See you next year...

When I was a boy I found a time stamp and as I rolled through the years between my fingers I came to the last year on the wheel "1978".

I remember thinking "1978!?... Holy cow, I will be ancient in 1978!".

Now the wheel is about to roll over to 2011 and I still feel like that same curious boy who thought 1978 was so far off it would never arrive, though sadly the mirror is telling me a very different story.


If I have learned anything (and some may argue I haven't) it's not the passing of time that's the issue, it's the wasting of time... now that's the real problem, the avoidable sin.

If I could make a wish for all of us it would be that we not squander that most precious commodity.

In 2011 don't wonder "what if?", put it all out there.

Live, laugh, love, be loved, and gobble life up with both hands.

Don't assume that the people in our life know how we feel about them, let's tell them, leaving nothing unsaid.

Be slow to anger and quick to forgive.

We should put more effort into being happy than we do into being right.

Be the kind of friend we wish we had.

And as often as we can, let's perform an act of kindness for someone who has no way of paying us back.

Thank you for spending time here in 2010, your presence has enriched my life, and I look forward to seeing you in 2011.

A happy, hopeful, and healthy New Year!

Something old is new again... Trade Secret Cards...

We have reviewed Trade Secret Cards in the past (the Strobist version here, the Chase Jarvis version here) and as you read the reviews it is pretty obvious I LOVED them both.

What I liked about them was that they were not meant to be copied exactly as displayed, but to inspire. By seeing the final image AND the complete lighting setup it's easy to follow (and understand) how things were done (how a lighting effect was achieved), what could be done with light (the possibilities), and to stimulate your own creative juices enough to go out and try something new, different, and adventurous.

Well Trade Secret Cards have been improved in two (big) ways, first the size... each lighting "card" is significantly bigger. When it comes to old men like me bigger (print) is better and second, because the old version were individual cards you could more easily "misplace" a card.

The new cards are bound in book form, but each page is also perforated as well so if you prefer to remove one (or all) you can, the best of both worlds.

One thing has not changed, the quality. The cards are done on firm card stock, they are beautifully printed, and are also coated so should the need arise you can wipe them down without the fear of harming them.

And even though they are now bigger and better, the price has increased only slightly, so please, head over to Peachpit Press to check them out (and order yourself a set). You can also find them at Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble.

Below is a video we did demonstrating the difference between the old and the new cards, I also show how I added my own little hack to the new cards so please check it out.

And for you subscribers, perhaps one day Blogger will push through video with your subscription, but until then you will either need to return to the blog or head directly to our YouTube channel to watch this video.

A very Merry Christmas to you!...

I love this time of the year, for different reasons as I grow and age... when I was a child... when I got to see Christmas through the eyes of my children... and now the simple joy of being the kind of person I wish I was all year round.

But it all started because of my mom.

She was a single parent with 5 children (2 girls, 3 boys) and we were poor, real poor (though I didn't know it at the time). We lived in the projects in Boston and my mom would struggle to make ends meet with some pretty crappy jobs, cleaning other peoples homes and taking in their laundry.

Two things I remember, being happy and the hope of a wonderful Christmas. No matter what the year had held for my mom, when Christmas came it was magic. It seemed no matter what we had asked Santa for, we would find it under the tree on Christmas morning.

I knew there had to be a Santa because there was no way my mom could afford to buy us these things.

When I got a little older and knew the big guy was more myth than man I couldn't figure out how my mom did it... because by then, I knew we were poor.

Then one day stumbled upon five envelopes that were rubber banned together. One had my name on it and the others had the names of my brothers and sisters. Each envelope had the exact same about of money in it, all in one dollar bills and change.

Then it hit me, these were Christmas envelopes, after a long day of cleaning houses my mom would take some of that money and split it evenly between those 5 envelopes. And she did this after every basket of laundry, after every dirty house, all year long. So by the time Christmas came, my mom could make the magic happen.

Though at the time I understood the process, I could not truly appreciate all her hard work, her sacrifices, and the things she did without until I was older. As I write this it still amazes me.

It was then that my happiness no longer came from the gifts, it came from knowing how much we were loved.

