Articles Tagged: software

Digital Photos to Printed Photo Books

I’m extremely excited to be joining the DCP team. I have been interested in cameras for as long as I can remember, probably because my dad always had his camera around his neck on most occasions while I was growing up. I remember dropping off the film with him at the local photo store and the anticipation of picking it up 24 hours later. Fast forward 20 years and I now have a digital camera of my own that accompanies me on my trips and on special occasions. I would call myself an amateur photographer who loves to capture memories.

When I am spending time with friends and want to share photos from a trip, it kills me to open my iPhone and search for the photos. Let’s be honest, it’s hard not to open the notification at the top of the screen while searching for the perfect photo that you think you remember taking sometime between January and May of 2013. Plus, it takes away time with loved ones! Besides, that little iPhone screen does not do justice to the large elephant who charged our safari vehicle on a recent trip to South Africa. I found myself overwhelmed with the 25,000 photos (and counting) available at my fingers tips, so I started making photo books that we keep on our coffee table and on our bookshelf.

Creating my first digital photo book for print reminded me of the mid-90s when scrap-booking was all the rage. Now the process is better because I like for things to be straight and pictures perfectly aligned which can be accomplished quickly on a computer.

A few tips for your photo book:

When I am on the plane home from a trip, I start going through the photos and picking my favorites. If a picture sparks a memory or brings a smile to my face, I put it in the ‘to be considered’ folder. After a few days of being home, I revisit the folder and start to be selective of the best photos that capture my storyline and what I want to remember.

Captions are your friend! While events are fresh in your mind, write captions that will jog your memory years down the road. In my first couple of photo books, I thought I would remember the details — the name of an island we were on and the name of the restaurant — but it was difficult without making notes soon after the experience. Looking back a few years later, I wish I had written down those details.

Somewhere in the Caribbean…. I wish I had captioned this.

Have fun with it! With so many pre-made formats available, you can drag and drop your photos and find the right combination to show off your adventure.

Let your personality show when you are in front of the camera. Those are the pictures that will spark the most memories when you look back on them.

You can use online services like Shutterfly, Snapfish or Blurb. Lightroom has a Blurb module built in which makes layout easy and lets you edit the photos once they are placed. Sometimes two photos that look good separately don’t look so good next to each other. Being able to click over to the Develop module and make adjustments is fast and easy. I personally love creating small series of photos. Maybe it’s of my husband and I trying to pull off the perfect jumping photo or a lion cub yawning in sequence. I also love having my strongest photos stand alone and make a statement. Lay-flat books are great for this exact reason!

The feeling of flipping through the pages of your finished book is rewarding and powerful. Call me old-fashioned but the element of having your photos being printed on the pages of a book bring the story to life which can’t be replicated the same way on a digital screen. Printing images is a part of digital photography that many people have abandoned and need to reconsider. The pages of a photo book make the experience real for family and friends to enjoy. Photo books also make the best gifts for family and friends. Take as little as 10-15 pictures from an experience you shared with someone and create a book to give as a gift. It is something that they will treasure for years to come.

Sometimes Photoshop is just too complicated for a simple job

Have you ever wanted to make a nice graphic for a presentation or social media but using Photoshop seemed like too much work? I’ve found an easier option. Canva is a free graphic design platform that allows anyone to create beautiful and engaging designs.

I appreciate that they offer dozens of pre-sized templates for social media sites such as Facebook and Pinterest. I’ve used it to make party invitations, flyers, and even Christmas cards. When I’m struggling to come up with a design idea I like to browse their sample layouts for inspiration. Canva also offers free tutorials to help spark your creativity.

At DCP I’ve been using Canva to create easily sharable graphics to announce upcoming events and classes. Here’s an example of one I created for the Photo Swap Meet. I used one of our photos for the background image and then added text on top. Resizing text is simple- you just click the text you want and make your change. To ensure the text was readable, I layered a transparent square between the text and the background. It would have taken me half a day to find that object in Photoshop. In Canva you just click the icon for shapes and then you have a huge selection to drag and drop into your design.

Click here to check out Canva for yourself. And definitely take advantage of the Design School, it really helps break down the basics of good graphic design.

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Does anyone still use a 56K modem? Adobe thinks so.

Search Everything, an amazing Windows utility

I use Windows. There, I said it. I’ve built my own machines for years and currently manage six Windows 7 systems at work and home. So I’m always interested in utilities that make work easier and faster. One the very best I’ve found is Search Everything. It is free, fast, uses very few resources and will find a file on your computer in a fraction of a second. I use it several times a day and it’s much more efficient than the built in Windows search. In fact, I think Microsoft should build this in to their OS from now on.

It is malware-free and doesn’t bother you with popups. It doesn’t cost anything but donations are encouraged (by the author and by me!). Download from Voidtools here.

