Category Archives: osx

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 Album Software, Articles, DIY, editing, editing software, lightroom, technique

Call of the iPad

iPad with on display keyboard
Image via Wikipedia

Well, I’ve had my iPad for a few months now and my impressions are pretty much the same as they have been when I first got it. I still view it as a toy because of some limitations.  It has some outstanding features but the issues are important too.  I should preface this with the fact that I have about a dozen Macs around here and everyone in the family (the adults at least) all use iPhones and I have and love my AppleTV. So you might consider me something of a “fanboy” of Apple products. So when I complain about the iPad, it’s not a non-apple person whining, it’s a strong supporter of Apple products who feels that Apple seriously dropped the ball.

Good points of the iPad

  • It’s sexy.. oh so sexy. It has a nice feel and heft to it that has become the trademark of all things Apple of late.
  • Really nice screen (we will address a fault in a minute)
  • Long battery life
  • Stable IOS running it
  • Super easy user interface
  • Awesome way to show off pictures
  • Reasonably good e-reader
  • Works very well on WiFi
  • Snappy response to finger input
  • Never a crash of the IOS in the past three months

Now, the downside of the iPad

  • Zero expandability – no USB port (camera readers does NOT count) – no microSD – nothing
  • The screen shows every stinking fingerprint known to man. So showing pictures requires a cleaning each and every time
  • Useless is bright sunlight
  • Can not take decent notes on it with a finger tip and no provisions for a stylus. I dont know about you, but trying to write using my  finger tips is just about impossible.
  • Cost – The fully decked out 3G and Wifi with 64 Gig of memory is over 900 bucks. And since you can not expand it in any way, the 64 Gig is almost a requirement
  • Lack of native way to print (even the new wireless printing is going to be limited to the newest version of leopard)
  • Lack of any corporate account (according to AT/T)
  • A big fault to me is having to use iTunes to move things around and that the iPad is tied to a given copy of iTunes. So I sync at home but on the road, I can not sync something without wiping out everything already on the iPad or I can not given it to someone else to take on the road and they can not put anything on it unless a real computer where people can have their own accounts.

I know there are apps and hacks to get around some of these and I have used them but my point is that you should not have to hack your PDA to get what is considered to be basic functionality. I am serious considering moving to an Android based tablet with real hardware options such using a thumb drive and using microSD cards to shuffle files around. I’m thinking about some kind of screen protector that might still let me show off images but keep the finger prints to a minimum. The iTunes only management is a real pain in the butt. Since I’m allowed five computers on a given iTunes account, why can I not sync from ANY of the five systems without having to wipe the iPad?

Note: There is a HACK to get around this but we are back to my original point, you should NOT have to HACK your system just to do something as basic as syncing between the five authorized computers.

I have found a few very useful apps for the iPad to help get around some of the issues. Dropbox is one of the biggies. I can move things around from all my computers and get PDFs and images onto the iPad without too much difficulty. Along with Dropbox, is a cool note app called “Elements” where as you write notes, they are put into Dropbox automatically. Since I’m on Facebook, the app called “Social” is perfect for me and lets me manage my Facebook presence very nicely. I use Wyse PocketCloud to remote desktop into a Windows server I have. My display app of choice is called “Foliobook” and does that job very well. For the printing, I use ACTprinter successfully.

So will I give up my iPad?, not yet. But, I see some serious competition on the near horizon that begs a close look. And when I find a tablet that offers real choice, I’ll drop the iPad faster than a hot match. For now, the iPad is the only real game in town but that certainly does not make it perfect by a long stretch.

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Free is always good

Just a quick post today with some free links from CreativeLive. If you have not heard of them, you need to. They have been putting on some amazing training sessions live on the internet with an option to buy it for a very cheap price. How cheap? How about three days of  Vincent Laforet and his class on shooting movies with HD DLSRs of  for 120  bucks? Oh yeahh..  champagne info and beer prices.

So here are are few more to check out – These are free for now!!!

Creating PDFs and eBooks with CS5

Photoshop CS5,  0 to 60

Watercolor 101

Right now I’m watching a three day treat with Zack Arias called

Studio Photography with Zack Arias

If you have not been to one of Zack’s training classes, you owe it to yourself to get this one given how cheap it is and the amount of information he presents.

And yes, these videos are iPad friendly. I download them to my iPad and play them during my “school time” which is really my lunch break 🙂

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Image Recovery or how to restart your heart

Card Error! – Two words that strike terror in the heart of a digital shooter. In the old days, it was opening the camera after supposedly rewinding the film and see film still there. But now days with the blessing of technology, we get a bit spoiled in thinking that since the widget is “digital”, it should be perfect every time. But it’s not perfect every time, sometimes the card has issues, the camera has issues or the person running it all has issues and the pictures are not readily accessible.

Unlike in the old days of film, I’ve only had ONE digital card (SD card) go bad enough to where I could not get the images off the card, even with the help of a specialized forensics lab trying also. I have had several times where I had to use special software to recover images and for the most part, the software works pretty well.

The recovery of images is not any different than recovery of files from a hard disk since the flash card appears to be a hard disk to the camera and computer. They are typically formatted in FAT32 though the older cameras use FAT16 and trying to mix n’match between these two formats leads to problems. FAT32 has been around a long time and is pretty reliable overall. The reliability is enhanced for our needs here by most camera manufacturers taking a short cut when we say “Format” the card by just erasing the root directory and not the entire card. So when you accidentally format a card with images, it’s a small matter for the software to go and scan each block of data looking for specific signatures that indicate JPEG files, RAW files, TIFFs and so on. You wont get the original name back, but you will get the image back. That is how it works in the simplest form.

