Agnes Caruso Photography

Photography


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12 Essential Photo Equipment Items for Travel

Packing up for a trip can be difficult even when you are not taking your photography equipment. However, if you are planning holidays and want to take some of your equipment it can become even more difficult. So let’s look at what you may need on your trip. I will try to divide items into must have, good to have and nice to have. Many items are very basic and you will wonder why I even mention them, but trust me they can be forgotten. The more obvious something is, the more likely we are to forget it. In order to ensure you pack all that is needed you can make a list and follow it when packing the gear.

The lists below are intended for general purpose trip, family holiday or sightseeing trip not a photographic expedition.

Must have items:

  • camera body of your choice, ones with swivel back screen have an advantage as you do not have to crawl on the ground in mud, water or some other enticing place to take low angled shots
  • zoom lens allowing you to take decent distance and close up pictures, e.g. 24-105mm lens
  • charger for the battery and if you have spare, charged batteries; for overseas trips pack also an adapter for the power points
  • rain protector for the camera and lens, they come in different sizes depending what lens you are using
  • memory cards with a hard shell case for storage, if you use mini cards, they can be shared between your camera and phone
  • tripod, a mini one such as GorillaPod works in a number of situations fairly well
  • backpack or a bag and a lens case, good to invest in ones with rain protection
  • lens cleaning solution and a cleaning cloth
  • camera manual – Yes, you may need it

 

Good to have items:

  • a set of filters – UV filter, circular polarizer and at least one ND filter, while some people swear against filters, I found them useful to keep sand and dust away from the lens while shooting in poor conditions
  • second camera body, so you can attach your second lens to it as changing them while shooting pictures becomes tiresome and can lead to problems, especially in windy and dusty conditions
  • second lens with a lens case, depending on your interests and destination – macro lens, wide angle or a powerful zoom lens
  • actual tripod – good size, sturdy and lightweight. Yes, such things exist but you may need to spend some serious money if you want a top line tripod. Yet, it is one of the most important items you need in your bag

Nice to have items:

  • remote release
  • speedlight, can come handy in full sunshine when taking portraits or in dark interiors
  • third lens for any special objects
  • closeup filters, while not a substitution for a macro lens, can help you take close-up pictures without a need to change lenses, make sure they fit your largest diameter lens

When choosing lens for travel, you need to consider the weight of the lens as well as its optical quality. I have a Tamron lens 18-270mm, covers a perfect zoom range, takes good quality pictures in bright light, it is light, has a lock to prevent is extending when it is carried around. If I am forced to take a small photo bag and only one lens, due to luggage restrictions, it is a good choice, but a heavier lens with a low aperture f/2.8 or so can give you fabulous images at low light or inside buildings. The choice is really depending on where you going and what you like photographing.

When traveling on holidays, you may need to carry your gear with you, so weight is a big consideration, as is ability to quickly pull it out or put it away. Leaving your gear in cars or hotel rooms can end up with it being stolen, so having only what you can comfortably carry around a city or on a hiking trail is very important.

I have also created a travel checklist which you can download from the Resource page on my website.


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Story telling with photos – using BookSmart editor from Blurb part 2

Today we will concentrate on the second part of creating the book, finishing it and uploading for publishing.

Let’s start with the cover of the book. There are three different types: soft cover, hardcover with image wrapped on it or a linen hardcover with dust jacket. The only important thing to remember is that not all sizes of the book are available in a soft cover version. Softcover books less than 80 pages will also not have any text printed on the spine.  If you have picked a large size book with only hardcover options and now want to change to a soft cover, you will need to resize your book. Just click on the change size icon and follow the prompts. Changing size may require adjustments of the layouts.

As you can see in this example the dust jacket was created with the title and author on a front page and on the spine of the book. However, title does not appear clearly in the image and font is a bit awkward. This is pretty normal in the first version and it is easy to change to your liking. Changing colors and font may take a few tries before it looks just right. It is easy to reposition the text boxes in Edit Layout just as we did before. If the decisions on text, color and font are too hard to make, you can print a few examples, show the options to family or friends, get a second opinion.

