Saturday, September 30, 2006

09/30/06: Protect Your Equipment

Every once and a while I hear a horror story about a photographer who had his or her equipment stolen. In some cases, the story is downright shocking -- someone has the gear stolen at a church while they were shooting a wedding. This might sound pretty basic for some...but let it serve as a friendly reminder: Record the serial number of your camera gear. In the event that someone steals your gear (perish the thought), having all of your serial number information handy will help the authorities should your gear turn up at a pawn shop and the insurance company with processing your claim.

Let's hope none of us ever have to experience a theft of our equipment...but let us be prepared in the event that we do.

Friday, September 29, 2006

09/29/06: Quote of the day...

"You don't take a picture, you make it."
-- Ansel Adams

Thursday, September 28, 2006

09/28/06: Good news!

Over on this post I talked about the "first mover disadvantage." Well, my friend and fellow St. Louis area photographer Dan Schimpf reports that raw files from his new Rebel XTi open just fine in the latest beta version of Adobe Lightroom (version 4.0). So if you are the lucky owner of a new camera such as the XTi or the D80, try opening your raw files in Lightroom. Keep in mind, for a limited time you can download the beta version of Lightroom for FREE from the Adobe web-site.

Thanks for the tip, Dan!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

09/27/06: Try this...

My friend Adam Squier who owns Squier Photography in Dublin, Ohio suggested this tip over on Open Source Photo:

If you have problems with losing lens caps...try fitting the plastic cap from a can of Pringles over your lens filter. I know Adam shoots there are no guarantees that this will work for any particular lens by other manufactures. Try other plastic snap-on lids from things such a can of tennis balls or Crystal-Lite. Certainly beats paying $20 - 30 for a replacement lens cap from a camera manufacturer!

Thanks for the tip, Adam. You rock!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

09/26/06: Important Nature Photography Tip!

As I sit here in my comfly living room chair -- scratching my right arm -- I thought that it might be important to suggest or remind aspiring nature photographers...know your poison plants!!

Poison ivy

Monday, September 25, 2006

09/25/06: The First Mover "Disadvantage?"

Business strategists often talk about the "first mover advantage" -- where the company first to market with a product has an advantage. However, when hardware and software products come from different manufacturers -- such as digital SLR manufacturers and image editing software like Adobe -- there is often a disadvantage to being early adopters of a new piece of hardware like a new DSLR.

When Canon or Nikon introduces a new camera such as the Canon 30D or the Nikon D80, photographers have to wait several months for Adobe to release updates for the Adobe Camera Raw software to recognize the raw files from the new cameras. All is not lost for the new camera owners as the camera manufacturers have their own proprietary software for image editing -- however, this can significantly impact the workflow for photographers. So keep in might be nice to have the latest and greatest camera, but you may have to wait for the software updates in order to keep your established workflow.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

09/24/06: The Importance of Checklists

When I go out to shoot a wedding or other event, I typically go thru a checklist of items that I'll need for that event. The list includes things to do (such as clean sensors / lenses) and things to take (back-up equipment, spare batteries, etc.). This weekend I went to shoot a high school reunion group photo and didn't use my normal checklist. Of course I forgot something -- my umbrellas for the flash units -- but I was able to use a couple of omni-bounce light modifiers to ensure that I had nice soft light. So if you are doing photography for hire, or you are just planning a special photo shoot for whatever occasion, be sure to make a check list to prepare for your shoot!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

09/23/06: Photography Magazines

Recently I survived a community of professional photographers to find out what photography magazines they subscribe to. Here is a list of some of the magazines the pros are reading (in alphabetical order):
  • American Photo
  • Camera Arts
  • Digital Photo Pro
  • Lenswork
  • Outdoor Photographer
  • Photo District News (PDN)
  • PhotoShop Creative
  • PhotoShop User
  • Picture
  • Popular Photography
  • Professional Photographer
  • Rangefinder
  • Shutterbug
  • Studio Photography and Design
  • View Camera
Now get out there and check out some of these awesome publications. Enjoy! :)

Friday, September 22, 2006

09/22/06: Go Where Other People Are Not

Photographers tend to follow a herd mentality at times. I remember being on vacation in Montana about four years ago and getting up early to take some sunrise photos. We were camping in Glacier National Park near a lake called Lake McDonald (no, no golden arches!). Lake McDonald is almost 10 miles long...but when I got to the parking lot at the foot of the lake I saw over a dozen photographers with tripods lined up to capture the sunrise -- they couldn't have been more than a few feet apart. I odd -- this lake is humongous and they are all pretty much going to get the same shot!

