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I'm a huge fan of Flickr. I use it to publish galleries of images to augment my articles on The Digital Story, and to share photos just for the pleasure of showing them to other people.

Discover Your Best Shot

But I've discovered another benefit too. Flickr helps me determine the best image in any given group of shots. And often, it's not the photo that I would have picked. I think this perspective is wildly helpful because as photographers, we often decide that one image or another is our best based on information that the viewer doesn't have. And therefore we don't often feature our best images, as the world sees them.

For example: just because you climb to the top of a mountain and endure hardship to get a particular shot, that doesn't mean it's your best picture from the trip. Yet, because of these factors, it might be the one that you promote.

Viewer Statistics vs Your Feelings

What Flickr does is give you actual viewing numbers for each shot in a set of images, and almost every time, one picture will rise above the rest. And for me, it's often a surprise. Keep in mind that you see the viewing numbers if you're logged in, but visitors don't. So they're not being influenced by the pack (although sometimes a site will link to a photo and that will jack up its numbers).

In my Olympus E-PL1 gallery, one image is far and away the most popular. Can you guess which one? (You can share your guess in the comments area of this article. After a few days, I'll post the answer.)

Flickr Favorites in Practical Use

I've began using this "Flickr feedback" when I decide which photos to share with clients or to publicize. By way of example, if you're going to Macworld, you'll see an image of mine from New York in the entry hall gallery. I offered that photo of The Kiss (along with others) in part based on its popularity on Flickr. Sure enough, that's what the selection committee at Macworld chose to feature.

My point here is that we're often not the best judges of our own work. Using services such as Flickr provides valuable feedback to help us see our photos though the viewers' eyes without being tainted by our own personal experiences.

Flicker Essential Training on Lynda.com

If you want to learn more about the benefits of Flickr, and how to get better at using it, take a look at my Flickr Essential Training on Lynda.com. It's easy, fun, and comprehensive.


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Right around the corner is my 2-day workshop at Macworld 2010 titled, Professional Photography Adventure with Aperture. The dates are Feb. 9 & 10 at Moscone Center in San Francisco. There's still time to sign up.

Because Aperture 2 has been around for a couple years now, we've had plenty of time to experiment with the application to see what it can do. I'm going to incorporate some of these discoveries into this year's workshop:

  • A reference library approach that allows you to point Aperture, iPhoto, Lightroom and Adobe Bridge to the same set of master images, without altering the masters in any way.
  • Tethered shooting with Canon DSLRs and iPhones. Will cover Nikon and Olympus too.
  • Custom fine art notecards using the book layout tool.
  • How to create the infrared effect using the Adjustments panel in Aperture 2.

And, as they say, lots more. So yes, we will cover the basics on the first day, but on the second day we'll delve more into these advanced techniques. And if Apple announces Aperture 3, we'll cover that too.

More Digital Photography at Macworld

On Wednesday night, Feb. 10, at 6:30 pm we head to the Apple Store in San Francisco for the talk, Expert Photo Tips from Real Experts. I'll be joined by digital photography legend, Stephen Johnson, with Mikkel Aaland and Ben Long. After our initial chat about the iPad and all things photography, we'll take lots of questions from the audience. This is a free event, so I hope to see you there.

On Thursday, Feb. 11 at 3pm, I head back to Moscone Center for the panel discussion, The State of the Art of Digital Photography. We did this last year, and it was a great hit. For the talk, I'll have lots of goodies on hand including the new Olympus E-PL1 digital camera. Olympus isn't showing at Macworld, so this will be your chance to get your hands on this very cool camera. I also have a few other state-of-the-art goodies to share. So make sure you attend this talk.


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Review of Olympus E-PL1 DSLR

How ironic that the most affordable PEN, the brand new E-PL1, is also my favorite. That never happens! Olympus just announced that its third digital PEN will retail for $599.99, that includes a 12-megapixel camera body with the 14-42mm lens. This latest PEN features:

  • Live Guide: Easily see and adjust your settings on the LCD before you take the shot. At first this doesn't sound like much. But once I used it, I felt like it was a breakthrough in camera UI. There are a series of adjustments -- saturation, color, brightness, blur background, and express motions -- that you fine tune by moving a slider up and down and seeing the results in real time on the LCD before you take the picture. Very cool.
  • Built-in flash: It's mounted atop a clever arm system that gives it some height above the lens. Yaay. I like it!
  • Faster autofocus with the new 9-18mm and 14-150mm lenses:  I tested the 9-18mm zoom, and its performance was snappy.
  • Direct Movie Button for HD Videos: It's red and you can't miss it. And if you want to shoot HD video in a hurry, it's terrific. One touch recording.
  • New Gentle Sepia Art Filter that now makes a total of six in-camera creative filters
  • Share: Just connect the camera to an HDTV with an optional HDMI cable and use your TV remote to control playback functions and navigate the camera's menus from the comfort of your chair.
  • Continuous Autofocus (C-AF) Tracking and Autofocus (AF) Target Registration locks your subject into focus and constantly adjusts focus and brightness.
  • 2.7" LCD provides a wide viewing angle of 176 degrees. Unfortunately it's still only 230,000 dots.
  • Accessory Port (like the one on the E-P2) for connecting the optional VF-2 electronic viewfinder, or the new optional SEMA-1 external microphone adapter set (which includes the EMA-1 adapter, the ME-51S stereo microphone and a cord). Works with any microphone that has a 3.5mm plug.
  • Optional PT-EP01 underwater case that has been specially customized for the Olympus E-PL1, and is waterproof to a depth of 40 meters (approximately 130 feet).

My Favorite PEN

Aside from all of its features, I think this is a beautiful camera, especially the black and silver model I've photographed for this article. I really like metal mode dial on the top deck, raised buttons, right-side hand grip, and overall solid feel.

I also appreciate getting a proven 12MP sensor, HD video recording, and accessory port for less than any of the other PENs. I really like this camera, and I'm going to hate sending it back. I will, however, have it with me at Macworld. So if you want to see it in person, be sure to look me up.

When Will It Be Available?

The Olympus E-PL1 will be available in March 2010. It includes the E-PL1 Body, M. ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-42mm f3.5/5.6 Zoom, USB Cable, Video Cable, Li-Ion Battery Pack (BLS-1), Li-Ion Battery Charger (BCS-1), Shoulder Strap, Olympus software CD-ROM, Manuals, and Registration card. If you like what you see, however, you can preorder the Olympus PEN E-PL1 right now on Amazon for $599.

More Olympus E-PL1 Images (click to enlarge)


Photos of the E-PL1 PEN copyright 2010 Derrick Story. For a complete set of E-PL1 images at full resolution, visit the TDS Flickr Page.


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Control your Canon or Nikon DSLR remotely with your iPhone.

I knew there would be a good reason to hang on to my 1st gen iPhone after I had upgraded to the 3GS. Among other handy tasks, it is now my remote control for both the Canon 5D Mark II and a Canon Rebel T1i.

Using DSLR Camera Remote by onOne software, I can literally see through my camera lens on the iPhone with its Live View function and fire the shutter at any time. Plus, I can change the ISO, white balance, file format, and exposure compensation directly from my iPhone. I don't even have to be in the same room as the camera to control it. All I need is a WiFi network that my iPhone can log on to, and a Mac computer with the Canon connected via its USB cable. The entire setup takes about 15 minutes.

I like to use this rig for bird watching. I have a makeshift birdbath on my back patio. The birds love it, but they are shy and don't like it when I stand at the sliding glass door with my camera. So I plugged a DSLR into a MacBook running the DSLR Remote Server software (that's a free download from the onOne site), and monitor the bird activity on my old iPhone 1st gen while working away at my desk -- far away from the slider. When I see something I like, I hit the "Fire" button on my iPhone, and the DSLR takes a picture. I still have my new iPhone to take calls and use for other activity.

There are two versions of the iPhone app: Pro ($19.99) and Lite ($1.99). The Lite version allows you to trip the shutter and see a preview of the shot you've just captured. Very basic, but also very handy for only a couple bucks. The Pro version enables all of the functions I mentioned above, plus it includes an intervalometer, auto bracketing, and burst mode controls.

I tested DSLR Camera Remote with both the 5D Mark II and the T1i. It worked flawlessly with both cameras. I highly recommend it.


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"Embrace" can be an expression of affection, or as you'll see in this excellent gallery, a number of other things too. Check out the Dec. 09 Photo Assignment and see just how creative embracing can be.

The Feb. 2010 assignment is "Red." Start working on your contribution now. Details can be found on the Member Participation page. You can submit photo assignment pictures up to 600 pixels in the widest direction.

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 next month's assignment should be: "Photo Assignment: February 2010." 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.


Photo by Brian Reynolds. You can read more about how Brian captured this shot, plus see all of the other great images on the Dec. 09 Gallery page.


Good luck with your February assignment, and congratulations to all of the fine contributors for December. It's a great collection of images.


