Monday Update: I’m Through Slacking On My Blog (for awhile)

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If you were reading my blog last week, you’ll notice that I didn’t post anything on Thursday or Friday.  I try and post a little something every day, however that doesn’t always happen.  I have been extremely busy at work which translates into getting home late.  Since I usually work on my blog in the evening, “the squeeze” gets applied to something and the blog is usually it.  Sorry, but I won’t trade my wife and kids for my blog.  🙂

I did have time to get caught up this weekend and I spent some of it updating my website.  I changed up my home page, re-vamped my image gallery, and added some more information on my Contact page.  I also added a footer on all of my pages.  It doesn’t sound like much, but sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference. 

That’s it for this Monday.  This week starts the awesome event known as Photoshop World!  So if you’re bored and need something to do, you still have time to buy plane tickets and head to Orlando, Florida for the greatest convention in the history of Photoshop.  Have a great week and I’ll see you all back here tomorrow!

Quick Tip Wednesday

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If you’re shooting in the studio or even on location, here’s a quick tip that will save you a lot of time when processing your photos in Photoshop or Lightroom: use a gray card.  A gray card is a little card similar to what you see in the picture above that gives you a nice neutral gray.  In Lightroom or Camera Raw you simply select your White Balance eye dropper and click on the neutral gray and your white balance will be right on every time.  This particular card was included with Scott Kelby’s book, “Photoshop CS3 for Digital Photographers”.  The bottom left corner is Camera Raw Gray and I can click on that and I have my white balance for all of my photos in the series.  Now, if you change lighting or setup in any way, I highly advise that you have your subject hold the gray card again for another shot to ensure that you get a correct WB setting.  You can pick a gray card from most photography stores for next to nothing.

That’s today’s Quick Tip.  I hope you can put it to good use!  Have a great day!

Tuesday’s News

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  • For those photographers who are on a constant quest for larger storage for your camera, you’ll be happy to hear that SanDisk has just announced 32GB and 16GB SDHC cards as well as an 8GB SDHC Plus card in their Ultra II lineup.  They have also upgraded the read and write speeds to 15MB/sec compared to the 10MB/sec of the previous Ultra II cards.  The 32 and 16 GB cards come with a MicroMate USB 2.0 reader.  The 32GB card has an MSRP of $349.99 with the 16GB card set at $179.99.  The 8GB SDHC Plus card’s MSRP is $99.99.  The 16GB and 8GB cards are expected to ship in March with the 32GB card set to ship in April.  Image above courtesy of SanDisk.
  • If you haven’t already heard, Apple has released Aperture 2.0.  Aperture is Apple’s image organization and editing program for professional photographers.  It’s a rival to Adobe’s Photoshop Lightroom and is an asset to any photographer who works on a Mac.  Apple is putting on the Aperture World Tour which is a free seminar to demonstrate the powerful features of the latest version of their program.  There are still a few dates left, so check out the link above and check out the free seminar!
  • Next week, Photoshop World will kick off in Orlando, FL at the Orange County Convention Center.  If you haven’t bought your tickets yet, what are you waiting for?!  I won’t have the opportunity to go this year, and I’m really bummed about it.  The amount of knowledge regarding Photoshop and digital photography that will be under one roof is nothing short of spectacular!  If you’re free next week, head on over and reserve your place at the world’s largest Photoshop convention!  Here’s the link.
  • If it’s been awhile since you have visited PDN’s website, you should be sure to check it out.  Photo District News provides the latest and greatest in what’s going on throughout the world of photography.  You can subscribe to the magazine and exclusive content on their website for $65.oo for 12 months.  Definitely worth it.  Here’s the link.

That’s it for today.  I’m heading off to work and wouldn’t you know it… I have a couple of shoots this week for a project at work.  I’ll reveal those details in the next month or so.  Have a great day and I’ll see you here again tomorrow!

Back From NYC!

                                                                                                                                                              _DSC0095 Hey everyone, I hope you had a great Easter weekend!  I’m back from my trip to NYC.  I had a great time and got to spend a lot of quality time with my family, which was awesome.  I saw the usual tourist sights and I also spent some time at some local, secret dining spots that are a bit off the beaten path.  Only New Yorkers know ’em, and I’m glad that I had one with me.  A friend of my Dad’s (who happened to be in Manhattan the same time we were) is from New York and he showed us around.  No better way to see the city than with someone who’s from there.