I hope the same for all of you, that your life is full of love and family.

I hope there is always food on your table and those you hold most dear are sitting around it.

I hope your home is warm and your heart is happy.

I hope as you look back you see happiness and as you look forward you see nothing but joy.

I hope... because hope is a lesson that my mom taught me.

In closing, a picture from a not to distant Christmas past... when my girls were believers... and they left goodies for the big guy and his reindeer.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Christmas images from our readers...

Here are a few of the images that some of readers have added to our Flickr group as part of our Zack Arias giveaway.

You can find our more about the contest here, find our Flickr group here, and how to join us on Flickr here.

There is just a week left in our Zack Arias OneLight Workshop giveaway so don't dilly or dally.

Ho, ho, ho... Merry Christmas!

A Christmas gift for you...

The good folks at SmugMug have given us a 20% off discount code to share with our readers.

SmugMug can be used simply as your secure online image backup solution or your full service (fully customizable) online sales solution.

Using the discount code "WeeklyPhotoTips" will lower your price for any of the three account options they offer, $32 for a basic account (normally $40), $48 the power account (normally $60), and $120 for their pro account (normally $150).

You have until January 2nd to cash in on the savings, so between now and then use (and share with your friends) the discount code "WeeklyPhotoTips".

Follow this link for a complete list of options and features for each of the three accounts they offer, and here is where you can sign up.

Thanks to SmugMug for offering these holidays savings to our readers and a special thanks to Markham for pulling this together and making it all happen.


What a long strange trip it's been...

In the five years I have been writing this blog there has NEVER been such a long gap in posts. Prior to this eight day drought the longest period of silence had been three days.

I will spare you the details of my absence but suffice it to say I am happy to say it's over and you can expect posts to be coming fast and furious.

Thanks for your patience, and yes, I really did miss you.


Another great Christmas idea... A canvas wrap...

You have heard me talk about Canvas on Demand before (here, here, and here) and now you have a great opportunity to purchase one for yourself, or someone you love, for a ridiculously low price.

A 16 x 20 canvas wrap for just $45!

No, that is not a misprint, I said $45. These canvas wraps usually sell for $127 and this is a phenomenal deal.

It too good for me to pass up and I just bought one.

The catch? The deal expires at midnight tonight (12/13) (but you have until June 30 2011 to use it) so follow this link to get yours before it's too late.

Here are three of the prints I have bought.

Click on any of the images to view larger and in a new window.

The wreaths have arrived at Arlington!

Below is a video of the wreaths from our humble state of Maine arriving at Arlington National Cemetery.

What a pleasant surprise it was to see the number (and diversity) of people who went to lay wreaths at the headstones of those for those who gave the last full measure.

Thanks to them, to you for taking the time to read (and watch) this, and a huge thanks to the
Worcester Wreath Company
(Wreaths Across America) without whom this wonderful annual event would not be possible.

I sent my aunt in North Carolina a wreath from them and she called last night to rave about the beauty and quality of the wreath.

If you have trouble viewing the video here just follow this link to watch it.

(subscribers will need to head back to the blog to watch the video, as it does not get "pushed" out.)

Christmas gift suggestion for photographers...

Chances are extremely good that if you read Weekly Photo Tips you are a photographer (going way out on a limb on this one, I know) and if your family is anything like mine they love it when they get one of my photographs as a gift.

If you are wondering what to get someone you love for Christmas Photo Weavers just made the process so much easier.

I ordered a blanket for my daughter as a Christmas gift and was so happy with everything about it I wanted to share it with our blog readers.

The ordering process was easy, delivery was incredibly fast, and the final product was outstanding.

And right now you can save 35% with the discount code “tellafriend” which is good through this weekend (12/12), after that you can save 30% off anything you order at Photo Weavers by using the discount code “myamericandream”.

To learn more about how their products are made follow this link, and to see the products they offer head to this page.

Below is a video of me gushing about how happy I was with my blanket.

(Subscribers will need to return to the blog or head over to our YouTube channel to watch the video)

Our latest contest, and it's a big one!...

