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Celebrating the New Year typically involves good things to eat and drink. It's also a great time to capture ambiance images that go beyond the whacky portraits at the strike of midnight. So don't forget the food shots!

holiday-food-spread.jpg

I usually start with an overview, such as the image above, then start to work closer on the individual offerings. Existing light food shots can be quite artistic. But you'll probably need to use a flash some too. I find that bounce flash is perfect for many of these subjects.

Then, once the party is over, send you favorite food shot or two to the chef or hostess with a thank you for the great evening. They will appreciate your artistry and consideration.


Join me on my Instagram site as I explore the world of mobile photography. And now Instagram features 15-second movies too.

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Is the Olympus FL-300R Flash Worth $139?

Olympus FL-300R Flash on an OM-D E-M5

When you see the Olympus FL-300R compact flash on a catalog page, it looks very tempting - especially for th modest $139 investment (modest in the world of flash photography). But does this wireless unit perform? I decided to put it through its paces with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 and E-M1.

Things I Liked

  • Very compact and light. Uses 2 AAA batteries
  • Tilts back for bounce flash and forward for macro
  • Wireless capability with 2 channels
  • Built-in diffuser panel that's effective
  • Flash folds forward to stay out of the way when not in use
  • Easy to operate
  • Comes with protective pouch and off-camera stand

Things I Didn't Like as Much

FL-300R in Bounce Position

  • Can't use EVF in bounce position. Must use LCD for composition
  • Only angles 60 degrees backwards, instead of full 90 degrees
  • Flash can only be fired 10 times in succession at intervals of 6 seconds

The FL-300R On Camera

I liked that the flash slides directly into the hot shoe and doesn't require you to reveal the Accessory Port. I used Philips MultiLife 1000mah rechargeable AAA batteries to power the unit. The flash was ready for action just a few seconds after pushing the On/Off button, and it recharged quickly between firings.

Exposures were good on both the E-M5 and E-M1. I discovered that what is advertised as a Wide Panel (its switch is on the side of the FL-300R) is also an excellent built-in diffuser. When enabled, it lowered the contrast and softened shadows. I especially recommend it when working close to subjects. When in bounce position, however, don't use the wide panel setting because it does cut output a bit.

FL-300R Flash Back Side

The FL-300R Off Camera

Even though the FL-300R is definitely an upgrade from the accessory popup flash that comes with the OM-D, don't toss it out. You'll need the pop-up to serve as the wireless controller for the FL-300R.

Once the popup is in place and the camera is fired up, all you have to do is move the RC switch on the back of the FL-300R to "A" and enable RC Mode in Menu 2 on the camera. Wireless performance was quite good, and it adds another dimension to your flash photography options.

You can hold the flash in your hand for on-the-go off-camera flash. Or you can use the supplied stand to position it on a table or shelf. The stand includes a threaded socket, so it can serve as an adapter for a light stand or tripod too.

The Final Word

Because of its capabilities and compact size, I do recommend the Olympus FL-300R Compact Flash for casual flash photography. It's not powerful enough for serious event coverage, but when you need to cobble together a quick lighting setup for a portrait or family gathering, you'll be happy to have this compact unit in your bag.


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This week on The Digital Story photography podcast: 5 holiday photo tips; on the Nimbleosity Report - Testing the new version of Camera+ for the iPhone; from the Photo Help Desk: long exposures - All of this and more on today's show with Derrick Story.

Story #1 - 5 Holiday Photo Tips - If you're lucky enough to be able to spend time with family and friends during the holidays, here are a few photo tips to keep in mind.

  • Think portraits as well as activities. Yes, it's fun to photograph Uncle Bill opening his present, but get a portrait too. In the coming years, those informal, environmental candids will become more valuable.
  • Reduce flash exposure. Most cameras emit too much flash indoors. Go to Flash Exposure Compensation and set it to -2/3 or even -1. Then increase your ISO to 400 or 800 to reduce dependency on the flash.
  • Get a group shot. Yes, everyone will moan and groan. But group shots tell a big story in just a single frame.It's worth your while to set one up.
  • Photograph food and decorations. Be sure to capture the food table before everyone digs in. Keep an eye out for decorations and place settings.
  • Share your images. The more people in the family that you share pictures with, the better the chances they will survive the decades. Believe it or not, sending email attachments are often the most effective because the recipients don't have to do anything to receive them.

Story #2 - The Nimbleosity Report (www.thenimblephotographer.com): Camera+ for iPhone - There are many good camera apps for the iPhone. And the latest version of Camera+ should be counted among the best of them. Here's why it's one of my favorites.

Story #3 - From the Photo Help Desk (www.photohelpdesk.com): Holidays are a great time of year for long exposures. Be sure to pack a micro tripod in your kit. If your camera has built-in WiFi, you may be able to trip the shutter using a companion app on your iOS or Android device. If not, remember that the self-timer can serve as safe way to initiate the exposure without jarring the camera. And don't forget to keep the ISO low for long exposures...

Photo Assignment for December is High ISO.

