Archive for June, 2008

How to Crop Photos to Improve Them

June 30, 2008

Screenshot © Copyright Peter Carey

Cropping has been around since the dawn of photography. It used to be a bit of a backroom art accomplished with a straight edge and an X-acto knife, and you only had one chance to get it right. But now, the proliferation of digital photography software has allowed anyone a chance to crop their photos easily, and with few negative consequences. You can simply work on a backup photo, or don’t save your changes if you don’t like the resulting image.

Oftentimes, cropping can be used to strengthen the composition of an otherwise lackluster photograph. And of course, in order to crop well, one must understand the rules of photographic composition.

This interesting article from Peter Carey on the Digital Photography School looks specifically at how to crop photos.

Peter advises readers to use the Rule of Thirds as a guideline for improving their compositions, even when cropping. Digital photography software, such as Adobe Lightroom which Peter uses in his examples, often comes with preset crop ratios that match the size of paper you will most likely be printing to, such as 4×6, 5×7, and 8×10. Picnik, our favorite, free, easy-to-use online photo editing software, also has preset crop ratios.

In addition, Peter shows how to create panorama prints, set a custom 1:3 ratio, and adjust the selection box to highlight what you want to keep in the photo. You can also create a free-form crop box if you want to go after a specific detail in the frame.

Cropping can really improve some photographs; however, keep in mind if your original photos were taken with a low megapixel camera, the resolution of your image may suffer greatly once cropped. You may see distortion or “jaggies” in your printed photos. Peter advises readers to check with their printer for guidelines on the minimum number of pixels required for a good photo and to be sure to not crop below this number.

4 Days Left: Photobird Photo Contest for June

June 27, 2008

“Elysian” © Copyright Kelsey Stanger

The Photobird Photo Contest for June is coming to an end in just 4 short days! At the end of the day Monday, June 30, we will pick one winner for the Photobird Award and we will tally your votes to determine the one winner for the People’s Choice Award. Be sure to enter the contest before 11:59pm Pacific time June 30. The contest is free to enter and the June contest has the theme of “Friends”.

One of my favorite photos entered into the contest is by Kelsey Stanger. The photo is titled “Elysian” and is shown above. The composition of the photo with the ballet shoes in a circle is well done — especially the fact that the photo is a close-up of the shoes. (Close-up photos are quite desirable, as we discuss in this blog post.) If the frame of the photo was further back so you could see the dancers’ legs, I don’t think the photo would have been as effective.

If you’re looking for composition tips for your own photos, check out this post which introduces a series of helpful slides about composition.

The two winners to the Photobird Photo Contest for June will each receive the following cool prizes:

You can read more details about the monthly contest here.

Go here to enter the contest. And be sure to vote for your favorite entries to help select the People’s Choice Award.

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

Fireworks Coming Soon! Get Ready!

June 26, 2008

Fireworks photo © Copyright Ed Krimen

July 4th is right around the corner. And you know what that means! Fireworks!!

If you’re interested in photographing the fireworks this year, be sure to check out my Top 5 Tips for Shooting Fireworks article in the Photobird Learning Center.

I think fireworks are one of the easiest subjects to photograph. It may look difficult, but it’s really easy if you prepare a little bit beforehand.

The most important thing you need for great fireworks photos is a tripod. That’s a definite! The good thing is that you really don’t need to spend a lot of money to get a decent tripod. $20 to $30 should suffice to start, such as these tripods on Amazon.com.

Later on, if you really want to get into low-light photography, and you know what you need in a new tripod, then you can spend hundreds of dollars for a more advanced model, such as these tripods at B&H Photo.

But to start, a tripod that costs $20 to $30 is all you need. The photo I took above was shot using a Vanguard Tourist 5 tripod that I bought with my first digital camera in 2001 at a local photo store. It cost me $40 at the time. Amazon.com has it now for $30.

Here’s a few more low-cost tripods available at Amazon.com with good reviews:

Digital Concepts 67-inch 3-section Deluxe Tripod with Carrying Case

Sony VCTR640 Lightweight Tripod

Velbon DF-60 Dual Function Light Weight Tripod

Before you buy a tripod or anything else on Amazon.com, please click one of the Amazon.com links anywhere on Photobird.com, including this blog post. For each product you buy after clicking on an Amazon.com link, we receive a small 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 patronage!

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Please let me know in the forums or in the comments if you have any questions about tripods or photographing fireworks.

New Workshops at Beautiful-Landscape.com

June 25, 2008

“Moonrise, Mono Lake” © Copyright Alain Briot

It looks like there is still one seat available in the upcoming Mono Lake workshop this October. Be sure to contact Alain right away if you are interested in attending. If it’s sold out, be sure to take a look at his other workshops and his wonderful photos and website.

