Tuesday, November 18, 2008

hands on with drobo

A great video I found online that walks through the benefits of Drobo - check it out and Enjoy!

another one bitest the dust ... almost

You don't have to read the blog long to pick up on how I feel about backup. I am a HUGE advocate for redundant data. I have known too many who have lost precious data because of drive corruption, drive crashes, and or simple carelessness. I have personally experienced the latter two in the past.

Today I started my final stage of moving into my MacBook pro by transferring my "documents" folder that I have maintained since about 1996 onto my system. Notes from High School, College, and my Master's all reside ... on one drive. Are you kidding me?!? Seriously - could I be that stupid ... wait it gets better. The drive is the original notebook drive I replaced in my 5 year old Powerbook because it had overheating issues. I need serious help. So I plug the drive in and I get a format error message asking if I would like to format the drive for use ... um NO! MY DATA!!!!!!! I fished out the Data Rescue II disks hunkering down for a long day of painful data recovery. I rebooted the machine and holy cow, the drive showed up on the desktop as if nothing was wrong. Counting my blessings and the great mercy that was poured out upon my drive I immediatly began transfering the data to a safe place - still in progress by the way.

Why do we do such things? We commit our data to places that it should never be stored. We place our data on drives that have been mass produced as quickly and inexpensivly as possible with no form of backup or redundancy. I am asking everyone who reads this to STOP! Stop what you are doing right now and check you data. If your data is not stored in more that one location go buy a drive on sale or something and get it secure! Don't go buy a camera or a new lens - make this your first priority.

Next step: automation. No one wants to manage redundant storeage - that's why we don't do it. Set yourself up with a drive to manage the storage for you. Either set up a RAID or pick up a Drobo. I am going for the latter of the two. If you are on a Mac Time Machine will handle the backup for you. If you are on a Windows machine check out Argentum Backup.

Please - don't leave you data un-protected.

Friday, November 14, 2008

transforming scanned text

Today we take a quick look at converting scanned documents so that the white background is gone leaving the text or logo on it's own layer. It is a pretty basic process but not a lot of people use it. Check it out - it will save you some time and make you layouts look GREAT!

the first page...

In the same way an individual only gets one first impression - there is only one first page of a wedding album. When you open the first page of your album it should grab you. That one page should represent the entire day with all the emotion, preparation, and satisfaction. The tone of the entire album is set from that first page. When your client shows off the album to friends - what will they say when the cover is opened? If you haven't thought about it - you should. The album is crucial because it is portable. It is the only part of the wedding they will take to the office, take to family functions, and share with friends. I can't speak for all wedding photographers; however, over 80% of my business comes from referral. The way I see it - the album has a lot to do with that. Earlier today when I was taking a break for lunch my wife called the studio and asked how my day was going. When I told her I had finished the first page of the album she understood what a big deal it was - "That's the hardest page - that's great honey." This principal holds true for anything you give to a client - first impressions are everything.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

efficient editing

There are few things more frustrating and discouraging than getting weighted down and consequently progressively uninspired as you edit a client's photos. What is a photographer to do? For me it all comes down to efficiency. The longer I work on a project the more likely it is that I will become frustrated and uninspired. About mid-way through this year I took a serious look at my production to find ways to make it faster and more efficient. I was editing on a 5-year-old Apple Powerbook. I didn't realize how slow the editing process was going until I spent 10 hours editing 250 photos on my laptop. The next day I worked on a friend's MacBook Pro and was finished with the remaining 900 images in about 4 hours. I was so excited! I was beginning to question whether I was cut out for photography because ever time I sat down to exit I quickly lost my inspiration and more times that I would like to count I just got up and did something else. In my situation it was all about the gear. My computer was slowing me down substantially.

There are two important implications here. First and foremost - staying fresh and excited about what you are working on is essential for producing the best content possible for your client. Secondly, most photographers work on contract basis. Translation - you get paid the same no matter how long it takes you to finish the job. This means that the faster you work the more you make. The faster you work also translates into time for more family time and or the ability to take on additional clients.

We all need to sit down and take a look at our work flows and determine if we are being totally efficient. This isn't' the time for flattery - this is the time for blunt honesty. Only through honest feedback and disclosure will efficiency show up. There is nothing more satisfying and inspiring that sitting back to look at a finished job - a job well done.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

VMWare Fusion + FotoFusion

Today we take a second look at Lumapix FotoFusion. This time it is through the magic of VMWare Fusion. This application allows a user to run Windows (or any operating system for that matter) as a virtual machine on your sustem. If you are a Boot Camp person - VMWare will work for you aswell; allowing you to access the BootCamp partition and run it within the virtual enviroment. I walk through an album I just completed and show how to use some of the BEST features in the program - I will be doing more in the future. ENJOY!

