Monthly Archives: January 2009

How a Digital Camera Works

How a digital camera works
This will not be enough detail to satisfy the physics majors out there, but it is detailed enough to help the practical Sports Photographer understand the basics of how a digital camera works.  Those old enough to remember film cameras know that a film camera worked by exposing film (photosensitive chemical) to light or a scene.  The aperture and shutter speed controlled the amount of light allowed to expose the film.  It was a chemical and mechanical process not requiring electrical power of any sort.  In today’s world of digital, it’s hard to imagine a camera without batteries.  Many of the basic photography concepts have remained the same in today’s digital world, but much has changed with digital cameras.

Digital Cameras
Instead of film, digital cameras are equipped with two critical devices, an image sensor and a chip/processor.  There are different types of image sensors such as CCD, CMOS or foveon.  The most common is the CCD which stands for charged-coupled device.  The chip/processor just like the one in your computer is a specialized computer that converts the captured light into digital numbers that represent your image and allows it to be written on a memory card in your camera and then transferred to your computer. 

The Image Sensor
The image sensor is a special solid-state device.  This device is covered with millions of light collecting diodes that electronically detect the brightness of the light.  These diodes or pixels laid across the image sensor represent the number of pixels the camera will shoot and that your photo will have.  When light strikes the sensor each diode/pixel collects a charge that leaves an imprint/picture on the pixel.  This charge in each pixel represents the brightness of that spot in the photo.  The brighter the light the higher the charge in that pixel and the less light the lower the charge.  Along with the brightness a special filtering process allows each pixel to also represent the appropriate color.  After the shutter closes and the exposure is complete the charges in each pixel are measured and converted to a digital number.  The digital number is represented by 1s and 0s which allows your image to then be saved on a memory card.  So in simplest terms the image sensor turns light into an electrical charge that is ultimately represented by digital 1s and 0s.

Controlling the Light
Just as with a conventional camera the lens controls the amount of light that reaches the sensor or CCD.  The amount of light is controlled through the aperture and shutter speed.  Aperture is how large the opening is that allows the light to strike the image sensor and shutter speed is the length of time that light is allowed to pass through the aperture.  Both the aperture and the shutter speed can be controlled by you, but can also be controlled automatically by the camera.  These two features work together to allow the proper amount of light to reach the sensor for an accurately exposed image, also stated as an accurate exposure of the sensor.

The Processor
The chip or processor in your camera is much like the processor in your computer.  The difference is it is designed and programmed to do very specific tasks. Those tasks are related to the processing of your image on your camera and includes the converting of the electrical charges to digital 1s and 0s.  In many ways you can think of your camera as a small computer.  The small LCD display is the computer screen and instead of a keyboard and mouse you have a menu system, dials and buttons. 

Familiarizing yourself with some of these basics will provide a foundation as you continue your understanding of digital photography,

ProPix Photography
The Sports Photographers

How to Preserve Your Photos

You’ve invested in a good digital camera, you are taking great photos the capture the moments of your family and friends, and you’re regularly copying your photos to your computer…………………..and you ask, am I done?  These are your precious memories that cannot be replaced.  Are they protected and preserved in a way that will last forever?  What have you forgotten and what could go wrong?  These are important questions and one hard drive crash on your computer can cause your photos to be gone forever!  Don’t let this happen to your precious memories.

In the old days photo preservation was a challenge.  Photos went directly from film to print and the prints themselves would fade and degrade over time.  Pictures could also be easily destroyed or damaged by weather, fire, floods, children or simply by time and use.  Since digital photos don’t fade or degrade over time many of us think that all is well and our photos will last a life time.  While it’s true that digital photos don’t fade and we have the opportunity to do a much better job of preservation, there are still many risks in the preservation of digital photos and if we don’t take the proper precautions our photos are at just as much risk if not more than the old printed photos.

