The new Pixar movie “Up”...

We went to see the new Disney Pixar movie Up last night, then turned around and went to see it again today.

The first 5 minutes of the movie shows probably the most tender love story I have very seen in a movie... EVER!

And I will stop with the movie details there.

The reason I go to the movies is to be entertained, if I leave feeling good it was worth the money, it was a very good movie if we talk about our favorites parts and reenact the scenes for a day or two after. With those as the standards Up was a very good movie.

You can read the New York Time review of the movie, or just grab your family, get in your car now and go see it (I vote for getting in the car).

More free Photoshop alternatives...

I have two more pieces of free image editing software for you today.

The screen shots below are from my computer (not promotional broo ha ha) so you have a real world idea of what they truly look like and what some of the options and features are.

Click on either image to view larger and in a new window.

1. FastStone Image Viewer. From their website: "a fast, stable, user-friendly image browser, converter and editor. It has a nice array of features that include image viewing, management, comparison, red-eye removal, emailing, resizing, cropping and color adjustments. Its innovative but intuitive full-screen mode provides quick access to EXIF information, thumbnail browser and major functionalities via hidden toolbars that pop up when your mouse touches the four edges of the screen. Other features include a high quality magnifier and a musical slideshow with 150+ transitional effects, as well as lossless JPEG transitions, drop shadow effects, image annotation, scanner support, histogram and much more."

2. IrfanView. "IrfanView is a very fast, small, compact and innovative graphic viewer for Windows. It is simple for beginners and powerful for professionals. It has created new and/or interesting features in its own way and is the first Windows graphic viewer WORLDWIDE with Multiple (animated) GIF support."

It really does have a bunch of features, too numerous to list here.

Some free Photoshop alternatives...

Not everyone is able to make the financial investment for Photoshop and there are others who do not need (or require) all the things that Photoshop can do.

So here are some alternatives that will cost you nothing, nada, zip, zero, zilch, goose egg:

1. Gimp. "GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed program for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring." Here is an introduction page, and here is a tutorial page so you can take a look at what it can do.

2. Fotografix. "While graphic design professionals probably wouldn't be able to substitute Fotografix for Photoshop, it's certainly a capable free alternative for the average Joe."

3. Paint.NET. "Paint.NET is free image and photo editing software for computers that run Windows." You will find the features list here, and tutorials here.

4. Photoscape. "Photoscape is the fun and easy photo editing software that enables you to fix and enhance photos." You can take a look at some screenshots here.

5. Adobe Photoshop Online. The title pretty much says it all, and you can take a test drive here.

If you know of any no cost Photoshop alternatives that I have not listed here, please let me know and I will be sure to post them.

Variations on a Two-Light Theme, Pt. 2...

A couple weeks ago I posted about the Strobist article "Variations on a Two-Light Theme, Pt. 1", well yesterday they posted part 2 of the series - "Variations on a Two-Light Theme, Pt. 2".

So if you were anything like me you'll wanna jump right over there and take a look, because it's a great series with outstanding information.

For that matter, I think Strobist is the single greatest lighting resource on the web.

I have included the setup image below, so often if you see the setup first you think "Ain't no way you're gonna get a good picture here". And as usual, I'm wrong.

A word about Google...

As most of you noticed, for the Memorial Day weekend I redirected my blog from what you see here to a slideshow honoring service men and women, what I didn't know is that it was going to be noticed by Google too!

I can't even imagine how big they are, how many blogs they host, or how many servers they have around the world, but in less than an hour of redirecting this blog on Friday evening I got an ominous email from a Google god saying that "Your blog has been identified as a potential spam blog." it went on to say that my account was locked, and I would not be able to post again until the situation had been reviewed by a live person in roughly two days.

Sure enough, I logged in and my account was locked, my blog life was flashing before my eyes, I am thinking that a 18 months of work and 350 posts may soon be blowing in the wind.

Try finding an actual email address for someone at Google, I couldn't! So I put a line of code (that could not be seen by the public) at the beginning of the slideshow explaining why my blog was being redirected and when it would be back to "normal".

And then I waited... and much to my surprise in the same amount of time it took them to shut me down, my account was unlocked and I had control of my blog! I am sure that people in three neighboring states could hear the huge sigh of relief that emanated from my house at the moment.

The point of of this rambling post is to say how impressed I was with the speed at which Google responded and even though redirecting my blog was "against policy", Google let me do it.


To show my appreciation I will be getting my new Google tattoo later this morning.

A Memorial Day Weekend reminder...

Just a reminder that the Weekly Photo Tips blog will be replaced starting this evening (around 6pm) with a slideshow that is "keeping with the theme" of what this holiday is all about.

