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Tips for Great Graduation Photos

Graduation season is underway, and it's an opportunity to capture memorable shots for sharing with family and friends. As with any photo opp, a little planning goes a long way toward coming away with successful images.

Boys in Tuxes Photos before the event give you a little extra time to have fun and play with camera angles. Fill flash helped balance the contrasty outdoor lighting.

Here are a few tips to make sure you're ready to go.

  • Travel Light - You're not off to shoot the Olympics. Unless you're there on assignment, you want to have a good time, show support, and not be a distraction to others. Plan ahead. Find out about the setting, lighting, and the flow of activities. Choose your lens and know how you're going to set your camera before getting in the car. Once there, try to get a good seat. By being prepared, you'll need less gear and be able to enjoy the event.
  • Get Shots Beforehand - You don't have control over what happens at the event, but before things get started, you can flex your creative muscles. If possible, take a series of images prior to things getting started. They'll most likely be your favorites of the day.
  • Consider Fill Flash Outdoors - Typically, you have to work fast when you get a photo opportunity, so you don't always have control over lighting and positioning. By using fill flash outdoors, you can even-out the lighting and come away with good photos regardless of the environment.
  • Play with Angles - Once you get the basic shots, play with compositions by rasing and lowering the camera. I've noticed that kids, in particular, like dramatic viewpoints.
  • Don't Forget that Your Camera Shoots Video Too - Some moments are perfect for short movies that you can mix in with your stills for a truly professional presentation. Remember to record some video too. You'll thank yourself later.
  • Bring an Extra Battery and Memory Card - Just put them in your pocket.

Once you've organized your images and touched them up, share them with others via online galleries or email. They'll love having such an adept (and organized) photographer in the family.

The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!

We've updated the TDS Podcast App so it now looks great on the iPad, as well as the iPhone and Android devices. The interface is redesigned to take full advantage of the iPad's expanded real estate. So now you can manage all of your TDS activities from within the podcast app.

tds_podcast_app_movie.png Movies now play in the main window of the podcast app. Just click Extras (gift icon) to access the latest video.

Located on the left side of the interface are the podcast episodes that are avaialbe for listening. The Extras icon (gift box) in the upper right corner contains the latest movie and wallpaper image, and there's now a new feature called View All Extras that consolodates all the recent items uploaded.

tds_podcast_app_extras.png Bonus content is located in Extras.

If you want to watch a movie that's loaded in the Extras, it plays in the main browser window of the application. The wallpaper images are now a full 1024 pixels so they look great on the iPad's display.

The icon (@) to the right of Extras is where all the connections to The Digital Story are located. You can email me directly from there, go to the TDS webiste, hop over to my Twitter feed, and visit the new Facebook Fan Page for the show... all easily managed on your iPad from within the podcast app. (When you go to the Facebook page, be sure to "Like" us!)


You can check-in on our Facebook Fan Page and other TDS sites from within the podcast app.

The podcast is designed to stream shows via a live Internet connection. If you want to download an episode ahead of time, you can. (Great for when you know you're not going to have connectivity.) Just tap on the episode name that you want to download. Then tap the "Download" button that appears. You can also "Star" the episode at this time to store it in your favorites list. I recommend this so you can manage the shows that you've downloaded.

Another new feature is that you can continously play one episode after another with this update. If you don't like that ability, you can turn it off in Settings.

The TDS Podcast App is available for $2.99 in the iTunes App Store. The current update (1.9.2) is free to all existing owners. Just run your "Updates" to get the new version.

After you try this new version, please rate it in the App Store. The TDS Podcast App is your way of helping to support this show.

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SpyderGallery for the iPad


Just when you thought you didn't have to worry about color calibration for your tablet, along comes SpyderGallery for the iPad to make you feel guilty again. It was much easier when you couldn't calibrate your mobile device.

The software is a free download from the iTunes App Store. It works with a Spyder3 device (Express, Pro or Elite). You can learn more about it at Datacolor's web site.

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My default metering setting on all of my cameras is "pattern." Depending on the brand, this setting can be called evaluative, matrix, multi-segment, or some other label. What it means is that the camera is evaluating various parts of a scene, then analyzing the information to create an exposure. And most of the time, this works great.

But there are those scenes that require human intervention. For me, it's usually when there's an illuminated area, such as a band on light reflecting off this bed of nasturtium.

Nasturtium with Spot Meter Spot metering on the bright area allowed me to get the exposure I wanted.

I love it when I find these situations. Unfortunately, most of the time that bright area will be overexposed with pattern metering, as shown below.

Nasturtium with Evaluative Meter Pattern metering overexposed the brightest flowers.

Fortunately, the adjustment is simple. I switched to spot metering on my Canon 5D Mark II, then exposed for the brightest area. These two shots, with no exposure editing, show the differences in this metering approach.

