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Super Compact Photo Studio

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Here's a fun one for you. How about a super compact photo studio that folds up smaller than a pizza box, but includes two lights, reversible backdrop, camera stand, and diffused panels on three sides? It even has a handle so you can carry it like a briefcase. And what if I told you it costs less than $43, including software?

I just tested the Merax One Shot Portable Photo Studio Lighting Box Kit, and it works as advertised. You can illuminate your items using regular daylight, or with the 2800K lamps included in the kit. The 22" softbox with blue/white reversible background can accommodate typical eBay items and other small goodies. And for Windows users, there's software for dropping out the background if that's what you want to do.

It's not high tech, and the lights are far from top quality, but for less than $50 you can get a clever, compact, photo studio that let's you shoot anywhere.


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Wondering who participated in Earth Hour 2009? Here are 17 big time locations with "before and after" shots compliments of the Boston Globe. Participants include Taipei, Hong Kong, Athens, Beijing, Toronto, Rome, Sydney, Shanghai, Bangkok, Paris, Stockholm, London, Lausanne, Lima, LA, Jakarta, and Las Vegas.

The presentation is fun. You start out by observing the scene with all the lights on. Then you click on the picture and it fades in observance to Earth Hour.


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In iPhoto '09, Apple added connectivity to Flickr, the world's most popular online photo sharing site. I thought this would make an interesting video training title, so we've just published on Lynda.com: iPhoto '09: 10 Things to Know About Flickr. There are a couple free movies on that page if you want a quick peek at how this series looks.


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Photocopier for the Unemployed

Now that I don't have a "regular job" anymore, I've converted part of my home to an office. I have a computer, printer, and most of the necessities to carry out my freelance work. But one thing I really miss from my previous life as a full-time employee is a photocopier.

I could go out and spend the money for an all-in-one printer/photocopier. But quite frankly, I probably should pay the property taxes first. So I've cobbled together a "photocopier for the unemployed," and I thought you might be interested in how this works.

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First thing I had to do was find some sort of scanning device. I dug around in the "old equipment closet" and found a CanoScan FB630U that I had bought years ago for around $100. It had a USB connector (which is critical to success of this project), and the driver for my Mac was still available for download on the Canon site (in .sit format, however. So I had to download a trial version of Stuffit to decompress the file.)

I decided to use an old Mac laptop that wasn't seeing much action these days as my scanning workstation. It had Photoshop Elements 4 loaded on it, and the application accepted the ancient Canon driver. So I made a little extra room in my home office, set up the laptop, plugged in the scanner, and fired everything up.

Surprisingly, it worked! I used a bank document for the test because it had lots of small writing and fine lines. I set the software to scan at 300 dpi for an 8.5"x11" document. I used the black & white setting to keep the file size small and scanning time to a minimum.

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I then made a scan and the image appeared in Photoshop Elements. I simply hit "Print" and was soon greeted with a decent reproduction of the original document. I decided to keep an electronic version also for my records, so I converted the Bitmap image to Grayscale and saved it as a Jpeg at "10" quality. The file size was a little less than 1MB, and I printed it too as part of the test. It looked great. With a little practice, I was able to produce a "photocopy" within a couple of minutes. And since I have more time than money, this seemed like a good alternative to a dedicated photocopier. Plus, now I can scan other stuff too!

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Note: To make sure your output looks good, open the Image Size dialog box in Photoshop, uncheck the "Resample Image" box, and change the resolution to 300. Your "photocopy" will look great.


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"Light is photography’s essential ingredient. Abundant illumination makes our job easy—we simply compose and shoot. But what happens when the lights go down? Do we become slaves to unflattering bursts of an electronic flash? Not at all. By mastering a few basic techniques, you can turn off the flash to capture beautiful, evocative images. Look in your camera’s settings for the lightning bolt icon, and select the flash off option," starts the article, Get great photos in low light. In the piece, I provide lots of basic tips. Then there are a terrific batch of helpful comments that add even more information.


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Join me on March 28 for "How I Did It" - A Workshop in High-Impact Photography


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Along with Preview (The Simplest of All Raw Converters), Image Capture is one of those amazing hidden gems that comes on every Mac. Look in your Applications folder, launch it, then connect just about any photo device. Once you do, Image Capture recognizes the camera and presents you with lots of downloading options. In fact, Image Capture is the application I recommend to iPhone users for transferring full resolution pictures that they record with the device.

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The trick is, when you launch the app and connect your iPhone, to click on the "Download Some" window. By doing so, Image Capture presents you with thumbnail versions of all the pictures on the device. You choose only the shots you want, decide where to put them, and then click the "Download" button.

Be sure to check out the Options button, because that allows you to choose the color space that's applied to the images on download. You also have an informative list view available (shown at the top of this post) that displays your metadata for each shot on the device. And if that weren't enough, choose "Build Web Page" from the "Automatic Task" popup menu, and Image Capture will download the selected images, then build a web page with them complete with clickable thumbnails -- all in one step! There are lots of other options in that popup menu, including triggering Automator with its own scripts (select Custom for that).

One final note about Image Capture, it works with most Mac-compatible flatbed scanners. So if you need to connect a scanner for a quick job, this might be the best way to go.

Like I said, this is an amazing little app.


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I took a side trip on my way home yesterday to the Chumash Painted Cave State Historical Park north of Santa Barbara, CA. The sandstone cave contains drawings by the Chumash Native Americans that dates back to the 1600s. I love cave drawings and wanted to see them for myself.

