Agnes Caruso Photography

Photography


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How to make a video from photos?

Have you ever taken pictures and then thought that you should have taken a video? Films and animation has always been a great medium and currently videos are considered a very important medium to be shared on social media. However, you have not taken a video but have a set of images. Not all is lost. In the past slideshows were all we could do with those images and they were awkward to share with anyone even on a computer. The technology has gone way forward and we have no ways to create a video which has similarities with old fashioned animated films.

I am going to focus on two tools I have been testing for creating videos. The first one is AdobeSpark, the second is Microsoft Photos App. Those of you who read some of my previous technical blogs know that I use Microsoft Windows 10 platform. What I decided to do was to create two videos based on the same exact images. My choice was easy, it is about the Diamond Beach in Iceland.

Let’s start with AdobeSpark.

When you select to create new, you are presented with options.

Once you choose a video, there are some potential content options for you to choose from or you can create a video from scratch. This is what I selected and here is the workspace AdobeSpark presents you with when you start. You can add new slides and content to the ones you have. Content added can be a video, photo, text or an icon. You can add images or videos from your computer, Adobe Cloud, Adobe Stock, Dropbox, Lightroom, Google Drive or Google Photos. There is unfortunately no way to re-arrange the slides so you may need to think hard ahead of time or be prepared to move content around.

Once you added all your content, you can add music to your creation from the available files or upload your own. There is also an option to edit your theme or change layout of slides. After you are finished with editing, there are two options. First to download the file, second to share it directly from within AdobeSpark to Facebook, Twitter, email, embed into a site or copy the link. You can create a standard (6.04Mb) or square (3.75Mb) video but both of those come only in one file size. File size will depend on your content, more or larger files will create bigger final file. Another factor affecting the size is how long each frame is shown. Considering this, your ability to make a smaller file are very limited to non-existent.

Now let’s look at Microsoft Photos App. Definitely, not a first choice for most people and not a natural choice – a photo app to edit or create videos? Really?! So what can you expect from this strange solution? When you open an app, it will show you large screen with choices available for you. albums, collections, videos, people and most importantly – folders. It is through folders that you can access your images most conveniently. On the right side you select “Create“. You will have three options presented to you:

  1. Automatic video with music
  2. Custom video with music
  3. Album

I always use custom option as it is easy and gives me lots of freedom to create what and how I want.

At this stage you select the source of your images. I used my Folders and selected folder “Diamond Beach”. All images in the folder were added to the storyboard and a default video was created based on all images in a folder. You can now add or remove photos, add text or movement. Adding text to a photo blurs the image and you can use it as a title screen. Movement can be a little surprising and annoying, so I would suggest checking what movement was added to your images and removing it if you wish or altering to the one you want.

Unlike AdobeSpark, you have quite a lot of freedom with images in Microsoft Photos and even at this stage you can do some basic editing. Obviously not meant to be a replacement for any proper job that should have been done before. Once you are happy with the layout, it is time to add music.

Music in Microsoft Photos App will adjust the length for which each frame is displayed to the music you selected. If you do not like this, it can be changed to your particular settings, just select time and alter the length. Music selection is different than in AdobeSpark, but you also can add your own composition if you wish. Your video can come in two formats – widescreen 16×9 or 4×3.

When exporting files out of Microsoft Photos, independent of aspect, you can get the final file in three different sizes: small (for this video it was 1.7Mb), medium (2.45Mb) and large (4.66Mb). The size depends on how you will use the final video. Your options when exporting are to save to OneDrive, computer or open in App. I strongly suggest not opening in the App, but saving it to your computer.

Now it is time to summarize and compare the two options.

AdobeSpark:

Pros: Wide selection of input images, can import directly from web services

Cons: Web-based app limiting access to when you are connected, no connectivity to OneDrive, no image editing capabilities, no way of rearranging the image order, workspace is overly simple, making it hard to plan your project, one  size file download

Microsoft Photos App:

Pros: Easy access to your OneDrive stored images, existing albums and collections on your computer, well designed workspace allowing for planning, ease of adding or editing images,ability to add 3D effects to the videos or images, multiple sized downloads

Cons: no connectivity to services beyond OneDrive, image editing still too basic, requires Windows 10 computer

I have tried Microsoft Photos video editing just because it is there but ended up liking it quite a bit. Its capabilities were actually a nice surprise and for a free software it is pretty good. The fact that it is a downloaded application on my computer, laptop or phone helps me create and edit videos everywhere, and the process does not require internet connection. So if you are after an easy and simple tool to edit or create your videos, give Microsoft Photos a try. The videos created for this blog are available to be viewed on my website. The medium sized Microsoft video can be viewed below.


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Adopting Windows 10 for a photography workflow

IMG_9094-Edit_pp-1Changes of computer platforms or even system upgrades can be daunting and I do not think that we are really feeling adventurous when our workflow is working. However, what to do when your process is not quite perfect or you have to make a change? Have many of you thought about upgrading to or changing to Windows 10? Probably not many. So I just want to show you a few tricks that seem to have worked for me and how I went about the change.

My existing workflow was working but getting a little tired and with two upgrades of the MacOS in short succession I was starting to get a little edgy with my once powerful MacBookPro. The time has come to do something to improve things. What were the factors that I took into account before making a decision how to go forward?

The most important point was what we all call a “pain point” so how much effort I am willing to put into the change. Do I really want to switch from a Mac, what are my needs going forward? Another obvious factor was value for money not just price. What would make the new computer or system valuable?

