Archive for December, 2007

Composition: Shoot Better Photographs

December 31, 2007

Some photographs win awards and hang in galleries, while others get relegated to backup storage or deletion, and just as soon forgotten. One critical differentiator for those award-winning photographs is good composition. Composition, of course, is the arrangement of objects in your photographs and how these objects relate to one another. Good composition is determined by where you decide to place your camera and what you choose to focus on.

Some people just seem to have a natural eye for this kind of stuff but, truth be told, most of us need to learn it and, like most things learned, with practice, comes improvement. So if you want to improve your photographic compositions, have we got a treat for you: The American School of Paris has put together a free, short and informative series of slides on the subject here, broken down into six fundamental rules for good composition: Simplicity, Lines, Framing, the Rule of Thirds, Balance, and Avoiding Mergers.

We’ll be taking a more in-depth look at each of these specific areas in future blog posts. Your “homework” for today, should you choose to accept it, is to take a look at the introduction slides here — it won’t take but a few minutes — and then to think about why some of your photos are more appealing than others. If you can, take a small stack of your photographs and place them into two groups: those where you feel like the composition works and those where you feel like something might just be a little (or a lot) off.

As we work through each rule, you’ll have an opportunity to refine your assessment, review your photographs and think more specifically about how each rule was followed (or violated) and how you might apply your new knowledge the next time you take a similarly themed photograph.

Be sure to join us tomorrow — same bat time, same bat channel — for a closer look at the first guideline to good composition: keeping it simple.

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Smiles, everyone, smiles!

December 31, 2007
“Smile” contest entry by Mike Abshier

Today is not only the last day of the year — where did the time go?! — it’s also your last chance to enter our December Photobird Photo Contest. The theme this month is “Smile!”.

So before you sing “Auld Lang Syne” and bid sweet adieu to 2007, please take a moment to share your entry for “Smile!” and then cast your vote for your favorite. The contest is free to enter.

Then check back tomorrow when we announce our two contest winners for December. The Photobird Award Winner is chosen by Photobird.com. The People’s Choice Award Winner is chosen by you. Each winner will receive a Photobird.com account with 500MB of storage, a 1GB SanDisk Ultra II memory card, and Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson.

You can read more details about the monthly contest here. And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask in the Photobird forums.

Happy New Year!

Free 2GB Kingston Memory Card with Purchase

December 28, 2007

If you purchase a top camera from Canon, Nikon, Olympus, or Samsung at Amazon.com before January 7, 2008, you can receive a free 2 GB Kingston SD memory card or $14.99 toward a higher-capacity card. Just add the qualifying digital camera to your Shopping Cart along with a qualifying memory card and use the code X24XNRBC at checkout. Check out the details here.

You may wish to take a closer look at the Nikon Coolpix P5100, one of the cameras that qualifies for this special. This camera lists for $400, has 12.1 megapixels, and a 2.5” LCD. Megapixel.net says it has “Very good image quality outdoors with good light….” Photographyblog.net says it is, “Well worth your consideration….” You can read more about this and other cameras in the Photobird Digital Camera Buyer’s Guide.

Before you buy anything at 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 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 patronage!

Inside the Nikon Factory

December 28, 2007

Nikon Sendai

If you’ve ever been curious about what goes into the manufacturing of a state-of-the art digital SLR camera, be sure to read Rob Galbraith’s article. Rob was in Tokyo recently for the launch of the D3, Nikon’s revolutionary full-frame professional digital SLR camera, and he toured the factory as part of the launch.

Amazingly, each Nikon D3 is comprised of 2,000 parts, and the Sendai manufacturing plant, which Rob toured as part of the launch, employs 11,000 people and is now producing 12,000 D3s each month!

Aren’t the photos provided by Nikon reminiscent of Intel’s bunny suit ads of several years ago?

Q: Are you planning on purchasing a D3? Of what you’ve heard so far about the Nikon D3, what features are you most interested in?

This TrekPod is Made for Walking

December 27, 2007

TrekpodGO!

The new TrekPod Go! from Trek-Tech is a tripod, monopod, and walking stick all-in-one. Trek-Tech has listened closely to customer feedback and the TrekPod Go! features a number of enhancements over the original TrekPod: most importantly, it now collapses to fit into a 23-inch long case suitable for airline carry-on, and it can drop as low as 42 inches while in use, which is perfect for photographing from the bleachers at a ball game.

But these improvements come at a steep price — a 45% increase in the retail cost of this unit ($199) over its predecessor ($149), which we think was overpriced anyway, given that a good tripod can be bought for less than half the cost.

Still, we believe a lot of people will be interested in the TrekPod Go! and, in certain shooting conditions, it would prove quite useful. Ron Risman does a wonderful job of summarizing the TrekPod’s strengths and weaknesses in this review, so you can determine whether the TrekPod or the new TrekPod Go! is right for you.

