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If you have a special event on the horizon, such as a prom, graduation ceremony, or wedding, you may want to brush up on your outdoor portrait technique. Here are a few tips to help you capture the beauty of the moment.

outdoor-couples-shot-2.jpg "Ready for the Prom" by Derrick Story. Olympus OM-D E-M10, 14-42mm lens, fill flash.

  • Use fill flash. Whether you're shooting with a compact camera, mirrorless, or DSLR, fill flash adds a twinkle to the eyes and smooths out contours on the face.
  • Learn flash exposure compensation. Every camera has it, and by accessing this control, you can dial down the intensity of the flash for more natural looking portraits.
  • Position the camera even, or slightly below, the eye level of your subjects. This becomes easier when your camera has a tilting LCD screen. Tripods are also excellent aids in maintaining a good camera position.
  • Practice before the event. Chances are that you will only have a minute or two to get the shot at the event. People like photographers who work quickly. Practicing ahead of time facilitates speed during the actual shoot.
  • Remind the subjects to look directly at the camera lens, not at you. For these types of portraits, eye contact with the camera often produces the most engaging results.
  • Watch your background. Choose an area free of distracting elements such as power lines, white fences, and reflecting cars.
  • Add a fun shot to the mix. Yes, you need to capture the straight portrait. But once you have that, add a fun shot too. This is the bonus picture that's often used for Facebook and Instagram. And the subjects just love having it.
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  • Warm up the white balance. Overcast days and shady locations can lead to cool skin tones, which aren't very flattering - not to mention that the flash itself is a cool light. You can offset these effects by changing your white balance setting to cloudy. It will help warm up those skin tones.
  • Fine tune the best shots in post production. Simple adjustments such as white balance, fill light, and vignette, make a big improvement with the final image.

If possible, get the images to the subjects the next day. That way they can enjoy them while in the afterglow of the event.

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PhotoHelpDesk.com is a down-to-earth resource for curious minded photographers. Submit your questions, and we'll post an answer.

For the March 2014 Photo Assignment, TDS shooters set their exposure dial to "bracket" and chased after the perfect high dynamic range image. See for yourself in our gallery, HDR. And which one will be the SizzlPix Photo Assignment Pick of the Month?

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"I hadn't been over to the Cocoa Pier in a while," writes Ed Rosack. "When I checked The Photographers Ephemeris, I noticed that the sunrise azimuth lined up almost exactly with the pier. I made several photos. I like this one best - a perfect place to use HDR." Photo by Ed Rosack. See all of the great images from this month's assignment by visiting the HDR gallery page.


Participate in This Month's Assignment

The May 2014 assignment is "Around the House." Details can be found on the Member Participation page. Deadline is May 31, 2014. No limit on image size submitted.

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 this month's assignment should be: "Photo Assignment: May 2014." 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.

Gallery posting is one month behind the deadline. So I'm posting March 2014 gallery at the end of April, the April gallery will be posted at the end of May, and on and on.

Good luck with your May assignment, and congratulations to all of the fine contributors for March.


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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.

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If you can light and photograph a perfume bottle, you can shoot just about any product. The great news is, that the secret is technique, not expensive equipment.

In this video tutorial, Andrew Boey teaches you how to use the Zebra-Flag and the M-Flag to capture Clinique-styled product shots. You can make these light modifiers yourself with basic materials such as white cardboard, black velvet, and reflective mylar.

If you shoot any type of product photography, I think you'll find this tutorial helpful.

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

What's in Your Bag, Derrick Story?

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I have three basic kits that I keep packed and ready to go on a moment's notice. Personally, I like complete sets. What do I mean by that? I think each bag should have its own memory cards. batteries, filters, and other accessories.

Far too many times I've suffered from the "it's in the other bag syndrome." This was especially true for polarizing filters, which are a bit pricey. But once you buy 'em, you have 'em forever. Over the years I've managed to build out three complete kits.

On the new My Gear page that we've added to The Digital Story, I've listed the contents of these three complete camera kits: DSLR, Everyday Mirrorless, and Spectator Mirrorless. They are designed for specific types of situations.

The DSLR kit is still my "go-to" bag for commercial assignments, portraits, and situations where I need the absolutely best lowlight performance. I'm using Canon bodies and lenses for this work.

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But I don't need to lug this gear around with me all the time, every day. So when I walk out the door in the morning, I'm carrying a smaller Lowepro messenger bag with an Olympus OM-D E-M1, a couple lenses, MeFOTO tripod with Joby head, and an iPad mini. It's amazing how much work I can accomplish with this light and nimble camera kit. And I'm using it more and more, with great results, for event photography too.

And finally, when I go to sporting events and concerts as a spectator without a media pass, I have to adhere to the very strict bag restrictions. So I have a special kit using the Walking Man Shoulder Bag with an Olympus OM-D E-M10 and my iPad mini for these situations. I've never been turned away at security carrying this bag, and I've captured many memorable images using this gear.

You can see the contents for all three kids on the new My Gear page. And I will keep it updated as my equipment evolves.

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You can edit portraits on an iPad with Photoshop-like power and the ease tapping and pinching with Facetune by Lightricks ($2.99).

