Saturday, July 25, 2015

A Year Ago on Boost Your Photography


Consider joining in the Boost Your Photography: 52 Weeks Challenge! Our focus for July was on the elements of visual design in photography. In August we will be looking at shooting modes. Join the Google+ Community to share your weekly photographs and receive feedback.

2014:

  • Demystifying the Histogram. Learn how to use your histogram to adjust your shooting in the field and get exactly the image you want. This post also presents examples of specific types of histograms and the images that produce them.




2013:
  • Long Exposure Photography at the Fair(e). A fair or carnival is an incredible opportunity to practice your long exposure photography. Bring along a tripod, and entire world of light and photographs awaits you! Read the full article for detailed suggestions and "how to" instructions.
  • Keeping Your Camera and Sensor Clean. The post lays out everything you need to do (and have) to keep your camera and especially your camera sensor clean, from basic day-to-day maintenance and prevention to what happens when you end up with a whole mess of dust and grime on your sensor (like in the photo above). Read on for the full details.
  • Spring Roundup. The very first round up, this one covered all of the posts from the first quarter of Boost Your Photography, all in one place!

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Newborn Photography Roundup

In addition to the recent posts about newborn photography here on BYP, I also wanted to draw your attention to several related posts that I have written over at Craftsy. This post provides a quick summary and roundup of both the Craftsy and BYP newborn photography posts.

Newborn Photography Posts at Craftsy




Quick and Simple Backdrops for Newborn Photography. Everything you wanted to know about backdrops for newborn photography - and maybe then some. Want my recommendation? I shoot with a backdrop stand made by Square Perfect that is featured in the article. Or, get inventive and make your own - here's DIY plans from Digital Photography School.



Tips for Easy Newborn Photography Props. Inexpensive and creative ideas for how to find props suitable for newborn photography. Also includes important advice about other newborn photography must-haves.



Newborn Photography Safety Tips. Important advice about safety and simple practical steps to ensure a smooth newborn photography session.


Craftsy Ultimate Guide to Newborn Photography. This ultimate guide is a roundup of all the other newborn photography-related posts on Craftsy. More than a half-dozen great articles on how to shoot newborns, families, and even maternity shots.

Newborn Photography Posts at BYP


Easy Setup for Formal Newborn Photography. Find out how to use that backdrop to setup and capture incredible newborn photographs. Detailed behind-the-scenes included.


3 Month Baby Portrait Ideas. Collection of shots from a recent photo shoot with this adorable 3-month old and her parents. Ideas and inspiration for posing and types of shots.

More posts coming soon! Have questions about newborn photography? Leave your thoughts in the comments - they just might inspire a new post.





Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR is now available from Amazon. Get the most out of your camera with practical advice about the technical and creative aspects of DSLR photography that will have you taking beautiful pictures right away.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Best Options for Printing Your Photographs


This post provides the results of a head-to-head comparison of six online photography retailers. The previous post in this series provided details about each of the companies. The next post will explore different media for printing your photographs (types and styles of paper and finishes).

Comparison of Online Printing Labs


I ordered a comparison set of 10 images from 6 different retailers in several different finishes. I was honestly a bit surprised at how widely some of the print results differed. (Apologies for the vertical and horizontal lines across the comparison images. These were a result of the scanner used. All similar images were scanned at the same time, however, to eliminate differences resulting from the scanner.)


I choose this photograph of Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park for its vivid colors and dramatic sky. I was curious to see how the different prints would handle both the range of colors as well as the range of tones in the sky.

As you can see from the comparisons, Pro DPI and Nations rendered a similar blue in the sky and contrasts in the clouds, while Mpix and Shutterfly lightened and brightened both the sky and clouds slightly. Target added an almost greenish hue to the sky, while Walgreens is the lightest, with a portion of the clouds blown out to white.


This comparison focuses in on the various orange terraces. All prints differed in their interpretation of both the colors and clarity of details in this section of the image. Pro DPI softened the contrast, while Mpix has a more accurate representation. The Nations print is extremely soft and nearly muddled, while Shutterfly is overly contrasty and has too much white. The Target print is washed out and dull, and Walgreens is overly shadowed and dark.


Photographs of people, and especially tiny people, are some of the nearest and dearest to our hearts. Thus, it was a bit shocking to see how poorly some of these baby prints came out. The Mpix print, while still a little brighter and oranger, came the closest. The Pro DPI and Nations prints came out darker and a bit more gray. The backgrounds for Shutterfly, Target, and Walgreens turned gray and lost the warm tones, while the face became varying degrees of dark and shadowy.

Comparison of Print Size and Cropping


A final consideration is print size and cropping. One might intuitively think that if you are ordering a 4 x 6" print, then you will receive a print that measures four by six inches, but that is not always the case. Both Pro DPI and Nations provided prints that measured exactly 4 x 6 inches. The prints from Mpix were slightly larger at 4 x 6 1/16 inches. Target and Walgreens provided slightly smaller prints at 4 x 5 31/32 inches and 3 15/16 x 6 inches, respectively. Shutterfly's prints were the smallest at 4 x 5 7/8 inches.


