Monday, July 31, 2006

07/31/06: Top 10 lists

Photography Top 10 Lists - Courtesy of Tamron

I've always been a fan of the Late Show with David Letterman and one of my favorites segments is the nightly top 10 list. :)

Recently I came across an e-learning site that lens manufacturer Tamron hosts. They have top ten lists with "do's and don'ts" for different areas of photography -- portrait photography, studio photography, nature photography, wedding photography, and several others. Click here to access the Tamron "Top 10" page.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

07/30/06: More FREE actions!

More Photoshop Actions - FREE!

A friend shared this with me recently...

Free Photoshop actions and helpful advice for using various actions from "The Light's Right" studio.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

07/29/06: Photo Mentors

Photography Mentors - Find One or Be One!

Twenty-three years ago, when I was a senior in high-school, I had the pleasure of meeting Jack Jennings -- the master photographer for the Missouri Botanical Garden. Jack is a phenomenal nature photographer and has been publishing a Missouri Botanical Garden calendar since the late 1970s. Back when I was just an impressionist teenager, I found Jack to be very inspirational and likeable -- he was part of the reason I became a photographer. I still see Jack several times a year -- each time down at the Missouri Botanical Garden doing what he does best...creating beautiful nature images. He is in his mid-70s now but remains very corteous and helpful to photographers at all skill levels.

Today's tip -- find a mentor to help you with your photographic pursuits, or become a mentor to aspiring young (or young at heart) photographers. You'll be amazed at what you can learn from other photographers -- even if you are a seasoned pro yourself. And if you are a seasoned pro, be sure to "pay it forward!" :)

Keep shooting!

Friday, July 28, 2006

07/28/06: Quote of the day...

Quote of the day...

I get lazy on Fridays since it's the end of the work-week and the beginning of the work-weekend for me! So, quite often the daily photo tip for Fridays is a quote that I like or recently came across -- most often they are photo related, but sometimes the quotes are more general and can be applied to a photography context.

Today's quote is directly related to photography. On many of the photo forums I've read about aspiring photographers who are worried about business plans. While business plans are paramount to obtaining financing for a start-up enterprise seeking capital, today's quote about business plans gave me a chuckle. It comes from sports photographer David Sherman.

"You'll be told that you must have a business plan, but that's bull. At the end of the day, I'm still a photographer. I get paid when I work, and I don't when I don't. You can't really make a business plan for that."

-- David Sherman

Thursday, July 27, 2006

07/27/06: Win a MacBook Pro!

Win a MacBook Pro from Layers Magazine and CDW!!

Layers Magazine -- the publication for all things Adobe -- and CDW have teamed up for a MacBook Pro giveaway. Click here to register to win! The contest ends 11:55 PM on August 7th, 2006.
* and Daniel J. Watkins Photography are not affiliated with this contest. I just felt like passing this along. :)

Good luck!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

07/26/06: The Importance of Networking

The Importance of Networking

Networking can be extremely beneficial to your photography -- whether you are a beginner, an advanced amateur, a part-time pro, or a seasoned full-timer. By networking with other photographers you can learn a lot of new tips and tricks to improve your shooting. Fellow photographers are also great for giving reviews and advice about new equipment, new software, and all kinds of other things related to photography.

So get out there and join a camera club, participate in an online photography forum, send your friends to this web-site (he-he, had to sneak that in there), hang out at popular photo spots such as zoos or botanical gardens -- get to know other photographers -- share your knowledge with them and soak up all of that you can from them.

Keep shooting. And keep it real! :)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

07/25/06: Photoshop TV!

Check Out!

I recently joined the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (the NAPP...I specialize in napps...zzzz-zzz-zzzzz...oops, sorry, wrong concept.). "The Photoshop Guys" -- Scott Kelby, Dave Cross and Matt Kloskowski -- host a weekly show for Photoshop users. You can watch and/or download each weekly episode on Archived episodes are available for just $1.99 each, however, they are FREE when you join the NAPP.

Happy editing!

