Archive for September, 2008

Best Selling Cameras on Amazon.com

September 30, 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.

The Canon PowerShot A590 IS compact digital camera, shown above, is still at the top of the best sellers list at Amazon.com. The Canon PowerShot A590 IS has been in the number one spot for a while. I wonder how much longer it will be there. No doubt another Canon will take its place. Or maybe a Panasonic will. They seem to be rising up the list.

The Canon Digital Rebel XSi SLR has moved up to second place from third place. It actually swapped positions with the tiny Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS in blue, which is now in third.

The tiny Canon PowerShot SD850 IS has moved up to fourth place, up one notch. Interestingly, the Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS in silver that was in fourth place, is now all the way down to 15th place! What’s even more interesting is that its sibling, the Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS in gold, has come out of nowhere and is now at number 11.

Both Panasonic cameras that were previously on the list, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5K and Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28K, have moved up two spots each, in fifth and eighth positions respectively.

The Canon cameras that were previously in the top 10 have filled out the remainder of the top 10 list. One noteworthy addition to the top 10 list at sixth place is not actually a camera, but the Canon PSC-1000 Deluxe Grey Leather Case for the Canon SD1000 Digital Camera. Amazon.com is offering this case and the Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS as items that are “Frequently Bought Together”, and indeed, it seems that’s true, more now than before.

Surprisingly, one of Canon’s camera accessories, the leather case mentioned above, is now selling better than almost all the cameras from other manufacturers in the Amazon.com Digital Camera Best Sellers list. One camera manufacturer however, Panasonic, is gaining ground in the top 10 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 Digital Rebel XSi
3. Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS (Blue)
4. Canon PowerShot SD850 IS
5. Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5K
6. Canon PSC-1000 Leather Case for Canon SD1000
7. Canon PowerShot SD750
8. Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28K
9. Canon PowerShot SD790 IS
10. Canon PowerShot SD870 IS

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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Autumn Photography

September 29, 2008

“Fall In the Rockies”
© Copyright Vicki Tinnon

Autumn is here and you know what that means: Color! Check out Vicki Tinnon’s photo, shown above, entitled “Fall In the Rockies” for a beautiful example of a kaleidoscope of color on Bear Lake.

Sure, the other three seasons have their colors, but Autumn is right up there with Spring in the competition for best color. Summer and Winter just make Autumn and Spring look even better.

Honestly, there’s nothing special you need to know to shoot for Autumn, compared to any other time of the year. The list below, from Digital Photography School, is mostly a refresher on things to consider whenever you’re shooting. I’ve presented the items in a different order though: My list starts with easy things you can do, and ends with things that may be challenging for beginners.

1. Shoot in the Golden Hours. For best results, and typically the best, most interesting light outdoors, try to shoot between an hour before sunrise and an hour after sunrise, and an hour before sunset and an hour after sunset. We’ve talked about this topic before in the Photobird Daily, in the article “It’s All About the Light“.

2. Don’t ignore overcast days. Overcast days can be ideal because the scenery will have a distinct mood to it. On completely overcast days, the light from the sun will be flat because the clouds will diffuse the light. This type of light will create few shadows, which can be advantageous for photographing people, or just getting straightforward, clear shots of objects.

3. Avoid shooting into the Sun. Shooting into the Sun will result in shadows, glare, lower saturation of colors, and lens flares, if you get any useful shots at all. Keep the Sun at your back or to the side.

4. Look for contrasts. Accentuate the colors in your photos by framing your shots so you can pair different colors with each other. For example, golden leaves on a blue sky, or a red leaf on lush green grass.

5. Adjust White Balance Settings. One of the first things I do when using a camera outdoors is to change the White Balance setting to Cloudy, which will warm up and saturate the colors more. Some cameras allow you to increase the color temperature using numbers on a Kelvin scale. You can always test the difference yourself to see if you like the results: Take some photos of the same scene using the Auto White Balance setting and some with the Cloudy setting.

6. Underexpose your shots slightly. Lower the exposure on your shots just a bit and the colors will have a slightly deeper saturation.

7. Use a polarizing filter.
It’s very rare for point-and-shoot cameras to have the ability to attach different filters to their lenses like SLRs can. Polarizing filters saturate colors, especially making beautiful blue skies. It’s a similar effect to what you see when looking through polarized sunglasses.

