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Label Your Memory Cards


I recommend that the first thing you do after buying a new memory card is take out a Sharpie and label the card with your name and phone number. You might want to use your cell phone for the contact info so you can retrieve the lost card as soon as possible.

I witnessed the benefits of this technique during my Iceland trip last year. One of the photographers left her full memory cards in a rental car that she turned in. Fortunately they were labeled, and she was contacted before she got on the plane. As a result, she was able to retrieve a full day's worth of valuable pictures. One of those images is featured as a full page in the just released Lightroom Adventure book.

So, before you forget, get out your Sharpie and label those cards...

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After my positive review of Panasonic's DMC-FZ8, I'm looking forward to testing the just announced Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ18. This compact powerhouse looks like a mini DSLR and packs a whopping 28mm-504mm (12x) [Correction: 18X Zoom] Leica zoom into an 8-megapixel body. Panasonic's image stabilization technology is excellent. I've tested it for magazine articles, including the recently released Steady Your Shot article in Macworld Magazine. Believe me, this stabilization technology works.

I'm also very pleased that Panasonic once again included Raw mode (and Raw+Jpeg) in this camera. That means you can still take advantage of the power of Raw, even when shooting with your compact camera.

The FZ-18 also has new "Face Detection" technology that identifies people in your scenes and sets the focus and exposure for them preventing mis-focused shots. Add in other nice features such as a spacious 2.5" LCD, and you have quite a powerful picture taker for around $399 US. The FZ-18 should hit the streets in Sept. 2007.

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Photoshop CS3 Goodies: Photomerge


There are some terrific new or improved tools in Photoshop CS3, and the one I'm going to discuss today is Photomerge. Adobe has enhanced this function considerably, and if you haven't used it for a while, it's worth a second look.

Photomerge allows you to take a handful of photographs of a subject, such as a landscape, and merge them into one image incorporating information from all of the individual shots. A common use for this technique is to create a panorama, as shown here using five separate images from Maui. But Photomerge is so smart that you're not limited to a horizontal sequence of shots; you can take just about any cluster of pictures, run them through Photomerge, and come out with an interesting photo.

You'll find this tool under the File menu: File > Automate > Photomerge. You have a number of layout options such as Perspective, Reposition Only, and Interactive, but I recommend you start with Auto to get your feet wet. Choose the series of images you want to merge and click the OK button. Photomerge will go to work and build a layered file. You can work on the individual layers if you need to fors some additional tweaking, or just flatten a copy of the file for final use. Either way, you will be amazed at how smart this improved function is in CS3.

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You can make your own ID badges, press passes, and nice looking name badges by visiting BigHugeLabs. They offer an easy-to-use web interface that allows you to add your pictures and customize the text to produce a variety of badges that you can print or share electronically.

I'm not saying that one of these will get you on the sidelines of a pro football game, but ID does come in handy when working in the field. It lets people know who you are and what your purpose is. Plus, these badges just look cool.

The badge shown here is a sample of the Flickr Photographr template.

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QuickTime Pro 7.2 offers new export presets for the iPhone and other mobile playback devices -- both via WiFi and cellular networks. This makes it easy for digital photographers to share the movies they capture with their compact cameras. The iPhone provides excellent video playback, and many other mobile units do quite well also. Preparing the video for these devices is a snap.

First, capture the movie with your digital camera at the highest quality settings possible. This leaves your options open for other uses up the road, such as DVD burning for TV playback. Then make sure you have the most current version of QuickTime Pro. Open the movie, choose File > Export, then select the compression preset from the Export pop-up menu.

If you're preparing your movie for high quality playback on the iPhone, choose the "Movie to iPhone" option. If you want to stream movies over a cellular network to other mobile users, choose the "Movie to iPhone (Cellular)" option. (There's also a very nice "Movie to iPod" option for video-enabled iPods.) To give you a feel for the size differences, I started with a 20 MB video, then tried the two different export presets. The higher quality "Movie to iPhone" rendered a 3.1 MB file, while the Cellular version was smaller in dimensions and file size (348 KB).

If you want to learn more about movie capture with your digital camera, listen to Podcast #3. You can also download the QuickTime 7.2 User Guide from Apple.

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Sony is as good as anyone at squeezing lots of functionality into compact devices. The new Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-G1 is an amazing example of Sony ingenuity. This compact camera includes a beautiful 3.5" LCD, 6-megapixel sensor, image stabilization, 3X optical zoom, 2 GB built in memory, WiFi connectivity, MP3 player (with headphone jack), movie recorder, ISO up to 1000, and very stylish design. All of this for about $450.

