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Holiday Pictures, Santa Claus, Travels and More

Christmas means more than just family time, it is a time to get some really spectacular holiday pictures of the family on the road or with relatives. It’s also a time to see some places all decked out in their holiday best. Disneyland is a special place to my family and we actually stay at one of the hotels every few years as a “stay-cation” for the kids rather than traveling long distances. Trying to fly a family of five somewhere is very expensive and driving is not much cheaper so we just go the 30 minutes or so to Disneyland and leave our troubles behind for a few days.

One of the keys for nice pictures at any park, ship, theme park or even just in front of the Christmas tree is shallow depth of field. You blur out the distractions but leave them clear enough so people can sorta tell what they are and where you are. It makes for a nice background that adds to the story.  I typically keep my camera at an F stop between 2.8 and 5.6 with Aperture mode locked in place. When I’m at Disney with the kids, things move way too fast to be in full manual mode much of the time but I want that F stop locked to control the DOF.

Three sisters at Condor Flats at California Adventure, Disneylan

This particular image along with a relatively shallow DOF also uses the popup flash to throw some light on the faces. I had moved the kids from sun to shadow and I wanted the eyes to sparkle a bit. So up goes the popup flash and I dialed it down -2 so not to over power the nice light reflecting off the cement.

Night shots are the best in my opinion as you get all the color lights and such that people put up. In this case, full manual is almost mandatory as the camera will try to exposure the black sky and blow out the lights themselves. I use a bit more DOF so I’m shooting through the sharpest part of my lens and I crank up the ISO to compensate for this. The ability to shoot clean at a high ISO is one of the big benefits for shooting with either a very HQ small sensor camera or a full frame sensor like my Nikon D700.

Its a small world at Christmas

So get out your camera and shoot, shoot and shoot some more. Holidays are special days and it’s a great time to get some very memorable images of your loved ones. You never know what tomorrow will bring so enjoy today.

Also posted in event photography, portraits, technique, Travel, venue

Shooting with the iphone IOS 6 Panaroma Tool

One of the features of IOS 6 I talk about in my book is the new Panorama tool. This is a tool that allows you to take the iPhone 4, 4S and 5, swing it in an arc and then have a gorgeous panorama image in just a few seconds. If you dont believe me, then take a look at this sample shot from a fundraiser I attended the other day. We had set up two jogging tracks for the kids to run around in two different fields. I wanted to get an image that really showed off both sides and my D700 with the 16mm was not able to get it. Nor did I relish the idea of taking several shots and then spending time in Photoshop stitching it all together. So out comes my iPhone 4S !!

I did three different shots as I’m a firm believer in backup images even more so with this given all the variables such as kids walking by, lighting and so on.

Here is the normal blog image of the pano. The best I can really do is 1900 pixels or it scrolls off your screen.

Jog-a-thon Panorama IOS 6 iPhone 4S

But, with a built in feature of Photoshop, I can easily show you the high resolution image. I use a tool called Zoomify and now I can show off all the resolution I have. Or in this, as much as I grabbed. The original image was downloaded from my iPhone at a reduced size and even the, the image is over 9000 pixels long. All I did to the image was to sharpen it some and cropped it a bit. So for a iPhone stiched image, I think it looks pretty good!

Click here for the Zoomified Pano

As I say in my book, the iPhone is a very capable camera when used correctly. Have fun and go play with panoramic pictures! I am pretty sure you will be amazed and it wont cost you a penny since it’s built in. If you want extra features like a full 360 degrees or other items, buy my book 😀  or hit up the Apple App store and look around. 360 and Photosyth are two good apps for cheap prices.

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It’s done! My new iBook for iPhone Photography is done

Well, at least the PDF version of “How to Create Amazing iPhone Photographs” is done. The iBook version is waiting for Apple to bless it. But, in the meantime, you can buy and download the PDF which is exactly the same content as the iBook. You can download a free preview from Lulu Press who is my POD (print on demand) vendor.

