Category Archives: Album Software

Christmas Time in November

Oh yes, it is THAT time again with Christmas just around the corner. But, do not fear, you can make the killer gift for the extended family or friends by using all those pictures you took over the year. You can make books, cards, magazines, calendars and more using Instagram shots, Hipstamatic pictures, iPhone pictures, Droid pictures or pictures from any other camera.
iPhone catalog of images
And we ALL have hundreds and hundreds of pictures from the course of the year to pick from. Digital film doesn’t really cost us a nickel so we shoot much more than just a few years ago.

I offer many of these services as add on features to my photography sessions. I can do a themed session or do some photoshop magic for that one of a kind portrait for the gift of a lifetime.

You can always have some fun with the traditional family portrait. In this image, my own family and I decided to play off our Apple addiction that is well known in the family. everyone really liked that my oldest daughter was “in” the iPad and looking up at the youngest. That was a very simple trick with telling my oldest how to look when a friend took her picture since she was out of state at the time.

A Very Merry Apple Christmas

You can take the card into a whole new direction by compositing the family into some other place like, say, a snow globe which plays well off the fact we live in Southern California.
Final Snow Globe of Sweeneys

But for a real gift, there are many, many options in today’s digital world. You can easily use software like MyPublisher and build a very nice book with the year’s highlights in pictures for the grand parents. In this example, I made a picture book of my daughter’s first trip to Paris, France as a remembrance for her. This twenty dollar book was one of the best gifts I had given her (her words).

The best part of a picture book is that with the newest software from the vendors, they require no special Photoshop skills or expensive software. With iPhoto, the ability is built in and with vendors like MyPublisher, they give you the app for free to build the book. Other vendors like Adorama use online software and your web browser to build the book.

Amanda's Picture Book Paris France

There are dozens of printing houses that can do this type of book and Apple even has it as a built in option in iPhoto. You will hear of MyPublisher.com, Blurb and Lulu.com for a few common names. But there are many more including some books available from stores such as Adorama, Costco and Kodak.

You can decide if you are going to tell a specific story or just have a compilation of pictures from the year highlighting key events. I would strongly suggest that you write a few sentences with each picture or group of pictures so when someone is looking at the pictures, they can be reminded to what the pictures are about.

You can make calendars through many of these companies or you can buy templates with a dozen different designs ready to go with just your pictures added to finish it off. The calendars can be a single month, a year at a time or the more traditional flip calendar. You can have one, two or more pictures per month or year. You can do a lot with the newest templates and many of the templates are offered by the same fold that publisher the picture books. There are also templates available that you can use and then print anywhere you want including your own home with your own printer. In the sample below I used a Photoshop template and a picture I had taken at a school. I then printed out the new calendar at home with my own printer. My cost was twenty dollars for the template kit which has a dozen different calendars and about five cents for the printer paper and ink.
Olivia with 2014 calendar

Calendar templates are available from many sources such as Photoshop Island, RedBoot and others.

For the more advanced users, you can always make a story book by building the pages in Photoshop using templates and then exporting the resulting page out as a single JPEG file which you then print as a single page. In this graduation album, I made the pages in Photoshop and then used each page as a single picture printed on each page.
Graduation Album Pages

Also posted in Articles, DIY, editing, editing software, lightroom, osx, technique

Repurposing Your Software Tools

Photoshop or your editor of choice actions can  help you cut time corners to make a better end product like blog entries. Say what?  Oh yes, you can adapt tools normally used for a task  like making albums into a killer tool for making story boards for blogs or displays or whatever else comes to mind. I just used my favorite album software from Fundy to make a batch of story boards for my blog here. Yes I could buy actions to do this but I wanted to see if I could do something close on my own with Photoshop.

I already have a couple of flavors of album making software, LumaPix, You Select It (YSI) and FundySOS Album builder. Since I’m on a Mac, I prefer to use Fundy Album builder. While LumaPix would do a really nice job, it’s Windows only and I need to start up XP just to make these. It’s more work then I want right now. Fundy means I never leave my workflow.  This is not intended to be a review of Fundy’s software but suffice to say it’s pretty powerful and is adaptable to virtually anything that requires arranging images, not just wedding albums.

