Thursday, November 30, 2006

11/30/06: Winter Shooting -- Keep Those Hands Warm!


Even notice how cold your hands get when shooting outdoor pictures in bitter cold conditions? Yeah, I thought so! Ever notice how hard it is to make camera adjustments when wearing mittens? Yeah, I thought so!

Here's what I use for winter shooting -- a pair of fishing gloves with the tips of the first finger and thumb exposed. You can find these at any sporting goods store that sells fishing gear / apparrel. You might also find similar hunting gloves that do the trick. My gloves are lightweight neoprene gloves that are tight enough that my camera handling is not comprimised. And the nice thing is that when it's really cold, these gloves will fit inside much bulkier gloves for those moments when I'm not shooting (i.e. when I'm walking around looking for the right spots to capture great winter images!).

Here is a link to a pair of gloves that Bass Pro Shops sells -- click here for more information.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

11/29/06: Check out "Strobist" for flash lighting tips!

A great resource for flash lighting tips is www.strobist.com. Strobist is the brainchild of photographer David Hobby of the Baltimore Sun. Be sure to tell him you heard about him from Daily Photo Tips!

Monday, November 27, 2006

11/27/06: Camera on a stick?

I shot a relatively small wedding recently where the bride and groom requested a shot of all of their wedding guests. There were about 75-80 people in attendance and I had to find a location suitable for this type of shot. The ceremony was outdoor (kinda risky for November in the Midwest, I'll have to admit) and the reception was in a heated tent. The tent wasn't going to work at all.

Once I scouted the ceremony site I knew my best bet would be to take the shot right after the ceremony using the space where the ceremony was held. That way I wouldn't have to ask the guests to herd themselves to a certain location and "guest attrition" would be minimal. One of the challenges was the lack of a high angle vantage point to capture the shot.

What I came up with was the idea of shooting from my monopod mounted camera using a cable release for the shutter and a fish-eye lens -- I held the monopod up with my right hand as high as I could and released the shutter from the remote cable using my left hand. Some people have heard of the "light on a stick" approach to supplemental off-camera lighting (where a remote flash is mounted on a pole using wireless communication between the camera and flash)...well, this particular shot was my "camera on a stick" shot. It worked out very well and the bride (and her mother) were VERY pleased with the result. They ordered enough copies to send one to each of their guests. Here is the image they bought...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

11/26/06: Speaking of SanDisk...

SanDisk is offering a $15,000 sweepstakes giveaway. That could go a LONG way toward upgrading your photo gear, couldn't it?

Click here to access the SanDisk sweepstakes entry page. Official rules can be found here.

Disclaimer: I am in no way associated with this prize give-away...I'm just a digital photographer (like you) and I prefer SanDisk memory cards.

Good luck!

~DJW

Saturday, November 25, 2006

11/25/06: SanDisk Memory Card Promotion


My preferred card manufacturer is SanDisk and my retailer of choice is B&H Photo in New York. For a very limited time B&H has SanDisk 1.0 and 2.0 memory cards (CF - compact flash and SD - secure digital) for $14.95 and $29.95. That is a fantastic price for high quality photo storage. Click here to go to the B&H page to order.

11/24/06: Quote of the day...

I was a bit preoccupied yesterday doing family things so I didn't get a chance to post until now. Here are a couple of photography related quotes from back in the 1800s...

"Results are uncertain even among the more experienced photographers."
-- Matthew Brady (famous Civil War photographer)
"You push the button, we do the rest."
-- George Eastman (1888...after introducing the Kodak camera)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

11/23/06: Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone is having a great thanksgiving. Take plenty of family pictures today! :) Remember to take some candids, too!

I'll add more to the post later...right now the turkey enzyme is kicking in... LOL zzzzzzzzzz

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

11/22/06: What's a "Prime" Lens?