8. Consider shooting in RAW. In the days of film cameras, photographers could use warm up filters to give photos a slightly warmer glow. While digital SLRs can still use warm up filters, using your computer and photo software to post-process your photos can be easier and more flexible. If you decide to go that route, the RAW file format will usually provide better results than shooting in JPEG. But not all cameras can produce RAW photo files. We wrote earlier about the RAW file format in our Photobird Daily article “RAW Format Diet“.

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5 Days Left: Photo Contest for September

September 26, 2008

“Sunset”
© Copyright Narasimha

One of the beautiful things you’ll find when you go outdoors is sunsets. Of course, some people have the luxury of watching sunsets unobstructed from their homes. But for most of us, including me, outdoors is where the sunsets are. I must say that watching the same sunset from indoors versus outdoors is a different experience, with outdoors being far preferable. The fresh air and the sounds of nature combine with the visual spectacle to provide the evening’s entertainment.

Narasimha entered the attractive photo shown above entitled “Sunset” into the Photobird Photo Contest for September, and while we don’t get the fresh air and the sounds of nature accompanying the photo, we definitely get the visual spectacle. (We’ll just imagine the fresh air and the sounds of nature.)

The contest theme for this month is “Outdoors” and there’s only five days remaining, so enter your photo very soon!

Photobird Photo Contest details:

The two winners for the Photobird Photo Contest for September 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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“Autumn Flower” by Rafa Torcida

September 25, 2008

“Autumn Flower”
© Copyright Rafa Torcida

Rafa Torcida’s stunning photo “Autumn Flower“, shown above, reminded me that Autumn started this past Monday, September 22 at 3:44pm, with the Autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. No, I didn’t have the date and time memorized. I actually had to look it up, and it was more difficult to find than I expected. I finally got the info from Wikipedia’s “Equinox” page, which is very informative.

I started thinking about the seasons though, and like me, I think most people are focused on when Spring and Summer start than when Autumn and Winter start. People are focused on Spring and Summer because, by that time, they’ll have had enough of the cold weather, they know the weather will become warmer, and it will be time for vacations — so they keep a close eye on the calendar.

A quick web search tells me that it’s the same feeling in the Southern Hemisphere where the seasons are the opposite; people in Australia and New Zealand are just starting to look forward to their Spring and Summer now, with Spring starting up this week. Sounds enticing. And sounds like time for them to start taking photos of beautiful spring flowers. Hey, flowers are always blooming somewhere on this planet, regardless of the seasons.

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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Patterns and Repetition

September 24, 2008

“Home Impressions #6”
© Copyright Rafa Torcida

For unusual, creative photos, photograph objects that form patterns and repetitions. Just make sure you heed the guidelines for composition that we’ve discussed previously in the Photobird Daily, including the Rule of Thirds, and fill the frame, which typically seems to work best for patterns and repetition.

For example, check out the photo above by Rafa Torcida entitled “Home Impressions #6“. The hardwood floor provides the interesting pattern, while the sandals aligned in the lower-left Rule of Thirds intersection provides a focal point and helps break up the repetition of the wood forms. Without the sandals, the photo would look more like a floor sample at a home improvement store than something you’d consider hanging on the wall of your house.

An article at the Digital Photography School website entitled “Using Repetition and Patterns in Photography” explains two great ways to deal with patterns. You can either emphasize the patterns or break the patterns.

When you emphasize a repetitive pattern by filling the frame, you can give the impression of size and large numbers. For example, the stepping stones in Rafa’s “Home Impressions #1“, and the unique ceiling in his “Far Above the Clouds” both give us the impression that these objects could go on forever. At the very least, we don’t know exactly when they stop. They’re definitely repetitive.

The key to these types of photos is to zoom in close enough to the objects so that their patterns fill the frame of your photo and so that the photo gives the impression that the objects go on forever, even though they might just stop right outside the frame.

The other way to deal with patterns is to break the repetition, by adding a contrasting object with a different color, shape, or texture, or by removing one of the repeating objects. For example, in Rafa’s photo “Home Impressions #6” shown above, the sandals break the repeating pattern of the zigzag shape created by the wood pieces in the hardwood floor. It’s important where in the frame you place the object that breaks the pattern, with the Rule of Thirds being a popular consideration, but definitely not the only creative option.

