Shooting Food

Maybe you want to shoot the Christmas dinner as it sits. How do you shoot food?

DigitalPhotographySchool have a great post today on shooting food by Sasha Gitin who sure knows how to do it. (That’s his image here.)

Shooting food is harder than it looks and this site will help you make the Christmas turkey look appetizing and appealing that will add to your Christmas memories.

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Capture Oakville 2010 Winners

The Oakville Camera Club has posted a gallery of the 2010 Capture Oakville contest winners.

For those of you wondering what it might take to enter, let alone, win a photo contest this is your opportunity to see the actual winning images and – don’t tell anybody I said so – but compare your own images to these winners.

First, let me say, these winners are pretty good. The more I study them, the more I see the mastery in them.

The photo here is the Mayor’s Award won by Mark Lannutti in the open category. Congrats Mark.

However, these images aren’t beyond anybody with a camera and an imagination. The portraits for example could have been shot anywhere with any old beat up camera. The art comes from the photographer, who on this site, knew what she wanted to capture and did so winning the category

Why Photoshop Sucks

I’m not talking about Photoshop the program. Photoshop rocks!! If you can’t do it in Photoshop, it can’t be done.

But the issue becomes: Can YOU do it in Photoshop?

Thanks to PsD (Photoshop Disasters) lots of graphic artists are either blind or inept. Maybe both.

Case in point is this lovely example thanks to an ad for Subaru. Honestly what happened to this guy’s right arm and left leg (if that’s what it is or was). Horrifying.

The fun continues on a daily basis. Now you know why I don’t use my Photoshop program to manipulate images. Mine tend to look pretty much like the ones you’ll find at PsD. 🙂 I’m a pretty shooter but I’m no graphic artist.

Christmas gift guide

Here’s the 10 top gifts I would recommend for under your photographic Christmas tree:

  1. IMac 21.5″ or 15″ MacBook Pro – the bigger the processor and the more RAM the better for photo processing but any Macbook or IMac is way better than using a PC – trust me on this. Not cheap but essential
  2. A one or two terabyte external hard drive – this is called backup and it’s also essential to the safe storage of your precious images. Don’t leave the images on your memory cards
  3. Any full-size or DX-size digital single lens reflex camera with preferences for Canon or Nikon line – buy something like a Canon 7D or 60D or Nikon D-90 or D-7000*. All will produce professional-quality images
  4. Buy the biggest external flash your manufacturer provides – You can never have too much light especially as you’re going to buy an umbrella (see below) or at least be bouncing your flash
  5. In addition to the kit lens (17-55 or whatever) get a fast lens for shooting available light – Nikon and Canon have 50mm f/1.8 lenses that sell for around $15o (cheap but good)
  6. Get a RAW editor software and stop shooting JPGs – Capture NX 2 (Nikon only) or Aperture (Mac only)and Lightroom 3 for all
  7. Check out NIK’s software plug-ins and consider buying the complete package – you too can look like you’ve spent days in the digital darkroom  – same for Seim filters – get both
  8. Since both Canon and Nikon popup flashes can control an external flash buy an umbrella and stand for remote pro lighting on portrait shots
  9. Buy a large-format colour printer (11X17 or larger) = Epson 2880 or 3880 or Canon Pro 9000 or 9500 Mark II printers and buy paper made by the same manufacturer**
  10. If you’re using a PC or non-Mac monitor buy a monitor calibrator*** – Printing got consistent once I calibrated my monitor so what I saw was what I got

* Yes it’s the photographer and not the camera that makes the difference but any DX or full-size DSLR sensor will out produce and out shoot all the compact camera sensors. Smaller cameras mean smaller sensors with more noise, less ability to shoot at high ISO values and are more difficult to hold steady (as they aren’t as heavy). Full size cameras are a pain to lug around all day but you did buy yourself a decent camera bag right?

** Colour printing your artwork at home is cheaper (I don’t consider Wall-Mart or drug store prints as art) and more creative than sending images to commercial printers. There’s a lot of mumbo-jumbo out there about matching printers to print papers. Until you know the difference, it makes sense to buy paper from the printer manufacturer. Both Epson and Canon sell professional inkjet papers in a wide variety of formats specifically for their printers that yield professional results.

*** I thought I’d wasted $250 when I bought my calibrator but I was wrong. Even the least expensive will help you get your PC colour monitor (I’m using a ViewSonic VP2250wb that is a true RGB photographic monitor that’s being driven by a MacBook Pro) to reproduce more accurate colors that match what come out of your printer. At $500 you can buy a calibrator that will also balance your printer colours but this is a pretty big investment for most of us who aren’t selling prints (think high-end wedding photographers)

Capture Oakville Captures Our Town

Capture Oakville is the Oakville Camera Clubs big event and this year’s was the best ever. I’m not a big fan of photo competitions as I’d rather shoot than be judged but that’s just me. On the other hand the images on the walls of Oakville’s Town Hall were fabulous and I’m not even talking about the award-winning shots (which were even better).

The annual photo competition is open to all photographers of all skill levels from anywhere in the Greater Toronto Area and details are available on the Oakville Camera Club’s website.

(Mayor Rob Burton views the exhibit which will be on display for several weeks at Oakville’s Town Hall.)

