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Is the iPhone Flash Useful Outdoors?

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One of the most popular tricks used by event photographers is to turn on the flash for outdoor portraits. I've used this successfully with DSLRs and compacts. But do you get the same magical benefit from the LED "flash" on the iPhone 5S?

Kathleen and I decided to test this during an assignment photo shoot today. First, I posed her against a bright background and turned on the iPhone flash. As you can see, she was wildly underexposed. With any of my standard cameras, this image would have turned out great.

Then I changed directions and used a shaded area as the background. I wanted to see if the LED could provide any benefit in this type of lighting. We shot with the fill flash on (left), and with the flash turned off (right).

iphone-fill-flash.jpg Fill flash on (left); off (right)

At first I didn't think the flash was making much difference. But later, when I had a chance to compare the images on my Mac, I could see some of the benefits of the LEDs. The skin tones were warmer, eyes brighter, and overall, more glow.

Bottom line is this: with bright, contrasty backgrounds, your iPhone fill flash is like a pea shooter at a bazooka range. But when both subject and background are in open shade, it's worth turning on. Give it a try.


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The iPhone has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

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This week on The Digital Story photography podcast: Organizing your 2013 photo library (and preparing for 2014); Nimbleosity Report - Canon PowerShot S110 (great deal on a super camera); Photo Help Desk: the Ziploc bag trick - All of this and more on today's show with Derrick Story.

Story #1 - Over the course of the year, it's very easy to let your photo library become a bit messy. Now that we're nearing the end of 2013, this is a great time to tidy up your image collection and prepare for the coming year.

Story #2 - The Canon PowerShot S110 Digital Camera is currently available for $219. Check out these features:

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  • 12.1MP Resolution 1/1.7" CMOS Sensor
  • 24-120mm UA Lens (f/2.0 at wide angle)
  • 3.0" PureColor Touch Screen LCD Display
  • DIGIC 5 Image Processor, Intelligent IS, High Speed AF
  • Full HD 1080p Video with Stereo Sound
  • ISO 12800, ND filter, and Multi-Aspect Ratio RAW
  • Smart AUTO, Movie Digest and WiFi
  • HDR, electronic level HDMI out, and copyright imprinting
  • Weighs 6.1 ounces and is less than 4" wide

I talk about why I think this is a can't-miss deal for nimble photographers looking for a super compact camera.

Story #3 - It's that time of year to put a Ziploc bag in your camera kit. I explain why in the third segment of the show.

Photo Assignment News

Photo Assignment for November is High ISO.

And we have three new winners for the SizzlPix Pick of the Month: August 2013 - Street Scene - Dominick Chiuchiolo; September 2013 - Grab Shot - Michael Fairbanks; and October 2013 - My House is My Castle - Keith Hartman.

For The Digital Story Virtual Camera Club members ... if you'd like additional copies of for gifts, or SizzlPix! of any other of your images to make spectacular, amazing holiday gifts, order any two SizzlPix! to be shipped together, and we'll give you 25% off on the second one! Order any size up to a mind-boggling 48 by 72" Imagine -- six feet! and no sacrifice in resolution, luminance, and impact. Just put "TDS " in the comments space on the sizzlpix.com order page. Of course, you may apply the discount to any number of pairs. And free shipping to any US mainland address.

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 (34 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.


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.

Podcast Sponsors

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

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

Want to Comment on this Post?

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

nimble-bottle-gift-set.jpg

For one week, beginning today, you can receive free shipping on the following Nimble Photographer Gift Sets. Use coupon code: freeshipping

  • Water Bottle Gift Set $39.95 - includes a 26-ounce Stainless Steel water bottle, Wenger gift box, D-Ring attachment, the embroidered Walking Man Shoulder Bag (yes, the water bottle fits inside!, two artisan holiday gift cards with blank interior, and a holiday gift bag.
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  • Walking Man Cap and Shoulder Bag Gift Set (Navy cap) $49.95 - includes the Walking Man Cap (Navy/Tan colors), Walking Man Shoulder Bag (Black with silver embroidery), two artisan gift cards, and a holiday gift bag.
  • Walking Man Cap and Shoulder Bag Gift Set (Port cap) $49.95 - includes the Walking Man Cap (Port/Navy colors), Walking Man Shoulder Bag (Black with silver embroidery), two artisan gift cards, and a holiday gift bag.

Orders can be shipped to any United States postal address via USPS Priority Mail. Typical delivery time is 2-5 days from when your order is placed. Each package is ready to give. All you have to do is sign the card.

"I think my favorite item in the store is the cap. All of the items look great, but I wear caps all the time and this one has a classic look to it," C. Jones

"My favorite thing in the shop is the Walking Man Shoulder Bag, which I just picked up from the Post Office. It is perfect for my light, walkabout kit," D. Chiuchiolo

To get your free shipping on these gift sets, or any order that totals over $38, just add coupon code: freeshipping

Happy Holidays!


