Tag Archives: tool

10 Must Have Online Tools for Professional Photographers

[tweetmeme]This guest post is from Melissa Tamura, who writes about online degrees for Zen College Life. She most recently ranked the best online colleges.

Technology advances rapidly, changing many aspects of the way we live and the way we work. Photography is a field where the people working in it feel the touch of evolving science every day. While increasing complexity can often be overwhelming, the benefits far outweigh the obstacles. Perhaps the greatest aid for many shutterbugs is that photography is simpler and less expensive than it has ever been. In order to highlight this point, here are 10 must have online tools for professional photographers, all of them free.

1. The Library of Congress

The Prints & Photographs Reading Room at the Library of Congress website is an amazing free resource for photographers. In addition to an extensive catalog of digital images, the resource boasts webcasts, articles, the Flickr project, and a photographer’s toolbox, which contains too many free photographers tools to itemize here.

2. Getty Images

Getty Images, Inc. is one of the largest suppliers of stock images for businesses and consumers. Their archive includes more than 70 million images and illustration and 30,000+ hours of stock film footage. While the archive is not free to use, it is free to use for inspiration, and Getty Images provides a suite of free tools for photographers and other artists.

3. Sports Shooter

Sports Shooter is a brilliant website that focuses on one of photography’s most challenging arenas. This website is chock full of articles, guides, and tools, and it boasts an impressive workshop and message board community. Even non-sports photographers can take advantage of the skills that they hone there.

4. Photography Blog

The Photography Blog, owned and operated by professional photographer Mark Goldstein, is one of the best free resources available to young photographers. In addition to being a helpful community, they cover everything from techniques to buying guides. Bookmark this one and read it every day.

5. Photojojo

Photojojo is an easily digested website that caters to photo tips and DIY projects. However, the tips aren’t useless one-liners. These are highly useful, focused techniques such as printing your photo to food items, or a simple way to turn a photo into a mural.

6. Digital Photography Review

Digital Photography Review is by far the best free review website for photographers. In addition to their well-respected camera reviews, they offer galleries, a glossary, a great blog, and sample challenges. Never buy a critical piece of photography equipment without checking it here first.

7. About.com

About.com has an immense selection of photography articles. There are options here for all interests and enough material to keep you reading for days. More importantly, unlike many free photography websites, there’s no need to worry about the sources.

8. SmugMug

SmugMug doesn’t share Flickr’s notoriety but it does offer all of the same benefits with a few extras. These extras include online editing, sharing, and a suite of HD tools. They also allow you an unlimited amount of photos without spam or ads all free. This is guaranteed to become one of the top free photography services you rely on.

9. Photo.net

Photo.net is the largest and most diverse community of photographers on the web. In addition to the forums, Photo.net has tons of tools, articles, reviews and galleries. The community is international so it is active around the clock. It’s also a great opportunity to have one’s work critiqued, and you get amazingly fast responses to legitimate problems.

10. Digital Photography Magazine

Digital Photography Magazine is the premier online magazine in addition to being the premier print magazine. Everything they publish online is free, and the quality is on par with everything they publish in the print. All professional photographers should make it a point to stop here every day.

Leverage these tools to capture and create amazing images, and share your newfound knowledge with the world. However, remember that these top choices are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to free online tools for the professional photographer. Keep your eyes peeled. You never know what might come into view.

Melissa Tamura writes about online degrees for Zen College Life. She most recently ranked the best online colleges.

[from Brian] What are some other useful online tools for professional photographers? I know we have a few pros out there, I’d love to hear from you guys.

How Well Do You Know Your Curves?

I’m in the process of writing the 2nd part to a previous article on Photo Editing With Histograms and it basically centers around the curves adjustment tool found in many pieces of photo editing software. The problem I’m having is determining how deep to go into the topic — curves can be highly technical and complex if you start from ground zero.

So help me out with this poll and let me know your experience level with curves. I’m assuming that most of you know what it is and how to use it, but with an audience this size it’s hard to tell for sure. If I see a lot of people with absolutely no clue, I’ll try to include some of the basics in the article. But if the majority is already familiar with curves and how they work, I might trim that stuff down and just give a few links to other articles that cover the fundamentals.

{democracy:65}

And if you have any specific questions about curve adjustments or how they relate to the image/histogram, leave a comment and let me know! Hey, I can’t answer your questions if you don’t ask.

Master Bokeh with the Bokeh Masters Kit

Bokeh Masters Kit

Have you ever seen those photos with nifty bokeh shapes scattered in the background? Well, it’s actually easier to accomplish than you might think.

The shapes are a result of two things: bokeh and a mask (a mask for your lens, not your face). Bokeh is something that happens naturally with the right lens and lighting conditions, and the mask is something that you can purchase from one of our “local” photography bloggers.

