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December 2010 Archives

December 1, 2010

20,000 Facebook Follower Celebration Giveaway (Day 7 - final day)

Thanks so much to our readers for contributing to the success of our Facebook page and the community of photographers there. To have gathered more than 20,000 followers in just over 10 months really says something about the passion people feel for photography, and the commitment that PPA members and Professional Photographer readers have to their profession.

To celebrate this milestone, we're presenting seven days of product giveaways. December 1 is the final giveaway day, and we'll draw for the winner on the morning of Dec. 2.  

Our Facebook Giveaway tradition has always involved asking the entrants to contribute a positive piece of information or advice when you make your Comment to enter the drawing. This time, we'd like you to go just a little further.


1. Please visit the Facebook pages of the companies that have donated the prizes and click on their Like button. This does not statistically increase your chances of winning, but it is a nice thing to do. You'll find links to their Facebook page below where we list the day's prizes. 

2. We'll post each day's comment question or request here with the prize listing. Return to the Professional Photographer Facebook Page and POST YOUR COMMENT, answering that question or request, ON THE GIVEAWAY POST ONLY to be included in the drawing (look for the post with DAY SEVEN GIVEAWAY in all caps). 

3. DO NOT post your entry request on the Professional Photographer Facebook page WALL. We'll delete it. The only method of entry is through COMMENTS on FACEBOOK on the specific GIVEAWAY DAY post. If you don't see a "Write a comment …" field, it means you have not clicked Like on our page. You'll find that button at the top of the page. DO NOT comment on this instruction post. That will not count as an entry.

4. If you are one of our lucky winners but cannot use a portion of the prizes that you've won, please return to that Giveaway post, find another photographer who entered the drawing, and make a new friend and share your winnings!

There will be ONE WINNER for each day's package of prizes. You can enter all of the Giveaways. We'll announce the winner just prior to the next Giveaway announcement and contact the winners via their Facebook page (So be sure that your Facebook settings allow an individual to send you a private message!).

Now, let's get on with the giving!

DAY SEVEN COMMENT QUESTION: What made you fall in love with photography? 



From PocketWizard, one AC3 ZoneController, one MiniTT1 Transmitter (Canon or Nikon) and two FlexTT5 Transceivers (Canon or Nikon), a combined value of $740! Please visit the PocketWizard Facebook page!


From Nik Software, the Complete Collection Ultimate Edition, which includes Dfine 2.0, Viveza2, HDR Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro 3.0, Silver Efex Pro, and Sharpener Pro 3.0! This collection has a $600 value. Please visit the Nik Software Facebook page


One Anza flush mount album and 12 months of a customizable online storefront Web Gallery service from DigiLabs, together valued at $300. Please visit the DigiLabs Facebook page!


A one-year subscription to Animoto Pro, valued at $249. Go click Like at the Animoto Pro Facebook page!


A "Bride Alone Fashionable Flow Posing" workshop DVD from Doug Gordon Workshops, valued at $149. Please visit the Doug Gordon Workshops Facebook page.

and ...


An X-Rite ColorChecker Passport. A $99 value. Visit the X-Rite Photo Facebook page

That's a total value of $2,137! Now return to the Professional Photographer Facebook page and comment on the DAY SEVEN GIVEAWAY post to enter the drawing. We'll pick our winner on Thursday morning, Dec. 2. And thanks for making this such a wonderful celebration! We hope you enjoyed all the great comments contributed by our fantastic fans!

Audio Acquisition for Photographers

By Ron Dawson

Have you ever seen “The Greatest American Hero?” It was an ’80s television show in which a mild-mannered teacher is visited by aliens and given a suit that gives him super-human powers, but he doesn’t know how to use it. Instead of looking heroic when he flies, he flops and flails as he zooms through the air.

As a filmmaker who does quite a bit of work in the professional photography industry, I get to see a lot of videos shot by aspiring photographers-cum-filmmakers. But like the hero, they have this powerful filmmaking tool in their hands, but they aren’t quite “flying right.”

With the flood of HD DSLR cameras, many of you have taken on the role of capturing video segments to enhance your artistry. This article will help you with one of the most crucial aspects of video production: audio acquisition.

AUDIO CAPTURE: Perhaps the single most prevalent issue I’ve seen with HD DSLR videos by newbies is poor audio acquisition—the audio recorded and used in the final production. Many photographers are using only the on-camera microphone for audio acquisition. The resulting end product sounds echo-y, or there’s significant obtrusive ambient noise (air conditioners, traffic noise, extraneous conversations). Even if you use a directional microphone like the Rode (a popular choice), you don’t always get the best results.

The reason is that the audio captured by DSLR cameras is highly compressed, and in many models there is no way to control the audio recording level. Many DSLRs are set to auto-gain, which means the volume of audio you record will go up and down depending on how loud the source is. If the source is very soft, the camera will automatically boost the levels and you get a hissing background sound, which is to audio what visual noise is to a high ISO setting. Some of the cameras (like the Canon EOS 5D Mark II) have released firmware updates that at least allow you to set your audio levels. But even so, you still get the compressed audio issue and that echo-y sound.


