December 6, 2011

Off Season

Yesterday (and this afternoon) we enjoyed some sunny skies on our recent snowfall. So I went out to make some photos. Behind the elementary school near my home is a complex of baseball fields, now all shut down for the season. I hope my photos capture the feeling of the end of the season. Enjoy!

If you'd like to learn some tips for making better photos in winter conditions, check out my night classes in Missoula at The Lifelong Learning Center. Registration for next quarter is now open.

November 27, 2011

Winter Classes in Missoula, Montana

Winter Aspen

Just updated my course list for winter quarter 2012 at the Lifelong Learning Center in Missoula. Registration begins Tuesday, November 29. Register early to be sure to get your seat.

Click here for online registration.

Making the Most of Your Digital Camera
  • Mondays, 3-5 pm, January 9 – February 6
  • Thursdays, 6:30-8:30 pm, January 12 – February 9
  • Saturday, 9am-6pm, January 28 (8 hours)
  • Tuesdays, 6:30-8:30pm, February 21- March 20, Frenchtown High School

Taking the Next Step with Your Digital Camera
Saturday, 9am – 6pm, February 4 

Better Winter Photography
Wednesdays & Saturdays, 6:30-8:30pm, January 11-25

Winter Swing

Creating Better People Photos 
Saturday, 9am – 4 pm, March 3

Better Photo Composition
Thursdays,  3-5pm, February 16 – March 8

Making Better Close-up Photos
Wednesdays & Saturdays, 6:30-8:30pm, February 1 – 15

Black and White Photography
Tuesdays, 6:30-8:30pm, January 24 – February 14

Mission Mountains, Montana

Advanced Black and White Photography
Thursdays, 6-9pm, February 16 – March 15

Digital Photography Certificate

Enjoy photographing holiday events and winter scenes!

November 25, 2011

Zone System for Digital Photography

Pintler Mountain Range, Montana

Here in Missoula, Montana, we are extremely fortunate to be enjoying an exhibit of original black and white prints by famed landscape photographer Ansel Adams at the Missoula Art Museum. There has been a very well attended series of free Saturday tours of the show by a variety of photographers in the area. However, there's no lecture this weekend (Thanksgiving holiday in the US). So I thought I would share a link I found that does an excellent job of outlining the basics of applying the Zone System (developed by Adams and Fred Archer in 1939) to color digital photography.

Landscape photographer Michael Frye has written an article for Outdoor Photographer magazine called "The Digital Zone System." In it Frye describes the basic concepts of the Zone System. Then he explains how to meter and expose a digital color photo to capture the most information possible. He concludes with a short explanation of controlling contrast using the Curves command, exposure blending, and HDR techniques. Take a look at this article and visit his web gallery for more stunning images.

Mule Ranch Vista, Montana

November 14, 2011

For Beginning Strobists --- aka Hot-Shoe Flash

Off camera flash bounced from white card

If you're interested in learning to make better pictures using a supplemental flash for your digital SLR camera, look no further than David Hobby's blog The Srobist. Here's a video that gives a very basic run-down on what a "strobe" is and some of the accessories and techniques possible. Check it out!

November 10, 2011

Great Slideshow of Autumn Reflections

Along the Clark Fork River, Missoula, Montana

I recently visited the New York Institute of Photography's blog and discovered this great slideshow of autumn reflections set to music. May it inspire you to create your own autumn reflections.

November 6, 2011

An Informal Review of Canon Professional Cameras & Lenses

My good friend John Snell recently wrote me an email describing the Canon equipment he has used in his business as a nature & equine photographer in Lexington, Kentucky. It was so informative that I asked and received his permission to reproduce it here. Enjoy!

Canon Professional Equipment by John Snell

I have the 5D (full frame and approximately 13 megapixels [mp]), 5D Mark II (full frame and 21.1 mp) and the 7D (1.6 crop factor, 18 mp and 8 frames/second). I have owned the 1D Mark II (1.3 crop factor, 8.3 mp and 10 frames/second) and 1Ds Mark II (full frame, 16.7 mp).

I had no fault with the 1Ds. I have made prints up to 54" tall with amazing sharpness, and even the Red River Gorge book cover (Red River Gorge: The Eloquent Landscape by John Snell, Acclaim Press, 2006), which I shot at ISO 400, f/4 for 4 minutes 15 seconds, enlarged excellently with no noticeable noise.