Q: Have you considered purchasing a TrekPod or TrekPod Go!? Did you buy one after all? Why or why not?

Monumental Photography

December 27, 2007

Monument Valley

Alain Briot, of Beautiful Landscape, does resplendent work; plus he provides tips and instruction on his website, along with workshops, podcasts, a newsletter and essays.

October’s Print of the Month is a wonderfully nuanced panorama of Monument Valley’s East and West Mitten Buttes, cast in alternating light and shadow by clouds overhead. This beautiful 16×20 photo is priced 20% lower than Alain’s previous Prints of the Month and ships with a master file on CD that shows how Alain optimized the image.

This fine art print would surely make a wonderful gift for anyone who appreciates the rugged beauty of Monument Valley. And the master file on CD will help you understand how Alain creates such wonderful photographs.

Let us know: Which of Alain’s essays is the most valuable to you? Which Print of the Month is your favorite?

Hallmark Waterfall Photography

December 26, 2007
Yet Another Waterfall Shot by Alex Wise

Turns out the best weather for capturing a waterfall on camera doesn’t align at all with the best weather to be outside; in fact, it’s just the opposite. So stay indoors on a clear sunny day and save that trek to the falls for a day when the sky is overcast and threatening intermittent showers.

According to Alex Wise in his article “Tips for Long Exposure Waterfall Photography”, getting great shots of waterfalls isn’t especially difficult; it’s just a matter of finding the best weather conditions and adjusting your camera’s exposure time. When it’s overcast, Alex advises, you can use slower exposures to capture the natural movement of the water.

Alex shoots with a tripod at relatively slow shutter speeds, around 0.3 seconds. He also recommends using neutral density filters, if you can’t get your shutter speed slow enough to create a blur in the water. (More information is on his site about neutral density filters.)

Armed with these tricks, you too can take photographs of waterfalls suitable for use on motivational posters and Hallmark greeting cards!

Open Box Specials at B&H Photo

December 26, 2007
Sony DSCW 55

If you’re looking to save a little extra money on your next digital camera purchase, you may wish to look at the Open Box Specials page at B&H Photo. These items offer the budget-conscious buyer with an opportunity to save a few extra ducats while still getting a product in perfect working condition and, more often than not, still backed by a full manufacturer’s warranty.

This week’s B&H Photo Open Box Digital Camera Specials include the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W55, available in both blue and black. In most cases, these are demo cameras installed in the stores and, as such, the actual condition of each camera will vary so be sure to read the important note on any item and understand the store’s return policy before finalizing your purchase.

Of course, we also recommend checking out the Photobird Digital Camera Buyer’s Guide for the latest camera reviews. The Photobird Digital Camera Buyer’s Guide includes a review from dcresource.com for the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W55 which has “Great performance, good photo quality, and a low price…”.

Great Photos Start with Location and Timing

December 26, 2007
Angel Boy

What matters most when taking a photograph? It isn’t the shutter speed, aperture, or ISO, as important as these components are. In fact, the answer may surprise you: according to professional photographer Michael Reichmann, in his article available in the Photobird Learning Center, the two most essential elements of photography are location and timing.

As Reichmann puts it, “You can have the greatest lenses, and possess the finest technique, but if you’re not able to shoot at an interesting location you’re unlikely to produce successful images.”

Reichmann also writes about the concept of “The Decisive Moment”: that split-second where all of the compositional elements coalesce, which, when captured by a fortunate photographer, result in an indelible picture.

Think about your favorite photographs; how are they a result of being in the right place at the right time?

Be sure to check out the Photobird Learning Center for more great content.

A Quick Tour of Photobird.com

December 25, 2007
Photobird Quick Tour

Photobird.com provides a simple and intuitive way for you to share your photographs with friends and family. You’ve probably already noticed that Photobird.com is designed first and foremost for your ease of use. It’s so easy to use, in fact, you probably won’t need help pages or instructions to get started right away with sharing your photos. However, if you do get stuck or you just want to see what’s possible with your new Photobird.com account, be sure to check out the Quick Tour.

You’ll quickly learn how to make easy-to-use online photo albums in seconds, and find out why Photobird.com is faster, easier, and more convenient than sharing photos by e-mail. The Quick Tour will also show you how to add titles and descriptions to your photos as well as how to send your photos to friends.

In the Quick Tour, you’ll learn about more advanced features as well, including how to password protect your photo albums, how to change the default photo display size, and how to allow visitors to comment on and rate your photos.

If you have questions about our free 7-day trial, be sure to visit our Ordering Subscriptions help page, which should answer all your questions. If your question isn’t addressed there, please reach us on the Photobird forums or feel free to contact us directly via our Contact Us page. You may also peruse our  Help pages more for details about Photobird.com.

Click here to order a subscription to Photobird.com for yourself or someone on your holiday list.

What are your favorite Photobird features? What features would you most like to see Photobird add?