A prime lens is simply a fixed focal length lens such as a 50mm or a 135mm. Contrast to a zoom lens (where the focal length varies as you zoom in or out), prime lenses are generally considered to be better at holding sharp focus for a given f-stop. The trade-off when using prime lenses instead of zoom lenses...you have to zoom with your feet! ;)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

11/21/06: Tips For Camera Phone Users

I just ordered new cell phones for my wife and I. While I resisted the temptation to get a new phone with a camera built in for me...my wife's new phone will have a camera. I came across some interesting "courtesy" tips for using camera phones on Kodak's web-site...here are some of the things they mentioned:
  • always ask permission before taking someone's photo with your camera phone
  • check for restrictions on the use of cameras / phones -- especially in places like theaters, concert venues, airports / airplanes
  • don't bombard people with pictures...since e-mail and cell phones have limited space. Instead, sign up for an online photo-sharing service
  • make sure recipients recognize your e-mail address since most camera phones send pictures from a phone number rather than an e-mail address

You can find more camera phone tips on Kodak's web-site. Click here to access the site.

Monday, November 20, 2006

11/20/06: Light from Left to Right

Most people read from left to right, so conventional wisdom in photographic lighting suggests to place your main light to the left of your camera...unless there is a particular reason to light your subject from another direction.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

11/19/06: Watch That Background!

One of the most common things that separates pros and advanced amateurs from the rest when it comes to outdoor portrait photography is a careful eye on the background. One of my pet peeves is the tree, lamp post or other object that sprouts from a subject's head! Be careful when you are looking thru that viewfinder...keep an eye on your subject and the background -- just a small movement sideways can resolve your unwanted tree growing from uncle Fred's head. :)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

11/18/06: What is "feathering?"

Feathering a light source means to deliberately misdirect that light source so that the edge of the beam of light illuminates the subject. Quite often this is done to correct hot-spots of light. It can be done with medium to close-up shots of a single subject (feathering the main or key light) or can be done with a large group in an open room (feathering two lights so that the both focus past, or even over, the group) -- the result being that the edge of the light is spread more evenly across the group. If you are shooting a group of individuals using external lights (monolights or flashes) and you find that the center of the group is much "hotter" or brighter than the edges of the group, try feathering the light source.

Friday, November 17, 2006

11/17/06: Quote of the day...

Today's quote of the day comes from yours truly. No, I don't really like to go around quoting myself very often ('cuz even I would get bored with that!). This thought occured to me one day when I was shooting pictures in Glacier National Park, Montana...

"It only takes a day to become a photographer, a few days or weeks to become a good photographer, but it takes many years of hard work and practice to become an exceptional photographer."

Daniel J. Watkins, 2002

Thursday, November 16, 2006

11/16/06: Another Tip for Toddler Photography...

Maybe I'm just reminiscing a lot lately -- that happens as the holidays approach -- but I wanted to suggest another special touch to toddler photos. Take photos of your child (or your client's child if you are a working pro) with their special stuffed animal or other favorite toy.

I have three small kids and each one has had a special relationship with a stuffed animal. My oldest son has a stuffed tiger shark, my daughter has a special kitten stuffend animal and my youngest son does not go off to sleep without his little "Charlie-Bunny." When I was little I had a little tiger named "Goggy" (my mom says I that was how I pronounced "tiger" when I was 1!). Eventually those special friends are forgotten about (or they fall apart!) -- so take a few pictures of your child subject with his or her favorite stuffed animal or toy...they'll be so glad they have those great images when they are older!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

11/15/06: All In The Family...

One of the tips that photographer John Hedgecoe recommends, from his book "Photographing Babies & Toddlers" (ISBN 1-85585-999-8) is to include other family members when doing baby or toddler photos. When the baby grows up, he or she will be very happy to have pictures of their older brothers / sisters in the shot. Or even grandparent and child sessions -- these will be cherished for many years when the child is grown and long after the grandparents are gone. One of my grandfathers passed away when I was 11, and I don't have a single picture of just him and I. What a special treat it would be if I had one!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

11/14/06: Keep or Delete?

One of the many debated topics in digital photography is whether or not to keep your "trash" images. Call me a digital pack-rat...but I prefer to keep most "trash" images (maybe because I only have 2 of them in the past 20 years!...okay, just kidding!).

