Friday, June 30, 2006

06/30/06: Quote of the day...

Photo quote of the day...

“It takes a lot of imagination to be a good photographer. You need less imagination to be a painter, because you can invent things. But in photography everything is so ordinary; it takes a lot of looking before you learn to see the ordinary.”

-- David Bailey

Thursday, June 29, 2006

06/29/06: Photoshop shortcuts

Advanced Photo Tip - Photoshop Shortcuts

To find a shortcut to a particular tool or menu option in Photoshop, just hover your mouse pointer over the icon and you will see the name of the of the tool along with a letter in paranthesis. The letter in paranthesis, when pressed concurrently with either the Ctrl (control) key on a Windows PC or the Cmd (command) key on a Mac, will allow you to select that tool. For instance, for the Eraser Tool you'll see that it says "Eraser Tool (E)" -- rather than have to click on this in the future, you can just use the Cmd+E (Mac) or Ctrl+E (PC) to quickly change to or select that particular tool.

Happy editing. ;)

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

06/28/06: The "Sunny 22" Rule

The "Sunny 22" Rule

Kissing cousin to the sunny 16 rule is the sunny 22 rule -- for white / very light colored objects under very bright conditions and where the subject fills most of the frame. In these situations the sunny 16 rule would result in detail being lost in the highlights. Reducing the level of light by half will darken those highlight areas and bring back detail. Just as with the sunny 16 rule, after you have determined the correct shutter speed, you can use any equivalent combination of shutter / aperature settings.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

06/27/06: The "Sunny 16" Rule

DSLR Tip - The "Sunny 16" Rule

The "sunny 16" rule says that in daylight / sunny conditions, your shutter speed at an aperature of f16 will be the reciprocal of your ISO setting. For example, at f16 using an ISO setting of 400, your shutter speed will be 1/400th of a second. At ISO 100, the shutter speed will be 1/100th at f16.

You can also use the "sunny 16" rule for stopping up or down your aperature setting and shutter speed -- at f11 with ISO 400 the shutter speed will be 1/800th; at f22 with ISO 400, the shutter speed will be 1/200th.

Monday, June 26, 2006

06/26/06: What is a "gobo?"

What is a "gobo?"

A gobo is a light-blocking card used to selectively block light from a scene. Gobos can be hand held by an assistant or supported with a stand or boom. Gobos need not be fancy -- you can create one easily with a piece of black posterboard! A gobo is a handy device when using subtractive lighting.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

06/25/06: Shutter speed, focal length, and when to use a tripod

Shutter speed, focal length, and when to use a tripod

The general rule for hand held shots vs. using a tripod is as follows: use a tripod when the shutter speed is less than the reciprocal of the focal length. For example if the focal length is 100mm, you should use a tripod for shutter speeds slower than 1/100th of a second. For a telephoto lens like a 200mm (zoomed all the way in), use a tripod for shots slower than 1/200th.

The wider the focal length (wide angle, fish-eye), the more forgiving this rule is...while the longer the focal length, the less forgiving (meaning that the more you zoom in, the more you should error on the side of caution and use a tripod with the telephoto). See this post from June 17th for tips about avoiding camera shake.

** Special Note: Canon's Image Stabilizer (IS) lenses as well as Nikon's Vibration Reduction (VR) lenses allow you to cheat this a little bit -- about 2 stops, meaning that you could handhold a 200mm shot (with IS or VR turned on) at 1/50th of a second. As always, you should practice to test what kind of results you get -- some people are just more steady than others and don't require a tripod as often.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

06/24/06: Babies and Children - Add a Sense of Scale

Babies and Children - Add a Sense of Scale

Another one of John Hedgecoe's tips for photography babies and toddler is to include a sense of scale. Hedgecoe says "Kids grow fast, and it can be hard to tell a child's age from a photograph, because there is often nothing to indicate their size. Occasionally it is worth including a scale object in a shot which you can measure the child against in years to come."

Friday, June 23, 2006

06/22/06: Web-site for action!

Web-site for Photoshop Actions - Action Central

There is a very awesome web-site for information / assistance with Photoshop actions. The site is:

Action Central has a ton of information about using Photoshop actions and there is also a place where you can download, for free, actions / instructions that people have posted. Realize, you get what you pay for, but it is pretty nice if you find some actions that help you produce an effect that you otherwise weren't able to do on your own.