And, try to keep it real!! :)

Monday, July 24, 2006

07/24/06: "Shoot First, Ask Questions Later!"

Shoot First, Ask Questions Later!

Sometimes it's better to be quick than good. And that rule often applies to photography...parents of small children and pet owners know this to be true! How many times have you watched a photo opportunity come and go in the blink of an eye.

When this happens...don't worry about getting all of the settings perfect, just SHOOT! Even if you are a j-peg only shooter and your white balance settings is way off, as long as your exposure is close you'll find that a not-so-perfect image of a split second photo op is better than a totally missed shot (if the color looks horrible, turn it into a black & white image!). And since digital pictures are essentially zero cost, you needn't worry about shooting too much either.

So don't be afraid to grab that camera and start shooting! You'll find yourself getting better at catching those blink-of-an-eye photo ops.

Keep it real.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

07/23/06: Get In Gear -- Go MANUAL!

Get In Gear -- Go MANUAL!

I have always preferred driving a manual transmission car over an automatic. Many who like driving stick shift cars will tell you what they like most is feeling like they have more control over the car.

You can have more control over your digital SLR by switching to manual mode. If you find that your camera is sometimes giving you inconsistent results when shooting in program mode…you need to try shooting manually. While there are plenty of shooting situations for aperture or shutter priority modes, you may find that by shooting in fully manual you’ll force yourself to learn more about your camera and its’ capabilities. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, try shooting in manual focus mode and use white balance presets other than “auto.”

If you are shooting in auto or program mode all the time you are essentially admitting that the camera is smarter than you. You can prove otherwise…it won’t be long before you discover situations where you‘ll get better results by shooting in manual mode.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

07/22/06: Pro-tip - Photoshop Actions

Pro-tip - Photoshop Actions

One of the easiest ways to get familiar with using Photoshop to enhance your images is to use Photoshop actions. Actions are simply a sequence of enhancement / modification steps that are recorded. You just click on the action you want to use (such as one to change a color image to black and white and give it some "punch" etc.) and the steps are applied to your image.

Kevin Kubota is well known for being one of the best digital imaging / Photoshop gurus. Kevin has written several photography / photoshop books and teaches seminars all over the world. One of my personal favorites is his Digital Photography Boot Camp book. You can purchase various volumes of Kevin's actions but one thing I like about his book is that he gives you some free with the Boot Camp book! I think if you give Kevin's actions a try you will not be disappointed. :)


Friday, July 21, 2006

07/21/06: Quote of the day...

Quote of the day...

"To be a photographer, one must photograph. No amount of book learning, no checklist of seminars attended, can substitute for the simple act of making pictures. Experience is the best teacher of all. And for that, there are no guarantees that one will become an artist. Only the journey matters."

-- Harry Callahan, 1912-1999

Thursday, July 20, 2006

07/20/06: National Park Photo Contest

National Park Photo Contest

I pay the bills by photographing babies and weddings. However my primary passion for is nature photography. Some of my most favorite places to capture landscape and nature images is in the U.S. National Parks -- I am particularly fond of Glacier National Park in Montana. :)

Our good friends at Canon are sponsoring a National Parks photo contest. Click here for more information. Entry deadline is Septebmer 30, 2006. Good luck!! I can't wait to see the winners. :)

Keep it real,

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

07/19/06: Adobe Lightroom for Windows is now available - FREE download!

Adobe Lightroom for Windows is now available - FREE download!

Lightroom (beta) from Adobe was release earlier this year for the Mac platform and is now available for Windows as well! Lightroom is a powerful raw image processing tool that is said to save photographers a LOT of time with editing images. I've heard a lot of good feedback on Lightroom and I just downloaded the Windows version...I can't wait to play with it.

Click here to go to the download site. Be sure to check out the 20 minute overview video -- accessible from the same link. Lightroom beta version 3 is available as a free download until January 30, 2007.

Please feel free to post comments once you have had a chance to use Lightroom...we'd love to hear what others have to say about it!

Keep shooting...and keep it real!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

07/18/06: Make Your Owner Manuals Work For You!