Here is why I recommend saving some of your reject or trash images...
You can learn a lot from those rejects. When I shoot an engagement session, I learn a LOT about the bride and groom. Maybe one of the persons blinks a lot...or another has a tendancy to pull their chin back from camera shyness (which can create unwanted double chins). When I'm about to shoot their wedding...I go back and review their engagement session photos -- ALL of them. The reject ones (that were never shown to the couple) can serve as a quick reminder about the photo personalities of the couple. If they are prone to blinking a lot when a camera is present, I'll make a note to shoot extra frames for the posed images.

If you are more of a nature or sports photographer, it's nice to keep old reject images to serve as a benchmark to improving your photo skills. We like to vacation in Montana -- we don't get there as often as we like, but it's nice to compare images I shot in 1998 to images from 2002 to images from 2004...and I can learn from the comparison of prior year / visit shots.

I don't keep everything -- I mean if a flash didn't fire due to rapid shooting (or drained batteries), or if an unwanted person walked into the frame when I was shooting candid or photojournalistic shots, I'll delete those. But I do keep most everything else. You might consider saving some of your "less than expected results" images so that you can use them to improve your photography skills.

Monday, November 13, 2006

11/13/06: Tips for Shooting Panoramas...


Back when I shot film, I used to love to shoot panoramas -- I'd hold the shutter down and rotate through a scene from left to right (or right to left, or top to bottom, etc.). I haven't done much with panoramas since I converted to digital, but I did come across some handy tips recently for shooting better panoramas.

-- use a tripod whenever possible
-- shoot everything on manual...keep the aperature and shutter speed consistent for all images
-- allow for overlap as you expose each image -- 15-20% of each frame should overlap from the previous frame
-- if using a zoom lens, set it to the middle of its range (between wide angle and telephoto) -- this way you'll likely get the most even lighting and the least distortion
-- try to set the aperature to a small value (but not the smallest) like f11 -- larger aperatures create more uneven illumination
-- ensure that important elements of the panorama (like a building or landmark) is in the middle of a shot, not in an overlap area

Once you have your collection of panoramic images, you can use the photomerge feature in Photoshop. (I'll cover this feature in more detail in the near future.)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

11/12/06: What is the "Inverse Square Law?"

What is the "inverse square law?"

The inverse square law states that as light leaves the flash head it spreads out -- and that when the flash to subject distance has doubled, illumination is about a quarter of the original. Knowing this law helps you make better decisions about controlling flash exposure with distance and aperature.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

11/11/06: Edit in Comfort...

My friend Amber Holritz of Holritz Photography may get a chuckle out of today's post. (Amber recently broke her arm while doing a baby photo session...but she also appreciates a well-placed metaphor).

Many photographers know what it's like to spend hours sitting at a computer editing photos (or even just one photo!). Here are some tips to help reduce the strain on your joints and muscles from prolonged editing sessions:

-- every hour, get up and walk around...give your eyes a rest from staring at the monitor and get your blood flowing by moving around
-- every two hours or so, take a little bit longer break and look out the window at distant objects to give your eyes some exercise
-- if something starts to ache or muscles start to get tense, it's time to make adjustments

Follow these tips and your editing session will be much more enjoyable.

Friday, November 10, 2006

11/10/06: Quote of the Day...

"At the heart of all photography is an urge to express our deepest personal feelings - to reveal our inner, hidden selves, to unlock the artist. Those of us who become photographers are never satisfied with just looking at someone else's expression of something that is dear to us. We must produce our own images, instead of buying postcards and photo books. We seek to make our own statements of individuality."
-- Galen Rowell

11/09/06: What The Duck...

A recent entry from What the Duck...