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My daughter got the opportunity to go to the American Girl store on 5th Avenue.  Of course her Grandparents had to spoil her and got her a doll of her own.  If you have daughters that love dolls, stay away from that place!  I’m kidding really.  Maybe.  Anyway, they have  a doll salon, a doll emergency room, fashion assistants, and more.  This place is nuts!  And it’s certainly not cheap!  After we got back from the city, I took this shot with my daughter’s face in the box her doll came in.  All the processing was done in Lightroom.  No Photoshop required.

_DSC0087 People probably thought I was crazy while I was trying to get this shot.  I had my D40, my SB800, my Cactus V2s Triggers, and a carbon-based voice-activated light stand (my Mom).  To get everything in the frame, I had to lay down on the sidewalk and shoot up at them.  Oh the things we do for our craft.  I was glad to do it and I would do it again if I had to.  By the way, security is tight getting into the Statue so if you go, be prepared.  They are tougher than the TSA at any airport you have ever been to in the US, and I’m not exaggerating.  They didn’t give me a hard time about my camera gear, of which I was glad.  If I had brought a 600mm lens with me, that might have been a different story. 

_DSC0065 I did get a chance to stop by B&H Photo, which was awesome.  I didn’t get to spend as much time there as I would have liked, but then again… it would have been all day!  I had a great chat with Gerry, one of B&H’s resident Nikon experts.  We talked about quite a bit and he gave me some really interesting advice.  Like most serious Nikon shooters, I REALLY want a 70-200mm f 2.8 VR lens as well as a D300.  Gerry told me that if I buy the D300, I should save my cash and buy the 70-300mm VR lens instead of the 70-200mm f 2.8 VR.  (I know, I was shocked too.)  He went on to explain that with the low-noise capabilities of the D300 that I wouldn’t really need the fast glass unless I was going to do A LOT of shooting in extremely low light, sports shooting, or if I just wanted to throw away $1,100 bucks.  That’s why I love those guys, they are photographers too and they don’t try and upsell you… they give it to you straight.  Great job guys and gals!

Well, that’s it for today.  I hope you enjoy the shots and have a great week too!  Spend some time getting out and shooting, because as we all know, practice makes perfect! (Or so they say.)  🙂 

Nikon D40: Not Just For Beginners

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Happy St. Patty’s Day everyone!  I hope your weekend was great and you were able to rest, shoot, or do whatever you needed to this weekend.  Today I’m going to do something just a little different.  Instead of bringing you another edition of “How I Got This Shot”, I’m going to talk a little about camera bodies.  Specifically, the Nikon D40.

As many of you know, I personally shoot with the D40 and it’s the only camera body that I currently own.  Now, I’m no pro.  But I do consider myself an advanced amateur.  I’m getting a little frustrated as I have been seeing a lot about the D40 being a “beginner’s DSLR” or a “consumer model”.  Some of this is just marketing, that I am aware of.  But some photographers seem to think the same thing of the D40. 

Sure, the D40 is missing a lot of features that higher-end DSLRs like the D300 have.  It’s more susceptible to noise at higher ISOs, it only shoots at 2.5 frames per second, and it’s missing Nikon’s Commander Mode to be able to use Nikon’s Creative Lighting System without having to buy an SU-800.  Does any of those things prevent the D40 from taking great pictures?  No.  Why?  Photographers make great pictures, not cameras. 

When people ask me whether or not they should upgrade their body or their glass (lenses), I will always answer with “glass”.  Quality glass will make the most improvements in the quality, clarity, and sharpness of your images.  A camera body is simply something that traps light.  All the bells and whistles on the body only do one thing: make the photographer’s job of making great pictures easier.  Don’t confuse that with making better pictures.  If you take crappy pictures with a D40, you’re gonna take crappy pictures with a D300 or a D3.  If you are unhappy with the images you get with your D40 or the like, invest in some books on photography and learn the basics.  You can find a ton of great information on the web too.  Ken Rockwell, whom I share this whole sentiment with, has a great website with articles about everything he knows about photography.  Heck, you can even ask me.  I’ll tell you everything I know too.

If you still don’t believe me, go over and check out this Nikon D40 User Group on Flickr and see some of the images for yourself.  Seeing is believing.  All of my shots have been taken with a D40 too.  All of this should help clear up some of the questions in your mind about your DSLR and whether or not you need to upgrade.  And if you’re in the market for a D40, I see them all the time on Craigslist for sale with the reason being that I want to upgrade to a better or higher-end DSLR.  Now, maybe they really need to.  Now if you’re shooting sports, the 5 or 6 fps of a D200/D300 will certainly make a difference in getting “the shot”.  But I would say the majority of those people selling their D40s aren’t sports shooters and haven’t mastered photography with their D40.  They bought into the marketing hype.

