AAAAA! My pictures are stuck together!

We've all had it happen... You're going through some photographs and 2 (or more) of them are stuck together. You can't pull them apart without tearing them, and you really don't want to throw them away. The negatives are long gone! What now? Gently put them in the sink under cool water and get them all wet. (It may take a little soaking) Take it slow. Then you should be able to gently work them apart and get the junk off of them. Make sure and leave them face up on a towel to dry, and usually they'll dry evenly without a hint of damage, as long as it wasn't a red lollypop sticking them together! This highlights one of the advantages to having your photos printed on photo paper by a lab rather than printing them out on your own photopaper with your inkjet. If something like this happened to a print, you can't soak it as the ink will run and ruin the print. This also is why it's so important to mat your prints if you do choose to print your own work, that way if something wet gets on the frame and leaks to the underside of the glass or there is condensation in the room your print won't be ruined. Never put a print right up against the glass surface. Ha! you object, I still have the digital image! It doesn't really matter! That's true. But what if you give it as a gift? I recently totally destroyed a beautiful print I was given because I didn't notice that my pitcher was leaking while I was watering plants... and I really didn't want to admit what happened to the giver. (Oops, guess I've been outed now!) So I guess I learned that lesson the hard way. Now you don't have to!

Get a lens filter on your dSLR!

One really nice protective device that most people who buy their first SLR don't think about is a simple UV filter. It doesn't really affect your pictures, but it's good insurance to keep you from getting your lens scratched. Think about it... a new lens costs how many hundreds of dollars? A simple UV filter is under $20. Cheap insurance policy, that is! On the side of your lens at the end you will see a number, perhaps '52 mm' or something similar. That's the size of lens filter you need to fit on the end of that lens. Reputable camera shops can get you set up in 4.3 minutes with that and a cleaning kit like the Lenspen. I have one, and I really like it. Remember, always always always check the end of your lens carefully for fingerprints, smudges, or 'stuff' before you start shooting. A few years back the class pictures for our entire local school district had to be reshot because the photographer forgot to check the front of her lens, and every picture had a big black thread hanging through the middle of it. Have a great day! 🙂

Where to Point Before You Shoot

The word photography actually means 'light writing', and that's pretty much what we're doing. Cameras require light to create an image, and it's your knowledge of light and use of it that makes or breaks your work. We often joke about going away from the light when we're teasing each other before one of us tries something risky around our house, but it's a good way to remember what you need to be doing as a photographer. A lot of pictures could be saved or improved by simply changing the position of your subject so that the light isn't behind them, but is behind you, or better yet, slightly to one side. That way you add dimension to what you're shooting, rather than the slightly flat look of a fill-flash... which is another way of handling backlighting when you have no other choice. That's what I'm going to show you how to do today in a situation that we've all been in: Wanting to preserve the memory of a kid's first pro game or other event. Most of the time it's really dark up in the seats as compared to out on the field. When I'm taking pictures of the field I turn my flash off, as I don't want the distraction of the image of the strangers around me in my pictures, like the bald spot on the guy in front of me reflecting back in a big white splotch, or his attention-hound kid standing up and turning around to face me so that I can take pictures of him... No thanks, I'd rather be able to see the game, thanks! When I turn my flash off they all shadow out nicely and I keep the focus of the picture where I want it by the brightest part of my picture being what I want you to see. The setting to turn your flash off is fairly easy to find, it usually has a lightening bolt with an arrow and a big hash mark over it. Turning that off will make it easier for you to take pictures in many stadium situations or when your subject is so far away the flash won't help anyway and only highlights the baldspots of fellow spectators. I've got a couple of pictures here that show the contrast of a fill-flash versus no flash. As you can see, where we are in the stands is really dark as compared to the field and the beautiful blue sky, and the camera can't do both at once. In the first picture I have my flash turned on, but because my focus point is predominantly out in the skyline, the camera figured the dark blip in the picture was not important, and ignored it. As it turns out, I wanted the dark blip, which happened to be my son. (Isn't digital great? You can check your LCD, and say, oops, that wasn't it, let's try again! BTW, that's called 'chimping' because when we look we usually say 'ooo' like a monkey...)
Oops, didn't just want a silhouette
Not what I wanted
So this time, I pointed the camera directly at my son, putting him in the middle of the picture, basically saying 'here, dummy' to the camera, depressed the shutter button halfway to tell the camera to hold that thought, then recomposed my picture by pointing the camera where I wanted it in the first place so we could see the skyline and the big 'Safeco Field' sign in order to remember the day. That way the camera knew what the important part of the picture was, focused and set up it's exposure settings around that, and then I reframed the shot so that I got the shot I wanted.
That's better!
That's more like it!
I took these pictures with a $130 Nikon Coolpix, not anything special or amazing, and it was the first day I used it. Every camera can do this. Every camera I've ever used has that half-way point in the shutter button so you can force it to pay attention to something that it usually wouldn't. It will be a very important trick that helps you improve your photography immensely. Go play with it! It's fun!

Picasa-A Great Free Tool

If you have Windows it probably came bundled with a couple of basic programs to edit your pictures. You may also have some pretty nice tools in the software that came with your camera, but if you want to go beyond those there is a really nice tool owned by Google called Picasa. You can use it to organize and edit your photos, do some artistic effects including black and white or sepia conversion and custom tinting, it has facial recognition to help you find pictures of various individuals automatically, and easily helps you resize your files for uploading to the web, or to your free 1 gig online album at Google so you can share your pictures with friends and family. It helps you easily email pictures, too. You can even make a nice collage of pictures for your desktop. One thing you'll find with your digital camera is that you take a lot more pictures than you used to, and you're going to want to organize them so you can find them again easily. Picasa is a nice choice to make that possible.

Read the Manual? HOW??

Ok, we've all had that magic moment when we pull our fresh lovely new-camera-smell products out of their plastic baggies, set them all on the table before us, and then reach for the manual. Horrors... It's microscopic print, non-native language (I really don't think engineers or technical writers speak any language but tech-eese), lack of illustrations and constant references to other random pages in the manual make it almost impossible to learn how to use your new toy. So, if you're like me, the manual mostly doesn't get referred to until you're desperate and almost in tears. Take heart! There are options! Most people don't realize that Amazon.com carries a plethora of really great aftermarket manuals that are far more easily understood than the one that came with your camera. Just go to Amazon and type in what type of camera you have, and you should be able to easily find a book for it or something similar. There are manuals for camera phones, even! Check the reviews at the bottom of the page, and from that you should be able to make a choice of which you want to buy. I've also found camera manuals at Half-Price Books for older cameras and software, or you can ask at your local book store and they can get you what you need. Don't feel bad if you forget things and have to refer back to your manuals in the future, even some pro photographers do that, and carry various laminated 'cheat sheets' on lighting as well. You will never regret buying an aftermarket manual, they're worth their weight in gold. Cameras are complex tools, and even the simplest point and shoot camera now has capabilities that will impress you if you take the time to play with them. Honestly, that's the main thing that you need to do: Play. Take a LOT of pictures. Practice. Then you won't suffer missing all those magic moments at holidays or preschool graduations or what-have-you because you didn't know how your #$%#% camera/camcorder works. Remember: This is supposed to be fun! 😉