Thursday, August 31, 2006

08/31/06: Common Sense Travel Tip

Common Sense Travel Tip

If you are a working pro photographer or part-time weekend warrior and you travel by air for your photography business, this tip will help you. Do not put your photography business cards or anything associated with your photo business on your luggage tag. This includes checked and carry-on baggage. Even if you think you will have control of your luggage at all times, you never know when an opportunistic thief might be lurking in an airport, taxi stand or hotel lobby. Also, if you happen to have camera manufacturer logos on your checked luggage or carry-on bags...leave those for the car trips. The last thing you need when traveling for a photo job is to have your gear (or worse, your clean underwear!) stolen from you. Be careful out there!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

08/30/06: Get Paid for Old B&W Photos!

Get Paid for Old B&W Photos

Being the photographer of the family, I inherited all of my grandpa's old 35mm slides and negatives. Some of them are really funny pictures of my cousins, my siblings, and even a few of me! A friend of mine told me about a company, Shade Tree Greetings, that buys old black and white photos and turns them into greeting cards. For more information, click here, or contact Nikki at 800-836-4206 for more details.

Monday, August 28, 2006

08/28/06: Another Tip on the Care of Your Photo Printer

Care For Your Photo Printer - Part 2

There are several other preventative maintenance things you can do to take care of your ink jet photo printer. If you print fairly regularly, many print manufacturers recommend leaving the unit powered on. It's not a waste of energy as most electronic devices use very little energy in stand-by mode. If you aren't going to use the printer regularly, it's a good idea to keep it covered -- that way you'll minimize the risk of dust doing damage to your printer or prints. It's a good idea to print something every 7-10 days or so to help prevent your ink cartridges from drying out.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

08/27/06: Even More Affordable Royalty Free Music!

Quality, Affordable Royalty Free Music

I just learned of a great new source for affordable royalty free music. Check out! If you are a slideshow junkie like I am, and you push the limits with your ShowIt Web slideshow software :), you'll certainly find a lot of great tunes on Join now and your first song is free! See the Stock20 web-site for more details.

Happy shooting! I look forward to seeing more great slideshows from all of you! :) Feel free to send me your best --

Keep it real! ;)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

08/26/06: "Did You Lose Your Sunglasses?"

Lose Those Sunglasses!

If there is one common mistake I see amatuer photographers make when shooting pictures of people outdoors, its forgetting to ask the subjects to remove their sunglasses. Most often when you look at pictures of people you're drawn to their eyes. If the eyes are covered by dark sunglasses such that they eyes cannot be's almost as if you are taking pictures of statues (in my humble opinion). So remember when composing a portrait of people outdoors under sunny conditions...remember to pay attention to details and remember to make sure the eyes are seen!

Keep it real,

Friday, August 25, 2006

08/25/06: Quote of the day...

Quote of the Day...

I love this one... :)

"If a day goes by without my doing something related to photography, it's as though I've neglected something essential to my existence, as though I had forgotten to wake up."

-- Richard Avedon

Thursday, August 24, 2006

08/24/06: Business Planning Software to Help You Jump Start Your Photography Business

Business Planning Software to Help You Jump Start Your Photography Business

Palo Alto Software offers an excellent business planning software product called Business Plan Pro 2007 to assist you in writing a business plan for your small business. I have used this software with my photography business plan and have found it extremely helpful and easy to use. There are over 500 sample business plans included in the software (there is even a sample plan for a photo studio!) and the software integrates well with Excel and Quickbooks. For more information, click here.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

08/23/06: Basic Tip - Care for Your Photo Printer

Basic Tip - Care for Your Photo Printer

If you have an inkjet photo printer -- be sure to power it off properly. NEVER turn off the photo printer from a power strip...always use the printer's on / off button. When powering off an inkjet printer, the printer will park the print head in a very specific place. If you power off the power strip without powering off the printer, the unit may by pass the normal shut down procedure and the heads may not be parked properly. This can lead to the print head drying out and / or becoming clogged. And your prints will not look as beautiful as you intended for them to look when you clicked the print button!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

08/22/06: Test Your Lab

Test Your Lab

During my career in corporate America, my employers would do periodic vendor performance reviews where vendors' performance in a number of areas would be evaluated to see if any changes need to be made. Yesterday I decided to do this with several print labs. I was surprised at the results.

