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Ever wonder which focus point your camera used on a particular shot? (Especially a photo where you thought the focus should be somewhere else.) In this short video I demonstrate how Aperture 3 can show you what your camera was thinking when it recorded a particular image. This works with most DSLRs that capture the focus metadata and save it. Take a look. It's handy.

More Aperture Tips and Techniques

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.

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Just a Little Fireworks Fun

Between Canada Day celebrations and upcoming Fourth of July, fireworks are in the air. I thought it would be fun to share some of our favorite pyro photos to keep everyone in the festive spirit.

So I've asked folks to post shots on the Lowepro Facebook Fan page so all can enjoy. Got a good one to show off?

Beijing Fireworks Captured this image during the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics in 2008. That hint of a structure you see is the Bird's Nest. Click for larger version.

If you want to capture great images during 4th of July celebrations, be sure to check out the article, It's That Time Again: How to Shoot Fireworks.

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This is the first major update for Photoshop CS5 that includes a number of bug fixes for both Mac and Windows users. You can review the details and download the software using the link above.

If you simply want to install the update, just launch Photoshop CS5, go to Help > Updates and run the Adobe Updater program. It will take it from there, as shown below.

CS5 Update Window

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Can you feel the heat from these smokin' photos? The assignment for May 2010 was "Fire." Check out this intense collection of images from members of the TDS virtual camera club. Once again, it's going to be tough to choose the SizzlPix Pick of the Month from this effort.

Michael DeBuhr for the Fire Photo Assignment

The July 2010 assignment is "Torn." Start working on your contribution now. Details can be found on the Member Participation page. You can now submit photo assignment pictures up to 800 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: July 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 Michael DeBuhr. (Click on it to see enlarged version.) You can read more about how Michael captured this shot, plus see all of the other great images on the May 2010 Gallery page.

Good luck with your July assignment, and congratulations to all of the fine contributors for May. 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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Tips for Existing Light Portraits

Spontaneous portraits often have more character when captured using existing light. And since today's DSLRs perform so well at higher ISOs, this option is more practical than ever. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when shooting existing light portraits.

Existing Light Tips Image captured during the June TDS Photography Workshop in Sonoma County, CA. Click on image for larger version.

  • Keep a prime lens in your camera bag. Having a 50mm f/1.8, for example, lets you gather more of the light that's in the room. You can shoot "wide open" and keep your ISO setting lower, such as 400 instead of 1600. Plus, these lenses do a great job of softening the background.
  • Pay attention to color temperature. Chances are you're going to have artificial light sources influencing the color (and skin tones) of your shot. Even if it's a natural light portrait from window light, that is often bluish and not the best for most skin tones. Learn how to adjust your white balance for the best capture possible.
  • Shoot Raw. You have many more options available after the session if you shoot Raw. Color balance, for example, can be tweaked without compromising the quality of the image.
  • Pay attention to shadow areas. Our eyes often "fill in" shadow areas better than our cameras do. Learn to recognize deep shadows. Often you can improve the situation by moving your subject slightly to the left or right.

Existing light portraits can be very expressive. These tips will help you get the best image possible when on location.

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People kept asking me during my first TDS Photography Workshop, "What do you think? What do you think? Do you like it? Are you going to keep conducting these workshops?" The answer is, "Yes! Absolutely Yes."

The inaugural TDS Photography Workshop took place on June 25-27, with a half dozen photographers gathering in Santa Rosa, CA to improve their skills, go behind the scenes at locations such a wineries, eat good food, and yes, sample some local wine too.

"Best photo workshop I have been on," writes Oliver Gunasekara, one of the participants. "Great amount of practical knowledge from a pro who knows how to teach."

In this podcast I review the highlights, tell stories from the weekend, and try to give you a feel for this experience that is now part of the TDS virtual camera club.

The next TDS Photography Workshop will be Oct. 16-18, 2010. You can place your name on the reserve list now.

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download the podcast here (28 minutes). Or better yet, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App from the Apple App Store.

Monthly Photo Assignment

Float is the June 2010 Photo Assignment. You can read more about how to submit on our Member Participation page. Deadline for entry is June 30, 2010.