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Listen to the Podcast

In addition to subscribing in iTunes, you can also download the podcast file here (35 minutes). You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

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.


iPad for Digital Photographers

If you love mobile photography like I do, then you'll enjoy iPad for Digital Photographers-- now available in print, Kindle, and iBooks versions.

Podcast Sponsors

Red River Paper -- Keep up with the world of inkjet printing, and win free paper, by liking Red River Paper on Facebook.

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

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Two Good Articles About the Sony a7R

sony-a7r-no-lens.jpg

You don't have to be an industry guru to know that the Sony Alpha a7R full frame mirrorless camera is disruptive technology. The feat of bringing large sensor photography to a diminutive camera is impressive.

Now that the a7 and a7R are available, where do we go from here? Do we sell all of our existing gear and jump on the bandwagon? Do all enthusiast photographers really need a full frame camera? I've recently read two excellent articles that help put this disruption into perspective.

Michael Reichmann, whom I met on a shoot in Iceland, published the essay, The Full Frame Myth. He writes:

"But Full Frame has now become a moving target, and Sony has just seriously moved the goal posts - to mix a couple of metaphors. Up until the release of the Sony A7 and A7r in late 2013 it would have been safe to say, or write, that the compromise for Full Frame's higher resolution was larger, bulkier bodies and also larger, heavier lenses. But the new Sonys knock that postulate into a cocked hat. These cameras are in fact as small and as light as some MFT cameras, let alone APS-C models."

Michael manages to put the Sony a7R in perspective while still acknowledging the excellence of other top cameras in the APS-C and Micro Four Thirds format. It's a good piece and worth the time to read it.

I also liked Roger Cicala's A Bit of A7R Sanity. He states, "The camera does some things very well at an excellent price. That will be enough to assure some people will learn how to work around those limitations. In another month or two the screaming will die down and some people will be using the camera regularly and making superb images with it. Because it's fully capable of making superb images. It's never going to work for action photography. It may (or may not) be a great walk around camera. But it will do certain things better than any camera out there at a price that's going to attract a lot of attention."

Roger is very practical in his evaluation of the a7's potential impact on the industry. And both his post and the essay by Michael Reichmann helped me sort out this situation in my head.

I'm one of those guys who doesn't need to shoot full frame all of the time. And when I do, I have my Canon and its arsenal of lenses. The rest of the time, I'm fine with APS-C and Micro Four Thirds sensors. So I don't need to start saving for the Sony a7R.

But your situation may be different. And reading these two articles will hopefully help you sort things out.

PS: the proper labeling of the camera is: Sony a7R.


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Loom in an iPhone

After using Loom for a week to backup photos from my iPhone and iPad mini, I give the service high marks.

I particularly like using the iOS version of Loom. It's easy to navigate and create folders for organization.

The Timeline at the top of the organization panel shows all of your pictures in chronological order. Below that, each of your devices are listed where you can see the photos residing in each of them.

Then, there are the albums. You can create a new album and add virtual copies of pictures to it. I've created my usual Animals, People, Places, and Things collections. When 2014 rolls around, I'll create categories for the new year too.

As for the Web interface, I still haven't warmed up to it. Sharing images has been a challenge, and overall performance is clunky. It's almost as if the designers tried to port the iOS app to the computer browser. My hope would be that they revisit the web interface with fresh eyes.

Aside from that nit, I would say that I'm quite pleased with my first week of using Loom. If you need to augment your mobile photography backup solution, it's worth a look.


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This product has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

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The engineers at Flickr have been busy elves this season, and one of their latest goodies is the overhauled "embed" option for your photos. This is part of the new "photo experience" that's in beta. Unfortunately, for some sites, such as my Movabletype blog, it doesn't work.

flickr-embed-option.jpg

To get to this option while viewing your photo (in the new experience), click on the Share icon, then click on the Embed graphic. You'll be presented with a variety of sizes as shown above.

Flickr cites in their blog post on the topic, "your photos and videos are displayed with their full title and your Flickr name, embed feature is only available for publicly shared photos, and embeds are contextual and interactive."

My advice is to sit tight for a bit and let them work out the bugs in the new code. In the meantime, you can opt-out of the new experience and use the old embed code.


Flickr Essential Training 2013 - I explore the entire Flickr universe, mobile and computer, in my lynda.com title, Flickr Essential Training. Stop by and take a look.

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Camera+ 5 for iOS with Processing Lab

highlights-shadows-iphone.png

The folks at Tap tap tap have just released Camera+ 5 for the iPhone ($1.99) with plenty of updates, including The Lab.

Not only is Camera+ a terrific app for capturing images with your iPhone (or iPad), but The Lab adds some dynamite features worthy of your attention.

  • Clarity Pro
  • Tint
  • Soft Focus
  • Film Grain
  • Temperature
  • Highlights and Shadows
  • Vignette
  • And many more...

I just gave the app a run-through from start to finish for this image of my Lowepro Urban Reporter 150 that I posted on Instagram.

When capturing the image, I took advantage of Camera+ controls such as image stabilization and self timer (I was holding a reflector in my other hand). In The Lab, I added a bit of Clarity, recovered some highlights, and used just a bit of vignette to draw the eye to the center of the frame. Capture, processing, and sharing all accomplished on the iPhone 5S.