Adding extra text to the flaps or back of the book gives you more space to tell the reader about yourself and the book itself. While text on single color background is not a problem, adding it to a photo with varying colors can be a bit tricky, just like the back page above. Just because the layout allows you to add text, it does not have to appear there at all. As you would have noticed the book pages and the cover are white, there is an option to change the theme of the book to a dark or a patterned one. You can check options under Themes icon. If you do not like it just undo it to return to the previous version.

The next important step it to determine how your title page is going to look like. It can have an image on it or not, there are a few layouts provided. This page can be really creative to stand out or can mirror the book cover, the choice is yours. The following page is a copyright page. As I mentioned it before, when making a photo book it is important that you hold the rights to the images you are going to include in your book. If you are using someone else’s images or graphics or any protected content, you need have their permission and add their names to the copyright page. This is particularly critical when you will be wanting to sell your book.

Laying out the images of the main book content is the real fun. Any beautiful panoramic photos can be used to create a two-page spread. In one of my previous books I used the image of Windows in Arches National park as a spread. It makes a great impact when you open a book. In this book, I used Cliffs of Moher as a center spread.

Another feature, you might have noticed are headers on all the pages of your book. Headers can be easily edited to display content of choice: title, author, page number or custom content. In contrast to trade books, you can modify on which pages your header appears. Any changes to the font of the header have to be applied to either selected or all pages in a book. Page numbers will by default appear in a footer and again that can be edited in the same manner as a header. Inspect your pages and if the header or footer look awkward on a page, like in an example below, you can adjust that by removing the text.

Headers and footers cannot be edited in layout view, meaning their position cannot be altered, they cannot be added or removed. However, not all layouts have a header or a footer. Generally, any full-page images will not display a header and footer. If for whatever reason you want to alter that, select a layout with these features and create a full-page image box on it.

Now it seems that the book is ready for a preview and proofreading. On the right you will see a button to preview book. Once you click on it, a non-editable preview will appear. Now you will be able to see how your printed book will look. It is easy to go back and edit details as you review the book or make notes and then go back and edit all the parts needing attention. There is no right or wrong way of doing it, whatever works for you as long as you manage to catch all the problems.

Things to watch out for:

  1. Position of the images on a page, check which parts will be trimmed. Enable Trim Guidelines if the are off.
  2. Do your images need zoom adjustment to better show the photo?
  3. If there are any photos with a warning sign, this means that the resolution of an image is too low
  4. Check the right hand side of the software window labeled Issues. This triangle turns yellow with an exclamation sign and number of issues if there is a problem. Clicking on it will open up a dialog box allowing you to fix or ignore the problem. All the existing problems will be listed with page number and description.
  5. Remember selecting a font on the cover? You adjusted font size, type and color. Now you need to decide if the font inside the book is what you like or not. Keeping it slightly smaller, if you have lots of writing makes a lot of sense. However, you can also make text a feature by using a special font type, size or color. That said do not go crazy with it.
  6. Just because a text box shows up on a page, does not mean you have to use it. If you leave it blank nobody will ever know.
  7. Photo book is meant to showcase the images, tell the story with the pictures not words. Keeping your text spare and minimal will help you do that.
  8. Once the book seems complete, select preview and make sure you like the appearance of the book, story is what you want to convey. If you feel something should be changed experiment with it, ask for advice.

Once you are happy with the book, you are ready to order it. If you would want to change a size of the book, this is the last time you can do that for a photo book. Any changes of opinion later may mean resizing your content and going through the checks anyway all over again.

 

After clicking Order Book, a final checklist appears and you can use a spell check at this stage if you have not yet done it before. I strongly suggest to do it as there is nothing worse than printing a book only to find a spelling mistake in it. For those of you who do not have an account on Blurb there will be an option to register. For those of you using an older version of BookSmart, make sure that you upgrade to the latest version. If your version is old, book will fail to upload. Do not panic, close the software, download and install new version, then re-open the book and continue.

