Today is the last day...

If you want to win "The Photoshop Elements 8 Book for Digital Photographers" By Scott Kelby & Matt Kloskowski.

Tomorrow we are going to randomly pick one posted a comment (to any post) written during this month (March) and the writer of that comment will receive the book.

I need to kill the rumor that people writing comments about my striking good looks will receive preferential treatment, it's absolutely not true, but feel free to write them anyway.

Join our Flickr spring assignment...

Here are three images that show spring is upon us here in Maine.

My hope is that you too will post images that show spring around your house over at the Weekly Photo Tips Flickr group.

Sign one - buds on the lilac bushes sprinkled throughout our yard.

Sign two - the day lilies breaking through the ground around our foundation.

Sign three - my dogs get new collars, here is Gracie modeling her new pink number.

FREE Photoshop actions from V Gallery....

For the next week (through March 31st) you can get V Gallery's Action Pack 1 for FREE!

Action Pack 1, which usually sells for $69, has 25 time-saving Photoshop actions that will improve your digital workflow and enhance your images.

And if that isn't enough V Gallery is including one additional action from Action Packs 2 & 3.

Stop by this page if you would like to see some before and after samples.

The video below will give you a good idea of what actions are included and how they are used and (of course) if you are a subscriber you will need to return to Weekly Photo Tips to watch the video or had over to Vimeo.

Lightroom and royalty...

If you use Adobe Lightroom, either the current version (2.x) or the Beta (3) a great resource is Victoria Bampton, the "Lightroom Queen".

She offers a ton of free resources like "what's new in Lightroom 3" and a thorough comparison between Lightroom 2 and 3 and Lightroom Keyboard Shortcuts (as a free download).

Victoria also offers a "Missing Lightroom FAQ's" series (for all versions of Lightroom) for sale in eBook form.

Se be sure to add the Lightroom Queen as one of your Lightroom resources.

"Captured By The Light" Re-Broadcast...

For those of you who missed (or just couldn't schedule) the webinar from David Ziser "Captured By The Light" on March 3rd you're in luck, David has posted it on Viddler.

"Captured By The Light" is 2 hours of :

on-location lighting setups


lens selections

off camera flash

...and more.

So make some popcorn, sit back, and watch a video filled with learning moments.

There were special offers provided by the webinars sponsors for the original broadcast and those specials are still available.

Topaz Adjust 4 is now available...

You may remember our review of Topaz Adjust version 3, we liked it then and we like it even more now.

Usually when you buy software you get the incremental upgrades for free, but a full version release will cost you.

Well, Topaz Labs has released a full version upgrade (from version 3 to 4) and if you are a version 3 owner, you can download and upgrade to version 4 FREE.

How cool is that?

What is new in version 4 is the interface, more default image options, and more fine tuning control.

What isn't new is that is the great output you will get.

Don't take my word for it, you can check out what Scott Kelby had to say about Topaz Adjust.

Below are a couple sample images, shot by my friend (and partner Mark) during a commercial shoot at a marble company. These are the kind of images that work best with Topaz Adjust (high key, back lit) to make a more interesting shot.

The background image is well lit, well constructed, but the Topaz Labs Photoshop plugin just adds a very cool "look" to the foreground image.

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

The best book on social media...

... and the best book for building your online presence.

Photography is not a "build it and they will come" business.

Putting the most stunning images on your website will likely do very little for attracting visitors.

The details of why I love this book are below but I can sum up my thoughts in just two words - "Buy it"!

Before you would attempt to remove an appendix you need to learn about the procedure and the tools you would use to do the job.

So before you build a blog, start to tweet, or do anything else with social media that you think will enhance your business you must read "Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs".

Social media is made up of Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs, Micro Blogs, and more - this book will provide you with an in-depth overview of all "the spokes" that make up the social media wheel.

"Inbound Marketing" starts out by showing us how the world of marketing has changed because of the advent of social media and then introduces its different elements, and the how and why they work along with the Do's & Don'ts of using them.

Do you know what makes a website "sticky"? Do you know the difference between "Digg" and "StumbelUpon"? How about what Google likes (and just as important) doesn't like?

You will after reading "Inbound Marketing".