Here is the description for my new book –

[blockquote]Your content here.The iPhone is an amazing tool. It is a phone, a database, a web browser, a camera, a video recorder and more. But this amazing array of features may overshadow the iPhone’s arguably greatest feature: its camera’s ability to capture a moment in time.  This book will teach you how to use the iPhone camera in ways you never dreamed, to fully capture the moment and to create amazing photographs.  You will learn about the basics of crafting images with the iPhone but also about interesting options such as infrared and underwater photography. You will see how to perform high-speed panning to capture a subject in motion and produce stunning images. I present a wide variety of apps, accessories and hardware, as well as tips and tricks, to aid you in creating your photographic art. I hope my sample images will inspire your creativity. When you have finished reading this book, you will know how to use your iPhone as a real camera to create amazing art and lasting memories.[/blockquote]

This book was a blast to write. Anytime I “need” to shoot pictures for a book is fun but this was great because all I needed was a small camera bag and my iPhone. It was liberating in a way to not have to carry around eight lbs of camera plus a big ol’ lens that bangs off things and people as I walk by.

iPhone camera bag contents

My bag has some interesting stuff. A ball bunji cord, a spare phone (my old blackberry), sync cable, Otterbox, Ultra Pod, spare power, MiFi, gaffers tape,  Glif, olloclip lens  and lens cleaner. All of this fits into a very small and light camera bag.  For really light days, I put the olloclip and glyph  into my coin pocket and the ultra pod in a back pocket.

Sample Page from iPhone Book

Here is a sample page from the book where I’m discussing converting the image to black-and-white. This is representative page of my book. I discuss how to shoot with the iPhone, how to add filters, lenses, using video light and more.

If you want to know how to creatively shoot awesome pictures with your iPhone even though it was not designed for it, buy this book 🙂

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Practice, Practice and more Practice

One of the things that any professional photographer will do is constantly practice their craft. Practicing may not be dragging out the strobes and the fancy background, it can be as simple as just bringing a camera on a family walk.  For myself, I always have a camera with me whether it be my iPhone or my  “professional” camera. I find that like anything else, constant practice with my chosen equipment helps me on the job when I’m shooting for you and being paid for it. I personally and ethically believe that when I’m shooting “for real”, it is not the time for me to be practicing while on your dime. Any true professional would agree with that statement and when you are shopping around for a photographer, it’s something to consider.

You might question the use of an iPhone for practice but when I have limited equipment, I find that I get much more creative to get the most out of the camera and myself for that matter.  It’s no longer having a two thousand dollar lens or a five hundred flash, it’s all about me and what I can do with what I have. This translates directly into better pictures when I do have my expensive equipment handy.

I also practice with my normal shooting equipment but I may limit myself to a single lens or a certain setting to better learn how my equipment works under a wide variety of conditions. This works to your advantage as I can be shooting rather then messing around with the camera and constantly looking at the view finder while missing key shots. This becomes critical for events like weddings where things can be moving at a quick pace under a wide variety of conditions.

Here are some practice images that I took while on walks with the family using my main camera and a single lens.  I also use these images to push my post processing skills and learn new techniques.

Sara Portrait in Oak Canyon Nature Center Anahiem

This was taken at the Oak Canyon Nature Center in Anaheim right at dusk. I also used a technique in my post processing to give a soft glow to the image while keeping the eyes sharp.

Three sisters at Oak Canyon Nature Center Anaheim

This image was also at the Oak Canyon Nature Center and originally was more cyan or blue than the the finished print shows now. The sisters were in a cool shadow at dusk which does not lend itself to warm tones.  So post processing turned it around into a warm summer’s night as it was and gave the nice warm tones. Again, a professional can adjust to conditions both by shooting differently or by making critical adjustments in the processing of the image.

The final practice image shows how I can take a blah scene and literally change seasons with some judicious post processing. the original image is on the right and the changed image is on the left. This was practicing some advanced post coloring techniques.