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The Spam Olympics from Sochi

On February 13 I sent out an email through Constant Contact promoting one of our workshops. Whenever one of these emails goes out it is immediately followed by several “Out of Office” replies by people on the list who are, well, out of the office and whose email accounts are set up to respond automatically to sender.

One of my clients on the list is working in Sochi during the Olympics and I got an email saying as much. Within six hours my email address started filling up with Russian spam. That means that either their computer has been infected with malware or that their data connection is being monitored. Just to make sure, I used Google translate on several of the emails. There were several promises of big winnings in an online lottery but the one that I loved was hawking the very service that was spamming me!

It turns out this is happening to pretty much everyone who is at the Olympics according to a slew of news stories about hacker activity.

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A Social Media Design tool

As the Spot begins its journey into the overwhelming world of social media, I have been thumbing (is that term applicable to online browsing?) through an infinite number of articles about the subject.  It can be exhausting sifting through such a huge amount of information but when you find something worthwhile, it’s like striking gold.

Case in point: this amazing infographic that maps out social media design information, including precise images sizes for every major platform. Special thanks to the team at alltwitter for spending the time to do this.  You have saved me an enormous amount of time and research.

Click the image below to view blue prints for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Linkedin, Instagram and Youtube.

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Facebook Debugger to clear photo cache

Have you ever linked something to Facebook, like a blog post or website, only to find that an old photo keeps getting pulled in by FB? This has happened to me and it sent me hunting for a solution. Facebook often stumps me but this one is pretty easy. Evidently, FB actually caches or stores the image on their own servers and when you post that URL the photo they have stored is pulled up. Go to the Facebook Debugger and enter the URL you want to update. It will re-scan the website or blog post and pull up the current photo.

https://developers.facebook.com/tools/debug/

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Online test reveals how well you see color

I came across this test on the X-Rite site a few months ago when I was researching one of their monitor calibration systems. It’s an informative and fun test that will show exactly where you might have problems with color perception. I’ve had enough arguments disagreements with friends and family over the years about certain blue/green colors to guess that I had a very common male-linked weakness in that area. Sure enough the test showed me right where it was. Just rearrange the colors till they look like they are in order. Give it a try at the X-rite Online Color Challenge.

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iPhoto face recognition gets a workout

Just a little retouching

I had a chance to do another large banner project for the YMCA. This time it’s for a 13x17ft rear-lit sign to hang on the corner of their newly remodeled building in downtown Dallas. The last banner job was going to be viewed from close enough that I decided to shoot with the 24.5 megapixel Nikon D3X. This new banner would be viewed from the street so I shot it with my 12 megapixel D300.

We shot several setups, knowing that one of the shots would be used on the building and the others would be part of a billboard and bus campaign. This photo of a group of Y members was the one chosen for the big sign. There were several changes and repairs to be made.

Quite often on discussion groups you’ll hear people get snarky and say something like “I would have just shot it right in the first place instead of spending so much time in Photoshop”. The people who take that attitude may not have shot in a live, slightly chaotic location with a dozen people waiting to have their picture taken. With paid models you can sometimes take a little longer getting things “right”, but you don’t often have that luxury. Also, what’s “right” may not have even been decided yet!

We shot this group of people near a railing, in front of a glass wall with the basketball courts in the background.

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Once the shot was selected it was time to clean it up a bit: (from L to R)
– Stretch the top part of the frame to match the aspect ratio of the sign.
– Repair the woman’s eye which was hidden under her bangs. I found another eye from a different shot.
– We didn’t have a good shot of the second man looking at the camera so decided to replace him with a woman from another setup.
– Replace the logo on the man’s shirt with a Y logo and change the shirt color.
– Remove logo from the red jacket.
– Remove logo from shorts.

The idea was to have some good background action happening on the basketball court. I had the actors step out of the frame and I shot a couple dozen frames of court action at 1/8 sec to get some blur. Keeping the camera locked off made it a little easier to composite the background elements:

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– The woman with the blue shorts was used in place of the man from the original image. I had to first clear out a space for her by cloning over the edges of the man to give her some extra background. Then the adjacent actors were masked and she was placed behind them. Shadows were painted in to match the lighting from the left. The client also asked to add some color to her shirt.
– The basketball court was placed into the main shot, along with background action from three shots.
– The last inset shows a photographer friend of mine with the Lastolite Easy Balance card for white balance. (Wiley is his name and you can see his work here.)
– My client sent over the background graphic as a Illustrator file and I dropped it in as a Smart Object and needed to do some masking around the actor’s head
– Then there was skin retouching, some clothing repairs, local and overall color balance, hair trimming, sharpening. . . the usual ;-)
– The file was sized up to final print size at 50dpi, which is the native resolution of the XL Jet printer.

Here is the final composited shot after about 3 1/2 hours of work:

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