The 1D Mark II was a good sports camera, but I never was able to enlarge any of my photos from it beyond 16x24 with sufficient sharpness. I used it primarily for my sports work, most often at Keeneland [horse racing track in Lexington, KY]. Occasionally, when I needed the extra 30% reach, I would use this camera. But I wonder if I should have used the 1Ds Mark II and cropped in. Probably I would have gotten a sharper image. And [even] with the 1.3 crop sensor of the 1D Mark II, I didn't see any noise
issues there.

The 5D is a great camera. At approximately 13 mp and full frame, it gave me a great backup for the 1Ds Mark II. In some ways, I felt it produced images that could be enlarged as much as those shot with its "big brother."

I loved the full frame cameras because they allowed me full range of the 17-40mm zoom lens. As you know, [natural rock] arch photography in the Red River Gorge requires up close shooting with wide lenses, so I could not sacrifice any of the wide reach of that lens when shooting there.

Princess Arch, Red River Gorge, KY

Now we come to the 5D Mark II. Exceptional! I often shoot it at 400 ISO without hesitation and rarely see noise at that ISO setting. About the largest print I've made from it to date is 40", but that's mostly because I don't want to spend the money to make "speculation prints" that are cumbersome to transport/exhibit and expensive to mount, mat, stretch and/or frame. I feel that whenever I need to shoot at even higher ISO settings, I can do so with the 5D Mark II.

I did get noise at 3200 ISO the other night in the Smokies. But the noise cleaned up pretty well with Imagenomic's Noiseware plug-in [for Photoshop]. The key to using the higher ISO settings is to absolutely not underexpose! You need to squeeze every bit of brightness possible out of those images without blowing out highlights. Histogram to the right. Histogram to the right....[Note: An exposure technique for raw format images that favors overexposing so the histogram is shifted to the right (brighter) but not so far as to clip highlight details. --- Editor]

The 7D is my current sports camera, and I also use it when I need the extra 60% reach. I'm not as prone to shoot it at ISO higher than 400 as I am the 5D Mk II, because it does show more noise. The Keeneland shot with the white horse was taken with my 70-200 f/2.8 lens at 70mm and ISO of 1000, I think. There is some noise. But the shot is well exposed, so the noise cleans up nicely.

White Horse at Keeneland Race Track, Lexington, KY by John Snell

I love the 60% more reach the 7D gives me. When added to my 300mm f/2.8 lens and 1.4x teleconverter, it gives me the equivalent of a whopping 672mm f/4 lens, which is not only great for sports photography, but landscapes as well. I'll often use my 70-200mm f/4 lens as a pseudo macro lens by putting it on the 7D. I don't know what the enlargement factor is...nowhere near 1:1...but it has allowed me to shoot some closeups of flowers and other small subjects without having to carry my 100mm macro lens along. I have made tack sharp 20x30 prints from the 7D, and am confident I can go even larger.

Magnolia blossom unopened by John Snell

None of these remarks are the result of scientific analysis on my part. They're just personal observations.

----John Snell, Lexington, KY

October 13, 2011

Ansel Adams' Prints in Missoula, Montana

Yosemite High Country Above Tenaya Lake

Last Friday, October 7, marked the opening of a special exhibit at the Missoula Art Museum. Ansel Adams: A Legacy is a private collection of over 130 original prints by the black & white photography master. If you live anywhere within driving distance of Missoula, Montana, I strongly encourage you to visit this exhibition. Seeing master prints in person is a completely different experience from seeing them online or in a book. Admission and all events are free.

Yosemite Valley with Bridal Veil Falls at Sunset from Inspiration Point

One of the exhibit's sponsors is the Rocky Mountain School of Photography in Missoula, whose founder Neil Chaput de Saintonge studied with Adams in the 1970's in Yosemite. In honor of RMSP's participation in this event, they have posted a series of informative and interesting articles on their blog. Below are links to my favorites. You may also want to explore the links to online catalogs of Ansel Adams' images that are included in these posts.

Enjoy this feast!

Ansel's Yosemite

Neil and Ansel

A Bit of Ansel Adams Trivia

Ansel Adams: Gearhead?
Olmsted Point in Yosemite at Sunset

October 3, 2011

Basic Photo Student Slide Show

Had a great time teaching these folks last month under perfect weather in Missoula, Montana. Take a look at the great images they made!

Student Favorites from Basic Photo 2011

Tips for photographing dogs, my favorite source for camera info, has begun a new section where guests can post articles on other photography related topics. Most recent is a very good article on making interesting pictures of dogs. Check it out!