We will return on Tuesday morning (5/26) around 8am.

Have a safe holiday.

Hug your kids, pet your dog, and chase the cat around with a welding torch.


See ya back here Tuesday morning.

A bazillion free Photoshop actions...

If you head on over to Designer Today you will find a list 14 pages long of free Photoshop actions that are available from different websites (including Weekly Photo Tips).

They also have other cool things like Photoshop tutorials, Paint Shop Pro Tutorials, and just about anything else you can imagine when it comes to graphic/web design.

Stand by me…

“no matter who you are, no matter where you go in your life, at some point you’re gonna need somebody to stand by you…”

(if the video does not come through on the feed, be sure to stop by the blog to watch it)

How to test a lens for sharpness...

Ever shoot with one of your lenses and think it doesn't look quite as sharp as it should?

Ever buy a used lens and want to make sure it works like it should?

Ever stand in front of a mirror in woman’s clothing and think you look pretty? ah... wait, strike that last one, I just meant to think it.


Here's a great video tutorial on testing your lens sharpness.

Memorial Day Weekend...

Beginning the Friday evening of Memorial Day weekend (5/22) Weekly Photo Tips will be offline and forwarded to a slideshow honoring those Americans who have "gone on ahead".

We will return Tuesday morning (5/26).

I am a little embarrassed to admit that I did not have time to put together a new slideshow and will be using last years.

Six DIY grid projects...

I have several gridspots (grids), one "professional" and several "do it yourself" kind (I have the pro one only because it was given to me), and use them quite a bit.

For those who don't have one or haven't used one before, these are handy dandy little light modifiers. A grid is simply a snoot that has honeycomb cells that will give you a small circle of light on your subject, your background, or for a rim light on your subject.

It is similar to a snoot in looks and function but is a bit more restrictive and gives you more control over your light.

A grid is perfect for helping you to create dramatic lighting effects.

Here are a bunch of shots taken with grids, they will give you an idea of the possibilities.

So here are six different (easy to make) DIY grid projects, three made with straws, and three made with coroplast (a plastic corrugated cardboard):

The straw projects are from Lighting Mods (part 1 & part 2), LightChasers Photography, and Stephen Zeller.

The coroplast grids can be found at Instrucatables, Pamela Helme, and DIY Photography.

Now go make a grid (or two)!

Cleaning your camera sensor...

I stumbled across a site that is dedicated to one very important task, cleaning your camera sensor.

Guess what it's called.... yup, Cleaning Digital Cameras.

Cleaning Digital Cameras has more sensor cleaning information and resources than you can shake a stick at (though I'm not sure what purpase there is in shaking said stick) and needs to be added to your "favorites".

For those of you for whom reading is just too much of a chore, here is a very well done sensor cleaning tutorial.

Photographing cars with a single flash...

To look at these images you can easily imagine that there were lights all over the place, but I guess the title of this post tells you otherwise.

The images and video are from Ken Brown. You may not realize it (I know I didn't), but he was on the blog recently as he is one of the photographers featured on the Strobist Lighting Cards.

Be sure to check out Ken's website, you will be inspired.

I Love Strobist...

Today David Hobby started a series "Variations on a Two-Light Theme, Pt. 1".

In it he shows you how, with just two flashes, you can get a great portrait.

Run, don't walk, over to Strobist and read the full story.

Happy Mother's Day...

To my mom, my wife, and all the other moms out there.

Being a mom has to be the hardest, least appreciated job on the planet.

I consider myself an intelligent observant kinda guy (though others may argue against that statement) and I thought I understood just how hard my wife's job was.


A few years back her sister was moving to Florida, driving her belongings from Maine and setting up her new home in Port Charlotte. My wife drove down with her and stayed the week helping her get settled. My job was to stay home and fill her shoes.

I will spare you the details, but upon her return she found me cowering in the corner, in the fetal position, and mumbling incoherently.

Three things happened that week:

1. I finally got a glimpse to what her job was really like

2. I realized I need to show my appreciation for her hard work

3. She has never been allowed to leave the house for an extended period of time since


Happy Mother's Day!

Digital Photography Boot Camp Finalized...

This week we put the finishing touches on our workshop "Intro - Digital Photography Boot Camp" scheduled for Sunday May 31st.

Three instructors (including yours truly) will take you through this all day hands-on workshop, the morning session will walk you through equipment, exposure, lighting, DIY photography projects and much more, while the afternoon will be all shooting with individual instruction.

All the workshop details can be found here.