Make Your Owner Manuals Work For You!

Why do people not read owner's manuals? Have you ever come across a problem with your camera, camera accessory, or other electronic device, that made you go back and look in the owner's manual for help? Have you ever smacked yourself on the forehead and said "I didn't know I could do that?!" after reading something in an owner's manual? This post is for you!

I suspect that there are a lot of reasons people don't read their owner manuals...some are difficult to read, some are phone-book sized with 10 pages dedicated to every imaginable language spoken on the planet, some are odd-sized and are easily lost...who knows...maybe some people are like me and they are just too excited to play with a new toy to bother reading the manual! :)

Here's a great tip that should help make getting information from your owner's manuals much easier. Download PDF files of any owner's manual that you can find from the manufacturer's web-site on any piece of gear that you own. Then, print the manual out on letter sized paper and put them all in a 3-ring binder. You'll be amazed at how much easier you can access great information which will help you get the most from your gear. Not only does this help by insuring that you have a back-up copy of your manuals, you can make all kinds of notes on the pages just as you did with college textbooks. And you can toss out (or recycle) any pages in a language that you don't speak! (Or, a better idea is to just print the version in the language of your choice.)

Here's to better organization and learning more about the tools you already have. \o/

If you like this daily photo tip, or any other tip on this site, feel free to share them with friends! Just click on the little envelope icon at the bottom of the post and provide the e-mail addresses on the form. You do not need to have a Blogger account to forward daily photo tips to your friends.

Keep it real!

Monday, July 17, 2006

07/17/06: Humidity and Lens Care

Humidity and Lens Care

Yesterday morning I met a high school senior at 6:30 in the morning to do her senior photos. One of the reasons -- besides nice light :) -- that we met so early was to avoid the extreme heat we've experienced in the Midwest recently. We certainly didn't want to do the session at 6:00 PM when it's almost 100 degrees!!

As soon as I got my camera bag out my lenses started to fog up! That's how humidity affects cameras and lenses when you go from 72 degree air-conditioned environments to outdoors, muggy and 90+ degree heat. There are several ways to deal with these conditions to protect your gear and also not leave you looking thru a Gaussian blur that you weren't expecting!

Some advocate keeping your gear in a ziplock bag when you are going from indoors to outdoors on a muggy day. I've never tried that...mainly because I'm too disorganized to worry about putting EVERYTHING in a little baggies!

For these situations I typically carry lens tissue for wiping condensation off the lens (if I'm in a hurry) and / or a rocket blower (most commonly used for blowing dust off gear) which can help quickly dry the condensation from your lens (and it's much more practical than a hair dryer and a long extension cord!). You can also dry the lens with some lens tissue. DO NOT wipe the lens with your clothing or other type of material that isn't suitable for cleaning could scratch the glass!

One more important note -- DO NOT change lenses while the lenses are still foggy from the cold/cool to hot & muggy environment. The last thing you need is to trap the condensation on the rear glass of a lense (that which, when attached to your camera body, is inside the camera).

Stay cool everyone! :)


EDIT: Rockin' awesome photographer Garrett Nudd suggested leaving your camera gear in your car the night before -- and it's probably best to only do this if your gear is secured in the trunk of the car and / or while your car is in the garage! Thanks for the tip Garrett!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

07/16/06: Canon Lens Reviews

Canon Lens Reviews - very helpful web-site!

A friend of mine sent me a link to site with excellent reviews of Canon lenses. Click here for photographer William Castleman's equipment reviews site. It's so nice when fellow photographers publish candid opinions of products -- serves as a nice guide for those who want more objective information than what is presented on manufacturer pages. Thanks William!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

07/15/06: Basic Tip - Know Your Flash Range

Basic Tip - Know Your Flash Range

One of my pet peaves is seeing people try to use a flash at distances way beyond the range of the flash...mainly at sporting events. I mentioned several days ago that I went to the Cards / Dodgers game. When Albert Pujols of the Cardinals bats, camera flashes pop off all over the stadium. I realize most people don't know that their flash is totally useless at such great that's why I feel it necessary to spread the word! :)

For point & shoot cameras, an on-camera flash is probably only good up to about 15 feet (so unless you are the catcher squatting behind Albert Pujols when he bats, you should forget about using the flash setting). Get into the owner's manual of your camera and figure out how to take shots with the flash disabled, and, while you're in there, read up on boosting the ISO (or equivalent film speed), if your camera has a setting for this. Chances are there will be some shots where there will not be enough light...however, you'll probably be no worse off than if you are popping off a flash from 300 feet away!

