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Camera Awesome

It's rare when all of the hosts on TWiP agree on anything, but we all wanted to choose Camera Awesome as our pick of the week last week. Why? In short, if you have an iPhone 4/4S, this app brings it very close to being a great compact camera.

Camera Awesome (by the cool folks at SmugMug) has three basic modes: shooting, editing, and sharing. In shooting mode you have a number of helpful controls including burst rate, IS, self timer, interval timer, level adjustment, grid lines, and more.

One of its best tricks is allowing you to focus and expose on different parts of the composition. For example, when in Single Shot mode, tap the frame and you'll see a blue circle inside a green box. You can move this anywhere around on the frame and the camera will focus and expose based on where you place the target.

Now, pinch open on the target, and you can separate the "blue circle expose" from the "green box focus" and work with those points independently. If you decide you want to return to something more simple, click on the triangle pop up menu, and choose Big Button. Now you just have to tap the screen to take a picture. Want to go back? Chose Single Shot and get the focus/exposure target.

When it's time to edit, tap on the photo box in the lower left corner. Click on the Magic Wand icon and start with the "Awesomize" filter. In most cases, that's all you'll need. But there are tons of other editing controls included. And if you need more, Camera Awesome offers "in-app" purchases for additional tools.

Now, it's time to share your image with the world. You'd think that SmugMug would be the only option. It's not. You can set up Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Picasa, Photobucket, Email, and of course, SmugMug. Hats off guys!

There are plenty of other features too, that I don't have time for here, that you should explore once you download the app.

Camera Awesome is available in the App Store for free. Even if you go crazy with the in-app purchases, you'll still only spend a couple bucks. I've replaced my Apple Camera app with Camera Awesome on my home page. The only thing I wish it could do is become my default camera when I double-push the home button. I guess Apple would have something to say about that.

Canon 5D Mark III - Not Now

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Good news! Canon releases the 5D Mark III. Bad news: Price tag is $3,500 here in the US. That's $1,000 more than I paid for my 5D Mark II. Seriously?

So what do I get for that additional $1,000? 61-point autofocus, 6 fps, DIGIC 5 processor, and better weather sealing. Yes, yes, I know about better high-ISO performance and those other under-the-hood refinements. But I expect those when it's been 3 years since the camera has been updated.

Don't get me wrong. I think the specs for the 5D Mark III look great. It will probably be one of the best DSLRs on the market. I would have been willing to pay $2,999 for it (but with some grumbling). But $3,500 in this economy where photographers are doing our best to keep business afloat, is too high.

So instead, I'm gong to send my 5D Mark II in for a cleaning. Because for now, it will remain my go-to camera for assignments.


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For the Jan. 2012 Photo Assignment, TDS shooters put their callers on hold and snapped photos with their camera phones. You can view a wide variety of on-the-go imagry in our gallery, Mobile Phone. It's a glimpse of the world as it passes by. And which one will be the SizzlPix Pick of the Month?

Bernie Anderson Mobile Phone

Photo by Bernie Anderson. "This is a building across from one of the schools I teach at. Not very welcoming, I'd say..." Bernie captured this wonderful image with his iPhone 4, then color corrected in Aperture 3. To see all of the other terrific shots from Jan., visit the Mobile Phone gallery page.


Participate in This Month's Assignment

The March 2012 assignment is "Eyes." Details can be found on the Member Participation page. Deadline is Mar. 30, 2012.

Please follow the instructions carefully for labeling the subject line of the email for your submission. It's easy to lose these in the pile of mail if not labeled correctly. For example, the subject line for this month's assignment should be: "Photo Assignment: March 2012." Also, if you can, please don't strip out the metadata. And feel free to add any IPTC data you wish (These fields in particular: Caption, Credit, Copyright, Byline), I use that for the caption info.

Good luck with your March assignment, and congratulations to all of the fine contributors for January.

SizzlPix Pick of the Month for the Dec. Photo Assignment

Congratulations to Michael DeBuhr for his image titled, Brothers. Michael will receive a SizzlPix for his winning image, selected by the good folks at SizzlPix.


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Now Available! The Digital Photography Companion. The official guide for The Digital Story Virtual Camera Club.

  • 25 handy and informative tables for quick reference.
  • Metadata listings for every photo in the book
  • Dedicated chapter on making printing easy.
  • Photo management software guide.
  • Many, many inside tips gleaned from years of experience.
  • Comprehensive (214 pages), yet fits easily in camera bag.

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Is 1 Second the Perfect Long Exposure?

When I review my twilight shots that blur motion, it's amazing how often the ones I like best were exposed at 1 second.

Las Vegas Blur "Las Vegas Blur" photo by Derrick Story.

What's even more curious, is that I'm usually controlling the settings with Aperture Priority, not Shutter Priority. I do this typically because I'm figuring how much depth of field I want. But when I review the metadata for the shots (don't you just love metadata!), the cool exposures are often around 1 second.

This has often held true for waterfalls and other motion shots. And I'm beginning to think, maybe I should switch to Shutter Priority?