I had a similar experience earlier this year while attending a photography seminar in Newport Beach, CA. I joined a group of photographers for an early morning session with a couple who wanted some photos taken at Laguna Beach. Here is an image I shot which no one else captured that morning:

While all of the other photographers were shooting this couple from just to the right of the frame (basically a shot from the sand), I ventured out onto these humongous rocks because I wanted to get some shots of the water splashing with the couple in the background.

That brings us to today's of my personal favorites:

"Zig when others zag."

I don't know who first said this...but I first heard it while sitting in a Principles of Advertising class in college almost 20 years ago. I think it can be applied to photography, too!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

09/21/06: Finding Inspiration...

Ever find yourself in a rut photographically? Frustrated from the lack of creativity in your images? Feel like you're shooting the same thing over and over?

You're not alone. Many photographers (pros and amatuers alike) experience the same feelings. One way to help inspire you to find new ideas and approaches is to maintain a list of your favorite professional photographer web-sites and visit them often. It doesn't matter if they are wedding, nature, sports, commercial or whatever type of can find yourself inspired by looking at the way others see things through their camera eye. That doesn't mean go out there and try to copy what they did / are, certainly not. But it can serve as a means to help you develop a fresh way to look at similar shooting situations.

Here are a couple of example web-sites to visit:
Awesome Photographs

And, as always, keep it real! ~DJW

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

09/20/06: Very Important DSLR Tip!

To help keep your camera sensor clear of annoying dust specs, never change lenses on your DSLR in an area where you're likely to get dust inside the camera and thus, on your sensor. Avoid change lenses at the beach (got back to your car and change lenses there) or outside on a windy day (especially if there is a lot of dust in the air such as at a ball field or playground).

Another tip -- when changing lenses, always keep the camera body pointed downward. By doing this, you'll minimize the amount of free-floating particles that can enter the camera while you are changing lenses.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

09/19/06: Creative Motion Blur - In Camera!

Ever wonder how a shot like this is created?

Think it's some fancy Photoshop work? Think again!

The image was created with the camera on a tripod using about a 1 to 1 1/2 second exposure (camera set to shutter priority mode) and a 28-135mm lens. As soon as the shutter opens, I gently zoom the lens from it's widest angle (28mm) to telephoto (135mm) and I time it such that I reach 135mm on the zoom at approximately the time the shutter closes (basically it's a 1 to 1 1/2 second zoom). This takes a little practice to minimize camera shake and get the timing right...but after you do it a few times you'll get the hang, and you don't have to be precise on the timing.

You can even do something like this while hand holding the camera. Just use a shutter speed of about 1/10 to 1/15 and don't expect the center part to be tack sharp. It works okay with moving long as you are tracking the object such that the motion blur on the subject is minimized but everything else is blurred. Here's an example...

Monday, September 18, 2006

09/18/06: Creative Marketing Tip for Growing Your Wedding Photography Business

If you send out prints to your wedding clients, try sending them to the bride's work address. That way she'll be sure to show your photographic expertise in capturing her wonderful wedding memories to all of her co-workers! :)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

09/17/06: Auto-focus in the Dark

Yesterday I gave a tip for manual focus in the dark. Today we'll discuss auto-focus in the dark. Most ETTL auto-focus lenses work well with ETTL (dedicated) flashes. Quite often pro photographers will shoot in the dark (or near dark) with a wide to super wide angle lens and they'll shoot without looking thru the viewfinder. You can just find where the auto-focus beam pattern lands and then use to to point to what you want to photograph. Often I'll shoot a wedding reception with a focal length of around 15-35mm and where I will simply hold the camera above my head and/or off to the side where I'll will then just follow where the auto-focus beam lands. It takes some practice to get used to this technique, but you'll eventually find the right way to capture cool images in the dark (and in sharp focus) without having to look thru your viewfinder to compost the shot. One of the cool things about this technique is that you'll also be able to keep your eyes open to things developing beyond what falls within the frame of your viewfinder.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