Be sure to read the entire article and see a few more pattern photo examples in the article at the Digital Photography School.

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Understanding Exposure, by Bryan Peterson

September 23, 2008

Bryan Peterson’s book, Understanding Exposure, is mentioned a lot here in the Photobird Daily because it’s a great book. If you’re in the early stages of learning photography or are looking to fine-tune your skills, Understanding Exposure is a bargain at less than $20 at Amazon.com.

Not only is Understanding Exposure filled with gorgeous, inspirational photos, but of course the book is masterful in its instruction in explaining exposure, aperture, shutter speed, and light, and how your camera works to capture that light to help you shoot your own beautiful photos.

I’m not the only one who thinks Understanding Exposure is a great book. As of today, nearly 500 people have reviewed the book on Amazon.com to give it its average of four and a half stars, which is really amazing, quite frankly, to have any product reviewed that many times and have such a high rating. Nearly 400 of those reviewers gave it the full five stars. Reviewers’ comments include “A fantastic learning tool!”, “Outstanding Information for Photographers”, and “Wonderful Read! A MUST HAVE!”

Understanding Exposure is published by my favorite book publisher, Amphoto Books. 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. The following books are also available as prizes:

Before you buy Understanding Exposure 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 Backup Your Photos

September 22, 2008

“Just Peachy”
© Copyright Robert Romero

You know you should backup your photos and data on a regular basis, but some people — and maybe that’s you — don’t backup. Maybe you don’t know how, or you just don’t have the time or can’t make the time for backups. In either case, backups are really important because they will save you time and emotional distress in the future when — not if — you lose your photos and data.

See The Tao of Backup for an entertaining but serious perspective on why backups are important.

Backing up data needs to be easy or it won’t get done. I explain below the “why, when, what, how, who, and where” of backing up photos, and I think you’ll find that my photo backup process is easy and quick. In a future article, I’ll explain how to backup all of your data easily.

Why: Sooner or later you’re going to lose at least one copy of your photos, whether due to your computer’s hard drive failing, or a worse catastrophe. If you have multiple backups in multiple locations, you can get copies of your photos without spending a lot of time or pain.

When: As soon as your photos are copied to your computer, you should start making backup copies. Okay, you’ll probably want to take a quick look on your computer screen at the beautiful photos you just shot, but you shouldn’t spend a lot of time on it, and you definitely shouldn’t start editing photos. As soon as possible after you’ve shot your photos, copy all of the photos to your computer. At this point, you have two copies of the photos: one copy on your memory cards and one copy on your computer. Don’t erase the memory cards yet.

What: Make multiple backup copies of your photos onto recordable DVD discs, such as the DVD-R format. DVDs are very inexpensive, and you should make copies of your photos onto at least 3 DVD discs. The more copies of DVDs you make, the better.

Remember, your photos are irreplaceable. While you can go back to the same location and get the same people back together again to shoot the photos again, it definitely won’t be the same. The lighting will be different, the scene will be different, and everyone’s moods will be different.

Make multiple copies of those photos and don’t lose them. As I explained in a previous article in the Photobird Daily about why you should never delete any photos, even if you don’t like the photos now, you might come back to them in the future and like them better.

How: If your computer doesn’t have a drive that writes DVD discs, then get one. They’re very inexpensive, and you need one to backup your photos. Even if you only have a drive that writes CD discs, buy one that writes DVDs. They’re very inexpensive; the external drives are only about $60. Internal drives are about $30. The reason I recommend DVD over CD is that CDs can only store about 700MB of data, and most memory cards sold today can store gigabytes. If you shoot gigabytes of photos, you’re going to need to split up the photos across multiple CDs, and it’s going to be a challenge for you, it’s not going to be easy, and you’ll loathe backing up your data, which you don’t want to do. DVD burners are cheap. Buy one.

DVD drives that can write to the discs are called “DVD burners” because they “burn” the data to the disc. They can also read DVDs and read and write (“burn”) CDs too.

