Tag Archives: photography

HDR Video Tutorial Giveaway

Trey Ratcliff has taught several thousand people how to do HDR photography through workshops, his award-winning tutorial, his book “A World in HDR” and now a video tutorial. This video tutorial normally sells for $99.00, but we’re giving away three copies to a few lucky people.

Trey is best known for his site, StuckInCustoms, which has become the #1 Travel Photography Blog on the internet with around 350,000 visits per month – including one from his mom. He’s also on Flickr and SmugMug, where his photos have recently passed over 45 million views. His work first became popular after he had the honor of having the first HDR photo ever to hang in the Smithsonian.

Trey’s work is nothing short of breathtaking, and any budding photographer should want to learn at his feet. This video tutorial will open your eyes to an entirely new world, allowing you to let your inner creative side shine.

One man who recently purchased this video said: “Viewing Trey’s HDR DVD series is like finding a mad scientist’s book of secret formulas. His screencasts immediately dispel the barriers and hurdles of achieving stunning HDR images. This series is worth every penny.” The praise doesn’t get any better than this.

So! How can you win!? It’s quite simple, folks: Make sure you are following me on Twitter and have liked my Facebook page. Leave a comment on this blog post telling me why you would like to win a copy. The contest will run now through Monday afternoon (January 24th) at 3PM PST. Three winners will be chosen at random and contacted via the email address left with the comment (so be sure you put your actual email address!). That’s all there is to it!

Happy picture taking!

iPod touch Camera vs. iPhone 4 Still Photography

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Yes, I posted the still photos to my Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc. last week. You may have seen them already if you were following me off-network. However, this screencast sums up the differences quite nicely, I believe.

The iPod touch’s camera, in a word, sucks.

Video comparison between the two devices is not as much of a dramatic differences as the still images are. Photos taken with the iPhone 4 are very sharp and detailed, even without flash or HDR turned on. The images taken with this phone are simply stunning. Seriously.

Pictures taken with the 4th gen iPod Touch are just… uhm… pictures. The saved resolution is absolute crap. You’d get a better quality image by taking a video and then capturing an image from the video.

There is honestly no comparison to be made. Look at the photos, and judge for yourself.

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HDR Photograpy Software Review (True HDR, Pro HDR)

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After tweeting about my test results on Twitter (and subsequently posting photos to my blog later that day), I decided to do a somewhat-live demonstration of the iPhone’s leading HDR software. It’s true that iOS will bring HDR capabilities to the iPhone, iPod Touch, and (presumably, when it gets a camera) the iPad – but sometimes dedicated apps handle things better than features tacked-on to default apps. Despite the crash, my choice remains Pro HDR.

Using High Dynamic Range photography (or HDR) allows you to capture details in both the foreground and background of any given location. You will soon become familiar with this acronym due to iOS 4 and the support it has for HDR. I used two apps I purchased over the weekend to demonstrate this capability.

TrueHDR “expands the iPhone camera’s limited dynamic range by automatically aligning and merging two photos taken at different exposures, with a result that has vivid colors and details in both bright and dark areas.” TrueHDR gives great balance between dark and lighter areas of a scene.

The app isn’t bad. However, it leaves images looking washed out. They take quite a while to process and doesn’t let you save revisions of the edits you make.

ProHDR “captures an image exposed for the highlights and another exposed for the shadows. It then aligns and merges the images, giving you a gorgeous 3- or 5-megapixel HDR image like nothing you’ve ever seen from such a tiny device.”

I like this app better because it gives me sliders which allow me to adjust things such as the brightness. It also does well with contrast and saturation. This one is definitely my choice of HDR applications.

If you know of anything that works better, please let me know in the comments section.