Nimble Photographer Logo

These products have a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

Want to Comment on this Post?

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

Over the course of the year, our photo libraries tend to become a bit disheveled. As I prepare for 2014, I like to have my 2013 images in shape. One technique that I use regularly is "Merge Projects" that allows me to combine multiple projects into one.

Merge Projects in Aperture Using the Merge Projects command in Aperture.

For example, I realized that I had created and backed up multiple projects for my trip to Oahu this summer. In part this was because I had shot with three different cameras.

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I was able to combine them easily by selecting the two projects in the Library tab of the Inspector (by holding down the CMD key), then going to File > Merge Projects. Aperture presented me with this confirmation message.

Once I click on the Merge button, Aperture moves the images, albums, and any other parts I've created over to the other project. Typically, the application will move the lower project into the one that's positioned higher in the library. But I don't worry about it either way. Once I'm finished merging, I can rename the project by tapping on its name and typing.

Keep in mind that you can use Folders to organize your projects (File>New>Folder). Just drag the Projects into the new Folder, give it a name, and position it where you want it.

Those of us who are trapped inside by cold weather can put that confinement to good use by getting our photo libraries in order.

Aperture Tips and Techniques

To learn more about Aperture, check out my Aperture 3.3 Essential Training (2012) on lynda.com. 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!


An article on PhotographyTalk makes the argument:

"Having a fully functional computer that also acts as a tablet with you wherever your photography may take you is the primary advantage of the Surface Pro 2 for photographers. You have a different kind of job to do than most tablet users, even in a business setting, which is why the Surface Pro 2 is the horse of a different color you should want to ride into your sunset."

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I guess it depends on what you're trying to do with a tablet computer. The article certainly did not sway me. But if you want to see for yourself, check out For Photographers, Microsoft's Surface Pro 2 and Apple iPad Air May Be Horses of Different Colors.


Nimble Photographer Logo

These products have a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

Want to Comment on this Post?

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.


twitter.jpg Follow me on Twitter

LED lights are making a big impact on photography. Another example is Foldio - the first foldable studio for smartphones. It's currently a Kickstarter project that's available for as little as $34.

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The folding box design is clever. And it includes a sweep backdrop (the deluxe kit adds a variety of colors) and LED light strip. It all packs neatly in its own carrying bag that will fit in the laptop compartment of many backpacks. The specs say Foldio measures 10.2" x 10.2".

Foldio is made of laminated paper, held together by magnets, and powered by a 9 volt battery. What's not to like? The Kickstarter project is open until Jan. 2, 2014.


Nimble Photographer Logo

This product has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

Want to Comment on this Post?

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

I met Frederick Van Johnson at the Warriors game last night at Oracle Arena, each of us armed with our nimble photographer kits.

Frederick was sporting Google Glass and a Panasonic GX7. I had the OM-D E-M5. We swapped lenses back and forth using the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 and the Olympus 17mm f/1.8. I captured this image of Frederick working with the 75mm on his GX7.

Frederick Van Johnson with Google Glass

Since I was toting the innocent looking Walking Man Shoulder Bag, I had no problem getting through security with my gear. Frederick, on the other hand, was traveling with his thinkTANK Photo SubUrban Disguise 30, and attracted the attention of the inspectors. He was delayed about 15 minutes entering the arena, but we finally met up in the Club right before tipoff.

I enjoyed swapping lenses and trying out the GX7. It's a fun camera that feels solid and sports a handsome design. Frederick had a chance to try out the Olympus 75mm prime on the GX7. It looked like a match made in heaven. He loved it, and I suspect he'll be purchasing one in the future.

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You can see for yourself how wonderfully sharp and fast this lens is (photo above). We were taking pictures from Row 16, and had no problem capturing the action.

Hopefully, I'll be able to post a movie soon that Frederick recorded with his Google Glass. Stay tuned.


Nimble Photographer Logo

These kits have a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

Want to Comment on this Post?

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

This week on The Digital Story photography podcast: Hands on with the Olympus OM-D E-M1; on the Nimbleosity Report - the super handy Lowepro Dashpoint 30; from the Photo Help Desk: the world's simplest, but highly effective flash bounce card - All of this and more on today's show with Derrick Story.

Story #1 - Hands on with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Micro Four Thirds Mirrorless Camera - This $1,400 body includes everything you'd expect, then adds some delightful surprises. A few of the niceties include:

  • Outstanding WiFi, for both downloading and camera control
  • Built-in microphone port (finally!) with modest audio controls
  • Four Thirds lens capability with adapter
  • Twin dial control wheels with function lever
  • Built-in HDR
  • Template mode to build multi-shot compositions
  • Timelapse function with movie assembly
  • Lens IS Priority for optically stabilized Panasonic glass
  • PC socket for traditional flash cords

So, how does this all add up for the E-M1? I render my verdict in the first segment of today's show.