With the tip of your finger, you can whiten teeth, smooth skin, remove blemishes, adjust tones, add filters, and even frame your subject. The final version can be saved to your Camera Roll or shared online using any of the popular social network sites.

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After just a few minutes of editing, I felt comfortable with the app. One technique that I think is important, is to magnify your view when using the retouching tools. This provides more precise application of the effect. There is an erasure tool if you overstep.

I also advise checking your work as you go with the before/after view. This helped me realize when I had become a bit heavy-handed with my edits.

Facetune is an incredible value. And if you shoot and share portraits, this is certainly an app you want on your iPad.

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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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This week on The Digital Story photography podcast: Leica's Solid Aluminum T Mirrorless Camera; Top 5 Shooting Tips for Compelling Photos; TDS Site Refresh; and the latest SizzlPix Pick of the Month Winners - All of this and more on today's show with Derrick Story.

Story #1 - The Weekly Update: The top story this week is the Leica T mirrorless camera. "It features a 16MP APS-C sensor. Two lenses - an 18-56mm F3.5-5.6 and a 35mm equivalent 23mm F2 prime have been announced alongside the camera. The camera is milled from a solid billet of aluminum and features a touch screen that the company says uses a user-friendly operating concept. The camera body (available in black or silver) is priced at $1,850. The 18-56mm zoom costs $1,750, while the 23mm F2 prime will set you back $1950. The optical viewfinder has an MSRP of $595." (Source DP Review)

In other news, Fuji will Release a 16mm f/1.4 by the End of 2014. "The mysterious "High Speed Wide Angle Lens" on Fuji's lens roadmap is apparently going to be a 16mm f/1.4 -- no ifs, ands or buts about it." (Source: PetaPixel).

And finally, Panasonic GH4 Review on the Luminous Landscape. Michael Reichmann writes, "Am I getting one? In fact we're getting two, and likely a third as well, replacing our GH3 cameras which we use for all of our video productions. I also expect one of the GH4's to become my daily shooter for both stills and video, as well as serving as Chris' workhorses for video production. No, I'm not kissing goodby to my Olympus E-M1, but let's just say that for some purposes I'll be getting a lot cuddlier with the GH4."

Story #2 - Top 5 Shooting Tips. I've just finished a series of speaking engagements, and I thought I'd share the top 5 tips from those talks.

  • Use flash exposure compensation in tandem with regular exposure combination
  • Keep horizon lines very low, or very high
  • Shoot your night scenes at twilight
  • Introduce motion into your shots - moving lights, panning, and slow shutter speeds
  • Use darks and lights to add punch to your compositions

Story #3 - From the Screening Room - Colorizing Black-and-White Photographs using Photoshop with John Derry. John shows you how to take old B&W photos and apply his techniques for colorization. In a sense it's what Ted Turner did to many of our B&W classic movies.

You can watch John in action by visiting the TDS Screening Room at lynda.com/thedigitalstory. While you're there, you can start your 7 day free trial to watch other design, photography, and computing titles, plus every other topic in the library.

Story #4 - The TDS Site Design Refresh - We've integrated The Nimble Photographer, Photo Help Desk, Instagram, Flickr, and Facebook into a refreshed look for The Digital Story. Plus I've added a new My Gear page to the top nav bar. Here are some insights to how the new site works.

Virtual Camera Club News

New SizzlPix Winners! Congratulations to Mike Boening (Dec 2013 High ISO #93), Kyle Howard (Jan 2014 White # 94), and David Blanchard (Feb 2014 Smartphone #95). You are the latest class of SizzlPix Pick of the Month photographers.

Workshop News: I've sent out invites to the Reserve List for the Fall Color with Safari West Workshop, October 24-26, 2014. You can learn about them both, plus request a reservation form by visiting the TDS Workshops Page and using the "Send Me Info" box.

Photo Assignment for April 2014 is "Flower Power".

If you haven't done so already, please post a review for The Digital Story Podcast in iTunes.

BTW: If you're ordering through B&H or Amazon, please click on the respective ad tile under the Products header in the box half way down the 2nd column on thedigitalstory.com. That helps support the site.

Listen to the Podcast

In addition to subscribing in iTunes, you can also download the podcast file here (37 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

lynda.com - Learn lighting, portraiture, Photoshop skills, and more from expert-taught videos at lynda.com/thedigitalstory.

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

SizzlPix! - High resolution output for your photography. You've never seen your imagery look so good. SizzlPix.com. SizzlPix! now is qualified for PayPal "Bill Me Later," No payments, No interest for up to 6 months, which means, have your SizzlPix! now, and pay nothing until August!

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One technique that I learned from Ansel Adams was the way he managed darks and lights. Sometimes he would build the picture around a very dramatic shadow or highlight, and other times he would layer those tones like pastry chef layers a cake.

Ever since those days of studying his work, I keep an eye peeled for strong dark or light areas to build my compositions around. I feel like they help me avoid the flat "postcard look" that happens when the tones are too even.

fences-1024.jpg First, I wanted to use that horizontal line of dark trees to anchor the composition. Then take advantage of the darks and lights created by the clouds in the sky. Photo by Derrick Story.

