Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

Is it just me, or did 2011 fly by like an SR-71 Blackbird?  Sheesh, it seems like it just started, now we're moving in to 2012.  I guess time flies when you're having fun ...or getting old(-ish).

This past year has been an interesting one, with many ups and downs.  I've learned a few new things, taken some pretty good pictures, taken some pretty outright hideous ones, played with various film cameras, photographed families, commercial products, pretty models, kids, my cat, cars, events, architecture, dabbled in a little street photography and taught a few folks the intricacies of off camera flash.

I also turned over the big 40th birthday this year, which pretty much means I guess I'm officially an adult now, or something like that.  Except for the new aches and pains that rear their ugly heads like prairie dogs from a hole in the ground, I don't really feel any older and Lord knows my maturity level still hasn't caught up with my gift of so many years.  Not sure it ever will really.

Its the time of year when folks start talking about resolutions and the things they plan on doing better in the upcoming year.  I guess I'm no different than those folks, with one exception.  I really don't believe so much in New Year's resolutions, partly because so many of them fall flat on their faces.  Its easy to come up with something new that you're going to accomplish under a bout of heavy drinking, twinkling lights and wondering what poor sap is going to be willing to touch their lips to yours at the strike of midnight, but how many of those plans ever come to fruition?  I hope for most that they actually do, but perhaps because of my curmudgeon like ways (or the gift of wisdom with 40 years in the can), I generally believe that most do not.

So rather than setting a few New Year's Eve resolutions that I will most likely forget on New Year's day due to a pounding headache and the cold sweats that only a frat boy can love, I usually take this time of year to simply set up a game plan for the upcoming year.  You could probably say that these are resolutions (if you want to talk semantics) but really its more of a list of small goals leading to a bigger coup de grace at the end.

As a photographer, there's always the goals of self improvement, learning new techniques and trying to stay at the forefront of all the modern technology that seems to exponentially grow with every new year.  There's also the goal of improving one's income and keeping the roof over the business.  This year for me though, my goals are to become more attuned to the business side of photography.  If it weren't for my poor (and very patient) fiance', I would have absolutely no business sense at all.  I seriously doubt that I could manage a lemonade stand and turn a profit.  I'd either be giving the lemonade away to cheaply, or simply drinking it all myself.

Don't get me wrong, I will most definitely keep trying to improve my craft.  I hope that I always have the capacity to continue to learn and envelop my hard headed noggin' around new things, but where I think I need the most work, is trying to become a businessman, in addition to being a successful photographer.

So I guess I'm wondering, how many other photographers out there feel like they're pretty confident in their abilities of pressing the shutter, but not so proficient in the acumen of business.  If I had to guess, I'd say that number is rather large, but maybe that's just my ignorance in a subject that seems to elude me.

In any case, I still believe in setting goals (small and large), regardless if its business related or just a passionate hobby, and the turning of a New Year seems the best time to do so.

I hope you have your new year laid out ahead of you and have nothing but success in the upcoming 2012!!

Oh yeah, may as well go ahead and go for broke this year, because the Mayans might be right. ;)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Shooting Tethered with Lightroom 3

Tethered Shooting

As a new user of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3, I have to say I am more than amazed at the features this program offers.  I have always been somewhat anal retentive organized and methodic in how I store and catalog photos, but Lightroom simply makes all of this even easier.  The way LR3 allows you to organize, file, add metadata to, and the fact that the editing tools are non destructive makes this program, for me at least, invaluable in those regards alone.

I'll admit I'm still a newb with this program, but am learning daily and very interested in how this program works.  What sold me at first on Lightroom 3 is the fact that because it has so many easy to use editing tools, a lot of folks seem to do the most of their post processing (if not all) in LR3 alone.  As a person who tries to do as little editing as possible, this really appealed to me.  The idea that this program could streamline my workflow and cut down on the time spent in front of the computer was just another selling point.

However, the one feature that I have absolutely fell in love with is the ability to shoot tethered straight in to Lightroom.  Basically, shooting tethered to a computer means that rather than viewing your photos on the LCD of your camera, you can now view them on a laptop, or another computer.  This makes checking how your shoot is coming along in terms of sharpness, white balance, composition and color management so much easier by being able to see such a large preview of your photo.