09/16/06: "Old School" Manual Focus

"Old School" Manual Focus

Years ago when I was just a wet-behind-the-ears college student...I worked for a local photo studio in the town where I went to school and I shot "party pics" at college fraternity & sorority parties as well as high school proms and the like. Back then we shot everything on 35MM film using manual focus lenses. College students tend to like to party in the dark, or near dark, so we had to learn tricks to focus in the dark.

Tonight I shot a wedding where I was reminiscing with my 25 year old assistant about how we used to have to manual focus in the dark (kinda like walking to school up hill -- both ways -- in the snow, eh?). So I decided to shoot some images at the reception while in manual focus mode. I shot with my EOS 20D using a 70-200mm lens and an on camera flash. The bride and groom hired a band for the reception and the lights were dimmed to about as low as they would go. It was a challenge to focus in the very dark room but it didn't take long for me to remember how we use to do it "back in the day."

The easiest way to "guess focus" in the dark is to use a zoom lens. Zoom all the way in until you can find something of high contrast to try to focus on. I tend to look for women's hair or men's ties. One of the tricks is to position yourself where your subject is between you and a close-behind-them light source such as the band's or DJ's lights. Find the top of the hair in relation to the light and you should be able to find your manual focus. Keep playing around with this technique and eventually you'll train your fingers to find that focus (within and acceptable margin of erro) in near total darkness.

Happy manual focusing! :)


Friday, September 15, 2006

09/15/06: Quote of the day...

Never permit a dichotomy to rule your life, a dichotomy in which you hate what you do so you can have pleasure in your spare time. Look for a situation in which your work will give you as much happiness as your spare time.

--Pablo Picasso

Thursday, September 14, 2006

09/14/06: Composition Tip

Composition Tip: Build Triangles

When composing people for portraits, most often your best composition occurs when you build triangles. Triangles can either be like a pyramid or inverted. You'll end up being able to establish better relationships with your composition when building triangles -- relationships such as parent / child, old / young, etc. You'll also end up being able to fill more of the frame (esp. for vertical shots) when you compose by building triangles.

Even when shooting a portrait of two people, you can form angles to enhance the composition. Here is an example:

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

09/13/06: Today's Tip is NOT really photo-related! ;)

This Tip Is for Busy Parents of Small Children

Most of my life I have worked two jobs -- photography and something else (the something else always seems to change every few years!). Now that my wife and I have three small children we find ourselves busier than ever. I have a corporate job in addition to my growing photo business and my wife works a part-time job afternoon and evenings several days a week.

My wife had to work this evening and I had a photography networking meeting to attend as well as several errands to run (including picking up some client prints at one of my local labs). We try to resist the temptation to indulge in fast-food too often but sometimes it's just too convenient to pass up. I had to stop at McDonald's to pick up dinner for the kids so that I could make my meeting in time.

Then, I had an epiphany...I realized, "hey, I don't need to buy 'Happy Meals' for each kid, I can just buy 3 cheeseburgers and a couple of orders of 99 cent french fries!" By doing this, I saved nearly SEVEN DOLLARS off the normal three happy meal price of twelve bucks and same change. Of course the kids were disappointed that there was no "toy" with their McDonald's meal...but, much to my amazement, they got over it quickly! (Ah-ha! More money I can spend printing adorable pictures of my kids to send to the grandparents! Okay, so I guess this tip is photo-related in a way!)

I was still late for my meeting! :( Oh well, that's the life of a busy family...

(~~keep it real!~~ And be sure to show the blog some love...)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

09/12/06: Tips for Manual Focus

Tips for Manual Focus

Today's digital camera and electronic motor driven auto-focus lenses are very good at what they do. But sometimes you'll find yourself in a situation where manual focus is a better alternative -- shooting in low-contrast situations or sports where the action is fast-moving.