The Zoom H4N is a popular video recorder choice
for filmmakers and videographers.

Continue reading "Audio Acquisition for Photographers" »

Review: Zoom H4N


By Ron Dawson

If you want to be a serious DSLR filmmaker, it’s imperative that you capture high-quality audio to a separate device, like the Zoom H4N, one of the most widely used digital audio recorders by DSLR filmmakers.

The H4N records to the popular SD/SDHC card format and comes with a 1GB card. It can record up to four separate channels of audio in formats from low-quality .mp3 or high-quality 96k, 24-bit .wav files for true audiophiles. If you’re using it for video, record at the 48k/16-bit setting. That is the sample rate and bit-depth of digital video, and a 1 GB SD card can hold just under 90 minutes of audio at that setting.

The Zoom is not a device you can just pick up and start using. I am pretty adept at gizmos and gadgets, but even I had to pick up the manual to figure out how to access and use the various menus. Give yourself 30 minutes to an hour to peruse the main parts of the manual and get familiar with the H4N. Once you’ve done that, using it will be a breeze.

The H4N has built-in mics at its top and is designed to take two XLR audio inputs at the bottom for higher quality microphones. It also has a mini-jack mic connection. I use the Sennheiser Evolution G2 (or G3) series microphone. It’s rugged, with a metal casing, and a favorite among my colleagues.

What’s great about the H4N is that you can connect headphones to monitor sound. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. Always monitor your audio to make sure everything sounds okay. Sometimes mics short out, or the recording level dips in and out, and you need to hear that. Also, you have to hit the H4N record button twice: once to get it in standby mode (the red record button will blink and you’ll be able to hear audio) and once again to actually start recording. If you’re not hearing anything in your headphones, it could be you forgot to hit the record button. Once you do start recording, double check the screen to make sure you see the time counter progressing and that you are actually in record mode and not just standby mode.

The H4N has a great form, too. At 6 inches long and just under 2.5 inches wide, it's easy to handle and is compact enough to attach to your DSLR shooting rig. It’s powered by either two AA batteries, or with the AC adaptor that comes with it. WARNING: if you are using the device to capture a long, uninterrupted event like a bar/bat mitzvah, corporate speech, or seminar, make sure you have plenty of power. If the power runs out before you stop recording, the audio file won’t write to the card. For lengthy recording, use the AC adapter if at all possible. If you must use batteries, use fresh ones.

I absolutely love my Zoom H4N and won’t go to a gig without it. At just under $300, it’s a great investment.

Good Works: Angela's Baby Project

Michigan photographer Angela Carson, Cr.Photog., API, decided to challenge herself to do a creative project related to newborn babies, and began by photographing one newborn a week, pushing her creative boundaries with each new portrait session. When she began to realize the collected portraits would make a handsome book, her personal challenge became “Angela’s Baby Project.” She wasn’t looking to make money for herself with the project, so she partnered with Just for Kids, a Michigan-based charity dedicated to helping sick and handicapped children.

Carson chose Just for Kids because of its regional focus and lean operation. Just for Kids provides services ranging from support groups to care packages to family vacations. In Carson’s view, there was no better organization to link to her newborn baby project.

To learn more about Angela’s Baby Project, watch this video created by Konrad Czystowski. You can learn more about Just for Kids at justforkidsmichigan. org.


December 8, 2010

Workflow: Checklists and Timeouts

By Chontelle Brown, CPP

Whenever I hear about a business or customer service error, my first thought is, “they should have had a checklist” or “someone didn’t use their checklist.” Checklists are reminders that reduce the risk of error for routine tasks.

For years the airline industry has used checklists and, not coincidentally, now has the lowest fatality rate in decades. Most recently, operating rooms have implemented similar ideas with checklists and timeouts. While we are not in a profession that risks the life or limb of our clients, we do stake our reputation on our performance and run the risk of failing in our business.


When we become complacent, we create a situation open to latent errors—errors that may not become apparent until later. The more we deviate from norm, the more comfortable we become with this deviance, or the new normal. Before long, you may not immediately back up your images from a session because you skipped this step previously without consequence. As we all know, this is a recipe for disaster.

By creating and using checklists, you ensure each step of your workflow is completed, thus preventing errors or having to redo work because it was done incorrectly the first time. Checklists have helped streamline processes in my studio. I have a checklist for my entire workflow as well as a checklist for each session type. This ensures that I am always prepared when my client arrives, no more last minute searching for a diaper cover or fumbling to find that I forgot paper towels and wipes during a newborn session.

Continue reading "Workflow: Checklists and Timeouts" »

Review: Adobe Press Learn By Video, Lightroom 3

 By Betsy Finn, Cr.Photog., CPP

If you have trouble keeping on top of all the new software developments as they roll out, you may want to consider video training. Last month, I reviewed an Adobe Press training video on Photoshop CS5, and in this review, I’m going to evaluate their training video on Lightroom 3.