If you would like a chance to win the 2 DVD "OneLight Workshop" from Zack Arias (read our complete review here) here's all you have to do:

1. Join the Weekly Photo Tips Flickr Group (details on how to join can be found here)

2. Upload one (or more) portraits of a person, a pet, or any Christmas themed image to our Flickr Group

3. Leave one (or more) comments on any blog post on Weekly Photo Tips

The contest starts today (December 8th), it ends December 31st, and the winner will be randomly drawn from all contest entries and will be announced here on the blog on January 1st 2011.

I will mail the OneLight Workshop DVD's that we received for review to the lucky winner.

The rules are pretty simple, you can enter as many times as you like (one comment + one image upload = one contest entry), all ownership rights of all images remain with you the photographer.

The only thing we will use them (the images) for is to show as occasional "samples" of images we receive as contest entries and to announce the winner.

Lastly, the contest is open to everyone world wide, if the winner should be outside the contagious 48 United States, they (the winner) will be responsible (only) for the cost of shipping.

Good luck everyone.

Today is the (big) day...

Today, for the 19th consecutive year, 200,000 wreaths are leaving Maine to adorn the headstones of American veterans.

24,000 wreaths are heading to Arlington National Cemetery with some 20 stops and rallies between Maine and Virginia (check here for a complete schedule that start today and end on December 11th), the rest of the wreaths will go to all 50 states and overseas as well.

This most wonderful tribute was started by Morrill Worcester, the founder of Worcester Wreath Company, when he and his workers wanted to do something to honor the fallen.

You can learn more about the The Arlington Wreath Project on Facebook, and if you would like to see more images be sure to check out Patrick Hughes site "Christmas at Arlington".

If you are interested in sponsoring a wreath you can get more information here.

A pleasant surprise... and a little hope...

Last night I had to make a stop on the way home and as is customary this time of the year at the front door of the store was the red kettle and the sound of a ringing bell.

As I walked towards the door I dug for a dollar bill and went to put it in and at first thought I had missed the kettle opening and then realized I hadn't missed at all, the problem was that the kettle was so full that there was very little room left for my humble dollar.

I walked through the store with a silly grin on my face and a warm feeling, not because I gave a silly dollar, but that in this economy with soooo many people struggling just to keep their heads above water, folks are digging deep to help others.

Sure, it's not a scientific evaluation on the state of charitable donations, but for me it's better than that.... it's hope.

Hope that we can convince those who think they are alone, that they are not.

Unbeatable customer service...

This is another one of those unintended posts, but the results from a recent customer service interaction was so outstanding that I just had to share it with you.

We use ProSelect portrait studio software for "in house" presentation of client images (though the software is much more than just that) and you can read my review that was done back in January.

There are a lot of reasons to use studio presentation software in general (sales, sales, sales) and ProSelect specifically (it's the absolute best at what it does), buts that's not why we are here today.

I often us the quote "long after people forget what you did for them, they will remember how you made them feel". If you eat at the best restaurant in town but the service stinks, or have a product you love but can't get support, you won't remember how good the food was or how great the product is, what will linger is the bad taste in your mouth and you will likely share it with others.

So finally, here comes that point of this post, the phenomenal support I just got from ProSelect.

I bought a new laptop and needed to move ProSelect software from the old to the new machine and opened a support ticket asking how best to do it. I kid you not, within 45 minutes received a response with the information I needed along with related links to their knowledge base.

Now one of the things unique about their support system is the client closes the ticket when they are satisfied that the issue resolved.

Well, 48 hours after receiving their initial response I receive another email saying they noticed that my ticket was not yet closed and wanted to make sure I had all the information I needed and asked if I needed any further assistance.

Does it get any better that that? I don't think so.

Before anyone thinks "of course you get good service, you write this blog"... I promise you, there is no way that a person looking at my account info would know I write Weekly Photo Tips. The service I received is the exact same service all of the other ProSelect customers receive.

You will love what their software does for your clients and you'll love what their service does for you.

Simple, elegant, DIY studio under $4...

I was doing my typical web surfing one day and came across the blog of Sandra Marek "My 365 Days of Reality".

I really liked her images and the thought that was behind them but what I liked even more was they way she talked about family (and other things that are truly important like friends and life in general).