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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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The folks over at PhotoBasics.net have created a green screen kit for only $69.50 US that simplifies the process to three steps: shoot, upload, and create. With any digital camera, you shoot a subject against the included 5'x7' green screen background, then upload the image to your Mac or Windows computer, and finally, apply any of the 100 included digital backgrounds (such as the one shown here), or one of your own. The software takes over from there, merging your subject and background.

I discovered PhotoBasics.net while exploring the exhibit hall at the CHA Show in Anaheim, CA. They had a sample green screen set up, as shown here, with a variety of props. You could have your picture taken, choose the backdrop, and they would show you how the process worked. Here you can see Marketing Specialist Amber McCoy holding the green screen kit in front of the backdrop (click image to enlarge). She used a MacPro to meld the images, and it literally only took seconds.

The $69.50 kit includes the 5'x7' green background, 2 background hooks, PhotoKey 2 Lite Software (Mac or Windows), and 100 digital backgrounds. But the real power is that it lets you use your images for backgrounds too.

The Mac version requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later, but works on Intel or PowerPC computers. The PC version only requires Windows XP with Service Pack 2 (or later). The software supports JPG, PNG and TIF file formats for importing and saving. You do have some adjustments to fine tune the image, and you can output to digital or print.

I chose this image of the woman with red hair to illustrate how well the software works without any additional touch up. I see just a little green peeking through around the hair, which I could fix in about 2 minutes. Most shots that I looked at required no touch up at all.

If you want to dig into the details, you can download an instructional PDF. If you're ready to buy, just hop over to B&H Photo where it's available for $69.50.


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Have you ever used your sunglasses as a polarizer for a compact camera? This is just one of the many photography techniques that I cover in my new Lynda.com title, Getting Pro Results from a Compact Camera. I mention the sunglasses technique here because it's a free video that you can watch right now.

But there's plenty more. For example, I explain how to:

  • Shoot amazing close-up shots easily
  • Create super-wide-angle panoramas by stitching images together
  • Understand ISO, exposure, exposure compensation, and all that stuff
  • Master the flash in a variety of lighting conditions
  • Get the most out of scene modes
    • Not only do you join me in the field for the actual shooting techniques, we then go to the computer and review how those very shots turned out. And the best part is, you can absorb all of these great techniques in only an hour, then revisit them as often as you want. I hope you give Getting Pro Results from a Compact Camera a look, and share it with your friends.


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Adobe Photoshop: The First 10 Years

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As we near the 20 year anniversary of Photoshop on Feb. 18, 2010, I have a special treat to add to the festivities. Ten years ago, with the help of Erin McCabe and Glenn Knoll, I published an article titled, From Darkroom to Desktop -- How Photoshop Came to Light.

To celebrate two decades of greatness, you can download the PDF of that original article that includes some terrific old Photoshop toolbars, application icons, history of Photoshop timeline, and photos of the Knoll brothers shot by Jeff Schewe.

One of my favorite passages in the article tells how the foundation was poured for what would become photography's killer application:

The story of one of the original "killer apps" begins in Ann Arbor, Michigan with a college professor named Glenn Knoll. Glenn was a photo enthusiast who maintained a darkroom in the family basement. He was also a technology aficionado intrigued by the emergence of the personal computer. His two sons, Thomas and John, inherited their father's inquisitive nature. And the vision for future greatness began with their exposure to Glenn's basement darkroom and with the Apple II Plus that he brought home for research projects.

The rest, as they say, is history.

The journey is as important as the destination. Are you missing opportunities for good photographs during your travels? Do you have a camera with you when riding in a cab? Have you ever been in a glass elevator? And please tell me you've taken cloud shots through an airplane window!

This week we're talking about taking photographs through car windows and other crazy places that normally we don't think to pull out the camera. Once you get in this frame of mind, you'd be surprised at how many good images you get.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (20 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Slippery is the Jan. 2010 Photo Assignment. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is Jan. 31, 2010.

TDS Workshops Update

The TDS Hot Air Balloon Photography Workshop in June 2010 is sold out. If you'd like to get on the waiting list for upcoming workshops, please send me email with the subject line: "TDS Workshops." Those virtual camera club members who are on the waiting list get first opportunity to register for newly announced workshops. Attendance is limited to 6 for each TDS Workshop to ensure a personalized experience.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. It's a blast!


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Podcast Sponsors

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Red River Paper -- Try the $7.99 Sample Kit.

Add Magic to Your Slideshows -- FotoMagico presentations are so amazing that your audience will be asking how you did it.


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I just read a good, short piece on George Eastman and the first Kodak camera. It's a slice of history that has an impact for all of today's photographers. The article, Eastman, Kodak, and Roll Film: A history of revolution and evolution in photography is also a good reminder of how good we have it today as shooters.


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