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HDR iPhone Camera Test – True HDR vs Pro HDR

With this week’s announcement that HDR filtering was coming to iOS devices in the next revision (4.1), I thought I’d try taking a photo of my living room with my iPhone 4 and True HDR:

iPhone HDR Camera Photo Test

Not horrible. But, here’s the same angle as snapped by Pro HDR:

Pro - iPhone HDR Camera Photo Test

The difference is like night and day (or, indoors and outdoors). “True” gave better balance between dark and lighter areas of a scene, but “Pro” produced a substantially more vibrant photo. I needed to try it again. Again, with default settings in True HDR:

HDR Test - True HDR

And, again with Pro HDR:

HDR Test - Pro HDR

It was subsequently suggested that I take an outdoor photograph (where True HDR would allegedly shine). So, I walked outside and snapped the two following images. Adjusting for the brightest spot of the composition:

HDR Photo App Test - Brightest Spot Sample Image

And adjusting for the darkest spot in the composition:

HDR Photo App Test - Darkest Spot Sample Image

Here’s how Pro HDR handled the pair:

HDR Photo App Test - Pro HDR Sample Image Output

And this is how True HDR fared with the same two sample images:

HDR Photo App Test - True HDR Sample Image Output


If I had a couple of bucks to spend again, I’d stick with Pro HDR. Not to say that it took perfect shots, but at least I’m given sliders to better adjust output.

I honestly wish I hadn’t purchased True HDR, as even in “enhanced” mode, it continuously left images looking flat and washed out, it always took longer to process, doesn’t have an adjustment mode, and also doesn’t allow you to save revisions of edits.

Gnomedex 9 Photo Awards with Kris Krug

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At the end of Gnomedex 9, photographer Kris Krug graced our stage once again. Last year, he presented his best photography tips to us in order to help us all capture conference moments (and life moments!) more effectively. This year, he provided an awesome and fun look back at this year’s conference by giving away photo awards. Here, in order of appearance, are this year’s photo winners!

  • Too Stylish to be a Real Geek – Brady Forrest
  • I’m Gonna Kick Your Ass – Drew Olanoff for his fight against Cancer.
  • Silver Fox – Buzz Bruggeman
  • Best Facial Hair (other than Kris!) – Jim Roberts
  • Swami in a Cowboy Hat – Shashi Bellamkonda
  • Celebrity Look-Alike – Chris Pirillo
  • Best Gnomedex Photo EVAH! – Airdrie Miller
  • Cutest Couple – Jay Grandin and Leah Nelson. Honorable mention to Paige and Amber, who may not really be a couple… but Kris fully believes in the power of positive thinking! Lastly, but not least in MY book… Robert Scoble and Chris Pirillo. That’s just… scary.
  • I Wanna be KK! – Randy Stewart for helping Kris out and filling in with the camera as needed.
  • Let’s Ride Bikes! – Everyone with our short attention spans. Group lap dance later!
  • Most Immediately Useful Gnomedex Presentation – Phil Plait
  • More Fun then the Death Star – Maker Bot!
  • Hot Boy that we want to Clone in the Maker Bot – Bre Pettis himself
  • Most Inquisitive AKA I’m Smarter Than You! – Teresa – who asked a gazillion interesting questions.
  • In Real Life I’m Actually Quite Likable – Robert Scoble
  • At Least My Slides are Hot and I Talked About Sex – Christine Peterson
  • Darth Vader Heart of Darkness – Todd Friesen
  • Love Bug – Danielle Sipple

Thanks so much to Kris and Danielle for all their hard work taking so many hundreds of excellent photos this year, and for the fun wrap-up to our conference.

[awsbullet:kris krug]

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Where To Look For Unique Photos

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Geek!This is Nate Lawson’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

This is for you Photographers out there who may be having a hard time coming up with new ideas for photos. And if you’re not a photographer but want to take some cool pictures, you can benefit from this list also.

All creative minds have been in the situation before: writers have “writer’s block”, designers have “designer’s block”, artists have “artist’s block”, and by golly photographers have “where the heck can I take new pictures block”.

It doesn’t matter if you live in the city or the country, the U.S. or Canada, if you’re an amateur or a professional. I can guarantee even Ansel Adams had moments in which he didn’t know what else to do.

I happen to live in a small rural town in Wyoming. I’ve often thought that if I just lived in a large city, I would never run out subjects to shoot. And I’m sure people who live in the city wish they could drive fifteen minutes to the Rocky Mountains to get some breathtaking landscape shots.

But after researching photo ideas and not finding exactly what I wanted, I decided to brainstorm places that might not be thought of as “photogenic.” I’ve also given some examples of my work to give you a better idea of what I’m talking about.