So I took the time to dig deeper into her blog and found a post she did about Isabella's birthday and shooting a bracelet using a hardware store light that cost her under $4, some white cardboard, and a reflector.

Below are two shots from that post but be sure to check out the entire $4 DIY studio post as she shoots the bracelet several different ways, when you are done you will want to look around "My 365 Days of Reality" and Sandra's website as well.

Stuff you just can't make up...

Let me start out making it perfectly clear that this is NOT an attempt at dark humor... it's a weird, freaky, extremely unfortunate event.

This happened in Italy where at a wedding, while the bride and groom were posing with a gun, the wedding photographer (45 year old Calogero Scimeca) was accidently shot dead (full story here).

It's a story a read a few days ago (and had no intention of blogging about) but it just has lingered with me, a little because here's this man kissing his wife and kids goodbye to head off to photograph a wedding (where's the danger in that) but never comes home.

And maybe because I have photographed a few weddings myself that have involved military and law enforcement and these weddings also involved posing with firearms... just makes you think, maybe that's not such a good idea.

Zack Arias OneLight Workshop review...

I can save you the time of reading this review and tell you straight up that the OneLight Workshop DVD from Zack Arias is number one on the list of things you should own of you want to learn photography. There is no close second, this is by far the leader of the pack.

Which relly only leaves you two choices, you can head over and buy the OneLight DVD right now, or take a few minutes to read this and THEN head over to buy it.

Before I slipped the first DVD into the machine I already new I was a HUGE Zack Arias fan, because unlike many folks I read covers, inserts, and anything else that comes with the DVD and as I came to the end of the insert in the OneLight DVD case I read the following:

"My goal with the DVD is to give you a solid foundation of how light works and how to manipulate it... but I also want to be a voice in your life that encourages you to take care of your family FIRST. Put away your credit cards, turn off your computer, and enjoy the life this industry affords us. Photography will require everything of you if you let it. Even your family. Don't let it take your family."

I knew right then it did not matter how good (or bad) the DVD was, I could not respect Zack any more than I did right then.

The DVD started out great and ended the same way.

Now, for the review.

Zack says in the very beginning that if you take a shot thinking "I can fix that in Photoshop" that "you need to slap yourself as hard as you can in the head because you are being lazy and mediocre" and I could not agree more.

Everything in this workshop DVD is taught (and learned) in manual mode on both the camera and the flash, which means ALL of the thinking will be done by you, NOT your gear.

Fear not, there is no math involved.

The first "Chapter" starts with explaining the five variables of exposure:

1. Shutter speed

2. Aperture

3. Flash Power

4. Flash to subject distance

5. ISO

This is then followed by one of the best demonstrations I have ever seen of how shutter speed (which controls ambient exposure) impacts your image by including or excluding ambient light.

Zack then moves through the remaining 4 exposure variables with equally impressive demonstrations.

Once we have been given what we need to know about exposure Zack walks us through a basic lighting gear talk (stands, hot shoes, cold shoes, sync cords, triggers, modifiers, and lights), what we need to know about the gear we can use in the studio and on the road to "get the light right".

I found every bit of this interesting, informative, and essential to know before you ever touch the camera.

Then the real fun begins, Zack then takes us into the studio where we start applying all of the "stuff" that came before.

But before he starts shooting he talks about how to act as a professional photographer with your clients, especially when it comes to female clients.

When he does start using the camera Zack starts by shooting images that suck, by using on camera flash (with and with flash modifiers). Yup, images with hard, harsh shadows and flat subjects.

He then start shooting with off camera flash and Zack made them suck too... just so he could show us how we would go about fixing them.

Then for the next several hours we are taken to (and through) different shooting scenarios, inside and out, daylight (learn how to over power it) and night, each with it's own set of difficulties to overcome and Zack shows us how to shoot it correctly so that the shot is great "in camera".

Even something simple like an electrical outlet on the studio wall, it would be a quick and simple fix in Photoshop but Zack shows us how to work around that too. He covers them all, from big to little and everything in-between.

