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March 2010 Archives

March 1, 2010

Review: Album DS Design Software

By Betsy Finn, Cr.Photog., CPP

If you’re looking for an album design solution that integrates with Photoshop, then you need to give Album DS Design Software a shot. Let’s just say there’s a reason that Professional Photographer's Hot One Award judges picked Album DS (version 6.1.1) as the winner for Album Design/Layout. Before trying out Album DS, I hadn’t found a program that would fit my needs. I tried various programs, but resorted to Photoshop since the programs couldn’t render my envisioned design properly. After giving Album DS a shot, I think I finally found a program with enough flexibility for me.

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Image ©Betsy Finn

When you first install Album DS, the installer will ask you which of the templates (700+), masks (200), frames (570+), backgrounds (326) and clipart you want to install. You can install a sampling of the resources, or install everything at once. Despite the large resource library, you’re not limited to the included templates. Album DS lets you convert templates you already have, or even make your own on the fly.

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Review: The Orbis and Orbis Arm, Ring Flash On a Budget

By Curtis Joe Walker

The orbis ring flash from Enlight Photo is a modifier for hot shoe flashes that allows them to emulate the functionality of a studio ring flash. Fitting onto the end of a hot shoe flash, it takes the light and bounces it through a highly reflective inner chamber, outputting diffused, characteristic light through its ring.

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The high-impact-plastic unit has been expertly designed for maximum efficiency, using the brightest chrome finished plastic available. By adding translucent material to the bottom of the ring and a series of baffles inside, the light output from the ring is evenly distributed and creates flawless specular highlights. Inside, a series of spring hinges ensure a snug fit on the end of your flash. It isn’t designed to permanently marry the two devices, though. In other words, take care to hold the device in a way that protects both units from an unintended free fall.

So, how does it hold up in use? Pretty good, within its limitations. For one thing, it’s limited by the output of the flash that’s going into it, and it loses about 4 stops of light in the translation. That means there’s no way this light is going to light a whole set, but for portraits and very carefully composed full body shots, it’ll work. The instructions suggest bumping the ISO setting to 400, so depending on the camera and lens, it could be possible to get more out of the flash. With the ring flash, portraits show the characteristic wraparound shadow and the highlights are perfect donut shapes. Despite the limited efficiency, it is possible to overpower daylight if you’re able to shoot your subject from a few inches away.

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March 3, 2010

Search Engine Optimization: Getting Started

By Ellis Vener

SEO is Search Engine Optimization. After either working long and hard designing, coding, debugging, and selecting images for your website, or spending a lot of money for someone else to do the design and coding work, you want your website to be easily found and that means making sure it ranks high, preferably on the first page, on a search engine’s list for photographers with your specialty in your town and in your region. An effective SEO strategy can be a powerful and cost effective marketing tool as the investments you have to make are merely ones of intellectual capital and time. SEO is only one component of your marketing strategy, of course, and all marketing is about building awareness. The fundamental point of marketing is to let potential clients know you exist and then to show off what you can do. Even if you are the most talented and sensitive photographer within 100 miles, if potential clients can’t find you, how will they know you even exist?

After researching and examining a lot of available SEO expertise, Professional Photographer turned to two photographers who successfully use SEO marketing to consistently rank high in different specialties. J Sandifer of emilie inc., a location wedding photography studio based in Portland, Maine, who is also the wedding development manager at liveBooks, and Jon Cornforth, a nature photographer and teacher. 

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March 4, 2010

Uploading Videos to the Internet: Six Easy-to-Follow Steps

By Philip Bloom

In general, uploading videos to websites is a fairly easy process but there are a few steps you should take to ensure your videos are uploaded properly and offer the best quality possible. Personally, I use Vimeo for sharing my video content and their process for uploading videos is quite easy.

There are many formats you can use to upload your videos, but it is always a good idea to compress your videos before uploading them to the web. Uploading raw, uncompressed files will take a long time and eat up a lot of bandwidth, and the quality will not be that much better than a wel-compressed file. For me, the ideal combination of quality and speed are .MP4 or .MOV files using the h.264 codec. Although Flash streaming is a good compromise of quality and speed, H.264 QuickTime MP4s is a great alternative for great quality.

I have outlined a video upload workflow based on the Mac computer platform, but you can easily apply it to a PC as well. While my own personal workflow is based around Final Cut Pro— and that process is very specific— the following steps will work with most systems.

STEP 1: Secure a free piece of software called MPEG Streamclip from Squared5.com. Once you’ve downloaded it to your computer, open the software and drag-and-drop your finished edit into its main window.

STEP 2: From the top menu of the software, choose Export as MP4 and click.

STEP 3: The next step is to determine which file format and resolution you’d like to use for your video. This depends on whether your video footage is in SD (standard definition), 720p (720 pixels vertical resolution) or 1080p HD (high definition).