JD Felton was the "SizzlPix Pick of the Month" for Photo Assignment 50. Who will be the winner for Photo Assignment 51? The prize is an 11"x14" SizzlPix of the winning photograph.

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

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Dragonfly in Flight

During our afternoon shoot at the TDS Photography Workshop in Sonoma County, a curious Dragonfly became interested in me. He would buzz by, hover for just a second, dash off, then come back for another look.

Dragonfly During TDS Workshop Dragonfly captured with a 70-200 mm f/2.8 Canon Zoom with 1.4X tele extender. Click on image for larger version.

I added the 1.4X tele extender to my Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom (on a 5D Mark II) and did my best to photograph the speedy Dragonfly. The afternoon light was strong and reflective, so I added a polarizer to cut down on glare. I do, however like the water reflections and boca in the background.

Speaking of the Workshop, we had a great day yesterday, combining classroom work with a model shoot and landscape photography at a vineyard. More on that later.

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On Friday night, at the debut of the TDS Photography Workshop, I'm introducing the Lowepro Bag Grab. It's simple, but fun. I pile up a heap of Lowepro bags, as shown below, then each workshop participant puts their name in hat. I draw a name, and that person gets to take any Lowepro bag in the heap. I draw a second name, and on down the line until every participant has picked a bag. I have extra gear so there's a good variety and plenty of options for everyone.

Lowepro Bag Grab

It's all just part of the fun on orientation night. Tomorrow, class starts, and we venture out into wine country for some shooting... and tasting.

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Have you ever wanted to photograph California Wine Country in the Fall? If so, save these dates on your calendar: October 16-18, 2010. The second Digital Story Photography Workshop will feature two half-day classroom training sessions at the Digital Story Headquarters in Santa Rosa, CA, plus two location shoots. Class size is limited to 8 people on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration fee for the workshop is $495, and it includes lots of goodies, such as delicious lunches and a very nice Lowepro camera bag.

You can put your name on the reserve list by sending me email with the Subject Line: "Fall TDS Workshop 2010," and in the body include your name, email address, phone number, and state where you live. Contact information can be found in the Member Participation section of the site.

TDS Workshops, Sonoma County

I'll have more to report about TDS workshops soon, including some video from this week's event in Sonoma County. TDS members on are their way right now for the workshop this weekend. Stay tuned!

Places on iPhone 3GS

Apple's iOS 4 adds a handful of interesting photography-related features to my iPhone 3GS. One of the most basic, but an improvement that I like a lot, is being able to change the background of the Home Screen with one of my photos. I'm using a blue sky shot with just a wispy cloud, and it looks great. Nice use of those artsy images I'm prone to collecting.

Digital Zoom

On compact cameras, digital zoom is something that I always disable because those devices have optical zooms that are higher quality. But on my prime lens only iPhone, I'm happy to have the 5X zoom. To enable it, just tap the screen and a slider appears that allows you to get a little closer to your subject. It actually works fairly well. Keep the camera steady during exposure by holding your finger on the shutter button, then lightly lift it off to take the photo.


I haven't had time to test the new Faces feature, but Places is automatically enabled since the iPhone geotags images. When in the Photos app, just tap the Places tab at the bottom, and you'll see a map with red drop pins. Tap on a drop pin and a label appears telling you how many photos are at that location. Tap the blue arrow, and you're taken to an album that has both photos and videos from that general area. You can fine tune the area by pinch-zooming in on the map. One pin can become several as you get closer. Very handy. Works great.

Tap to Focus Video

Another handy feature is the ability to focus the camera during video recording. So if you're shooting a distant shot, then move in close, you can tell the iPhone exactly want you want in focus by tapping the screen. What isn't discussed as much, but just as important, is that exposure is also adjusted by tapping. This really helps when dealing with a backlit subject that would otherwise be dramatically underexposed.

Final Thoughts

I just love free software, and the new iOS 4 includes features that I find useful. You don't have to buy a new iPhone to take advantage of many of these. Just connect your iPhone 3G or 3GS to iTunes, and grab your update now.

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