How to Take Beautiful Pictures of Your Dog

September 23, 2011

Fall Classes in Missoula, MT

Autumn Cottonwoods, Bannack State Park, Montana

Just updated my course list for fall quarter at the Lifelong Learning Center in Missoula. There's still room in the following classes. If you're interested but the section has already started, contact me directly. I may be able to get you in.

Click here for online registration.

Making the Most of Your Digital Camera
Tuesdays, 3-5pm, September 20-October 18
Saturday, 9-5pm, September 24

Taking the Next Step with Your Digital Camera
Mondays, 6:30-8:30pm, September 19-October 24

Advanced Digital Camera
Wednesdays, 6:30-8:30pm, October 19-November 23

Landscape Photo Critique
Thursdays & Saturdays, 6:30-8:30pm, September 22-October 6

People Photos: Casual & Candid
Co-instructor Bret Tate
Thursdays, 6:30-8:30pm, October 13-November 3

Shooting & Processing Digital Camera Raw Files
Mondays, 6-9pm, October 31-November 21

Enjoy photographing fall colors!

August 30, 2011

What do you want to see in my 2012 calendar?

For the last  six years, I've put together a small calendar of photos for friends and family. It's time once again to start that process, as I was reminded when I saw 2012 calendars for sale in Barnes & Noble!

So this time you get to help with the project. I'm looking for suggestions on a new theme. Past calendars have featured trees, flowers, sunrises & sunsets, Glacier National Park, night lights, waterfalls. 

Post a comment or send me an email with your favorite calendar theme. If I select your idea, you'll win a free calendar. 

See images from previous calendars.

July 23, 2011

Interested in Buying a Photo Quality Printer?

Then you'll want to head over to my favorite camera review site DPreview. They have just launched a printer review feature and begin with a comparison of three multi-function printers from Canon, Epson and Hewlett-Packard. There are also two great articles on the types of photo printers available and suggestions for getting the most from your new photo printer. Check this out!

dpreview printer hub

July 16, 2011

Revisiting Photographing in Bright, Midday Sun

Photographed with Sunny 16 exposure

A few weeks ago I posted a short article with links to information about how to get good exposures in bright sunlight. One of the techniques I didn't include was a method of exposing for photographs called "Sunny 16". This technique requires a camera that lets you set the ISO, aperture (lens opening) and shutter speed (time) manually. Using the Sunny 16 "rule", you ignore your camera's meter and set the controls for exposure according to the Sunny 16 guidelines.

I learned about Sunny 16 from Neil Chaput de Saintonge, founder & owner of the Rocky Mountain School of Photography. Much to my delight, he has republished his article describing how to apply this technique on the school's blog. Check out the series of articles and give Sunny 16 a try while we enjoy the summer sun.

Sunny 16 Exposure without a Meter: Part 1

(P.S. If you ever shot Kodak film, you might recognize some of the techniques in Neil's articles as the same ones that appeared on the inside of the box.)

July 11, 2011

Want to Learn Adobe Photoshop Lightroom?

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3

Then check out Laura Shoe's Lightroom Fundamentals: Workshop on DVD. It contains 36 different videos, a total of 6.5 hours of training. Laura is an ardent fan of Lightroom and an experienced, Adobe certified instructor. I know you'll learn a lot from watching.

Congratulations, Laura!

July 5, 2011

The Height of Summer

Pushing up Poppies

A while back I posted an article that talked about photographing with a compact digital camera without looking at the screen or through the viewfinder. Well, I've been doing that again. It's a great way to turn the "lemon" of not being able to see an image on your camera's screen into "lemonade"!

I went out in the middle of the day to try my hand and camera at making good photographs in bright, midday light. I used several of the techniques listed in these articles. Since these are exactly the kind of conditions that make framing a picture with the LCD monitor difficult, I relied on "not looking" to make my photos. My goal was to make images that conveyed the feeling of dazzling bright light and the height of summer.

Swing Sunburst

To get sharp focus with my camera close to the subject, I turned on macro focusing (the little flower icon). And since I purposely was shooting into the sun, I used the fill flash (or forced flash) setting to reveal the details in the underside of the flowers.

I also set the camera to Aperture Priority exposure mode (A or Av on the exposure mode dial) and chose the largest number (for this camera f/8). In addition to helping keep everything in the image sharp, this also created the starburst effect when I included the sun in the frame.

