An outstanding Christmas gift for $39!...

Yes, I said "Christmas", it's not that far away.

And is there any better gift than getting something a person made themselves?

Every time I give a photography as a gift I'm surprised at just how well it's received and the pride I feel when I visit that persons house and see it hanging in a place of prominence.

But then they probably were scurrying around, digging it out of the closet just minutes before I got arrived.


Today I received another email deal from Groupon, it's for a 16" x 20" gallery wrap from CafePress for just $39. And yes, that price includes shipping too!

I have never personally bought from CafePress but there really is no risk because you are getting two money back/satisfaction guarantees, one from Groupon and another from CafePress.

Surely there are people in your life who would love to get a canvas of one of your photographs, and for just $39 it will be a big gift for little price.

Here is the link, you have just 48 hours before the deal expires, so start looking through your images for that picture your mom said she loved so much.

Happy Halloween... and happy birthday!...

One of my morning rituals, while having coffee, is to check our Flickr group for new images and this morning I was greeted by this image uploaded by Kirk Howard:

I LOVE Disney (just check here, here, or here) and uploading your Disney images will always get you on my good side, it's like bringing the teacher an apple.

But even more important is that today is Stinky's birthday! She is turning (sniff, sniff) 17, or so she says, but in this picture (and in my mind) she looks no more than 8.

You can see what she looks like today or why I think she is so cool here or here.


Oh poop...

We are coming to the end of October and here in southern Maine are still enjoying the beautiful colors provided by the fall foliage.

But as I look out the window I see snow, LOTS of snow, it's coming down hard, and it is white everywhere.

NOT funny mother nature!

The weather folks were calling for 5-10 inches in the run up to this storm but this morning they are reporting that some of the surrounding areas already have 16 inches and the snow will continue to fall until this evening.

You know it's "official" because everyone in the newsroom is wearing their "storm sweaters" and there is a long line of cancellations scrolling across the bottom of the screen, at least they are while we have power.

It's a very wet heavy snow, the leaves are still on the trees, and because the wind has kicked up tree limbs are dropping on power lines and our power has come and gone several times.

But our pellet stove is belching out some serious heat, the coffee is hot, and my flannel jammy pants are cozy warm so I really can't complain.

Though the mental image of me in my jammy pants is probably something you really didn't need.


Taking a tack sharp photograph...

Here are a few resources that provide the information that you need to know (and do) to make sure your images are sharp.

First, it's the Digital Photography School with "How to Take Tack Sharp Images". This articles has eleven tips and techniques including how to hold your camera correctly. I know it sounds simple and (painfully) obvious, but do you hold your camera because you were taught how to hold it or because it's habit and comfortable? I was taking pictures for some time before I came upon a tutorial on how to hold a camera (and breathing technique). I realized I had been stepping up to the plate but no one showed me how to handle a bat.

Second, we have with thirty three tips and tricks. As you can imagine with that number of tips they cover a bunch of things, right down to have your lens calibrated.

Third, pixiq has "8 Steps to Sharper Photos" and in one of this steps they explain why shooting RAW will help you get the sharpest possible image. They have a ton of tips, tricks, and techniques that you will want to check out.

Lastly, Mansurovs Photography has put together "How to Take Sharp Photos" that has lots of tips, sample images, and corresponding links, so be sure to check it out.

Here are some more great deals...

Here are some more great camera deals, these are brought to you by the good folks at Midwest Photo Exchange.

The first is a (cold) flash shoe mount that I own and LOVE for two reasons, it's very solid (made of metal) and it has a thumbscrew lock that will hold your flash very firmly in place.

And it's yours for only $2.50! This is a great price on a very good product.

Another product that I own, love, and they have on sales is an all metal (very durable) umbrella/flash bracket for just $17.99!

They also have a bunch of other lighting gear on sale that you can see when you visit this page.

But don't doddle because some of the sale items have already sold out.

I really need your input...