Udi, from DIYPhotography.net, has put together the Bokeh Masters Kit so the rest of us can experiment with custom bokeh shapes. The kit includes a bunch of precut shapes and a holder that attaches to your lens so you can swap them out easily.

vmmm vmmmm birds walking_the_other_way

Bokeh Masters Kit Contents

The concept is simple — place a thin mask with a small shape cut in the center right in front of your lens. The shape acts as a secondary aperture and forces the blurry background highlights to take the shape of the cutout. Without the mask, the shape of the bokeh takes on the shape of the lens aperture. But the mask cutout is just the right size to only have an effect on the bokeh while leaving the primary image in tact.

Right now, Udi is offering up three different kits: Demo, Advanced, and Master. The demo kit includes the disk holder and five pre-cut disk shapes. The advanced kit includes the demo kit plus an additional 15 disk shapes. And the master kit includes the advanced kit plus eight uncut disks and a disk wallet to keep all your disks in one place. The uncut disks allow you to create your own shapes and designs.

Now, you might be saying to yourself “I can make this stuff with construction paper, why would I buy it?” Well, because the disks and disk holder aren’t made of construction paper. They’re made from a thin and durable plastic and the pre-cut shapes are laser cut to give you nice smooth edges on your bokeh. Plus, the cutouts are just the right size to give your bokeh nice definition while minimizing any negative effects on the overall image. The blank disks in the master kit also have a circular guide on them to help you keep the size in that optimized range — I made myself a Christmas tree shape and took a shot of… the Christmas tree, duh.

[UPDATE 12/11/2009] Sorry, I just found out that the blanks no longer have the guides because some of the testers found that it got in the way of cutting. But you can trace your own outline from the circle in the disk holder.

Christmas Tree Bokeh

I’ve known Udi for a few years now, and I was lucky enough to get a pre-production kit a few months ago. It was really neat to mess around with the kit and give some feedback to Udi (which he did take and work into the final product). So I’m pretty excited to see the end result of Udi’s hard work — he really has put a lot of effort into these kits. If you’re interested in the kit, visit the links below.

BOKEH MASTERS KIT PRODUCT SITE

BOKEH MASTERS KIT + GIVEAWAY @ DIYPHOTOGRAPHY.NET

And if you guys have any cool bokeh shots (all shapes are welcome, even plain old circles or pentagons), feel free to drop them in the comments below!

PROJECT: Action and Preset Extravaganza

Action and Preset Extravaganza
Creative Commons License photo credit: ►Voj►

I’m pleased to announce, in the spirit of the holidays, an open source software development: The Epic Edits Action and Preset Extravaganza.

In our last project, we did reviews of cheap film cameras. But in this project, we’re going completely the opposite direction — it’s all about Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets (or whatever other software you happen to use). In the end, our collective creativity will be pooled into a large Styler Package and be distributed freely.

The Stylizer entries will be judged for creativity and prizes awarded after the January 12 Deadline for entry. Read on for more details on the concept and prizes. The entry form is at the bottom of this post, so be sure to bookmark it if you plan on participating.

THE CONCEPT

Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets are great tools for the digital darkroom. They can save a ton of time and they can give you awesome inspiration. Since we have a great community full of knowledgeable photographers, I want to put our heads together and generate a good resource that elevates our collective expertise and creative consciousness.

This resource will include the actions and presets with written instructions from the creators on their use.

THE SPONSOR

We’ve got a great sponsor for this project, and the prizes fit right in with the theme. I’m pleased to present Neil Cowley from Make Light Real as our sponsor and judge.

Neil is a photographer, an artist, a post-processing guru, and an educator. His photos are unique and his post-processing techniques are equally unique. Neil offers many Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets, along with tons of great textures in various themes. The actions emanate from his experiences teaching and sharing through his creative journal at www.MakeLightReal.com.

THE PRIZES:

UPDATE: The top 3 prizes include the ONE Action set and I’ve just reviewed it here on the blog. Read more.

  • 1ST PLACE: LIGHTSPEED WORKFLOW PACKAGE
    Valued at $290, this prize includes a Nostromo n52 left-hand keypad, “ONE” Lightroom/ACR preset, “ONE” Photoshop Action, and tutorials. This is an awesome package! This winner will also receive a $39 credit to use toward any additional items from Neil.
  • 2ND PLACE: PHOTOSHOP LIGHT REAL VIRTUAL COURSE
    Valued at $250, this prize includes the “ONE ACTION” workflow scripts plus a 4 hour training course covering the workflow scripts and working in LAB color space. This winner will also receive a $39 credit to use toward any additional items from Neil.
  • 3RD PLACE: ONE ACTION AND GOLDEN TOUCH PACKAGES
    Valued at $79 and $49, respectively, this prize includes the “ONE ACTION” scripts and presets for Photoshop and Lightroom, plus extra training materials along with additional Photoshop actions and 30 textures. This winner will also receive a $39 credit to use toward any additional items from Neil.
  • 1ST AND 2ND RUNNER UP: $39 CREDIT
    The two “honorary mentions” will each receive a $39 credit toward the purchase of any item from Neil’s offerings.
  • 5 RANDOM WINNERS: $39 CREDIT
    Just to shake things up a bit, we’ll select another 5 random winners to receive the $39 credit toward any item of their choice. So anybody could be a winner, you just have to participate!

