das on “13 Alternative Flower Photography Tips

[...] I want to know how is the dew drop trick done… is it just a macro shot or some post processing?

The only way I know to do those dew drops is to use a macro or super-macro setup (with reversal rings and whatnot). Otherwise, you just can’t get close enough to get high quality images. http://www.wonderfulphotos.com/articles/macro/dewdrops/

Jim on “7 Reasons To Love Prime Lenses

Are prime lenses really that much cheaper than zoom lenses? when I looked at canon 50mm f/1.8, which was probably the cheapest lens ever, it cost about $99. And the next one 50mm f/1.4 would cost as much as my Rebel XSi body. And neither one is the L series.

For the same quality, they are far cheaper. But they can be expensive too, especially when you want larger maximum apertures. With 50mm lenses, once you go larger than f/1.8, the price goes up exponentially. While the f/1.8 costs $99, the f/1.4 costs $400, and the f/1.2L costs $1600.

But now look at zooms in the 50mm range and you’ll see that you can’t get anything below f/2.8 or f/3.5. That’s a full 2 stops slower than what you can get with a prime, and the price is way higher than $99.

Adam on “60 Second Post-Processing Technique

[...] if this is the first round of processing, wouldn’t further detailed processing potentially be done in something like photoshop? [...]

Photoshop would be one option to finish it off. I typically go back into Adobe Camera Raw (or Lightroom) to finish images with additional tweaks and adjustments. I’ll go into Photoshop if I need to do something extreme, utilize the LAB color mode, clone something more difficult than dust spots, etc.

Jeff W on “Making Fine Art Prints: Signing

[...] If it’s “acceptable” to sign in ink or paint right on the image I would much rather do that in the future. I did try that with a white paint pen I got at Michael’s but even after drying overnight it smudged. Some of these just don’t adhere to photographic paper. Does anyone have a specific brand or type of pen they can recommend?

I’ve used two different pens, they both work great and dry fast.
http://www.sakuraofamerica.com/Marker-metallic-paint
http://www.marvy.com/product_details.aspx?ProductID=39

kevin on “7 Reasons To Love Prime Lenses

Nice article, but what is the focal length we usually need? And what do you suggest for canon when price is not a problem? Is 50mm f/1.8 sharp enough? Or we need 1.2?

The focal length you need will of course depend on what you plan to photograph. Landscape photographers may opt for wide angle, portrait photographers for mid-range, sports photographers for telephoto, etc. If you use a zoom, take a look at your photos and see what focal length you typically shoot at — this should give you a good starting point. I can’t really comment on what to buy for Canon if price is not a problem, but I think the “L Series” lenses are the top quality pieces. As for the 50mm, f/1.8 will be fine for most people, and plenty sharp if you stop down one or two stops (as is the case with most lenses). The f/1.2 will give you more light, but I can’t comment on the sharpness gains over a f/1.8 or f/1.4.

C B on “Cross Processing Tips and Suggestions

[...] I have some Ektachrome that I plan to cross process. I was wondering if shooting it through a red filter would make it so the green wasn’t so extreme? [...]

I’m not sure what would happen if you shot with a color filter… it might work, but it might also take some experimentation to get the filter strength and color correct.

C B on “Cross Processing Tips and Suggestions

[...] Will E-1 or E-2 film cross-process with C-41 chemistry? Or should I just sell it to someone who’s a collector and buy E-6? I don’t want to pay the big bucks to have it processed E-2.

I really don’t know about E-2 stuff. I did find a discussion about it at photo.net: http://photo.net/film-and-processing-forum/00DzKU

So next time you have a question on a given topic, feel free to ask in the comments. I usually try to answer right there within a day or two, but I might also bring it back up in another post like this in the future. And if anybody else out there has something to add to the questions above, chime in right here or on the original posts!

Challenge Yourself in 2010 with PhotoChallenge.org

One of the best ways to improve your photography is to challenge yourself and push the limits of your comfort zone. Photographing subjects or situations outside of your norm will force you to apply your existing knowledge to a new thing. And in the process, you’ll be learning things and picking up new tricks.

PhotoChallenge.org is a website/blog committed to challenging photographers. In 2007, Trevor Carpenter, started challenging photographers to shoot 1-photo-per-day monthly themes or challenges, and continued that into 2008 when PhotoChallenge.org was officially launched. Also in 2008, Trevor started a yearly challenge to photograph a single subject each week for the entire year. 2009 included challenges on a different topic each day — and I applaud anybody that could keep up with that schedule!

In 2010, PhotoChallenge.org will be changing it up yet again. We’ll have monthly themes (4 weeks each, actually), but you’ll only be asked to shoot one photo per week on the topic — so 4 total for each challenge. The new format will allow more people to keep up with the challenges, because shooting every day can be tedious for some of us.

The first challenge is “Resolution” and you can basically take that theme any way you see fit and shoot a photo that reflects your personal interpretation. After 4 weeks of “Resolution” they guys at PhotoChallenge.org will announce the next theme.

Really, it’s all in the name of learning new things and having a good time. You’re more than welcome to join in or opt out as you choose and nobody is keeping tabs on you if you miss a week or two. So if you’re looking for new ways to expand your skill set, jump over to PhotoChallenge.org and see what they have in store for the new year.

Win Cash With Competico Photo Contests

There are many ways to make money from your photos, and contests/competitions are a unique approach. Rather than sell your work or time, you compete with your talent and experience. Contests and competitions can take many forms, but online avenues are probably the easiest to participate in.

Competico is an online photo competition website that offers cash prizes based on community votes and panel judges. Each contest has a specific theme and maximum cash prize available. It also appears that several new contests launch each month. Entry fees are generally between $2 and $15 per photo, and a percentage of those fees go toward the prizes.

Competico Winter Holidays Photo Contest

Right now, Competico is running a bigger contest with some huge cash prizes. The theme is “Winter Holidays”, the entry fee is $100 per photo, and prizes up to $50,000! The entry is steeper than their usual contest, but the rewards are too. This contest ends January 12, 2009 and the winners will be announced on the 15th.

ENTER THE WINTER HOLIDAYS PHOTO CONTEST HERE

If that one is a little too steep for you, consider checking out the ongoing contests for various themes. As I write this, there are 8 open contests in a full range between $2 and $15 entry fees. And if none of the themes spark your interest at the moment, check back from time to time.

Competico

VIEW THE COMPETICO HOME PAGE

As with any photo contests or competitions, be sure you read the terms and conditions before agreeing to them. If you’re not comfortable with the terms, don’t submit your photos.