Category Archives: Photo Management

Unlimited photo storage with Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime Photos

If you are an Amazon Prime member, you now have a great way to backup all of your photos. Amazon has introduced a feature to prime members called Prime photos where you can store an unlimited number of photos to their cloud service at no extra charge. If you are not a prime member, Amazon also offers up a way to store photos plus any other file for only $59.99 per year with their Amazon Drive product. In my test the desktop app uploaded files extremely quick and reliably which is extremely important if you have thousands of photos you want to backup.

Google also offers up a way to backup an unlimited number of photos to their cloud but you are limited to 16 Megapixels for your shots. You are also constrained to using the mobile app to get them to their server. Amazon gives you the option of using a mobile app or desktop app to get things done. Google does however include unlimited HD video as well. If you want to backup a bunch of video with Amazon, you will want to spend the extra money and sign-up for Amazon Drive.

Amazon Drive UsageOverall if you are currently an Amazon Prime member there is little reason not to take advantage of the storage. It’s another way to get your files backed up to an offsite location.

SkyDrive now supports RAW photos.

logo_msSkyDrive_web

Microsoft recently updated their online storage offering with a number of file handling and speed improvements. You can read about all of the features on the Windows Live Blog. The big news for photographers is that it has now added support to upload your RAW files.

You can upload your RAW photos just as if they were a jpg file and have the thumbnails and large previews show up in the browser.

Free Unlimited Photo Storage

Have you ever wanted to have a free online backup solution for all of your photos? According to LiveSide Microsoft is preparing to offer such an option.

Microsoft currently offers 25GB of free online storage via SkyDrive in which you can store your photos, documents and other files online. Now it appears you will be able to store unlimited photos and documents using SkyDrive. No word on when they will make the switch but it’s good news for all sports photographers looking for a free way to backup their entire photo collection.

You can see our overview of storing your photos on SkyDrive as well as how to share your photos on SkyDrive in our previous posts. You can also take a look at a short video demonstrating how Microsoft is building features of SkyDrive into Windows 8 below.

Microsoft releases RAW codec pack for Windows

If you shoot in a RAW format rather than JPEG you know that sometimes it can be difficult to view your photos as easily as the JPEG counterpart. Today Microsoft has made available the Microsoft Camera Codec Pack that enables native support for a wide variety of RAW formats in Windows.

You could use a third party plugin to do the job before but some cost money and others were in beta or not officially supported. You can check out a short video demonstrating the new codec pack below.

 

Photos shot as RAW rather than JPEG have a number of advantages and I have always been a big supporter of shooting RAW photos. This is one more step in making it easier to enjoy your sporting photographs in Windows and Windows Live Photo Gallery.

The Inside Windows Live blog post has more information on the codec pack release.

Sharing Your Photos With SkyDrive

In a previous article we talked about storing your photos on Windows Live SkyDrive. In this short follow-up we are going to talk about sharing those photos with your friends, family or even the whole world.

To get started log in to your SkyDrive account and go into the photo folder you would like to share. Over on the right hand side there are a few options for sharing depending on what sharing restrictions you have set.

  • Edit Permissions
  • Get a link
  • Send a link
  • Embed (only shown if you grant access to everyone)

Let’s go over the different options you have now.

Edit Permissions
This is a quick way to change the level of sharing you grant to other people.

permissions

From the screenshot above you can see there is a slider you can adjust to give a broad change or you can enter one or more email address in the box provided to specify individuals you would like to grant access to your photos.

Once you have shared photos with individuals this is also where you want to go if you later want to remove them. There will be a list of all the people you have shared photos with and the option to remove them if you like.

Get a Link
This option allows you to copy and paste a link that sends you or whomever you give the link to to your photos. Note that anyone that uses the link must have permission to view the photos. If they don’t they will get an error page explaining they might not have permission to view the photos.

Send a Link
With this option you can easily send a link via email that will give the recipients access to your photos.

When you send the email the person you sent the link to will receive an email explaining that they have been invited to view your photos.

share email

Embed
Using the embed link will show you a snippet of code that you can copy and paste into your webpage. When a visitor comes to your site they will see a small thumbnail with a link to the album. We have placed a small sample gallery using the embed code below so you can see it in action.

 

So what happens when someone either clicks the link you sent in an email or a link you have on your website? They are greeted with a large image view of your gallery. They are able to easily navigate either clicking the small thumbnails across the bottom, clicking to the left or right of the main image or using the keyboard left and right arrow keys.

view large image album

If they click the folder name in the upper right corner of the screen they are shown a grid view of the gallery with the options to download the entire gallery or even order prints from Snapfish.

gallery view

As you can see there are a number of ways to share your sports photos using SkyDrive. You can make it as open or closed as you like.

Storing your photos on SkyDrive

Windows Live SkyDrive is a free 25GB cloud storage offering from Microsoft in which you can store literally any files you want. It integrates with Office Web Apps which include free online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. SkyDrive has been around for a few years but unfortunately if you were a photographer it never had a real good reason to use it. With the new HTML 5 update that is about to change.