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

11/08/06: Learn From the Pros

Every time I look through magazines I find myself analyzing the photos for a glimpse into how the image was made. You too can do this -- what ever type magazine you read whehter it's sports, nature, news, etc. If you find images that strike you...take some time to study what made the photo magazine worthy. Check the composition, the color, the direction of light -- what did the pro have to deal with and how did he or she make it work? Look for clues such as the catch light in the eyes, where the shadows are, etc. (if any). Does the photo look like it has had extensive work in photoshop (very likely in ad photos, but not always so in feature photos). By training yourself to look at magazine photos as a photographer...you'll begin to learn how you can improve your own photos.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

11/07/06: Great New Lightweight Flash Power Pack


I have used Quantum rechargeable battery packs to power flashes for over 15 years -- I love Quantum power packs! Quantum just introduced a new light-weight battery pack -- the QUANTUM TURBO SC-Slim. It weighs only 15 oz. and slips conveniently into a pocket or clips to a belt. The unit recharges in a mere 1.5 - 2 hours! More information on the SC-Slim can be found by clicking here.

You can also order a free DVD demo of the Qflash, featuring Will Crocket.

11/06/06: New Web-based Application - Photographer's Office

My friend Nathan Holritz of Holritz Photography in Chattanooga has just announced the release of his newest endeavor -- Photographer's Office.

Photographer's Office is an online task management software for photographers to better manage all of their clients and client tasks / orders. Check it out by clicking here. I haven't had a chance to test out the application but the demo video shows great promise. Great work Nathan!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

11/05/06: A Little "In-Camera" Photoshop Saves Time!

I shoot weddings with two cameras -- the Canon EOS 5D and the EOS 20D. The 5D has amazing color -- and I dial the saturation up pretty high. But I find that the 20D can't keep up with the 5D in richness and warmth of color in wedding portraits. I second shot a wedding for a friend not long ago who asked why some of my images were colder than others -- the answer was simple...the 20D couldn't match the 5D in color representation. I'd compensate for the difference by dialing up the saturation on my camera raw settings in Adobe Bridge. But I still found that a lot of the images still needed additional color tweaking.

Today I shot a wedding and found a very simple solution to bring the two cameras closer together in image color quality -- and the solution was already in my camera bag! I simply popped a warming filter on the lens attached to the 20D (which is almost always the 70-200 f2.8 IS). I think too often digital photographers fall into the trap of doing too much in Photoshop to work their images -- why not do that Photoshop tweaking in-camera? :)

Saturday, November 04, 2006

11/04/06: Right, Wrong, Different...

I've mentioned in prior posts about the importance of journaling. It's a tremendously helpful too for learning but most photographers don't bother to take the time to do it. When you shoot a location or event, take some time immediately after your shoot to jot down some notes about what you did right, what you did wrong and what you would do different the next time (same or similar venue or shooting conditions). Your notes shouldn't be limited to just technical details -- include specifics about your client interaction or what you did to find the right light. You'll find this to be very beneficial to improving your photos.

Friday, November 03, 2006

11/03/06: Happy Friday!

Quote of the day...

"A mad, keen photographer needs to get out into the world and work and make mistakes."

--Sam Abell

Thursday, November 02, 2006

11/02/06: Daily Photo Tips is 6 Months Old Today!

Thank you everyone for helping make Daily Photo Tips a great resource for photographers at all skill levels! Today is the 6 month anniversary of when I started Daily Photo Tips. We have big plans for the near future so be sure to check back every day for great photo tips and other photography advice.

If you have a question that you would like answered or a topic that you think we should cover, feel free to e-mail me at dan@dailyphototips.com. If you are a working pro photographer, or an advanced amatuer, and you have a tip that you would like to contribute -- please feel free to contact me. Finally, if you have any suggestions on how to make this site better, do send those my way too!

Today's tip is a book recommendation. I've had several people tell me that "Best Business Practices for Photographers" by John Harrington (ISBN # 1598633155) is a MUST READ for working pros as well as freelancers. Pick this book up at your favorite bookstore or click here to check it out on Amazon.com.

If you have any book recommendations -- be sure to mention them in the comments section of this post.

Happy reading!

~DJW

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

11/01/06: Store Those Photos Safely!


A company called clearbags.com offers acid-free photo safe boxes for very reasonable prices. They have an assortment of sizes and quantities. Click here for more details.