Joining a friendly (not all are) and active (same here) camera club is one of the best ways to get better as a photographer.

Congratulations to the Oakville Camera Club and its executive for a great night.

Perfect Black & White

I’ve raved on about the NIK software (I’ve use every product they sell including the new HDR Efex Pro) but one I don’t use enough is Silver Efex Pro which is their black and white software package.

So why not just desaturate your colour image? Well IMHO you can realize as good a black and white image in Silver Efex Pro as I could get shooting TRI-X and processing in a wet darkroom.

Really? Well here’s a video that not only shows you why to use Silver Efex Pro but how as well.

BTW don’t blame me for the flaky piano in the background but if you can stand it, this video will show you just how powerful a program  Silver Efex Pro is and how it can make your images look really wonderful in black and white.

The shot below is from my 2010 Toronto Zombie Walk series and I quickly banged out a black and white using a Silver Efex preset. Cool IMHO.

IPhoto’s Greatness

So what’s so special about IPhoto found in the Mac computers?

I was doing a two-hour hands-on workshop with a client who was confused about how IPhoto worked in her new MacBook Pro. Can’t say I can fault her because some of the fundamentals of software programs like IPhoto aren’t readily obvious. That’s where a two-hour consult with someone who can teach this stuff is so valuable. It can save you weeks or even months of frustration or worse the loss of some of your photographs.

For more information on my consulting services, please visit my other site at Social Media Made REALLY Easy. If you’re within driving distance of Oakville which is west of Toronto, I’m available to come to you and work in your office with your software.

Here’s what makes IPhoto so neat. While IPhoto can import and edit RAW files (unprocessed and uncompressed files that require editing software to create snappy JPG images suitable for viewing, printing or publishing online in suitable sizes for each) it’s forte is the storing and editing of JPG photos.

So why shoot RAW and why shoot JPG? In brief, RAW files allow photo enthusiasts virtually unlimited abilities to change the parameters of the image (colour, brightness, white balance, sharpness, noise reduction and much more). JPG images have all the parameters burnt in by the manufacturer so while you maybe able to manipulate them slightly, there isn’t the range and control that RAW offers.

So why shoot JPG at all? For vacation photos or commercial special event shooting (where it’s easy to shoot thousands of images) or newspaper sports photography shooting in JPG format can create snappy printable and publishable images without the need for hours of time behind a computer working with photo editing software like Photoshop. I shoot a lot of my commercial work in JPG format solely to take advantage of the reduced time factor.

But I do shoot RAW when I’m either shooting indoors under artificial lighting (like fluorescents) where I might want to change the white balance to make the images look more true to colour or when the client says they might want to use the images for commercial printing in brochures or annual reports.

BTW almost all software will allow you to take all your RAW images and batch process (in other words do them all at once) JPG copies. Many cameras will allow you to shoot JPGs and RAW images simultaneous (for immediate viewing for example and detailed printing later). However most point-and-shoot cameras struggle to capture RAW images (often taking several seconds to send each image to the memory card) making JPG photography just that more practical for the holiday shooter.

So let’s get back to IPhoto. If IPhoto is your only photo editing software then it makes sense to go into the Preferences file and go to the command “Connecting camera opens: …” allowing you to set IPhoto or another photo editor to open when you plug in your camera or insert a memory card into the computer.

IPhoto stores all the imported images in one main file folder called “Events”. Here IPhoto creates individual sub folders that it names by dates of your imported images. I’m not going to get into all the details here but suffice to say you can change how IPhoto files images to suit you. The neat thing is all of your images are now in one place and even better, if you bought Mac’s Time Machine which is a wireless terabyte remote automatic storage device that includes a WiFi transmitter, you’ve got all of your images from IPhoto backed up. This is very cool – not cheap – but very very important.

Think of the Events folder as a multi-draw filing cabinet. All of your images are inside the cabinet filed away in separate file folders identified by IPhoto by date. That’s nice but what if you want to file all of your photos of your garden in a one place? Right now they are filed in many different folders created over the years you’ve been shooting photos and bringing them into IPhoto. That’s were the folders called “Albums” comes into play. Here you can drag images from your “Events” folders and place them into a specifically named Album called garden.

Now here’s the trick: The images aren’t really in a folder called “garden”. The images remained right where you started back in their “Events” files. What shows up in the Album folder called garden is a reference file that tells the computer where the actual image resides. The computer creates a little duplicate image in the garden folder of the image (which really never left the Events folder) only so you can see it and all the other images you dragged into the “garden” file.

So if you erase any Albums like “garden” you haven’t deleted any images (as they remain safe in their Events file) but only a computer generated duplicate that points back to the actual original. Now if you delete any images or folders from your Events folder the images and folders are actually deleted. (Remember that if you’ve got Time Machine working all of your images, folders and, in fact, all the data on your computer is safely stored away on the remote device. This means if somebody breaks in and steals your MAC so long as they don’t get the Time Machine you’ve not lost any of your data.)

IPhoto can do tons more stuff like photo editing, filing images and automatically posting images to Facebook and Flickr but that’s enough for now.

Wait until we get to face recognition 🙂 and setting up a slideshow and making a calendar or even a book! Cool stuff.