There are two approachs to manual focus -- follow focus and zone focus -- both take some practice. Follow focus is where you will turn the focus ring with the movement of your subject to keep the subject in focus at all times. Zone focus is where you find a spot where you intend to take a photo, focus on that spot, and then wait until the subject moves to that spot. I tend to use zone focus for wedding photography when members of the bridal party are walking down the aisle. I'll also use zone focus when shooting sports photography and I am keying in on one particular part of the field (such as home plate when a batter is swinging at a pitch). Since the subjects are typically moving, I can save fractions of a second by elminating the need for the camera to find an auto focus point. I'm also taking control away from the camera in that the camera won't try to focus on a point in the shot that I didn't intend to be in focus.

With both methods of manual focus, you'll need to practice until you feel comfortable. And you'll need to practice with each different lens in your lens arsenal since each one is different.

Keep it real, keep it tack sharp, and happy focusing!


Monday, September 11, 2006

09/11/06: A Tribute...

Today is the anniversary of one of the worst terrorist attacks ever. Several years ago I attended a talk given by New York photographer, Jay Maisel. Jay's work is world renown for his ability to capture light and gesture. As a New York City resident and long-time photographer, Maisel photographed the World Trade Center towers on many, many occasions -- from construction to the one single image Jay took of the burning towers on the day they were destroyed. He published a book of his WTC images called "A Tribute."

Unfortunately, the book is now out-of-print...but if you have the opportunity to purchase a used copy or check one out at a library, I highly recommend this book as a rather pensive reminder of how fleeting life can be and how photographs can serve as a reminder of things lost.

One of the most powerful slideshows I've ever seen is the one Jay presented the night he came to my town to speak. When he introduced the slideshow Jay said that the show deserves no applause at the end and he hoped no one would applaud. The slideshow had no accompanying music and featured an amazing collection of photos Jay took at ground zero -- the sight of the twin tower collapse. The only thing the images showed were the faces of the people who came to ground zero. I have never seen a more powerful slideshow in my life and don't know that I ever will.

Feel free to check out Jay Maisel's web-site by clicking here.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

09/10/06: Sometimes it Pays to Have Eyes in the Back of Your Head!

Sometimes it Pays to Have Eyes in the Back of Your Head!

I learned many years ago when I did a lot of nature photography that you have to develop eyes in the back of your head to be able to see more great photo opportunities. Too often we are focused on the view in front of us and miss what is behind us. Recently I was assisting another photographer with a wedding and we went scouting around the reception venue for neat photo opportunities. The reception was held at a very modernistic art museum with all kinds of fun rooms to explore. We found a long hallway with mirrors all over the angled walls. It wasn't until we walked the length of the hall and turned back to discover the view that was behind us. I captured this image:

Location scouting is often very critical in determining great spots for capturing beautiful images...but learning to take a 360 degree look around you is every bit as important in your quest for capturing better images.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

09/09/06: New Service for Selling Fine Art Prints!

New Service for Selling Fine Art Prints!

Whether you are a full-time pro or advanced amateur, if you have fine art images you would like to sell online you should check out Just launched a few weeks ago, is an online community for creating, buying and selling wall art. Photographers and other artists can use the service to sell their art customized with thousands of options in mattes and frames. The service already has over 1,000 artists signed up! It's free to join the basic plan (which allows up to 24 images and 200MB of gallery space) and they do have some very nice upgrade options in their pro and platinum accounts for a very reasonable monthly fee. Check 'em out!


Friday, September 08, 2006

09/08/06: Quote of the day

Quote of the day...

"There's no question that photographs communicate more instantly and powerfully than words do, but if you want to communicate a complex concept clearly, you need words, too."