Monday, November 10, 2008

why wait - shoot thethered

I originally intended to do today's post as a video; however, my body decided to fly right past the "getting sick" stage to arrive directly at head feels so huge it will explode, throat is scratchy, and nose is sniff ...sniff ...snif. So, for everyone's sake, today's tutorial will be text and photo based. Last night I did my second Reward Zone Event DSLR Demo and as I was setting up the laptop to the LCD TV and hooking the camera up to the laptop I thought - this would be great to blog! Tethered shooting is something that not everyone has exposure to so I figured it would be a good topic.

First things first - what is tethered shooting and why should we care? Tethered shooting allows a camera to transmit its photos directly to a computer rather than (or in addition) to a memory card. Once on the computer the image is displayed full screen. A lot of studio and portrait photographers use this technique to see the images on a higher quality, larger display real time. So why should we care? I have found it invaluable when teaching. Rather than having a group huddle around a small screen - everyone can enjoy the image on a TV or large monitor. The technique is also useful for any studio photography because the image is instantly viewable at 100% on a large display which more accurately represents the photo than the LCD on the back of the camera chiefly because of its size.

So, how do you set it up? There are two ways to set up tethered shooting: 1)wired 2)wireless. We are going to focus on wired tethering because it generally doesn't require you to buy anything (if you are a Canon shooter). You will need a few things:
  1. A camera that supports tethered shooting (most mainstream dSLRs and high end ultra-zooms
  2. USB cable for the camera (probably came in the box)
  3. A computer (doesn't need to be a super fast system)
  4. Tethering Software (this is where Nikon shooters have to pay)
The first thing you need to do is load the tethering software. Canon includes it on the software disk in their SLR cameras, it is called EOS Utility. Nikon users will need to download the software from Nikon's site. Nikon's tethering software can be used free for 30 days - so it won't cost you anything to try things out; however, if you add it to your workflow it will run you around $180. Once loaded plug the camera into the computer using the USB cable that probably came with your camera when you purchased it. I also add a few 6' USB extensions to give me freedom to wanter around but this is not required.

At this point go ahead and launch the capture program and connect the camera to the computer. The first time you set up the software you need to go into the preferences to tell the software where to save the images. Once this is done you are now set up to shoot tethered. I go one step further by sending the images into Lightroom. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom has the ability to automatically import photos froma "watched folder" which I setup as the same folder I set the capture software to save to. Now I can see images full screen and edit them on the fly as well.

The other option I mentioned was wireless. Wireless works the same way as wired; however, you need a wireless transmitter on you camera. Those are generally a little expensive. Most instances I have found the cable works just fine; however, if you want to cut the wires and be free go right ahead.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Highlight & Shadow Recovery in RAW

Today we take a quick look at how to recover detail from areas in a photo that have blown out highlights or dark shadows that need to be normalized. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

sync with foxmarks

This morning I want to share a great utility / plug-in that has been a life-saver for me on so many levels. If you read the blog regularly you will know that I have been a bit of a computer nomad the past month and a half. I have moved from computer to computer, trying to find a place to settle down. One thing we pour so much time into is our collection of bookmarks in our web browser. There have been too many times when I have formatted a system only to realize a few days later that I forgot to backup my bookmarks. Enter Foxmarks.

Foxmarks is platform independent - so as long as you can put Firefox on the computer you can get a copy of Foxmarks. Setting up an account is free and easy - two tings that I appreciate after a HUGE laptop purchase. Once you are setup Foxmarks backs up all your bookmarks (both from the bookmarks menu and the bookmarks bar). You can also choose to have Foxmarks backup your passwords aswell. Foxmarks periodically re-syncs with your computer to make sure if you add or remove any bookmarks that it has the most up-t0-date info on line.

Another strength of this plug-in is it's ability to sync with multiple computers. For my weekly workflow I have two Apple laptops and one PC desktop that I work on. Firefox and Foxmarks are installed on all three systems. As I work on my laptop and change bookmarks thorughout the week, the other two systems are automatically updated every few hours.

I am not a huge plug-in fanatic like some. I only use a handfull; however, I have found Foxmarks to be irriplacable and invaluble in my daily workflow.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

canon 50D ISO review

Click on image for full sized 3200 ISO image

I got my hands on a 50D a few weeks ago and did some image testing. I'm going to focus on ISO performance because almost everything else is identical to the 40D. In response to Nikon's crazy awesome ISO performance in its D300, D700 & D7 camera systems Canon released the 50D with a DiGiC IV processor. I am a bit surprised Canon chose to call this the 50D - it is more accurately the 40D mkII. After spending a substantial amount of time with the 40D I was instantly at home with the 50D as the menu and button configuration is exactly the same. Many focus on megapixel preformance and build quality. I expect high standards in both from any Canon camera so I dove straight into the ISO preformance.