Selphy Sun

Give these ideas a try and see what new images you can make!

July 4, 2011

Flags in America

Captain Bob's Flag, Lewistown, Montana

A colleague of mine, Larry Blackwood, has an on-going project called Patriot's Dream in which he photographs American (and sometimes Confederate) flags in unusual places. In honor of Independence Day, I'm sharing my flag photos. Celebrate the day!

Flag, Hendersonville, North Carolina

July 1, 2011

Photographing Fireworks

Fireworks, 2009

It's America's Independence Day weekend (the official day is July 4, Monday) and people and communities around the nation will be celebrating with fireworks, a tradition since 1777! It's great fun to make pictures of the pyrotechnics. You can read my original article on the subject here.

Fireworks, 2009

The pictures in this article were taken with a DSLR using a 105mm lens with a cable release on a tripod. Exposures were f/11 @ ISO 400 for 1 or 2 seconds. I actually placed the shutter speed on Bulb and held the shutter open with the cable release button for each burst. I found I could time the explosions better this way than using the camera for the length of the exposure.

These images are also heavily cropped to remove a nearby electrical pole and tree branches I failed to see in the dark! Check your surroundings before shooting!

Also check out two excellent articles from the New York Institute of Photography. They cover both the professional displays and the type of fireworks you might celebrate with in your own backyard.

Fireworks Photos or Have Fun on the Fourth of July

Fireworks Pictures: Photographing Fireworks in Your Backyard

Have fun and Be Safe!

Fireworks, 2009

June 29, 2011

Photographing in Bright, Midday Sun

Smokestack, Anaconda, Montana

The local photo club has a different topic for pictures each month. For July members have been challenged to bring photos taken in bright sunlight. I found some excellent suggestions in three articles from the Digital Photography School website. Take a look, try the suggestions and see if your midday photos improve!

June 25, 2011

Good tips for better photos from Kodak

Kanuga Canoes at Sunrise

In the days of film photography, Kodak published a number of good books offering information on how to take better pictures. These covered everything from cameras and lenses, exposure and processing film to special effects and lighting. This is just to say that Kodak is a good reliable source of how-to information.

While doing some searching online for a different subject, I came across this very good article with basic tips for better photos. I like these ideas especially because they apply to any type of camera, film or digital, simple or advanced. They are basic tips all of us can use to improve our photos.

Now that summer is here and we're all outside enjoying vacations and other activities, you'll bring back better photos if you use these suggestions. Enjoy!

Kodak's Top 10 Tips for Great Pictures

June 17, 2011

Golden Light in Lewistown, Montana II

Buildings aren't the only things that benefit from the soft, warm light of late evening and early morning.

June 15, 2011

Golden Light in Lewistown, Montana

I visited Lewistown, Montana over the weekend. After a cloudy day of intermittent rain, the skies cleared at sunset, bathing the old facades of downtown buildings in golden light.

June 10, 2011

Hanging On

Walking to work one day last month I discovered that city workers had begun to tear this ivy off a building wall. This was one of the last remaining sections. The next day it was all gone. I'd admired it for years and now it's history.

June 8, 2011

Quiet Corner

Saw this view through a window during my printing workshop last month.

May 21, 2011

Father of the Digital Camera

Without the invention of Willard Boyd, none of us would be taking photos with our phones today! Read about the man who was awarded the Nobel Prize for his invention.,0,4043815.story

April 24, 2011

Repairing Pet Eyes in Photos

Most of us love to take photos of our family and friends, including the four-legged ones. One of the disappointments is getting red-eye in our people photos and "pet-eye" in pictures of our pets. I say "pet-eye" because the discoloration can be yellow, green, blue or white, but seldom red. In both cases, the discoloration is the result of light from the camera's flash reflecting off the back of the eye and recording in the picture as a color other than dark black.

This presents a challenge when trying to fix the problem later. Nearly every photo editing program has a "red-eye tool" that efficiently removes the demon red with a click or a drag. But these tools don't work on pet-eye, as I'm sure you have discovered. The reason? The tool is programmed to find and replace only the color red, not the variations that appear in animal eyes.