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When we think of "back up," we're usually visualizing hard drives and computers. But what about your "Plan B" for a photo shoot? Things don't always go the way we planned. What's your back up plan for mis-behaving lighting while you have subjects staring at you? In this week's podcast, I have a great back up strategy for you. In fact, you might like it so much that it becomes your first choice. Tune in to find out.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (31 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Rule of Thirds is the Feb. 2012 Photo Assignment. Entries must be adhere to a Rule of Thirds composition. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is Feb. 29, 2012.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. And from those images, I choose the TDS Member Photo of the Day.

Podcast Sponsors

Red River Paper -- The $7.99 Sample Kit is back! And with free shipping.

You might also want to check out my article, Artistic Gifts You Can Make in an Hour.

Make Your Photos Sizzle with Color! -- SizzlPix is like High Definition TV for your photography.

Need a New Photo Bag? Check out the Lowepro Specialty Store on The Digital Story and use discount code LP20 to saven 20% at check out.




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The love affair with mobile cameras enters a new chapter with Nokia announcing PureView Pro.

Nokia PureView

They write, "The Nokia PureView Pro imaging technology is the combination of a large, super high resolution 41Mpix with high performance Carl Zeiss optics. The large sensor enables pixel oversampling, which means the combination of many pixels into one perfect pixel. PureView imaging technology is the result of many years of research and development and the tangible fruits of this work are amazing image quality, lossless zoom, and superior low light performance."

We're already at the point where the term, "mobile phone" doesn't really describe the device we carry in our pockets. High resolution cameras with computing capability and connected to the Internet and cellular network is not just a mobile phone. As image quality continues to improve, it's going to be interesting to see the shifts in the photography market this creates.


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Catch Those In-Between Moments

Ed Shields Portrait of Ashley

Keep your camera at the ready during a portrait shoot. You may just capture an in-between moment.

Photographer Ed Shields talked about this with our group during the TDS Off-Camera Flash Workshop this past weekend during our shoot review. Even though Ed had many wonderful shots of model Ashley Tuttle, he included this image as part of his "6 for review."

Ed kept his camera poised during the session, and when another photographer said something that made Ashley laugh, Ed got the shot. "I've heard other photographers talk about this technique before," Ed said, "and keep it in the back of my mind."

I thought it was a good discussion during our review session, and wanted to share Ed's tip with you here.


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To celebrate our first TDS Off-Camera Flash Workshop this weekend, I thought I'd share a favorite tip: how to photograph reflective artwork with two flashes. This video is part of my Off Camera Flash training title on lynda.com.

The technique is simple. Set up two equal-powered off-camera flashes at 45 degree angles from the art. They will cancel out each other's reflections, but still illuminate the artwork. You can see the results of this configuration in this video from the course. Give it a try!

More Off Camera Flash Tutorials

Off Camera Flash - Basic Techniques for Pro Results

"More Off Camera Flash" - Digital Photography Podcast 233


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Lowel Ego Lights are affordable soft lights that can be used for portrait and product photography, as well as video recording. Each lighting unit consists of two custom 27W screw-in compact daylight fluorescent lamps that are balanced at 5000 degrees color temperature.

The design of the soft box is clever. A piece of translucent plastic is riveted to a black plastic back. You "bow" them to create the opening for the light fixture that hooks into place. You can set the soft boxes on a flat surface for table top photography or mount them on a light stand via the threaded socket on the bottom. At first you may say to yourself, "I could have made that!" But you didn't. Lowel did, and they are fun to use in practice.

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Turn on the lights via the rocker switch on the power cord. At first, the twin fluorescent lamps won't seem that bright. Don't worry. Do something else for a few minutes, and when you look up again they will be much more intense. I've found they need a good 5 minutes to reach peak output.

Once they do, you'll notice that the light is soft and pleasing. I used two Ego lights to produce this video for Lowepro. For table top photography you can also use the included white reflector for additional fill lighting.

The Lowel Ego Light kit sells for $215. It includes 2 soft boxes with mounts, 4 bulbs, 2 reflectors, and a small sweep for tabletop photography. Don't get excited about the sweep - that, you could make yourself.

I like this set up. There are times when I prefer continuous lighting to off-camera flash. I just flip the switch, position, and shoot. For video they are a true blessing. And unlike "hot lights," the fluorescent lamps stay cool - particularly nice for portrait sessions.


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B&W in Sin City

The City Entertain Long exposure helps create the ghostly effect against a brightly lit background.

When you think about photographing Las Vegas, you probably see bright colors against a dark background. Right? Well, not necessarily. Whether it's Sin City or The City by the Bay, don't forget B&W. By removing color from the composition, you reveal a different place - the city behind the glaring lights.

Night Walk NY NY The wispy effect is created by moving people during a long exposure. Photos by Derrick Story.

My favorite approach is to shoot in Raw, leaving all of my options available. Then, as I review the work on my Mac, I look for compositions than lend themselves to B&W. I test those candidates in Silver Efex Pro by Nik Software. And I always seem to come away with a handful that I like.

Rooftop LV Twilight lighting converts well to B&W too...

So yes, Las Vegas is colorful. But it's also rich with interesting lighting and structures, which is perfect for B&W shooting.


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