Before this DVD I never would have thought of shooting a subject with the umbrella closed around my flash, But I would now.

There are a ton of new things I am thinking now and you will be too, I promise. There is also so much more in this workshop DVD than I can cover here (like post production in Lightroom and Photoshop), but know that if you buy this you'll be getting one phenomenal educational opportunity.

The OneLight DVD should be on the top of your Christmas list, email it to your friends and family, leave every computer browser window opened to the order page, or if you want to be less subtle ask every day "did you order my OneLight DVD yet?".

Do whatever it takes.

Here is a 7 minute video montage from the 2 DVD worskhop. Enjoy.

Black Friday memory specials!

The memory listed below are on sale at Adorama and every single one of them comes with free shipping!

SanDisk 4GB Ultra Compact Flash Memory Card with 30MB/SEC Speed
Regular Price $27.95 - Sale Price $17.95

SanDisk 4GB Extreme III Secure Digital (SDHC) Memory Card
Regular - Price $29.95 - Sale Price $19.95

Lexar 16GB Platinum II Memory Stick Pro Duo Memory Card
Regular Price $47.95 - Sale Price $27.95

Lexar 8GB Professional 400x CompactFlash Card
Regular Price $79.95 - Sale Price $47.95

Lexar 16GB Professional 400x CompactFlash Card
Regular Price $129.95 - Sale Price $79.95

Two must watch shows on Photography...

Over the next several days (depending in where you live) PBS will be airing two very interesting shows on photography.

From the past: "Documenting the Face of America" brings to life the remarkable stories behind the legendary group of New Deal-sponsored photographers who traversed the country in the 1930s and early 1940s and created what has become a national treasure.

It was the first time Americans saw each other’s faces and witnessed what life was like across the nation: north to south, east to west, rich and poor, black and white.

The film explores the personal vision and the struggles experienced by photographers who created some of the most iconic images in history. Still recognized today, Dorothea Lange’s haunting photograph of the “Migrant Mother” remains one of the most famous images of all time.

From the Present: "The President's Photographer" tags along with the president's chief photographer, Pete Souza, who is never far behind President Obama.

This National Geographic Special, gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the everyday workings of the American presidency as we follow Souza, offering a chance to see what it's like to cover the most powerful man in the world, while attempting to capture for history. It also provides us a history of the presidential photographers who have come before him.

I have seen both of these shows (more than one) and give them both two thumbs way up, so check your local listings, grab a piece of leftover Thanksgiving pie, and enjoy the shows.

Happy Thanksgiving...

I hope that today (and every day) you are surrounded by those you love, that you feel blessed, rich in spirit, and that you carry hope and charity in your heart.

There are many of you who are struggling and I hope even more for you... that people reach out to support and comfort you, that your burdens become lighter, that you never feel alone, and I pray that in the days to come you can worry less, love more, and that when strangers see you on the street they wonder what you are smiling about.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Dinner...

If you want to do something really moving...

Saturday December 4th is Help-Portrait Day.

The premise is quite simple:

1. Find someone in need

2. Take their portrait

3. Print their portrait

4. Give them their portrait

And do it all for free.

As I write this the memories from last year come rushing back, it was moving, emotional, and one of the most gratifying things I have done in the last 12 months.

One story from last year... a man brought his son in for a portrait and after we handed him the print he stared at it for awhile smiling, he then shook our hands and thanked us (repeatedly), explaining that this was going to be a Christmas gift for his wife... the only gift he was able to give her.

You can read our entire post from last year here.

If you are interested in getting involved by helping out at an event in your area (or starting one) you can get the details here.

Let me leave you with a short 2 minute video our our humble Help-Portrait day.

Subscribers will need to return to the blog or head directly over to our YouTube channel to watch it.

Here are a couple images...

Here are a couple shots from this past Monday night at the Maine Photographer Coalition.

Mark your calendar for the next meeting scheduled for January 10 (2011) and you will want to bring your laptop as the evenings instruction will be (hands-on) Lightroom workflow.

Hope your face is in next months picture!

Color management and monitor calibration...

I know, I know, when you start talking about color management and/or monitor calibration peoples eyes glaze over and they start looking for the nearest exit (or the closest ledge from which to jump).