  • Many Macs have DVD burners. If yours doesn’t, you can buy an external one. Just make sure you have a USB 2.0 port on your Mac. Recent versions of Mac OS X will burn DVDs, so you don’t need extra software.
  • Windows Vista will burn DVDs, so you don’t need extra software, just the DVD burner.
  • Windows XP doesn’t have the native functionality to burn DVDs, but there’s free software called BurnAware Free that will burn DVDs. I haven’t used the software, but it looks pretty good and easy to use, and has received good reviews. Here’s their website where you can download the program.

After copies of your photos have been made, I strongly recommend attempting to access the photos on the DVDs, as a test, just to make sure that everything worked properly and as you expected. Of course, you don’t want to think you backed up your photos, only to try to retrieve your backups later to find out that there was a problem with the way you were backing up your photos.

Who: You can shop on Amazon.com for DVD burners and DVD discs, but even though Photobird gets a referral fee when you buy something on Amazon.com, I prefer other online vendors for DVD burners and discs.

Shop at Newegg.com for DVD burners. Just go to their website and read the reviews for each drive you’re interested in. Newegg customers are very knowledgeable and discerning, so you can trust their customer reviews. And Newegg is an excellent vendor to do business with.

Shop at Supermediastore.com for DVD discs and buy premium Taiyo Yuden discs. You may have never heard of Taiyo Yuden before, but it’s a very popular brand with DVD enthusiasts. Other brands are often recommended as being high quality, such as Verbatim, but after reading the discussions, I spend my money on Taiyo Yuden and I buy them at Supermediastore.com. You can read some of the discussions below; I simply did a Google search on “best dvdr“, but I’ve already had great experiences with Taiyo Yuden and Supermediastore.com.

Where: After you’ve made your multiple copies of your photos, store at least one copy in a safe place at home such as in your safe, at least one copy in another building such as a friend’s or family member’s house or your workplace, and you can store the third copy near your computer for easy access.

After you’re done editing and organizing your photos, I recommend making three more copies of the new set of photos. And if you have room on your DVDs, you can include the original set of photos with these new copies. So when you’re done, you’ll have 6 copies of your original photos, and 3 copies of your edited photos.

And hopefully nothing catastrophic will happen, and you’ll never need to access any of those copies. But if something does happen, you’ll feel at ease because you know you’ll have plenty of copies of your photos.

If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments below or in the forums. I want to make sure you are able to easily make backup copies of your photos. It’s very important. After all, I wouldn’t want you to lose your award-winning photos, such as Robert Romero’s “Just Peachy” shown above.

1 Week Left: Photo Contest for September

September 19, 2008

“Rice fields”
© Copyright Chad Sia

I like this photo entitled “Rice fields” by Chad Sia. I like the vibrant green and blues, very earthy tones. Putting the hut and tree off to the side but keeping them in the frame was a good idea, and I like the very low position of the horizon, to help accentuate the cloud activity and the sky.

Chad entered his photo into the Photobird Photo Contest for September. You can too. The contest is free to enter, the theme this month is “Outdoors”, and there’s about a week left to enter and vote in the contest.

Photobird Photo Contest details:

The two winners for the Photobird Photo Contest for September 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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Bird, Bells, and Berries

September 18, 2008

“Berries”
© Copyright Vicki Tinnon

The People, Places and Things feature has just been updated with some beautiful photos on the Look at Pictures page on Photobird.com. In this update, all three photos were taken by Vicki Tinnon. Vicki won the Photobird Award for the Photobird Photo Contest for May 2008 with her photo “Moving In“. You can see more of Vicki’s photos at photobird.com/vickitinnon.

The first photo shown in the People, Places and Things feature is the majestic “Golden Glory“, which I highlighted in the Photobird Daily last month.

The second photo is a beautiful picture taken in Maroon Bells, Colorado, entitled “The Bells“, which I featured in the Photobird Daily several weeks ago.

The third photo, shown above, is simply entitled “Berries“. There’s a lot to admire in this photo. The foreground focus on the berries is super sharp, which immediately grabs your attention to the obvious subject of the photo. The background is purposefully out of focus, but you still get the sense of the outdoors location, which is important. The droplets of water on the leaf is a great touch. All in all, a wonderful photo.

