2010 Photography Checklist

New Years resolutions, imho, are made to be broken, so I never make them.  But I think it’s a good idea to create a list of ideas one can aspire to accomplish.  So I’m doing a checklist.  If I don’t check it off, I’ll put it on 2011’s list.

So here’s my 2010 New Years photography resolution checklist.

  1. Take at least one photo a day (see The best camera is the one that’s with you)
  2. Print more photos – big ones
  3. Submit a photo to a competition
  4. Schedule more formal shoots
  5. Create a main photography website
  6. Change design of this blog
  7. Stop worrying about the equipment I don’t have (<—big one!)
  8. Do some landscape photography
  9. Create more slideshows
  10. Go on photowalks
  11. Write more blog posts
  12. Create a photo book from 2009
  13. Shoot at new locations (i.e. Get out more)
  14. ……… make this list longer

The Christmas Card

Christmas card

It’s interesting really, getting kids to look at a camera and still maintain a natural manner. Interesting as in……..

No, don’t squeeze your sister too hard.

Yes, let your sister put your arm around you.

No, she’s not gross.

Stop leaning into her so much so that your pushing her down.

Look at the camera

etc.

Me shooting my own kids is the hardest thing ever. Other peoples kids, piece of cake.

The best camera is the one that’s with you

Everywhere I look I see things I want to shoot, analyzing the most common, ordinary things and think of different angles to make it interesting. The advice of every photographer is to simply shoot, and shoot often – the more you shoot the better you get. 2 years and 20,000 photos later, I think I can see myself getting better.  Photos that used to wow me now barely make the cut.

But how should one shoot all the time?  Simple answer is to bring your camera with you everywhere but in reality that’s not always possible.  Lugging a D-SLR can be difficult considering the size and number of lenses you’ll want to bring.  So for common situations, just shoot with a smaller camera.  The definition of photography doesn’t always equal an SLR camera.

So I shoot with my camera phone.  The type of camera phone doesn’t matter, but I will say that a phone that has the ability to edit the photo and upload it somewhere will make things much easier – like my iPhone 3G.  It’s a 2 megapixel camera phone that has about as much quality as a home made pinhole camera – but that’s the point, and the fun of it.  Trying to make something interesting and creative out of something that should be complete crap.  And since your camera is with you all the time, you should be doing this every day.

I suppose I can now consider myself an iPhoneographer.  So here is my list of iPhone apps I use to edit my photos.

  • Best Camera – My new favorite.  Use it all the time.
  • Photogene – The closest you’ll get to Photoshop on the iPhone.
  • TiltShiftGen – Excellent for blurring out backgrounds or making the right photo look like it was taken with a tiltshift lens. And you can try it for free on their website.
  • AutoStitch – The best panoramic photo stitcher I’ve ever seen.
  • Cool fx – Not bad.  Though rarely use it anymore.
  • CameraBag – Provides good effects.  Though rarely use it anymore.

Now we’ve got the shooting and the editing down, where do we put them?  There’s tons of places but I want to control the design and layout of the photos.  Flickr has a white background and I want my photos on a dark background.  The Best Camera website (which goes with the Best Camera app) also only has a white background.  So I’ve chosen Posterous.  They have the easiest method of uploading, a very customizable interface, the ability to use your own domain name, just tons of features that are too numerous to list.

Here is my Posterous iPhone photo blog. http://iblog.markdeffenbaugh.com/

Here is my Flickr stream, which contains a mix of iPhone, junk, and good photos. http://flickr.com/deffenbaugh

Here is my official gallery, which contains has some private galleries. http://markdeffenbaugh.com/gallery

Daughter’s shoot setup

Santa brought me a set of light stands, umbrellas and brackets.  At $98, not a bad price – Link.  To go with those I have a Sunpak 383 and a Sony HVL-f56am; however, my issue is that they can not be triggered at the same time.  I need either an optical trigger for the Sunpak (which could cause an issue with the camera’s pre-flash) or I could get a set of CyberSync remotes.  I’ll probably end up getting the remotes.

The Setup

So, with my one flash that I can trigger remotely, I still rely heavily on natural light.  Luckily I have large north and south facing windows that produce a lot of indirect sunlight.

My ghetto backdrop consits of a white bedsheet draped over my fireplace (preferrably without the fire).  Indirect sunlight is coming from the right.  Flash is shooting through the umbrella.