If you’ve been using computers for a number of years you know the issue.  You’ve certainly lost a document or project you’ve been working on and you’ve probably had your entire computer crash.  You’ve probably also experienced your computer crashing and even losing your entire hard drive.  This is not fiction or a scare tactic it’s reality.  Those hard drives are mechanical and are spinning every second of every minute of every day that your computer is turned on.  Commercial businesses spend a lot of time and money ensuring they have redundancy (duplication) of their data so they are protected from inevitable hard drive failures.  You need to protect against this eventuality as well as the chance of physical damage through fire, floor or other natural disasters.  Of course you don’t have the resources nor want to spend the money that a commercial business does, but you do need the redundancy or duplication to ensure that you never lose your precious memories

There are a couple of options that are both reasonable in terms of price and time.  The first option is to use a USB external hard drive.  This is a hard drive that comes in a case and you plug into your computer.  It’s easy to attach and then disconnect and put in a drawer somewhere.  Prices have come down dramatically and you can purchase many Gigabytes quite affordably.  Many come with fancy software to do automated backups but I prefer the simplicity of just copying all my photos to the drive directly.  Then unplug it and put it in a drawer.  Then make sure you pull it out and do the same thing again every month or so, that way when you hard drive crashes you will have a backup of all your photos which you can easily copy over to a new hard drive.  Don’t leave your USB hard drive connected to your computer or you run the risk of losing that drive at the same time you lose your computer hard drive.  Not as likely but possible.  Having your external hard drive in the same physical location as your computer does not protect you from natural disasters.  For this protection you might want to consider keeping the USB drive at family, friends or work.  This does mean transporting it back and forth, but it does provide the added safety. 

Another option is to backup your photos to the internet.  Use a reputable website and they will provide another layer of redundancy on their side.  The beauty of this is that you have access to your photos from anywhere and anytime.  Many websites offer this capability, some also provide automatic backups while others act simply as an external USB storage drive.  Some of these websites will offer limited storage for free and then a monthly cost if you have a large storage requirement.  Be careful of any sites that offer unlimited storage for free forever…………….there just isn’t a business model behind that.  Also be careful that some of these sites on upload will resize your photo and you won’t be preserving the original as you thought.  While these sites are a great option for a backup they shouldn’t be your primary storage location which should remain your computer.

Commit now to making a second copy of your photos.  They are too precious and represent too many great memories for you to lose them.  Do it today and sleep better tonight!

ProPix Photography

The Sports Photography Professionals

Family Sports Photography – 4 Steps Great Sports Photos

1. Location, Location, Location
Just like real estate your best sports photos will come by you being in the right location.  Figure out where you can position yourself to get the best photos.  This probably won’t be up in the stands amongst all the other spectators.  Most often it’s down on the field or the court or upfront where you have the best view.  It might be at an angle or elevated a bit to avoid obstacles.  Don’t be bashful, if you have a good camera, and look like you know what you’re doing then get down in front until someone makes you move, besides if you’re shooting photos of all the athletes then you’re actually the "team" photographer and who will complain about that?  Being in the right location is critical for getting those photos you want.  Remember, don’t become glued to a single spot either.  Move around, try different angles, different elevations and different positions.  You will be amazed at the difference in the photo by simply changing the angle and this will help keep you from always getting the same shots over and over.

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Batch process your photos using Picasa

photos to be batched

Have you ever shot a bunch of photos to only find out that you had the white balance off, or the exposure a little low. Don’t worry, you can fix them fairly quickly using some batch processing. Google’s Picasa comes with a cool feature that lets you copy the adjustments you have made on one photo and paste them onto a selection of photos you select. Let’s take a look at how to get this working.

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Sharing with Google’s Picasa

Now that you have captured great action as part of your family sports photography you want to be able to share them with family and friends.  That doesn’t mean sharing just with the immediate family that can gather around the computer and look at them but with the extended family, friends from afar and geographically dispersed sports enthusiasts. One of the many benefits of digital photography is you no longer have to watch for “double print” day at the local photo print shop, you can simply share your photos electronically with as many people as you want and you can do it for free.  In the past you might have tried to email photos to family and friends.  While that might work for one or two photos it’s often fraught with problems and certainly an impossible way to numerous photos from a sporting event. In fact what typically happens is that your email or your family members email won’t accept large attachments so you will receive returned emails or errors.  There are better ways to electronically share your photos, and my favorite is using Google’s Picasa.