Story #2 - The Nimbleosity Report: The Lowepro Dashpoint 30 versatile camera case that protects cameras up to an OM-D E-M5 with 14-42mm zoom. Highlight features include horizontally/vertical attachment option, removable shoulder strap with snap hooks, and #5 YKK zippers with pull tabs. I cover how I use this nifty case in today's second segment.

Story #3 - From the Photo Help Desk: the world's simplest, yet effective flash bounce card. I make sure I always have business cards and rubber bands in my camera case. Why? I explain in the third segment of today's show.

Photo Assignment News

Photo Assignment for November is High ISO.

And we have three new winners for the SizzlPix Pick of the Month: August 2013 - Street Scene - Dominick Chiuchiolo; September 2013 - Grab Shot - Michael Fairbanks; and October 2013 - My House is My Castle - Keith Hartman.

For The Digital Story Virtual Camera Club members ... if you'd like additional copies of for gifts, or SizzlPix! of any other of your images to make spectacular, amazing holiday gifts, order any two SizzlPix! to be shipped together, and we'll give you 25% off on the second one! Order any size up to a mind-boggling 48 by 72" Imagine -- six feet! and no sacrifice in resolution, luminance, and impact. Just put "TDS " in the comments space on the sizzlpix.com order page. Of course, you may apply the discount to any number of pairs. And free shipping to any US mainland address.

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 (31 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.


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.

Podcast Sponsors

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

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

Want to Comment on this Post?

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

panasonic-gm1-front.jpg

It's the little camera that keeps on getting... high praise, that is. The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GM1 scored very well in the recent PhotographyBlog review where Gavin Stoker wrote, "In a nutshell, if you loved what you saw of the output of the GX7 but felt the body would be better even smaller, then the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 could be well worth giving a proverbial spin."

This followed DP Review's Allison Johnson citing that the GM1 is her personal favorite of mirrorless cameras this year. She wrote, "It struck a chord with me particularly, since it seemed to be a weird mashup of each of the cameras I'd previously reviewed for DPR. If you took the concepts behind the Pentax Q7, Sony RX100 II and Olympus E-PM2 and threw them in a blender, the GM1 might be the thing that comes out."

Despite all of this online praise, the GM1 hasn't been a huge hit with consumers. In part, I think the $748 price tag has been the stumbling block. (It does include a handsome 12-32mm zoom lens.)

Reviewers cite that it's very well made and produces great images, justifying the price tag. So this is one to keep an eye on. If we start to see discounts on the GM1, you might want to revisit this gem of a mirrorless camera.


Nimble Photographer Logo

This product has a high Nimbleosity Rating. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

Want to Comment on this Post?

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

For online guys like me, Cyber Monday is far more fun than Black Friday. Here are five great deals for photographers.

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Lowepro Pro Roller Lite 150AW for $119.95

This is an outright steal for the nimblest of roller bags. It fits on any plane and holds a trip's worth of camera gear. Normal price is $279. But B&H is blowing them out for $119.95. If you've been procrastinating on getting a roller because of expense, then take a close look at this deal.

canon-320ex-special.jpg

Canon 320EX Flash for $139.99

This is a great wireless flash that I paid over $200 for. It's available today at Rakuten.com for $139.95. That's the best price I've seen for my favorite strobe.

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Nimble Photographer Gift Set for $49.95 with Free Shipping

Perfect gift for the Nimble Photographer or traveler in your life. Gift set includes the Walking Man cap (Navy/Tan colors), Walking Man Shoulder Bag (Black with silver embroidery), and two artisan gift cards, blank on the inside, (one to give and one to keep!) -- all neatly packed and ready to give. All you have to do is sign the card. The entire kit is only $49.95, and if you use coupon code: blackfriday2013 - the shipping is free to any deliverable address in the US.

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Benro MeFoto Roadtrip Travel Tripod w/ Dual Action Ballhead (Orange)for $149.99

Save $40 on this very popular and highly rated travel tripod. Hunt's Photo is is offering the MeFoto for $149.99. That's a great deal on a handsome set of sticks.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 for $278

A great enthusiast compact at an even better price. Adorama is selling the LX7 for $278. If you've been longing for a high end, nimble camera, this one is worth a look.


Nimble Photographer Logo

These products have high Nimbleosity Ratings. What does that mean? You can learn about Nimbleosity and more by visiting TheNimblePhotographer.com.

Want to Comment on this Post?

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.