But there is a remedy. The following steps describe how to turn your four-legged family members' eyes back to their adoring darkness using Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. (And you can use the technique on red eyes, too!)
  1. Open a pet portrait that shows the "pet eye" effect.
  2. Create a copy to work on.
    1. Choose File>Save As.
    2. Give the copy an understandable name, such as adding “retouch” at the end (e.g. Fido retouch).
    3. Click Save.
  3. Click on the Background layer.
  4. Create a new layer.
    1. Choose Layer > New > Layer
    2. Name it “eyes”.
    3. Click OK.
    4. In the Layers panel, change Normal blend mode to Color.
  5. Choose View > Actual Pixels. Adjust the picture to see the eyes you want to work on.
  6. Press the letter D to make the paint color black.
  7. Select the Brush tool.
    1. Choose a soft round brush.
    2. In the Options bar set the Opacity to 100%
    3. Adjust the size of the brush circle to match the eye by using the bracket keys.
      1. [ makes the circle smaller
      2. ] makes the circle larger
    4. Paint over the discolored areas in the eye.
      1. If the eye is pure white, nothing happens.
      2. In the Layers panel, change Color to Normal to see the black paint.
  8. To replace the catch light (sparkle), do the following:
    1. Press the X key to switch the foreground color to white.
    2. Make a very small soft brush.
    3. In the Options bar, set the Opacity to 10%-20%
    4. Carefully paint in the catch light, making sure both eyes match.
  9. Choose View > Fit on Screen to check the overall effect.
  10. Save your results.
Cat pet eye repair
Dog pet eye repair   
Now that you know how to fix the wrong eye color, your pets will look like regular members of the family!

April 12, 2011

Getting Sharper Photos with Hands-Free Photography

Landscape photo shot from tripod with self-timer

One of the most important criteria for excellent photography is achieving sharply focused pictures. Cameras' automatic focus systems are very good at doing this. But even if you achieve proper focus with the lens, you can still have an image that's not quite sharp. This is most often the result of the camera moving (even slightly) at the time the exposure is made.

When you are photographing a stationary subject (such as a landscape or still life close-up), you can improve your chances of creating a tack sharp photo by doing two things. First, place your camera on a tripod so you do not have to hold it. A tripod doesn't breathe or have a heartbeat, both of which make humans a moving platform. Second, don't touch the camera when you take the exposure. Here's how:

Turn on the Self-Timer
All digital cameras have a self-timer feature. This is the setting that creates a delay (usually 10 seconds but 2 seconds is available on some cameras) between the time you press the shutter button fully and when the camera takes the exposure. Most people use this feature when they want to join their family or friends in the picture. 

Standard, 10-second and 2-second Self-Timer Icons

But using the self-timer also means that at the moment of exposure, you are not touching the camera. It is taking the picture all by itself. So there is no danger of your jiggling the camera body by pushing the shutter button. As a result, you will get a sharper photo (if the subject doesn't move during the exposure).

To use the self-timer, locate the control on your camera. It may be a button on the back or top of the camera. Or you may have to access it through a menu choice. (See your camera manual if you have trouble locating it.) Once you find the control, turn it on. The self-timer icon will appear on the LCD screen or panel on your camera.

Next, frame the scene and set any exposure or white balance adjustments you want to make. Press the shutter button halfway down to confirm that the camera focuses properly. Then press it the rest of the way down. You will know you pressed the button far enough when you hear the camera beep or see a light flashing from the front of the camera. (Some cameras do both.) The camera counts down the seconds and then takes the photo. When you see the image on the back of the camera, you know the picture is finished.

After the picture is taken, check to see whether the self-timer is still turned on or whether the camera canceled the setting. This varies from camera to camera. Learn which way yours works so that you don't end up with the self-timer still active when you try to capture a moving subject!

Evening at Big Hole Lodge, Montana

Use a Remote Shutter Release
A self-timer is effective, but its drawback is that pesky delay. If you are trying to time your exposure of a wildflower to the moment between puffs of wind, then the camera's delay can be frustrating. If you're willing to spend the money for a remote shutter release, you can better control the timing of your picture, still without touching the camera body itself.

A remote shutter release (in the old days we called it a cable release) is literally a shutter button on a string or an infrared remote like the one for your television. Which one you use is dependent on your camera model. Entry level digital SLRs usually have a wireless remote while more advanced models offer the wired (cable) type.

Wired (left) and wireless (right) remote shutter release

To use the wireless remote shutter release, you have to set the camera to receive the wireless signal. This is usually associated with the self-timer feature. Turning on the self-timer/remote setting does not mean there is a delay, only that the camera is "looking" for the wireless signal instead of the shutter button being pressed. Also, you have to be at the right angle (usually in front of the camera) for the
camera sensor to see the wireless signal (just like for your TV). Check your camera manual for additional details on using the wireless remote.