In addition to changing the size of the print slightly, each photo lab cropped the provided image. In the graphic above, the gray square represents one-half inch. The Nations prints contained the least amount of cropping from the original image, followed closely by Mpix and Pro DPI. Shutterfly, Target, and Walgreens all lost substantially more of the edges of the original image. (Keep in mind that this cropping also occurs along the other edges of the image as well, as demonstrated by the Walgreens crop, relative to the submitted image.)


And the winner is ...


Given all the various factors, in my book Mpix is the winner. Pro DPI had very good results, but at two to three times the cost of the other retailers, the higher prices do not seem worth it, especially if you are planning to print a large quantity of 4x6s for an album or scrapbook.

Nations was a close runner up. Because I do not have a color-corrected monitor, I appreciate that Mpix includes color correction as part of the cost of the prints. If you have already color-corrected your prints, then you may prefer Nations, though I do felt like many of the prints from them lacked clarity and were less crisp than others.

If I was in a hurry and need photographs printed immediately, I would go with Target, but be warned. Their online ordering applet is buggy, and if their machine goes down, it will likely be down for days or a week, as they do not have in-store (or even in-town, it seems) technicians. With both Mpix and Nations, prints arrived extremely quickly, within 4-5 days of ordering even without paying for expedited shipping, so you really do not need to plan that far in advance.

Want the specific details about each of the retailers, including print options and current pricing? Check out the first post in this series, Comparing Online Photo-Printing Companies. The next post in this series will discuss some of the different photo finishes available.





Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR is now available from Amazon. Get the most out of your camera with practical advice about the technical and creative aspects of DSLR photography that will have you taking beautiful pictures right away.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

A Year Ago on Boost Your Photography

2014:

  • An Introduction to Aperture. To get the shot you want, you need to understand what aperture is and what it can do for you. This post lays out a quick overview of aperture, including a description of the graphic above, and provides links to more detailed posts.

  • An Introduction to Filters in Photography. Filters serve many purposes, from protecting your lens to making skies pop to creating incredible effects. Find out how and why to use the most common types of filters, including UV, circular polarizers, and a variety of neutral density filters.

  • Strategic White Balance. White balance is so much more than a "set it and forget it" camera setting. Find out how to use white balance strategically to capture incredible photographs!

2013:
  • Stacking Photographs: Star Trails and Beyond. An overview of the technique of "stacking" multiple photographs to create extremely long exposures. This technique is commonly used with star trails, as pictured above, but has other applications. All you need is your camera, a tripod, a remote, and a free piece of software to create amazing results!
  • How Long Does Your Camera's Battery Last? Do you know the answer to this simple but important question? Read on for an easy technique for tracking your camera's battery life. Never get stuck with a surprise dead battery again!

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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Comparing Online Photo-Printing Companies


There are many options available online for printing your photographs, but they are not all created equal. This is the first post in a series about comparing online photo-printing labs and companies. This post provides some background about the six retailers compared. The next post will provide direct head-to-head comparisons of the photo printing results.

The Nitty-Gritty Details about Online Photo-Printing Companies


(Note, all prices were current as of the publication of this article, July 2015. Please check individual sites for current pricing.)

ProDPI

ProDPI is a professional-photography-focused company, but I included it in my review because it received top marks from another photography print review. Registering for the site includes a question about the name and web site of your photography business, but it is apparently not required for you to be a pro photographer.

Standard 4x6 prints are available for $0.69 each with a luster finish. Shipping is free for orders over $12 (and orders must be a minimum of $12 or will be rounded up to $12). Color correction is an additional $0.75 per image.

Nations Photo Lab

Nations bills itself as a high-quality print company for professional and hobbyist photographers alike. Photography prints are available, as are a wide-range of photography gifts, photo books, canvas wraps, frames, and more. Online ordering is available through a standard web-based upload as well as a downloaded upload program (a ROES, remote order entry system).

Standard 4x6 prints are available in both lustre and glossy finishes, starting at $0.27 each. Print upgrade options include metallic prints ($0.34 each) and linen texture (add $0.11 each). Color correction is also available (add $0.11-0.13 each). Shipping starts at $3.95 but is free for orders over $50.

Mpix

Mpix is the consumer-focused arm of professional photographing printing site Miller's. Mpix offers photography prints in addition to photography gifts, photo books, canvas wraps, and more. Online ordering is available through a standard web-based upload.

Standard 4x6 prints are available on e-surface paper, starting at $0.29 each and that includes color correction. (You may choose a "do not color correct" option when ordered.) Metallic prints and "true black and white" (matte finish) start at $0.59 each. Upgrades include a a luster coating is an additional $0.44 per image. Shipping starts at $3.95.

There is also an "economy" option for 4x6 prints for $0.19 which does not include color correction or any other upgrade options. Economy prints also come with a caution that they are "not eligible for reprinting due to brightness, color, or contrast issues."

