Using Facebook to Market your Photo Business, Part 1

Now that the internet is deeply imbedded in the world’s conscience, it has opened the floodgates for business opportunities in the global scale. Gone are the major barriers of geography and distance, of language and cultures. The internet has brought people closer together and has kept us connected in ways we could only imagine not too long ago. Facebook is arguably the current most popular online social networking media in the world. It is not only used to keep in touch with family and friends but also to promote and market various businesses. If you have a photography business, using Facebook’s features can greatly work to your advantage just make sure you always link back to your blog or photo website as part of your promotion.

Have a fan page and keep it updated – self-promotion is a very effective way to get your name and business known to a wide audience and you can do that by having a fan page. You can have your family, friends, clients and people with similar interests as your fans. As others notice your page in their friends’ wall, they will visit and might decide to also be a fan of yours. There are many ways you can make your fan page attractive. A big come-on would be your profile picture. You can have a picture of yourself or your business logo, or even combine the two. The image should represent your skills as a photographer. Keep this page active by posting regularly and updating your fans with what you are up to in terms of your photo business. You can post links to your blog or your website, show your latest photos, invite people to attend certain events, and the like. However, don’t post too often (such as several times a day) because too many messages can irritate your fans who might consider removing themselves off your fan list.

Fill up the info section – Facebook has an information page where you can include pertinent details about your photo business. Your potential and current clients will be sure to stop by this info tab to find out more about you, such as your website address, your blog site, your online portfolio site with, and if you have other networking or photo sites such as Twitter or Flickr. The info page is what you would normally see when you use search engines so try to keep the details informative and concise. However, also try to keep the tone light and fun to attract prospective clients.

Use photo albums to show your sample work – it is only natural that you show off your photos in the photo album section. This is where everyone can see samples of your work, so upload and maintain a small portfolio bu talways link back to your main online gallery. Albums can be categorized so make use of this feature to keep your photos in order. Some people assume that online images are free to be used without permission and might copy your work for their own needs without your permission and knowledge. To lessen the chances that your images can be used, never upload the full resolution of your photographs. Resize the image to make it smaller but still good when viewed, such as a pixel size of 800 or less on the wider side. Also, use the ‘save for web’ option when saving your photo after post processing.

Having photos in Facebook means that you can receive comments from fans and others who are visiting your account. These comments can greatly boost your popularity and also be a venue for receiving feedback. Having a healthy interaction between you and your fans or other commentators is a fantastic way to personalize your business. They can ask you questions which you can readily answer and it is this immediate connection between people, no matter where they are, that makes Facebook the perfect avenue for promoting your photo business.

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How to Minimize Digital Image Noise

Even though camera technology has advanced tremendously over the past decade, it still has not totally eradicated the presence of image noise. This usually appear as little dots or speckles over an image area that should be clear and smooth. For example, graininess might be evident in dark areas or tiny dots of pink and purple might show up across a clear sky.

Noise can appear in your photo for different reasons. One would be when you use high ISO settings on your camera. Noise signal increases with the light signal when high ISO is used, therefore your camera will capture more light to illuminate the scene, but graininess will also be more apparent. Another cause of image noise is heat. When an image sensor heats up, photons separate from the photosites and taint other photosites. Long exposures also give your image greater risk of showing image noise, since the sensor is left open to gather more image data and this includes electrical noise.

What can we do to combat image noise? One of the most commonly used methods is to use Photoshop or another photo editing program where we can remove noise and other imperfections in post-processing. However, we can lessen the possibility of noise in-camera as well, and as they say ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!’

Try to shoot in the lowest possible ISO without compromising loss of adequate light. This will reduce the possibility of the appearance of image noise. Camera companies have acknowledged the issue and most of the recent camera models can accommodate high ISO settings, as high as 6400, without very obvious image noise. This is a far cry from cameras which captured unsightly image noise at ISO 800, and this was only a few years ago.

Protect your camera sensor from high heat. As mentioned earlier, heat can create havoc with photons and the sensor’s photosites. As the sensor works longer, such as with long exposures, constantly using live view, or during burst mode, it heats up and your shots will most likely include those tiny speckles you so want to avoid. Leaving the camera in the car on a hot day or under the sun will also cause the sensor to heat up and capture image noise.

If you have dark images and want to lighten them in post-processing, you might notice that doing so will increase the appearance of image noise, especially in the shadowy areas. To avoid this, try to shoot to the right side of your exposure meter instead to slightly overexpose the shot. You can darken certain over-exposed areas in the image in post-processing rather than lighten the shadowy areas. Fixing a shot in this manner will give you a clearer, noise-free image.

It may not be long until image noise will turn out a thing of the past. But until then, practice these in-camera tips to prevent, or at least reduce, image noise dotting and speckling your otherwise perfect shot.

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How to Create HDR images

HDR, or High Dynamic Range, is a method that allows you to take a picture of a subject with a brightness range that your camera’s sensor normally cannot capture.  This is done by shooting identical images that have been taken at several different exposures.  These are then blended together with the use of a photo editing program.