Once the book is uploaded you can create an e-book for different devices or a .pdf file which is accessible on nearly all devices. This is also the time to set up book for selling if you wish to do so. This is always possible to enable selling later. I suggest ordering a copy for yourself first to see how it looks all printed out, before setting it up for sales. You can market your book through Blurb, Amazon or Apple iBooks Store. You are not locked to a single distributor and books can be printed on demand, so there is no upfront cost or storage issue with boxes of books. Use Blurb guidelines for setting this up.

I hope you enjoyed making a book! Leave a comment or connect on social media to show off your creations. My book will soon be available as well.

 


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Story telling with photos – using BookSmart editor from Blurb part 1

The first book that I will show how to create is a Photo Book. I will be creating a book about trip around Ireland. Let’s get started. There will be two parts to this post. In the first one, I will show how to create a book. In the second, we will review book, add finishing touches and upload for printing.

I am using Windows 10 and this is where the images are coming from in my posts. You can use an Apple computer as well for the process, there are also some editors specially for iPad and iPhone. Other software you will need, is an image processing software. It can be anything you like as long as you can create .jpeg or .png files. I use Adobe Lightroom for most of the processing, occasionally also Corel PaintshopPro 2018. You also have an option of importing images from SmugMug.

In Lightroom it is good to create a collection of images you want to use, so picking the ones for the book is easier. This is the most time-consuming part of the creation process. Generally, we have way more images than should be in a book. So how to cut down on this number?

  1. What story you want to tell in your book? Is it about landscapes, architecture, history, friends, family or an event? This should allow you to narrow the number of images.
  2. Which images best represent the story you are telling? Do you want to show images of a historical object with plenty of people or just by itself? Do they show the character of the place you wish to convey?
  3. Pick images that you love for whatever reason. They are obviously important to you. Can you now make a story out of them that will tell someone else something special, show the beauty of the place?
  4. Be adventurous with your images, pick and choose, change them if you want. This is your story, there is no correct or incorrect answer. Play with images, we will be arranging them on pages and you may find that some are better than other in a layout you are creating.

If you created previous books, BookSmart will open the last book created or ask you what you want to do. Select New Book Project, under File in main menu of from the front screen. The first screen will ask for the book title, author and book size. Pick a title, it can be changed later but having a few untitled books on the computer will make things really complicated later. In order to figure out the size of a book and number of pages you want in a book, click on pricing button to see how much a book will cost. Make sure that you are looking at Photo Book pricing as this is what we are creating.

The cover choices available for a selected book format are listed as well. It is possible to select the cover later in the process and you can change your mind up until uploading the book, so do not worry about them right now.

As to the actual book structure and content. In your book of 20 pages, the first page is a title page, second page will be a copyright page and the last page is left empty for the logo. So effectively you will have only 17 pages for your photos and any text you want to add. Depending on price you want to pay for your book you may want to add some more pages or not. If you want to sell the book, a price is also important.

Next step lets you pick an already existing layout or start your book from scratch. I clicked on Start Book Now. This opens-up the editing software on the front page of the cover with information you added at the beginning and this is where you can change it.

On the bottom of the screen is a book navigator. There are two ways of navigating, one on the arrows and the second on clicking the pages you want to edit. Pages can be moved around the book by dragging and dropping them in a new position. New pages can be added from the Add Pages drop down menu. The center of the window is occupied by the book pages. On the left there are alternative layouts and below space for images.

Importing images is not complicated, as long as you know where they are on your computer. Select Get Photos and identify your folder. There you can pick individual photos or import all of them. You can delete any unused images from the import list to clean it up.

As you have noticed the pages of the book show image sections and text sections. The easiest way to make a change to the layout is by choosing a different page layout from the variety of ones already available in the program. If none of them suits you, click on Edit layout and save it as your own with a new name.

Editing the layout is very simple. You can add Image Box, Text Box, resize, duplicate existing containers, bring them to front or send them to the back. The features can be aligned with respect to each other. An important note is that a Display trim guidelines feature should be enabled so no text or image will be layout in a pink area that will be later trimmed.

Now you should be able to make your own layouts and save them so they can be re-used later in your next project.

