May 27, 2011

Bonus – How to live a Visual Life.

How many cameras do you own?

I went through the house to count up every digital, video, web and old school cam in the place – I came up with 13. It’s a funny thing. A decade ago, I owned a single film camera. These days, it seems, I’m living the Visual Life.

I’m also betting that you’re doing the same thing. The cell phone cam in your pocket. The point-and-shoot on the shelf. The kids’ toy cam in the playroom. They’re everywhere!

And so we don’t have much of an excuse to not miss a great moment. Except that we do. It’s a hassle to edit the photos. It’s cumbersome to upload them to a website. We forget that there’s a memory card stuffed with them the next time we grab our cameras.

It doesn’t have to be this tough. You can catch every baby giggle and 29th birthday party by just putting a few really simple rules into place. Here’s how you can live a great digital life…

Take a camera with you everywhere.
You don’t have to lug the six pound SLR with you everywhere. A cell phone with a good cam and/or a digital point-and-shoot will do. I keep my G11 in my bag and my iPhone in my pocket at all times. It’s a lifesaver to know that I’m ready for just about anything.

Edit in a way that’s fun and easy.
Photo software for your phone is getting super popular. The likes of Hipstamatic and Instagram make it crazy easy to edit your photos in milliseconds. Want to go a little deeper? Consumer programs like iPhoto (photos, Mac) and Lightworks (video, PC) are plentiful, feature rich and mostly easy to use.

Make it easy to share a file.  
You know that somewhere in your house is a digital camera full of photos that need to be downloaded, tagged and shared. But who has the time? End the headache by sharing photos on the go with your phone. Shoot a great shot, pick one site to use regularly (Facebook, Flickr, Instagram…) and upload. Using your point-and-shoot? Hit the local electronics superstore and pick up an EyeFi card. You set up this little memory card to wirelessly upload your photos whenever you’re close to your home WiFi network. It’ll send them to your computer or to a bunch of different online sites. No more hassles!

We love to take pictures. We hate the red tape involved in getting them to the world. Try these three tips and your Visual Life gets a whole lot easier.

Intel is running a pretty nifty little contest called – you guessed it – “Visual Life.” Want to check it out? Hit the Intel Canada Facebook page here.

May 25, 2011

#20 – Shoot a silhouette.

Sometimes it’s ok to be a drama queen.
Like when you want to blow away your friends and family with your latest snapshot creation. The shortest journey to get a jealous glare from friends and family has to be the silhouette. That’s where you’ve got a foreground subject (like a person) in total darkness while the background is bright and colourful – just like the shot I took at the top of this story.

Silhouettes are dramatic, cool and super easy to create. Here’s everything you need to consider when making your own:

Find a nice bright background.
The key to a silhouette is that you have an extreme contrast between what’s happening in the foreground and the background. If you take a regular photo without flash and your subject is nice and bright and the background is waaaaaaaay too bright – you’ve got a good candidate for a silhouette.

Bonus - find a background with a bit of range to it (look at the pic at the bottom of the page. The colours are all over the place.)

Turn off your flash.
The flash will light up whatever’s in the foreground. We don’t want that.

Set your camera to “M.”
To make a silhouette, you have to do the thinking – which means you have to take your camera off autopilot for a minute. “M” gives you manual control over everything.

Set up your ISO, aperture and shutter speed.
Now that you’re set up, you have to establish some basic settings. Try setting your ISO low (200 or 400), your aperture around 5.6 and your shutter speed at 1/125th of a second. Take a picture. What do you see?

Play with your shutter speed.
Background too bright? Try upping the shutter speed to 1/250th of a second. Background too dark. Dial down the shutter to 1/60th of a second. Unless your photo looks really out of whack (i.e. crazy bright or crazy dark), stick with adjusting one setting until you get the look that you want.The most important thing is this - don't worry about "numbers." Just keep moving the dial around until you find something you like.

Win a camera – “Like” us on Facebook.
Like “Frame One Photo” on Facebook and you’re automatically entered into a draw for a new point-and-shoot camera worth up to $300. Contest closes June 8!

May 20, 2011

Bonus – The best guilty pleasure, like ever (and it has zip to do with photography)

I. Love. Traffic.

I spend a whole lot of time in my car on the average week and there’s nothing better than my car sitting perfectly still for minutes at a time.

Know why? Because I get a little more time to indulge in my favourite guilty pleasure – listening to Podcasts. There’s just about nothing I like doing than listening to an hour of Ira Glass or Stuart Mclean tell me the stories that they do on their respective Podcasts.

In case you missed the phenomenon (or think it’s crazy tough to get on board), here’s the thing. Podcasts are essentially radio shows on specific topic. And unlike the rotation of 25 songs that the local Z109 pumps at you all day long, Podcasts are engaging, informative and interesting.

Oh, and they’re easy to find and listen to too.
The iTunes store is bursting with hundreds of different types – from music and news to how tos and lots of comedy.

I load my phone, tablet and laptop with my favourite Podcasts and can’t wait to get out on the road. Here’s four of my absolute favourite:

Britain’s BBC 4 runs two separate comedy radio shows throughout the year – the SNL-style “Now Show” and the Funniest Thing in the World “News Quiz.” If you like politics or sharp comedy, this is a must listen.

