Thursday, June 25, 2009

Prices Reduced!

I don't often write much about my own shops on Etsy but I would like share with everyone that I have just reduced the prices of all of my prints at my Past Perfect shop. I am doing this for special summer savings. (Shh! Don't tell the gallery that sells my work!)

Now, my prints were not all that expensive before but I have brought the prices down 20%. Take advantage and decorate your home with some beautiful floral and nature prints - along with a little whimsy thrown in.

If you look down at the bottom of this page you will see a sample of what you can find at Past Perfect.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Choosing a Camera - Part 2

In my last article I started talking about what to know when choosing a camera. Now we are going to get a little more specific.

Let's start with Megapixels. Every digital camera will boast about how many megapixels the camera has. What does all of this mean? The larger the number of megapixels, the larger the image file size will be and the more detailed (supposedly) the image will be in the photograph. I say supposedly as there is some debate in the photography world that there are just so many megapixels the sensor in current camera technology can process and exceeding that makes no difference or can even have a negative impact. Never the less, the newest models are always more megapixels than last year's model. The newest models are at 15 plus mpx. But these are also the most expensive cameras. Expect to pay more for more megapixels no matter what category of camera you are looking at. Also keep in mind that high megapixel cameras can often be set to shoot photos at lower megapixel settings to save file space, but if you are going to never set your 10 mpx camera higher than 5 mpx, why pay that much more for your camera? I am not saying don't get as many mpx as you can afford - I would, but this is something to consider if you are on a budget and anticipate limited use of your camera for web photos (which need to be small anyway).

What brand camera is good? I am not going to say that any one brand is bad, but I will tell you that some brands are considered the top by serious photographers. At the top of the list are Canon and Nikon. These companies have been making film cameras for many, many years before they started making digital cameras and they bring their expertise and quality to all of the cameras that they make. Nikon has always had a reputation for one of the best lenses. Canon also has excelled in some of the features that they build into their cameras and thier lenses are also quality lenses. I have found the features in Canon digitals to surpass those in Nikon. Either one is going to take an excellent photo. Sony has been giving both companies competiton. Their expertise is electronics and they are concentrating that into their digital cameras. When I was looking for my last camera, Sony was my second choice, but Canon had more "camera" function in the model I was looking for.

I am going to jump off here to talk a bit about Canon. Many recommend the Canon Powershots - I agree with that recommendation but must add pick a model with IS in the name - IS for Image Stabilization. I spoke about this in this article. Canon has exceptional image stabilization in their IS models. This can eliminate the need for a tripod in many situtations. This can help anyone with "shaky" hands when trying to hold the camera still. Another create feature in many Canon's is "super macro", a macro mode beyond macro that will allow you to get so close to the subject that you have to be careful that you do not hit the lens with what you are taking a photo of. There may be other camera brands that do this, but from experience I can recommend Canon - as do many.

Is this going to just be a Canon ad? No. I have owned a number of cameras. Fuji has had nice features on thier cameras. Olympus has as well. But Fuji, Olympus, and Kodak, while capable are not up there with the leaders of the pack. The Lumix - made by Panasonic is an up and coming camera moving into the realm of Nikon, Canon, and Sony. They have been inovative in thier DSLR's offering a realtime and movable display on the back of the camera before the other companies did. Now, the others are also offering this on their DSLR's. Interestingly this is standard on the most inexpensive point and shoots.

In Part One of Choosing a Camera I spoke about the camera class that I am calling a hybrid - the camera that is a Point and Shoot with the look, shape, and features of a DSLR. Since starting this article I have done some research into the various brands that offer this type of camera. If you look in the photo department of your local electronics store you are going to see cameras made by Canon, Sony, Lumix, Kodak, and Nikon that look like DSLRs but are priced less than $400.00. Examine them closely and you will see that unlike the DSLR the lens is fixed to the camera and is not removable - but everything else looks so much like a DSLR. When you look through the electronic viewfinder you are looking through the lens - just like a DSLR. I am not going to repeat what I said in Part One, but I am going to tell you what I have learned looking at these cameras recently. If you want the most DSLR function in one of these "point and shoot" cameras you are going to want one of the Canon SX series. They have model numbers like SX10IS. The newest is SX1IS which adds High Def Video to the SX10IS model. Last years model - 8 mpx rather than 10 mpx, but in all other ways the same as the SX10IS is the SX5IS - still available and discounted. So what makes these Canons different than the other brands. One thing is that you can very easily add photographic filters and lens additions to the Canon. All that is required is an adapter sleeve which sells in camera shops for about $40 more. A ring on the camera lens unscrews and this sleeve screws on. The camera will now take standard size lens filters. Just screw them on to the front of the sleeve. The same sleeve accepts telephoto lens extenders and wide angle lens extenders which increase the already super range of telephoto function and wide angle function that are already built into the camera. Some of the other brands can do this but not as easily. and some only take filters and extensions made specifically for that camera. The view finder sceen on this camera can be flipped out of the back of the camera from its side and turned at various angles. This makes taking shop photos that you want to come straight down on a breeze when you set the sceen at 90 degrees to the camera. There is not a function on a DSLR that I have found that is not duplicated in some way on the Canon SX series. One I am asked to recommend a camera, this is the camera that I recommend. If you do not want any of these features, don't want anything that is the slightest bit complex, or want to not spend more than $200 to $250, then look at the Canon Powershot IS models or the Nikon Coolpix with Image Stabilization models.

Another factor to consider is whether the camera has a rechargable battery or uses regular alkaline batteries. The small point and shoots almost all have rechargable batteries. Some use regular batteries. I prefer cameras that use regular batteries - the ones that are available almost everywhere you go. For one thing, if you want rechargable you can put rechargable AA or AAA batteries into the camera. For another, if you run out of power and are near a convenience store they are going to have batteries for you to get your camera working again.

