Flash: Best $5 you’ll ever spend on photography

I shelled out $5 – well actually $4 as the promo code still works for Michael Frye’s excellent PDF book Light & Land.

Folks this is the PDF book that should have been included with every purchase of a DSLR. This is Michael’s workflow explained simply and with illustrated with his great images which are worth the $4 on their own.

Okay they’re worth much more but you get the idea.

The workflow information is valid for just about any RAW editor including Lightroom, Photoshop, Camera Raw or Nikon’s Capture NX.

I mean it. This is first the best buy of 2010 and at $4 is the least expensive buy of the year as well. Go get it!!


Better landscapes thanks to WB

WB (white balance) is one of the main reasons your landscape shots don’t look like the pros… say Michael Frye for example.

(Who btw has a new book out called Craft & Vision which is available as a PDF download for $5 – $4 if the promo code found on his site still works. Now how could Santa go wrong for $5? Really. Michael works in Lightroom but the information applies to all photo editing software and is easily transferred.)

Michael also has issued some online videos about how to use the white balance controls. He sets the cameras WB to auto and then makes adjustments based on what he wants to accomplish in software.

Why is this such a big deal? Why not just shoot in JPG format and let the camera set everything for you?

There are times when I shoot in JPG mode (when I’m shooting for the web or a client’s slideshow where I edit a bunch of images shot earlier in the day for screening at a dinner or other gathering later that night) and so long as there are no weird lighting situations (like florescent lights in an office or sodium lights in a factory) then JPG’s AWB (auto white balance) usually can handle the shot. BUT, and it’s a BIG but: But when we shoot in JPG we can’t change much especially white balance in the digital darkroom. In JPG mode the adjustments are permanent and can’t be modified.

Besides when it comes to landscape photography using DSLR cameras and DX size digital sensors, we want to have as much capture and adjustment capabilities as possible.

So now we come back to Michael Frye who shoots landscapes that are stunning.

And where does much of that “stunning” look come from? IMHO it’s because Michael takes the time to manually adjust his WB to bring out all the subtle colours in his images. Any of us can learn how to shoot in RAW and then use our RAW editing software (Lightroom, Photoshop, Capture NX2, Aperture) to do the same.

So Michael can show us how and, best of all, Michael teaches using simple terms and language that we can all understand.

So here are the videos which are on the Outdoor Photographer Blog site. The quality of the video is a little soft but it’s perfectly useable and Michael is so good at explaining what he’s doing you won’t have any issues following along.

Part one is here.

This is part two.

And standby for a part three.

Boudoir Photography

I’m not a fan but I’m weakening πŸ™‚

BoudoirLouisville.com takes your girlfriend, dresses in them in 1940s boudoir clothing, shoots photos in studio or out on location and look out πŸ™‚ That’s one of the studio shots done by photographer Ryan Ambrust posted here.

One neat idea is to take a workshop with these folks. Their two-day workshop goes for $1200 (partners and assistants are half price) and to protect their own market they won’t sell a workshop to any photographer within a 200-mile radius of Louisville Kentucky. BTW they do “pin-up” parties. Now there’s an idea for my 65 birthday in a few years πŸ™‚ Yeah baby πŸ™‚

Here’s a You Tube video of Boudoir Lousiville’s Ryan Ambrust at work. Blow it up to high-def full screen to get the best effect.

This one shot at an old drive-in can show you how Ryan works the magic. Notice the three Alien Bee monolights which he uses to turn a shot taken in daylight to a shot taken at night. Cool.

Ryan’s got another one done in his studio.

So let’s see what you need: Β You need a girl who can make 1940s outfit hot. (Ladies who are more amply endowed look fabulous in boudoir photos.)

You need a classic 1940s car. Great hair and bright, bright makeup are essential. And then you need at least two speedlights or much better a host of monoblock lights with a battery power supply and then you too can make this kind of magic. Maybe… Think I’d want to take the workshop. Wonder what Mrs. West is going to say 😦


Understanding Camera Autofocus

One of the most difficult features to understand when it comes to digital cameras is the autofocusing system.