I’m a documentary nut and there’s no better regularly produced documentary Podcast than “This American Life.” Hosted by Ira Glass (my favourite voice in radio), each episode takes a weekly theme and brings you stories based on that theme. A recent episode called “Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time,” included a great tale about how the Riverdance production team bought a lottery ticket and was convinced they’d win.

I do a whole lot of speechwriting throughout the year and preach the need to tell good stories – and that’s what “The Moth” is all about. Every 15-minute-ish episode features on storyteller and one story.  Listened to one earlier this year from Darryl “DMC” about Sarah McLachlan that’ll blow you away (episode 204).

Vulger, weird, not safe for work in the least – and totally awesome. SModcast sees Hollywood director Kevin Smith and Producer Scott Mosier talk about a whole lot of terrible (wonderful) things no person should ever, ever talk about. I never miss it.

More guilty pleasures – cars, travel websites and more. Check out the Intel Canada Facebook page.

May 18, 2011

#20 - Never say smile.

You know what the worst word in the English language is?

It's "cheese."

Now I don't mean the good stuff - so please, no angry emails from the Cheddar Council. Nope, I'm talking about the word you lob at your photo subjects just before you snap the photo.

"Say cheese," you say and you're met with some crazed attempt to smile by your gap toothed five-year-old. It looks stilted. It looks staged. It looks awful.

"But wait," you're saying. "I like smiles."

I like smiles too. I just figure there are better ways to get them than trotting out an old cliche and hoping to get The Best Photo ever. What do you need to do to get the right look -- smile or not? Four ideas:

Talk to them.
Make your subjects forget about the camera by having a conversation. Talk about things that create the mood you're looking for. My kids light up when I talk about going for ice cream, so I capture the moments when we chat about favorite flavours.

Evoke a memory.
Get your subject to remember a special moment that you shared together like that one time you went to that place to do that thing. It can create an instant, perfect, natural smile.

Ask the to pretend.
Your subjects are models and models are actors. Role play a bit and unleash the inner princess (for kids) or Jason Bourne (for dads with overactive imaginations).

Get them when they're vulnerable.
Best photo I ever took? It's up there at the top of the page. I tried cajoling my son I to posing for me and he started to cry. After I calmed him down, I got a couple of puffy eyed shots. Was I a terrible parent? Probably, but years later, the boy looks at that photo and loves it.

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May 13, 2011

Bonus - Processors are back, baby!

386. 486. Pentium. Meh.

There was a time that I looked forward to the next great leap in processors. Watching the clock speeds climb was total nerdvana back in the day.

But somewhere, I got lost. There were a bajillion processors in the market. Other stuff like RAM and hard drive speed became important. New technology was interesting. Then this past winter, it happened. I learned about Intel’s new Second Generation Core line up and they said one thing to me:

Processors are back, baby.

It isn’t just about clock speed anymore. The Second Generation Core – systems are hitting store shelves about now – have found smarter ways to do more than just put more horsepower under the hood. There’s graphics on board, media streaming to your TV and the ability to scale up clock speeds when you need the power. You can check out the whole list of goodies here.

So what does that mean to you? If you’re taking photos, you should care about these features in a big way. The help you get your photos into your system faster. They help you edit without interruption. And with things like Quick Sync video, they help you share them lickity split.

Take a look at Intel’s processor line up and there are really three levels that count – i3, i5 and i7. Yes, each one is faster than the last, but here’s a good overview of what you can expect from each:

Core i3 – A good start, but more toys available in Core i5
Just about any computer you find in your big box store is capable of email and surfing. The thing is, few people are sticking to those things these days – and that’s why you’re going to want to think about at least a Second Generation Core i3. It’ll let you do any basic consuming or editing move out there.

Who wants it:
Casual media makers
Your mom and dad

Core i5 – You’re probably going to want this one
Plenty of speed with a whole lot of clever touches that help you get just about everything done. One of the big things i5 systems have over the i3 systems is something called “Turbo Boost.” This is a feature that ups the amount of power for specific applications – like Lightroom and turns down the power when you don’t need it – saving battery life on the road.

Who wants it:
Amateur photographers, videographers and music maker
Anyone who wants to do a little more, a little faster
Most likely, you

Core i7 – For your inner professional
This thing can get crazy fast and is great if you’re doing pro work with big files in places like Photoshop. The highest clock speeds come with all the bells and whistles like Turbo Boost and HD graphics.

Who wants it:
Professional media producers
Photography bloggers with gadget lust

This generation of processors is about so much more than the raw power under the hood. They’re about offering more so you can do more. Don’t get fooled by those $399 specials on the endcap. Keep your eyes peeled for Second Generation Core systems and feel the love. 

Want to learn more? Ask questions and get answers at Intel Canada's Facebook page.

#19 – Put it all together – ISO, shutter speed and aperture.

Here’s the scene.

You’re out at a restaurant for a birthday party and you want to grab a group shot of all your friends.

