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So You Wanna Take Better Pictures!

Dear reader, if you have been using a compact point and shoot digital camera, and wondering how the pros can take great and beautiful photos, then you have come to the right place!

As a noob, which means a beginner, I only started picking up photography as a hobby almost a year ago. The turning point for me was when my son was born and I thought to myself, "Me wants to take better pictures.". Being a self-taught amateur photographer, I learn a lot by reading and experimenting. In here, I will share with you what I learn, how I learn them, as I learn them.

If terms such as DSLR, compact cameras. point and shoot, etc sounds alien to you, fear not, I will explain more in an upcoming posts about cameras in general. Until then, why don't you check out this free 28-page report that is full of advice and tips, especially for beginners who wants to take better pictures?

Have fun!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Your DSLR Lifespan!

Digital cameras revolutionises photography by taking away the need of buying expensive films. We no longer need to be worried about getting it wrong, if you don't like what you see, just delete it. This technology also makes it a lot easier for us to edit and post process our pictures without going through all the hassle (and fun) of a darkroom. The upside to this is people can worry less about the cost of films and focus on taking great pictures. However, the downside is that most people take this forgranted and actually put LESS focus on composition and exposure and just mindlessly clicking the shutter release, and picking a good picture later.

While I'm not sure if this applies to compact cameras, since they don't really have a shutter, but for those DSLR users who are very happy clicking their shutters away without any worry or concern, you might want to know your camera actually has a lifespan. Well, more accurately, your shutter has a lifespan.

Every DSLR has a shutter lifespan which is quantified by shutter count or shutter actuation. My Nikon D90 has a shutter lifespan of 100,000 and some other cameras have 50,000 to 70,000 shutter lifespan. Some more expansive cameras have lifespan up to 250,000 actuations. Bear in mind that these numbers are just an estimation and not precise. Some instances, the shutter will fail before it reaches the said limit, and sometimes it will last longer. Go here to look at some of the cameras' shutter lifespan. Note that for newer cameras, they won't really have the actual number since people has not been using long enough for the shutter to "die". To check your shutter count, you need to look at the Exif data of the last picture taken with your camera. If you are using Mac, you can command-i when you open the picture in Preview and you can view the Exif data. Alternatively, you can download a good image viewer Xee which can open RAW files and look at the Exif data. You can download Xee here. For windows user, you can use a program call Opanda Exif Viewer.

Is this even important? Well not really. I will say don't worry about the shutter lifespan and just keep shooting. Do not let something like this hampers your passion for photography. Some photography, such as sports, can't help but have very high shutter counts. Each session, such as shooting motorsports, can have up to 7000 shots taken. Also by the time your shutter lifespan is up, you are probably already using a new body. If not, just bring it back to the service centre and ask them to change the shutter for a few hundred bucks.

However, it's always a good practice to learn to not take pictures mindlessly. Always think and compose your pictures before you press the shutter release, this way, not only will you be able to delay reaching the shutter limit, you can also learn to take better pictures!


Monday, May 10, 2010

How to Share Your Photos on Photobucket

Couple of post before this I wrote a step-by-step guide on how to share your photos on flickr, now I'm going to teach you how to share your photos on Photobucket.

Photobucket not only allows you to share your photos, you can also share videos. The important feature of Photobucket is that it also allows you to store them. So if you have problems with your hard disk drive running out of space from all your photos and videos, well, you can store them on Photobucket instead.

You can sign up for a free account with Photobucket which gives you up to 500 MB of storage space for images and video clips, with a maximum bandwidth of 10 GB a month.

Should you need more storage, you can sign up for a Pro Account for $24.95 a year, which will give you 25 GB of space.

Another great feature of Photobucket is that it's very easy to share or embed your photos on other sites, such as your MySpace or Facebook accounts, Blogger blog or any other website. Photobucket will generates a link code for each photo.

If you want photos you'll be proud to display online, check out "Shoot Digital Pics Like the Pros," a free report from Dan Feildman.

Here's an easy step-by-step guide to upload photos into Photobucket.

1. Create and log into your Photobucket account.

2. Click on the "All Albums" tab then click "Create New Album"

3. Just click on the "upload images and videos" button to upload your content.

5. Select the photo you want to upload. You can upload either from your computer, another website, mobile phone or email.

6. Once all the photos have been uploaded. You will then be asked to enter the title, description and tags for your picture. In the same screen, you can share the photo on MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, email and other sites.

7. Finally, click either "Return to album" or "Add tags to all albums."

That's all there is to it, it's very easy. Photobucket even lets you share your pictures through printed products, slideshows, scrapbooks and online galleries.

