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December 2009 Archives

December 1, 2009

Review: EzMats Designer

By Don Chick

Every once in a while a product comes along that is easy to use and has tremendous features and potential. EzMats Designer is one such product. The software is Mac/PC compatible and is available to purchase and download off the Web. After watching a brief tutorial and downloading about 40MB with an easy installation, I was off on my own creating custom mats in about an hour.

EzMats Designer is not a plug-in or simply a bunch of templates, but rather a stand-alone program that works within Photoshop (CS3 & CS4) when Photoshop is running. Once the software is installed, you can launch the program via a desktop icon or shortcut (Windows). The tool palette is easy to use and the layout is well thought through with only 11 buttons. Figure 1 (below) shows the palette as well as a double mat created from one of the 149 Ready to Use Templates (Software Driven Digital Mat Layouts) and a texture overlay that comes with the EzMats software.

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Figure 1

Kevin Truax, the genius behind EzMats Designer, has created several online videos that take you step-by-step through the very quick learning curve. I found it worth the time investment to watch the video and simultaneously create mats as Kevin talked me through the process. Soon after watching the tutorial videos I was making the more advanced multi-opening mats. My mind was buzzing with ideas for new products that I could offer my clients as well as using these as upgrade options for existing products.

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Review: Tamron SP AF 17-50mm F/2.8 XR Di-II VC LD Aspherical [IF]

By Betsy Finn, CPP

Tamron’s 17-50mm f/2.8 lens has a minimum focus of 11.4 inches (0.29 m) over the zoom range, with macro capability to 1:4.8. Equipped with Tamron’s proprietary Vibration Compensation (VC) image stabilization mechanism, the 17-50mm allows photographers to capture hand-held images in low-light conditions (up to 4-stops more than without VC).

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©Betsy Finn

Since the 17-50mm lens is a Di-II lens (designed for use on APS-C size imaging sensors), you will need to multiply the focal length by a factor 1.56 to get the full frame equivalent (26-78mm). This also means that when the lens is used with a full frame sensor, you will see vignetting (since it was designed for a smaller sensor size). My Nikon D3 SLR automatically compensates for this limitation by “graying out” that part of the viewfinder. Through some clever photographing, I was able to capture the view through the viewfinder so you can see what it looks like:

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©Betsy Finn

The focal length range on the 17-50mm lens does lend itself to flexibility. While traveling throughout Tennessee for a speaking engagement, I actually photographed exclusively with the Tamron 17-50mm lens.

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Both images were exposed at 1/160 sec at f/4.5, ISO 640. The 17mm (x1.56 = 78mm equivalent ) exposure is on the left, and the 50mm (x1.56 = 26mm equivalent) exposure is on the right. ©Betsy Finn

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Review: Serif MoviePlus X3

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By Adam Boozer

The latest version of Serif’s video editing tool, MoviePlus X3, is a solid evolution in this software’s almost 10 year history. Easily usable by both the novice video editor as well as the more seasoned professional, this application provides a wide range of tools that can enable almost anyone to deliver a high quality end product.

Full disclosure, I am a Final Cut Pro user and a Mac guy, so I approached the review of this application with the attitude of “how good could this little PC-only app really be?” I must admit I was pleasantly surprised. Not only was the application incredibly easy to use, I actually found it fun to import my video assets and play with the wide range of tools available to me.

The interface for MoviePlus X3 is well organized and is actually centered around an integrated “How To” system. This instructional system removes the barrier found in more complex video applications by approaching the user with a series of common tasks. I like the idea of asking the user what it is they want to do and then walking them through the necessary steps to accomplish the task. Of course, more sophisticated users can disable this function, or new users can simply wean themselves off of it over time.

The feature that most impressed me was the manner in which MoviePlus X3 handled the native video files from my Canon EOS 5D Mark II. The h.264 compressed files that the 5D Mark II creates are  processor-intensive to play back, and I find that most users transcode the video into other formats to edit. When I imported my clips into MoviePlus X3 to test, I was excited to see that it immediately made lower resolution proxy files for me to edit with. This allowed for very speedy playback within the application and gave me the flexibility to play with effects, titles, etc. without the lag time associated with the original h.264 files. The best part is that this is automatic. When I was ready to export my final project, the application referenced my original high resolution files.

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Review: Tenba Small Photo/Laptop Roadie

By Betsy Finn, CPP

I recently had the opportunity to try out Tenba’s Small Photo/Laptop Roadie. In addition to cramming it chock-full of equipment, I was curious to see if it would really fit under the seat on an airplane.

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©Betsy Finn

The Small Roadie has a lot of features and enough compartments to satisfy most pocket fanatics. According to Tenba, the Small Roadie holds 1 or 2 SLRs with 5 to 6 lenses (up to 300mm 2.8). Your mileage may vary, but here’s a list of the equipment I was able to cram (in an organized manner) into this functional studio on wheels (see photo below).