To Add images to the book, click on the page in book navigator. Once it is highlighted, you can drag the image to the image container. In order to substitute an image, delete it by using backspace and drag a new photo into its place. It is also possible to focus on a part of the image by using Zoom slider. By dragging the image in the container you can select to show just a part of the photo. When adding text, it is better to use a slightly smaller font than you would use in your regular documents. I have usually used 11 point font for main text. Another word of warning, not all fonts are licensed for e-books. At the top of the font palette there are e-book friendly fonts, however, for just printed version you can use any font. There will be time later to proof read a .pdf file to make sure that font is not too large.

It is time to stop now to let you create a book. In the next part we will finish the book and upload it to Blurb. Feel free to ask questions in the comments if you have any.


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Self-publishing with Blurb

Did you ever wonder if the photos on a phone, computer or prints stuck somewhere in an album are all there is to your holiday shots or important family event? The answer is no. You can create beautiful photo book which will tell the story and showcase your images. Such a book can become a focal point of discussing your just finished holiday or can become a great present for family or friends. The uniqueness will make it stand out and be very special.

Now you say that it may be just too hard to make a book, you need special software, it gets too difficult to layout the book…and the excuses keep coming. In the next few blog posts I will show you that it is not that difficult. It takes some time, creativity and ability to pick just some out of hundreds of pictures you took.

Blurb is one of the self-publishing services and it offers a variety of book formats, paper choices and also e-books. They offer their own layout software, in case you do not have access to publishing software like Adobe InDesign or image editing software like Adobe Lightroom.

Thus far I have used their software BookSmart and BookWright. While on the outside there is very little difference between them you cannot publish all the different formats using BookSmart. This software is only good for creating photobooks and associated e-books. BookWright on the other hand can create photobooks, tradebooks, magazines and e-books in multiple formats. The differences between the different publication types are primarily in prices and appearance. In order to make the best choice, it is a good idea to order a swatch set from Blurb. This will show you first hand the quality of paper and color as well as black and white prints.

  

When making the choice, you should consider first of all why are you creating the book? It is to be just for you? A gift for someone? Or will you be interested in selling it? All those considerations are very important. Especially, when book is intended for sale, you will have to consider the price of the final product.

Let’s look at the general workflow of creating a book.

  1. What tool to use to create your book depends on your experience level, software you have access to on your computer and why are you creating this book. There are many options and if you wish you can hire a specialist to do it for you as well.
  2. I suggest that you download the software you wish to use, either BookSmart or BookWright. Having it on your computer gives you a complete freedom in making changes when and where you wish.
  3. Give your book a title. Do not worry, you can change it later.
  4. Select a number of pages you want to have in your book. A default is usually 20 pages. Again you can add or subtract pages as you wish later.
  5. One important decision best made at the beginning is the size of your book. While it can be converted later, you will create a lot of work for yourself to adjust sizes of images, text and margins. So this you should get correct at the beginning.
  6. There are many layouts available from Blurb, but those are totally flexible and customizable.
  7. Make sure that you have a set of the images you want to use in a handy place. A larger set is just fine, no need to stress over them yet.
  8. If you want to add text, you can create .rtf files or type directly in a book. Again, place any additional files in a dedicated folder so you do not have to search an entire computer.
  9. Remember to use only images to which you have copyright or you have licensed them for this purpose. If using even your friends’ or family’s images always give credit. There is a copyright section where you can do that.
  10. You may be tempted to use an auto-create book feature in Adobe Lightroom. By all means click on it, however, I found it a bit awkward to use.
  11. As Blurb is the publisher, their logo will appear in the book, if you are serious author, you can replace it with your own for a fee. This can be your last decision before submitting the book for print.

 

Are you now ready to start creating?

If so I invite you to the next installments of my blog. I will take you through some of the details how to create a simple book and tell a story from your holidays. Remember that until you submit the book any mistakes can be fixed, layouts can be changed, titles, page numbers, even the format can be altered.

 

 


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Creating collages with Corel PaintShop Pro 2018

This post came about when I was exploring two things. Firstly, how to create a video on Adobe Spark, and secondly, how to better present some of the images in this video. While a lot of us use whatever app we like on our phone. This is great if you want to quickly share something but it is not the best way to present a high quality collage or create one for printing out.

