Tag Archives: photo

Is This the Easiest way to Turn Photos into Videos?

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We all have tons of photos, whether they’re digital or print. What are you going to do with them all? You could throw them into some kind of video, but many of them are hard to use. All you want to do is create a “photo show”, right?

When one of our chat moderators four_ones sent me a link to this new site called Animoto, I had to check it out. You upload your photos, pick a song… and it creates the mashup for you. You can choose which photos you want. You can highlight certain photos over others.

Animoto Productions is a bunch of Techies and film/tv producers who decided to lock themselves in a room together and nerd out.

Their first release is Animoto, a web application that automatically generates professionally produced videos using their own patent-pending technology and high-end motion design. Each video is a fully customized orchestration of user-selected images and music. Produced on a widescreen format, Animoto videos have the visual energy of a music video and the emotional impact of a movie trailer.

The heart of Animoto is its newly developed Cinematic Artificial Intelligence technology that thinks like an actual director and editor. It analyzes and combines user-selected images and music with the same sophisticated post-production skills & techniques that are used in television and film.

If you choose a free account, you can create 30 second videos. With a paid account, you get much more. Even better… you can click a button and upload your videos directly to your YouTube account! Take a look at the two quick videos I made, just playing around. It’s so easy… and fun! What a great way to capture those moments.


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SLR Accessories to Buy

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Calvin writes: “Just watched you video on your new Rebel XTi. Congrats! I remember when I made the jump and it was great. As a hobby photograph,I used point and shoot cameras for a while. I thought I’d suggest 5 things that I found helpful as a DSLR owner.”

  • Additional lenses I’m not being specific here, because every “eye” is different. I like landscape shots, so my wide angle lens hogs my Canon body a lot. It always helps to carry more than one lens at a time, you never know when you need that Telephoto moment or that wide angle when you just can’t step back any further. Assuming you’re gonna stick with Canon lenses, be mindful of the difference between EF and EF-S lenses. EF-S is for the cropped sensor models e.g. Rebel XTi, whereas EF are usually for the full frame sensor models e.g. 5D. You can fit EF lenses on an EF-S body, but you can’t fit EF-S lenses on a full frame body. So if further down the line you trade that Rebel XTi in for a full frame model those EF-S lenses won’t work! Also, Canon don’t ship lens hoods with their lenses that aren’t part of the L range (argh!) so you’re gonna have to buy a separate lens hood for that lens if it’s not an L “Luxury” model. IS (Image Stabilization) is another feature to look out on lenses for if you find out you have more shaky hands then you realize. Since the body doesn’t have this technology and any IS you get will be from the lenses, the benefit of this that you can see the IS effects through the viewfinder.
  • Battery Grip Picture the scene, your baby is in Ponzi’s arms and is about to yawn for the first time. You reach out for your camera in attempt to snap this amazing moment…. only to find out the battery is dead. Not that this has happened to me, but you can imagine you’d be pretty livid if this were to happen, regardless of how organized you are with batteries. Which is why I recommend a battery grip for your Rebel XTi. Not only can you store 2 batteries worth of power within the grip, but it also allows you to hold your camera vertically much easier and has additional controls when holding it in that position. The official Canon model is the BG-E3, but if you find that too pricey, there are some other ones out there which are basically the same but don’t sport the Canon name.
  • Flashgun + diffuser Whilst the flash is acceptable on the camera itself, it can never fully compare to a proper flashgun. With one, you can adjust its angle so you can bounce the flash off walls or ceiling for a less direct flash. Or even better, use an off-shoe camera cord and manually control the direction of the flash with your hand off-camera. Take a look at the offerings from Canon’s Speedlite range, they’re sure to get you going a bit. I also recommend getting a flash diffuser. Basically its a small device which softens the flash from the flash gun, which is especially useful if you need that direct flash but don’t want the harsh shadows that go with it.
  • Tripods/Monopods Tripods are fantastic if you want to take shots which just aren’t possible handheld. I have a bit of a soft spot for long exposure shots, but that’s just me! I recommend something from the Giottos and Velbon range. Again, I won’t name specifics because everyone has their own tastes so I suggest you get down to the store and have a feel, tug at its joints and play around with it. A monopod isn’t a must, but if you feel the need to reduce the camera shake in those moments but don’t have the time to setup the full Tripod, it may come in handy.
  • Camera bag You’ve got the equipment, now you need a container. I have several camera bags, namely a backpack if I want to carry a tripod, laptop and a few lenses for a long trip or a small messenger bag for just the camera and another lens. Unfortunately, I find most camera bags look too much like camera bags and are begging to be swiped. I recommend Crumpler. It’s not cheap, but they do make attractive bags. And whilst now thieves have caught on that Crumpler bags are what more and more photographers are using, for the most part they disguise themselves pretty well as being passed off as just “a bag”. They make a large range of backpacks and messenger bags for photographers so do check them out. If you don’t mind that obvious camera bag look, check out bags made by Lowepro. Their sling bags are a favorite for photographers, and their range is very respectable.