Although two separate exposures can be used to produce an HDR image, three exposures are generally recommended to achieve quality results. The objective is to have one exposure that captures highlight detail, another that has shadow detail and a third that covers the midtones. The easy way to take these exposures is to use the auto-bracketing feature of the camera. This will capture what the camera considers as the regular exposure, another that is underexposed to a degree and still another that is overexposed. 

Auto-bracketing can often do the work for you but there are instances when you have to take manual control of the settings. An instance is when the multi-pattern metering systems of some cameras may detect the shadows of backlit subjects and compensate by overexposing the shots.  In this case,  you can make use of the spot metering mode or check the histogram  for more information.

Most current digital cameras allow you to adjust exposure bracket intervals and exposure compensation, but usually up to +/-2 EV (exposure value).  This may sound like a lot but you may need differences of 3EV or more.

If you want a quick way to take an HDR image, auto-bracketing could be sufficient. However,  you might benefit more by using manual exposure since you have control over the adjustments. Needless to say your camera should have the manual mode option.

Spot metering is often used to precisely measure exposure. To do this, take a spot reading from the darkest shadow portion of the scene, then another from the brightest portion. You can then use these readings to measure the average of the two for the midtone exposure value. 

Today’s cameras are equipped with features that can help provide exposure readings and the simplest is the histogram. If you have a compact or DSLR camera with Live View, turn on the histogram display. If your DSLR has no Live View, use the Playback Mode after you have taken your shot. 

First, choose your lens aperture and keep it the same with all your bracketed shots.  Let us say you are using an aperture of f/8. Only change the shutter speed when bracketing. For the ‘shadows’ exposure, adjust the shutter speed setting so that the left end of the histogram meets the left edge of the scale. The speed here could be slow such as 1/30sec. For the second exposure, set the shutter speed so that the right end of the histogram just meets the right edge of the scale. This will take care of the highlights and you might use a much faster shutter speed such as 1/500s. To get the midtones in the third exposure, adjust the shutter speed midway between the previous two you used. You do not have to be exactly in the middle and in this example,  a shutter speed of 1/125sec would adequately capture the midtones. 

Since we have kept the aperture size the same and changed shutter speed settings, these speed variations increase the chances of camera shake. A tripod will take care of this issue and will be most helpful in other ways as well. Good HDR images have merged exposures that are perfectly aligned and although HDR merging tools do a decent job of automatic alignment, it is preferable to get it right in-camera. With a tripod, you can change your shutter speed settings while the camera remains completely immobile. 

Aside from camera movement, another thing to worry about is subject movement. There is a possibility that something in your scene might move or be moving, however slightly, and this can cause portions of your HDR image to come out looking blurry. People walking in and out of the scene or trees and bushes swaying in the wind can be problematic but there is not much you can do except to wait for the right moment or shoot duplicates of the three exposures. You can then choose which ones would be the best matches. If you are adept in using a photo editing program such as Photoshop, you could edit the bracketed shots to make them blend better into one quality HDR image.

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Quick and Easy Methods to Maximize Your Camera Battery Power

Have you ever experienced running low on battery life, or worse, the battery dying on you while you’re in the midst of capturing that elusive picture perfect moment? How about going on an outing and having the battery drain out and the day is not even half gone?  Having your camera battery die on you at the most inconvenient time can be very frustrating, to say the least. One solution for this not to happen to you is to bring spare batteries. Yet, you can also make your current batteries last longer by following some conserving habits:

Use the viewfinder when composing, not the Live View – yes, Live View can be very convenient since it shows you what the lens sees, and allows you to compose the shot right before you click the shutter button. However, it eats up a whole lot of battery power and whenever possible, use the viewfinder instead. To avoid parallax error when using the viewfinder (where what you see in the viewfinder is not exactly what the lens sees) allow more of the area to be included so there is little chance of anything essential being inadvertently cut out of the frame.

Don’t review every single shot using the camera – wait until you get home and have uploaded your shots to the hard drive before you review and admire or delete your shots. A lot of battery life is eaten up whenever you access the memory card and the LCD, and unless you absolutely need to look at the shot you took or you need to delete some shots to add more space, be a little more patient and review your shots in your computer instead.

Avoid using the zoom feature – zooming in and out while composing the scene is another power guzzling factor. Make your camera mechanisms work as little as possible by refraining from constantly zooming.

In between shots, keep camera on standby – turning it off completely then on again every few minutes is one sure way your battery will quickly drain. It takes more power to shut down then restart the camera compared to simply leaving it on standby mode, especially if your next shot will just be within the next minute.

Avoid built-in flash – in low-light situations, instead of using the camera’s built-in flash, look for ambient or available light sources and use those instead. The flash takes a lot of battery power when used and the resulting image might not look that attractive with the flash anyway, since it has the tendency to make one appear like deer caught in the headlights of a car.

Avoid half-pressing the shutter button if you won’t be taking a picture – like the zoom, this is another habit that will reduce battery life quicker than usual. Try to make early preparations by composing the shot in your mind and deciding on the camera angle, distance from the subject and so on before half-pressing the shutter button.

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