Happy editing! :)

06/23/06: Quote of the day - Ansel Adams

Heading into a busy wedding photography weekend, I'm reminded of one of my favorite Ansel Adams quotes:

"We must remember that a photograph can hold just as much as we put into it, and no one has ever approached the full possibilities of the medium. "
--Ansel Adams

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

06/21/06: Sorting photos by "date picture taken"

Sorting photos by "date picture taken" (Windows only, sorry Apple eaters...)

When you are in Windows Explorer, from the details view, find the modified date the right of that column heading you should see empty space. If you RIGHT CLICK on the empty space (the line, not the entire window) where the column headings are, you'll see a pop-up menu with more choices. Click on "more"...then you should see the "choose details" pop-up window. Scroll down and check "date picture taken." That option will now appear as a clickable column (click once and it will sort from oldest to newest, click again and it's newest to oldest, etc.)

** This only works for j-peg files, HOWEVER, I've noticed that the default sort of file name will keep the files together (if you should RAW + jpeg) even though RAW files don't display a value for "date picture taken"...they should still be in order since the jpegs of same name (e.g. IMG_0001.jpg + IMG_0001.CRW) will show date picture taken info.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

06/20/06: Types of light

Basic Photo Tip - Types of Light

Often you'll hear photographers talking about soft light or natural light, etc. Here are a couple of quick definitions to help understand the differences between hard and soft light, as well as natural and artificial light.

Hard Light
Hard light comes directly from the source. Direct sunlight and undiffused on-camera flash are two types of hard light. Hard light creates strong and distinct shadows. Hard light can eliminate details, flatten a subject, and produce harsh shadows -- though sometimes these are actually desired affects.

Soft Light
Soft light is indirect. It can be sunlight through curtains or the type of light available outdoors on a cloudy day. Soft light produces soft shadows and is ideal for portraits. Professional photographers will employ any number of light modifiers to produce nice soft light in portrait studio sessions

Natural Light
Natural light is pretty self-explanatory...basically light that is produced by sunshine / daylight conditions. Natural light can either be hard or soft lighting.

Artificial Light
Artificial lighting comes from studio or camera flash units, incandescent / halogen / fluorescent bulbs, candlelight, etc. Artificial light can wreak havoc on images if you aren't sure how to expose for the various types of artificial light. A quick study of white balance will help (more on that topic on another daily photo tip!).

By knowing the different types of light and how mood can be affected by light can help you produce very dramatic images.

Monday, June 19, 2006

06/19/06: Great slideshow program!

Make great slideshows using "ShowIt" slideshow software!

My favorite software for creating slideshows is called ShowIt by uber-talented photographer David Jay. ShowIt allows you to quickly create flash based slideshow programs for use on the web. You do not need to know how to program in HTML or flash -- it's all done with a very easy to understand user interface. You can select royalty-free music that comes with the application, or choose a song of your own. One of the really nice things about version 2 of ShowIt is the ability to create your own timing for advancing the images using a trigger within the user interface. Creating custom slideshows can be done, literally, in a matter of minutes.

For more information, check out the ShowIt web-site at

Sunday, June 18, 2006

06/18/06: Happy Father's Day

Father's Day Tip: Buy dad a new digital camera! :)

Okay, if that's too expensive...try a good photography related book. My wife and kids bought this book for me: Adobe Photoshop CS2 for Photographers: A Professional Image Editor's Guide to the Creative Use of Photoshop for the Macintosh and PC

I can't wait to start learning some new Photoshop tricks!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

06/17/06: Tips for avoiding camera shake

Tips for avoiding camera shake

The most obvious way to avoid camera shake is to use a tripod. But a tripod isn't always handy when a great photo opportunity presents itself. In these situations, (assuming you have the optimum ISO, shutter speed and aperature for the lighting conditions) there are several tips to help you capture that great low-light image without having camera shake ruin the exposure:

1.) Use an IM (image stabilization) or VR (vibration reduction) lens and turn that feature on.
2.) Support the camera with both hands -- keep your arms close to your body and, if necessary, lean against a post, a wall, a railing, etc.
3.) Take a deep breath and hold it while you are pressing the shutter. (Remember to exhale after the shutter closes!)
4.) Keep your feet firmly planted and at least shoulder-width apart, or, better yet, squat down into a marksman's position and use your knee to rest the camera body on while you expose the image.