Here is a sample of a three by three story board of a shoot in Colorado that I shot last year.  I tossed together in Fundy Album builder in a few minutes. Not only can I make the grid but I can save it as a design then load it back up and automatically fill the grids or fill them by hand. It can takes less than 5 minutes to make the entire grid and fill it this way. And I just have to insert ONE picture into the blog instead of a dozen or more.

3x3 Wedding Story Board

3x3 Wedding Story Board

And it does not have to be squares, it can be any shape I want, singles, squares, grids, puzzles and more. Also,  this is not just for blogs, this technique of story boarding or building paneled images  can be sold to a client or used in an album or picture book. So the time invested in making the templates can be time well spent. And yes, I had to buy the software but I had bought it  to make my wedding albums so now I’m using the same software for two or three other uses without having to buy anything else. That is money saved and in your pocket.

Here is a type of grid that is called a “puzzle” with several images from a local coffee house in the city of Orange  called Chapman Coffee. My business, Michael Sweeney Photography, had some art hung on the walls  there for a while and I had taken pictures for their website. Now I’m using them to illustrate a second type of collage that you can put into your blog by using album building software. I started with a blank canvas set to 1024 pixels square and used Fundy’s Album Builder Ninja layout and CS4 to make the puzzle. You can of course, make the squares manually using just Photoshop.

Chapman Coffee House Puzzle

Chapman Coffee House Puzzle

And you can take a single picture and use the panels as a design element. Use a strong picture and add a bit of space between the sections and you get a very cool effect. In this case, I made a quad panel and used a picture of a 1957 Chevy Bel Air automobile that I shot at the “Cars and Coffee” car show in Irvine, California. This image of the car works well spread across  the four panels with a visual break between each panel and gives an idea for a wall hanging upsell to the client.

1957 Chevy Quad Panel

1957 Chevy Quad Panel

If all this is cool but you either dont have existing tools like FundySOS  or you just dont want spend the time to mess around with Photoshop, then you can buy actions from a variety of places such as MCP who has the “Blog It Boards” among others. The actions give you a very fast way to get started on this type of presentation of your images.  You can find some free ones at coffeephotography.blogspot.com but keep in mind that free is good, sometimes paying for something is better.

So the take away is that for your blog, instead of fighting with posting a dozen images which can also be swiped, make a storyboard of them and post that. Everyone gets to see the pictures, admire your artistic skills in layout and you can shave time off the editing of your post.  You can also incorporate your album software or actions into your workflow as design elements.

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FundySOS shooting, lighting and biz seminar

The crew at Left Turn Studio (FundySOS and TouchFlow) put on a two day seminar  called “Two guys that shoot” which covered alot of information. They hit on the business of running a studio and make money at it, how to market, what to market, how to shoot portraits of various types and do it cheaply. Kevin as probably forgotten more about lighting than many photographers will ever know. He shots have been on many bridal magazines, shot fashion for years and quite a bit more over 20 some odd years. Fundy is not much behind Kevin in world class experience as a photographer, teacher, studio manager etc. Together, they are a quite the pair in the studio and very successful at what they do.

The seminar was a mix of informal “class” teaching and real shooting with models, lights, flashes, beauty dishes, sunlight, shade etc. The information was very clear and concise and they took us through the entire process of shooting a modeling session to downloading, workflow, basic retouching in Lightroom then into Photoshop to use their own software to build out albums for the sale.

Some sample shots I did while in the class follows. Mine are typical of the results achieved by everyone there. And both Fundy and Kevin took the time to make sure everyone achieved good results and knew WHY they achieved them.
Jo - Jazz's Mum

This model was great to work with and we were stunned to find out she had just had her fifth child several months ago. In this shot, we used daylight from the storefront windows and a dual fluorescent bulb fixture from home depot with a silver reflector by her head to add just a touch of fill.

Jazz - railway

This was a former senior client who came back to model for us as a “senior” and was super to work with outside in the cool day. We used natural light and off camera flash for these shots. The off camera flash shots were taken with the flash in TTL but the camera set to full manual. All the reasons and settings were fully explained to us even if we already knew most of it. It was nice to hear it again and pick up all kinds of information on shooting seniors and what makes a successful modeling shoot for a senior album.