My suggestion when using MPEG Streamclip is:
• Go to File, then Export to mp4.
• Select the codec you want the MP4 to be. MP4 is purely a “wrapper” for the video, allowing it to be compressed in all sorts of ways. Personally, I recommend you select H.264.

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Sneak Peek: DigiLabs Pro, Import to Order Fulfillment Photo Platform

DigiLabs, the company that was first to bring press-printed products combined with online ordering to the market, is scheduled to announce a new all-in-one photo platform, DigiLabs Pro, on March 8 at WPPI. The company’s goal, according to CEO and one of DigiLabs’ founders Chanan Steinhart, is to get back to full service for professionals. Professional Photographer magazine was given a sneak peek at the new products and broad spectrum of service and options that DigiLabs plans to offer in the new platform.

DigiLabs Pro aims to be a completely integrated combination of a new generation of DigiLabs software that uses Athentech’s Perfectly Clear image enhancement technology and allows for a unified workflow from image editing to web gallery creation to album design to product ordering and fulfillment. DigiLabs creators say they’ve incorporated easy-to-use wizards throughout to make the process simple and smooth.

DigiLabs also stresses that they will provide a number of cost-effective product options for photographers targeting more economically conservative clientele. The new Anza flush-mount album with black leather cover is offered as an affordable, yet high quality, album that “can meet the needs of customers at virtually any price point.” While the premium Marina album offers more flexibility with 20 to 80 sides and seven covers, including luxury leathers and an animal-friendly vegan option.

Along with the launch of the new platform, DigiLabs is also launching their new StudioShare iPhone application, which allows clients to view and order from a photographer's studio-branded web gallery. It will be the first professional photo proofing and sales app for the iPhone. All DigiLabs Pro users can use and share the app, which then allows clients to view photos and securely place orders from their iPhone.

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Images ©Ben Chrisman; iPhone interface from beta version of StudioShare.

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Review: "Photo Video Fusion" ProShow Workshop DVD

By Betsy Finn, Cr.Photog., CPP

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While already familiar with Photodex Proshow Gold, after getting to review Proshow Producer for Professional Photographer (review scheduled for April issue), I have to admit I felt a little out of my element. Creating slideshows is easy for me, but integrating still images with video? That’s another thing.

Fortunately, I was also able to get my hands on one of Photodex’s training videos: Photo Video Fusion. The DVD contains 1.5 hours of video tutorials (split into 11 chapters). The average video is about 15 minutes long, so you’ll be able to squeeze your learning sessions in when you have a spare moment.

The training sessions begin by explaining the concept of “fusion”—the blending of video and images to create a complete slideshow production. The DVD does a thorough job of explaining concepts, and I’m pretty sure you’ll find it easy to understand.

If you’re someone who learns best by doing, rather than just hearing or watching things, you will love this workshop DVD. Photodex has included video and image files so that you can follow along with the tutorial and actually do the exercises yourself.

After you learn about fusion, the DVD will help you get a good foundation in editing videos with Photodex. You’ll learn how to work with video, how to trim video files and create video clips, and most important—that videos behave pretty much like individual images (so far as layers, masks, and styles go).

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Images ©Peter Atherton

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How To: Large File Transfer

By Zack Davis

As typical image file sizes increase, many photographers are finding it harder to move, share or deliver their files digitally. Whether delivering the final edit to a commercial client, submitting a print-resolution image to a magazine, or wanting to send work to your home computer from the studio, there are simple solutions available. We’ll cover just a few of the more popular services here including Dropbox.com, Box.net, YouSendit.com and Me.com. These services allow you to send large files as easily as you send an e-mail and access your files from multiple computers whether you’re on Windows or Mac.

Dropbox.com works nearly seamlessly on Windows because it appears as a folder inside your computer. Anything inside this folder is automatically sent to the Dropbox servers, which allow instant online access on any Windows or Mac computer. Dropbox also has a complimentary iPhone app that allows you to access and edit your folders on the go.

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If you’re using Dropbox and sharing a folder with other people, you’ll be instantly notified when a new file is added or modified as well. This is great if you often find yourself sending files to a few people over a chat program like Yahoo Instant Messenger.

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March 17, 2010

What's Your Shade of Green?

Bring your environmentalism into your business

By Rebecca Wilkowski and Dawn Tacker

Americans’ interest in things environmentally friendly is booming: from “green weddings” and BPA-free water bottles to solar electric panels and hybrid cars. The photographic industry, long cited for the overuse of packaging, paper and toxic chemicals, is growing a little greener thanks to the nonprofit Greener Photography initiative. By participating in the organization’s certification program, photographers can exhibit their concern for the environment in their marketing and branding.