Friday, June 16, 2006

06/16/06: Quote of the day...

Quote of the day (more advice from John Hedgecoe):

"To take great pictures it is not enough just to have a camera and a beautiful baby. You also need to understand some of the basics of photography. By being fussy when framing your shots, by looking carefully at the lighting, and by making the most of your camera controls you will soon be taking superb shots all the time."

John Hedgecoe, from "Photographing Babies & Toddlers" (ISBN 1-85585-999-8)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

06/15/06: Ask mom for help!

Pro Photo Tip - Getting Great Baby and Toddler Pictures

I came across a great book by John Hedgecoe called "Photographing Babies & Toddlers" (ISBN 1-85585-999-8). John offers a dozen great tips for taking pictures of small children. One of the most basic tips is probably the most helpful for photographing babies and toddlers:

"It is impossible to concentrate on the camera and child at the same time. To get the baby looking toward the camera and in a good humour, you will need the help of mom or dad, who can coax and comfort the child from just out of the shot."

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

06/14/06: Create photo slideshows easily using PowerPoint

Basic Tip: Create photo slideshows quickly and easily using MicroSoft PowerPoint 2003

1. Open a new file
2. Click Insert > Picture > New Photo Album (assuming all of the images are digital / scanned)
3. Select all images (you'll have to Shift+Click to select all's a LOT easier than adding all pictures individually
4. Click on create
5. Select all slides, select Slideshow > Slide Transition > Fade Smoothly (you might also want to pick "medium" speed, or "slow" for the transition)
6. Under the Slide Transition section, click on "Advance Slide Automatically After..." and then pick the # of seconds you want each slide on the screen
7. Save the file as a "PowerPoint Show" (.pps) file -- it will launch the slideshow automatically when clicked.

BONUS -- make the background for all images black -- select all slides, click on Format > Background and then select black from the drop down (or whatever background color you want), then click "Apply to all"

Then you have a basic photo slideshow!

Adding music and copying to CD is bit more advanced...but YOU CAN DO IT!

To add music...
1. Click on Insert > Movies and Sounds > Sound from file
2. Choose the song
3. Click "Automatically"
4. You should now see a sound wave icon right in the middle of the slide -- RIGHT click on that icon, click "hide sound icon during slideshow" then click OK.
5. To set it to play throughout the slideshow, RIGHT click on the sound icon again, choose "Custom Animation," under "Modify Play" and "Start" choose "After Previous", then where you see the song listed, click on the drop down and choose "Effect Options." Under "Stop Playing" choose the # of slides that are in the slideshow.

Test the slideshow to make sure it starts up, advances automatically, and plays the music throughout.

To copy to CD...(and this is cool because the PowerPoint viewer is included -- that is, the CD will play on any PC even if it doesn't have PowerPoint installed!...okay, well, it should be a relatively new PC...don't expect it to play on your Packard Bell 286 with 4 MB of RAM!).

You'll need a CD burner and a blank CD inserted in the drive...
1. Click on File > Package to CD
2. Click on Options -- verify that "Power Point Viewer" and "Linked Files" are checked under "Include These Files", click OK
3. Then click "copy to folder" -- the CD burner should start automatically burning your packaged slideshow.

There you go! Enjoy! :)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

06/13/06: Bird's eye or worm's eye?

Pro Tip - Shoot From Above or Shoot From Below

You can improve the composition of your photos by looking for opportunities to shoot from above 7 feet (from a ladder, stairs, balcony, etc.), or below 4 feet. So many amateur photographers make the mistake of not looking at a photo opportunity from anything other than standing upright. Here are a couple of examples...

The above shot of a street performer was taken on Hollywood Blvd.'s walk of fame -- the camera was just a few inches above the sidewalk.

While the wedding photo below was taken from a second floor balcony at the reception site.

Monday, June 12, 2006

06/12/06: Awesome Photography Forum

Awesome Photography Forum - Open Source Photo!