Shutterfly

Shutterfly is a popular online photo retailer that sells a wide range of photography-related products, including prints, gifts, photo books, canvas wraps, cards, and invitations. Online ordering is available through a standard web-based upload.

Standard 4x6 prints are available in glossy or matte finishes for $0.15 each. There is an option to add a personalized message to the back of prints (but I have never had this actually work). You can either have prints shipped to you or pick them up at a local retailer, including Target ($0.19 each), Walgreens ($0.29 each or $0.20 each over 50 prints), and CVS ($0.29 each). Shipping charges and coupons only apply to online orders, not in-store pickups. (Coupon codes are frequent and generous, if you subscribe to their newsletter.)

(Note: Snapfish is another online photo retailer, similar to Shutterfly. I did not include Snapfish in this comparison because I had several quality problems with products from them.)

Target

Target Photo also offers its own photo-printing web site, where you can order prints to be shipping to you or to be picked up in store. Online ordering is available through an (oft-buggy) web-based upload.

Standard 4x6 prints are available for $0.19 in store (glossy only) or $0.15 when shipping, in either matte or glossy finishes. Luster is available for an additional $0.20 per print. Shipping starts at $1.75.

Walgreens

Walgreens Photo offers online print-to-store and shipped options. Online ordering is available through a web-based upload.

Standard 4x6 prints are available for $0.29 each in store or $0.12 each shipped. Glossy prints are available in-store and shipped, while matte finish is only available shipped. Shipping starts at $0.99 for five or less prints and rises from there.

And the winner is ...

Check out the next post, Best Options for Printing Your Photographs, which provides a head-to-head comparison of the printed results from all six labs.





Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR is now available from Amazon. Get the most out of your camera with practical advice about the technical and creative aspects of DSLR photography that will have you taking beautiful pictures right away.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Easy Setup for Formal Newborn Photography

Captured using setup and blanket shown below

There are two main types of newborn photography: posed, formal portraits, often shot against a backdrop and informal or lifestyle photographs of the newborn and family, usually shot in their home using the home itself as the backdrop. This post will focus on the formal style of shots, and a later post will provide tips for lifestyle newborn photography.

Set-Up for Newborn Photography


The key to formal newborn photographs is using a backdrop. You can either buy a backdrop stand or make one yourself out of PVC. You want something that is portable and easy to assemble and disassemble as most newborn sessions are done in the family's home. (I use a backdrop stand made by Square Perfect that comes with a carrying case and that I can set up or take down in under 4 minutes. See the stand I use here.)

Where you set up for your shoot will depend on the house and especially on the windows and position of the sun. Newborn photography works best with natural light. You do not want to use your flash on an infant! Look for a room in the house with large windows and ample natural light. Bedrooms work especially well, as you can use the bed for posing.


For this particular shoot, we were using the main family room and the large, sturdy coffee table as our base. You can see a big, fuzzy blanket pinned to the backdrop stand and draped over the coffee table. Though it is hard to discern in this image, the backdrop is angled towards the windows, which wrap all the way behind where I am standing to take this picture.

The basket has a heavy cookbook in the bottom for stability and then blankets rolled up inside for comfort - the roll at one end makes a bit of a pillow to elevate the baby's head. Pillows and additional blankets were placed on top of the coffee table and underneath the backdrop when photographing the baby without the basket.


The image above was taken during this shoot using the backdrop exactly as shown. For the formal family shots, I switched to a black background, and the parents simply sat on the coffee table. Always make sure that you have a backdrop that is large enough for everyone.


Want to learn more about newborn photography? Click here to see the other posts in this series. What else do you want to know? Leave a question in the comments below, and it could be featured in a future post!





Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR is now available from Amazon. Get the most out of your camera with practical advice about the technical and creative aspects of DSLR photography that will have you taking beautiful pictures right away.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Year Ago on Boost Your Photography



Consider joining in the Boost Your Photography: 52 Weeks Challenge! Our focus for July is photography basics. Join the Google+ Community to share your weekly photographs and receive feedback. New members are always welcome!

2014:

  • Quick Tips for Better Fireworks Photographs. With July right around the corner, what better time to brush up on your techniques for photographing fireworks! This post lays out everything you need to know, including suggestions for equipment and settings.
  • Composition: Orientation. Do you think about why you hold your camera the way that you do? Find out how to use orientation intentionally, whether you are shooting horizontally or vertically.

  • Composition: Framing. You can use other elements in your image to frame your main subject. Find out how to use framing to make an impact in your photographs!


2013:



  • Travel Photography: Make a Shot List. Traveling at all this summer? Be sure that you come home with all of the shots that you want - find out why and how to make a shot list and get all of the photographs that you are after.

  • Postcards from Rainier. A photo-walk through of a recent trip to Mount Rainier National Park, including some thoughts about how to make the best of the photography situations that you encounter when traveling.


  • Make the Shot: Spoon Reflection Photography. Have a camera? Have a spoon? Have a great time getting some creative shots using spoon reflections. This how to posts gives you all the tips you need to know to get great shots like the one above.


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