Wait... $450 for a 6-megapixel camera? Well, it's not totally without merit. The screen is absolutely beautiful... and big. The onboard memory is nice, as well as the WiFi for sharing images, although neither are really necessary as implemented in this camera. The image stabilization is very good. And that is a Zeiss lens on the front. On the down side, it is a slow reacting camera with image noise at moderate ISOs.

If you want more details, I recommend the review recently posted on They do a good job of weighing the pros and cons.

This is a beautiful looking device, however. And Sony does include lots of goodies. If you've got the money, it's a tempting digicam for on the go.

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There's a nifty trick on the Flickr Tools page that enables you to upload images to your Flickr photostream via email. This can be a great boon for road warriors who have photos to share, but don't have their personal computers with them. All you need is your image and any web mail account (such as Gmail), and you're ready to publish. I've been using this technique to publish images directly from my iPhone while on the go, and it works great.

On the Flickr Tools page, look for the link "upload by email." Make sure you're logged in to your account before proceeding. Once you click on the "upload by email" link, Flickr will take you to a new page and generate a personal email address that you can use to upload your images.

Simply open a new email, attach the photo, address it, and hit the send button. You can add a title to the image by entering text in the Subject line, and add a caption by entering text in the body of the message below the photo (if your photo is displayed in the body of the message). It couldn't be easier.

People with Treos, iPhones, and other email-enabled mobile devices will find this particularly useful for uploading pictures while on the go. And don't forget to check out the The Digital Story Flickr Public Group. There's lots of great stuff going on there.

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A few of us at the Microsoft Pro Photo Summit had the opportunity to go shooting with John Shaw at the Washington Park Arboretum near Seattle, WA. During his talk in the field, John shared some of his favorite equipment tips. Among the best was the Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead with Arca-style quick release. John uses an L-Plate designed for his camera to enable him to shoot in the vertical position without having to dip the ballhead downward (as shown in the illustration). The L-Plate enables him to quickly mount his camera from the bottom or the side giving him maximum flexibility. It's very cool, and if the entire set-up wasn't so expensive (RRS ballhead + AS quick release + L-plate), I'd have one today.

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Photoshop Lightroom Adventure Book

Now that my photo buddy Mikkel Aaland has sent his Photoshop Lightroom Adventure book to the printer, he's had a little time to put together a terrific PDF download titled, The Lightroom 1.1 Library Revealed. It's a quick tour of the key elements of the Lightroom 1.1 Library module, including an explanation of the new "catalogs" (formerly known as libraries) concept. Very nice.

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Get Great Fireworks Photos


Once again Fourth of July is at our American doorstep, complete with lots of fireworks displays. If you want to capture your own fiery composition, here are a few tips.

First: turn off your flash. Yes, you're going to be shooting in a dark environment, and if your camera is set to auto flash, it's going to fire. This is the last thing you want, so turn it off.

Next, break out the tripod. You're going to be using long exposures. Use a cable or remote release if you have one. If not, just gently press the shutter button with your finger.

Resist the urge to increase your ISO setting. Keep it at 100 to help reduce image noise. You might also want to switch to manual exposure. Auto exposure will overexpose your dark skies turning them to mushy gray. Start with a manual setting of 2 seconds at F-5.6 or F-8, and see what you get. Adjust accordingly from there.

Finally, use a wide angle lens so you can capture as much of the sky as possible. If you know the display is going to peak in a certain area, you can zoom in a bit. Remember, since you're shooting at the highest resolution possible, you can always crop your image later.

Have a great time, be safe, and get some great shots.

About the Photo
Brian C Davenport went to Windsor,Canada to shoot the Freedom Festival fireworks over the Detroit skyline last year. Here's how he got the shot.

"It was a very long day but the last 30 min was outstanding," said Brian. "Getting there early in the day gave us a front row seat, right on the shoreline to set up our tripods. I shot about 200 images during the day, and the fireworks shots came out really nice. It was a little tricky as this was a show where there were very few single bursts so there was alot of light in the air most of the time. I settled on 18mm, ISO 100, f8 and 3-5 sec exposure. These settings gave some definition to the bursts without too much "blow-out" of the highlights."

Great shot Brian! Thanks for sending it in.

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