The authors teach you what social media is, how to use it (correctly) to your advantage, and how to measure the results so you can see what is working for you and why.

I can already hear some of you "but I'm not web savvy, I can barely do email". Don't worry, it isn't rocket science, if you can read you can do it AND do it yourself. You won't need no stinking PR firm.

Seriously, this book is easy to read, easy to understand, and all the touch points are just as easy to implement. Are you picking up on the word "easy"?

I promise you nothing will do more for building your business than this book and it won't hurt your wallet either, it's available at Amazon for under $17.

"It was winter buddy, just winter"...

Sorry for my absence this week but things have been very busy on the shooting front, in fact I am getting to walk out the door in a few minutes for our forth all day commercial shoot in the last six days.

I will share the details of what we shot and who we shot it for in the very near future.

But in the mean time, today is the first day of spring, it's going to be 70 here and Maine, and I think this video says it well for all the folks who have suffered through a winter that was too long with snow storms that were too frequent.

And for subscribers (as usual), videos do not get pushed through in your email so you'll need to come back to Weekly Photo Tips or head directly over to YouTube to watch it.

Food photography from today...

I just wrapped up day one of a two day food shoot and wanted to share the setup and a few of the images.

Here is the setup:

1. A Nikon SB800 as the key/primary light (using a shoothrough umbrella, fired by a Pocket Wizard)

2. Another SB800 as the fill light (using a Photoflex LiteDome, fired by a Pocket Wizard)

3. California Sunbounce Micro to "kick in" some light

4. Foam core as a second (and smaller) kicker

5. Camera/shooting angle

Here are several samples, I realize there is a familiarity with the look, but one thing the client wanted was a "consistent" look and that's what I gave them.

Thoughts of winter...

I feel good today, because winter is no longer in my windshield, its remnants are scattered in my rear view mirror.

Clocks went ahead last night, the vernal equinox is just a week away (bring on spring), and my tomato seedlings are kicking butt!

It's still difficult for me to wrap my head around the fact that my friend in Maryland got more snow this winter than we did here in Maine, I'm not complaining, though I am willing to bet Mike is.

We've had just three plowable events all winter long. In a good winter we could have that in a single week.

This upcoming week we have 4 all day shoots (A museum, a mattress manufacturer, and a national foodservice company), so if you if you hear a bit less from me than usual, that's why.

I am sure there are some out there who won't think that would be such a bad thing.
Have a great week.

Practicing portraiture...

If you are looking to improve your portraiture skills before you start asking people to hand over their hard earned money for a session with you, one of the things you might want to consider is Model Mayhem.

It is possible to get models that are willing to trade their time for images to expand/improve their portfolio.

Before you go that route I would like to give you some suggestions to work by:

1. Be prepared. Don't bring a model in for a shoot until you have it well planned out. Both what you want to shoot and how you want to shoot it. I have heard horror stories (from models) about being brought in and have the photographer say "okay, pose!". I kid you not. A movie director would not say to an actor "okay, act!". Communication is key, a model can only give you what you are looking for if you (as the photographer) take them to that place.

2. Get the images back to your model in a timely fashion, they did their part and you need to do yours.

3. I encourage models to bring chaperones, I explain to them that going off to meet a stranger alone is not a smart thing to do.

4. Another thing I instruct them to do is to let someone know where they are going and when they expected back. The fact that I express concern for their safety helps put them at ease.

5. Have them bring their own music. Having something familiar will help them be more comfortable, less out of their environment.

6. Once the session is about to get going I tell the model they need to let me know if anything I ask them to do puts them in an uncomfortable position, either physically or intellectually.

7. It is not uncommon to have your model in the perfect pose and as you are about to snap the shutter you notice their collar is out of position or a piece of hair is in the wrong place, but you don't want the to move. Do NOT approach them to fix the issue without first telling them you will be approaching them and explaining what you are going to do.

8. If a model has had much of a drive to get to me I ALWAYS give them gas and toll money.

9. Should the shoot be longer than 4 hours I will also offer them lunch.

10. Though I have them sign a model release I always explain to them how and where I plan on using their images.

Those are (some of) the important rules that I go by.

Before you start using Model Mayhem you really need to head over to the Photographer & Model podcast, hosted by photographer Ron Davis and Model Shawna Rencher.