Here are my Top 5 Places to Look for Unique Photos:

1. Look Up. There is one place that I learned in the military where nobody looks that may be the difference between life and death, up. Most people never look up. They have their eyes forward or down. Stop once in awhile and take a look to the sky. If you live in the city, the many tall buildings will give you countless possibilities. And if you live in the country, looking up may expose you to unique cloud formations, a flock of geese flying in their famous “ V Formation”, or some pretty cool trees. (I would recommend you stop before you start looking up!)

2. Look Down. The very opposite of looking up is, can you guess? Right, looking down. How many times have you been looking down and found a quarter? Well, try going to a parking lot and spending an hour or two just looking down. There are some pretty cool pictures ready to be captured in the oil spill, rain puddle, or ice formations. If you don’t happen to live near a parking lot, walking around in a field, on the beach, or forest will give you countless possibilities.

3. Another take on looking down, is to get higher up. The top level of an open parking garage, rooftop, or even a ladder will elevate you enough to get a different perspective on life. Some of my favorite shots were taken from a higher elevation. And with the use of some Photoshop magic, you can turn these photos into special “miniature pictures” as seen here.

4. Urban areas are some of my favorite places to take pictures. Not only are there great old buildings with a lot of history, but there are also unique patterns and textures on the walls. With the correct composition, a simple fire escape on the side of a building will give you a great picture. The use of a wide-angle lens will allow you to be closer to your subject in tight alleys and still be able to get the full image.

Candid images of people are quite common, but have you ever taken a candid picture of nature? Don’t use the live view or viewfinder when taking pictures. Shoot from the hip as it were. Too many times we over-think our photo opportunities and miss something. So just hold your camera and point and shoot. You’ll be surprised at some of the shots you’ll get. And you thought you had to see to take great pictures!

I hope this short list will help you get over your “block” and get you some great images. And although the list is far from complete, it will definitely get you started and get your creative juices flowing again!

Tips for Taking Pictures of Small Plastic Things (for the Amateur Photographer)

Geek!This is Zannah’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

[ note: all pictures in this post, except the ‘macro flower’ shot, were taken and are copyright to zannah. please do not redistribute or post pictures or words as your own. thank you. ]

ready for take off!I have a small toy addiction. And when I say that, I don’t mean that my toy addiction is small; on the contrary, it’s more or less out of control. It’s the toys themselves that are small. I’m a collector of both urban vinyl/designer toys and small vinyl or plastic Japanese collectible toys.

I also like to take pictures. I’m not a professional photographer. I don’t have any formal training. I’ll be the first to admit that my pictures aren’t perfect. I’m just a girl with a passion taking pictures of cute things!

One of the main objects of my photographic focus has been on a series of toys called Pinky:ST, manufactured by the Japanese company Vance Project. Each one in the series is a 4-inch tall girl. Most of the girls come with two (molded plastic) outfits. You can mix and match the tops and bottoms between girls, assuming that you don’t lose them or let your cat chew on them between photo shoots. They’re mostly clothed in a variety of fun Japanese street fashions, but a sub-section of the line is fashioned after various Japanese anime or manga characters.

rawr!The bright colours and the cuteness factor are a big part of the reason I’m drawn to taking pictures of them. The fact that they’re so small and easy to throw into my purse helps, too. I’ve taken photos of them them at the office, the park, the beach, and on vacation… The possibilities are endless. I enjoy looking for new environments to take pictures of them.

After I’d been taking pictures of these and other toys (such as KidRobot’s Dunny series) for a while, I searched and started to chat with other collectors online. I found that while there are a number of really creative photographers out on the net, there are an equal number of people who weren’t sure how to get really great pictures of their toys.

I saw a number of shots that would have been beautiful if the photographer had just known how to focus on the toy instead of the leaves in the background. I thought it would be helpful to write out some basic tips to help others. Some people blame their lack of a dSLR camera, but I don’t believe that you need a dSLR to take good pictures. Without getting too technical, I think it’s important to show that you can get really great pictures out of a consumer/prosumer-level camera if you just keep a few simple things in mind.