Before you do, how about making sure your digital photos are worthy of sharing? Pick up your copy of "Shoot Digital Pics Like the Pros." It's free.

Get it here:


Friday, April 30, 2010

Digital SLR Camera Buying Guide (For Beginners)

I started picking up photography and bought my first ever Digital SLR camera only about nine months ago, so I am a beginner, and if you are reading this, chances are you're a beginner too. Since I'm not a professional photographer or reviewer for gears, I'm sharing with you the things to look out for when buying your first DSLR camera. Also, since I'm using a Nikon D90 and have not much experience into other brands except from reading reviews and used a few of my friends', please forgive me if I got some of the features or jargons wrong for those other brands.

For the purpose of this post, I will focus on Entry to Mid Level DSLRs and maybe a little on Micro Four Thirds cameras. I won't be touching the full-frame DSLRs since they are a lot more expensive and used mostly by professionals or experienced enthusiasts. If you are wondering what full-frame is, it's a type of image sensor a camera uses. Most Entry - Mid Level DSLRs uses APS-C image sensor and some uses the Micro Four Thirds sensor. Since the topic on image sensors is very long and technical, I won't be discussing it here. To find out more, feel free to visit the Wikipedia.

Okay, let's get straight into it:

Consideration No. 1: Follow the Masses

For me, this is one of the most important rule when deciding which brand to buy, not because it's cool to use what others are using, but for more practical and cost saving purposes, and by masses, I'm referring to your friends. Assuming you have a few friends who are into photography, it's advisable that you use the same brand as the majority of them are using. This is only logical because you can swap / borrow / or buy used lenses from your friends. Photography is an expensive hobby not just because of the camera body, but the many different types of lenses available to you. There are lenses for different types of photography, which I'll go into it in a bit, and there is no one size fits all lens. For example, you can't use a Canon lens on a Nikon and vice versa. Even for 3rd party lenses such as Tamron and Sigma, while most of these lenses are made to fit major brands, they are still individually specified for different brands. Case in point, for the same lens, they have compatible ones for Nikon, and for Canon. Unless you are making a lot of money, going for these different lenses is going to burn a big hole in your pocket.

Consideration No. 2: Does it have a built-in autofocus motor in the camera body?

Some (probably most) Entry Level Digital SLR, such as the Nikon D3000, does not have a built-in autofocus motor in the body, and therefore have to use the newer lenses that has built-in motor in the lens inself, such as the Nikon's Silent Wave Motor (SWM), Canon's Ultrasonic Motor (USM) and Sigma's Hyper-sonic Motor (HSM). For most beginners, not having a built-in motor in the body is not a big problem since you'd be using mostly new lenses. The only drawback is that you can't autofocus with older lenses that doesn't have a built-in motor. You can still use it manually though. While I'm not familiar with most older lenses, there is one lens which I highly recommend, that is the classic, wonderful and VERY cheap 50mm f/1.8 lens. A quick comparison with it's newer brothers (or sisters):
- The classic 50mm f/1.8D AF lens costs around US$120 (no in-built autofocus motor)
- The newer and faster 50mm f/1.4D AF lens costs around US$350 (no in-built autofocus motor)
- The newest 50mm f/1.4G AF-S lens costs around US$420 (with built-in Silent Wave Motor)
Determine if this is a point of consideration for you before you buy. There are a few Entry Level DSLRs that has this function. I personally opt for Mid Level DSLR (Nikon D90) with built-in motor to provide more flexibility and the ability to use cheaper, older lenses.

Consideration No. 3: Image sensor format - APS-C or Micro 4/3rds?

Most Entry - Mid Level DSLRs uses APS-C format while a few uses the Micro Four Thirds image sensor. While there are various differences between these two formats, as a beginner, the main considerations, in my opnion, are the size and flexibility. Micro 4/3rds are generally smaller in size thus making it more portable, less bulky and easier to handle. Budget wise they are not really cheaper then the APS-C Entry Level DSLR. The main advantage the APS-C cameras have over the Micro 4/3rds camera is the different types of lens available. Since the Micro 4/3rds system is still fairly new, they have limited types of lenses available to them, thus limiting it's creative flexibility. For a more comprehensive pros and cons of the Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds systems, go here.

Consideration No. 4: Which lens should I go for?

