Archive for March, 2008

Time Standing Still

March 31, 2008

Take a look at “Frozen Waterfall” by Maureen Zwier, a new entry in our Photobird Photo Contest for March. It’s as if time itself has stopped in this shot where each lariat of falling water has stopped solid at Starved Rock State Park, southwest of Chicago.

While this water may be stuck in time, our Photobird Photo Contest marches forward! In fact, today is your last chance to enter the Photobird Photo Contest for March. All entries must be received before midnight Pacific Time, today. A reminder: The theme this month is “Cool”. The contest is free to enter.

Check back tomorrow when we announce the two contest winners for March. Each winner will receive a Photobird account with 500MB of storage space, 1GB SanDisk Ultra II memory card (winner’s choice of format), and Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson.

You can read more details about the monthly contest here. And if you have any questions, please ask in the Photobird forums.

Camera of the Week: Canon PowerShot SD850 IS

March 28, 2008

What’s not to like about this tiny and versatile 8-megapixel digicam from Canon? Its compact, slightly rounded body fits easily into your front pocket, purse, or palm. The camera features Canon’s award-winning face detection technology with automatic color-corrected exposures, even in low-light conditions. It has a 2.5-inch high-resolution LCD screen, automatic red-eye correction, image stabilization, and works with SD, SDHC, and MMC memory cards. All for less than $350.

Steves-Digicams.com called the Canon PowerShot SD850 IS an “Outstanding value for such a versatile pocket-rocket” and DCResource.com says it “does just about everything right”. Digitalcamerareview.com said the Canon SD850 “produces great quality images and color” and kenrockwell.com wrote “I’d buy an SD850 in an instant.”

For all these reasons, we’ve chosen the Canon PowerShot SD850 IS as our Photobird Camera of the Week. If you’re in the market for a new camera, this is one “pocket-rocket” that is worthy of your inspection.

You can read more reviews of the Canon PowerShot SD850 IS and similar cameras in the Photobird Digital Camera Buyer’s Guide.

Discuss this camera in our Canon forum.

Buy this camera at B&H Photo

Buy this camera at Amazon.com

Before you buy a Canon digital camera or anything else at Amazon.com, please click one of the Amazon.com links anywhere on Photobird.com, including this blog post. For each product you buy on Amazon.com within 24 hours after clicking an Amazon.com link, we receive a referral fee, at no additional cost to you. Your clicks and purchases allow us to continue to publish this blog and the Photobird Learning Center. Thank you for your continued patronage!

Amazon.com Best Selling Digital Cameras

March 28, 2008

Shopping for a new camera? You might want to check out the Amazon.com Digital Camera Best Sellers page just to see which cameras are moving off their cavernous warehouse shelves the fastest. Their list is updated each hour based on real-time purchasing patterns and it’s always interesting to see what other people are buying.

While each of these cameras is certainly worth a closer look, only you can ultimately decide which camera is best for you. With that in mind, we’d like to help you take out some of the guesswork in making such an important decision. If you click on any of the links below, you can learn more about each camera right from our Photobird Digital Camera Buyer’s Guide, where we’ve gathered the latest camera reviews for each camera in order to help you make an informed choice.

1. Canon PowerShot SD1000
2. Canon PowerShot SD850 IS
3. Canon PowerShot A570 IS
4. Canon PowerShot A720 IS
5. Canon PowerShot S5 IS
6. Canon Digital Rebel XTi
7. Canon PowerShot SD870 IS
8. Canon PowerShot SD750
9. Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18K
10. Canon PowerShot SX100 IS

Before you buy a new digital camera or anything else on Amazon.com, be sure to click one of our Amazon.com links anywhere on Photobird.com. For each product you buy within 24 hours after your click, we receive a small referral fee, at no cost to you. Your clicks and purchases allow us to continue to publish this blog and the Photobird Learning Center. Thank you for your continued patronage!

Fox Glove or Fox Toe Sock?

March 27, 2008

“Fox Glove 7″ by David Cresine

The Digitalis purpurea or Foxglove, derives its name from the Anglo-Saxon “foxes glofa” (glove of the fox). While it’s true that the drooping petals resemble the fingers of a glove, the story behind this flower’s name is far stranger: Legend has it that a motley crew of naughty sprites once gave its blossoms to a crafty fox to put on its toes so that it could soften the patter of its paws while it hunted for prey. But wouldn’t that make them fox toe socks? Perhaps the toe sock hadn’t yet been invented.

David Cresine’s “Fox Glove 7”, our Photobird Photo of the Hour, manages to bring out all of the details of this hypnotic flower and in an arresting splash of spring color that would coordinate nicely with just about any shoes a fashion-conscious fox might choose to wear.

Why not submit your photos for consideration as the Photobird Photo of the Hour? It’s simple to do: just view the photo from your photo album and click the “Submit for Photo of the Hour” checkbox. There is no limit to the number of photos you can submit.

Read more about how to get your photos featured on Photobird Photo of the Hour and how to keep your photos private.