Learn Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 by Video contains 10 hours of high-quality training, as well as a printed reference book. Together, these resources cover the fundamentals of using Lightroom, as well as highlight what’s new since Lightroom 2.

When you insert the DVD into your computer, you’ll see an easy-to-understand welcome interface:


This welcome page of the DVD provides you with easy access to the table of contents, a shortcut to “play all” videos, an introduction video featuring your instructors (Tim Grey and Mikkel Aaland), and even links to the “extras” contained on the DVD.

Continue reading "Review: Adobe Press Learn By Video, Lightroom 3" »

Review: Alien Skin Bokeh 2


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

Controlling the areas of an image which are in focus and out of focus is a powerful aesthetic tool in the hands of a skilled artist. There are times, however, when it’s not always possible to obtain the exact amount of focus while capturing the image (in camera) due to the limitations of your equipment. That’s where Alien Skin Bokeh 2 Photoshop plug-in may come in handy. As defined in Alien Skin’s manual, “bokeh (derived from the Japanese ボケ味) refers to the visually distinctive character of the out-of-focus areas of a photograph. Alien Skin’s Bokeh plug-in is a realistic lens simulator that allows you to alter the focus characteristics of a photograph after it has been taken. It also lets you creatively focus the viewer’s attention to any part of your photograph by applying a combination of blurring and vignettes.”

The Bokeh interface is laid out in an easy to understand, easy to navigate way. It is so easy, in fact, that I was able to launch the software and begin applying it to images without reviewing the manual. Figure 1, below, shows the settings tab with many of the factory settings displayed. For the image of Erica, I’ve chosen to apply the effect of a Canon 50mm f/1.8. There are many, many looks available, including fast lenses such as the popular Canon 85mm f/1.2 and the Nikon 300mm f/2.8. In addition to traditional lens blurring, there are a whole host of creative blur possibilities. The Setting tab also includes creative apertures that produce heart-shaped highlights. If hearts are not your fancy, you can choose from diamonds, triangles or stars. Several motion blurs, grains and vignettes are also possible.


Figure 1. (click for large view)

Continue reading "Review: Alien Skin Bokeh 2" »

Review: Think Tank Photo Sling-O-Matic 30

By Ellis Vener

In general I haven’t been a fan of the sling type camera bags I’ve tried so far. Either there is trouble with accessibility, feeling comfortable, or both. One issue is that all of the ones I’ve tried before were designed to be carried all of the time over only just one shoulder. The Think Tank Photo Sling-O-Matic bags differ because they're more of a case-like design instead of being based on the messenger bag design, and you can switch the load from the left to right shoulder with no fuss. When you’re carrying a heavy load over just one shoulder, you want to be able to switch sides periodically to balance out the wear and tear on your body.


This is essentially a rigidly framed top-loading, rectangular dual-compartment camera and laptop case with a single permanently attached body sling strap. The front, sides and bottom are rigid with a little padding; the top is padded but soft. It's equally suitable for electronics or small lighting and grip gear. On the outside there are two large flat document compartments, one on the front and one on the back, and a narrower one on the top of the main compartment. On the inside of the top flap there is a fourth flat zippered compartment with a clear window. There are are two handles as well. A bag this compact should fit with no problems in the overhead bin of a puddle jumper commuter jet, but I haven't actually tried it.

Continue reading "Review: Think Tank Photo Sling-O-Matic 30" »

December 9, 2010

Review: Optoma PK201 Pocket Projector

By Kirk R. Darling

I’ve been conducting sales sessions in my clients’ homes for four years using a tabletop digital projector. There are significant advantages to in-home sales sessions, but the disadvantage is that my “sales room” is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates: I never know what I’m going to get.

That demands great flexibility, which until recently for me has meant being prepared to show images on my laptop, on my clients’ own home theater screens, or with my projector. Using the projector usually meant projecting on the client’s wall with the projector on a tripod-mounted platform, but I also kept a collapsible 50-inch tabletop screen handy. It took more set-up time than I liked, but compared to showing paper proofs, the time and trouble had been worth it.

That was the past. Now I have a new tool that has eliminated the set-up, reduced my gear load, and improved sales. I replaced my tabletop projector with a pocket-sized pico projector a few months ago, and the reception from my clients has been enthusiastic—and profitable.

My new projector is the Optoma PK201 Pico Pocket Projector ($270-$300 street price), a battery-powered projector more compact than an exposure meter. 


Image ©Kirk Darling

I like using this pocket projector, but I’ll tell you the bad news first. The Optoma PK201 is rather dim (20 lumens output from its 20,000-hour LED light source), it has harsh contrast (2000:1), and its color accuracy can be slightly off. In addition, the fixed focal length lens has a “throw ratio” of 1:2.2, which means that I sometimes have to stand farther than I’d like from the wall.

Continue reading "Review: Optoma PK201 Pocket Projector" »

About December 2010

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

November 2010 is the previous archive.

January 2011 is the next archive.

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

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