If you spend any time researching photography / digital photography on the web (that you are reading this post would indicate this is probably the case!), you may have noticed there is no shortage of photography forums on the web.

My personal favorite is: Open Source Photo ( Open Source Photo, or OSP for short, is the brainchild of a very talented young photographer named David Jay. You can also check out David's wedding photography web-site at There are many talented and very helpful photographers who belong to OSP...and, one of the greatest things about OSP is that it's completely FREE to join! The membership and topics tend to be primarily focused (sorry, unavoidable pun) on wedding photography -- however you can still learn a ton of great tips and tricks by signing up as a member of OSP!

Warning -- it IS an addiction!! :)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

06/11/06: 3 Tips to Reduce "red-eye"

3 Tips to Reduce "red-eye"

Many digital point & shoot and SLR cameras have red-eye reduction settings that will pre-fire a built-in flash to force a subject's pupils to contract. However, many photographers find that this pre-flash ruins the spontaneity of the photo op. There are several steps you can take to reduce red-eye shots that are quiet basic.

# 1 - turn on more lights in the room. (You may find that a flash may not even be necessary!)
# 2 - move closer to your subject -- the longer the lens you use, the greater the chance you'll have red-eye problems
# 3 - for external flashes, put some distance between the flash source and the lens by either using a bracket, bouncing the flash off a wall or ceiling, or use a flash diffuser to spread the light more evenly in the shot

Saturday, June 10, 2006

06/10/06: Free program for copying / renaming image files

Free program for copying / renaming image files

A friend of mine recommended a free program called DIM for easy uploading image files and file management. It's available to download from the following link:

I haven't tried it out yet, but I will soon and I'll post a review. If anyone else tries it and has comments, be sure to send them to me -

Happy shooting!

Friday, June 09, 2006

06/09/06: Quote of the day...

Quote of the day...(one of my personal favorites!)

"You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus."

-- Mark Twain

Thursday, June 08, 2006

06/08/06: Developing your "signature" shot

Developing your "signature" shot

A signature shot is one that typifies a style or type of photography that you like and enjoy. Many people don't even realize what their signature shot is until someone else tells them that a particular shot is "their style." Famous New York city photography Jay Maisel is known for his mastery of light and motion.

I personally like shooting reflections and shadows. I'm not a particularly narcissitic person (there is one side of a camera I prefer!), but I do enjoy seeing my reflection or shadow when I'm shooting. Here's an example -- shot of the passenger side mirror on an H2 Hummer at the 2006 St. Louis Auto Show.

Sometimes my reflection is more obvious than others:

The above image was shot at a wedding -- that's me in the center standing next to the bride. I also like that you can see the shadow of me taking this shot on the left. The limo driver having a smoke with the wedding party is also a nice touch. :)

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

06/07/06: Cleaning your DSLR sensor - part II

Cleaning your DSLR sensor - part II

Here is another excellent web-site with great information about cleaning a sensor on a digital SLR camera:

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

06/06/06: Using subtractive lighting

What is subtractive lighting?

Subtractive lighting is just like it sounds -- it is a way to remove light from a particular subject. Often you'll encounter shooting situations where the light is too harsh or unflattering...use a "gobo," a scrim, or "black card" (light blocking instruments), you can shade or diffuse your subject until the lighting is more suitable. You can also improvise -- try using a piece of foam core or posterboard!

Monday, June 05, 2006

06/05/06: Everything you need to know about cleaning your digital SLR camera's sensor

Pro Photo Tip: Everything you need to know about cleaning your digital SLR camera's sensor

I came across an excellent web-site recently that tells you just about everything you need to know about cleaning the sensor on a digital SLR camera. The web-site is:

Personally, I tend to prefer the non-invasive method of cleaning the camera since it doesn't involve touching the sensor. I use the non-invasive method (using a rocket blower) about once per week on each of my camera bodies...and ALWAYS before shooting a big event like a wedding. On occasion when a camera needs a more thorough cleaning, I send it back to the manufacturer. :)

There are several tips for helping to reduce the chances that your sensor will get dirty. When changing lenses, be sure to keep the camera body pointing DOWN to minimize opportunities for dust particles to enter the camera. If you are shooting at a beach or in a windy outdoor environment, don't change lenses! Wait until you are in a safer place to change lenses. Be sure to vacuum your camera bag from time to time.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

06/04/06: Don't get caught with your card full!