But it is such an important part of photography workflow that if you ignore it, it will surely come back to bite you in the butt.

So... if you would be happy with Stevie Wonder editing your images you can stop right here, otherwise please read on.

Here are a couple educational/informational resources to check out:

1. Last night Earle Christie did a great presentation/Q&A at the Maine Photographer Coalition and an online article he wrote on the subject "Predictable Color"is a must read.

2. If you want to delve even deeper into the subject then head over to Digital Dog and you'll feed your need to knowledge.

3. Monitor calibration (back to Stevie) - if you are editing your images on an un-calibrated monitor it's like putting on rose colored glasses before you start editing your images, which makes it a huge exercise in futility, because I don't know anybody who can make precise (and accurate) color corrections and adjustments when they're not even looking at the real colors!

There are a handful of really good tools out there to help you calibrate your monitor and after looking at the different options I settled on what I think is the best and easiest calibration tools available, the Spyder3Elite from DataColor.

I could ramble on about why I like this product more than any other, but you can take a quick tour of it here and see how it would fit into your workflow.

If you think I am overstating the importance of monitor calibration then don't take my word for it, take the word of someone many believe to be one of the finest photographers of our day, Vincent Versace.

Below is an audio excerpt from an interview he did with, and is his response to the question about the importance of calibrating your monitor (it's only 4 minutes long and worth every second of listening):

Vincent Versace on monitor calibration

Let the (snow) games begin!...

Watching the weather this morning I saw that they were calling for snow which made me just a little sad (and utter an unprintable word or two).

Not that there is much snow coming, it just seems way too early for this to be starting.

I think I'll refill my coffee and move just a little closer to the stove.

Sorry for such a late notice...

This post is for local photographers - there will be a meeting tomorrow evening (Monday November 22) of the Maine Photographer Coalition which will be holding its inaugural meeting at the studio of Stacey Kane (134 Black Point Road Scarborough, ME).

Folks will be gathering for the "meet and greet" portion of the evening which starts at 7 with the "formal" meeting starting at 7:30.

The talented Earl Christie will be speaking/instructing the group on color management.

All are welcome and the meeting is free but for planning purposes RSVP is a must (just follow this link).

Hope to see you there!

Our review of the new LumiQuest LTp...

Every time you think it can't get any better it does. LumiQuest recently released its latest small flash modifier, the SoftBox LTp, so named because it will just fit into a laptop pocket of a camera backpack.

Here are two sample images I took (of a project from Emma when she was a wee girl), they were both shot with the exact same camera and flash settings with both on stands.

The first image was shot with the Stofen style light modifier that come with the flash (a Nikon SB-800), the second image was shot with the new SoftBox LTp.

You notice right away that the light with the LTp is a much softer, more even light, and if you look closer you'll notice that the light wraps nicely around "greenie" as it moves towards the back of the subject.

Clicking on either image will open them larger and in a new window for better examination.

Below is the video portion of this review, you subscribers will need to return to the blog or head directly to our YouTube channel to watch the video as they STILL are not pushed through with your subscriptions.

One thing everyone can agree on, I was not built for Hi Def.



A new Lightroom resource...

Well, it's new to me.

While sucking down my mega-gulp coffee this morning I came across a site by Wade Heninger and it's obvious he LOVES Lightroom.

Part of that love is demonstrated through his "Lightroom Tuesday" in which he compiles a ton of relevant and useful links from all over the web representing the best in Lightroom education.

Putting together such a large list of useful resources takes a great deal of time and effort (I know because I've done it too, you go through a bunch of stinkers looking for the diamonds) so folks would be wise to take advantage of this Herculean effort by Wade because he's done us a great service (and saved us hours of online searching and reading)

And as if that isn't enough he also maintains a Lightroom Q&A where you can not only ask your question but read the questions (and answers) of others.

Reading his blog I learned that he was one of the unfortunate souls that was on the Carnival cruise ship that floated aimlessly off the coast of Mexico last week, which alone makes him waaaaaay more interesting than me.

When you get done checking out Wades blog you will want to peruse his portfolio as well.

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