August 13, 2012

How a free piece of software can turn you into a photo wizard.

Well, colour me pleasantly surprised.

As a professional photographer, I tend to process my work with the big editing software packages out there – big editing software that can be expensive and needs to be upgraded every year or two.

My friends at Intel recently asked me to take a look at the ASUS Zenbook, which comes with a bundle of free multimedia software for video, photos and webcamming. It’s the same deal they’re carrying at most Best Buys right now.

I know. You’ve been down that “free” softrware route too. When I popped open the copy of the photo editing “PhotoDirector3,” I was expecting the same sort of “light” (read: hobbled) software I’ve seen so many time times before. I mean, there was no way that PhotoDirector3 could possibly keep up with the big boys of photo processing. Right?

I also wasn’t sure about the system itself. Holding the Zenbook in your hands makes you look cool – it’s crazy thin and light. How would something this small deal with some big time photo editing?

This is where the surprise part happens. Short story – PhotoDirector3 is more than capable and the ASUS Zenbook not only looks good, it works fast.

I started my testing by snapping a bunch of photos of our month old kitten (still unnamed) with a Canon 5D Mark III. The photos were in RAW format on a camera that’s reasonably new to the market. I expected that I’d have to upgrade the drivers to import the photos, the same way I did with the other software I use.

First surprise – no need to update. I downloaded the software and was importing photos from my Compact Flash Card in just a few minutes.

Second surprise? The software felt familiar and natural. It had all the bells and whistles of the apps I typically use, organized in a way that anyone could understand. I sliced through the imported photos in no time using methods familiar to any photographer. I was really impressed at how easy and how powerful this program worked.

And PhotoDirector3 wasn’t done. After importing (easy) and processing (straightforward) the shots I took, I grabbed a peek at the “Edit” menu and found pre-developed commands for all sorts of things. I used the “eyes” setting to focus on the – you guessed it – eyes of the cat. With two clicks of the trackpad, my image looked even better.

Great interface. Wonderful colour correction.

Overall – impressed. The Zenbook is a capable machine for photographers on the go. Your shoulder will appreciate the light weight, your professional self will love the performance.

PhotoDirector proves that you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on software to get photos that look like you spent hundreds of dollars on software. PhotoDirector makes a great companion for starting photos and pros alike.

Want to learn more about Intel’s® ASUS Zenbook dealio that comes with PhotoDirector and a bunch more great software? Check it out here

June 7, 2012

How to snapshoot an amusement park.

It's summer and you're heading out for a day of rides and goodies. Grab your camera and remember these tips!

May 22, 2012

How to snapshoot a baseball game.

You can just smell the grass growing on the field. I recently started (assistant) coaching t-ball with my son and want to get the best shots possible. Here's what I'm thinking...

April 20, 2012

How to snapshoot a portrait.

Trying something a little new at Frame One. Posts are join' visual to make it easy to understand and follow along. Friday's post will be all about the basics on something like shooting a portrait. Monday, we'll show off the settings you need to make a photo. And from time to time, we'll talk about our topic from the perspective of mobile phones.  

April 6, 2012

Five ways to snapshoot an Easter Egg hunt.

It’s rabbit season.

This weekend marks a couple of pretty big family holidays – Passover and Easter. Your family’s going to be getting together, and in between the disagreements over the upcoming election and why you-know-who shouldn’t have been kicked off of Idol, you’re going to want to get a snapshot or two of the day’s festivities.

I’m focusing on the classic “Easter Egg Hunt” here, but these tips are good for just about any springtime photos of kids.

Put some green in the picture.
Spring is colourful, so make it work for you. Take a shot in the grass or (if you’re luckier than us up here in Toronto), put a few eggs among the crocuses and tulips for a bright shot. I particularly like shooting colour blocks – a big field of green (grass), a bright blue (or orange) sky.

Get down low.
Most kids are short, so you should be short too. Get down to their level for good looking portraits. Get down even lower (belly on the ground!) for nifty distorted perspectives that make them look big.

Break down the story into smaller photos.
Snap one of just the hand reaching for an egg. Capture the look of surprise on a toddler’s face when she finds something new and exciting. Take close ups of the eggs nobody has yet found.

Think about multiples.
Flip your camera into Av mode, turn up the aperture as high as you can and get a shot of a row of eggs. The further back the photo goes, the blurrier the look – very fun, very cool. Your friends will be jealous.

Holidays are a bunch of moments strung together into a day. Put yourself somewhere you know a great moment will happen (at a table, around a corner), lock in your autofocus and wait for the moment to unfold. You’ll be ready to take some wonderful images when the time comes.

And that’s all there is to it. Post your Seder and bunny chomping photos here when you’ve got the chance. 

April 2, 2012

How to overcome the biggest lie in photography.

"Wow. Your camera sure does take great photos."

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

I take photos with a giant Canon 5d Mark II, a point-and-shoot Canon G11 and an iPhone 4s. And I can take wonderful snapshots (or more formal stuff) on all three.

Yes, a bigger, better SLR gives you more options, flexibility and sharpness, but it can't magically turn a bad photographer into a good one.

I was in a meeting yesterday and someone said "oh yeah smart guy -- try taking a good photo with this Blackberry Curve." Admitedly, it's not a great camera in the traditional sense. Poor in low light, lots of graininess.

So I made that work for me. I moved the subject to a nearby window. I turned off the flash. I did all the things you're supposed to do for good composition.

And I took a pretty decent snapshot.