If you're looking for a new camera app to help you expand your iPhone photography, I would certainly consider this latest version of Camera+. For existing users, the upgrade is free.


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kathleen-raw-processing.jpg

We knew it was coming; just not sure when. Digital Camera RAW Compatibility Update 5.02 adds Raw processing for five cameras - all of them important: Nikon D5300, Nikon Df, Olympus OM-D E-M1, Sony Alpha 7, and Sony Alpha 7R.

My approach while waiting for such updates is to shoot Raw+Jpeg with a new camera. I upload both to Aperture, and work with the Jpegs until the new Raw processing is available. I keep the two formats in separate albums. Until the Raw processing is available, my thumbnails for the unsupported files look like this.

raw-files-before-update.jpg

Once the update is applied, I go to the Adjustments tab in the Inspector, and click on any thumbnail. Aperture will process the file and present me with an image. I can use the right and left arrow keys to move through the images quickly and display the updates.

processed-raw-files.jpg

As for the Raw processing itself, it seemed very good for my OM-D E-M1 files. Initial previews looked spot on, highlight and shadow recovery was smooth, color was pleasing, and all controls behaved as I would anticipate.

If you're a Mac OS X Mavericks user, the update should be applied automatically. If not, you can download it here.

Aperture Tips and Techniques

To learn more about Aperture, check out my Aperture 3.3 Essential Training (2012) on lynda.com. Also, take a look at our Aperture 3 Learning Center. Tons of free content about how to get the most out of Aperture.


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This week on The Digital Story photography podcast: Lightroom 5.3 Goodies, especially for those with new cameras; Nimbleosity Report - Automated Backup of Your Mobile Photos with Loom; Photo Help Desk: Car Windshield Shade Portrait Reflector - All of this and more on today's show with Derrick Story.

Story #1 - Photographers who have upgraded to the Olympus OM-D E-M1, Olympus Stylus 1, Nikon Df, or Pentax K-3 should be interested in the latest Lightroom update, version 5.3. Not only is there Raw support for these cameras, Adobe has also added:

  • Tethered capture for Canon EOS Rebel T4i / EOS 650D / EOS Kiss X6i
  • New Lens Profile Support for 19 new lenses, including a boatload of Sony glass
  • Added Camera Matching color profiles (Natural, Muted, Portrait, Vivid) for Olympus cameras

lightroom-5pt3-profiles-web

Plus lots and lots of bug fixes. I talk about this substantial update in today's top story. (More information about the Lightroom 5.3 release is here).

Story #2 - On the Nimbleosity Report - Automated Backup of Your Mobile Photos with Loom. Now that Everpix is just a fond memory, I needed to find a robust backup solution for my iPhone and iPad pictures. I've been testing Loom, and I think it has potential.

One of Loom's most appealing features is the ability to create albums and move pictures into them. This really helps with organization. You can even create nested albums, but the procedure gets a bit more tricky doing this.

The Mac and iOS apps seem solid, you get 5GBs of storage for free, and you can increase your allotment to 50GBs for $3.99 a month or 250GBs for $9.99 a month. If you pay yearly, you can save: $39.99 and $99.99 respectively.

I think it's important to begin 2014 with a solid mobile backup solution, and I discuss the potential with Loom in the second segment.

Story #3 - From the Photo Help Desk: Car Windshield Shade Portrait Reflector. We might not always have our disc reflectors on us, but chances are you have a windshield shade in your car. Here's how it can save the day for a portrait shoot.

Listen to the Podcast

In addition to subscribing in iTunes, you can also download the podcast file here (31 minutes). You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

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 -- Keep up with the world of inkjet printing, and win free paper, by liking Red River Paper on Facebook.

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

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You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

High school yearbook portraits are generally a mechanical process. With lots of students to photograph, and not much time to do it, it's understandable why the process can become a bit impersonal.

According to the students I've talked to, they get one shot in front of the photographer. There might be a second exposure if something went terribly wrong with the first. Otherwise, that's it. Next.

If your child decides that he or she doesn't like the image that was captured, offer to give them a second chance. After all, this is a photo they have to live with for a long time.

yearbook-head-shots.jpg

As photographers, we shoot portraits regularly. Yearbook shots are among the easiest to do. Simply look at the image that was supplied by the official photographer, find a comparable backdrop, and shoot a series of images.

That's right: a series.

Along the way, show the pictures you've already recorded to the subject. Ask which ones they like the best. Then shoot another series working that pose and expression. After just 15 or 20 minutes, you'll have a happy high school student, and you've put your skills to work for your family.

Aperture Tips and Techniques

If you have questions about portrait retouching in Aperture, or how to adjust the background color, take a look at Portrait Retouching with Aperture. You may want to check out my other Aperture titles, including Aperture 3.3 Essential Training (2012), Using iPhoto and Aperture Together, and the latest, Enhancing Product Photography with Aperture. Also, take a look at our Aperture 3 Learning Center. Tons of free content about how to get the most out of Aperture.

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