We are considering adding a new dimension to the Weekly Photo Tips family, an (audio) podcast.

It would be a nice addition to the blog, our YouTube channel, and our Flickr group.

There are some things an audio podcast would allow us to do better, like product reviews that don't require a visual demonstration (like books) and interviews. We could include more information in a more enjoyable way.

We have done interviews in the past (with Vincent Versace, Matt Kloskowski, and Kevin Kuboto), but they are written and (to be honest) just a bit "dry". A podcast would be a great vehicle for bringing you more and better interviews.

It would also be something that you could load onto your iPod, iPad, or other smart device and allow you to listen at a time more convenient to you. The podcast would be the part of our community that you could "get and go", enjoying us "untethered" from your computer.

But doing a podcast that our readers don't have an interest in or think would not be beneficial would be a wasted effort.

This is where you come in, our latest survey (found in the top right column of this blog) asks what you think, for your input. So please take a moment, give your opinion, and help us build a better, more complete photography community.

The survey will be open until next Friday (11/4), I look forward to your feedback.

Wanna save some money?...

I know, that really is a dumb question. Like someone is going to say "no Scott, I don't want to save any money, in fact I was hoping to overpay".

Well, here is a HUGE savings opportunity for you.

Like many photographers I find myself burning images to DVD for a multitude of reasons... for clients, publications, media outlets, as well as for friends and family... so I can (and do) burn through a stack of DVD's in no time at all.

This week (until this coming Saturday 10/29) Staples has spindles of 100 blank Memorex DVD's, either +R or -R, for the phenomenally low price of just $9.99!

Their online store says "out of stock", but not to worry, I did an inventory check of all the Staples within 50 miles of me and every single one of them has these spindles in stock, so I am sure the Staples nearest to you will have them in stock as well.

More dirty photography... Food porn...

Here are a few photography contests you may be interested in.

The first is "Food Porn: The Tasty Art of Food Photography" from 1650 Gallery. This competition will not only give you the opportunity to be part of a show, but print sales as well. Submission deadline is November 2, 2011.

Next is "Abandoned", a contest sponsored by Profotio. You have a few ways of approaching this, several different options, it can be any kind of abandoned structure, interior, exterior, black and white, or color. Closing date for submissions is November 18, 2011.

Could you use $10,000? Then the National Geographic Contest 2011 may interest you, because that's the Grand prize. Though if you win I bet the prize money may be dwarfed by the changes (in your photographic) life winning would bring. Categories are People, Places, and Nature. Entries need to be submitted by November 30, 2011.

The Smithsonian Magazines 9th annual contest has a grand prize of a Smithsonian Journeys trip to Yosemite National Park. That would be pretty darn cool, imagine the photo opportunities that trip would present. There are five categories, Altered Images, Americana, the Natural World, People and Travel. This contest is open until December 1, 2011.

If that isn't enough to keep you busy you will find a listing of dozens of other photography contests here, here, and here.

Good luck.

Dirty photography...

Not sure if there is anything more annoying than downloading hundreds of images from a shoot and as you start the review process you see something quite ugly... sensor dirt in frame, after frame, after frame.

The dirt can be cleaned (both off the images and the camera), but for today's conversation we are going to focus on cleaning the dirt off your camera sensor.

Speaking from personal experience having a sensor cleaned is two parts money and one part time.

The money comes from (part one) the cleaning fee (in the $125 ranger per cleaning) and the fact that while your camera is out being cleaned you are unable to shoot anything (part two of money).

And while the camera is gone all you have is time, unproductive time. Well, I guess you can use it to remove all that sensor dirt from all those images.

I have finally begun doing something I have long resisted and now wish I had not waited soooo long to do it.

My solution? The Delkin Sensorscope System.

The price of the Sensorscope System is only $109 (includes free shipping), that's less than the cost of a single "pro" cleaning and the kit comes with enough supplies that you can clean your camera up to two dozen times.