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How to do a Successful Photo Blog

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One of our Lockergnome Community members writes: “I’m headed to the finish line. I’ve only got two more posts to complete my 365 day photo blog. Here are some tips that have helped me get through this experiment”.

  • Make sure you have a measurable goal and track it. I personally use Joe’s Goals to track my posting goals. It is a simple web based goal tracker. I really like that I can set it up to send me an email reminder if I haven’t updated my goal in the past two days. It is also nice in that you can post your goal graph on a web page. I use iGoogle and have the widget on there to remind me as well. The more reminders for your goal the better. Joe’s goals is also nice in that it tracks your chain of consecutive days.
  • Use some sort of software that will let you post in the future for timed release of your photo. This is the best feature of WordPress ever! I tend to try and batch up my posting to save time. This also works great for back posting missing days. If you’re not super hung up on really posting every day and faking it this works too.
  • Reward yourself. Come up with something that if you complete your 365 posts you will give yourself. In my case, I am planning on producing a book (That will be another post). I am looking at using Blurb to do the publishing. It doesn’t matter what your reward is. Some ideas are a new lens for your camera, a new flash, or really anything for enhancing your photography.
  • Get a solid work flow. I personally use UFRaw for RAW conversion of my Nikon D50 RAW files and GIMP for image manipulation. I do have Photoshop but find that I’m using GIMP 95% of the time. It doesn’t matter what you use, just find something that works for you.
  • Join Flickr, PhotoBucket, or some other social photography site to get feedback on your photography. This will help motivate you to keep shooting. Look for a local group that you may be able to go out on photo walking expeditions with.

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Digital Camera Tips

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Most people never open their camera’s manual because they are huge, and starting guides only tell you how to turn the cam on and off. You don’t have to read the whole manual. Here are some things that are well worth finding in the manual.