Discuss your favorite Photobird Photos of the Hour in the Photobird forums.

How to Shoot Cityscapes

March 27, 2008
Photo © Copyright Bryan Peterson

Writing for Popular Photography, photographer Bryan Peterson has some great advice for capturing the vibrant city lights of a cityscape during your next family vacation.

In the two pictures above, Bryan captured the hustle and bustle of New York’s world-famous Times Square. The difference between the shots is that the first one was taken in the 10-minute period that begins about 15 minutes after sunset. In that shot, you can clearly see the dark outlines of the buildings in the background as they pop against the violet-blue backdrop of the sky. In the second shot, taken just 10 minutes later, the colors somehow seem less vibrant and some of the depth of field of the street is lost to the encroaching night. Let us know in the comments which photo you like better and why.

To get these shots, Bryan recommends using a tripod and a camera set to manual exposure with the slowest shutter speed your camera will allow. Brian shot with a Nikon D2Xs, a four-second exposure, the ISO set to 100, and the 12-24mm lens at f/11.

You can read the complete article here.

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To Buy or Not to Buy an Extended Warranty

March 26, 2008

When you go to buy that fancy new digital camera, such as the Canon Digital Rebel XTi pictured above, no matter whether you make the purchase at Best Buy, Circuit City, Fry’s Electronics, or any other store, chances are pretty good that the sales associate will try to talk you into buying an extended service plan or an extended warranty of some kind.

Since these companies are operating on razor-thin profit margins, cut even smaller by the rise of Amazon.com and other big internet sellers, most electronics brick-and-mortar stores struggle to remain profitable, and therefore compensate their sales staff heavily to promote the sale of extended warranties. These extended warranties rarely have claims made against them and almost always translate into pure profit in the companies’ financial reports. It’s kind of like when you go to your local movie house and spend big dollars on refreshments; that ten dollar tub of butter-flavored popcorn is how your local cineplex stays in business.

There are lots of horror stories on the internet of consumers having their items lost by a store’s service center or returning an item a number of times before it was properly repaired. In general, Consumer Reports and other consumer advocates have advised consumers for years to avoid spending additional money on an extended service plan. Since most needed repairs occur within the manufacturer’s stated warranty period anyway, the typical extended service plan will not give you any additional protection. These days, many credit card companies also provide additional protection plans for their customers’ purchases. Furthermore, many consumers are able to cover loss or damage of their major electronic purchases through their home insurers. So before even considering buying an extended service plan from a store, it’s important to have a good understanding of what exactly the manufacturer’s warranty covers, how long it lasts, and beyond that, what other protection may be available to you outside of purchasing an extended service plan or warranty.

That said, there are probably some rare instances where an extended service plan will bring additional peace of mind and when a case can be made for either buying one or strongly considering it. For example, if you’re making a significantly large purchase or purchasing a new technology without an established reliability track record, an extended warranty can provide you with some indemnity in the event that you run into trouble outside the manufacturer’s warranty period.

If you do decide to purchase an extended service plan, take the time to read the fine print to make sure you understand exactly what you’re buying. Make sure you clearly understand who exactly will be doing the work both in and out of the manufacturer’s warranty, what is and isn’t covered, how long the typical repair will take and whether you’ll have access to another camera while yours is in the shop (typically, you won’t). Also, keep in mind that most plans do not cover accidental damage.

Keep good records. Make sure you have your warranty information available in a safe place. Remember: when it comes time to make use of your plan, if the store can justify not honoring the contract and not making the repair for any reason, they will.

Caveat Emptor!

Recommended for further reading on this topic: “What Consumers Should Know About Extended Warranties and Performance Service Plans for Electronics”.

Accessorize Your New DSLR

March 26, 2008

Just last week, I wrote about the advantages of using a DSLR camera. Are you ready to make the leap?

Well, your timing couldn’t be better: Between now and March 31, 2008, purchase one of more than 25 qualifying top DSLR cameras from Canon, Nikon, Olympus, and others, and Amazon.com will send you a digital SLR accessory at no additional charge; or you can apply $19.99 to a qualifying, higher-value accessory of your choice.

To do the latter, just add the camera and the accessory to your Amazon shopping cart and use the promotion code TQN578F8 at checkout. More details on this offer are available here.

For more information on using Amazon.com claim codes and other restrictions, go here.

Before you buy anything at Amazon.com, please click one of the Amazon.com links anywhere on Photobird.com, including this blog post. Your clicks and purchases allow us to continue to publish this blog and the Photobird Learning Center. For each product you buy on Amazon.com within 24 hours after clicking an Amazon.com link, we receive a referral fee, at no additional cost to you. Thank you!

Tips for Improving Cell Phone Pics

March 25, 2008

It’s not without reason that most people bemoan the quality of pictures taken with cell phone cameras. For all their ubiquity, most mobile phone cameras are still more phone than camera. The optics seem to have been thrown in by phone manufacturers interested more in selling a large checklist of features than in giving their customers a reasonable alternative for taking quality pictures. Indeed, the last generation or two of phones have suffered from poor lenses with no flash nor zoom and a low overall resolution that produce humorously flat and pixelated photographs.