Several years ago I had some bad experiences with one of the local labs (I won't use any names, but I didn't think they were cleaning their mini-lab equipment frequently enough and this was comprimising the quality of their prints) so I stopped using them. At 4 PM yesterday I sent four prints -- via online upload and local store pick-up -- to three different one-hour labs. I used the exact same four image files for each lab. Prices and the customer service experience varied widely even on something as simple as printing four 4x6s on two different types of paper (matte and glossy). I got them home and compared the results. Much to my surprise, the prints from my preferred lab actually looked the poorest. And much to my dismay, the lab with the highest price and the poorest service (they only gave me part of my order!) had the best looking prints! I plan to repeat this test in a few days with a new set of prints to see how they handle a variety of color / contrast prints.

So it can make a world of difference in the presentation of your prints if you test your lab from time-to-time to make sure they are performing up to your expectations. Whether you are a seasoned pro, an advanced amateur, or you just took your first deserve to have your prints printed to your satisfaction. Measuring the performance of your lab against others can reveal a LOT about which labs are doing the best work.

Monday, August 21, 2006

08/21/06: Archive Tip - Check Your Discs!

Archive Tip - Check Your (Burnt) Discs!

I'm a big fan of backing up files. However, any photographer that has taken a significant quantity of photos will probably tell you that it's a lot of work to keep up with the file back-up process.

I tend to backup all of my client images as soon as they are uploaded -- I'll make 2 sets of discs. One set for local storage and one set for off-site. Once the images are post-processed, I'll make 2 more sets. And finally (well, it's never final when it comes to backing up files!), I make month-end back-up discs of everything I shot that month.

I've had a number of CD / DVD burners over the past 9 years (I think the count is up to 7...on 3 different PCs!) and I definitely have given each a workout. When I burn a disc, my data verification process involves popping the finished (burnt) disc into another drive (not the one it was burned on) and verifying that the data successfully copied. Previously I just verified the # of files and that the first and last files in my backup job appeared on the disc. That was until I discovered what a CRC error is.

A CRC, or "cyclic redundancy check" error means that files on your media were corrupted during the burn process. This happens when the buffer in the burn process can't keep up with the write speed of the drive. I had one of these CRC error discs earlier this month -- it was the first time I'd ever seen this error. And it also happened to come from a disc I burned on a fairly new laptop -- one that doesn't use Nero CD / DVD burning software. I like Nero because of the buffer under-run protection utility. I've always had good luck with Nero creating good data files on recordable media. My new laptop uses another software application for burning discs. I guess you could say I got "burned" (yeah...really bad pun) in assuming that the new laptop / burning software also featured buffer under-run protection. I learned my lesson. Fortunately I still had the files on my computer and was able to produce another set of back-up discs to replace the ones which had the CRC errors.

So take precaution when burning discs of your critical image files. Verify that your images are all on the burned disc. I find the best way to do this is to open the finished disc and view ALL of the thumbnails. If there are any corrupt files, the thumbnails will not fully load (they'll look like they are halfway loaded with a portion of the image greyed out). You should also spot check a good number of image files by fully opening them to verify the files on the CD or DVD are good.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

08/20/06: Posing Tips - Masculine or Feminine?

Posing Tips - The Head Tilt, Masculine or Feminine Tilt?

For most portrait situations, a slight to moderate head tilt will improve the composition of an image. The old rule of thumb says that a masculine tilt is where the head is tilted toward the high shoulder while with a feminine tilt, the head is tilted toward the low shoulder. However, rules are meant to be broken. I tend to believe photographer Jeff Smith's advice (author of several portrait photography books)...male or female shouldn't matter, the head should tilt toward the shoulder that looks best in the composition of the image.

You be the are some examples.

