Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Joe McNally & "The Moment It Clicks" Redux

If you’re interested in more information about and by Joe McNally, author of The Moment It Clicks (mentioned in yesterday’s posting), check out the “This Week in Photography” (TWIP) podcasts. You can find information at about Podcast #20 in which Joe discusses his book.

The TWIP blog ( is a great source of information for anyone interested in photography. Thanks to Bob Epp for the tip.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Moment It Clicks

Joe McNally is variously described as “an internationally acclaimed commercial photographer and long-time photojournalist” and a “legendary magazine photographer.” He describes himself as “LIFE magazine's last staff photographer” (he held that position from 1994 until 1998 when the magazine ceased publication). Joe is among a select group of 10 photographers worldwide to work on the promotion of the upcoming 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. You may know him from one of his exhibits; a collection of 246 giant Polaroid portraits taken in a three-week period immediately after September 11, 2001 (known as the "Faces of Ground Zero - Giant Polaroid Collection").

Joe was also one of two instructors/guides for the Nikon Photo Safari (pre-conference workshop) that I attended at Photoshop World 2008. He’s a wonderful, energetic instructor. Luckily, he’s also the author of a new book called The Moment It Clicks published by New Riders.

If you’ve ever looked at a photo and had a response somewhere between “what were they thinking?” to “How did they do that?, you’ll find this book fascinating. Often creative artists (photographers included) neither want to give away their techniques nor explain their work. In both respects McNally breaks the mold. Throughout The Moment It Clicks, McNally describes how he shot each image (with lighting, set-up, and equipment tips) and tells the story behind each photo. Among my favorites are changing a light bulb on the top of the Empire State Building (page 3), Joe’s first LIFE magazine cover (something about a green frog, page 19), Tony Bennetts (page 85), Munchkins (page 151), Nanny & Baby (page 199), Napalm Girl (Kim Phuc, page 213) and Her Pope (page 221).

Maybe your library has a copy you can check out?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Digital Photography--Light & Focus

Some of the often repeated axioms from Photoshop World were “If you want to improve your pictures, then take a step closer” and “shadows are a good thing.” The former may have originated with Robert Capa (“If your pictures aren’t good enough, then you aren’t close enough”) or may just be a common refrain from professional photographers. Time and time again, we heard “provide focus for your images” and the best way to do so is to “simplify, simplify, simplify.” In other words, ask yourself what or who is the “subject of this photograph?” Then ask, “What can I do to focus on the subject and simplify distractions?”

Light can help focus or can be the distraction. The eye naturally jumps to the lightest portion of an image. If that “high light” is the subject, you’ve won half the battle. If not, you have work to do.

One web site that received a lot of “press” during the conference was (“strobe” in this context refers to an electronic flash used by photographers to light a scene). The Strobist site focuses on lighting techniques, many of which are aimed at Nikon and Canon users, but if you’re willing to wade through product specific information, you’ll find the site helpful even if you just point and click. Take a look at the drop down lists on the right side of the blog (yes, it’s a blogspot site). Start by clicking the Complete Lighting 101 Archive and select a topic. To give you an example of the non-technical posts that can help an amateur, read (the “Thinking Outside the Box” post).

Friday, April 11, 2008

From Digital Photography to Adobe Express -- Part I

I just returned from Photoshop World and four days of valuable and intensive sessions on Adobe products (Photoshop CS, Elements, Lightroom, and so on) as well as digital photography. Over the coming days, I’ll share some of the information I gathered.

First, Adobe has released Photoshop Express (see, a totally online consumer product for storing, editing and sharing your digital photos. Without charge you obtain 2GB of storage space. You also get access to a variety of Photoshop tools that enable you to crop, correct and even “deform” your images. If you wish, you can then create a gallery of images to share on the web. The gallery feature requires Adobe Flash Player 9, but that’s installed automatically with a single click. You also have built-in features to enable you to post/integrate your photos with Facebook, PhotoBucket or Picasa; or to post to your blog.

When editing a photo, you have access to some pretty advanced features (though not with the fine control available in Photoshop) such as white balance, sharpening, cropping, rotating, red-eye removal, saturation, and adding fill light (to name only a few of the 17 controls). When you select a tool, you’re given several visual thumbnails to use to determine the exact settings (e.g. if you add Fill Light, you can select one of the thumbnails to determine how much fill light you want applied). You can also click and hold the View Original button at anytime to see the original version of the image and compare to the changes you’ve made. Express also enables you to drop any changes by deselecting the check box next to the tool/adjustment made. Or, you can click the Reset All button to revert to the original.

It’s probably wise to mention a few caveats.
  1. Depending on your connection speed and network traffic, you’ll just need to go get a cup of coffee each time you open an image.
  2. Photoshop Express is a beta project (if that scares you, don’t go further). This beta seems fully functional and Adobe is asking for feedback before they finalize Photoshop Express.
  3. Keep in mind that you can add captions to your gallery and technically show any image you want; but discretion suggests you should make public only images that do not give away personal information or which could be misused against you or by others.
  4. As always, be aware of college/company policies regarding the disclosure of student/employee, medical and other restricted information (e.g. don’t post an image with a caption disclosing information about someone’s medical condition, student/employment status, and so on).
  5. Be aware of copyright issues. Just because someone posts an image in an Express Gallery (or anywhere on the web) that you like does not give you or anyone else the right to copy, reproduce, distribute or to make a derivative works without permission. Any creative works (photographs are included) are copyright when created, with or without a copyright notice.
  6. Finally, from what I’ve discovered, you can share your “Albums” in your Gallery but you cannot restrict access to only specific users. Once shared, your images are available to anyone on the web.

If you’d like to see a small example of a Gallery, check out, hover your mouse over the Album icon and click to play the slideshow. When finished, click the Browse button at the top of the screen to view other albums.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Anonymous Email

If you receive email from someone you don't recognize (or even if the name sounds familiar) with:
  • no subject line or
  • a subject line that is not descriptive or
  • a subject line written with bad grammar or
  • a nonsensical subject line...

Don't open the email, don't be curious, have no regrets...just delete it!

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