Simple & Free

Picasa is Google’s photo tool for finding, editing and sharing photos.  Picasa is simple, easy to use and it’s free.  Go to http://picasa.google.com/ or to Google, select photos or Picasa and download it and install it.  The download and install is easy to do and flawless.  Picasa offers many benefits including photo organizing, editing and sharing.  If you’re a user of gmail (Google’s email solution), then you have a Picasa account already.  If not, no worries, create an account for free.   The desktop software that you download, the web albums and the 1GB of online storage is all free.  After your install you now have free of charge (did I mention that it’s free) a quality application to organize and edit your photos, an online method for finding, storing and sharing photos.  The 1 GB of free online storage provided by Picasa is enough room for about 4,000 photos.  If you need more space you can purchase it. 

Importing Your Photos

During the install of Picasa you will be asked what folders you want Picasa to check for photos.  You can have Picasa check the entire computer or confine it to checking specific folders you your computer, such as “my pictures” folder and “my documents” folder.  Hopefully you have been keeping your photos organized a bit in those folders, but if not or if you’re not sure then have Picasa check the entire computer.  You will end up with some graphics from programs that really aren’t photos, but you can be sure that Picasa will find every photo on your computer. If you have lots of photos this will take a bit, so let it run and go do something else.  It’s pretty fast, but if you have thousands of photos it will take some time. A wonderful benefit of Picasa is that once installed it will continue to discover new photos automatically whenever they are added to your computer. 

Web albums

Now that Picasa knows about all the photos on your hard drive you can simply select the ones you want to share and upload them to a “web album.”  You can select an entire folder or individual photos to upload.  Once they are selected click upload and you will be directed to identify a web album to upload them to.  You can name it the same as the folder on your hard drive or change it.  Make sure it’s named something that your family and friends will recognize.  You must also select whether you want your web album to be private or public.  Public means that anyone family or not that is cruising Picasa can find and view your photos.  Private means that only the people you personally invite will be able to see this group of photos.

Sharing

Once you have your photos or albums online in the web albums they are ready to share and it’s easy.  Simply click share and then identify the email addresses of those you want to share with.  You can choose to share an individual photo or an entire album.  You will also have a chance to include a note in your email letting everyone know what photos you are sharing.  Each person you share with will receive an email with a link to your photos.  All they have to do is click on the link within the email and they will be taken to view your online photos.  Each individual receiving your email will not receive a different copy of the photos, but rather will be pointed to your online web album where your photos reside.  This makes the email quick and efficient and means there is only one copy of the photos on the internet.  How cool and easy is that.

Other Benefits (what your family and friends can do)

In addition to being able to view the photos and albums you have shared with them, your family and friends can easily add comments to the photos.  In fact I am using this feature to help document and tag old family photos, with the help of my Mother.  I have scanned and uploaded many old photos into Picasa, then sent my Mother a share email.  Whenever she has time she is viewing each photos and adding comments concerning the photo, the people, the date and location.  Very convenient and easy to do.  Viewers of your photos cannot delete or change them, but they can if you wish download the photos for their own use.  When you take photos at a sporting event of your children you will end up taking photos of their friends and teammates as well.  Invariable other parents will come to you and ask, can you get a shot of my child, or can I get copies of those photos.  Instead of making CDs for everyone on the team and running around like crazy, you can simply upload the photos to Picasa, send a "share" email out to the team and they can view and download the photos they want. 

Picasa is a great way to easily share your family sports photography shots with family and friends wherever they may be or live!

ProPix Photography

The Sports Photography Professionals

A Look at Photoshop Express

 gallery

Adobe has entered into the online photo space with Photoshop Express. They have provided many of the photo adjustment tools found in Photoshop Elements in an online form. This service works well for sports photographers and seems to be aimed mostly with the amateur and possibly even the prosumer who wants to make some quick edits online and don’t have access to their desktop tools.

Adobe has placed itself in a different position than a service like flickr. I don’t really see Photoshop.com as a serious photo sharing/community option but rather an online photo editor. It doesn’t include such things as commenting on your photos. It does however include some basic sharing options such as emailing and embedding your photos on a web page. It also includes some pretty neat slideshow options that you or your visitors can use. They have joined up with Shutterfly to offer printing services.