So… basically we’re looking at over $1000 in prizes given out to 10 different winners. Not bad!

THE REQUIREMENTS

If you’re planning on participating and having a chance at some of the awesome prizes, be sure to read the following requirements very carefully. I’ve provided some useful links to appropriate resources, so don’t overlook them!

  1. CREATE AN ACTION OR PRESET
    The first important part of the project is actually creating the action or preset. The choice of software is up to you — whatever you happen to use. The action(s) and/or preset(s) that you choose to create and share are also totally up to you — they could be workflow timesavers, creative tweaks, or whatever else you can dream up. If you’re not familiar with creating these things, you can read up on creating Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets. And the creations must be your own — no swiping somebody else’s work!
  2. MAKE YOUR FILE ACCESSIBLE
    This is the hard part, but we’ve got some options for you. You’ll need to upload your action/preset file to the web so others can download it. If you have your own blog or website, this is no problem and you can host the file yourself. Some forums also allow files to be attached to posts. But sites like Flickr don’t allow this, while they do allow you to link to external files. To accommodate those of you with fewer options, Neil has offered to host your project files on his site. You can email him at action@makelightreal.com with your file. He’ll upload it to his server and send you the URL so you can link to it in step 3.
  3. WRITE ABOUT YOUR CREATION
    Once you’ve created your tool and made it accessible to others, you’ll have to write about it. There are many forms of self-publication, so don’t be intimidated. You should tell us what the action/preset does, how it works, and any special instructions for using it. You should also link out to your file from step 2 so others (including me) can download it and use it.
  4. SUBMIT YOUR LINK HERE
    When your written post is complete (with the link to your action/preset), come back here and fill out the form below. Just plug in your name, the location of your write-up from step 3, and your email address so I can contact you if needed.

DEADLINE: JANUARY 12, 2009

Multiple entries are fine, but each participant will count as a single project entry. So you could either put all your stuff in one post for the written portion, or you could do multiple posts. Either way, you get one entry into the contest and we’ll point readers to your whole collection at the end of the project.

Once the project comes to an end, I’ll gather up all the actions and presets and make a single collection (for each software) that can be downloaded by others. I’ll also link out to your write-up so people can learn how to use the tools you’ve created.

THE CONTEST

As mentioned in the sponsor section above, Neil is giving away a ton of cool prizes. The two of us will be judging the entries based on several criteria: usefulness, usability, creativity, execution, explanation, thoroughness, etc.

Basically, we’re looking to reward the individuals who put a lot of thought and effort into their project entry (and this certainly includes the written portion). We realize that not all actions or presets are big and flashy, and we’ll keep this in mind as we go through the entries — so don’t feel like you have to come up with some huge elaborate thing to be eligible for the prize.

Three winners will be chosen for the 3 grand prizes, and two runner-ups will be chosen for honorable mention. All five picks will also receive the $39 credit for textures.

In addition to the top five selections, we’ll choose an additional five entries at random to receive the $39 credit for textures!

THE ENTRY FORM

UPDATE: This project has been completed — see the results here.

Retouch Tool in Adobe Camera Raw

Retouch Tool

As promised in the Spot Healing Brush Tutorial, we’re now taking a look at the Retouch Tool in ACR (and Lightroom?). This tool is a little more “hands on”, so I figured the best way to show it would be with a screen capture. I’ll outline a couple things here in the text, but the bulk of the information is in the video embedded at the end of the article.

HOW TO ACCESS THE RETOUCH TOOL

It’s only accessible from within the Adobe Camera Raw interface — so don’t start looking in for it in Photoshop. There’s a little icon along the top menu that looks like the image shown above. You can click on it to bring up a sub-menu, or you can access it by pressing “B”.

HOW TO USE THE RETOUCH TOOL

The retouch tool is used in a very similar fashion to a clone stamp or a spot healing brush. In general, you click on the spot and you’ll see a set of rings appear (one red and one green). The red ring is the target and the green ring is the source. They can be moved and resized with the mouse. The sampling mode can also be switched between “heal” and “clone”.

WHEN THE RETOUCH TOOL FAILS

Like with the Spot Healing Brush, hard edges can present a difficult fix, but this tool allows you to move the source sampling spot to a location of your choice. Hard edges are easier to deal with, but you may still run into difficult situations when very complex geometries are involved.