If the remote shutter release is a wired version (on a cable), all you have to do is attach it to the proper socket on the side of your camera. Then it works exactly like your shutter button; no other steps are necessary.

Wired cable releases tend to be pricey for what they are, mainly because they are electronic, not mechanical. You can purchase the "official" wired remote from your camera's manufacturer. To find the model number, check the back of your camera manual under the accessories section. Or you can look for third party companies that sell compatible remotes for less money.

Using either the self-timer feature or a wireless or wired remote shutter release keeps your hands off the camera at the time of exposure and helps you take that next step to a razor sharp image.

March 21, 2011

How to View Raw Files with Old Photoshop or Elements Versions

Many of my students have new digital cameras and want to shoot and process raw files from them. But these same students have older versions of Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Photoshop Elements. When they try to view their raw files with the Bridge or Organizer, they just get a placeholder icon instead of a picture. This means that the version of Adobe Camera Raw installed on their computer does not recognize the new camera raw files.

One solution, of course, is to update Camera Raw (free from the Adobe web site). But often the new version of Camera Raw is not compatible with older versions of Photoshop or Elements. For example, the most recent version of Camera Raw is 6.3. This version only works with Photoshop CS5 or Elements 9. If you have an older version of either program, updating Camera Raw does not work for you.

But there is another solution and it's Free! If you convert your raw files from the native camera raw format (e.g. CR2 for Canon, NEF for Nikon, etc.) to Digital Negative format (DNG), any version of Adobe Camera Raw since 2.3 can display these files and allow you to process them with older Camera Raw versions. All you need is the Digital Negative Converter, available for free download from the Adobe web site. Be sure to click on the link that matches the type of computer you are using (Windows or Macintosh).

Adobe Digital Negative Converter Set-up Window

After you download and install the software, start the application to convert your files. Here's a quick set of steps to follow.
  1. Select the folder of raw images you want to convert to DNG. If some of the raw images are in subfolders, check the box to include the subfolders.
  2. Choose where the new DNG files should be saved. I recommend creating a DNG subfolder inside the original folder of raw images. So choose Save in New Location. Click on Select Folder and make a new DNG folder. If you checked the subfolders option in step one, also turn it on in this step.
  3. You can choose to give your converted files a different name than the originals, but this is optional. I suggest you leave the file naming as Document Name (which keeps the original name)  and skip this step.
  4. Last you set the preferences for the new DNG raw file. Click on Change Preferences. If you know which version of Camera Raw your old software is using, select the version number that matches. If you don't know, just stay with the default choice of Version 5.4 and later. Leave the JPG Preview as Medium Size. Do not turn on Embed the original raw file unless you plan to use the camera manufacturer's software later to work on your images. Click OK to save your choices.
  5. Double check all your choices in the Digital Negative Converter, then click the Convert button. The DNG Converter starts processing your files automatically. After it is finished, click the OK button to return to the main setup window. 
  6. You can now choose another folder of raw images to convert to DNG. Or if you're finished, click Exit to quit the program.
DNG Converter Processing Raw Files

When the conversion is completed, open Adobe Bridge or the Elements Organizer and navigate to the new folder.Your raw images should now be visible and available to be edited with whatever version of Camera Raw you have installed. 

Your original raw files are not deleted in this process. Once you confirm that the DNG raw files work for your software, you can go back and erase the original raw files (CR2, NEF, etc.) if you want to save disk space.

Adobe's Digital Negative Converter is not changing any of the content or appearance of your image. It is just changing the order in which the data is stored in the file to make it accessible. For more details about DNG files and their advantages, check out this video by Julieanne Kost.

March 14, 2011

Organizing Old Photos

Winter Horses

In an earlier post, I described a way to bring order to all the photos on your hard drive. If you missed the article, I recommend you read it before continuing with this post. In this article, I describe how to get all your old photos into the same location so it's easy to find them and back them up for safe-keeping. You should be familiar with navigating your computer to find folders and with copy and paste techniques before following the instructions in this  post.

(Remember, you can use Picasa or other software to organize your photos for you, but they will not move your pictures from their current location.)

Make a Year Folder
Since I recommend using the Pictures folder as the biggest container for your pictures, this is where we will start. And I recommend starting with the most recent old pictures first. In our example, this would be pictures taken in 2010. In other words, work backwards in time.