Alain has also just announced three new workshops for 2009:

  1. Trilogy Seminars, February 14-22, 2009. This series of three workshops will take place in Phoenix, Arizona, and will focus on composition, printing, and marketing your photographs professionally.
  2. Antelope Canyon, April 10-14, 2009. This exclusive field workshop offers five days in Slot Canyon with Alain and Natalie Briot. For a complete itinerary, cost, and availability, be sure to click on the link above.
  3. Navajoland, May 1-5, 2009. Imagine five days photographing in Navajoland, visiting such scenic landmarks as Monument Valley, Round Rock, Church Rock and the Canyon de Chelly. For a complete itinerary, cost, and availability, be sure to click on the link above.

As with all of Alain’s workshops, we recommend contacting Alain post-haste to reserve your space if you’re interested in attending, as they’ve historically had a tendency to fill up fast! Be sure to let Alain know you heard about the workshops on Photobird.com.

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Which photo workshops have you attended? Were they a good value for the money? What were your favorites and why? Please let us know in the comments.

Camera of the Week: Canon PowerShot G9

June 24, 2008

Canon’s G-series cameras have always been popular among photographers, and the Canon PowerShot G9 doesn’t disappoint, with specifications well above those of the average consumer camera. The biggest selling feature is its 12.1-megapixels of resolution, which is enough detail for photo-quality, poster-sized prints. Priced at just under $450, the Canon PowerShot G9 also includes a built-in 6x optical zoom, image-stabilized lens, and a large 3-inch LCD display. All in a camera that weighs a mere 11.4 ounces. If you’re interested in printing larger photos of the kids’ soccer games, the Canon PowerShot G9 is certainly worth a closer look.

A quick round-up of reviews in the Photobird Digital Camera Buyer’s Guide reveals “The G9 is as good as it gets” by DigitalCameraReview.com and “An excellent, highly recommended camera” by scaredofthedark.typepad.com. DCviews.com was slightly more modest in their appraisal saying the G9 is “A fantastic camera but it is not for everyone.”

For all these reasons, we’ve chosen the Canon PowerShot G9 as our Photobird Camera of the Week. If you’re in the market for a medium-sized point-and-shoot camera with a generous zoom and more than enough megapixels for most situations, this popular Canon model should certainly be on your short list of cameras for further consideration.

You can read more reviews of the Canon PowerShot G9 and similar-sized cameras in the Photobird Digital Camera Buyer’s Guide.

Discuss this camera in our Canon forum.

Buy this camera at Amazon.com

Before you buy a Canon digital camera or anything else on Amazon.com, please click one of the Amazon.com links anywhere on Photobird.com, including this blog post. For each product you buy after clicking on an Amazon.com link, we receive a small 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 patronage!

What is EXIF and How Can I Use It on Photobird?

June 23, 2008

“Cruise Ship Sunset” by Ed Krimen

EXIF stands for “Exchangeable Image File Format”. It’s a technical standard for storing information about each photo that you take with your digital camera. EXIF information is automatically captured in each photo file when you take each picture, and includes the date and time the photo was taken, the manufacturer and model name of the camera taking the picture, as well as a plethora of other useful information about your camera’s aperture setting, shutter speed, focal length, metering mode, and ISO speed.

“Whew, that’s a lot of technical information,” you say. Well, the good news is that it’s really easy to automatically display this information in your Photobird photo albums. Also, it’s easy to choose to display the EXIF information on some albums and not show it on others.

First, take a look at the above picture on its photo page on Photobird.com. In the bottom right corner of the page, you’ll see Camera and Exposure information. This photo album has been set to display “Short” EXIF data, which is really just a summary of the key EXIF information found in the photo file. Click on the data in either the Camera or Exposure fields to see the larger list of EXIF data that we have for the photo. As mentioned above, all of this information is available to you automatically whenever you add a photo that has the EXIF information to a Photobird album; you don’t need to do anything except decide whether you want to display it and what level of detail you want to display.

To change your EXIF settings for one of your Photobird photo albums, simply go to the album and follow these three simple steps:

  1. Click on the “Edit Album Options” button.
  2. Under the “Display EXIF photo information” setting, choose which option you’d like from the following: No, Short, Long, or use the same setting as the photo album that this album resides in.
  3. Click on the “Save Changes” button at the bottom of the page.

That’s it! Your changes will be visible right away.

“What’s the difference between each of these options,” you ask?

  • The “No” setting doesn’t display the EXIF information, obviously. Use this setting if you want a minimal amount of text under your photo.
  • “Short” only shows the camera model, manufacturer, and exposure details for the photo. Visitors can click those details to show the EXIF data displayed with the “Long” option.
  • “Long” shows an extra set of EXIF data fields, including “Original Size”, “White Balance”, “Metering Mode”, “Brightness”, “Sharpness” and “Color Space”.
  • “Same as…” allows you to use the same setting as the photo album that this album resides in. This is useful if you want all or some of the albums within an album to use the same setting. If you have 50 albums, for example, you won’t need to go through all 50 albums to change this setting. Just set it once and the other albums will follow automatically and immediately. Then, let’s say you would like only a small number of albums to have a different setting: you can go to those specific albums and change their settings directly.