If you like "getting it right" in the camera, keep this technique in your back pocket. It feels good to see the image on the LCD the way you pictured it in your mind.

The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!

Aperture Workshop Recap

On May 21 and 22, I conducted an Aperture Intensive workshop at TDS headquarters in Santa Rosa, CA. Our goal was to sharpen our post production skills to work more efficiently and creatively using Apple's Aperture photo management software.

TDS Spring 2011 Aperture Workshop The May 2011 Aperture Workshop crew after a photo shoot at Schulz Museum.

The first day we focused on library management. Setting up the proper library for each photographer's needs, then how to better organize it. We spent time discussing "managed" vs "referenced," plus explored different ways to set up the Library pane once the images have been uploaded. We then tackled metadata management, rating, stacks, versions, and more.

To make sure we had new images to practice with, I sprinkled-in photo shoots throughout the weekend. Since I have Schulz Museum directly across the street from the studio, there's always something interesting to photograph. On the second day, I brought in a model for a few hours so we could practice some portraiture.

For Sunday the focus was image editing and sharing. As a group, I walked them through the steps to retouch portraits (using the images we had shot), enhance landscapes, and work creatively, such as in B&W.

We also discussed sharing images online via social networks and using Apple's MobileMe service. And finally, we created our own dynamic movies using the Slideshow module, complete with effects and music.

If you're interested in attending an upcoming photography workshop (next open event is Oct. 15-16, 2011) or an Aperture Software Workshop like the one described here, just send me a note for more information and to be put on the reserve list. You can also see upcoming workshops by clicking on the Events icon on The Digital Story Facebook Fan Page.

The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!

I talk a lot about shooting great portraits, and your bag of tricks can include very simple setups as well as complicated ones. This week I tell the story of how our Aperture class shot a series of portraits using the simpliest of setups, yet got terrific shots for our post production work.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (27 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

Shades of Green is the May 2011 Photo Assignment. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is May 31, 2011.

TDS Oct. Photography Workshop and Nov. Aperture Workshop

We're making plans now for the Fall 2011 TDS Photography Workshop. I'm also considering adding an Aperture Workshop in Nov. or Dec. If you want your name on the reserve list, or just more information, drop me a line.

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 -- Try the $7.99 Sample Kit.

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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In the Dark

The first gallery of TDS Member Photo of the Day images is now complete and ready for viewing. Each photo includes commentary by me discussing why I think the image is inspiring.

Each day, a new shot is featured at our community that gathers around the TDS Facebook Fan page. If you want to learn more about being a part of this terrific photography endeavor, check out the article, Why You'll Like TDS on Facebook.

I'm very impressed with the work I'm seeing, and I think you will be too.

Featured photo, "In the Dark" by TDS Member John Farnan. Click on the image to learn more about John and his work.

The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!

Editor's Note: An account about how good things can happen with your photography by TDS Member and SizzlPix winner Ken Latman. He wrote this piece a few months back while preparing for a gallery show (mentioned in this article). The show is now live at the Millworks Gallery in Akron, Ohio (with SizzlPix on the walls!) If you're in the area, stop by and see these beautiful images for yourself. Now... on to Ken's story about how this all came to pass.

My buddy Matt (another Sizzlpix of the month winner) and I were going on a road trip this past summer to some wonderful places: Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon, Arches National Park, Zion, etc. Before we went, I set up a squarespace website in the attempt to update our travels on the road. I have been an avid listener of The Digital Story podcast, and got Matt hooked on the show during the long drives in the car to all of these places.

Overall, the trip went really well. We stayed at The View hotel at Monument Valley on July 4th. Spent an extra day at Bryce Canyon, which happened to have an Astronomy program going on at that time. Saw the world's largest Easel in Goodland Kansas.

When we got back, I wanted to share my photos with family, but more than just a 12 month calendar. Your suggestion and sponsorship by Blurb seemed the right choice. This way I could make a couple books to show my family back in CT. And if they wanted a copy, it would be available to purchase on the site. I didn't want to be stuck shipping 20 books or more. Blurb makes it pretty easy to also put a link on your site and show every page of your book as a preview if people want to see it.

I got started working on the book. We both had taken so many interesting pictures during the trip. I often commented that we saw more places in two plus weeks than a lot of people see in a lifetime. It would be really cool if we could show them in a gallery or something.

Matt works as a science teacher, and Micah Kraus is an art teacher. They knew a gallery owner. We all got to talking. Micah had gone to Glacier National Park that summer on a motorcycle with his wife and had interesting pictures too. Another friend/teacher, Greg Milo, seemed like would be a great addition to the show too, and would help fill up the gallery space (I also think it brings more confidence to us all going in as a group of four.)