Here is another tip! If you are attracted to one camera or another in a store, go home and go online to that camera companies website. It is more than likely that the manual for that camera will be online as a free download. Download the pdf file manual and read through it. You will see how the camera works, how each feature is operated and know for certain what it can do and what it cannot do.

One thing that I must say is that you should not buy "cheap" because you want a camera that will last and one that will give you good photos when you need it. There are many discounts available on cameras. Almost every holiday has cameras being advertised at great savings - pre-Christmas, Fathers Day, Graduation season, vacation season. The store circulars are full of camera discounts. You may also find a good discount online - but don't buy online until you ahve held and played with that camera in a store. I was able to get a camera on a Pre-Holiday sale at a great price at a chain electonics store that would match prices. Right before the Holiday a local camera shop ran an ad that beat my great price by almost $40! I went into the store that I purchased the camera with the ad and got that price - the difference refunded to me! Don't be disuaded by the first price that you see. Cameras are often greatly discounted.

When you purchase your camera and bring it home the first thing you need to do is take out the manual and read it. Learn your camera before you take your first photo with it. You will then not be intimidated by your new camera in anyway and you will be able to easily use all of its functions. And don't lose that manual! I keep my manual with me in my camera bag so that it is always there should I not remember how to use a function.

Have fun with your new camera!

Choosing a Camera - Part 1

When you taking product photos of your crafts or art, you want to have a good camera, but very often the question comes up - "what camera should I buy?". What to buy is most easily answered with another question. What do you intend to use the camera for? When plunking down a hundred dollars or more, most of us want to buy a camera that will take good photos of a variety of things. Serious photographers often have more than one camera - each for a different application. Most of us have one. For the most practical camera in 2009 we are going focus only on digital cameras. Film is great but not very practical.

Before purchasing a camera you really want to think about what you might be using it for - in addition to taking photos for your online shop or sales catalog. Do you travel and take photos of the sites that you visit? Do you have children and want to take photos of all of those "special moments"? Do you take family snapshots? Would you like to start to get serious about photography as a hobby and an expression of art? Do you just want to take photos of your crafts? Or any or all of the above in combination?

How complicated a camera can you handle? Will a camera with a lot of dials and settings intimidate you? Would you just like to pick up the camera, turn it on, point it at the subject and push the button? More questions! But you need to answer each one even before you start looking. Oh yes, one more question - how much do you want to spend?

There are basically three basic categories of cameras available right now - Point and Shoot, DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex), and a new breed that has popped up in the last few years - a cross between the two. Point and Shoot cameras are fully automatic - yet they do offer you some setting that you can control when you are taking a photo. DSLR camera's have automatic features but you will need to turn the lens tube to zoom in and out to get the photo that you want and while most have auto-focus, you will want to use the lens to focus the lens yourself - again by turning it - which is one of the most prominent features of this type of camera. With a DSLR you will also be able to take the lens off easily and replace it with a lens of a different focal length giving you more options for wide angles, telephoto distances, macro photos, etc. The lens on DSLR's also allow you to place filters over the front of the lens. Filters change the light and create various effects on your photo. Most of the DSLR's, if not all, require an external flash to be attached to the camera for all flash photography. DSLR's are for the really serious interest in photography and while these are exceptional cameras, they are not for everyone. The third category of camera I have been calling a DSLR hybrid. These cameras look like small DSLR cameras. What you see through the eye piece and on the display screen is exactly what is coming through the camera's lens. Some of these add the abilitity to attach an external flash but also come with their own built in flash. Most models also allow you to add lens attachments - similar to the DSLR - including filters and various attachments that change the lens focal distance - again wide angle, macro, and telephoto. The main lens is not removed, but these attachments are screwed on to the lens on the camera. These hybrids also allow you to change the various auto settings on the camera very much as you can on a DSLR. You also have the ability to manual focus - though instead of moving the lens, you will do this electronically with a variable motion button.

Let's talk about cost. Frankly, they are all over the place. Point and Shoot camera's start at less than $50 and can go up to $300. DSLR cameras will start at about $450 and go into the thousands. Many DSLR cameras are sold without a lens - you buy the lens of your choice (generally always made by the same company that makes the camera). Many are packaged with one or two lens - of course, at a higher price. It does pay to look for those packages if you want a DSLR camera. The, so-called, Hybrids sell between $300 and $400 but are often discounted less.

When shopping for any camera you ABSOLUTELY want to look at, touch, and play with the camera. Do not buy a camera from a website - unless you have already gone to a brick and mortar store and played with it. When you go to a store, you can pick up the camera and feel it in your hands. Often the stores will have them plugged in so that you can try them turned on - try the focus, try the zoom, try the macro mode, see the settings, look at the menus, etc. You can't do this on a website and no matter what you read and learn about a camera you want it in your hands before your buy it.

I will continue this article in Part 2 talking about various brands, etc. Before that, I recommend that you read this article (if you have not already done so) to learn what you want in your camera if you are taking shop photos.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Basic Product Photograpy - The Series

For the past six weeks there have been a series of articles on this site about the basics of taking product photographs to be used on a website, a web store, or in print in a catalog. To make it easier to refer back to these articles I will list the links below. If new related articles are written in the future, those links will be added as they occur.


Part 1 - Cameras, Equipment, Etc.

Part 2 - Shooting Outdoors

Part 3 - Shooting Indoors

Part 4 - A Better Way to Shoot Indoors - Light Tents

Part 5 - Editing Software

Part 6 - Image Editing

Choosing a Camera - Part 1

Choosing a Camera - Part 2