Note that some image editing programs remove the EXIF data when they save the JPEG photo file. If you’re having problems viewing the EXIF data in your images and you’re resizing, correcting, or editing your photos with an image editing program before adding them to your Photobird photo album, please verify with the manufacturer of the image editing program that it saves EXIF data correctly.

If you have any questions about this feature or any other features on Photobird.com, please let us know in the forums or in the comments.

Summer Lovin’ Happened So Fast

June 20, 2008

“Friends First Day of Summer” by Karen Flanders

I grew up in Salt Lake City and I remember lots of fun summer excursions to the beaches of the Great Salt Lake: building sand castles and collecting brine shrimp. The water was so salty that, like the famous Dead Sea, it proved naturally buoyant to anyone who wanted to relax and float supine among the lolling waves.

Take a look at “Friends First Day of Summer” by Karen Flanders, a recent entry in the Photobird Photo Contest for June. I like the color and composition in this shot of a young boy and girl, holding a pail and exploring the shallow beach waters. I can’t think of a better way to kick off the summer.

Our theme this month is “Friends” and you still have one week left to enter the contest with your best “Friends” photo. So don’t delay, enter today!

At the end of the month, we’ll choose one Photobird Award winner for the best overall entry, and your votes are tallied to select the winner of the People’s Choice Award.

Our two winners will each receive the following cool prizes:

You can read more details about the monthly contest here.

So what are you waiting for? Go here to enter the contest. And be sure to vote for your favorite entries to help select the People’s Choice Award.

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

This Ocelot is Cute-a-lot!

June 19, 2008

“Ocelot” by Mike Saunders

Take a look at this adorable ocelot that Mike Saunders has photographed, one of the photos selected for the Photobird Photo of the Hour. All tuckered out and taking a nap, this little guy looks like an oversized house cat. Native to South and Central America, the ocelot is, in fact, a member of the leopard family and can grow up to three feet in length with another foot-and-a-half tail span. Weighing twenty to thirty pounds, it’s probably more cat than most people want pouncing on them in the early morning hours looking for Friskies.

Photobird.com is the easy way to share your photos. You capture and share so many great photos on Photobird.com that we created the Photo of the Hour feature to give you the opportunity to share your very best with the rest of the world.

It’s really easy to submit your favorite photos to be featured on the Photobird Photo of the Hour: Simply 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 and we always like to get new submissions.

Read about how to get more storage space and how to keep your photos private.

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

Instant Rebate on the Nikon D60 at Amazon.com

June 18, 2008

Nikon’s popular D60 DSLR is now available for a new low price from Amazon.com. To qualify for the instant rebate of $50 — a 7% savings — and free Super Saver shipping, simply add the camera to your shopping cart, proceed with checkout, and the discount will be automatically applied.

You can also save additional money by purchasing MADE D60 Camera Armor, a Tiffen DFX Stand Alone Software Suite, or a Tiffen DFX Adobe Photoshop Filter Suite at the same time you buy a Nikon D60. Be sure to click on any of the links above for complete details.

Before you buy a Nikon digital camera or anything else on Amazon.com, please click one of the Amazon.com links anywhere on Photobird.com, including this blog post. For each product you buy after clicking on an Amazon.com link, we receive a small 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 patronage!

A Camera, Two Kids and a Camel

June 17, 2008

Photographer Annie Griffiths Belt has found an unusually creative way to balance the competing priorities of home and work. Instead of choosing to be a stay-at-home mom or giving herself over exclusively to a career as an itinerant photographer for National Geographic, she’s found a way to combine the best of both worlds, by bringing her children with her as she worked for months at a time on large, international assignments that took her and her young family to every continent except Antarctica.

She’s now written a book, A Camera, Two Kids and a Camel, which tells the story of her career and family life, with over 100 full-size images on 200 pages, gathered from the best of her featured work in such exotic locales as Zambia, Namibia, Hong Kong, Jerusalem, and Jordan.

The book chronicles three decades of Griffiths Belt’s family life: the international travel and all the amazing photographs she took during her adventures across the globe. Griffiths Belt also includes many humorous and moving stories that will surely resonate with many of you, actively engaged in striking the right balance between your professional and personal aspirations.

Before you buy this book or anything else on Amazon.com, please click one of the Amazon.com links anywhere on Photobird.com, including this blog post. For each product you buy after clicking on an Amazon.com link, we receive a small 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 patronage!


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