Each week you'll get a 15 to 20 minute interview, sometimes a photographer, sometimes a model, but both will give you their personal insight and perspective from a shoot.

An exerpt from their website that says (well) what it's all about:

"There are hundreds of photographers and models just like you working together to create stunning images. On the Photographer & Model podcast we interview those photographers and models so you can learn how to do the same. The show is about: Art, Relationship, Creative Process, Creativity, Diversity, Experience."

If you are looking to become a better photographer by learning how to manage, control, direct a portrait session/model shoot this is something you should seriously consider.

Photography shows you won't want to miss...

In the coming week PBS will be airing two outstanding photography programs, both from National Geographic.

The first is "At Close Range" with staff photographer Joel Sartore. Though it's a repeat, the imagery is just as stunning, the story just as interesting the second (or third) time around. You can read my previous post on Joel here.

The second is a new show "Top Ten Photos of the Year", in it editors and photographers discuss the stories and details behind National Geographic's ten most memorable photos of 2009.

To find out when these programs will be on in your area you can check your local listings here.

Win a book in our latest contest!...

If you are interested in adding "The Photoshop Elements 8 Book for Digital Photographers" By Scott Kelby & Matt Kloskowski to your library it could be yours for very little effort.

We are going to randomly pick one person who posts a comment (to any post) during this month (March) and send them the book.

If you have already commented on one of our blog posts you're in the running!

The more comments you post, the better your chances.

The winner will be announced Aprils 1st (no joke).

A little something for veterans...

This month (March) Outback Steakhouse is giving all veterans and active duty personnel a free "bloomin' onion".

They are also raising $1,000,000 for Operation Homefront, a non-profit organization that provides assistance for service men and women, their families, and wounded warriors upon their return home.

And if you add Operation Feeding Freedom to the mix you have a company that thinks the contribution made by veterans is important AND takes their needs seriously.

Thanks Outback.

Review of new Scott Kelby DVD...

There is a bunch of stuff to love about Scott Kelby's latest DVD offering "Photo Recipes Live: Behind the Scenes" before you ever dig into the content.

First, Price. The DVD has a retail price of $44.95, but if you enter coupon code "KELBYPREMIERE" during checkout it will be yours for just $29.25. In this economy affordability is important.

Second, content. The DVD spends over 2 hours covering 16 individual photo shoots from portraits, food photography, and product shots all under a variety of lighting scenarios. The DVD also comes with an iPod version so you can take it with you wherever you go. Want more? It includes a 75 page book that has additional and behind the scenes information for each of the 16 lessons. I'm not sure there is anyone who puts as much thought into what they provide to photographers than Scott.

Third, more content. You can get "Photo Recipes Live: Behind the Scenes" in either a DVD or online video format (if you purchase the online version you can download the 75 page book). The above mentioned discount code will work on either.

Finally, the good stuff. What I really like about the lessons is that Scott gives you a real photo shoot, starting at the very beginning when you bring your subject into the scene and walks us through to the finished shot. Have you ever watched an instructional video and while you completely understand what they did, you didn't know why they did it that way? Scott not only covers what works, he explores with us what doesn't work as well which (I think) is an important part of how you learn.

I can ramble on about what is so good about this DVD but wouldn't watching it be even better? Here comes the crazy part, you can watch the first five "recipes" in their entirety below. Yup, almost 50 minutes of what is on the DVD. I told you it was crazy.

The lessons in the video below are the Window Light Portrait, Couples Portrait, 3 Light Setup, Clamshell Lighting part 1, and Clamshell Lighting part 2.

So I guess the only question is not if you should buy it, but can you order it before it sells out.

If you are a subscriber you know video is not pushed through so either return to the blog or head over to Peachpit to watch the video.

Free Webinar with David Ziser...

On Wednesday March 3rd David Ziser will be presenting a free 90 minute lighting and wedding webinar "Captured By The Light"

Some of the topics to be covered by David will include:

• on-location lighting setups

• posing

• lens selections

• off camera flash

... and more.

David Ziser is an incredible photographer and teacher so you really do not want to miss out on this educational opportunity.

The seminar will be starting at 3pm EST and you'll find the registration page here.