A member-supported organization, Greener Photography strives to mitigate the environmental impact of the photographic industry by educating photographers, suppliers and the general public about the benefits of going green. In the United States, there are over 155,000 professional photographers and 14,000 photo-related companies generating revenues over $7 billion annually. In just 10 years, annual online photo imaging revenues have grown from $10 million to $7.8 billion. These statistics translate into the largest ecological footprint in photography’s 200-year history, and the opportunity for Greener Photography to make a real difference.

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March 18, 2010

Review: BodaV3 Weatherproof Lens Bag

By Cheryl Pearson

Professional photographer Jim Garner set out to create a different kind of camera bag, one not just for storage but designed instead for easy access and carrying while you’re actively shooting. I found that the Boda V3 lens bag worked best for its intended purpose as an on-shoot working bag. Hundreds of photographers testing this bag during development, and Boda reconstructed it to correct the biggest flaws uncovered by working professionals. The Boda V3 strives to be the best active-shooting option on the market, so I wanted to test just how well it stands up to that goal.

I tested the bag during a wedding, evaluating how comfortable the bag was to carry for long periods of time and how easy it was to access gear throughout the day. You can carry the Boda V3 in two different ways, as a waist belt or over your shoulder. Since I’m just over 5 feet tall with a petite frame, I find that wearing bags on my waist is rarely an option that provides enough security or comfort when I’m working. I prefer to be as mobile as possible, so I opted to carry the bag on my shoulder.

The bag was easiest for me to carry on one shoulder with the strap draped across my body and the bag resting on the opposite hip. While I was shooting, I could shift the bag slightly toward my back, keeping it comfortably out of the way, or swing it around to the side when I needed to grab a piece of equipment. The adjustable shoulder strap allowed me to choose where the bag fell at my hip. Shoulder straps have not always been comfortable with other bags I’ve tested, but even though this one was a bit stiff and did not bend around my shoulder the way I would have liked, the Boda V3 remained comfortable enough to get through a day of shooting.

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March 26, 2010

Download: Bridal makeup tips for a picture-perfect face

Our March issue featured a useful article titled "Glamourpuss," offering bridal makeup tips from makeup artists Steve Moore of The Moore Agency in Atlanta, Deanna Rene of Scottsdale, Ariz., and wedding photographer Holly Schumacher. We encouraged readers to pass these tips on to brides and post them on your website.

Here are the tips in downloadable text form to make that easier for you: Bridal Makeup Tips

 

March 31, 2010

Review: ColorRight Pro and PostRight White Balance Devices

By Don Chick, M.Photog.Cr., CPP

When the topic of white balancing files comes up, there are usually two big questions. The first is “Why should I be concerned about white balance since my camera can automatically do that for me?” Once the value of white balancing is understood, the next question is “Which method is best?” Answering the question of why is simple.

As a portrait photographer, I especially want the flesh tones of my subject to look healthy and alive, therefore correct white balance or color balance in an image is essential to its success. A green color cast from grass or trees on my subject’s skin will not convey that he or she is healthy, nor will it convey that I, the professional, know how to properly present my finished work. A professional is expected to be in control of the entire process, and understanding white balance and incorporating professional tools makes it possible to accomplish the task with a minimum of effort.

When you set your camera to Auto White Balance, the camera tries to guess what the best white balance setting should be.

Using a calibrated white balance device eliminates any guesswork on the part of the camera. Deciding which method to choose takes a bit more consideration. If you capture raw files you can non-destructively make white balance adjustments in-camera or in post processing. If you capture in JPEG mode, it’s best to do an in-camera custom white balance for each lighting situation. I choose to do my white balancing in Adobe Lightroom during post-production. White balance devices take many forms, from the multi-functional X-Rite ColorChecker Passport, to the odd looking but practical SpyderCube from Datacolor, to the prism texture and diffusion discs of the ExpoImaging ExpoDisc. An accurate white balance device needs to be spectrally neutral. By that I mean that it has no inherent color bias. The material the device is composed of must not influence the light in any way.

The ColorRight ($89) or ColorRight Pro ($129) by ColorRight is an excellent device for either in-camera or post-production white balancing. For simplicity it’s tough to beat. During a recent portrait session, I had the opportunity to try a ColorRight Pro (below). The advantage of the Pro version is that the unique shape, according to their website, “gathers light from multiple angles ensuring you are getting the whole color picture.” The unique shape even allows light from a hot shoe mounted flash to strike the device and influence the final white balance. 

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The ColorRight Pro (above, shown with Canon camera and lens) is a device designed for in-camera or post-production white balancing. Image ©Don Chick

 

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About March 2010

This page contains all entries posted to Professional Photographer Magazine Web Exclusives in March 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

February 2010 is the previous archive.

April 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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