Here is our video review of the Delkin Sensorscope System (those of you receiving this post by email will need to return to the blog or head directly over to our YouTube channel to watch it).

A celebrity lookalike in my family...

Ahhhh.... Wedding season (for me) came to an end this past weekend which means I will have Saturdays off, giving me more free time for those "off topic" weekend posts (which I guess is bad news for you guys).


So, for those of you who have been here for awhile, you know there are three miniature schnauzers in our house. Two "planned" and the third (her name is Callie) is a rescue.

She was a "breeder" that was long past her prime and in need of a home... we became that home.

Her eyesight is (real) bad, her teeth are gone, and when she is in the sun you can see through her thinning hair right down to her skin.

And we could not love her more.

There is an invisible leash that keeps her within just a few feet of my wife at all times. If my wife leaves the house Callie will sit at the edge of the rug looking towards the door for about an hour before she finally gives up and heads towards her spot on the couch.

She has been with us a couple years now and almost since day one I knew Callie reminded me of someone that I had "seen" before, but I just couldn't put my finger on it... until the other day.

So here is Callie with her celebrity twin, Bean Bunny from the Muppet's.

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

Here is just a taste... Some food for the eyes...

(what an idiot I can be, the title was supposed to be "food for the eyes" not fod... DUH!)

Here is a small taste (an appetizer if you will) of the kind of images folks are uploading to our Flickr group, you really should stop by and take a look.

If you would like to join the group (please do), you can find info here that will walk you through the process.

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

Story telling at it's best...

Just a few weeks back I wrote about the blog "Not Without Salt" and since then it has become (yet another) blog I follow closely.

And I do so for three reasons:

First, her writing is so engaging, it's like you are sitting across the table from her having an intimate conversation. It's a style that pulls you in (as apposed to just be spoken at). I really enjoy her stories.

Just her writing style is enough to elevate her blog to the status above most others, but then when you throw in her images it catapults her over the top.

Is she the best food photographer? No... Is she the best food stylist? No... but much like her writing, her photography is "real". I love her photography (reason two for subscribing).

There is warmth and feeling to her pictures, so when you combine her photographs with her words it comes out to (what I think) some outstanding story telling.

I know many of you have your own blogs (because when folks subscribe to Weekly Photo Tips I check out their websites) and I think Not Without Salt is a great example of a blog done right. Which is another reason I read it, to help me produce a better blog (reason number three).

So this post is not an exercise in butt kissing, it is another resource that is of interest to soooo many, if you like cooking, if you like photography, if you want to learn how to blog well then Not Without Salt is a place you should visit.

And our winner is....

As always, a big thank you our readers, for taking the time to participate in this contest, for leaving their comments, and for joining our Flickr group. As always people uploaded some outstanding images.

Be sure to check out the Weekly Photo Tips Flickr page for some ideas and inspirations.

The winner of our "Wedding" image contest was randomly selected from all who entered using a program called "The Hat", the person who will get a personalized autographed copy of the book "The Wedding Photography Field Guide" from Michelle Turner is...

...David Martinson!

David, if you get me your snail mail address we will get your prize right out to you.

Here are a few of David images:

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

Thanks again everyone and congratulations David.

So sorry guys...

I have not been here for almost a week and am 3 days behind on announcing the winner of our latest contest, all because life suddenly decided to rear its ugly head to heap some very unexpected things... like surgery for one of my daughters (nothing life threatening and she is fine, thank you).

But my head has finally popped back above the water and I will be catching up, starting with announcing that contest winner tomorrow (10/18).

Thanks for understanding, thanks for your patience, I've got some good stuff coming up.

Check out these images...

Not sure if you get over to our Flickr group, but you really should because our readers are posting some pretty cool stuff.

One of those posting some impressive images is Brice Burton. He recently posted images of firefighters that I really, really liked. I asked if he would share the details behind them and he kindly said "yes".

How did this project come about?