SkyDrive now feels much more like a photo viewing desktop application than your standard old website. Uploading photos is extremely easy. You first create a folder and then click the add files button. You are then presented with a large box asking you to drag your files there. Once you drop your photos to the box it automatically starts uploading them for you. You can choose from a number of uploading sizes from small all the way up to the original size.

skydrive import

Once you have uploaded a number of photos and folders you can get a quick view of all your uploads by clicking on the Photos link on the left hand side of the page. This view uses what Microsoft calls live tiles. Essentially what it does is present you with a small slideshow of the photos you have in each folder. The effect is very nice and isn’t overly distracting.

skydrive folder view

Once you click through to one of your photo folders you are presented with a grid of your photos nicely spaced and with their original aspect ratio. You also get details and options for that specific folder to the right side of the interface that “sticks” in view even as you scroll through your photos. When scrolling through your photos you don’t have to click through page and page but rather SkyDrive automatically loads thumbnails of your images as you scroll. This behavior is more like a traditional desktop application than a website. This makes finding your photos much more quickly than having to try and guess which page you think the photo you are looking for is on.

skydrive album view

Clicking on an individual photo brings up a larger view of that photo in addition to small thumbnails of the other photos before and after the currently selected photograph. Once again SkyDrive provides you with options and details of the currently selected photo on the right side. You can easily scroll through your photos using the left and right arrow keys on your keyboard or clicking to the left or right of the large photo. You can also skip to another photo by clicking it’s thumbnail at the bottom of the screen.

skydrive photo view

One last feature I’ll mention is the arrange photo feature. When you move to this mode it gives you an intuitive way of arranging all your photos in a particular folder. You can simply drag your photos around moving them into the order you wish for them to show up.

skydrive arrange album 

Many of the features I’ve described here don’t give you a full appreciation of how things look and work so I’ve embedded a short video Microsoft has provided which walks you through some of the new features.

Get a free copy of PhotoDirector 2011

CyberLink known for their media based software is currently offering beta testers a free copy of their new PhotoDirector 2011 software. All you have to do is sign up for the free beta, try out the software and fill out a short survey. They will then send you a free copy of the final version when it is released. You can go to the PhotoDirector beta sign up page to get started.

PhotoDirector2011

PhotoDirector appears to be a direct competitor to Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. It has a similar look and the toolset is also very similar. CyberLink is pricing PhotoDirector $200.00 lower than Adobe’s offering so it is much more affordable to the photographer who is getting started and isn’t making much money from their photography yet.

We will be taking a closer look at PhotoDirector and it’s feature set in the near future so stayed tuned.

Adjusting the White Balance of your RAW images

Getting the correct white balance can be a real challenge in some situations but there is one way that you can get the best possible white balance results every time you take a photo. The secret is to shoot your photos as RAW rather than JPEG. Shooting your photos as a RAW image allows you to adjust the white balance after you have taken the photo! We aren’t going to go into all the details of a RAW image in this article but after reading it you should be able to get started.

One disadvantage to shooting your photos as only RAW (note that some cameras allow you to shoot in both RAW and JPEG) is that you need a program that can read the RAW image. There are a number of commercial and free options out there for you to choose from. Some programs will actually give you more options than others so you may need to do a little research and try a few out before you settle on your favorite. As of this writing Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 is considered by many as the number one commercially available program out there for RAW processing. One of our favorite free alternative called RawTherapy is also available. No matter what program you use, there should be a similar way of adjusting the white balance for your photos.

For the purposes of this article we will be using RawTherapy to adjust the white balance of our photo. The first step is to open the photo you would like to adjust.

Original Photo using RawTherapy

Most of the programs out there have the controls you are looking for on the right hand side of the screen as shown below.

default controls

We want to adjust the white balance of this photo so we need to click on the color tab.

Color Controls

Right at the top you can see it has our white balance settings. To control your white balance you actually have to sliders, the temperature and the tint. The temperature setting will allow you to adjust how worm or cool the lighting was when you shot the photo. The tint control is used to compensate for any green or magenta tint that may be in the image. Most of the time simply adjusting the termerature setting will give you the right setting but if you still aren’t getting what you want try moving the tint slider one way or the other depending on your photo.

The image we are using for this example is a little cooler than we would like. You can see a slight blue tint to the overall image. We need to move the temperature control a little to the warmer side. In addition to the temperature we need to move the tint slider to remove a little bit of the magenta tint. We also adjusted the exposure a small amount to brighten the image up a bit.

Adjusted Photo using RawTherapy

Now that we have the image looking the way we want we need to save it out as something we can use more easily. Near the bottom of the window you should see a Save Image button that when clicked will give you some options to save your RAW image into something else such as a JPEG file.