Keep it real!


Friday, July 14, 2006

07/14/06: Quote of the day..."Stop Talking and Start Taking"

Quote of the day..."Stop Talking and Start Taking"

It's kind of ironic that I follow yesterday's "put the camera down for creative inspiration" post with today's quote...but sometimes you have to just pick and choose when to follow what advice! That's my answer, and I'm sticking to it! (Or, "I don't care if I contradict myself!" LOL)

Today's quote comes from Australian photographer Ken Duncan, author of one of my favorite photography coffee table books, "America Wide: In God We Trust." Buy won't regret it!

Stop Talking and Start Taking

"One of the hardest parts of photography is getting out of bed. Just stick a film (edit: or a card!) in your camera and get on with it. If you are going to eat an elephant, the way to do it is one bite at a time. If you sit back and look at how big the elephant is, you'll never finish the 'tusk' at hand! If you have a dream to shoot a book on America, you can think of the immensity of the country and be so overwhelmed that you never begin. Or you can pick somewhere to start and attack it one bit at a time. If you persevere, you'll reach your goal."

Thursday, July 13, 2006

07/13/06: What You See When You Are Not Shooting

What You See When You Are Not Shooting

I took my son to see the St. Louis Cardinals play the Los Angeles Dodgers tonight. And for the first time in a long time, I was at a professional sporting event without a camera. You see the forecast was for rain and rain it did! We got pretty wet but we were able to watch quite a bit of baseball from some pretty good seats.

It's amazing what you see when you are not constantly looking through a viewfinder. I saw so many cool photo opportunities AWAY from the baseball action (mostly people watching!) that I really was glad that, for a change, I didn't have my camera with me! I think that by opening my eyes to so many things going on around me it allowed me to see how people connect to the game of baseball, and to each other during sporting events.

So if you find yourself taking a lot of pictures of, seemingly, the same mundane things...put the camera down and take some time to notice things around you that you may not have noticed when your field of vision is the tiny rangefinder of your camera. I think you will be surprised at the many things you notice (and can learn to photograph) by not taking pictures! Sounds, kinda weird, doesn't it?

Comments welcome. :)


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

07/12/06: Kid photo tip -- keep 'em still!

Kid photo tip -- keep 'em still!

I enjoy taking pictures of kids with props like this one of my daughter and her "pink princess" pedal car. One thing I learned is that if you take pictures of kids in toys with wheels -- whether it be a ride-on toy, a wagon, etc. -- the kids want to GO! So if you want to get a good shot, place a small block under one of the wheels away from the camera. That way your pint-sized subject won't take off on you when you have your portrait shot ready to go!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

07/11/06: Help! My film camera just died...what should I do?

Help! My film camera just died...what should I do?

Twice in the past week I had people tell me that they dropped their film camera and it is no longer working. I totally know the feeling (well, not with dropping a camera...but with a camera that needs repair!).

The average amount you can expect to spend on camera repairs is around $200. With film cameras (primarily SLR's) starting around $250 - 300, it probably makes sense to go ahead and scrap the film camera and switch to digital. Good digital point & shoot cameras are around $200 and up while starter digital SLR cameras are around $600. If you happen to have a model of film camera that allows you to keep the same lenses for a digital camera...your conversion is easy! Keep in mind all of the money you'll be saving on film and processing. Yes, you'll still be paying to have prints made...but at least with digital you only pay for the prints you choose to have made, not every single image on a roll!

Get back out there and keep shooting!