When I arrived, however, the cave entrance was protected by a heavy iron grid. I totally understand the thinking here, but the large diameter of my Olympus DSLR lens could not navigate the iron bars without having them in the shot. Then it dawned on me the the lens barrel for my Canon G9 compact would easily fit through the openings in the grid. And sure enough, they did.

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So I increased the ISO to 400, steadied the camera against the iron gate, and recorded a series of images with the lens protruding through the grid. Since I shot in Raw mode, I had lots of latitude in post processing to bring out the detail of the religious drawings.

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So, once again, carrying a compact camera with me in addition to the DSLR allowed me to get a shot that I might have otherwise missed.

Photos of the Chumash Painted Cave by Derrick Story, captured with a Canon G9, ISO 400 in Raw mode.


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When you have a series of photographs from a single location, such as the Golden Gate Bridge, you can geotag the entire shoot at once in iPhoto '09. Simply find the shoot in the Events browser. Click on the little "i" that's in the lower right corner of the key photo for the Event, then choose "New Place" for the "Enter Event Location" pop up menu. Once you've tagged the event, that geodata will be applied to all of the images in the series.

You can watch a free movie on how to do this as part of my new Lynda.com title, iPhoto '09: Ten Things to Know About Places.

Other iPhoto '09 Titles by Derrick Story

iPhoto '09: Ten Things to Know About Faces

See My Other Posts on Geotagging

A Quick Primer on Geotagging

"Introduction to Geotagging" - Digital Photography Podcast 165

Testing the Eye-Fi Explore Card at Home

Geotagging a Journey with photoGPS, iPhoto, and Flickr

iPhoto '09 as Your Geotagging Tool?

First Look at Jobo photoGPS Device and Software

Update to Geotagging Workflow, Including Jobo photoGPS

Finding a Reasonable Geotagging Workflow


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In the free movie, Managing the Faces corkboard, I show a nifty Option key tip. By default, iPhoto '09 magnifies all of the faces on my corkboard so I can get a better look at the person. This makes sense, and I actually prefer it that way. But sometimes I want to see the context of the shot while I'm scrubbing through all of those bright eyes and beaming smiles. To do so, all I have to do is hold down the Option key while scrubbing, and I can see the entire composition, not just the cropped mug shot.

This is one of the many tips I provide in the new Lynda.com title, iPhoto '09: 10 Things to Know About Faces. "10 Things" is an entirely new product for the Lynda folks. I figure out 10 concepts that I think are important about a particular subject -- in this case Faces in iPhoto '09 -- then create 10 short movies on those concepts. In less than an hour, you can master all of the techniques and apply them to your work.

We're also mixing live action discussion with the traditional Lynda screencasting. I think the tandem is more entertaining and better for learning too. You can check out the free movies right now on the Lynda.com site. If you like what you see, you can subscribe for $25 a month, and that gives you access to thousands of movies on a variety of subjects. My next title covering "Places" should be released by the end of the week.

More Articles About iPhoto '09

5 Semi Secret Editing Tips in iPhoto '09

"Faces and Places in iPhoto '09" - Digital Photography Podcast 166

Loss of Sharpness When Straightening in iPhoto '09

iPhoto '09 as Your Geotagging Tool?


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There are a handful of less obvious editing tools in iPhoto '09 that you may not have stumbled upon yet. Let's see how many of these five techniques you know.

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Recovery Slider -- If you open a Raw file in iPhoto '09, you have access to a highlight recovery slider. In editing mode, open the Adjustments panel, then hold down the Option key. The Exposure slider transforms into a highlight recovery tool, as shown in the graphic above. This only works with Raw files, however.

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Use Retouch Brush as a Clone Tool -- I'll warn you, this tip is experimental at best. First, click on the Retouch tool. You can adjust the diameter of the tool by pressing the right and left bracket keys. The Retouch tool can behave as a clone stamp if you hold down the Option key and drag over an area of the photo that you want to copy. Then go to another area of the photo where you want to apply the copy, and click and drag again. You should get a clone of the area you copied. The results can be unpredictable, but sometimes they are just what you need. You can return to Retouch mode by simply clicking on an area without dragging. If you totally mess up your image by playing with this, just go to Photos > Revert to Previous, and everything will be OK.

Fine Tuning the Enhance Tool -- The Enhance tool is fairly magical, but it can also be a mystery. Didn't you ever want to tweak it just a bit? Now you can. Open the Adjustments panel first, then click on the Enhance tool. In iPhoto '09, the modifications made by the Enhance tool will appear in the Adjustments panel. All you have to do is tweak the particular slider that you want to modify. Pay particular attention to the Exposure, Saturation, Shadows, Temperature, and Tint sliders.

SHIFT Key to See Previous State -- Did you really improve the photo by making all of those adjustments? If you want to check your work, hold down the Shift key to see the previous state. Once you let go of the key, you'll return to the modified version.

Targeted Zooming -- To zoom in on a particular area of a photo, put your pointer exactly where you want a closer look, then press the 1 key for a 100 percent view of that area, or the 2 key for an even closer look. Return to "fit into view" mode by pressing the 0 key.

More Information About iPhoto '09

"Faces and Places in iPhoto '09" - Digital Photography Podcast 166

Loss of Sharpness When Straightening in iPhoto '09

iPhoto '09 as Your Geotagging Tool?


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