  • Focus then Shoot- How many functions does the picture Taker Button has? #1 Taking a Photo, #2 Focus Activate, and #3 Enter/Select Button (Share that with your friends!). So before jamming on the button, press the button half way the camera will take a second and show you if it is in focus, most cameras will even show you where it is focusing on; and then press the button further down to take a picture.
  • Learn to set your white balance – White Balancing helps your camera capture true life colors OR Capture Creative colors. It must be set Manually in every Location that has more than one light source (Like Shooting in the house with lights on in the room and the sun light from a window). Manual W/B is a must when shooting without a flash! You-Tube the Camera White Balance to get a better understanding on how your camera sees the world. After taking pictures with Manual W/B Don’t forget to set you W/B to Auto. Some people forget that they are in manual, so a day later, take a few pictures and then they realize that something does not look right. Also if you will ever have to pull the Cam out to take a quick shot it will be already in auto and you won’t have to waist time switching and missing the shot.
  • Learn to set your Light Meter position – Ever taken a picture and it was to bright or to dark? By default the camera is set to Multi Meter mode So…If taking a picture of a person wearing lots of white or standing by something bright the picture will turn out dark, or if a person wearing lots of black or standing in a dark area the face may be too bright. Most cameras can switch to a center point meter. When Switched to Center point, point the center mark at the person’s face press the button half way, the camera will set the brightness and focus, then move the camera into a position you want a person to be in the picture. Don’t make a mistake of Pointing the center point on to a person’s face ant taking a picture, those photos look bad, but remember when you press the button half way the camera locks all the settings so you can move the frame around.
  • Lock your ISO – ISO is the camera sensitivity. This is a process that takes place after the picture is taken (digitally brightening of the pixels), so the higher the number (sensitivity) the worse quality you get. Although you can get a brighter picture with higher sensitivity (ISO) The picture will come out grainy, so by locking the ISO lower the camera will have to use all other options to get the picture brighter. Experiment with it and learn more about ISO, it will really help you out.
  • Use Force Flash Outside – Some cameras fire the flash no matter what, and others only when it gets darker. I don’t think there is a camera that does not have a force flash setting. Usually represented by a lightening symbol without an A by it. Force flash really helps to get rid of dark faces or shadows in a beautiful day light – it’s called Fill-Flash. Play around with it, sometimes you need it some times you don’t, but knowing that can improve your photos.
  • Learn to set Flash strength – Rule of thumb: At night shoot with lower setting and in the day time crank it up. Sound weird right, but if the flash is set too high in low light, not only your will blind you subject but the camera will have to compensate for the strong flash and the picture will come out darker. During the day it is already bright so small flash will not help to get rid of shadows on the face.
  • Use Less Flash – Ever tried to take a picture but it never comes out looking like it supposed to? It is amazing what you can get without a flash ironically in lower light. Sometimes the flash is too bright for the situation or will only light up the closest object, or will make the picture loose the feel desired. Like shooting a Christmas Tree, Picture taken with a flash will loose the beauty of the Lights on the tree or candle lit dinner will look like a plain dinner with a candle in the middle. So experiment without a flash but remember to hold your camera extra steady.
  • Set Up Closer – When shooting in low light get closer to your subject rather than zoom in. Because of a small size lens, more zoom = less light entering into the lens, so walking up closer to the subject will help with getting a better quality photo.
  • Get A Tripod – Shooting in low light requires a steady hand, even slight vibration of a hand can make a blurry photo. Instead of razing ISO use a tripod. Most Pros use it always. Tripod can also help when taking a picture of a baby: simply mount the camera on the tripod position the frame and concentrate on entertaining the baby, when the baby smiles hit the button and you got the shot. Tripod is very handy in many situations so have one around.
  • Balance the Quality – Shoot at Highest Quality Setting But Not the Highest Pixel Rate. Setting a camera to use less megapixels while setting to superfine quality can improve low light shots. Most cameras when set to lower pixel rates combine pixels to create a larger one instead of downsizing the photo which helps in low light. Also when using digital zoom some cams take advantage of unused pixels to help-out in sharpness and quality. Check to see in the menus for different digital zoom settings to see if your camera can do that. You may get less zoom than a default mode but the quality will be much better.
  • Use Digital Zoom sparingly – Despite of all the advertisements, digital zoom should only be used in emergencies. More digital zoom = Less quality photo. Also if the camera does not have a smart digital zoom function talked above than consider shooting in highest quality and Highest Pixel Count and then cropping the photo on the computer. Some pros will argue that it is the best way to digitally zoom in a photo and get the best quality out of it. And Trust me 3 optical zoom is not “zoom” and will not help you get closer of your son’s soccer game as advertised, anything less than 5 optical zoom is basically a cropping tool that will help you cut things out of the shot when you can’t move. So if you need zoom Consider a camera with more optical zoom function. Those cameras may be a bit slower and bigger.


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Buying a Digital SLR Camera

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A community member at large sent these tips in after watching my video about the new Canon camera we bought for Christmas. These are excellent tips to keep in mind when buying your next camera.

  • When considering a new SLR camera, ask your self do you really need the SLR Camera? Most people want a better camera for better quality pictures, but as Chris said it is only a tool set that can guide you to a better quality picture. Are you up to spending lots of time for learning the skills of photography. If not you are almost not getting the item worth your money. Most Point&Shoot Cams can do a better job in auto than SLRs, Great Brains and Engineers worked hard to make these cameras to be as simple as possible for the user while bringing out the best quality: like best combinations of ISO and Shutter and IRIS positions to get a great picture. SLR camera can be considered as dumber than Point&Shoots, but if used right can out shoot any point and shoot simply because of the expensive lens and larger image sensor.
  • Don’t go for the highest pixel count. Normally 5 megapixel is enough for everyday shooting, but when camera has more pixel count the smaller each Pixel on the sensor, so it needs more light. For an average user the higher pixel count will only result in larger file size.
  • Invest in image stabilizing function – Digital or Optical ? both have +/-. Digital is a bit stronger because it is a before and after shot process, while optical only stabilizes before capture. Digital looses some quality while Optical does not. So try it out and choose one that fits you.
  • Consider semi-SLR – there are many cameras that work like SLR cameras but have all the features of a simple Point&Shoot. Although larger in size and heavier they offer many more features than a pocket size cameras and can be used in full auto as well as full manual mode.
  • Many stores talk down users from getting cameras that have AA Batteries. Use your brain on this one. Lithium batteries are faster and may hold more charge but you can get stuck without power easily. Buying a good set of rechargeable batteries will give you almost the performance of the Lithium’s but whenever you are on the road and don’t have a way to recharge you are stuck, AAs are available in the stores everywhere, while Lithium’s are not. So judge this one your self which one is better for you.
  • Bonus Tip! If you Chose SLR than Don’t fight about Canon or Nikon or Sony…. Go to the store Pickup a camera feel it, Press buttons, play with it. Which one feels better to you? They all have and do basically the same things. Instead Figure out your budget and spend half on the camera and half or more on the lens. Get a good lens with at least 2.8 aperture capability you will not regret it. Just remember you will change your camera 3 or more times before you will change your lens.