"The "firefighter" project came about because I had been doing so many photo jobs lately that didn't really fit my style... I was pretty much just taking the jobs to pay the bills and this had a definite affect on my creativity. Like Zack Arias, I don't show everything that I shoot, I only show those things that fit my style or that can help out my portfolio. I finally found a little bit of time to do a project that I knew would fit my style and help my portfolio. When deciding what to shoot for this project I decided on our local firefighters because these guys are generally very passionate about what they do and I thought they would enjoy having some creative portraits made. I shoot for a local health and family magazine and thought it would be cool to do a series of photos featuring "Somerset's Finest" in the magazine."

Why did you shoot them in the style you did?

"I decided to shoot the photos as I did because one, I love lighting and it impacts the scene. I also love how I can manipulate the lights to achieve the results I'm looking for. Two, I wanted the subjects to give an intimate feeling to the photos but still wanted to show enough environment around them to help tell the story in the photos. This is why pretty much every thing is shot 3/4 and up. Three, going into the shoot I knew I wanted a hard, gritty, and dramatic feel so that played into how I decided to shoot the photos. I knew I would have to use harder light sources. I knew what I wanted to do in post production so I shot in a way that would make the over all post process easier."

What gear did you use for this shoot?

"Camera- Canon 7D Lens- Canon ef 70-200 2.8L / Shot at- 100mm Aperture- f6.3 / Shutter speed - 1/250 for sync speed of strobes / ISO- 100. Main light - Canon 430 exII shot thru a 32" Westcott umbrella mounted on a mono pod. I used the small strobe as key light because it was lighter for my wife to hold on the monopod. Backlight- Paul C Buff Alien Bee 800 with a bare reflector powered by the Buff vagabond system. We set up and fired the back light first to see what affect it had on the scene because we knew what the main light was going to do. After we got out backlight dialed in to what we wanted we came in with the main light high, in front and slightly camera right of our subject. I knew the umbrella would diffuse the light but the smaller flash would also give a harder more shadowy look because of the smaller flash. To top it off we rubbed some soot on his face for that gritty look."

How did you process these images?

"My work flow for stuff like this consists of adobe bridge, taken into camera RAW, and then into Photoshop. For this particular series of photographs I made my color corrections and booted the clarity up to around 50 in camera RAW. Then in Photoshop I did some pretty detailed dodging and burning to pop the highlights and darken the shadows, giving the photo some contrast. I also used some high pass filters, but the image "look" was brought about with the lighting of the actual photograph and then some very detailed dodging and burning. This gives the photo a Dave Hill-ish effect to the photo but I chose not to go too extreme.

A big thank you to Brice for taking the time to share both the images and information on there creation with our readers, if you would like to learn more about Burt and to see more of his work be sure to check out his website and his blog, you can also follow him on twitter at @briceburtonimag.

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

Our review of the UPstrap camera strap...

If you are looking for a camera strap that is comfortable when it's hung around your neck, that if you hang it on your shoulder it won't let your camera slide off, and will hold your camera securely even if it's the size of a small Volkswagen... then look no further.

The camera strap you are looking for (and we found) is the UPstrap.

As soon as I received my UPstrap (and before putting it on my camera) it was inspected quite closely and I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the construction (in both materials and technique).

I have been using the UPstrap exclusively now for my last three weddings (and will for the last two) and I really like how comfortable and securely it holds my Nikon D3. Normally I would never wear my camera draped over my shoulder, that is until I started using the UPstrap, my camera stays securely on my shoulder without budging an inch.

Unlike most other straps, the UPstrap is not a "one size fits all" strap. The first choice is camera manufacturer, because Nikon and Canon have different mounting points, the UPstrap is designed to match those mounting points.

Your next choice is camera size, or you can choose between neck strap or a wrist strap. Don't want either of those, you can go with a bandelier style strap because that's an option too.

Not sure what you want/need, they will walk you through making the right choice for you and your camera (just follow this link).