Corrupted Image

Corrupted Image

This image was corrupted by using www.recyclism.com

What happens if the image is corrupted? Where a bit or two or three is not what it should be and now the image looks like it has grey blocks or streaks through it, or weird color bands through the image? or the image is unreadable for Lightroom, Photomechanic or your editor of choice? It becomes alot tougher to recovery anything usable. Alot depends on how you saved the images when you shot them. For example, for those of us that shoot RAW, there is a JPEG that is created and kept in the RAW file unbeknownst to many photographers. When I had a card go bad on me and corrupt 90% of the images on that card, I had shot RAW and so I used a tool called “File Juicer” for OSX to recover that JPEG out of the corrupted RAW file. It was not perfect but it was enough to let me recover about 95% of the shoot. I do not know of a similar tool for those on Windows. With FileJuicer, you just drop the RAW file onto the application and let it go. Like magic you will have some folders with the extracted text and JPEG. Here are some screen shots of File Juicer in action on a NEF (Nikon RAW) file.

File Juicer

File Juicer Application

file juicer results

File Juicer Results

juicer file list

Juicer File List from RAW file

It does not get much easier than this to recover a JPEG from a RAW file, even a corrupted one. There are numerous recovery applications for getting images off a formatted or dying flash card. My personal favorite is Sandisk’s own application called “Rescue Pro”. It has worked for me many times where others have not faired as well. You can find out more about it here. I got my copy with the purchase of some flash cards a while back.

sandisk

Sandisk File Recovery Utility

None of these tools will help you if you have overwritten the files by new files and you do not have any back up. All you can hope for is that you can recover some files from space not written to by the new files.

I will say this, flash cards are alot tougher than people give them credit for being. I personally have run two of them through a wash cycle (dont ask) and they were fine afterwards. I still use them in fact but not for paid shoots 🙂 I just read a piece about a couple’s point and shoot getting dredged up from the ocean bottom by a fisherman and he was able to read the card, post the recovered images and reunite the couple with their up to then, lost images. Imagine, months in saltwater and still readable.. amazing but I hope not to have to test this one myself. There are some basic rules to avoid having to test any of this advice due to user error.

The best rule to remember is ALWAYS format the card in the camera it will be used in. Do not trust anything else’s formating tools or the factory formating.

The second best rule is to NEVER delete images from the camera, just keep shooting and delete them in your image workflow software.

A third guideline is to buy the fastest card your camera needs. Not that YOU need but the one that the camera can really use. Using a slow card in a fast writing camera is asking for trouble. Even more so when writing large files like RAW files. JPEGs are about 1/3 the size of a RAW or even smaller so there is more forgiveness there in writing to a slow card.

A trick if you are recovering a damaged card and you use a Mac. Make a image file from the card very first thing. This will let you work from a bit for bit copy of the data instead of a slowly failing card. You can use OSX’s disk utility tool to make this image file. File Juicer has this built into the tool as a menu option, yet another reason to buy File Juicer.

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Lightscribe and DVDs

One of the expectations when one shoots a wedding or any other event is that your product will look “professional”. What I mean is that you really can not hand out a DVD of a 3,500 dollar wedding with the title scrawled on it in sharpie ink. Well, you could  but I doubt you would get much word of mouth referrals.  We photographers are always are looking for a way to be professional in our presentation, or we should be as it is a simple thing that can really separate you from the rest.

So with this in mind, I picked up a Lightscribe DVD burner to play with some. For those that do not know what Lightscribe is, pay attention, it is a pretty cool idea. You take a DVD and make it burnable on both sides. But the label side is set to  be a high contrast burn so you can burn an image and text into the label side and  have it viewable. Cool idea huh?  Yeah, I thought so too. It’s still a cool idea but not nearly as much as so as in the beginning.

I got my drive from OWC, a Superwrite Master DVD external burner. It arrived and was unpacked and plugged into the Macbook Pro ASAP. Hey!! not so fast cowboy!!! I could not see the drive with the Lightscribe labeling software. Ahh, so says the instructions, NO FIREWIRE. You can only burn Lightscribe using USB. Ugh.. So unplug it and replug it with USB. Now I take my special Lightscribe DVD (oh yes, special media if you want the label) and stick it in the drive. Turns out the software is just a driver and the label software is something I already bought that supports the Lightscribe driver/disk. Here is another dirty secret, Lightscribe only supplies a driver to the OEMs so the OEM has to come up with the software. In the case of Lacie, it’s ALL special which means you can only get support from Lacie which Lightscribe admits to on their site.

So I get the DiskCover software set up and make a new label. I insert my DVD and tell it to burn the Lightscribe label. And I wait.. and wait and wait some more. It takes 20 minutes to burn a single disk’s label. Not exactly what I wanted for my work flow for anything more than a single off disk. Damn.. It makes a very cool label but god, it takes FOREVER to burn it. When you can burn the disk in 5 to 10 minutes and it takes 20 just for the label, making a coaster by mistake really hurts the time line.

I still use it but only for special cases. And I’m still shopping around for a place that can print decent silk screened DVDs without breaking the bank in very small runs. I’ve tried inkjet DVDs and while they work, I am hoping for something a bit more professional  than the inkjet. Still, it’s faster than Lightscribe and its in color. I just give them a quick coat of photo sealer to keep the ink from running and call it a day.

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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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