• 15-inch widescreen laptop, power cord, and travel surge protector
• Nikon D3 body with 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens
• Nikon D200 body
• Nikon 55mm f2.8 micro lens
• Nikon 50mm f1.4 lens
• Nikon 28-70mm f2.8 lens
• Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 lens
• Two Nikon SB-800 Speedlights
• Light meter
• Battery + CF card cases

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©Betsy Finn

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Review: Kubota RPG Speedkeys for Lightroom 2

By Kim Larson

When Adobe Lightroom was formally introduced in 2006, it was applauded as a great tool for enhancing photographers’ workflows. Now there’s another tool on the market that can further speed your work in Lightroom: Kubota RPG Speedkeys for Lightroom 2.

Kubota RPG Speedkeys for Lightroom 2 was designed to help you work faster in Lightroom by combining the popular RPG Keys product with Kevin Kubota’s Lightroom workflow. It’s a small wireless keyboard that is pre-programmed to run time-saving adjustments in Lightroom, such as increasing or decreasing exposure, and shortcuts to perform popular  Kubota Lightroom Presets. (The product includes Kubota Lightroom Presets v3.) With just a press of the button, you can adjust things like the exposure and color temperature of an image—a great time savings over manually adjusting the Lightroom sliders with a mouse.

Installation of the Speedkeys goes quickly, but it is very important that you follow the instructions. Install the software before plugging the keyboard’s USB receiver into your computer, and when the software asks you to choose a directory for installation, make sure you choose the correct Adobe directory. It’s also important that you do not restart your computer with the USB Receiver connected, as it does affect how your computer starts if left plugged in.

To use the Speedkeys, you simply plug in the USB Receiver, start the Kubota RPG Speedkeys application, and open Lightroom. If you’re using a Macintosh, take you need to open all the little menus in the Quick Develop area of the Library module for the keys to work. Then you are ready to process away!

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December 2, 2009

Review: Nexto eXtreme ND-2700

By Mark Levesque, CPP

The digital age has brought with it the benefits of rapidly improving technology that simultaneously becomes more capable and less costly. As a consequence of more and better megapixels, photographers are generating ever increasing quantities of data. The recent trend in DSLRs to add HD video capability compounds the problem: how to contend with all the data generated on a shoot. The solution has been to take advantage of a similar trend in the flash memory market: more memory for less money. Larger memory cards notwithstanding, photographers often find themselves on location and running out of memory, or simply looking to quickly create the peace of mind that having your data safely backed up can bring.

Enter the Nexto eXtreme ND-2700 from Nexto DI. Touting “on the go” backups, this device is the essence of simplicity. Plug in your card, and press the button. The embedded hard drive springs to life and the copying of your data commences. It’s that easy to create reliable backups. In short order you have a copy of your data, along with status indicating its integrity.

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©Mark Levesque

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Review: X-Rite ColorChecker Passport

By Ellis Vener

What is better color worth to your photography business? That is the $99 question posed by the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport. But the underlying question is whether you can trust your camera, no matter which make or model you use, to automatically deliver its best possible color rendition. “Best” is obviously a subjective term. What most of us really want is what is known as “pleasing color”—blue skies rendered as a natural shade of blue without a magenta cast, grass that meets our perception of what grass should look like, skin tones that match the subjects’ complexion, and red hair that looks like red hair. (Sometimes we don’t want realistic color, but it is the best place to begin customizing from.)

Every camera model from every manufacturer interprets color differently due to differences in sensor technology, camera processor technology and programming. You may have even encountered slight color rendering differences between individual cameras of the same model. With little effort, profiling your cameras eliminates these color rendering differences.

To get there, we have to make all parts of the photographic process work harmoniously. That is the ultimate goal of color management. By now, most professionals and serious amateurs understand that calibrating and profiling our displays is essential, even if we aren’t working on high-end Eizo and NEC monitors. Those involved in making prints understand the necessity of using good profiles for printers, papers, and inks or lab-produced prints. Even if you choose to work only with JPEGs in the small sRGB color space, you are passively engaged in color management.

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December 18, 2009

28 speakers. 14 hours. Serious Money Making Ideas.

Join Sarah Petty and 27 other industry leading photographers for The Joy to the World FREE Marketing Websummit on December 28, 2009 . We'll each share our best money-making ideas for your business in the new year. From promotional ideas, to earning a larger investment from each wedding client, workflow improvements and more, you'll learn so much in these 14 FREE hours to substantially grow your business in 2010. At the same time, we'll be helping fund smiles for children in need of cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries through PPA Charities.

Over 10,000 professional photographers registered for our Master Photographers Free Marketing Telesummit in September. Now they're doing it again to help you get off to a strong start in the New Year … and it's BIGGER and BETTER! This time, you can learn from David Jay, Sam Puc, Julia Woods, Jerry Ghionis, Scott Crosby, Will Crockett and more! The Joy to the World Websummit promises to provide you with serious money making ideas for your business. All you need is a computer with an Internet connection to join us December 28 (and the latest version of Adobe Flash —It's free, too). The Websummit will be available for 24 hours beginning at 12:01 CST on December 28. Listen to only those speakers you like best or watch all 28. You can start, stop and pause each speakers' presentation to learn at your leisure within the 24 hour window. Simply REGISTER NOW for FREE!