When buying a DSLR, be sure to check if the quoted price is for the camera body only, or for the camera kit, which means the price includes the camera body, a kit lens, and some accessories. For example, the Canon EOS Rebel T2i / 550D (body only) and Canon EOS Rebel T2i / 550D kit (click link to see the difference). Kit lenses are "starter" lenses that are usually sold together with a DSLR body. Most of the kit lenses are adequate but not great, except for a few rare ones like the Nikon D90 kit lens (18-105mm VR). Unless you are tight on budget, I usually advice people to upgrade the kit lens to a more versatile 18-200mm multipurpose zoom lens, available for Nikon, Canon, and in other 3rd party brands such as Tamron and Sigma, which provide an 11.1x magnification on an APS-C size sensor. This lens is great for beginners as it has the range of focal length suitable for almost all occasion and purpose. It's also great for traveling as it is relatively small. The only downside about this lens is the image quality is not as good as some specialized lenses but those are more expensive. This quality difference are usually not noticeable by a beginner and some of the problems you can fix it in post processing. You can of course go for specialized lenses for different types of photography, such as macro photography, telephoto zoom for portrait and sports photography, but I would advised against it for beginners. To buy the camera body and lens separately just search online for the brand and model of camera and add the "body only" keywords, and search for the lens' brand and model.

Consideration No. 5: Brand new or used.

This really depends on you. Take myself for example, I'm the type that goes for brand new as I'm not comfortable enough, and probably a little insecure, in using used gears. Some of my friends however, ONLY goes for used gears. Unless you are like me, I'd actually recommend you to seriously consider going for used gears. There are a few places you can go to find these gears, such as your friends, your local photography forums, local camera shops or ebay. Just be sure to do your research properly and buy only when you are comfortable enough. I have met many people who managed to buy fairly new, rarely used cameras or lenses at a considerably cheaper price. You will of course run the risk of getting a faulty equipment but that is an inherent risk when buying any used equipment.

The Ultimate Consideration: Which brand should I go for?

After taking into consideration the above points, you should be able to decide on the brand which you want to buy, however if you can't, I would usually advice to go for either Nikon or Canon simply because they are the most established companies in DSLR manufacturing, with a lot of lenses available. Companies such Sony are good, and cheaper in comparison for some cameras, but they are still new and have some catching up to do when it comes to DSLRs. If you want to go for Micro 4/3rds cameras, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1, the slightly bulkier Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 (G10 and G2 are the upcoming models), the Olympus PEN E-P1 and E-P2 are great, highly rated cameras to consider.

 Left: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1, Right: Olympus PEN E-P1

There are of course other considerations such as availability of Live View, image stabalisation, etc, but to me these are usually non deal breakers. You have to decide what's your deal breaker, read some reviews, and go to your local camera shop to test them out. For some information on other considerations, go here.

I hope these have been helpful to you. Feel free to share any other points of that I may have missed.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

How To Share Your Digital Photos On Flickr

Before we continue into more meaty stuff about photography, let's take a breather and talk about how to share your photos, first, let's get you started on sharing your photos on Flickr.

Flickr is an online digital photo sharing site. It has become a great place for professional photographers to showcase their work.

Sharing photos on Flickr is easy, and here's a step-by-step guide to uploading your digital photos on Flickr.

(Note: This describes the basic steps to upload your pictures in Flickr, without using the uploader tools for PC and Mac.)

1. Register Flickr account

If you already have a Yahoo! account, then all you need to do is sign in using your Yahoo! ID and password. If not, register a Yahoo! account. You can also get Yahoo! mail with this ID.

2. From your flickr homepage, click on the "Upload Photos & Video" button.

3. Click on "Choose photos and videos"

4. Select the file you want to upload. If you want to upload more than one picture, by clicking "Add More"

5. Choose the privacy settings you want (private or public). Then click the "Upload Photos and Videos" button.

6. There will be a progress bar to let you know how the upload is going. When it's done, you will see, "Finished! Next: add a description, perhaps? Click on the link if you'd like to add a description.

7. From here, you can do several things, such as: add a description, add tags, save the photo to a set (or create a new set, if you like). You can also change the privacy settings of the picture.

8. When you're satisfied with everything, click on "Save". You can go back and change any of the settings, and even delete and reorganize photos later.

Wasn't that easy? Now you can show off your best photos to the world. You could even have your photos used in websites and other materials - only if you let them, of course :).

If you'd like to take digital photographs worthy of being displayed, shared and spread all over the Internet, check out "Shoot Digital Pics Like the Pros."

It's a free report with plenty of tips for taking digital picture you'll be proud of.


Choosing The Right Camera.

A lot of people assumes that in order to take great pictures, one must invest in an expensive Digital SLR (Single Lens Reflect) camera. While having a DSLR will definitely help you to take better pictures, due to mainly the availability of manual controls, and the ability to change lenses, thus giving the photographer a lot of creative flexibility, there are 2 facts that most people are not aware of. They are:

1. Beginner class Digital SLRs are now VERY affordable. In fact there are a few high end compact cameras that are more expensive than the low end DSLRs.