But wait, there's more, if you would like a more comfortable strap on your camera bag UPstrap has bag straps too.

I am extremely happy with my UPstrap, I think the only thing that would be more comfortable would be if someone carried my camera for me.


Below is our video review of the UPstrap, subscribers will need to return to the blog or head directly to our YouTube channel to watch it.

It's time for our next giveaway!...

We are giving away an autographed copy of the book "The Wedding Photography Field Guide" to one of our lucky readers.

Not only will it be autographed by the author, Michelle Turner, it will also personalized to the winner.

That's pretty darn cool.

Here are the rules:

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

2. Upload one (or more) image(s) from any aspect of a wedding, getting ready, the ceremony, or the reception.

3. Leave one (or more) comments on any blog post on Weekly Photo Tips and/or a comment on any one of the videos on our YouTube channel.

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

The only thing we will use them (the images) for is to show as occasional "samples" of submitted images here on Weekly Photo Tips and to announce the winner.

A winner will be randomly selected from all entries on October 17th and will announced here. The autographed book will be snail mailed to the lucky winner.

Lastly, the contest is open to everyone worldwide.

Good luck everyone.

More in my new photography crush...

After yesterdays post Khara was kind enough to email me with a discount code for her Workflow Guide to share with our readers.

If you use the code "CRAZYFAST" during checkout you'll receive an additional 10% off the price of the guide.

Also, one of our readers (thanks Lee) posted a link to a recent episode on Adorama TV that is an interview with Khara and her husband Emir talking about their soon to start Un-Tour.

Speaking of Adorama TV, I want to give a shoutout to Mark Wallace and Adorama TV, you really need to stop by their YouTube channel because they have over 300 outstanding videos, every one of which is full of information that is of interest to photographers.

Here is the interview (subscribes will need to return to the blog or follow this link to watch the interview), enjoy.

I have a new photography crush...

At last months meeting of the Maine Photographers Coalition one of the guest speakers was photographer Khara Plicanic, she was just minutes into her presentation before I thought "OMG, I love this girl" (though I am sure when she reads this her response will be "eeeewwww").

But Seriously, she started talking about her workflow and both her content and presentation style are infectious, and when she finished I was so happy that I got to hear what she had to say.

Khara is a wedding photographer from Nebraska and the workflow she employs allows her to shoot a wedding on Saturday and be completely done with the editing process: proofing, sorting, editing, blogging about the wedding, gallery online, slideshow posted, album designed and uploaded well before she leaves to shoot her next wedding the following Saturday.

And to hear her talk about her process really made me think that her process was FAR better than mine... and if I could learn from her, so could many other photographers. So here are a few things that will allow you to hear the gospel according to Khara.

First, she has written up here workflow process and you can get in a PDF called (what else) "Rock Your Workflow".

Almost all wedding photographers have multiple packages (with multiple options) in an attempt to give our clients the choices in coverage that will make them happy. But what Khara learned through her research (which included this talk on TED) was that the more choices a person has, the more paralyzed they become and that it often leaves them with feelings of regret over their final choices. So the choices don't make our clients happy and it frustrates them, so in the end they are very likely unhappy.

Long after a person forgets what you did for them, they will remember how you made them feel... so do we really want to leave them feeling frustrated and unhappy? Really?

So Khara decided on a bold step, to take away this source of client frustration and she now offers just one single package, that's it, no agonizing over choices, no self doubt about "did I make the right choice".

For me, the how and why she came to this decision was itself worth the price of admission, and in her Workflow Guide she walks us through her workflow AND the rational behind how it became part of her process. For me it's not enough to tell me what you do, it's just as important for me to understand WHY you do it and that's exactly what we get from start to finish in her guide, "this is my workflow and this is how it came to be part of my workflow".