You flip your camera settings to Auto and stab at your shutter button. The flash fires and you’re done. You peek at the back of your screen and you see…what on earth is that? Everybody looks like they’ve been lit by the power of 15 suns – while the background is entirely black.

That photo nightmare is over.

We’ve been talking over the past few weeks about ways to get more light into your camera without turning on the flash. We covered ISO, shutter speed and aperture. Each of these can do a few nifty photo tricks (and we’ll cover those off in more detail in future posts). For now, all you need to know is this – if your photo is too dark, you now have three super tools you can use to get more light into your camera.

And here’s the best part – you can use all three at the same time. Change the ISO and there’s still not enough light? Dial down the shutter speed. Still need more? Try adjusting your aperture. You have total control and because of that your next birthday pic can look a whole lot better.

I’m attaching this cheat sheet below to help you get started. Print it out and stuff it into your camera bag. Then take a couple of weeks and try using all three until you’re comfortable. Trust me, you won’t need the cheat sheet for long – it’s just that easy.

The Frame One “I Need More Light” Cheat Sheet…

ISO (How sensitive the camera is to light).
Turn it up – 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
Turn It down – 1600, 800, 400, 200, 100
…for more light
…for less light
 Warning: Higher ISO makes photos more grainy.

Shutter speed (How long the shutter is open).
Make it longer – 1/250, 1/125, 1/60, 1/30, 1/20
Make it shorter – 1/20, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250
…for more light
…for less light
Warning: Longer shutter speeds blur anything in motion – stick to 1/60 for an average person standing still.

Aperture (How big the hole is)
Make it bigger – 11, 8, 5.6, 4, 2.8
Make it smaller – 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11
…for more light
…for less light
Warning: A bigger aperture throws the background out of focus.

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May 5, 2011

Bonus – Take a great picture of your mum .

The basement. The garage sale. The dustry corner of the attic.

This is where your annual Mother’s Day gifts end up – Snuggies, digital photo frames, that dog sweater. Trust me, your mother doesn’t need another dog sweater.

So forget the spa certificate for mum this year and try something that she’ll brag about to her friends for months to come.

Take her photo.

That’s right. Give mum one of those shared experiences that neither of you will ever forget. Here’s how to make it all happen.

Think about what your mum likes.
A great photo starts with a great idea. Mum like flowers? Take a shot with her holding a big bunch of colourful tulips. Big on the grandkids? Have all of them hug her and catch the expression on her face. Ultimately, you want to think about a couple of different ways you’re going to make her look fab.

Get outside.
Darkness can be your enemy, so go somewhere where there’s a whole bunch of light. If it’s super sunny out, make sure you take the picture in the shade of a tree or a building for a more flattering look.

Wait until late in the day.
Photographers call the last hour of daylight the “golden hour” because the light is richly warm. Go for a post dinner stroll (you are making dinner aren’t you?) with mum to take the shot.

Turn your camera to P and turn off the flash.
We’ve talked about these before and now that you’re getting super confident with your photo skills, you can decide on how the photo should look. Need more (or less) light? Remember ISO, shutter speed and aperture. They’re you’re friends.

Get closer and off centre.
Don’t fall into the trap of putting six miles of headroom at the top of your shot – unless that’s what you were going for. Step in close to mum and make sure you put her in a power position of the frame.

A lot of our first Frame One posts have been about how you get comfortable with the camera, but that’s just the starting point to a great picture. You want some emotion. Instead of saying “smile,” start a conversation where you both remember what it was like when you were a wee one with scraped knees. That smile – a real, honest smile – will come before you know it.

Hey! Intel’s running a pretty cool contest and time’s running out to enter. Check out Intel’s “Build Your Dream Cave” contest for details – and a chance at more than $15,000 in prizes.

May 4, 2011

#18 - Get more light from aperture.

Here’s a neat trick.

Turn on your camera, pop your settings to “P’ and change your aperture (you might have to dive into your manual for a second or two for instructions). Switch that number up to the highest one you can f5.6, f8, f11…

Now turn your camera over and look down the barrel of your lens. You’ll see a hole and it’s probably pretty small. Turn your camera back over and switch your aperture settings to the lowest number possible – like f2.8.  Now look at the hole – it should be crazy big by now.

If shutter speed determines how long the shutter stays open, aperture determines how big the hole is through which light can get to your camera. Bigger number means smaller hole – and less light. Smaller number, bigger hole – more light.

Like just about anything in photography, making a change with your aperture affects something else. In this case, it’s blurring of objects in the background. We’ll get into that during another post. For now, just know that a lower number in your aperture (2.8) creates more blurring in the background – an effect you may want to make your picture.
When you combine it with ISO and shutter speed, you can take a whole lot of control over your camera. You can decide how you want your pictures look, what went wrong and how to fix some of the most common problems.

When to use a smaller aperture (higher number like f11, f16…)
·      Bright light.
·      Shooting landscapes.
·      Anytime you want everything in sharp focus.

When to use a bigger aperture (smaller number like f1.4, f2.8...)
·      Not a lot of light.
·      Can’t adjust ISO or shutter speed.
·      Cool effects with background blurring (aka “depth of field”)

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