Settings

  • 1/125
  • 50mm
  • f2.8
  • flash 1/16

Portrait Setup

The Results

The final factor that stands in the way of a decent result is the subject – my daughter, a 3 year old.  She didn’t want to smile, sit still, face the camera, etc.  My wife, off to the right, was able to briefly make her do something other than frown.

A typical

In the Future

I like casual/natural shots as opposed to the staged portraits that look like a mugshot (wife likes them, hence this one).  But one way I want to detract from the standard look of a portrait shot is to get more interesting backdrops.  Not the smokey, cloud kind of backdrop but something that pops with a bit of interest.  I guess I need to go to the fabric store.

My Digital Photography Workflow

Here is the way I do my workflow.  It’s not perfect, I’m still tweaking things here and there, but it works for me.

Getting photos off the camera

I want all of my photos to be offloaded into c:\originals\yyyy\mm\dd based on the date the photo was taken.  I have a small application I wrote to move the photos from camera to the destination location and launch Adobe Bridge.  Lightroom (which I haven’t fully migrated to yet and still prefer to use Bridge) has a way to do this as well.

This is a point I don’t really like about Lightroom.  In Bridge, the photos popup immediately and I can start browsing them.  In Lightroom, I have to go through an import process.  That’s an uneccessary step in my opinion.

Preselection

In Bridge or Lightroom, I’ll quickly go through each photo and give the keepers 2 stars.  I don’t know why 2 stars – just because.  In Lightroom, you can mark a photo as a “pick” by hitting “p”.

I then filter all the photos with 2 or more stars.

Editing

90% of all my photos are edited in Camera Raw.  So for the editing process, I take all the photos marked with 2 starts and load them in Camera Raw.  From Bridge, ctrl+a then ctrl+r.

At this point, there is no tutorial that will tell you what to do.  I like photos that have a lot of contrast, so I bump up the shadows and the exposure all the time.  I’ll fiddle with all of the settings depending on the effect I want.

If the photo is very good, I’ll sharpen it in Photoshop.  Now it’s time to save the images.

Saving

After editing the files in Camera Raw, I give them another look in Bridge.  This time I’ll apply 3 stars to the photos I want to save to jpg.

Filter all the photos with 3 stars and load them back into Camera Raw.  ctrl+a then ctrl+r

In Camera Raw I make sure the photo is set to 300 dpi and I use the sRGB color space.  Click the “Select All” button, then click the “Save Photos” button.  Change the quality to 10.  Save.

If I sharpened the photo in Photoshop; I’ll select “save as…”, choose “jpg”, level 10, save.  If the photo is 16 bit, the jpg option may not show up.  You’ll need to convert it to 8 bit.

I save the photos in c:\jpgs\SomeFolderName

Flickr!

Can’t forget about Flickr.  A staple of any phtography workflow.  At this point I select the best of my jpgs, right click, “send to flickr…”.

Now I can sit back and bask in the 1 or 2 hits my photos will get.

Backups

Ug, backups.  I’ll have to confess right here and now, if my computer fries, I’ll lose quite a bit of photos.  I’ll take a months worth of photos and burn them to dvd, but I’ll be lucky to do it every month.

I really want an automated, off site, solution.  There are a lot to choose from, Mozy.com being one.  Most charge only $5 a month for unlimited storage.  A really good price.  I don’t like the thought of being locked into that price forever though – and what if they go out of business?

It’s something I need to start working on, like tonight.

Lighting test

This is more of a reminder as to what I did. I never, EVER, get in front of the camera. I recently bought a wireless trigger for my flash and felt like playing with it.

The focus is off a bit since I didn’t have anything to focus on before I stood in front of the camera – I just guessed. The light is really hot on my neck and the left edge of my face. I need an umbrella. I’m standing in front of an orange wall. In future tests, I’d like to set up my black backdrop.

Exposure Settings
Exposure: 1/100 second
Aperture: f/8
Focal Length: 50 mm
ISO: 400
Flash: 1/16 power
Post: Camera Raw:

  • Decrease exposure a bit
  • Increase shadows
  • De-Saturate
  • Apply lens
    vignette

Photoshop:

  • Sharpen using Unsharp Mask

More digital camera testing

Continuing my digital camera testing, I’ve decided to try customizing the aperture and shutter speeds. In doing so I tried writing “Web Dude” with a flashlight. Yes it looks a little like Web Ducle but shut-up, you have no idea how hard that is. Out of 30 takes that was the best one. I could have done better with a smaller flashlight.

The settings for this was 3.4 aperture and a 16″ shutter speed (whatever that means).