Great image-to-noise ratio is the most influencing factor in my mind that determines a camera's worth. Before I purchase a camera I need to know how far I can push the ISO while maintaining a usable print.

Click on photo for full size version
The images above are 100% crops made with the camera using its kit lens and all standard defaults within the camera shooting large JPG files. I imported the images into Lightroom and cropped them 1:1. The white ballance was set to auto which is why the top photos are warmer than the last few - I overlooked that when testing the camera but chose to leave them as-is. At 100% crop you can see some image noise at 800. However, I was plesently surprised that the noise doesn't get much worse as you progress to 1600. There is a significant amount of noise at ISO 3200 when viewed at 1:1; however, it is tough to pick out any noise when looking at an image full screen. If ran through noise ninja ISO 3200 images look like ISO 800 images! I feel that the images produced by the 50D are on par with Nikon's D300. As expected they aren't as good as the D700 or 7D as these cameras have full-frame sensors so one should expect the images to be better. We will take a look at ISO preformance on the Canon 5D mkII when it releases next month.

If you are still sporting a 20D or 30D the 50D offers enough of a preformance boost that I would reccomend picking one up. If you are sporting a 40D the difference is nominal so I would probably sit tight until the 60D a year or two down the road.

Monday, November 3, 2008

photographer call out - GET OFF YOUR BUTT

Last weekend I spent a few days in St. Louis visiting family and seeing the sights. Saturday we spent the bulk of the day in Forest Park. I could spend the rest of my life finding amazing photographs in that place. The Forest Park was the site for the 1904 World's Fair and has been turned into a great public park since. The pano above was just a quick hand-held photo that I snapped very quickly. Even in the middle of the day awful light it is clear that this park is built on a grand scale that changes every few minutes as the light shifts throughout the day and into the evening. As I stated above, we were in the park on a Saturday so it is not tough to imagine that this is a popular location to have wedding and engagement photos taken. Just a few seconds after I captured this image, a bus-limo pulled up behind me with a wedding party and their photographer. I walked off a little ways and observed for a few minutes...

Two shooters using Nikon gear with the flash bolted to the top of their cameras shooting through a sto-fen style defuser. It amazes me how lazy wedding photographers are with lighting. Especially with Nikon's built in wireless flash system they have no excuse! A few hours later we were on the main pavilion area (photo below). TONS of repeating arch patterns, expansive greens, a sun low on the horizon. I was soaking it all in. When we got in to the building pictured below there was a lady photographer shooting a couple's engagement photo against one of the stucco walls inside (strike 1), shooting with flash on camera through a Fary fong dong thingie (strike 2), and wearing high heels (strike three). Of course I guess strike one is ok ... we are in the expansive beautiful place with natural light and amazing archetechure ... but they probably wanted a stucco wall as their backdrop anyways.
photo courtisy of http://www.explorestlouis.com

As photographers we need to look past the gadgets and what is easy to become image crafters. When shooting a wedding 99.9% of all my images are shot with off camera flash through a 36" shoot through umbrella for a softer more pleasing light. When I shoot alone my flash is attached to a 2' off camera shoe cord held by my left hand. It isn't easy and it isn't fun but for goodness sake people - any joe cool can walk into a Best Buy and purchase a camera and a flash that sits on the camera.

If this is you - I am callin' you out. Stop being lazy and learn how to use a flash like a professional. Serious images require serious light. You will never get dramatic or serious light off the top of your camera. If you are a professional photographer who makes a living with your camera you are doing your clients a disservice by not using off camera flash.

If you are interested in learning more about off camera flash - look through some of my older posts - I go over some equipment I use. Stay tuned - I will also be producing online video tutorials showing you how to get more from your flash on location. My goal today was two fold. Honestly, I wanted to vent a little frustration. I also wanted to offer a way out - training and technique from this site. There are better ways to do things - so lets go over them together in the weeks to come.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

back in the saddle again

Thank you so much for your gracious patience with past three weeks that have seen no blogging on my part. So much has been going on just with my computers at the studio alone that I just needed to get away from them at the "end" of the day. Things are looking up. I have made some great transitions and have some GREAT stories to tell. For those of you who don't follow me on twitter, I have replaced my studio production system with a MacBook Pro. I am still condensing info on to this machine and slowly migrating data from my main serer over to the laptop as needed. I have the system setup with VM Ware Fusion so I can run FotoFusion so I can continue to produce great albums and great tutorials for you guys on that program. I won't be able to pick up iShowU (system for screen capture) for a few weeks, so don't expect a video tutorial in the interum; however, I have several in the works.

I am so excited to be back and even more excited that the readership has stuck around. Starting Monday we will be back into the swing of things - see you then!