So Micah talked to Akron Millworks ( and suddenly we are set for a May 7th opening. At the same time, the book was done, and I entered both your Blurb book of the month contest and Sizzlpix of the month as well with a couple of entries for the duality topic. I didn't win, but when the Fall contest came around I made it a new project. I wanted to see something well done of mine printed on metal. We stumbled upon in Moab, Tom Till's gallery (, and he had some great pictures on aluminum. I had one piece printed on aluminum by another company, and it was ok, but not as well done as I would have liked. I was trying different companies but the process is expensive for testing your prints.

ken_latman_winner.jpg SizzlPix Winner by Ken Latman

October came, and I won the Sizzlpix of the month. You placed me in contact with Don, and I sent him my image. It had been about a week and I had not received a print. I want to say Don is an extremely nice and very personable guy. Don called me on the phone to explain the delay and was very apologetic. Christmas time can be very busy for them as you can imagine.

I delayed the print to arrive until after the new year, and when it did, I was really impressed on how well they got the detail and the various tones in the print. Of three printers (them included) with images I had made, Sizzlpix was the best. I sent Don a short little thank you email, telling him of the great job they did and asked where I could link my website to the winning image on his site, in case anyone wanted to also have a copy. Don, I assumed, wanted to check to make sure my site was appropriate for his link or he was curious if I had other good stuff (I tend to think the latter.) My squarespace traffic for a couple of days was showing a lot of page hits.

Don and his group went through every gallery I had on my site. They saw the link to my Blurb book and looked at every page of that too. Instead of getting an email with a link Don, both called and emailed me to ask if I wanted to join the Famous Photographer's group of Sizzlpix. I am still floored. He asked me to submit a few more images. I was thinking only five, maybe eight, certainly no more than ten. He called back and asked why didn't I submit this image, and why not this image, etc. So I started putting in and going over more images with Don. I have about 25 images on the site now and few more waiting in the wings.

I am working with Don now to have all my prints in the upcoming show on metal [now live at Millworks Gallery]. Maybe I will sell some. Maybe not. It is just really nice to get some momentum going on my craft that has kind of remained a little dormant since leaving college. To think this all happened from a love of photography and a little podcast that I listen to weekly. Thank you so much again for your willingness to share, and please keep up tips, interviews, and encouragement in your podcast.

You can get more information about the gallery show on Ken Latman's site.

Thumbnail image for canon_60d_18-135.jpg

Auto Lighting Optimizer is one of those features that we have on our newer Canon cameras, but we might not know exactly what it does. In this article on Digital Photography School, Peter West Carey explains, What Is Canon's Auto Lighting Optimizer.

And if you shoot Nikon, you'll find this helpful too, since it's called Adaptive D-Lighting on your camera.

The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!

Unsupported Raw File

When you have a new camera that produces Raw files not immediately supported in Aperture (and iPhoto), how should you approach the situation? Here's the process that I go through.First, I look at Apple's track record with the camera brand. If there's a history of support, then odds are good that an update will come. I shoot primarily Canon and Olympus. I know that the Canon updates will come pretty fast, and those from Olympus will lag behind. But I have confidence that both will be supported.

Case in point: Apple just released Raw Compatibility Update 3.7 that adds support for my XZ-1 and for the E-PL2. The E-PL2 came out in January of this year, so the update didn't follow until 4 months later.


While I wait for the update, I'll shoot Raw+Jpeg in the camera, then upload the files in Aperture choosing "Both (Separate Masters)" in the Raw+Jpeg Pairs popup menu (in the Import dialog box). Once imported, the Jpegs will show (as in the illustration above) and the Raws will not. If you find this distracting, you can always stack the pairs with the Jpeg as the select, then collapse the stacks. You can do this quickly with the Auto Stack command, then Close All Stacks.

Once the update arrives, and you've installed it, the Raw file just has to be processed. Usually, you can simply click on the thumbnail with the Adjustments tab open, and Aperture will process it automatically. After that, you can either make the Raw file the "pick" for the stack, or delete the Jpegs from your library.


If Apple doesn't have a history supporting a particular line of cameras, then you're rolling the dice. You can always shoot Jpeg only. Or you can process the Raw files in Adobe Camera Raw when it's supported there.

What's the biggest difference I notice between the Raw and Jpeg versions? I'm better able to display highlight and shadow detail in the images. And for me, that benefit is worth the trouble.

More Aperture Tips and Techniques

My next Aperture Workshop is May 21, 2011 in Santa Rosa, CA. We'll probably schedule the next for Nov. 2011. write me if you're interested in attending either.

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

The Digital Story on Facebook -- discussion, outstanding images from the TDS community, and inside information. Join our celebration of great photography!