The strength of this solution is in the editing tools. They offer a fairly wide range of options from cropping and rotating to white balance and touch-ups. These options are all easily accessible by a list on the left side of the window. To make an adjustment just click the tool you wish to use and either select from the presets provided or use a slider to make more fine tuned adjustments at the top of the screen.

editing

While editing you are given the option to zoom and pan around  your photo so you can really see the detail of the adjustments you are applying. They have also incorporated a live preview, so when you are doing your adjustments it shows you those results on your photo nearly instantaneously. You can watch the video below for an example of this feature as well as a number of other adjustments available. Once you have made your changes Photoshop Express keeps a copy of the original so you can always go back if you don’t like the changes you have made.

Photoshop Express makes it extremely easy to manage your photos and albums. For uploading, you select the photos from your computer after which it brings up a handy dialogue box where it gives you the options to upload to your library, a new album or an existing album. It also shows the file names of each photo it will upload with the option to remove any before proceeding with the upload.

upload_photos

They have built a drag and drop interface where you can just drag your photos over to the add new album icon to create a new album. They employ the same mechanism for organizing. To add photos to a different album, just drag the photos to the album name and it makes a copy of them in the new album.

The biggest drawback is the amount of storage you are given for the free account. You are only allotted about 2 GB so this is not a very good solution for backing up all the family photos. You can however buy more storage if you like. They offer a range of 20 GB to 100 GB at $20 to $100 a year respectively.

If you already have your photos on another photo service such as flickr, facebook, photobucket, or picasa they make it extremely easy to gain access to those photos and use the built in tools to adjust them as well. This is a fantastic way of storing your photos on another service but being able to use the fantastic editing tools Photoshop Express gives you.

As noted earlier, I think the most powerful feature Photoshop Express has going for it is the simple yet powerful online editing capabilities. This combined with the fact that you can easily edit your photos from other services makes it a great option. I would recommend you check it out.

Terance

ProPix Photography

The Sports Photography Proessionals

Windows Live Gallery

Windows Live Gallery is a software download that allows you to manage, view, edit, publish and print your photos from your computer. You can download it for yourself for free at http://download.live.com. This is a great piece of software to use if you want something simple yet powerful enough to get most photos looking the way you want. This article will quickly go through the process of importing your photos, making quick fixes and finally getting them on the web.

The first thing after you have WLG (Windows Live Gallery) installed is to import your photos. When you first insert your card from your digital camera there will be a pop-up box with an option to import photos using Windows Live Gallery. You can then either have the program automatically import your photos for you or you can choose to look at them, rename and choose which ones you would like to copy to your hard disk. I always choose to review them before importing as this allows me to take a look at them and decide if there are any I don’t want to copy over to the hard drive. I won’t go into detail, but rest assured that there are many option to dive into with the automatically naming of folders and grouping by time and such, but they also make it extremely easy if you just want to copy over the new photos that it found on the card from your camera.

Once you have them copied over from your card it will display the photos it just imported as well as a list on the left hand side of all the other folders containing photos that are on your computer. You choose to view your photos by folder, people, date, or descriptive tags. You can also quickly edit your photos by double clicking the one you would like to modify. Once you double click the photo it brings up a larger view of the photo. You can now click the Fix button at the top which will bring up a number of tools on the right hand side of the photo. You can go through the different tools on your own and test them out but the ones I use on a regular basis are the Adjust exposure and Fix red eye tools. Don’t worry about making a mistake as you can also go back to your original photo by pressing either the undo or revert buttons. To quickly go through a number of photos in sequential or there is a handy forward and previous just below your photo (you can also just press the forward and back button on your keyboard).

Once you have made all the adjustments to your photos you simply click the Back to gallery button located at the top left of the program. One you are back to the main window of the gallery you have a number of options using the buttons across the top for publishing to the web emailing them to your friends or family and printing them out. For the purpose of this article let’s publish them to Flickr. If you don’t know what Flickr is you can go directly to the website at www.flickr.com. All we have to do is select the photos we would like to publish, click the publish button and select More Services and then Publish on Flickr. If this is your first time you will need to tell WLG what your login details are. In the future it will automatically use your information you provided. You can select which photo group you would like to publish to or even create a new one. Then simply click the publish button and your done. WLG will send the photo over to Flickr for you.

I would highly recommend you check this great piece of software out for yourself, it’s easy to use gets the job done quickly and it’s absolutely free.