One last thing: you can still make big prints with a D40.  I hear it all the time, “My D40 is only 6.1 MP so I am limited to the size I can print.”  Well folks, that’s the beauty of digital and Photoshop.  You can easily enlarge your images without losing a ton of quality.  Besides, how many of us print at 24″ x 36″ on a regular basis anyway???  Let’s be realistic here.  All-in-all, I think you see my point.  What’s the purpose of my ranting this morning?  I’m simply trying to save you some hard-earned cash and keep you from making a mistake that so many others have made.  I hope you understand.

That’s it for today. (As I step down off my soap box.)  I’m heading to New York today and I’m looking forward to shooting and making a stop at B&H Photo.  I hope to come back with some good shots to share with you all.  As I mentioned before, my posts may be few and far between this week but I will try my best to get one or two in before I get home.  Have a great week! 🙂

Studio Shooting Tips

DSC_0037-Edit It’s already Friday and I wanted to wrap up the week with some type of shooting tip or tips.  I thought for awhile about what to write about, and then it hit me… studio shooting!  I have been focusing a lot on lighting lately and so I’m positive that shooting in the studio is a great topic to talk about. 

First of all, a “studio” can be anywhere.  It can be in your apartment or house, in your garage, a rented office space, a warehouse, anywhere.  The key feature of a studio is that it removes most of the variables that we face when we shoot on location.  Some of those variables being weather, light, foliage, etc.  I think you get the point.  Without having to deal with or compensate for those things I just mentioned, you are more likely to get consistent results.  Now, this is provided you are familiar with your camera gear and your lighting.  If you aren’t, I feel it’s a little easier to learn the basics in the studio.  Once you have the basics down, you will find it less complex to make adjustments on the fly when shooting on location.

Plan your shoot!  We all want to work as efficiently as possible and if you don’t plan, you will certainly waste time.  With most variables absent, it should be much easier to plan your lighting, what backgrounds to use, what poses you want, what wardrobe will give you the look you want, etc.  When this really comes in handy is when you are renting a studio and paying for models.  Time is money and you don’t want to pay someone (or multiple people) while you are doing something you could have done at home or in your office.  Sure, sometimes things just strike us in the middle of a shoot and it isn’t planned.  You just don’t want your WHOLE shoot to be that way.

So there you have it.  Some tips that should help you get off to a great start in the studio.  Yes, I know the tips are a little broad.  Sure, I could have gone more in depth about lighting, models, or anything else.  But that wasn’t my goal.  I wanted to give some things that I found to be helpful and will hopefully give you a foundation to work up from.  Do you have your own studio experiences?  Post them in the comments for all of us to read!

Have a great weekend I’ll see you next week.  Just so you know, my posts may be few and far between next week since I’m heading to New York for a couple of days.  I hope to come back with some awesome shots to share with you and maybe I’ll learn a thing or two.  And you know I’ll be stopping in at B&H Photo to have a look around!   

Focus On Lighting Wednesday

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Lighting is said to be the language of photography.  It’s something that you should want to both understand and master.  I’m a student myself… I have always been fascinated by lighting.  It started by working on a lighting crew as kid at a music show in my hometown.  It’s what I did to earn a living before joining the Navy.  However, it wasn’t for photography.  It was mostly production lighting for music acts and conventions.  Although it’s different, a lot of the same principles apply to lighting for photography too.  If you study it, apply it, and learn from your mistakes (as I do) then will only get better.  As David Hobby says in his Lighting 101 course on his blog, we don’t want to always have a bunch of “happy accidents”. 

With all that said, I’m posting a couple of really great resources for you to learn about lighting and it won’t cost you a thing… mostly.  I say “mostly” because if you are like me you like to try doing what you just read, that may involve spending some money along the way. 

Check out David Hobby’s Lighting 101 course on his blog.  If you haven’t already read it, you’ll be glad that you did.  You will learn a lot in just a little time about lighting in general.  He focuses on using flash which is great because you can’t realistically get great, natural light all the time to suit your needs.

Another great site that I recently came across is Flash Flavor.  If you are especially into wedding photography, you will love this site and you need to be reading it.  These guys do some amazing things!  I read about it on David’s blog and I’m passing it along to you as well.

That’s it for today.  We’re halfway through the week and I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to the weekend.  I’m heading down to New York next week for a little Family Vacation and hopefully do a little shooting.  Of course I plan on going to B&H while I’m there.  I may come home broke.  Have a great day and I’ll see you all here tomorrow!  🙂