Monday, July 10, 2006

07/10/06: Labelling Discs - Use a "CD Safe" Pen!

Labelling Discs - Use a "CD Safe" Pen!

If you use a marker or pen to write on CD's / DVD's that you've burned, you may be comprimising the quality of the disc, or worse, making files unreadable. Be sure to use a "CD safe" marking pen when labelling discs.

You can buy them for a couple of dollars. I found some on -- click here for details.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

07/09/06: Nature Photo Tip - "Dew" Your Homework!

Nature Photo Tip - "Dew" Your Homework!

You can capture beautiful images of flowers or plants with morning dew...if you get up early enough. Or, if it's a public botanical garden that you favor...find out when the sprinklers come on, and then be prepared to shoot when the sprinklers turn off (or...shoot while they are on, but protect your camera gear!). Though it tests the limits of my "keep it real" philosphy, I've even seen nature photographers carry small spray bottles of water so they can create their own dew.


Saturday, July 08, 2006

07/08/06: Three Travel Photography Tips

Three Travel Photography Tips

I love taking pictures when I travel. Even when I'm travelling for a non-photography reason, I'll take my camera just to get images from wherever I am. Now that we are in the middle of summer vacation season, I thought I'd offer three helpful travel photo tips:
  • Look for unusual sights -- sure, most everyone who vacations in San Francisco takes a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge. Try finding scenes that you wouldn't normally associate with famous landmarks or tourist hot spots.
  • Avoid the crowds -- get up early! Most visitors will arrive late in the morning and stay until late afternoon. Take photos before 9 AM or after 4 PM (chances are, you'll get better light, too!).
  • Take photos from the plane -- yeah, the flight attendants may hassle you to "turn off your electronic device" but it's fun to get shots from the air! Be sure to get your camera right up on the glass of the window to avoid glare. And try to sit somewhere on the plan where you won't have a wing in every shot!

I've never been to Vegas...but I've flown over it...

I've never been to Dodger Stadium...but I've flown over it...

Happy shooting! And...try to keep it real! :) ~DJW

Friday, July 07, 2006

07/07/06: Quote of the day...

Quote of the day...

Several years ago, while camping in Montana, I had the pleasure of listening to a presentation given by world renown nature photographer Tom J. Ulrich. Tom is the source for today's quote:

"Much of my photography takes place early in the morning or in the evening. Animal activity is usually at its peak during these times. As a result, I have witnessed many beautiful sunrises and sunsets. I try to record as many of them as possible."

-- Tom J. Ulrich, author of "Once Upon a Frame" and several other nature & photography books

Thursday, July 06, 2006

07/06/06: Dealing With a Cluttered Background

Photographing Children - Dealing With a Cluttered Background

Most parents of toddlers know that some of the best photo opportunities do not happen AFTER the child's toys have been put away! Most often it's best to photograph children by getting down at their level, however, sometimes a cluttered or busy background may make it difficult. When this happens, try shooting from up high so that the floor, carpet or grass becomes the background.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

07/05/06: Pro tip - get the most of a subject's eye color

Pro tip - get the most of a subject's eye color

If you are working with studio lights that include a modeling light, boost the power of the modeling light as high as it will go. This will cause the iris of the eye to constrict, thus, showing more color.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

07/04/06: Happy 4th of July -- Tips for Taking Pictures of Fireworks

Tips for Taking Pictures of Fireworks

Here are some guidelines for shooting pictures of fireworks.

  • Use a tripod and a cable / remote shutter release
  • Shoot at 100 ISO at around f8 with "bulb" setting
  • Anticipate the exploding firework, then release the shutter...keep it open until the last of the bright part of the firework appears

Have a great 4th of July!!


Monday, July 03, 2006

07/03/06: Sports photo tip - allow for shutter lag

Sports photo tip - allow for shutter lag

Yesterday I went to a baseball game and, while shooting "out of my comfort zone" with an older DSLR and everything set to manual :), I experimented with shutter lag. How often do you see something that happens in a fraction of an instant (doesn't have to be sports...could be a cute 2 year old making a funny face) but you end up missing the shot? Chances are it was shutter lag (or, it could have been dead batteries! j/k).