Don't get caught with your card full!

With digital rapidly taking over as the preferred method of photography, it's easy to develop some bad habits. Back when everyone was shooting film, you generally had a good idea of how close to the end of a roll you were. Sure, sometimes you were caught off guard...but most often you knew when you were getting close to 24 or 36 exposures. Now, with digital and ever-expanding removable media card sizes, it's easy to get complacent and forget about how close to a full card you are getting.

Watch your cards -- be aware of how many shots you have left. If you are about to shoot images of a kiss during a wedding, a child batting for the first time in a little league game, a grandparent blowing out candles on a 90th birthday cake -- be sure you aren't in a situation where you don't have room on the card to capture a priceless memory. It sounds like common sense...but, believe me, even pros get caught with their cards full from time to time!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

06/03/06: Shoot in comfort!

Pro Photo Tip - Wear the right shoes when shooting weddings

It goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway!) that you should always wear the most comfortable shoes you possible can (within ceremony dress code) when shooting a wedding. You'll be on your feet most of the day often running around to capture the best images -- no sense wearing something that will give you blisters and possibly slow you down. :)

Another important tip for footwear -- wear the QUIETEST shoes you can! Soft-soled shoes will prevent unnecessary noise at the quietest moments of the ceremony.

Friday, June 02, 2006

06/02/06: Quote of the day...

[Editor's note -- typically on weekends I'm busy preparing to shoot weddings so please indulge me as my daily posts on weekends during the busy season may be "short and sweet!" One thing I turn to for inspiration are great about once a week I'll post a photography related "quote of the day."]

"At no time in the history of photography have we had more control of the image-making process, and now is the perfect time to get really good at making images."

Jay Dickman, Photographer & Author of "Perfect Digital Photography"

Thursday, June 01, 2006

06/01/06: Take better pictures EVERYDAY!

Welcome to -- a resource for ALL photographers!

Today is the "official" launch date for My name is Dan Watkins and I have been a part-time professional photographer since 1988. I've worked for a variety of different studios doing weddings, high school dances, graduations, college fraternity & sorority parties, souvenir photos and even marathon photos. I took some time off from photography in the late 90s as I got married, went to graduate school, and started a family. Recording the birth and growth of my children is what really got me interested in digital photography and I opened my own digital imaging business in 2001 -- DigitalFirst Productions. In 2004 I decided to focus more on wedding and lifestyle portrait photography so I launched Daniel J. Watkins Photography as a separate entity. It's been a lot of work but a lot more fun!

As a professional photographer totally immersed in digital photography, I get questions all of the time about photography...from my closest family and friends to total strangers who observe me as I capture images. One week I had three young mothers / mothers-to-be ask me what kind of digital camera they should buy for taking pictures of their darling children. That was the inspiration for me to launch Daily Photo Tips. For the past month I've been posting tips and working on ideas for this site. It is my hope and desire to develop a following of photographers ranging from seasoned pros to amateurs just wanting to take better pictures. I also want to challenge myself to learn more and more about the wonderful field of photography - shooting techniques, equipment, imaging software, presentation name it!

So if you have a question about digital photography -- feel free to shoot me an e-mail at:

I'll try to answer your question and perhaps even feature it on a daily tip here on this site. If you have a tip and you'd like to be a guest contributor to this site -- bring it on! The more the merrier. :)

Here is today's tip -- one of my favorites photography tips -- SHARE YOUR LOVE OF PHOTOGRAPHY! Don't just share the others to enjoy taking better pictures. Give your advice. Seek advice from others. Be open to new ideas! It's a great way to better photography.

I'll wrap up this (extended) post with my first image to be museum exhibited. The image, titled "Koi," was taken with an Olympus E10 DSLR camera in June of 2001. It was near noon -- admittedly not the ideal time for outdoor photography -- but this image worked out. I leaned over a bridge at the Missouri Botanical Garden to capture this image of the koi fish feeding.

I hope you like this site, I hope it improves your photography, I hope you'll come back often, and I hope you tell your friends about!

All the best,