If you’d like to have one or more of your photos featured in People, Places and Things, submit your favorite photos for consideration by simply following the same steps you would take for submitting a photo for the Photobird Photo of the Hour:

1. View the photo you want to submit from your photo album.
2. Click the “Submit for Photo of the Hour” checkbox.

That’s it!

In return for each photo we use on the Photobird 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“.

The photos in People, Places and Things are updated periodically. We’ll let you know right here in the Photobird Daily when they’re updated.

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How to Make Great Travel Slide Shows

September 17, 2008

“Florence Italy”
© Copyright Ed Krimen

You’ve probably had a similar thing happen to you: Your friend goes on a trip of a lifetime, to Africa let’s say, and when she comes back, she wants to tell you all about it and show you her photos. You’re excited because you’ve never been to Africa before and you’d like to see her photos and hear her stories. But by the time the two of you have reached photo number 426, you’re ready to fall asleep and the last thing you want to hear about is Africa.

Seeing slide shows of exciting places that your family and friends have visited can be a fun, entertaining, and educational experience, but usually only if the slide show is well-choreographed with only the best photos.

To ensure you don’t make your family and friends fall asleep during your next slide show, heed the following tips that John Flinn picked up from his Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer co-workers at the San Francisco Chronicle.

Strive to make each photo your best: With your digital camera, you can easily shoot and store hundreds of photos in a day and not worry about running out of space on your memory card. But that doesn’t mean that you should just shoot at everything haphazardly. Slow down a bit, spend a second or two to think creatively about each photo, compose, shoot, adjust, compose, shoot, and repeat. With some diligence and creative compositions, you’ll return with shots that will amaze your slide show audience.

Photograph people: Not just you and your travel companions, but also photograph the locals for some additional culture and interest in your photos. Your people photos don’t need to be close up and personal, and they don’t need to be secretive either. Photos on the street and in popular venues will do fine. Some examples are in my Europe photo album on Photobird.com, such as this photo of the horn player in Luzern, Switzerland.

Use your camera’s “burst” or “continuous” mode: Many cameras have this feature which will take multiple photos in less than a second. It’s a worthwhile feature to use to increase your odds of getting that perfect shot. As we’ve explained before in the Photobird Daily, in this article entitled “Shoot Lots of Photos!“, success in photography is all about taking a lot of photos. Instead of your pressing the shutter button multiple times for a single scene, let your camera do the work for you.

Shoot some wide shots: Shooting close-ups is good, but don’t neglect the ability to shoot photos at a wide angle. Compose the wide landscape shot with a foreground object to give the photo depth, such as Vicki Tinnon’s photo “Blue in the Bells“.

Mix it up: Shoot a variety of photos in a variety of angles and compositions, such as the photo by Ed Krimen shown above in the Boboli Gardens in Florence, Italy. Don’t stick to the same wide angle view for all of your photos. Vertical shots, horizontal shots, close-ups, and different angles will all keep your slide show exciting.

Double-check your composition before you shoot: Watch for mergers, which we’ve talked about before in the article “Avoid Mergers” in the Photobird Daily. Power lines, lone tree branches, and your finger on the lens can all contribute to a ruined photograph. Sometimes you can fix it by cropping, but sometimes you can’t.

Shoot details: Get up close and let your photos show some humor, emotion, and creativity from the local culture. This rustic garden in Florence is one example.

Show only your very best photos: This part is tough, but it’s probably the most important. As John Flinn says in his article, “Nobody is as interested in your vacation pictures as you are. Nobody. Really.” Editing your hundreds or even thousands of photos down to your 10 to 15 favorites is difficult, but it’ll make the difference between your audience thinking you’re a great photographer, or that you just got lucky a few times. Plus, you don’t want them to fall asleep as you approach photo number 75. Keep the slide show short and keep your audience awake.

Although not mentioned in John Flinn’s article, you may consider breaking up a very large slide show into smaller slide shows that focus on specific cities you visited, for example. Breaking up the slide show into sections, similar to chapters in a book, will enable you to show more photos, but also allow you and your audience to take a break after each section and come back later when they’re ready to see more. Just make sure to put your best photos in the first section to keep their interest. On Photobird.com, you can put different cities into different albums, for example, such as how I put my photos from Zurich, Luzern, and Lausanne into individual albums within my Europe album.

And of course, be sure to read about the View Slideshow button in your Photobird photo albums.

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