She explains why she shoots in manual mode, why her flash is always in manual mode, and (OMG) why she shoots JPG! When she first said she shot in JPG I am sure the expression on my face looked as if someone ran a turd under my nose, but when she explained her relational it all made perfect sense, if you are getting the image right "in camera" do we really need RAW? And let's be honest, RAW does allow us to be a bit "lazy" at times, because we know we'll have the ability to make silk purse out of a sow's ear.

Another thing that gives me confidence in a product is when they are willing to give me some of it for free, a peak inside the "magic box". If you would like to peak in the magic box of Khara's Workflow Guide you can download the first two chapters here for free.

The guide is thorough, very informative, and worth every penny.

Second, if you live between San Diego California and Gainesville Florida you have the opportunity to take a free class from Khara. On October 17th she and her husband are launching the "Un-Tour".

They are (seriously) biking from Sand Diego and Gainesville and stopping all along the way to teach free classes, two different classes to be exact, for hobbyist they are teaching "10 Tips to Instantly Better Photo" and for the pros they are offering the class "Wickedly Fast Workflow".

I can't recommend her Workflow Guide or classes enough, because Khara has a lot to offer to the photographer who is willing to listen.

And she's not just smart, she also takes a beautiful picture too, so be sure to check out her website and her blog (and see just how pretty a JPG can be). :)

UPDATE: If you use the code "CRAZYFAST" during checkout you'll receive an additional 10% off Khara's Workflow Guide!

Well, this made me sad...

This past weekend was the 4th Scott Kelby Worldwide Photo Walk and yours truly was the leader for Portland Maine walk.

But alas the weather gods had their own plans for this weekend.

Saturday was cold, rainy, drizzly, so the walk was pushed back to the Sunday "rain" date.

And rain it did, the skies opened Sunday and it just poured all day!

So sadly, we did not walk (or float) in Portland.

The most disappointing part was that I didn't get to meet with the almost 50 people who had signed up to come out and shoot.

So I am thinking that if there is enough interest we might put together a walk in a few weeks, though it would not be part of the "official worldwide walk" it would give us a chance to gather, talk, and shoot.

You have to check out this blog I found...

Being so close to the ocean my daughter Katie and I have talked about making our own salt, so the other day I finally did a search for instructions and as luck would have it, it just so happened to be the very same day that blogger Ashley Rodriguez posted "Making Salt" on her blog "Not Without Salt".

The first thing that hit me was how elegant "Not Without Salt" looks.

I love the color combination, the fonts, and the design... there is nothing I don't like about how her blog looks, it's extremely pleasing to the eye.

And as I dug into it was obvious that as good as the blog looks the content is even better.

Ashley's writing style made me feel like I was the only person in the room and she was talking to me. She shares just enough about herself and her family that it's like you've been invited in for coffee and a (very interesting) conversation.

But wait, there's more.... her photographs (which are sprinkled quite liberally throughout the blog) contribute beautifully to the warm inviting feeling of her writing.

I strongly recommend that you pay a visit to Not Without Salt, and while you're there you will find a bazzillion recipes you'll want to try, like her fall sandwich, the yogurt brulee, and making baguettes at home.

But back to the salt.

I headed down to the ocean, grabbed two gallons of sea water and headed home with the sloshing sound echoing in the car as I hit every bump in the road.

It was surprising how simple the process was, in just a couple hours of boiling and baking I had a cup of the most outstanding sea salt you can imagine, even my kids were impressed. But be warned you don't need to use as much as the "home made" version has a stronger flavor.

So not satisfied with my success making Neptune's salt I was wondering what I might make using my salt that would further impress my family, and headed back to Google to find the answer.

What I came up with was "Dark Chocolate & Sea Salt Brownies". Yup, yours truly made brownies from scratch!

They were a HUGE success, in just a matter of minutes the cutting board was empty, say for a few random crumbs, and I am sure if there wasn't so many people in the room someone would have licked them up too.

I didn't realize at the time but I may have set the bar just a bit too high.

Wish I had a dollar for every time I've heard "so, when are you making those brownies again?".