Tag Archives: photography

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Set the Scene

We’ve all gotten used to using filters and camera apps on our smartphones to produce interesting photography for our social-media lives. But if you’ve still got a separate stand-alone camera and are only using it in its Automatic setting (where you just snap the photo and go with minimal fuss), you may be missing out on some handy built-in shooting and exposure modes that can give your photos more zing when you actually take them.

modedialMost decent point-and-shoot models have these modes, which you can usually find on a dial or in a menu in the camera’s controls. On the dial at the top of your camera, you may find settings for Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual and whatnot. There may also be a dial setting to take you into Scene Mode — or you may find that in one of the camera’s menus. The scene modes have names like Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Macro, Night and so on. The names typically refer to the type of photo you’re trying to take, and the camera’s settings are adjusted accordingly.

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Take Portrait mode, the one you would use when you’re trying to capture an image of someone in the middle of the frame. In most cases, switching to Portrait mode will have the camera switch to a large aperture to narrow the depth of field — which means your subject is nicely in focus and commanding attention, but the background and any distracting elements are blurred.

Other modes adjust the flash, shutter speed, exposure settings and more to capture the gist of the situation. Sports mode, for example, kicks up the shutter speed to capture more of the action in focus.

Your camera’s instruction manual should have a full explanation of the settings and shooting modes your model offers. (Some of the better cameras even have an automatic setting that picks the scene mode for you based on the shooting conditions it senses.) If you’ve chucked or lost your manual, worry not.
You can usually find copies:

On the manufacturer’s website. Look for a PDF download — Canon, NikonSony and others usually have them posted.

• In the app store you use with your mobile device. You might luck into a free electronic version or manual viewer.

Around the Web. The comprehensive  ManualsOnline.com quite possibly may have your model’s guidebook.

Or, you could do what many nerds do: Just fiddle around and press buttons until you get the machine to do what you want.

PTJ 142 News: You’ve Got Sale!

This has been quite a year for mergers and acquisitions — or at least attempts thereof. This week, Verizon Communications announced it was buying AOL. Inc. for $4.4 billion dollars. AOL Inc. produces digital content and advertising and claims to be the 4th largest online property in the United States with 200 million customers.  The Huffington Post is expected to be spun off, but Verizon should keep some spare cash handy — the company also needs to pay $90 million to settle a US government probe into unauthorized charges on customer bills.

No more grand Windows OS launches? Microsoft is changing the way it does these things and says  Windows 10 is going to be its last major revision of the system. At the Microsoft Ignite conference in Chicago this week, Microsoft development executive Jerry Nixon said that going forward, Windows will stop being a standalone system with and become a service, with updates and improvements rolling out regularly.

androidMIt’s developer conference season at last! The Google I/O 2015 Conference is later this month, May 28th and 29th at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. (There may also be a celebration of Google’s self-driving car program, which has now covered 1.7 million miles and only been involved in 11 minor accidents — and none of them was the Google car’s fault.) Attendees are expected to get  the inside scoop on things like on Android M, the next version of Google’s mobile operating system, Android Auto for car infotainment, the Chrome operating system for netbooks, Google TV, wearables and other projects. Then Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference rolls into town 12 days later, starting June 8th and running through the 12th.

If fancy Apple computers aren’t in your budget, keep your eyes peeled for the CHIP (shown below), the new $9 computer envisioned by a startup called Next Thing Co.  A funding drive to build CHIP went up on Kickstarter this week with a pledged goal of $50,000 needed to buy components in bulk. As of this week, the project was closing in on $1.1 million.

CHIP

If you hate those unintentional selfies from taking pictures through windows, you’ll be glad to know that the smart folks at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology now have an algorithm for that. The algorithm can sense discreet dual reflections from double-paned windows and remove them from the image. The MIT team will be presenting their findings next month at the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference in Boston.

The Warner Music Group released is second-quarter earnings report this week and had one bit of surprising news: music-streaming revenue surpassed music-download revenue, as the press released stated it “for the first time in the history of our recorded music business.” Fluke or paradigm shift? Time will tell.

There’s a new social network in town (and in beta) and it’s designed for members of the build-it yourself maker community to show off projects and share knowledge. The new site is called MakerSpace and it’s the official community for Maker Faire.

firefox-logoMozilla released Version 38 of the Firefox browser this week. In addition to the usual bug fixes and speed bumps, Firefox 38 now includes integration with the Adobe Content Decryption Module to play back copy-restricted content within the HTML 5 video tag. This could let users watch DRM-enabled content in Firefox — although only on the Windows version of the browser at the moment.

Microsoft is making it easier for more people to try the preview of the new Skype Translator for Windows 8.1 and Windows 10.  While the original version required interested users to sign up for the software, Microsoft had removed that bit of electronic paperwork and now you can just go to the site and download it to get yapping with someone in another language.

Google’s director for law enforcement and information security, along with one of the company’s lawyers, did a Reddit Ask Me Anything last week and during the course of the question and answer session, it was revealed that Google does not use end-to-end encryption for its Google Hangout chats. So yeah, those Hangouts could, in theory, be wiretapped by government request.