It's not your camera that takes great photos -- it's you that takes great photos. And here's the best part -- you only need to get good at a few different things to go from "meh" to "marvelous:"

Know your camera.
What is your camera awesome at doing? What sucks about it? You've got to know both so you can take advantage of the good and compensate for the bad. My G11? Pretty good photos in low light, but sloooooow when I press the shutter. I use of for birthdays at a restaurant and am ready before a moment happens, so I get the shot.

Indoor lighting is tricky. Like this much better than if I had used a flash.

Light is about half of a photo. Blast a snapshot with your flash and you'll get the same ugly photo every time. Instead, turn off the flash, dial up the ISO and find/wait for/pray for good light.

Lots of Five Guys Fries -- got in close enough to show there are fries in a bag.

This Is a big one for portraits. There's often too much headroom and distracting background junk in snapshots. Get in close (and if you're adventurous, blur out the background with a high aperture.

Big hand, low angle. Different perspectives can make even regular images look cool.

Get up high. Get down low. Turn the camera vertically. When you move around, you create a whole new photo. 

March 21, 2012

How to shoot a day out with the kids – the settings to use.

Blurry -- should have turned myself into a human tripod first.

You hear the giggling and you know what to do.

The kids are at the local dinosaur museum and they’ve the mummies exhibit. You have found your moment, so you reach for your camera – or cell phone camera – and...

And what? You could flip on the power switch, jam your finger down on the shutter button and hope for the best But there’s a better than average chance that your shot will be blurry, look all green or be entirely out of focus. If you’re heading out for the day, get ready beforehand – take a minute to dial in these settings for better photos.

With a Point-and-Shoot
Point-and-shoot cameras give you great creative control.


Outside? Use “Sunny.” Outside on a cloudy day? Try “Cloudy?” Inside? Take a few shots to figure out what kind of light you’re dealing with.  If you’re shooting in RAW, it’s easy to change this with your image editing program.

Shutter Speed
Set your shutter speed at 1/60 to capture slowish moving moments – 1/125th for something a little faster.

Sets automatically if you’re in Tv or S.

Outside during the day? Try 100-200. Inside or at night? 400-800.

Switch to “Landscape mode.”

Outdoor light works great – but remember that a sunny afternoon is going to make harsh light. Try to avoid flash unless your indoor pictures are still coming out super dark.

Don’t Forget!
Try to anticipate the shot and lock in your autofocus before an event happens. This makes taking the photo easier.

With a Cell Phone

We all do it – just turn on the cell phone and take the photo. Resist the temptation. Download a good program for your mobile and use the settings you see above. Oooooor you could just turn on the cell phone and take the photo. Just remember these settings:

Be somewhere bright if you can. Flash only when you must.

Anticipate! Focus on the spot where the action is happening and wait for the action to unfold.

Try using a program with a “big button,” one that allows you to tap the entire screen to take the photo.

Don’t Forget
You can “create” moments. Wait until your subject is in the right place and yell their name. They’l turn around fast, you shoot and you probably have a great picture.
Also Try
Got a “burst mode” on your software? Try that out – it takes a bunch of photos in a row, so you can be sure that one of your images doesn’t include blinking eyes, turned heads or unfortunate frowns.

March 16, 2012

Five ways to snapshoot a day out with the kids.

There’s probably nothing better – and just about nothing worse.

It’s March Break. You’ve packed up the brood for a day at the park/zoo/tutor (kidding) and you’re excited by the prospect of taking some great snaps of the day. Perfect for that shiny SLR you got on sale in January. You stuff a bag with a couple of lenses, memory cards, cleaner, maybe a flash (or two). Then you lug the thing to the park/zoo/tutor and spend the day cursing as you balance changing lenses with changing diapers.

Big cameras and multiple-lenses are great – for other days. When it’s time to get out and enjoy your family, you want to get out and enjoy your family.

So do that.

When I hit the park these days, it’s generally with a teeny-tiny iPhone in the hip pocket or a point-and-shoot – even a compact SLR with a small zoom lens does the trick. I don’t worry about the camera at all on days like these. I just head out and try to take interesting photos without worrying about the technology. And you know what? Mum, Nana and friends like that there’s a document of what’s happening, which is the real reason you’re taking photos in the first place.

How do you get the most out of that camera? Remember these (non-technical) details.

Tell a story.

Establishing shot - good to tell a story.
Balance the wide stuff against the portrait shots.

We went to the park the other day for a couple of hours of hanging off monkey bars and spinning in tire swings. To make sure we remembered the trip the right way, I started with an establishing shot of the park, the followed up with photos of each player – so we could remember each child’s day the right way. Create a story with lots of big wide shots and close ups to share with friends or family.

Shoot – a lot.

Shooting without regard for settings and other photo trickery means lots of overexposed images, blinking eyes and dirty faces. Work around that by loading up your camera with lots and lots of photos. Instead of snapping one picture at the top of the slide, snap four – you’re bound to get something you like.

Don’t get tripped up by the settings.
Stick the camera on “P” and maaaaaybe think about setting the white balance (not really necessary if you’re shooting RAW files). Let your camera or phone do the work today. You’ve got lots of chasing to do instead.

Outside? One word – shade.
Noonday will render just about every picture crazy bright and include squinty eyes from your subjects. Do your best to get them into a shady area (or hope for a nice cloudy day) to get photos that look evenly lit.

Inside? Look for nifty angles.
Put something in the foreground and focus on the background. Try getting down low to exaggerate the subject. Get in super close and crop out part of your subject.