If you're not available on December 28, 2009 or want to get a head start on 2010 planning for your business, you can purchase the Adobe Flash files of all 14 hours for $89 and receive access to the speaker presentations IMMEDIATELY. A pre-websummit special price of $59 is available until December 27. Just register before December 28, 2009, and you'll receive this special offer!

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December 30, 2009

Review: "The Changing Range of Light"

By Thea Dodds, GreenerPhotography.org

“The Changing Range of Light: Portraits of the Sierra Nevada” combines art and science in a book of landscape photography, employing imagery to inspire action. It features gorgeous landscapes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range by Elizabeth Carmel, and text vignettes outlining the effect of global climate change in the Sierras by Robert Coats, PhD. and Geoffrey Schladow, PhD.

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Carmel is an acclaimed landscape photographer based in Trukee, Calif. This volume is a follow-up to her book, “Brilliant Waters,” also featuring photographs from the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Contributing author Robert Coats has a B.S. and M.S. in Forestry and a PhD. in Wildland Resource Science from the University of California at Berkeley. Contributing author Geoffrey Schladow holds a B. Eng. and PhD. in civil engineering from the University of Western Australia, and a M. Eng. in hydraulic engineering from the University of California at Berkeley.

The release of this 136 page, full color book was well timed with the December convening of the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, the largest conference of its kind in history. Carmel is courageous for publishing a book that combines grassroots education with contemporary landscape photography. She risks taking the reader away from her art with the addition of scientific commentary that is heavy both in content and technical in its language. It is striking how well the images lead the reader to the text, and the text takes the reader back to the images with additional information and appreciation. The climate change vignettes are interrupted by poetry at well-timed intervals to give the reader a needed breath of lighter content.

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December 31, 2009

Tips for Greener Photography: The Photographer's Water Footprint

By Thea Dodds

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In our last web exclusive we discussed ways to reduce your personal water footprint. In this article we will focus on identifying and reducing the photographer’s water footprint.

Photographers may not realize the extent of water waste associated with our work, but water is consumed in virtually every aspect of our lives and every choice we make for our business. Precious fresh water is used each time you turn on a light, and in the production of every new computer, camera, and photographic print. By learning more about where and how water is used in our professional lives, we are empowered to make choices to keep that use to a minimum. Here is an overview of how water is associated with the products and tools of photography businesses:

Electric Power: According to Rosebro, 2009, it is estimated that over a third of all freshwater withdrawals in the United States are used for energy production. Electricity has a direct connection to water because electric plants use fresh water for pumping crude oil, cleaning plant exhausts, generating steam, regulating heat and washing away unwanted residue.

Photographers use a fair amount of electricity, but the amount we use as individuals is small in comparison to the amount used to produce the tools of our trade. The United Nations University published a paper citing 3,600-8,300 Megajules of electricity are used to manufacture an average desktop computer and 17-inch monitor.

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Tips for Greener Photography: Water Conservation

By Dawn Tacker

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Winter is a great season to take the time to make your home or retail studio space more efficient. Consider extending that efficiency to your conservation habits. Water covers more than 70% of the earth's surface, but by 2025 more than half of the world’s population will be facing water-based vulnerability. Although most photographers don't use water as part of their manufacturing process anymore, we all continue to consume water in our daily lives and buy water-intensive products, electronics and other supplies. In this article we are going to focus on tips to help do your part to conserve this precious resource in your daily life. Stay tuned for our next article on conserving water in your professional life. Here are some tips to help do your part to conserve this precious resource.

First, track your water usage. You can’t tell if you’re using less water unless you’re aware of how much you’re using in the first place! Second, set water conservation goals. Challenge yourself, your studio, and your family to reduce consumption by 10% to 20% each year. Implement policies that will help meet your conservation goals.

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Review: Zenfolio

By Curtis Joe Walker

Zenfolio has been offering easy, affordable, attractive online galleries for photographers for the last four years. Previously, photographers would have to build and host their own website elsewhere, linking externally to Zenfolio galleries to handle sales and client proofing. With their new release, to be launched at Imaging USA (Jan. 10-12), sites can be hosted entirely with Zenfolio. This eliminates the cost of two hosting accounts and greatly improves the visual presentation of the site thanks to comprehensive and customizable theme packages.

We recently had a chance to sit down with Zenfolio CEO Alex Peyzner to walk us through the upcoming features.

With the new release comes a whole new set of options for building pages. Foremost of these is theming. At launch, 10-15 themes will be available, but because the themes are customizable and downloadable, many more will quickly appear once the Zenfolio community gets their feet wet. Themes control the look and feel of the entire site from the main page to the individual galleries.The pages are Flash-free except for gallery slideshows. This move will satisfy mobile users, but at the cost of a completely designer-controlled viewing experience. Also included with Premium accounts is the ability to upload PDF files natively—a handy feature for publishing printable price/service menus.

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About December 2009

This page contains all entries posted to Professional Photographer Magazine Web Exclusives in December 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

November 2009 is the previous archive.

January 2010 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.


 
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