So let’s see how to create a collage which can be created for online presentation, slideshow, large or small print, postcard for family… It is really up to your imagination how to use your creation.

  • You need to select the canvas size on which you will be working. When you are in Edit tab select File>New and then you can decide if you want to use one of the existing size presets or choose your own. Make sure that your layer is Raster and check if you have a color of the background selected or the layer is transparent. White or black usually works well for a variety of images, however, there are many other colors to choose from as well. While you can also select gradients and patterns, the best backgrounds are simple solid colors. The size of canvas can be in inches, millimeters, centimeters or pixels. You can also change the orientation of the canvas from portrait to landscape.

  • Once you have your canvas open, then you need to decide which images you want to add to it. To select images, go to Manage Tab and navigate to the images you want. Select the image/s you want and click on the Edit tab. The images will open up. you can adjust and crop images if you wish to at this stage, unless they are ready to go. In order to select multiple images use CRTL key.
  • Now your images are ready to put together on your canvas. Select all or whichever part of your image you want to use and copy selection. Now navigate to your canvas and paste selection as new layer. If your canvas is sized in inches or millimeters you may need to resize your pasted image. In order to resize an image make sure that you click on the Pick Tool (a little arrow). However, creating canvas in pixels can allow you to get around this problem.
  • Repeat pasting with other images you want to add to your collage. You end up with an image like this one and list of layers to the right showing each of the images and your background.
  • As you can see images overlap each other. The image which was added last will be on top of the one that was added before it. In this case, image of the dog in a hat is on top of three earlier images but under the last one opened, in top right hand corner.
  • There are two ways to adjust the overlaps. One by selecting Layers in Menu and navigating to Arrange. The second method, by rearranging the layers in the layer window on the right. Both ways will produce the same outcomes.
  • Now you can start being creative with your collage. Each image can be resized, moved around, rotated in any way you wish. I would suggest not rotating the images until you add your frames if you wish to add them.
  • You can add frames to each of the images to make them look special or stand out from the set. You can also add a frame to the entire canvas.
  • In order to add a frame to an image you selected. Under Menu> Image> select Picture Frame. From the drop down menu select the style you wish, make sure you are framing the current layer and have it inside the image, although outside is fine too, just test it and see what you prefer. Effects will vary with different frames and images.

  • You will notice in your Layer list there is a new layer called Raster X Picture Frame, with X corresponding to the layer which you framed.
  • At this stage you need to be careful as moving either frame or content layer will change how they appear. In order to prevent this from happening, select both layers and click on Merge selected under Layer menu or by right clicking. Once that is done you can rotate a framed image however you wish and frame stays with the image.
  • As a last step you may want to add some text to the entire creation. Select a text icon to the left of the image. At the top of the ribbon select the font, size, alignment, style and color. You can also select a text preset to the left of the same ribbon. An additional modification you can make is under Object menu, select Convert Text to Curves or Convert to Path. This will allow you to be a little more creative with the appearance of text on the collage.

 

Once you have created a collage you are pleased with, it is ready to be shared. As I mentioned mine was created to be added to Adobe Spark, but you can also share it as is, or add to some other presentation type. You can obviously print it out as well. Laying out prints can be done using Print Layout under File in Menu or by selecting Print and then choosing to apply template. You may also choose to just print it as is to fill an entire page or part of it.

Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 is very flexible in ways you can create stunning collages, save or print them.

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Using a reflector – indoors and outdoors

Light is the heart of photography and getting it right is extremely important. Reflector is something that many starting photographers wonder about. “Do I need it? How do I use it?” If you cannot or do not want to invest in anything super fancy, you like taking pictures with natural light – a reflector is something that I would strongly recommend. There are stacks of different types, priced from very cheap to very expensive. So how do you even start?

