Archive for December, 2008

Christmas mornings provide plenty of opportunities for memorable family photos. Given the frenetic nature of things (especially if little ones are involved), you’ve got to be ready to shoot fast and furious all morning — often before you’ve even had that first cup of coffee! Having your camera gear ready to go as soon as your feet hit the floor will help make your day a little less frantic. Here’s my Christmas morning checklist for success:

  • Put a freshly-formatted card in camera. I use two 4GB cards.
  • Put fully-charged batteries in flash(es) and camera! Again, have a spare set charged and ready to go too.
  • Make sure your sensor is clean (and give it a cleaning, if you’re comfortable doing that). A lot of dust here will make your post-processing stretch into the new year, if you’re unlucky!
  • Have lenses of choice clean and ready to use. (I put mine on the coffee table in the room we open gifts)
  • Set ISO to 400 (good quality without a lot of noise) and camera mode to aperture priority (I set mine at f/5.6 for my shooting conditions). Setting shutter to continuous, not single-frame, will help you capture more frames from fleeting situations.

Doing these things beforehand allow you to concentrate on your photography, not your equipment.

Remember, you’re a part of the family too. Don’t let taking photos take you out of the fun! Shoot lots and edit on the 26th!

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During a recent photo walk, I was hard-pressed to find something interesting to shoot at the chosen venue. Instead of being satisfied with the usual night shot of decorated trees and other holiday lighting, I pulled out an old-school technique (yep, from the days of film!) to add some interest to my evening’s shoot.  It’s basically a time exposure/zoom. It’s easy to do and, with the right subject, will produce some wonderful effects. The key here is to experiment and not be happy with your first try.

What this effect looks like straight from the chip.

What this effect looks like straight from the chip.


Here we go, step-by-step:

  • Start by mounting your camera (with your favorite zoom lens attached) to a sturdy tripod. What you’ll be doing next requires a solid foundation. 
  • Next, line up your shot so the optical center (dead center of your frame) falls in the middle of your subject (or maybe not, remember my earlier call for experimentation here?). Your image will zoom out from this spot, so you want to get this right.
  • Set your camera to manual focus and manual exposure. Focus on your subject, lock up mirror (if possible).
  • Start with these settings: ISO 100, f/16, 30 seconds (this is for an exposure after the sun’s been down for an hour or so…black sky).
  • Slowly press your shutter release and, after a few seconds, slowly zoom your lens.
  • Check your LCD and repeat. I should have put you in the ballpark and you should have said “ahhhhhh, ooooohhh” at your results.

The key here is to play around and have fun with this technique. A zoom made after 15 seconds have passed will make the underlying lights more dominant. A slow zoom from start to finish will have a completely different effect. I was happy with my resulting images and, with a little help from Photoshop, one eventually became my Christmas card!

Finished image with a little liquid filter applied a'la Photoshop.


Okay, now go experience some holiday joy using my little tip. Please, please, please share your experiences using this technique here (and give us the URL for your work so we can enjoy it too!).

Happy Holidays,


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Remember, your portfolio should be a selection of your very best work. It’s no place for photos that don’t measure up to that high standard and elicit a “wow!” from viewers. Hopefully, you’ve got a stack of images that are potential additions to your portfolio. The next step is to thin the herd, so to speak.

This is where you’ve gotta have the intestinal fortitude to “kill your babies.” What I mean by that is this is where you take out the photos that “wow” only you. The photos you worked hard to get, strike a chord with your inner being, yada, yada, yada. Everyone starts with images like this in their first edit. I suggest getting this over with early in the process — but only after you’ve let several other photographers (and non-photographers too) look at your initial portfolio edit.

Okay, now go show your first edit to other people. Let’s start with five discerning individuals. Five’s a good number. Take their comments to heart and look for a pattern in what they say about your work. After that, it’s up to you to weigh what they say against what you feel about your work. After all, your portfolio represents YOU and how you see your world.

More to come…

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