We are also fortunate enough to have some very generous sponsors who are providing some cool stuff to giveaway to seminar attendees:

Kubota Imaging is providing 2 $100 gift certificates and discount certificates for every student.

PRESSlite is sending 6 VerteX small strobe light modifiers.

Dane Sanders - one lucky student will get a copy of his audio book "Fast Track Photographer"

Lumiquest provided a nice variety of their light modifiers, a Pocket Bouncer, an 80-20, an Ultrasoft, and a copy of the book "Flash…The MOST Available Light"

Trade Secret is sending 5 decks of their Strobist cards (yup, the ones we reviewed yesterday)

Every student will recieve the handy battery cases from PowerPax.

And finally, one lucky seminar student will recieve my friend Scott Kelby's Digital Photography 2 book boxed set that includes a signed print.

Review of Strobist Lighting Cards...

At any given time there are 8-12 products waiting to be reviewed and posted on this blog (tough job, I know), and on rare occasion something comes in that is so neat that it leap frogs ahead of everything else in line and moves right to the top of the list.

The "Trade Secret Cards" is one of those "leap frogging" products. Though there official name is "Trade Secret Cards Strobist Favorites Gallery Vol. 1", a big name for a small product.

How to put this... hhmmmm.... These cards are cool!

They are about the size of a deck of playing cards, on the front is a well done, well lit image, on the back is both a diagram of the setup and a paragraph containing the details of what was used and how.

(click on any image to view larger & in a new window)

You get 24 different cards showing 24 different setups, portraiture, product shoots, cars (including a big 'ol caterpillar dump truck), indoor and outdoor sessions, and each setup is well documented and easy to replicate.

These cards are also a heck of a lot easier to bring on a shoot than a book.

The cards are printed on UV protected thick stock so they are durable and should stand up well to being carried in your pocket or your camera bag from one shoot to another.

It did not escape me that "Volume 1" is in their title, which already has me looking forward to what may follow in "Volume 2".

If you aren't already online ordering your Trade Secret Cards, maybe this will help push you over the edge:

1. They are on sale (only $19.95)

2. The shipping is free (and fast)

3. And the return policy is generous (though I promise you, once you have them in your hands they ain't never going back!)

Coming soon - ACDSee Pro Photo 3...

I have been a user (and a big fan of) ACDsee Pro Photo Manager for quite some time and was fortunate enough to be selected as a member of the beta testing team for version 3.

You can learn more about the features of version 3 here, as testing and development moves forward I will keep you posted.

Links housekeeping and updates...

Over the weekend I updated all of my links, cleaning out some and adding a bunch of new ones.

One of the the "newbies" is Planet Neil, which is full of instructions, tutorials, and all the things you need to improve your photography. The amount of information listed on this site will keep you there for quite some time, so pace yourself.

I also added a completely new category, "Marketing Resources".

Two of my favorites marketing links are:

1. Help my Business Sucks! is both funny and informative. It's a weekly video podcast that usually runs less than 15 minutes and I promise that every single week you will get at least one snippet of information that you will be able to use/apply.

2. If you have a blog, or are considering one, you need to include Pro Blogger as part of your strategy. It will help you plan your new blog, or grow the blog you already have. Take the "31 Days to Build a Better Blog" and you will do just what the title says, build yourself a better blog. Of the "How To Blog" websites out there, I think this to be the very best.

I reader once emailed me and said "even if your content sucked, it's worth coming to your blog for the links. I think you have the best accumulation of photography links in one place".

Hopefully they just got a little better.

Portraits from this weekend...

For Mothers Day I am doing portraits of each of my three daughters.

This weekend I brought Emma (aka "peanut") to the beach for her images, and as we were unloading the van what runs by us but a fox! As we stood there with our mouths open a little fur ball skitters by after her (about 10 feet in front of us), then a second, a third, and finally a forth little fox brought up the rear.

It was only then that I realized that I had a camera in my hand and should start snapping images. But by then they were a bit far away and what you see are rather unremarkable.

On the other hand, the pictures of Peanut are remarkable, as she is a beautiful young woman, but maybe I am a bit biased.

I did use an off camera flash (held by my voice activated light stand) for just a little fill light.

Another Beauty Dish for the SB-800...

I was perusing David Tejada's blog (and added it to my links collection) and came across his plans for a DIY beauty dish. Though it says it is for a Nikon SB-800, there is no reason this would not work for any speedlight.

These plans are crisp, clean, and easy to follow. In fact he has enough pictures that even if you couldn't read you would still be able to follow along and build your own dish.

So if you haven't made your own beauty dish, maybe this will be the final push you need to make one. So check out these plans, get your supplies this weekend and "get 'er done".