Jazz

This shot was taken in the classic LTS style of using flat light. This is one of the key concepts that the two guys that shoot (TGTS) really push during the two days. Flat light is your best friend for a flattering picture. It fills shadows, smoothes out the ski, helps keep the bags away from the eyes and more. Men can get away with more directional light but overall flat is where it’s at for a clean portrait. We saw this outside and inside the studio shooting with strobes.

Jo - B/W conversion

This was another shot using flat light from the front and set high shooting down. We also used white V cards and white seamless paper for the background. The conversion was done in LR and then tweaked in Photoshop with a couple of techniques plus Touchflow B/W Punch action. I used surface blur with a mask to smooth out the skin and pulled up the black point to get cleaner blacks.

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Smiles for you and me

My wife found a very cool service on the net for making slide shows to share pictures with friends and family. It’s called “SmileBox” and the basic service is a freebie and not too offensive with ads and such. It ties into iPhoto on the Mac and makes it very easy to assemble a slide show to email or if you buy the plan, burn to DVD using iDVD. The same features are available for Windows but I do not have any experience with them, only on the Mac.

I have a “gallery” show at a local coffee house (Chapman Coffee House) and my wife and I made a slide show using Smilebox to send it around. But an important part is that I can make a DVD of the show and give it to the owners of the coffee house for their own use. This keeps me and my business in their good graces and shows off that I can take foodie pictures of their wares, nice architectural shots of their business and more. Well worth the 39 dollars a year membership fee.

The membership also lets you using your own music but gives you a library of 2,000 or so songs to choose from which is very handy. You can choose from sideshows, ecards, scrapbooks, postcards or photo albums with a nice assortment of templates for each. And when you are done with your creation, they have it set up to post to all the major and minor social sites like, for example, WordPress 🙂

You can see a live sample in the slide show below of my gallery showing at the coffee house.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Chapman Coffeehouse August 2009
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Make a Smilebox slideshow
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Illuminate Me

One of the software packages I use to make albums is called LumaPix and it is very, very easy to use. The big problem with it is that I have run that dreaded operating system call “Windows” to use it. It’s a problem because I live in the light, I run several Macs around here and after switching a few years back from Windows, I’ve never looked back. So my savior in this trial is a software application called “VMware Fusion” which allows me to run Windows within a Window on my OSX Mac. I get the best of both worlds in a sense. I can boot Windows when I absolutely have to for something like this album software and I can still use OSX at the same time. I can easily share files from the same hard drive between both Windows and OSX and I can even VPN into a remote site from Windows while I do my normal business on OSX. Pretty cool all the way around. Thats not counting the fact that my recovery from Windows dying an untimely death from worms, viruses or the BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) is measured in minutes since I have a copy of the image that Windows runs from. Actually, I have three copies since one is dedicated to Lumapix, one is dedicated to another specialized app and one is just a generic backup. Windows does run better when you do not have alot of “stuff” installed on it.

I dont understand the PC and Mac wars, I do understand the humor of Apple in their ads. I have to be on both sides of the fence more often than not. I have been a network engineer for over 20 years and and have worked with all kinds of operating systems, some still in use and some have been “retired”. My two favorites before OSX was OS2 Warp and Netware 3.x. Both would run forever with just a bare amount of care and feeding. OSX reminds alot of OS2 Warp which is one reason I really like it. And being based on BSD does not hurt either. 

In my mind operating systems are like any other tool. You use the one that is best for the job at hand or you can afford. The camera does not really care what the brand sticker says on it, they all take pictures and most will take a damn fine picture running in the “P for Professional” mode. Linux, OSX and Windows all work in the end and it really comes down to what you want it to do, how well you want it do it and expense. It’s the person running the keyboard that can really make or break the OS just like it’s the photographer who can make or break the picture no matter what camera is used. 

I like my Mac and I love Fusion but neither is perfect and I’ll never say that they are. But they meet my requirements perfectly so they are the best fit in my workflow and how I do business. And thats really the bottom line to any person looking to make a choice. How well does this tool fit in my world and will it do the job as good as I need it to do it. If you spend all your time fighting with the tool, then you might want to look at a different tool and save yourself some pain and suffering.

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