1. Get familiar with your camera’s macro setting.

If you want to take pictures of small things, you’re going to want to get up close and personal with them. Focus is important in any shot, but in a close-up shot of a small item, there’s more to it than auto-focus. You’re going to want to use your camera’s macro (or close-up) setting! (Note: this isn’t to say you can’t still use auto-focus! You just have to use it in conjunction with your camera’s close-up settings.)

Macro mode allows you to focus on objects that are very close to your camera. The actual distance depends on your camera. Mine can focus on objects just a centimetre or two off the lens. In the cameras I’ve personally used, I’ve found that the minimum distance can be anywhere between a couple of centimetres to 6 or 7; it really depends on the camera. However, you should notice your ability to focus on close-up objects is much sharper than it was before you turned on the macro setting.

closeup/macro on Canon a640My current point-and-shoot camera is a Canon A640. I love it because of the swivel LCD. It makes taking pictures of things low to the ground (like toys) so much easier. I owned the previous version of this camera as well (the A95), but before that I had a Nikon Coolpix. However, most digital cameras have a macro setting these days.

Look for the little flower symbol on the camera’s display. It should look similar to the symbol within the yellow box in the picture on the left. This picture is the back of the Canon A640, but each camera is different. It might be on the settings dial or somewhere as a button on the back of the camera. You may have to read through your camera’s documentation to find it if it is not readily apparent; there are a few cameras on the market that have buried the setting under a menu, making it less easy to take these kinds of pictures on the fly.

Once you have selected the macro/close-up setting on the camera, it is likely the flower symbol will also show somewhere in the camera’s LCD display, should it have one. This will remind you that you’re shooting in macro mode. In-focus pictures are just a click away!

2. Turn your flash off.

Seriously. When you are taking close-up pictures of plastic or vinyl items, turn the flash off. You’re only a few centimetres away. The toy is a shiny object. Logic is only going to prove that if you leave your flash on, you’re going to end up with a picture of a bright splotch with legs (or ears or whatever).

Since you’ve turned the flash off, you’re going to have to make sure you have good lighting. You don’t have to have a pro light setup to achieve this. It can be something as easy as using natural daylight or bringing an extra lamp to your table. The only thing about using a reading lamp is to be aware of the kind of light it’s casting. Poor lighting can cause your pictures to come out yellow or dull. Best to use something with a more neutral cast. Look around to see what you have available to you, even within the house.

ready for action3. Use a tripod if you need it.

Shooting without a flash means that in lower light situations, your shutter will be open longer. (Layman’s terms: it’s going to take longer to actually capture the photo, since it needs more time to get all the light it needs.) Unless you have a super-steady hand (or really good image stabiliser built into your camera), you’re probably going to want to invest in a mini-tripod for those situations.

There’s a veritable cornucopia of mini-tripods out there. I have a really basic 6-inch high mini-tripod that can screw into the bottom of my camera. I also have a Gorillapod for extra fun. My regular mini-tripod cost less than $10 and is small enough to put in my purse with everything else. When I use the small Gorillapod, I just wrap it around my wrist when I’m not using it. It is worth toting the extra piece of equipment around to make sure I get a decent shot.

Use the tripod when your camera indicates the situation is low-light and/or would normally require a flash. It will make sure your camera has a steady platform, elimating any shakiness (and therefore blur) that you might have gotten otherwise. When you are taking pictures of something this close up, a tiny bit of shake makes a huge difference between a clear and a blurry shot.

shadow4. Be aware of your background and the way you frame the photograph.

This is just something you have to train yourself to be aware of as you go along. Make sure you’re looking at everything in the camera’s frame before you take the shot, not just the subject of your focus. What else is in the background? Is that a trash can? Someone’s foot? A tourist’s rear end?

Be aware of what else is going on in the shot. There’s nothing worse than reviewing the pictures later on and realising that you were so involved in setting up your toy and your angle that you also accidentally included the back half of someone’s dog.

I try to take all of my shots so that I don’t have to crop them afterward. It saves time at the end (when all I really want to do is upload the pictures and call it a day) and it helps me really think about the shot I’m taking when I’m taking it.

wishing for the ferris wheel5. Take more than one shot.