To start off, the new computer has to be able to do what I am already doing and have room to grow with my needs, and the system has to support all of the applications and tools I have and need or may need. Processing photos is not a simple task that any computer can do, at least not when you are dealing with large number of photos in RAW format. I knew I needed some serious power, so dual core and fast processor was critical. The next thing was RAM, which needs to be at least 8GB, so you can fly through the processing steps. When you browsing for actual computer make sure to look at the RAM and if it can be expanded if it comes with a lower number such as 4GB. A large hard drive is always good to have, but do not go crazy, remember – “value for money”, 1TB drives are pretty common, although 500GB are even more common. It is pretty common sense that you want to have a few USB ports, potentially some extension ports. One thing that seems to be getting out of style, but can still be needed is a DVD/CD drive. Yes, just in case you have some old fashioned disc copies of your software or images, it could be a critical part of your new gear. And finally, a graphics card. Yup, it needs to be good or your images are going to look like they need a lot of help and computer is still going to struggle if you are processing videos in particular. There are many choices, the type and version of the card makes a difference. The top card in 2015 is Nvidia GeForce GTX 980, followed by Nvidia GeForce  GTX 970 and AMD Radeon R9 290X. So here is your top three, but unless you are a video editor, play lots of games or a bit of a geek, it is not really going to help you much. My suggestion is read a bit more, and make a list of what your processing needs are, if you will be editing videos, it has to be a bit better than what you need for just images. Now if you thought I was finished on this topic, not yet. There is one critical issue, a backup drive! Yes, you need one and there is even more choice, My Book, My Cloud and variations on the theme from WD, SATA, Toshiba… and some more companies. I used both WD and SATA before, they both work fine, you can also back up to a cloud storage if you buy one of the Cloud Drives and use it to merge all your files from different sources. Choice of one over another is a personal and subjective decision, choose what you know if you are not sure. You may want to get some more in depth technical aspects of choosing an actual computer, then checkout ShutterBug, it is definitely a helpful resource.

IMG_8510-Edit_pp-6So now that we reviewed the needs, what can we buy? A Mac or Windows, so far we are equal, computers with both systems are technically pretty even. Yes, I remember Vista and Windows 8 and a few other things. However, Mac was not that good to me, system upgrade disabled some of my applications permanently and I had to change the photo processing workflow, so I think that we are still equal. The obvious thought was to toss a coin and decide, but obviously that is not the best way to solve the problem. Microsoft just raced through Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and then Windows 10 was coming. Should I switch to Windows 8? The answer was no, by the time I get settled it will be outdated. The new version, Windows 10, was just about to be released so I decided to wait till it comes out.

As you can figure out, I decided that Windows 10 offers a better value for money for me, allows me to run all the applications I use currently and I can establish a workflow that will do what I want and how I want. I am sure I can hear a few “Oh boy! is that going to even work? She must be a geek!”

I am not a geek but know enough about computers to feel comfortable jumping in a little ahead of the curve. So what software do I actually use on Windows 10? Adobe Lightroom is pretty much my workhorse, I use Portrait Studio for some of the work, Hugin – the perfect panorama tool, now supports Windows (Hurray!), Canon camera software (not super useful but has occasional use) and I also decided to test and run Corel PaintShop Pro X8. I know Adobe Photoshop, I used it quite a lot and I still have not made a decision if I want to keep using it or not. In meantime I wanted something close to it that I can have on my desktop, so Corel fits perfectly. I also create books on Blurb and there are two applications for book editing, that I am going to compare, but both work just fine so far. Again InDesign from Adobe is great and would be my choice for professional editing, but I find it a little tiresome when I have to return back to it after a break.

An even more critical question you may have is: how did the file transfer work, all the settings especially in Lightroom supporting processing, export etc.? The transfer and re-establishment of the same version (can call it a clone) took me about an hour. Now my laptop can rest and get upgraded to the newest OS and I can do real and fast work on Windows 10.

How does Windows 10 feel? You get pretty much the features of Windows 7 with the start menu and some of the Windows 8 features such as tiles still available. Touchscreen is a huge advantage, even if you think you may not use it, it comes in handy and on a laptop is it critical, on a desktop it is nice to have it. As to the critical settings menus etc those got moved a bit around so it does take a little time to find what you need. I just had an interesting conversation at a Micro Center store about Windows 10 and how some people feel that it is not ready for prime time. It can definitely do what my old laptop was capable of doing, it feels better than Windows 7 and it is faster. All the standard Office applications can be put on or you can use a cloud solution, there are many choices. New Microsoft Office 2016 is pretty much the same as its previous versions, there are a few new features which I have not yet explored. When it comes to Apps, on a desktop just use online services, Apps are not so useful.

WP_20151031_005 (2)And finally the all important question, how long did the transition take? How long before all was re-established, your settings for online services – Flickr, SmugMug, WordPress etc.? I would say a day, if you want to be conservative, set aside 2 days and take it easy. If you subscribe to Xmarks you can bring in all your bookmarks right across from various platforms and browsers, so that saves you time too. The hardest task you will face is actual computer selection and that is again “VALUE FOR MONEY”, I suggest making a list of must haves and would like to have. Then head to some of the stores to see what is out there. Best place to look in my opinion is B&H store, but as not everyone can get to the NY superstore, you can chat with helpful fellows at B&H online or visit some local stores to get a look at Windows 10. Some of the Microsoft store staff is really good and can take you for a nice tour of the system and they also run classes in case you need them.

In conclusion, it works! If you are still hesitant, reach out to me and I can try and answer your questions or give you some suggestions. Take it easy grab a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy!