Archive for August, 2008

3 Days Left: Photobird Photo Contest for August

August 29, 2008

“Relaxing Man Made Style”
© Copyright Marketta English

One of the things I like about Marketta English’s photo entry “Relaxing Man Made Style” in the Photobird Photo Contest for August is the colorful sky in the background. I also think it’s cool that Marketta was able to get Johnny Depp to pose as a pirate for this photo. At least I think it’s Johnny Depp in his pirate costume. He looks like he’s relaxing after a long trip rowing ashore. Or maybe after a long day filming a Pirates of the Caribbean sequel.

There’s only 3 days left before the end of the Photobird Photo Contest for August. Be sure to vote and get your photo entry in before this Sunday night. The theme this month is “Relax”.

Photobird Photo Contest details:

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

Read more details about the monthly contest here.

Every monthly Photobird Photo Contest has two winners. At the end of each month, we pick one winner for the Photobird Award, and we will tally your votes to determine the one winner for the People’s Choice Award.

See the previous contests and their contest entries at this link.

Go here to enter the contest. And be sure to have your family and friends vote for their favorite entries to help select the People’s Choice Award. (You can send them a quick little reminder here.)

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

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I Have My Eye on You

August 28, 2008

“Watching”
© Copyright Vicki Tinnon

This fantastic photo taken by Vicki Tinnon at the Sunset Zoological Park in Manhattan, Kansas, is one of the many beautiful photos that Vicki has submitted for the Photobird Photo of the Hour. You can see more of Vicki Tinnon’s inspiring photos in her Photobird photo album at www.photobird.com/vickitinnon. Vicki Tinnon won the Photobird Award for the Photobird Photo Contest for May 2008 with her photo “Moving In“.

This photo is remarkable because of the clever crop Vicki used to compose the photo. First, Vicki loosely uses the Rule of Thirds, in that the bird and its colorful head and feathers are generally in the lower two-thirds of the photo, with the gray background in the upper third. Secondly, Vicki cropped the photo very tight, so your eyes focus on only a few things: the feathers, the head, and the eye. (See our Photobird Daily article “Get Closer. Closer. Even Closer!“) Note how the feathers fill up the bottom half of the photo. Even though you can’t see the entire bird, you know those are feathers by their shape, texture, and appearance, so you really don’t need to see the entire bird. With this clever technique, Vicki is able to tell a small story with her photo. It’s extremely well done. Impressive.

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.

In return for each photo we use on the Photo of the Hour or People Places and Things, you get more storage space for your photo album so you can store more photos. Details are here.

If you’d like to keep some of your photos private while you share your favorite photos with the world, you can read how easy it is to do that with Photobird photo albums in our Photobird Daily article entitled “Show Off Your Photos, and Keep Some Private“.

You may also discuss your favorite Photobird Photos of the Hour in the Photobird forums.

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Astronomy Picture of the Day

August 27, 2008

“Aurora Persei”
© Copyright Jimmy Westlake

If you like astronomy like I do, then you’ll like the Astronomy Picture of the Day. Every day, NASA shows a different picture related to astronomy, whether it’s a photo of a distant galaxy from the Hubble Space Telescope, or a photo of an eclipse, or a photo from an event on one of the planets in our solar system. They also include a description of the picture. For example, in the photo above entitled “Aurora Persei“, astronomer Jimmy Westlake captured the bright Perseid meteor passing by an auroral glow over Colorado in August of 2000.

Here’s more of my favorites that were recently shown on the Astronomy PIcture of the Day:

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While we’re peering above the stratosphere, check out this photo below from The Big Picture, which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago in regards to its photos of the 2008 Olympics Opening Ceremony. From the photo series “The Sky, From Above“, this photo shows a dust storm over the Sahara Desert. I don’t know about you, but looking at this picture makes me feel pretty small and insignificant. Very humbling.

I like this photo because, one, you can see the curvature of the Earth, which provides a sense of tangibility, like a ball that we can pick up. Two, you can see the ground, which provides an unusual change of perspective, since we’re not accustomed to seeing the ground this way. And three, you can see the clouds, which are normally huge and above us, obviously, but in this picture they’re quite small and below us, like a spill on the kitchen floor. Fascinating perspective.

What do you think of these photos? Please let me know in the comments.

Dust storm over the Sahara.
© Copyright NASA

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Beyond Portraiture by Bryan Peterson

August 26, 2008

My favorite photography book is Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. I strongly recommend it, even for beginnners. A lot of people like the book. Over 420 people have given it positive ratings on Amazon.com. Understanding Exposure is available as one of the prizes in the Photobird Photo Contest. Enter the free contest for your chance to win!

My second favorite photography book is Beyond Portraiture, also by Bryan Peterson. If nothing else, all of the beautiful photos in the book are very inspirational. They encourage readers to keep shooting, and to keep reading the book to find out what Bryan Peterson recommends to capture such colorful photos.

Beyond Portraiture is published by my favorite book publisher, Amphoto Books, which also publishes Understanding Exposure. Understanding Exposure is listed as a prize each month for the Photobird Photo Contest, but the winners actually get to choose a book. Winners may choose one of the books listed on the page at http://amphotobooks.com ; click the book covers and if “Amphoto” is listed under the ISBN number at the top, then the book is available as a prize. Beyond Portraiture is also available as a prize in the Photobird Photo Contest, as are Baby Face and Mastering HDR Photography, two books I wrote about recently. Enter the contest for your chance to win Beyond Portraiture!

Before you buy one of Bryan Peterson’s books or anything else on Amazon.com, please click one of our Amazon.com links anywhere on Photobird.com. For each product you buy after your click, we receive a small referral fee, at no additional cost to you. Your clicks and purchases allow us to continue to publish the Photobird Daily and the Photobird Learning Center. Thank you for your patronage!

Also consider Amazon Prime when you buy anything at Amazon.com. Amazon Prime members enjoy the following benefits:

1. Unlimited FREE Two-Day Shipping on millions of Amazon.com Items
2. Overnight Shipping upgrades for only $3.99 per item
3. Shopping with no minimum order size
4. Ability to share benefits with up to 4 household members
5. 1 Month Free Trial

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How to Photograph Interiors Quickly and Easily

August 25, 2008

Bathroom photo © Copyright Ed Krimen

This past weekend, some local relatives asked me to take photos of their two bathrooms for a project they were working on. The photos would just be shown online to a small group of people. Nothing fancy. And that’s good, because I don’t do a lot of indoor photography. I prefer to shoot outdoors.

I knew this would be straightforward, if I could keep it simple. I also wanted it to be quick. I definitely didn’t want to spend a lot of time on it. No sense in trying to over-complicate things unnecessarily.

That said, I also wanted to end up with great photos. No sense in shooting photos if they don’t look good.

I already knew what the bathrooms looked like, so I knew what I was up against. Even so, before I went over to their house, I did a little thinking to figure out what I’d need. I considered lights on stands, and an external camera-mounted flash. I figured though, that the lights on stands would be overkill, especially because they’d barely fit in the small bathrooms. I brought the external camera-mounted flash, just in case, but I didn’t need it. I usually use it when photographing people indoors, with great results. (Quick tip: Aim the flash up to the ceiling, so the light reflects off the ceiling.)

The photos of their bathrooms turned out better than I expected, and the “client” was thrilled with them. The shooting session took about an hour, at a very slow, relaxed pace, including reviewing the photos on their computer a few times during that hour to make sure I got what I needed. I only shot 22 photos, and most of them, about 80 percent I’d say, are usable. The photo shown above is the best looking one, because the bathrooms themselves aren’t spectacular; the bathrooms won’t appear in any home architecture magazines, that’s for sure. But I think the photos look good, if I do say so myself.

Here’s how I made these photos look good, quickly and easily:

1. Turn off the on-camera flash. Don’t use any additional light sources, other than what’s in the room. Obviously, this may not work for every situation, especially with much larger rooms such as living rooms, but with these small bathrooms and the proportionally large amount of light in the bathrooms, no extra flash was needed. In fact, I took a couple of shots with the on-camera flash by accident, and those photos didn’t come out well at all. I actually think the on-board flash on cameras should be off by default, not on when shooting indoors. In this case, I let the camera’s Auto mode determine the proper exposure, and it did a great job.

2. Composition is key. That phrase could be a subtitle for this journal, the Photobird Daily. I really do think composition is extremely important, especially in these photos, in these small bathrooms. Focus on what you really want in the photos. Shooting in these bathrooms would actually be a great composition exercise. Note in the photo above, that the top parts of the walls are mirrors. I didn’t want to be in the photos (the photos are supposed to show the bathrooms, not me), so I knelt down on my knees and took the photos below the mirrors. I specifically kept a small part of the mirrors in the photos so you could see that there were mirrors there, but you couldn’t see what was reflected in the mirrors. Worked out very well. There was no editing done on these photos at all. They’re straight from the camera, which is just how I like it.

3. Keep it simple. Just me and my camera. And a little, casual planning beforehand to mainly eliminate what I didn’t need, such as the lights on stands. I actually had three cameras to choose from to use for this project, and I decided to use the 3-megapixel Canon PowerShot G1, from 2001. I knew it was easy to use, with not a lot of options, and it would just get the job done. I didn’t use the potentially over-complicated Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F828 or the tiny, yet capable Casio Exilim EX-Z77. Both of those could have also done the job, but I didn’t want to complicate matters. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time fumbling with options. Nevertheless, if one of those cameras was your only option, they would have done a fine job; just turn off the on-camera flash though. I also considered using a tripod, but I didn’t need it (and didn’t bring it either). If you’re photographing a larger room without a flash, I’d recommend the tripod.

4. Be prepared. As usual. Make sure your batteries are charged. I brought a backup battery, and I found out later that it wasn’t charged. Make sure your memory cards are empty. Even though my relatives have a computer with memory card slots, I brought my own card reader because I wasn’t sure how theirs worked, or if they worked at all. I used my card reader to review and show them the photos on their computer. I even made a new, hidden photo album in my Photobird photo album, so they could show their bathroom photos.

This little project worked out very well. Quick and easy. Just how I like ’em.

Now if you’re looking for a more polished, professional look without spending a lot of time, load your photo into my favorite, free, online photo editor, Picnik.com; go to the Edit tab, and click Auto-fix, which automatically adjusts the photo’s colors for you. Here’s a version of the photo shown above after Auto-fix has been applied.

Bathroom photo (Edited) © Copyright Ed Krimen

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1 Week Left: Photobird Photo Contest for August

August 22, 2008

“REST”
© Copyright Avijit Roy

The photo shown above, which was entered into the Photobird Photo Contest for August, and is entitled “REST” by Avijit Roy, is attractive for a few reasons. First, the colors in the photo are very well saturated and the photo is very sharp (but not too sharp). The photo is also well composed, and I like how the red rope in the background helps to balance out the overall range of colors in the scene. Finally, even though what the man is lying in doesn’t look like it would be comfortable at all, he looks very relaxed and restful, very comfortable and peaceful.

A little more than one week remains before the winners are determined for the Photobird Photo Contest for August. The theme this month is “Relax”.

Photobird Photo Contest details:

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

Read more details about the monthly contest here.

Every monthly Photobird Photo Contest has two winners. At the end of each month, we pick one winner for the Photobird Award, and we will tally your votes to determine the one winner for the People’s Choice Award.

See the previous contests and their contest entries at this link.

Go here to enter the contest. And be sure to have your family and friends vote for their favorite entries to help select the People’s Choice Award. (You can send them a quick little reminder here.)

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

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Golden Glory

August 21, 2008

“Golden Glory”
© Copyright Vicki Tinnon

This absolutely stunning photo of a gorgeous, majestic golden eagle by Vicki Tinnon is one of the many beautiful photos that Vicki has submitted for the Photobird Photo of the Hour. You can see more of Vicki Tinnon’s inspiring photos in her Photobird photo album at www.photobird.com/vickitinnon. Vicki Tinnon won the Photobird Award for the Photobird Photo Contest for May 2008 with her photo “Moving In“.

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.

In return for each photo we use on the Photo of the Hour or People Places and Things, you get more storage space for your photo album so you can store more photos. Details are here.

If you’d like to keep some of your photos private while you share your favorite photos with the world, you can read how easy it is to do that with Photobird photo albums in our Photobird Daily article entitled “Show Off Your Photos, and Keep Some Private“.

You may also discuss your favorite Photobird Photos of the Hour in the Photobird forums.

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The Key to Great Photos: Location and Timing

August 20, 2008

“Early Madness”
© Copyright Camil Seisanu

We’ve written before about how important location and timing are to produce great photos. It’s so important that I’m writing about it again — and we’ll probably write about it some more in the future.

Michael Reichmann, a professional photographer for over 40 years, states in one of his articles in the Photobird Learning Center that the two most essential elements of photography are location and timing. Not shutter speed, not aperture, not white balance, not ISO. It’s not important how many megapixels your camera has, or whether you have a compact camera or an SLR. In fact, the photo shown above, “Early Madness” by Camil Seisanu, was shot using a 5-megapixel, medium-sized camera from 2006, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1.

As Reichmann says, “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. A perfect example of this is in Camil’s photo above, with the sun rising, its red-orange color cast on the water and the sky, and the split-second timing of snapping the shutter button when the bird is taking off. None of that would have happened if Camil hadn’t been there at sunrise — with his camera, battery charged, and memory cards empty, ready to go.

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

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Best Selling Cameras on Amazon.com

August 19, 2008

Amazon.com keeps a running tally of its best-selling digital cameras, updated hourly. Check out the Amazon.com Digital Camera Best Sellers page at this link to see the complete list of cameras.

Two weeks ago, the Canon PowerShot A590 IS, shown above, was knocked out of first place on Amazon’s best sellers list, all the way to down to fourth place. But that was only for a short time. The Canon PowerShot A590 IS is back in first place. It knocked the Canon PowerShot SD850 IS, which had been in first place, down to third place.

Canon cameras have been constantly battling it out in the top five. The Canon PowerShot SD750 is up to number two from number three, knocking the Canon Digital Rebel XSi SLR down to number four.

While Canon has the top of the list secured, other camera manufacturers have been competing with Canon for the bottom of the top 10 list. The Canon PowerShot SD870 IS, Canon PowerShot SD790 IS, and Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS (Silver) are in sixth, seventh, and ninth positions, respectively.

Nikon, Panasonic, and Olympus have been struggling to stay in the top 10. The Nikon D60 SLR is back in the top 10 at number ten, with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5K holding on tight at number eight, unchanged from two weeks ago. The Olympus Stylus 770SW has dropped off the top 10 list, from number nine down to number eleven.

Canon continues to dominate the top of the Amazon.com Digital Camera Best Sellers list.

Click on any of the links below to go to the Amazon.com or Photobird Digital Camera Buyer’s Guide page for that camera to read reviews and obtain more details on each camera:

1. Canon PowerShot A590 IS
2. Canon PowerShot SD750
3. Canon PowerShot SD850 IS
4. Canon Digital Rebel XSi
5. Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS (Blue)
6. Canon PowerShot SD870 IS
7. Canon PowerShot SD790 IS
8. Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5K
9. Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS (Silver)
10. Nikon D60

Before you buy a Canon digital camera or anything else on Amazon.com, please click one of our Amazon.com links anywhere on Photobird.com. For each product you buy after your click, we receive a small referral fee, at no additional cost to you. Your clicks and purchases allow us to continue to publish the Photobird Daily and the Photobird Learning Center. Thank you for your patronage!

Also, consider Amazon Prime when you buy anything at Amazon.com. Amazon Prime members enjoy the following benefits:

1. Unlimited FREE Two-Day Shipping on millions of Amazon.com Items
2. Overnight Shipping upgrades for only $3.99 per item
3. Shopping with no minimum order size
4. Ability to share benefits with up to 4 household members
5. 1 Month Free Trial

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Your Photos are Fast on Photobird.com

August 18, 2008

“zooming Manhattan”
© Copyright Rafa Torcida

Speed is very important to me when I visit websites. I want websites to appear in my web browser very quickly. I’m sure you feel the same way. No one likes waiting around for websites.

With that goal in mind, your photos and photo albums display very quickly when they’re on Photobird.com. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, when I designed Photobird.com, I wanted your photo albums to be really easy to use, fast, and have a nice, clean design so they would be nice to look at.

Here’s how we make your photos display very quickly, and I’ll explain some additional options you have in your photo albums.

When you add your photos to your photo albums on Photobird.com, the following happens:

  1. A copy is made of each photo.
  2. Your originals are stored securely and unmodified.
  3. The copy of each photo is automatically resized so it displays quickly in your photo album.

We’ve fine-tuned our back-end, web server architecture to ensure that your photos and photo albums appear quickly in your web browser. You’ll find that your pictures display faster on Photobird.com than pictures display on most if not all other websites — including websites that you build yourself. That speed is important to me, and I’m sure it’s important to you as well. Yet, I’m still not completely satisfied; I think there’s still room for improvement, to make your photos display even faster, or at the very least, improve the viewing experience in your photo albums.

Note that you can add photos of any size to your photo albums. You can add a 100MB photo file if you want, if you can find one that large. Your original photo will still be stored unmodified, and we’ll make a copy of it and resize it so that it displays quickly in your photo album.

Your photos are also resized so that they will appear correctly in your web browser. Most unmodified photo files from your camera would appear larger than your computer screen if we didn’t resize them. If we didn’t resize your photos, you would need to scroll around within your browser window to see the entire photo, and it wouldn’t be a good experience. Resizing your photos improves that so you can easily and quickly see your photos.

By default, your photos are automatically resized to 640 pixels wide, which is a standard dimension for photos. It’s also a very good size so that even people with small computer screens can see your photos.

You have the option, of course, to choose a different display size for your photos. And you can choose a different display size for each photo album. For example, you may have some vacation photos in one album that you want to appear large, but on the other hand, you may have some photos of items that you’re selling on eBay, and those photos should appear smaller when you link to them from eBay.

To change the display size for the photos in a specific photo album, just follow these quick and easy steps:

  1. Go to the photo album you want to change and click on the “Edit Album Options” button.
  2. Under “Photo display size:”, choose how many pixels wide you’d like to make the photos by selecting one of the options. Note that you can choose to make the photos in this album the same size as the photos in the album that this album resides in. Therefore, it’s very easy to change a lot of albums at once, without needing to change every individual album.
  3. Click on the “Save Changes” button at the bottom of the page.

That’s it! The photos in your photo album will now be shown in the size you’ve selected.

If you use special post-processing on your photos, and you don’t want your photos resized or touched when you add them to your photo album, simply choose to display your photos in “Original” size, and they will appear in your photo album as large or as small as you have made them, without modification. You can resize and process your photos the way you want on your computer before you add them to your photo albums.

Of course, we have many ideas that we’re working on to improve these features, including allowing photos to be resized automatically when you resize your web browser’s window.

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

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