Once you find an element to build your composition around, the camera will probably accentuate it more than your eyes are seeing. Plus keep in mind that you can further play with it in post production to really bring out the darks and lights.

This is easier with morning and afternoon light, because it's directional. Midday scenics are going to be flat, pretty much no matter what you do, unless you're in a situation where the high position of the sun is creating shadows from trees. And even then it's a difficult task to make that look flattering.

Keep this technique in mind the next time you're out shooting landscape. Look for those layers of darks and lights to build your composition around.

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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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Job 1 as a spectator at a sporting event is to enjoy the game and support your team. But if it's an important event, such as an NBA playoff game, you may want to come away with some momentos too. As photographers, those souvenirs most likely will be pictures from the game.

Chances are, that unless you're packing a fast telephoto lens and have a media pass, you're probably not going to get a close-up of your favorite superstar. On the other hand, even with a compact camera, you can document the event in a way that will have value for you in the years to come.

cheering_0169.jpg By combining fill-flash with nighttime scene mode, you can capture both the crowd and the ambience of the arena. Photos by Derrick Story.

I think the crowd is a big part of the story at these events. And I do have access to them since I'm sitting right in the middle of it all. So why not go with that and use the arena as a backdrop for fan shots?

My advice in these situations, is to go to "nighttime mode" in your camera's scene settings, then turn on the fill-flash. All of these images, for example, were captured with a Canon PowerShot S110 in "Handheld NightScene" mode. I typically set the exposure compensation to -2/3 to get a good balance of bright areas in the arena with the flash itself.

cheering_0166.jpg Same settings as above, except this time the fill flash is turned off.

As you can see in the shot above, the feeling is totally different when the fill-flash turned off. You may like it better, or not. But I think the non-fill-flash image doesn't have the vibrancy of the shot above it, where the flash is turned on.

Regardless of which approach you take, it's good to understand how both techniques work, so you can choose the one that's right for you and the situation.

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Leica's announcement of their new mirrorless camera, Leica T (Typ 701) ($1,850), presents both attractive and challenging features for the nimble photographer. I thought that I would provide a quick overview of both.

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On the plus side, the design and production of the camera looks top-drawer. To take a chunk of high-quality aluminum and sculpt a camera from it is very impressive - not to mention the hour of hand-polishing that ensues.

I haven't held the camera myself, but even looking at it in pictures and knowing what I know about solid aluminum design, it's not much of a leap of faith to understand that this camera is special.

I also like that they chose to go with a very modern design, instead of the retro look that's currently popular. My regular readers know that I absolutely love the retro look featured in the OM-D and the Fujifilm X20. But those cameras already exist. Leica is creating a whole new design aesthetic in the mirrorless space.

I have some inside information about the internal workings of the camera as well. Image quality will be outstanding. And the Wi-Fi interaction with the iOS app should be solid. I think Leica has done an excellent job here, creating not only a modern classic in terms of looks, but also in terms of mobile functionality.

In terms of red flags, there are a few. First, the choice not to include image stabilization in either the body or the lenses, I think this is a bad decision. I read that Leica felt optical stabilization would compromise the quality of the lenses. I'm not qualified to know either way. But I do know, that for me, image stabilization is important, And I would miss it on this camera.

I think the price is a bit steep, not so much for the body, but for the 18-55mm kit lens - $1,750. If it were $500 or $600, then we could get started with the T-System for less than $2500, and I think that would attract more well-healed nimble photographers.

And finally, I do like buttons - and there aren't any on the back of the camera. So it remains to be seen how this plays out in real-time use.

Those concerns aside, I welcome the Leica T-System to the mirrorless camera space. I know more lenses will follow, and I think we will see interesting variations on this initial body. I'm going to enjoy watching this story play out.

If I can get my hands on one, I'll definitely follow up with a field report.


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Leica T-System has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

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Canon G2 Black

Not long ago, Theresa handed me a sheet of paper with a landscape photo printed on it. "I'd like to have this printed for my office. It's one of my favorite shots by you."

Normally, that wouldn't be a problem. But I captured this particular photo in Dec. 2002 with a Canon PowerShot G2 that had a maximum resolution of 3.8 megapixels. It's been a long time since I shot at that resolution.

Sebastopol Lagoon Dec 2002 "Sebastopol Lagoon" captured in Dec. 2002 with a Canon PowerShot G2. Photo by Derrick Story.

The first task was to find the photo. It was buried deep in the caverns of my original Drobo. I loaded the shot into Aperture and studied it. All in all, the picture was in pretty good shape. I made a few minor adjustments and fired up the Epson R2000.

I opted for Red Rivier Paper's UltraPro Gloss 2.0 to capture as much detail as I could in the enlargement. I made two prints: one an 8"x10" and the other 11"x14". We matted them up and put them in slightly oversized frames to give them more wall presence.

Theresa was thrilled. The larger of the two prints is hanging at home, and the other is now in her office. I have to admit, they look pretty good.

The point here is this: just because an image was recorded with older technology at a lesser resolution, that doesn't mean it's worthless. It took someone else's eyes to remind me of that. And I'm glad she did.

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