What are you photographing? Portraits, still life, large scenes or objects or small? An answer to this question will determine what size reflector you will need. The larger the subjects, the larger should be your reflector or you will only get change of light in a small portion of your object. A related consideration is how are you going to handle a reflector? Are you going to buy a stand or are you going to hold it? Questions just keep coming and honestly you have no idea where to start or if on fact you need a reflector.

I will try to explain in this post why you should use one and when as well as how to start working with a reflector.

A reflector at its basic, is a piece of white foam board. However, more frequently reflectors are much more advanced with silver or gold foil covering them. You can make one yourself if you wish (DYI Photography How to make a photo reflector, Make your own reflector DIY tutorial) or you can even use your car sunshade. Using a white foam board will help you not to blind your subjects and depending on the board can actually produce a nice soft light. That said, the most frequently used reflector is probably the silver one. Similarly to white board it does not alter the appearance of the subject.However, you need to be careful not to blind your subject so reflect with care!

You can also use a gold foil reflector, however, it will give your subject a bit of a golden glow. Depending on your intentions that can be a desired outcome. All this is very interesting but why should you even bother using one? It is not even convenient carrying one with you all the time.

If you look at the following pictures you will notice the difference between the images on the left with no reflector and ones on the right with silver reflector on the side opposing the light source.

As you can see, in an image with no reflector you can see the dark shadows on the face away from the window. They do not look pleasing and it would be best to lighten them up. One way of doing it is to place another light source to lit up this side of the face. However, a much simpler way is to place a reflector opposite to the light.

In order to get a appearance you wish a reflector can be easily moved a little to the front or to the back. I can hear the next question, how do you hold on to a reflector while taking a picture? You can ask someone to hold it for you, place it on a stand, have your subject hold it, stand it on a chair, table, hand it from a door, coat hanger… There are many ways to place it in position.

Light will reflect in many directions, so the little drawing is a simplification of the set up.

 

 

 

 

 

My favorite model, toy chimp, this time has a light coming from the right, this time a strobe. A reflector in the second image is positioned on left. You may also notice that a reflector has softened shadow cast by the light.

However, those are not the only cases for using a reflector. It can be also used when shooting outdoors, especially on a very sunny day a reflector can come in handy. Would not having one affect your pictures? It does not have to, however, in such case you will need to stay clear of a bright or direct sunlight if you are taking portraits and want them to look great. Yet, even then it could be handy to bring just a bit more light onto your subject.

A little bit of reflected light here makes a difference. In this case, I was taking picture in shade and while no obvious deep shadows are seen, the image is not appealing. By using a reflector you can make a lot of difference in appearance.

Portraits and studio pictures get usually the most attention when it comes to use of a reflector, they are not the only ones that benefit from such approach. How many times have you gone out to photograph flowers? Yes, those great subject that do not walk away or fly away. Frequently we go out in nice weather or the flowers we want to photograph are in full sunshine. Yes, we can come back when it is cloudy. However, that is not always possible. So how can you make a pleasing photo while still photographing in full sunshine?

You guessed it! Use a reflector. I took one with me on an outing to National Arboretum in Washington DC. And here are some of the images it produced.

 

   

The first image was taken without a reflector. By adding a reflector I was able to reduce the highlights, soften the image just a little, bring the azalea flowers to much more natural and pleasing appearance.

 

Creative use of a reflector can allow you to manipulate light and highlight the area you want to bring to a viewer’s attention. In general I use mostly silver reflector as it keeps the colors true, while the gold one will warm up your images by altering the color just a bit. If this is something you wish to do, then try it out. You also need to test different angles as not all will create a desired effect. Above all be creative with objects you already have, until you truly know if you need a reflector make it happen with things you have on hand.

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Creative image manipulation

I love to take pictures and then play with them in an image editing software to create something unusual. Some are just great to look at while offering a different, yet natural view. While others can appear a little unusual. You can create repeating images or mirror images of your original. You can also add vignetting to make them disappear at the edges

This is an original image of a flowering tree on a background of tree trunk and water. It might not be a super interesting image by itself, it becomes something very different once you manipulated it in editing software. There are many ways you can alter an original and as you see the effect can be quite dramatic when you create a mirror image of the original.