What's so awesome about Lightroom 3 is that now you don't need any other software (just Lightroom 3) to shoot tethered.  With previous versions of Lightroom, you still had to use another program to accomplish this.  I know Canon users can use their included software to shoot tethered, but Nikon users have to buy Nikon's Camera Control Pro (which is costly) or another third party software, and those other programs don't offer the versatility that Lightroom does.  I've used a few third party programs in the past to shoot tethered (usually in to Adobe Bridge), but the third party programs I have tried just didn't work well enough for me.  I've also used Camera Control Pro but now prefer the editing power and features of Lightroom 3.

For many folks who already have Lightroom 3, and want to shoot tethered, now you can with no other tools!

To shoot tethered in to Lightroom 3, you need to use the little cable that came with your camera.  It has a proprietary connection on one end (the end that plugs in to your camera) and a USB connector on the other.  Simply connect your camera with that cable to your computer and turn your camera on.  Then, open Lightroom and go to the File Menu and click on 'Start Tethered Capture'.  You have to specify a few settings, like where you want your photos to go, how you want to name the files and whether or not you want to add meta data on import (another handy feature).  Then click ok and you're ready to go.

By default, LR will open in the Library Module, but if you switch to the Develop Module, you can create a bigger preview of the photos as they are coming in.  Choose the Loupe View, which is one preview of the current photo, and then you can collapse the side panels which will give you a full screen preview of the photos as you take them.  Another handy benefit of tethering in to the Develop Module is that you can apply edits such as White Balance adjustments right to your photos as they come in, then set those edits to every other photo that comes in after that!  Cool.

Another quick tip, is to make sure you have 'Auto Advance' enabled so that the preview pane shows the most recent photo taken.  Also, when you're previewing your full screen photos, you will still see some of the Lightroom work area around your photo.  If you want to make that go away, simply press 'L' once and that will darken the background, press 'L' again, and it goes completely black.  Now you have a large, full screen preview of your photo with a black frame and nothing else, that is really slick!

A couple of things, you have to have Lightroom 3 or higher for this to work.  I don't believe the older versions will shoot tethered without additional software being used.  Also, if you're going to be doing this a lot, make sure that the computer you are tethering to has a calibrated display.  This is important because if you're going to be editing, you want to make sure you have the most accurate view of your photo as possible, so that when you're finished editing, your photos will look their best on any monitor.

If you want to learn more about shooting tethered with Lightroom 3, check out Scott Kelby's book on Lightroom 3, videos on Kelby Training, or Matt Kloskowski's blog Lightroom Killer Tips.

As far as my rig above goes, I based this off of Joe McNally's setup with a few changes.  First off, if you're going to use a rig like this, make sure you have a VERY sturdy, strong tripod to mount this setup.  The arm that supports my camera and laptop is the new Vanguard Multi Mount Utility bar.  Manfrotto also makes one, but its almost twice the price.  The head I have my camera mounted on is simply the head from my tripod.  I would however recommend a nice ballhead as opposed to the type I'm currently using.  It makes articulating the camera easier, and is lighter weight.  Vanguard makes a nice one that is also priced right.  The platform for my laptop is actually one I made of plate aluminum with a simple hole drilled in the center to mount it.  I use velcro to secure the laptop on the platform, but if you would prefer to buy one, Gitzo makes a nice one, and so far is the cheapest I've seen.

So that's basically it, and if you know some more cool Lightroom tips for shooting tethered, please sound off in the comments, I'm still learning myself!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Holiday Gift Guide 2011!!!

Its that time of year again!  Time to battle the crowds, the slow servers, the traffic, the weather and other shoppers.  Its almost like an Indiana Jones movie, The Quest for the Holy Christmas Present!

If you have a photographer in your life that you need to buy something for, maybe this list will help.  Every year I try to compile a photographer's Christmas wish list of reasonable priced items that would appeal to most photographers, without breaking the bank!

This year's list has some "oldies but goodies" and also some new items that just came out this year.  Also, every product on this list, I currently use or would like to have.  I don't recommend items that I don't like, wouldn't want or don't have any experience with.  Hopefully though, this list will give you some good ideas!

More after the jump!