I found that if I tried to anticipate when the batter would swing and hit the ball, I needed to press the shutter when the ball was a little past half-way from the pitcher to the hitter. Everyone will get different results based on an individuals reaction time and camera...yet digital cameras are ideal for "practicing" for perfection. Often it will take a little while to learn how to compensate for shutter lag...but once you get the timing down, you may end up with some fantastic photos. :)

Sunday, July 02, 2006

07/02/06: "Bracketing" and exposure compensation tips

"Bracketing" and exposure compensation tips

Bracketing is the process of taking multiple pictures (typically 3) at different exposures (anywhere from 1/3 stop to 2 full stops over and under) to compensate for lighting conditions that may fool your camera's auto-exposure setting. You can activate your DSLR camera's bracket function which will automatically adjust exposure on three shots fired consecutively. You can choose to bracket in small increments like 1/3 of a stop, or large increments like 2 stops. For example, if you turn on your AE bracketing function and dial the compensation to 1 full stop, your camera will then expose one image at the AE light reading, one at 1 stop under that reading, and one image at 1 stop over the camera's AE light reading. For most cameras you do have to hold the shutter down to capture 3 images so this may not be the right thing to do when shooting fast moving subjects such as Indy cars or two-year-old children who don't want to take a bath :).

Aside from bracketing to compensate for light that may fool your camera's meter, you can learn to adjust your settings depending on the subject and the color / mood you are attempting to capture and convey. Here are some exposure compensation guidelines:

  • White / snow in bright sunlight +2.5 stops
  • White / snow in overcast light + 2 stops
  • Yellow or gold / flowers or jewelry +1 or 1.5 stops
  • Orange / pink flowers + 1 stop
  • Light blue / early morning sky + 1 stop
  • Medium tones of green / brown / blue / red +/- 0 to 1/3 or 1/2 stop
  • Dark green / evergreen trees or violet flowers -1 stop
  • Dark brown / black animal fur or black tuxedo -2 or -2.5
As always, don't be afraid to review the results of your images on your DSLR's LCD screen and make adjustments as you are shooting.

Keep it real,

Saturday, July 01, 2006

07/01/06: Shoot outside of your comfort zone!

Shoot outside of your comfort zone!

Welcome to the third month of Daily Photo Tips! I started this web-site to encourage photographers at all skill levels to learn new photography tips and tricks every day -- to never be satisfied with status quo when it comes to their photography. I also did it to challenge myself to constantly be on the lookout for new ideas, or refreshing spins on old ideas :), so much so that I would write something every day about photography. That's what Daily Photo Tips is all about.

Some days I write about very basic photography tips -- stuff that will help amateur photographers of all sorts to improve their skills, but also to remind advanced photographers and pros about things we've learned many years ago and may have forgotten. Other days I'll write about more advanced topics (including the business side of photography) -- aimed at helping pros make money shooting pictures or inspiring free-lancers to help them make some extra money moonlighting. Occasionally I'll just post up something that I just learned and I wanted to share with fellow photographers.

So my tip for today is...shoot outside of your comfort zone! That could mean any number of things...shoot with a camera or other piece of gear you've never used before or haven't used in a long while. I've been known to dust off one of my older (read "less feature rich") DSLR cameras and force myself to shoot entirely in manual modes. Another idea is to shoot a type of event that you've never done before -- last year my neighbor and his son treat my son and I to an evening at the monster truck show. I had never thought to attend a monster truck show before...but I saw it as an opportunity to take some photographs. We ended up having a great time and I learned a few new things about my camera that night. :)

Thanks for visiting Daily Photo Tips -- if you have any comments, suggestions or questions, be sure to send them to me at:

Or, if you'd like to be a "guest tipster" -- feel free to shoot me a note with your name and tip idea. I'd love to have participation from photographers all over the world at all different skill levels.

And, I'll close my first post for July with what is fast becoming my photography motto...

"Keep it real."

All the best, Dan