Oak Canyon Season Change comparision

As you can see,  as a professional, I practice constantly just like any other professional. This way when you hire me, I can be ready to produce very high quality art and results without dithering around trying to learn on your dime and missing the images you hired me to produce.

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Also posted in editing, iPhone, musings, photography, portraits, venue Tagged , , , , , |

Why You Should Be Printing Some Photographs

On a recent trip to Disneyland and to Chicago, I was struck by how prevalent the use of smart phones, in particular the iPhone was being used for photos. People were taking photos of themselves, where they were, friends, short video clips, long video clips, video conferencing to friends while on the road and more. Heck, I had a Nikon D700 with me and I still used my iPhone to snap a few shots of Chicago. What I did not see were any people sharing PHOTOGRAPHS, only electronic images. No wallet prints, no small albums or any other printed media. People were passing around their phones and other devices.

John Hancock Tower Chicago

In talking with a some of these people, I  learned that very few of them actual printed the images on to paper, ever. The images lived on the phone, Facebook, Flickr or home computer. They were  looked at briefly online and then never seen again as new images take their place. And unlike photo albums of years gone past, nobody pulls out their cell phone or laptop at home to look at pictures.

As it turns out, very few people are printing any of their photographs any more. That’s a real crime in of itself,  but it also goes to show that prints should be part of your collection. Yes, you can have a thousand images on your phone or tablet but what good are they if nobody ever sees them?  What good are they if the kids can’t see pictures of their vacation because they don’t know where the images are out on your hard drive, they don’t have access to your computer or they dont know what widget the images are on? How can they share with friends at school about where they went on vacation or show off to neighbors?

We re losing something precious by not printing photographs. Facebook is well and good but we humans are tactile bunch. W want to touch and hold in our hands things like prints. And it’s not the glow of a tablet, we  want pictures that do not require software, hardware, power supplies, dim rooms and all that goes it with the digital generation of viewing pictures.

This is something we as photographers need to educate our customers to do  and we need to do it ourselves. When was the last time you made 4×6 prints to show off to friends your last vacation around the dinner table or coffee shop? Did  you just dump a few hundred images on Flickr or Facebook and call it good? People get excited about holding real pictures.. They get excited about real time sharing of stories. They get excited about touching pictures. It’s time to get excited!!  Make some prints and spread them around!!

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Portrait Photography Session Tips and Tricks

Here are a few tips for any portrait or wedding photography session. These are simple tips but can make a huge difference on the outcome of the session. Having the proper rest and hydration will reduce the dark rings under your eyes. Having some extra make up handy will take care of the smudge or smear that can take place when you are changing your outfits or trying to brush back that stubborn fly away hair. A little bit of bling and accessories can really add some sparkle to your outfits and give you a chance to show of that new necklace, pearls or bauble.

Portrait Photography Session Tips

Also posted in portraits, studio, wedding photography

500px and showing off your pics

[dropcap_1]M[/dropcap_1]y new site for showing off images is called 500px.com and they beat the pants off Flickr and most other photosites by a large margin.  You can click on the image below and see what I mean. You get the image and all the details you would like to know about the image plus an comments.

You DONT get the infamous Facebook compression fuzziness or the dated Flickr interface.  And you can sell your images through 500px which is always a good thing.

You can write a blog on 500px. You can have a portfolio that is separate from the main photosite. You can embed images into your own website. You can track friend’s posting of new images and you can build a catalog of favorite images that you like. You can upload FULL SIZED IMAGES and to top it off,  it’s cheap for a year 49.95 for the year with unlimited uploads.

What else is there? How about an iPad app that brings an excellent way to show your images on your IPad. After fighting with Flickr on the iPad for the better part of a year, this means alot to me.  And you dont need to log in to see new images, just open the app. There are third party apps for the Droid users and they provide much of the same user experience. Since I dont have a Droid, I can not personal vouch for these apps.

You can find my 500px site here:

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