Monday, November 06, 2006

Cool Digital Effects for your Photos with Free Software

Anyone reading this blog knows that I am very much into digital photography. I like to use editing software such as Photoshop and Photomatix to refine pictures. Sometimes I use some strong processes to achieve a different look. The variety of things you can do to a photo is endless. Sometimes it takes just a bit of adjustment in contrast, sharpness, hue or saturation to make a good photo great. Other times, simple changes like converting a picture to black & white makes a huge difference.

Recently I downloaded Picasa from Google. It is free software. It works great for organizing your pictures and making it very easy to find them. I recently started checking out the processing effects that are available in Picasa and was amazed at the quality. Not only do their tweaks work great and look great, they are very easy to apply AND one click of a button reverses the process in case you didn't like it.

Below is a photo I took at a concert in North Tonawanda at Gateway Park. The first one is the original with just a bit of enhancement from Photoshop. The second one is the same shot using the "focal b&w" effect in Picasa. In my opinion the second shot looks much more interesting and was very easy to produce. Picasa is completely free and I would highly recommend it. Anyone can use it, you don't have to be a pro at post-processing.

Bass Player and Drummer


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Buying a Digital SLR Camera

The first question after you've decided to take the plunge into a Digital SLR is, which one should I buy? There are many models out there. Prices can also vary quite a bit. My personal opinion is that if you stick with Olympus, Canon or Nikon, you will get a quality camera.

You'll have to figure out your price range and what features you want. The layout of the controls and the feel of the camera are also points to consider. I have been extremely satisfied with my Olympus Evolt E-500. The quality and features are very good in a digital slr that won't break the bank. Canon and Nikon are the 2 most popular brands. A very good site that thoroughly explains the features of different models is Digital Camera Product Reviews. You can access their reviews here.

I would suggest that you visit a camera store so you can physically handle different camera models. One of the important things to consider is how it feels in your hand. You do not want to end up with a camera that feels awkward.

Once you have decided on a model, or two, I would recommend that you price the camera online. There are many good online stores for digital photography equipment.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Digital SLR Quality Photos Enable Many Digital Processing Options

Now that I've been experimenting with digital photography, I am finding it quite amazing. There is a lot of software available to use while processing your digital images. That is another future topic of discussion.

Right now I am going to give an example of what can be done with software using a shot of the Richardson Towers. All of the photos below are from the same original digital image shot with my digital slr.

The first shot is not processed at all except for a touch of image sharpening with photoshop. The colors, exposure, etc., are exactly as the picture was captured by my camera.

Richardson Towers

The second shot is a black & white conversion I did with the original photograph.

Richardson Towers B&W

The third shot is an HDR, high dynamic range, created with special software. The process involves combing 3 or more shots of the same scene, each with a different exposure. Once that is done, a process called tone-mapping is applied that brings out the color from the different exposures. This process can yield some pretty amazing results, it can also be abused.

Richardson Towers (version 2) HDR

This final shot result was obtained the same way as the last picture, except I used some of the color and other settings during the processing.

Richardson Towers HDR

Once the pictures were uploaded from my camera to my computer it took about 20 -30 minutes to get the 4 different results. The photo version you like best is a matter of personal taste, if you ask 10 different people I'm sure you would get mixed answers. I like the last one with the extra tweaking. When I look at it, the effect of the lighting and the colors seems to make the building appear alive.

Below are a few examples of what you can do with a Digital SLR

Before I start getting into features of digital slr's and technical talk, I thought it would be good to show some actual photos I've taken with my camera.
Lighthouse at Night Satellite Sunset (2) Flower - lomo ECC Tower psd P7032271

As you see, the results can be quite striking. More to come soon!

Why Buy A Digital SLR?

About a year and half ago I started exploring the world of digital photography. I started out with a "point & shoot" 3.2 megapixel camera but soon wanted more control and flexibility over my shots. That led me to to investigate the digital slr cameras available. For newbies, a digital slr has the capability to use interchangeable lenses.

Last April I took the plunge and bought my first digital slr. I purchased an Olympus Evolt E-5oo.
After doing some research, I felt the Olympus offered the most features at a decent price. A price that doesn't scare someone who is still in the learning stages of this increasingly popular digital art form.

This will do it for my introductory post, soon I will write about the features of my digital slr and digital slr's in general.