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How to Take Pictures of Pets and Kids

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It’s that time of year again. Families will come together, children will be in wonderful, smiling moods, and you’ll have your camera permanently attached to your hand. Here are some tips sent in by eatsalot, to help you take better pictures of your loved ones.

  • Take as many pictures as possible: thanks to digital cameras, you can take hundreds of pictures and then just pluck out the bad ones and delete them. Some cameras also have a rapid take feature, which is very useful.
  • Don’t make them pose: simply give them some toys (or in a pets case – some treats) and start taking pictures. Try to do a sort of candid shot. These always turn out to have better memories, and be more realistic than any posed picture.
  • Experiment: try different filters and editing programs. You never know how useful software is until you try it. As long as you use a copy of the original to “play” with, you’ll never accidentally lose the original photo due to bad changes.
  • Lighting: make sure that there is enough light, and try to use the flash as little as possible. Reducing the use of flash also means less red-eyed pictures. You wouldn’t want anyone thinking your child or pet is the devil themselves. We all know they’re little angels.
  • Sending and Printing: Make sure when you want to print them to get good photo paper and a photo printer. If you are sending them in an email, send them at the highest resolution possible. You don’t want to send someone a fuzzy picture. A good thing to keep in mind when emailing large pictures, or several at once, is to zip them into a compressed folder, and attach the entire folder to the email.


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Free Bitmap to Vector Graphics Software

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When you resize a small image to make it larger, it tends to run the color together, and makes the edges jaggy or blurry. By turning a photo into Vector art, you get rid of those little imperfections.

If you want to clean up your image, make the lines clearer and colors cleaner when resizing it, you definitely want to use VectorMagic. This website and service is absolutely free, which amazes me. It’s easy to use, and the results are astounding.

Upload your image, and watch the tool detect what type of image it is. In my case, it detected my logo as a logo with blending. If I wanted to, I could change that to a logo without blending, a regular photo, whatever the case may be. It then asks what the quality (NOT the resolution) is of the picture. Analyzing begins, and it will stop to ask what color palette you want to use. Once analyzing is done… you can see the results. It’s amazing to see the difference between the original stretched image on the left, and the new cleaned up version on the right. That’s Vectorization, baby!

What is Vectorization, you ask? Vectorization (aka tracing) is the process of converting a raster image to a vector image. Raster images are pixel-based, whereas vector images are represented by geometric shapes such as lines, circles and curves.

Any time you come across a site like this, please let me know so I can help spread the word. I love finding places like this. This site is definitely something I’ve needed for a long time.

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My Career is Over

Or, has it only just begun?

Think Small

People are just now returning home and uploading their Gnomedex photos to the Internet (a lot of them to Flickr, and some elsewhere). However, I believe that Josh is in the lead with at least two “classic” shots. Kris Krug’s, Scott Beale’s, Steve Lacey’s, and Ted Leung’s shots should prove to be breathtaking. I’m finding several favorites from several Gnomedexers!

The Neon Autograph

Camera Glow Stick Trick

Here's how I did that fancy neon autograph thing. When I was in the seventh grade, I was given a scholarship to attend a couple of courses at the Des Moines Art Center (in, of all places, Des Moines, Iowa). I chose photography, and have been somewhat addicted to taking snapshots ever since.

These days, digital cameras are the rule. At least, as far as I'm concerned. We have an unlimited supply of “film” and instant gratification. You know me – I'm all about playing with things that were designed for productivity. That's why I strongarmed our producers into letting me tell you about this cool little trick that you can do right away.

Without any digital editing, we're going to write our name in neon. To get this done, you'll need a digital camera that has a “shutter priority” option, a tripod, a flashlight or LED, and a dark area of your home. Normally, the shutter priority option is used for capturing low light scenes. Which is, by the way, what we're doing – with a flair.

(1) Place your camera on a tripod (or flat surface where it won't move). (2) Set the camera to the highest possible shutter priority (15″ – fifteen seconds – is sufficient). (3) Set the camera on a timer, so it won't move when the shutter opens. (4) Have a friend stand in front of the camera, turn down the lights, and have them turn on the flashlight (or LED). Have them hold it in the starting position. (5) Start the countdown. When the shutter opens, your friend should start spelling his or her name backwards. (6) When they're finished writing their name, have them pause until the shutter closes. It may take a while for your camera to process everything. (7) That's it!