Output settings

Note that you don’t need to save your original RAW file. Programs such as RawTherapy don’t do any adjustments to your original RAW file but rather save all of settings that you applied to the RAW image in another file. When you go to open your RAW image up again, it looks for the second file it created and loads all of the settings from that file. Note that this second file is fairly small in size because it is just storing the setting information and not any of the image data.

Remember the next time you are shooting in a less than ideal lighting situation and you need to get the white balance right on you may consider switching your camera over to shooting RAW.

How to recover your lost photos

At one point or another many photographers will inadvertently loose some photos either by a hardware/software failure or user error. Either way it can be a horrible experience. Hopefully you are backing up on a regular basis so to not loose your entire photo collection. The one problem with photo backup is that you have to get the photos to your computer to back them up. What happens if you are out in the field and accidentally delete one of your memory cards? Depending on the size of the card you may have lost hundreds of photos. Luckily, more than likely you can still recover all of the lost photos.

There are many photo recovery tools out there today, many cost money and a few are free. I always prefer free even if the software is a little hard to understand at first glance. I’ve spent time and time again looking for a good and free solution for photo recovery and I finally found something. PhotoRec is a free open source project that is designed to recover your lost files from a hard drive or memory card. It is also available for many operating systems including Windows, Linux and Mac.

To test the software out I took a 512MB memory card and formatted it in the camera, deleting all of the photos. Also note that previous to formatting, the camera reported the card as being about half way full. Now that we have a freshly formatted card, lets see how PhotoRec does as far as recovering those photos.

Drive Select 

As you can see from the screenshot above this is not your typical looking Windows application. If you remember the days of DOS it will look much more like a DOS application than your traditional Windows program. You must use the keyboard to navigate around the application but luckily for us it is fairly straight forward.

The first window that comes up will ask you what drive you have your memory card in. You should be able to recognize the drive by the size PhotoRec reports back. You may also find the label of the drive helpful as well. In my situation I needed to select the third option which was reported as a 512 MB drive with the label of Generic Flash HS-CF.

Partition Select 

The next window asks for the partition table type. If you are using a Windows PC like I am, you should select the Intel option.

Partition Type

Next up is the partition you want it to search in. If you are using a memory card you most likely will only have two options here. The entire disk and the partition your camera makes. My camera is a Canon 10d and you can see in the screenshot that the camera has labeled the partition as EOS_DIGITAL. This is usually the name of the drive that shows up in Windows when you first put your memory card in the computer.

File System Select

Now you need to tell PhotoRec what type of filesystem it is. Again if you are using Windows it will be the “Other” option.

Search Options

Now it will ask if you want to search the entire card or just the free space of the card. If you still have photos that you can see on the card you can choose to only look in the free space. If you want to be sure it finds everything possible, you may want to tell it to search everything.

Recovery Location

The next thing you need to do is tell PhotoRec where you want to put the files it finds. Once you are in the directory you would like the files to be copied to you can press the “Y” button to indicate Yes this is where I want my recovered files to go.

Recovery Status

Now you can sit back and wait for the files to be copied. Once the program is finished copying the files over you can go to the folder you specified to take a look at them.

Recovered Files

Here you can see the deleted files it was able to retrieve. It was not only able to recover the files I had just deleted but also files that had been deleted many months ago. As long as you have not used up the space that that your old photos had used the program should be able to recover them. This is an important point to realize. If you accidentally format your memory card, do not shoot any new photos to it. The old files are still there but once you start taking new photos it will start using up the space the old photos reside on removing the capability of recovering them.

Meta Data for Sports Photography (Exif) – Part 1

 

One of the beautiful things about digital photography is that with each photo you take the camera records all kinds of information about your camera settings. Information that if you know how to view and understand can help you take better photos the next time. This information or data is often referred to as EXIF data or Meta data. Simply put it’s additional data or information that is included in the file with your photo. My next few posts will explain this meta data, how to view it, use it, change it and improve your photography with it.

This information can’t be seen as you look at the photo, but most photo viewers are able to display this data. A couple of pieces of meta data we are all familiar with is the file name and date. Those pieces of information are attached to your photo and is information you see and use regularly. You can of course change the file name, and it’s also possible to change and add other meta data with the right photo viewer or editor.

Did you know though that beyond just the simple file name and date you can also see information about the settings of your camera at the time you took the photo. This includes aperture setting, the shutter speed, focal length, quality, resolution and much more. Imagine how useful this information is once your get home and want to see which photos turned out best and why! Looking at this additional data is a great way to improve your photography.

Pretty much any photo viewing and editing software will provide you a view of this information. Programs from Adobe including Photoshop, Photoshop Elements provide this data as well as free products such as Picasa will also provide you with this information. In addition to photo editing programs your operating system, such as Windows 7 will also provide you with a quick view of some of the basic meta data such as ISO and aperture settings. Below you will see three examples of metadata displayed, the first is a screen shot from Picasa the second from Exif Pilot and the third is Windows default information.

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meta data