All images - copyright 2004 - Daniel J. Watkins

Best advice -- don't be afraid to experiment to find what works best for your subject. :)

Keep it real!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

08/19/06: In Search of...Magic Light

Sunset - Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park, Montana (copyright - Daniel J. Watkins, 2002)

In Search of...Magic Light

"Magic light" in photography is said to occur just prior to sunrise or just after sunset. On a clear day at sunset, magic light will seperate the sky into a red hemisphere and a blue hemisphere -- with rich indigos at the edge of the blue hemisphere...leading into darkness. Often if you can catch some clouds in the sky, you'll find them bathed in the reds and oranges of the sun beneath the horizon. With sunrise you can often catch a nice band of magenta on the horizon just before the sun comes up. You have to be patient with magic light...often you can't predict how good the colors are going to be...and even when you do get great magic light, it's fleeting. Luck is said to be when preparation meets opportunity. So be prepared (with tripod, remote shutter release, fully charged batteries, and a lot of media cards), and you'll be sure to capture beautiful images with magic light.

Sunrise - Flathead Lake, Polson, Montana (copyright - Daniel J. Watkins, 2002)

Friday, August 18, 2006

08/18/06: Quote of the day...

Quote of the day...

Today it's a simple one, but it reflects my feelings toward "overly Photoshopped" images. ;)

"Pictures must not be too picturesque."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson
Keep it real!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

08/17/06: Mining for Good Shot Information

"Mining" for Good Photograph Information

Yesterday I spoke about the benefits of journaling to augment your digital image's metadata. Today's tip is about going back over your old work and reviewing for information which will help you take better photos.

From time to time I like to go back and look at pictures I've taken one, two, three, or even many years ago (and yes...I have been digital since 1998 so "many" years ago still, or already, applies to digital!). When reviewing the images, I typically tend to realize how much my pictures have improved over the years. I do like to look at both the portfolio calibre images as well as the duds to see what kind of choices I made to get the shot. Often I find when reviewing the duds of yesteryear that my pictures didn't turn out as well due to one or two minor mistakes (e.g. shooting a scene that was too contrasty could have been improved by focusing on a small area, or using a neutral density filter, forgetting to reset the ISO from an extreme shooting situation like bright or low light, etc.). At the same time, I can learn from the images that came out very nicely.

So when time permits, take a look at some of your old images to learn from them and improve what you shoot in the future.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

08/16/06: The Importance of Journaling

The Importance of Journaling

Yesterday I posted about scouting for great locations to photograph. Once you have the location, your work can be improved a great deal by journaling. Digital photography really helps out the journalling process in that much of your technical information (shutter speed, ISO, aperature, etc.) is captured in the image's metadata (EXIF). However, you still can benefit by keeping a journal of the variables that aren't captured in the digital image file metadata. I've learned over the years that this can be especially helpful in nature / landscape photography.

Metadata does not capture such information as what time the sun rises or sets at that time of year in the location you are shooting, what the weather was like in terms of windspeed (wind seems to be the most critical factor in nature photos...especially slow shutter speed shots), whether or not you used a tripod for the shot, etc. By taking good notes on these "non-metadata" variables, you can do a lot to improve your shots and / or avoid making the same or similar mistakes in similar shooting conditions.

Happy journaling! And keep it real. :)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

08/15/06: Be Your Own Location Scout

Be Your Own Location Scout

Wouldn't it be nice if we always had a camera at our fingertips? There have been so many times I'm driving past something or I see beautiful light somewhere and I say "oh, that's a perfect spot for a picture!" What I've learned from this is experience is to make note of the location & time for reference when I'm looking for a fresh place to do a photo shoot. Too often I hear that "everyone gets there wedding pictures taken at (such and such location)." That's why I recommend that if you are looking for something fresh or something different...get out there and look around for new locations. Avoid the temptation to go where everyone else goes!

Monday, August 14, 2006

08/14/06: "One-of-a-Kind" Backdrops

"One-of-a-Kind" Backdrops for Studio Portraits

Want to know an affordable way to come up with very unique canvas backdrops? Sure you do! Just go to your local contractor supply or hardware store type place (Home Depot, Lowes, etc.) and purchase some heavy-duty painters' drop cloths. Then call a couple of painters to see if they have any used drop cloths they would like to trade. Or, take that new drop cloth and those old cans of paint you have in your basement or garage and make your own. You are guaranteed to get backdrops that no one else has!