 

This is a mirror image of the original photo above. You do not have to stop here. This can be further altered to create a much more abstract image. However, I stopped right at this step, feeling that this is what I would like to see.

 

Nature images like the ones above can still be recognized what they represent. However, more interesting are images of much more abstract objects. Flashing lights, for example, can create stunning tile like images, which can be used as stencils, decorative patterns or just pictures to hang on a wall.

This original image of lights on a ceiling was pretty interesting. It was shot with a camera set on a tripod at ISO1600, 85mm, f/2.8 and 1/80sec with a Canon EOS 5D mark III and EF85mm f/1.8 USM lens.

I was curious as to what effects I can create from this image. As you can see below, there were quite a few interesting outcomes.

 

Abstract mosaic

The image in the upper left corner is the original one. I used Corel PaintShop Pro X8 to create the other effects.

You can just imagine that by manipulating the original image one can create patterns that can be then used a tile, quilt or embroidery designs. The images here are just a few that can be created, there are many more that you can have at the end .

I found this very different but just as creative as taking the original images. For those of you who want to get some more technical information, it will be coming up in one of the next blogs.

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Let’s get started – the basic gear you want to have for your photography needs. Picking a camera.

I have been asked a few times as to what kind of camera and gear to buy for young budding photographers. If the person is serious about learning photography, a phone or a super compact camera is not going to be the best option. On the other hand, choosing the most expensive camera is also not helpful. You can compare this to giving a 16 year old a Ferrari as their first car. While there is nothing wrong with it if you have plenty money, it is probably much more sensible to have them perfect their skills on something more economical.

What features should you be looking for in a first camera?

  1. A viewfinder is a great option, as trying to stare at the LCD display to take pictures can be really difficult in bright sunlight.
  2. Camera that offers manual mode adjustment. Shooting automatic is not something that will teach a user how to adjust ISO, speed and aperture to get light just right.
  3. Good optical zoom for a point and shoot camera. Do you need 50x zoom or will 10x zoom be enough? For a first camera 10x zoom will be just fine. It also depends what kind of subjects is the person likely to be photographing.
  4. If choosing an SLR camera, picking a lens can be a challenge and I will post a separate blog on that.
  5. Ability to attach a tripod is important
  6. Ability to attach a speedlight. While a lot of compact cameras come with a built-in flash, being able to add a high power flash allows you to expand the capabilities of the camera
  7. A nice feature to have is being able to shoot in RAW format, which will allow to save maximum image information. Jpegs are OK for starting out, but they are compressed files and some information is lost.

The next question is should it be a digital or film camera, point and shoot or SLR, how many megapixels are needed for a good digital camera? Which brand should I buy?

Film or digital is a personal preference. Being able to develop film could be the limiting factor here. I shot both, and actually started with film and have no strong preference for either, both have their merits. Point and shoot vs SLR? Again that really is not a critical point for a young starting photographer, a point and shoot could be an advantage as exchanging lenses while not hard may not be the thing for every youngster.

Next, famous megapixels, what is more important is the size of the sensor not just the number of megapixels. A small sensor capturing a lot of megapixels like your phone camera will not deliver the same quality of image as a camera with a larger sensor and same number of megapixels. Most of the 18MP cameras will be perfectly fine to start with. There is definitely no need to buy a 50MP camera for a starting up photographer.

As to the brand, that is a very personal opinion, there are people using only one brand of camera or using multiple ones. Nikon, Canon, Sony, Fuji, Leica, Panasonic, Pentax are among some of the most popular brands. The best is to visit a good camera store, such as NYC-based B&H or Adorama, or VA-based Ace Photo, and check out a few different brands.

Here are some images from a point and shoot Canon PowerShot A430, Canon Powershot SX100IS, Canon Rebel EOS3Ti and Canon 5D mark III. Quality of the image is only an issue when you printing large images. The aim of the first camera is to develop the eye and learn how to harness the light. And to do this effectively, you do not need a top of the line camera.

Canon PowerShot A430

Canon Powershot SX100 IS

Canon EOS Rebel 3Ti

       

       

Canon 5D Mark III

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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!