And finally, from the Department of This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, Google announced this week that it had to temporarily shut down the online Map Maker component that lets users add their own content to Google Maps due to vandalism. The service has been plagued with pranks and obscenities in recent months, including an image of the green Android taking a leak in the Apple logo and an area of the White House called Edward’s Snow Den. Google said earlier this year that it planned to build a spam protection system into Map Maker, but perhaps it’s time step up those efforts. If they can make a self-driving car, how about a self-driving map bot that cruises the site looking for the naughty edits?

mapmaker

A Snapshot of Photos for OS X

Apple released an update for Yosemite earlier this month, and this new OS X 10.10.3 boots the crusty, trusty old iPhoto program out of the Dock to make room for a new app simply called Photos for OS X. (The new software is also intended to replace Aperture, Apple’s higher-end management tool for professional photographers.) To start using it, just click the new rainbow Photos icon in the Dock and walk through the Welcome and Setup screens Apple has provided to get your Mac’s existing pictures introduced to Photos for OS X.

welcome

So how is Photos for OS X the same — or different — from iPhoto?

If you use iOS 8, the new Photos for OS X visually looks quite similar. Same white background and borderless thumbnail images. Same browsing by groupings known as Moments, Collections and Years. Same importing powers to pull all the images off your camera card, phone or tablet into the computer’s picture library.

If you turn it on, though, there’s now online syncing and storage between your computer and iOS devices with the iCloud Photo Library in the sky. These photos are stored in your iCloud account at their original size and resolution too, so there’s so inferior quality for the uploaded versions. But remember, big photos mean big file sizes and that free 5 gigabytes of space you get with an iCloud account will get eaten up a lot faster. So you may want to acquaint yourself with Apple’s price list for additional iCloud storage.

iPhoto devotees who need to supply steady pictures of grandchildren to eager grandparents may be relieved to know you can still create photo books and other picture gifts through the new Photos program. You also have new printing options for square and panoramic shapes.

You can move around your library and navigate using the Photos, Shared, Albums, and Projects tabs at the top of the screen, And yes, you still have the cropping, color-adjustment tools, filters and other photo-editing sliders to make your pictures look better. Finding and using the tools just may take a little extra effort at first.

iphototools

Apple did throw a few features overboard to make way for the new stuff. For example, although your ratings are preserved for older photos, you can’t apply star ratings to pictures anymore and have to make do with the Favorites heart.

But what about the people who hate change, forced upgrades or having to hang ten on the learning curve? Even though the update sticks a Photos icon in your dock  — and removes iPhoto or Aperture from view — the actual programs are still in your Mac’s Applications folder. If you choose to go back and dig up your old editor, the Mac asks if you want to open your library there or in the Photos app. Keep in mind that any changes or edits you make in iPhoto or Aperture do not appear in Photos, and vice versa.

iPhoto was getting a little long in the tooth, and those of you with large picture libraries probably had some issues with sluggishness. So even though the user interface is pretty different, give it a try first. Apple even has a quick-start guide on its site to help you through the transition.

And if you hate it? Off to the Applications folder to dig out your old mothballed program of choice.

Episode 59: Welcome to SNARK WEEK!

This week J.D. shares tips on how to use the web to get the perfect digital camera then she and Pedro discuss the recent announcement that veteran British actor Peter Capaldi will take a turn as the time travelling Time Lord, Doctor Who. In the news Comcast is working on a new system urging users to download copyrighted material legally; CBS and Time Warner Cable continue their Battle of the Gargantuans; Samsung maybe inching closer to unveiling a smartwatch; the FBI may be targeting Firefox users on the TOR network; and not even your toilet is immune from the hacking scourge.

Snap Decisions

Digital cameras are great, but there are so many of them out there and photo quality varies greatly among the different makes and models. If you’re in the market for a new camera and want to see samples of what a particular device can do, check out the Flickr Camera Finder page. Here, you can find the most popular camera models in the Flickr community and see what the serious photogs are toting. (Flickr has graphs on the Camera Finder page that break it down even further, for the most popular cameraphone and point-and-shoot cameras.) Click on a model or brand on the Camera Finder page to see sample photos taken by that type of camera — thanks to the EXIF tags embedded in the posted photos.

Like Flickr and want to hang around? Not only do you get a ton of free space to host and post your pix, you can join photography groups that display and discuss photos on specific topics or themes — like the New York City subway system, fruit portraits or Kermit the Frog in action. Not sure what’s out there? You can search for groups by keyword. The groups you join will have their own discussions among the members, where you can chat with your fellow photographers on technique and tips.

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Flickr also has a blog that highlights different themes, photography-related news or picture sets. (Flickr’s developers have their own coder blog as well.) If you want to see photo samples form around the world, there’s also the Flickr Commons, a collection of pictures from international photography archives.

Reading thorough reviews of new camera models can also give you a good understanding of each one’s strengths and weaknesses. Check out the Steve’s Digicams site, which also posts product news and announcements about services and software. The Photo.Net site has camera reviews, photographer forums and how-to articles, as does Digital Photography Review.

Doing your homework this way may take some time, but hey, it’s not like you have to go find a parking spot at the mall and spend the day fiddling with demo models. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a thousand words of well-written review or tutorial might just help you take a better picture.