2. Some affordable high end compact comes with manual control features that let's you have more creative control. Most compact has a Program Auto feature that allow SOME form of control.

Before I go on, if you can't tell the difference between digital compact camera and a Digital SLR, there's no point of me going further :P. Well, just look at the pictures below.

Here is the picture of a Digital Compact Camera:
And the next picture is of a Digital SLR:

Now that we've got that out of the way. Let's talk about choosing a camera for you. As I said earlier, you don't need to buy expensive Digital SLR cameras to take great pictures, some good digital compacts offer full manual controls. (If you are not sure what I mean by manual controls, don't worry, I will writing a post on it very soon.) However, there are a whole load of digital compacts out in the market, how do you go about choosing one?

Well, for the purpose of this blog, that is to take better pictures, I will strongly recommend you go for higher end digital compact cameras. Two of my favourites are the Canon Powershot S90, and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3. Both are very highly rated cameras. They are affordable, maybe a little more expensive than normal digital compacts, but definitely well worth your money. If you think that these are too expensive, feel free to shop around for cheaper digital compact cameras. You can take great pictures even with cheaper cameras if you know how to utilize it's features and controls.

If you are one of those who loves to take photographs, and has been using your digital point and shoot compact cameras for many years, and want to bring your photography up a notch, then you should look into getting an entry level Digital SLR (DSLR). DSLR gives you much greater creative control for a few reasons, such as:

1. Full manual control of exposure
2. Can use different lenses for different purpose
3. No shutter lag (the short pause between pressing the the trigger and the picture being actually recorded).
4. Absolutely no startup time. In other words you can turn on your camera and immediately take pictures. How often have we come across a situation where a great photo opportunity just vanished simply because the camera took a second too long to start?
5. There is no wait between shots. 

If you are looking to buy a DSLR, there are affordable and good cameras to choose from, such as the Canon Rebel XS / 1000D or the Nikon D5000. There is only one drawback of a DSLR as compared to a compact camera, which is their size. Unlike compact cameras, which you can easily slip into one of your pockets, a DSLR can't do that and are bulkier to carry around. Alternatively, you can opt for the smaller cousins of the DSLRs, which are the cameras with Micro Four Thirds sensor system. They are smaller than normal DSLRs, almost the size of a compact, and have interchangeable lenses. However, they are not cheap, some may even be more expensive then an entry level DSLR. Also their lens choice is very limited. Examples of cameras with Micro 4/3rds system are the Panasonic Lumix GF1 and the Olympus PEN E-P1.

I know that choosing a camera is a daunting task, but here is the general rule of thumb which I personally find it helpful:

1. For portability, such as people who travels a lot or move around a lot, if you find having a huge expensive camera hanging from your neck or your shoulder is a big no no, then go for compact cameras.

2. If you are serious about taking up photography as a hobby, or even as a future career, then my advice is to buy a Digital SLR. You won't regret it. But be careful, it can be an expensive hobby. Of course, you can go for the micro 4/3rds system, but you might find yourself wanting a DSLR before long. Important note: Some entry level DSLR body does not have a built-in motor, which means you can only use the more expensive lenses with built-in motor for your autofocus to be able to, well, autofocus. For more information about buying a DSLR, check out my DSLR buying guide in my upcoming post.

3. For people who are not looking forward to having photography as a serious hobby or career, but wants a little bit more creative control and portability, then the micro 4/3rds cameras will suit you fine.

I hope this is helpful for you. Often times, budget and the purpose of the camera will be your main considerations when buying a camera. Take some time to read up on reviews online. There are a lot great reviews that go a lot deeper than what I'm writing here so do look it up.


So You Wanna Take Better Pictures!

Dear reader, if you have been using a compact point and shoot digital camera, and wondering how the pros can take great and beautiful photos, then you have come to the right place!

As a noob, which means a beginner, I only started picking up photography as a hobby almost a year ago. The turning point for me was when my son was born and I thought to myself, "Me wants to take better pictures.". Being a self-taught amateur photographer, I learn a lot by reading and experimenting. In here, I will share with you what I learn, how I learn them, as I learn them.
If terms such as DSLR, compact cameras. point and shoot, etc sounds alien to you, fear not, I will explain more in an upcoming posts about cameras in general. Until then, why don't you check out this free 28-page report that is full of advice and tips, especially for beginners who wants to take better pictures?

Have fun!

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