Happy shooting. And keep it real!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

08/13/06: "Emerging Pro" Photo Contest

"Emerging Pro" Photo Contest

Microsoft, Epson and Calumet have teamed up to offer the "emerging pro" photo contest. Grand prize is $10,000 cash! Not bad, eh? The contest is open to photography students or pros who have been in business for less than 3 years. Categories include photojournalism, fashion / beauty and fine art. Entries must be received by February 23, 2007. For more details, click here. Good luck.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

08/12/06: Let the Photo Tell the Story

Let the Photo Tell the Story

Tonight my wife and I took the kids to Ted Drewes' -- a very popular St. Louis frozen custard stand where large crowds gather on weekend nights. Ted Drewes' is a St. Louis tradition and has been for over 75 years. When people visit "the Lou" for the first time...quite often they are told by locals that they "have to try Ted Drewes' frozen custard." (In fact a photographer friend of mine from Orlando was in town and when he saw the crowds of people he said they must put crack in the custard!)

Tonight, while we are sitting on a bench having our delicious treats (and trying to keep the kids from spilling theres), I noticed a group of people gathering to have their picture taken. Evidently it was someone's first trip to Ted Drewes. I couldn't help but notice what a crummy spot they had chosen to capture this memory...a couple of people standing around smiling in front of an SUV parked next to some large dumpsters. What story does that picture tell? (Well, okay, maybe the dumpsters had some significance...I just don't know!)

I resisted the temptation to go tell them..."hey, why don't you take your group picture over here where you'll get the cool Ted Drewes' neon sign in the background?" Instead I used this experience as a topic for today's tip -- include a sense of "place" in your photo (or series of photos) so that you don't have to explain what the picture is. Naturally, if it's your first trip to Mount Rushmore, you'll probably shoot some images of the presidential heads sculpted out of rock. But don't wait until you are at a famous, scenic location to decide to use parts of the location to tell the story of the photo!

Friday, August 11, 2006

08/11/06: Quote of the day...

Quote of the day...

"The creative act lasts but a brief moment, a lightning instant of give-and-take, just long enough for you to level the camera and to trap the fleeing prey in your little box."

-- Henri Cartier-Bresson

[Editors note: This is a perfect quote if you photograph children!]

Thursday, August 10, 2006

08/10/06: "Lifestyle Portraits"

"Lifestyle Portraits" of Children

Years ago they used to be called "location portraits" -- now they are referred to as "lifestyle portraits." Lifestyle portraits are done on location -- typically somewhere children can be themselves and not be intimidated by a photo studio with ominous looking lights -- it can be a park, a playground, their own backyard, or even inside their home. The best portraits are achieved when the child doesn't realize they are being photographed (so telephoto lenses are essential to good child lifestyle portraits). Whether you are an amatuer or a seasoned studio pro, give "lifestyle portraits" a try!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

08/09/06: Canon Flash Tutorial

Canon Flash Tutorial

Here is a follow-up to the recent post where I recommended a Canon Speedlite DVD. Canon recently released a tutorial with lighting diagrams to assist Canon Speedlite users (though I'm sure that all flash users can benefit...non just Canon shooters). Click ~DJW

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

08/08/06: Take the Photoshop Quiz!

Take the Photoshop Quiz!

Our friends at the National Association of Photoshop Professional have an online quiz you can take to measure how good you are with Photoshop.

Click here to go to the quiz. :)

And once you have determined whether you are an expert or a wannabe, you can sign up to take Photoshop classes on

Monday, August 07, 2006

08/07/06: Excellent Flash Tutorial Video (for Canon flashes)

Excellent Flash Tutorial Video

One thing I hear quite often from photographers is a lack of understanding (and subsequent frustration) on the use of flashes. Not long ago I received a copy of Blue Crane Digital's "Understanding the Canon Speedlite 580EX/430EX." This video is one of the best tutorials for learning how to use your flash in a wide variety of shooting situations.