1. Create a 2010 folder inside your Pictures folder.

Search for Pictures by Year

2. Use the computer's Search or Find command to look for any photos made between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2010. In most cases, your digital photos will all end with the same four characters
If you add a star (*) in front of those four characters
the computer will find all photos no matter where they live.

If you have a big hard drive this may take a while. If there are lots of pictures, you may want to find just six months' worth at a time (e.g. January 1, 2010 to June 30, 2010).

Once the computer has completed the search, it will display the pictures in a window.

Put the Pictures in the Year Folder

3. From the Edit menu, choose Select All. After the pictures are highlighted (selected), go back to the Edit menu and choose Move.

4. Navigate to (locate) your Pictures folder and open the 2010 folder.

5. Click inside the 2010 folder. From the Edit menu choose Paste. The computer will move all your 2010 pictures into this folder.

At this point you can go back to your Pictures folder and make another year folder (2009). Then repeat the process described above. Or you can continue to work with the 2010 pictures to organize them inside the year folder. That's what we will do now.

Separate the Pictures by Month and Date Folders
At this point, you may not have any idea of the location, event or subject of all these (hundreds) of pictures! So it will be a little difficult to give them descriptive names as I suggested in my earlier article. But you can fairly easily group the pictures by date taken. Here's how.

1. In the year folder, choose to view the photos by "Details" so that you can see the date associated with each photo.

2. Sort the pictures by date. On a Windows or Mac computer just clicking on the word Date at the top of the column usually sorts the pictures in ascending order. Scanning through the list, you can see which pictures were all made on the same date.

3. Create a new folder with the first date, for example 01-01 for January 1st, New Year's Day.

4. Click on the first picture name with that date. Hold down the Shift key and click on the last picture name with that date. All these will be selected (highlighted).

5. From the Edit menu, choose Move.

6. Double click on the 01-01 folder to open it.

7. From the Edit menu, choose Paste. All the appropriate pictures will be moved into their new home.

8. You can open this new folder and view the photos as thumbnails to see what they are about. Then you can add a brief descriptive name after the month and date, if you want to.

9. Repeat these steps for each date in the list.

10. When you are finished organizing the 2010 pictures, burn a CD or DVD back-up of each folder and/or copy the 2010 folder to the external hard drive. You will have to use several CDs or DVDs to back up all the pictures.

Take Your Time
This is a BIG JOB! I recommend that you do it in stages, a little at a time. If you start to become tired, you are more likely to make mistakes in organizing your photos that might be hard to correct. So work at it a little bit at a time.

Eventually, all your photos will be stored in one location on your hard drive, in folders with helpful names, and backed up for safe-keeping. Congratulations!

March 9, 2011

Learn to Make Quality Black & White Prints with Lightroom

Black & White Photo of Low Hills, National Bison Range, Montana

Getting good black and white prints is a challenge with inkjet printers as well as some photo labs. The problem comes from using color inks or traditional color photographic paper to reproduce an image with no color. In order to make a black & white print, the colors have to be combined to cancel out all color, leaving just the brightness values. But the pigments in ink and dyes in photographic paper are not pure. So the combo often creates a color cast. There are a couple solutions, depending on your preferred printing method.

If you are using an inkjet printer, set  the printer to use only the black ink. This removes the colors from the equation. However, not all black inks are pure black. Some may exhibit a warm or cool appearance, especially under some artificial light sources. Inkjet printers that have more than one black ink cartridge usually produce better quality black and white prints than ones with single cartridges.

Choosing black ink only

If you prefer to have a lab make prints for you, check for a company that prints on black & white photographic paper. This eliminates the color dyes from the process and ensures that you get a picture that is truly black, white and gray.

A third option can work for either inkjet prints or lab prints. Instead of being disappointed with random color casts in your black and white prints, add a color that you find appealing. A traditional and favorite one is sepia, a color that can range from a light yellow brown to a dark red brown, depending on your taste. By adding a bit of a color tint to your black & white image, it is no long black and white but a subtle monochrome color photo. This often reproduces well on both inkjet and photo lab prints.

Sepia Photo of Dry Goods, Garnet, Montana

If you'd like to learn more tips about printing your photos, join me in Missoula, Montana, for my basic printing from Lightroom workshop. We'll cover both making your own inkjet prints and ordering prints from online or local photo labs. Details and registration are available online.