-- Galen Rowell

Thursday, September 07, 2006

09/07/06: A Tip For Your CD / DVD Burner

Tip For Your CD / DVD Burner

As a photographer I burn a LOT of backup discs. The disc burner on my new laptop never seemed to get's an 8X speed DVD burner but I noticed it never got going beyond 1X -- often it was more like around 0.60X. That was sooooo frustrating! I'd have to wait 90 minutes or so just to burn 4 GB of data! (Yes, we are so spoiled by advances in technology...I do remember when it was cool just to be able to BURN a disc...and that was less than 10 years ago!) I checked my machine manufacturer's web-sites and discovered there was a firmware update for the model DVD burner installed on my laptop. The text file indicated this update would resolve problems reading older PC game discs. I installed it anyway. Presto! My drive is humming along now burning DVDs in 6 minutes or less! So if your disc burning drive isn't performing like it should...check to see if there is a firmware update from your PC or disc drive manufacturer. Happy burning!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

09/06/06: Fonts Don't Need to be Expensive!

Inexpensive / Free Fonts

Check out -- where you can get choose more free fonts than you'll know what to do with. Or make your download easy with one click by buying 4,000 fonts for just $9.99. For the freebies, be sure to read the text files that accompany the zip file downloads for special instructions.

There are so many cool fonts that I plan to use in my photoshop projects as well as video productions. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

09/05/06: Check for Great Deals on Camera Batteries

Check for Great Deals on Rechargeable Camera Batteries

If you are in need of extra rechargeable batteries for your camera or camcorder, be sure to check I just picked up some aftermarket batteries for my digital camcorders at 1/3 of the price of manufacturer brand batteries! Be sure to check the compatibility of your camera battery as sometimes the knock-off brands don't always get it right in terms of what battery fits what model camera. But if you are familiar with what works in your camera, you'll definitely save some money on your spare batteries!

Monday, September 04, 2006

09/04/06: Tips for Hanging Framed Artwork

Tips for Hanging Framed Artwork

A climate controlled environment is the preferred place to hang your framed photographs. Here are some things to consider when displaying your framed prints:
  • do not hang photos in direct sunlight
  • do not hang photos over fireplaces
  • do not hang in high moisture areas such as bathrooms
  • avoid hanging over heating or cooling ducts

Heat, moisture and light can do the greatest damage to your valuable framed fine-art images. If you have a room that gets a lot of light, be sure to use UV protected glass to reduce the harmful effects of ultra-violet. Clean the surface of your framed images regulary -- and be sure to spray the cleaning material onto a soft cloth not the surface of your artwork!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

09/03/06: Tips for Slideshow Projection Presentations

Tips for Slideshow Projection Presentation

Photographers love to show off their work, right? Here are a few tips, courtesy of B&H Photo, for making your photos look their best when shown via projection.
  • Avoid bright rooms. Bright rooms will make even the best projector's output look washed out. Close the blinds and dim the lights as low as they will go when your presentation demands sharp images and realistic color.
  • Use a matte-white neutral screen -- rated with a gain of 1.0 -- for the best color reproduction possible
  • If your projector has image control features (color saturation, gamma, color temperature, brightness, etc.), learn to use them.
  • Avoid making color adjustments until the projector has warmed up for at least 20 minutes.

Follow these tips to get the most from your next slideshow presentation.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

09/02/06: Tip for Your Heavy Lens

Avoid Camera Lock-ups When Using a Heavy Lens

If you shoot with heavy telephoto / zoom lenses you may occasionally experience camera lockups (or Canon shooters may get the "Error 99" message). If you aren't supporting the lens properly, the weight of the lens (some lenses weigh 3 pounds or more) may be pullling away from the camera body which comprimises the electronic connection between the lens and camera. Use a tripod collar and a tripod to support the lens, or, if a tripod isn't practical for the shooting situation -- be sure to hold the weight of the lens as you are shooting.

Friday, September 01, 2006

09/01/06: Quote of the Day...

Quote of the Day...

It's Friday...and I'm heading into another busy weekend capturing precious memories of yet another wedding celebration. Today's quote of the day comes from uber-Photoshop guru, Katrin Eismann.

"The more Photoshop Books you read, the more seminars and classes you attend, and the more web-sites you browse, the more times you'll hear about the right way of working with Photoshop. Keep in mind that in Photoshop the right way and the best way will vary according to your time, image, and production needs. So, develop your own best methods of working with and enjoying your Photoshop time."

-- Katrin Eismann