The video covers the use of flash exposure compensation, custom functions, slow-sync, ratios, first and second curtain sync as well as controlling the hardness / softness of light. I've been using Canon flashes for over 15 years and yet I still found this video to be very helpful. One of the greatest things is that it's only $19.95 from B&H. Very well worth it in my opinion! \o/

Sunday, August 06, 2006

08/06/06: Another Reason to Use White Balance Pre-Sets

Yet another reason to use the white balance pre-sets on your DSLR...

The more "auto" settings you use on your camera, the longer (in hundreths of a second) it takes for the camera to do the work to capture the image you are trying to capture. Why not help the camera out a bit and shave a few hundredths of a second from that capture time? By choosing one of the white balance pre-sets on your camera you'll make faster work of getting that split-second emotion or movement that you are trying to capture. This can be especially helpful if you are shooting fast action sports or fast action infants. :)

Saturday, August 05, 2006

08/05/06: Give Your Tripod Some Extra Support

Give Your Tripod Some Extra Support - Landscape / Nature Photography Tip

If ever you find yourself in a situation where you need to be sure that your tripod is steady (such as for long time exposure shots of moving water, etc.), there is a quick, easy and very cost-effective way to give your tripod a bit more support. Using a plastic bag (the poly-sac variety with handles)...simply find a few rocks, put them in the bag and hang them on the tripod. Don't overload the tripod (that you might damage it) but you may find that a few extra pounds helps steady the tripod a bit more for your tack-sharp focus images.

Friday, August 04, 2006

08/04/06: Quote of the day...

It's late Friday...I shot a wedding this evening, so I thought I'd make the quote of the day one of my own! :)

~~ First Rule of Wedding Photography ~~

"ALWAYS know where the bride is."

-- Daniel J. Watkins

Thursday, August 03, 2006

08/03/06: Get CLOSER!

Basic Tip - Get Closer!

Here's a basic tip for beginners that will help improve your photography -- get closer to your subject. You'll be able to improve the composition of your pictures by simply eliminates parts of the shot that aren't relevant to the shot...getting closer will help you accomplish this. Too often I see people whip out their point & shoot cameras and fire off a shot without taking just a few extra seconds to make the shot better. So get closer to the action and you'll find the composition of your images will improve significantly.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

08/02/06: Photosynth - What's It All About?

Photosynth - What's It All About?

I've had several people e-mail this link so I thought I'd share with my Daily Photo Tips readers. Microsoft Live Labs has released a preview video about it's new Photosynth project. Photosynth is software that allows for a collection of photographs to be analyzed for similarties and then animated into three-dimensional form - basically linking common images together. I could try to better explain it, but, heck, here are some videos...go check 'em out!

Info video:

Demo video:

This truly is the kind of thing that gets me excited about emerging digital image technologies!

So, uh, keep it "real!" ;)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

08/01/06: Recovering Lost Files

Today marks the beginning of the fourth month for I want to thank everyone who has visited and / or contributed so far! I hope this site continues to serve as an excellent resource for photographers of all skills levels. I know it helps me! :)

Recovering Lost Files

Our tip for today deals with lost files. There are two types of photographers -- those that have accidently deleted files, and those that will someday accidentally delete files. There are a number of programs and utilities to help you recover lost files. In most cases, the files can be recovered from damaged media cards or cards that you've formatted before saving the images off to your computer (however, if you format and then shoot more images, you've probably lost all of the images taken prior to formatting).

Here are some of the more popular resources for file recovery:

Some of the applications have "demo" versions you can download and try. I haven't tried any of these programs (yet...knock on wood), but that doesn't mean I haven't lost images! Several years ago...before I even considered the possibility of recovery software...I accidentally formatted a 32MB smart media card in my Olympus E10 camera. Fortunately I don't remember what the images ignorance is bliss!

The one situation in which you can not recover lost images is if you lose the media card! So take good care of your cards and your storage methods so that you never have to dumpster-dive after a wedding reception (*an actual event that happened to another photographer!).