Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

I came up with this neat little memory/visual trick to let me know at a glance the charge state of my NiMh batteries. It’s really simple. If your batteries are fresh from the charger, orient all the positive ends in the same direction when you store them. If your batteries have been used, simply flip one of the batteries (I charge in units of four) around so that three will show the positive ends, and the fourth will be, of course, negative and the indicator of your batteries’ condition. The photo below illustrates what a set ready for recharge looks like. 


If the batteries arent all showing the same pole, its time for a recharge!

If the batteries aren't all showing the same pole, it's time for a recharge!

 One more battery-related tip…look for the new low-discharge NiMh batteries. Instead of draining 1% of their power per DAY, these babies will lose 1% of their juice over a MONTH! That means you can toss ’em into your camera bag and be confident that they’ll be ready to work six months from now. They cost a bit more but, for my money, they’re worth it.

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The one thing …

What’s the one thing that separates the successful photographer from the rest of the camera-toting crowd? The willingness to learn from their mistakes. This means, of course, pushing that envelope and trying new things that will cause those mistakes in the first place!

Get out there and try something new today. Haven’t used a flash or, shudder, multiple flashes? Been afraid of the dark and haven’t experienced the thrill of time exposures? How about HDR? Go out there and be brave. We all make mistakes. Make yours and move forward.

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Don’t be one of those people who say “I wish I had my camera with me” after something truly spectacular happens. Carry your camera with you wherever you go! If you’re unable ot carry a bulky DSLR, grab a point and shoot with a sensor chip of at least 3 megapixels resolution and stick it in your purse or jacket pocket.

You never know when you’ll be witness to a great photo situation and, believe me, you’ll kick yourself if you can’t lay hands on something with a lens when you do.

My personal choice for a carry-everywhere camera? The Canon Powershot G10. It’s one of the few point-and-shoot cameras with RAW capability and is reasonably inexpensive. If you’re interested in something cheaper, the earlier model, the G9, is very nice too. We’re talking $500 or less, fyi. Yeah, photography ain’t a cheap hobby…

While we’re at it, set your camera to auto ISO, aperture priority (set to f/5.6) and, if you’ve got it, set image stabilization ON. Setting your camera in this manner will leave you prepared to capture photos in almost any situation

So make a habit of taking your camera along…you just might make a picture that’ll reward you for it!

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Here’s a short list of things to do now that you’ve got your dream camera:

  • Get a set of NiMh batteries…and a spare. Look for the new batteries that are labeled low discharge. This variety will keep a charge longer. On average, they lose only 1-2% of their charge per month. They’re worth the extra bucks.
  • Buy a carrying case. Don’t look to break the bank for a case. Your local Wal-Mart or Target carries a variety of cheap cases. Find one that will hold your camera, batteries, cards and, if needed, extra lenses. A case will protect your bag from dust, rain and prying eyes. Shy away from the ones with camera company logos emblazoned on them because they scream “steal me” to thieves.
  • Toss the memory card that came with the camera (for point and shoots, it’s usually 32MB or so…totally worthless) and invest in a 4GB card. Memory card prices are at a record low, take advantage of it now.
  • Read the manual! I can never say it enough. I know many are poorly written but slog through it a dozen pages at a time till you’ve read it all. It’ll be time well spent.
  • Get out there and practice. While practice won’t necessarily make you perfect, it will make you better. Take advantage of the instant feedback digital imaging provides to make a lot of photos and experiment with all the settings on your camera. Find which ones work best for you and get familiar with your “little friend.”  Delete the bad ones after you download them, never in the field. Remember, shoot in haste, delete at leisure.

One final tip. Find a friend with a similar passion for photography. It’s a great way to stay motivated as you learn to use your new camera. It’ll also give you a buddy to attend photo walks with!

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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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Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting my tips for building a killer photo portfolio. If you haven’t already figured it out, having a portfolio of your work handy (and online) is the best way to get work. After all, no editor in his right mind is willing to hire a photographer without first seeing examples!

One of the first decisions you’ll have to make is what sort of work are you trying to attract? Will you present a portfolio of photojournalism, portraits, sports action or an overall selection of your best work in all genres? There’s no reason why you can’t have one of each portfolio edited and ready to go!

First, gather your work and give every photo a hard, critical viewing. This is where another set of eyes comes in handy. In fact, I recommend that you get input from other photographers or, better yet, a picture editor as you determine which photos will make the “cut.” This is where you’ll lose some of your favorites…trust me.

How many photos to choose? Don’t have any set number in mind. I’d rather see a portfolio of ten killer images than forty so-so photos. Choose your photos with an eye toward showing off your creativity, technique, versatility and mastery of photography.

More to come….

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