But this is slowly changing so there’s reason to hope: Some phones now feature built-in cameras with better optics and higher storage capacity, and they have enough megapixels to capture reasonably good photographs. We may be years away yet from being able to permanently substitute our digicams with our cell phones; with a continued focus on convergence, miniaturization, and an ever-increasing global demand for mobile technology, it is probably not a matter of “if” but “when”. It may happen even sooner than we think. In the meantime, I found this excellent article at the Digital Photography School called “12 Tips for Improving Camera Phone Photos” for those times that you find yourself without your camera and need to “make do” with the camera built into your cell phone.

Here is a quick summary of the tips from the article:

1. Light your subject well. The better lit, the clearer the image.
2. Get close to your subject. Fill your viewfinder in order to compensate for the small, low-resolution camera; then you won’t have to crop later, decreasing the image quality further.
3. Keep still. Many camera phones have shutter lag (the time between when you press the shutter and when the camera records the image). You need to hold the camera phone as still as possible during this period, especially in low light situations.
4. Edit images later. Some cameras now offer built-in editing and effects, but it’s best to take your shots in color at the highest resolution because it gives you more options when you process the images later.
5. Don’t throw away “mistakes”. Often you won’t be able to really appreciate the picture on the phone since the screen is so small. Better to keep them all and look at them later on your computer monitor. You may be surprised by what you captured.
6. Avoid using the digital zoom. Assuming you have a digital zoom, if you use it, you’ll get a more pixelated shot. Best not to use it. Optical zooms, which are just now appearing in some phones, are fine.
7. Experiment with the White Balance. Read the manual and experiment with the White Balance feature on your phone, if available. It could have a dramatic effect on the quality of your resulting photographs.
8. Take loads of shots and experiment. Shoot with lots of angles and perspectives in order to increase your number of interesting and fun shots.
9. Follow the rules of composition (and then consciously break them). Always good to know and follow basic rules like The Rule of Thirds.
10. Keep your lens clean. This can be a challenge with a cell phone, but keeping a sunglass cleaning cloth on hand and using it when you detect fingerprints or dirt will, of course, improve the resulting quality of your photos.
11. Observe camera phone etiquette. Ask permission to photograph strangers. Know your rights.
12. Use the highest possible resolution. If your phone allows you to choose the resolution, set it on the highest possible level. Sure, you’ll get fewer pictures before filling up the memory, but the pictures are more likely to be of usable quality.

For complete details, check out the article.

Kind of Blue

March 24, 2008

Vicki Tinnon’s “A Little Blue”, a new entry in our Photobird Photo Contest for March on the theme “Cool”, was shot near Wayne, Nebraska. And the folks who live near Wayne certainly know cool. According to the National Weather Service, there’s a 30 percent chance of snow with a low of 25 degrees Fahrenheit in this weekend’s weather forecast. So much for the first day of Spring!

Vickie’s entry ably demonstrates how bad weather can inspire good photographs, despite it having the potential to wreak havoc on local flora and fauna. I like the swatch of frozen branches fanning out of her frame like the dense respiratory bronchioles of the lungs.

Speaking of lungs, I want everyone to take a deep breath… because there’s still a chance to enter this month’s contest. In fact, we’ll be accepting entries for “Cool” through the end of the day, Monday, March 31, 2008. So, if you haven’t already entered, be sure to get your entry in soon. It costs nothing to enter and, while you’re at it, be sure to ask your family and friends to vote for your entry as well.

If you’ve already entered, check back at the end of the month to see which two entries won. Each of our two winners will receive the following cool prizes:

Photobird account with 500MB storage space
• 1GB SanDisk Ultra II memory card (winner chooses format)
Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson

You can read more details about the monthly contest here.

And, if you have any questions, please ask in the Photobird forums.

Your Privacy Matters

March 24, 2008

“undercover”
© Copyright Mike Saunders

On Photobird.com, your privacy is paramount to us and protecting it is one of our top objectives when designing Photobird.com and its infrastructure. We have designed our procedures and processes for handling your data with the same high-quality care and security that we would expect our own personal data to be handled.

  • Your photos and photo albums are private until you tell people about them.
  • We do not run third-party advertisements on your photo albums because, for one reason, we know these ads will often track user information.
  • We do not rent, share, sell, or otherwise disclose your personal data to any third party for marketing purposes.
  • We do not send unsolicited e-mail to you for marketing purposes.
  • We employ secure 128-bit SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) data encryption using GeoTrust technology, for all sensitive communication.
  • All of your confidential information is processed and stored on secure servers that are audited by your credit card companies to ensure your information is processed and stored securely.

Be sure to read our extensive privacy policy for complete details. And, as always, we welcome your feedback and comments about our privacy policy and other features of the Photobird.com website.

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