Back in the old days (Oh, No! Here he goes again.) focus was done manually either on a fresnel focusing screen or by a split-image rangefinder system. So long as your eyesight was good, you could depend upon getting nicely focused images. But as some of us got older we needed glasses and our ability to focus quickly and accurately suffered.

And then came autofocus. How wonderful. The camera focused itself. But, and it’s a big but, what did the camera focus on?

So if you’ve progressed beyond point-and-shoot photography where the camera default focus is on whatever is closest to it and nearest the centre of the frame, you’re going to want to know how to use your automatic focusing system.

Focusing systems are different from one camera manufacturer to another and even from one model to the next. In general, when you’re in automatic mode (on some cameras changing the shoot mode changes other parameters like focusing methods) your camera focuses as above on whatever is closest and nearest the centre. This works for 99 per cent of amateur shots of the family around the Christmas tree.

But what if you want to focus on Aunt Sally who is sitting halfway down the Christmas dinner table? The easiest way is to point the camera so that Aunt Sally is centred in the frame and hold the shutter half way and then recompose your image. The press the shutter all the way down.

Or, on most digital cameras you can change the number of focusing points (this is how digital cameras focus by using points that can be turned on as a group or individually).

Shooting with my Nikon D-300 I shoot with all 51 points active most of the time. But, when it comes to Aunt Sally (or shots in a crowded room) I change the number of focusing points from 51 down to one. That one is by default dead centre in the frame and will allow me to again hold focus by focusing and then holding the shutter button down halfway.

The Nikon will allow for continuous focusing (as in sports mode on some camera) or locked in focusing on one object.

But, on some cameras you can move the focusing point off of centre so that it is no longer necessary to recompose.

Now on a Flickr discussion group I blew an answer about whether or not metering can be set to follow the focusing point around. Most folks when they set focus to one point are still using evaluative (Canon’s terminology) or matrix (Nikon) metering. You can set the metering to follow the single point.

The big issue I have with all this is it’s all so geeky. As a professional news photographer I would have missed the shot by the time I got the camera setup. That’s why it’s important to understand your cameras controls based on the type of photography you do. If you’re an artist (or a camera geek), this stuff might be useful (even fascinating).

For much of the special event photography I shoot I do it on program mode (Gasp. I know! Me and Joe Buissink.) with matrix metering and single shot mode and I only go to single point if I’m shooting through a crowded room. And guess what: My percentage of shots in focus and sellable go way up. And, in my world, that’s what counts.

The dangers of Flickr

I’m Β a big fan of Social Media sites like Flickr.

You can post your images for all to see. (You can even password your images so only family and friends can view them.) There are groups for sharing ideas and asking questions and Flickr is just one site of many. Photo.net is one of the best for serious shooters.

The one issue that does come up is not all of the responses you might get are either correct or even intelligent. There are more than a few morons out there who own cameras and the quality of their photography varies from awful to amazing. But what’s worse is some of them then get online and make some snarly comment because it’s easy to do when you’re sitting at home in your bunny slippers.

So if you are offering your images or asking for help online remember to question carefully the response and don’t take the comments you might read too seriously.

It comes down to that old saying about nobody can tell you’re a dog on the Internet.

Better Photos from your cellphone

Nokia has introduced a very nice digital camera with a super fast Carl Zeiss lens and a large 12-megapixel sensor. This is nice small camera which Nokia just introduced. Oh and btw it includes a built-in cellphone πŸ™‚ called the N8. The geeks at engadget liked it and they’re a tough crowd to please when it comes to technology.

But you don’t have to shell out for N8 to take advantage of Nokia’s N8 camera school.

Here you will find videos on how to improve your cellphone photography and rather than me just repeat what Nokia has created for us I’m suggesting you take a few minutes and watch their videos. Almost everything the instructor suggests applies to all cellphone and point-and-shoot cameras.

It’s amazing what a professional can produce using a simple cellphone and now you can do it too. Thanks Nokia.