This is a tip that really only applies to photographs where the subject sits patiently in one space (toys, still-life, loved ones that love you a lot) and isn’t something you can apply to general candid or action photography (soccer games, dogs, celebrities on the street, friends who are really hungry and just want you to put the camera down so you can get eat, etc).

Memory cards are cheap these days. Photos on point-and-shoot cameras don’t take up too much space, even when you’re on higher quality settings (and you should be). Take more than one go at any particular shot. I usually take at least two or three, making slight adjustments to angle and framing each time.

It’s easy to review your pictures on the camera’s LCD screen, but many times you don’t get a complete sense of the picture until you see it, full size, on your computer monitor. On your computer, you might realise your horizon wasn’t quite straight or you could have tilted at a slightly better angle than you did when you took the shot. If you take several shots, you’ll be able to pick from the best of them. This way, you’re less likely to lose the “perfect” shot.

AI! Sentai! Tachikomanzu!It’s okay to take crappy shots in this day and age of digital cameras. There’s no film to waste; you can simply delete the pictures that don’t turn out when you upload the pictures to your computer. You can practice or get experimental and not have to worry about developing costs.

However, you shouldn’t put every sub-par shot up in your online gallery or your photo book. Look at them with a critical eye and pick out the ones that stand out. Try to put your best shots forward.

Of course, we’re all guilty of putting our not-quite-perfect favourites out there… That’s okay, too, sometimes. Taking pictures should be fun, not a chore, and you should like the results you end up with.

I’ll close this off with the inclusion of one of my favourite pictures I’ve taken:

kitten in the grassYou can see more of my Pinky:st pictures or designer toys pictures at Flickr.

This is obviously not a comprehensive guide. It’s just a few tips from one amateur photographer to another. There’s a lot to learn about taking good photographs; I’m constantly learning new things myself!

I’d love seeing other people’s pictures (and not just of their toys) and swapping tips, so feel free to drop a line with either. — .zannah.

Kris Krug – Photography Tips

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Kris Krug is part photographer and part open source web entrepreneur. After publishing an online arts magazine, Kris joined Bryght – a community web hosting service which helped create an eco-system of related companies in Vancouver, BC. Kris regularly speaks at conferences and to media about technology and community building in the Internet age. He’s an organizer of Northern Voice blogging conference as well as BarCamps in Beijing and Shanghai, China. Kris moonlights as a fashion and editorial photographer, shooting subjects from dot-com executives to fashion models to rock bands, as well as producing grassroots coverage of events like SXSW and Olympic Games in Turin and Beijing. Find his work online on Flickr and StaticPhotography.com and in numerous online and print media outlets.

Kris was full of amazing tips for all of us, on taking great snapshots of people. We know that many of you take tons of pictures at each conference you attend, and we wanted to help out in that arena. Photos last a lifetime, and these are no exception.

On a side note, the picture he took of Ponzi and Miriam turned out beautifully, as Ponzi had hoped.


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Todays' Top Five Geeks Posts

We’re about to come to the end of the first week of Geeks being open to the public. We already have well over 2000 members, and nearly as many posts! People are coming, and they’re sticking around to talk about anything and everything on their minds. Let’s take a look at five of the hottest topics on our forums right now.

  • 2001: The Worst Movie Ever. This is a blog post written by community member Juhachi, talking about why he was dismally disappointed in 2001: The Space Odyssey.
  • The Tainted Vista. This post by Chronidus details why he feels that Microsoft Vista has failed, and lays out his hopes for Windows 7.
  • Do Good Photographers need Post-Shot Processing? Jennifer incited a lively discussion on whether a good photographer should be using things like Photoshop, or whether that’s being untrue to your craft.
  • Do You Have any Really OLD Computers? Antibomber asked the original question, and the thread exploded. It’s very cool to see how many people have hung on to that old favorite machine… and how many of them still run!
  • Putting an End to Platform Lock-In. Once again, Matt Hartley delivers. Wouldn’t it be nice, as Matt puts it, to see “the day we can get to software being about the user and not the platform”? Amen, Matt. Cut. Print. Period.

So there you have it, just a few of the things we’re discussing right now on Geeks. Why don’t you join in one of them, or start your own today?