Photographing Fruits and Vegetables

bananas Photographing Fruits and VegetablesAre you at a loss for a subject to shoot? Why not pick some very common subject matter and see if you can present it in interesting ways? Challenge yourself with little exercises in composition, lighting, and creativity. What better way to do this than to start by photographing common vegetables and fruits. They make such great potential subjects because they come in so many varieties, from long purple eggplants to broccoli sprouts that look like miniature trees; from small bright berries to giant watermelons. They are also very accessible. You can get them in the market, if you don’t already have them in your refrigerator. Among other things, you can mash, slice, dice, puree, cook, chop, carve, squeeze, or shred them.

Fruits and vegetables are usually full of fascinating textures, shapes and colors. By using strategic composition and lighting, you can show them off successfully.

peppers Photographing Fruits and VegetablesClose up or macro shots, for instance, will direct the viewer’s eyes to the intricate details. These details may not be obvious or even interesting if seen at a regular distance. But by showing how the fruit or vegetable looks like up close, then the viewer gets to notice and appreciate what he or she would normally miss. The skins or surfaces are usually textured and peeling or slicing them off will show further details and textures.

These objects also make fantastic still life subjects. You might have noticed a lot of still life compositions of fruits and vegetables in other art forms, especially in painting and drawing. They allow the artist to practice capturing how they catch the light, how their varied shapes and forms flow in the frame, and how their colors complement each other. Aside from all these, they are universally recognizable. There is no need to explain what they are, so the artist is free to simply depict the beauty of their existence.

Fruits and vegetables can be photographed in the studio or indoors where lighting conditions are controlled and onion Photographing Fruits and Vegetableswhere they have been rinsed to remove specks of dirt. But shooting them outdoors, still clinging to the stem or root and a part of nature, is another effective way of portraying them. Taking advantage of it being in its natural habitat and soaking up the sunlight can make for some wonderful shots.

There are many ways to use lighting to show off the best features of fruits and vegetables. Window light is a great light source especially for still life shots since indirect sunlight, plus sidelighting, can introduce mood and drama. Intense light might make fine details disappear but can also make strong patterns more prominent. Backlighting can turn them into silhouettes or can illuminate them better especially if they are transparent or not very opaque.

 

 


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Sharpening Images and the Unsharp Mask

One of the most often used and abused post processing tools are the sharpen filters. When applied properly, sharpening can boost the image by making it look crisper and more defined. However, there is a tendency to go overboard with this and the image can come out looking unnatural and ‘oversharpened.’ There is the popular misconception that if you sharpen a blurry image, it will magically appear clearer. What does happen is that the blurry image will just look more terrible. 

Sharpening works by exaggerating the contrast of the object’s edges, giving the viewer the impression of distinct delineation. There are many ways to do this. You can sharpen the entire image in one click with the Sharpen filter or you can use the Unsharp Mask for more control over how defined you want the sharpening to be. Some people prefer to use the High Pass Filter or the Smart Sharpen. Whichever method you use, just remember to be light-handed when sharpening since too much can make the image look unnatural with distorted pixels. One tip would be to sharpen only certain areas in the shot instead of the whole image. For example, if your image is of a bird flying against the cloudy sky, sharpen only parts of the bird while leaving the sky untouched to keep it looking smooth. 

An image edited with a simple Sharpen filter:

sharpcomp Sharpening Images and the Unsharp MaskWhen editing your image, always leave sharpening for last. Sharpening in the middle of editing is not advisable especially if the image might be resized later on. For full effect, do it when you have settled on the final size of your image. If you’re planning to sell your shots in a stock site, try not to sharpen your images at all. The buyers of your image might want to resize the shot and if there is obvious sharpening, they might be turned off from buying the image. Microstock sites have reviewers who peruse every single image that is submitted for possible photographic defects. They are very particular with photos that look too sharpened and I have had shots rejected because of oversharpening even though I hadn’t sharpened them at all.  

Sharpening might not make blurry images clearer but it can make images with soft edges appear better defined, and this can make a world of difference in your shot.

Let us use one sharpening tool and see how it works:

The Unsharp Mask is a quick process to emphasize the acutance (edge contrast) of details and it is controlled by three settings:

Radius – this defines the section to be sharpened. If you choose a low radius, only the pixels close to the edge will be sharpened and if you use a high radius, the larger the affected area. If you start seeing unsightly halos around the edges, it means you’re setting the radius value too high and is an indication to decrease the radius value. 

Amount – The edges of details have a lighter and a darker side and this setting controls how much contrast is applied. The light areas become lighter and the dark parts become darker when you increase the percentage amount.

Threshold – this limits the amount of sharpening that is applied to the image by determining how close pixels should be in order to be considered as edge pixels.  If there is little difference between pixels in a certain area, such as skin tones or an empty sky, then the threshold can be set to leave these areas from being sharpened. 

The settings to be used vary with each shot. Image size plays a big part in this case. For an image with a small print size, you would not need to increase the settings by a big margin before the result quickly becomes apparent.  The bigger the image size, the more you can increase the setting values. 

Step 1:

For this tutorial, Adobe Photoshop CS2 is used. Open a copy of your original image and create a duplicate layer. A keyboard shortcut to create a layer is Ctrl + J for Windows and Command + J for Mac.

Step 2:

beeselect Sharpening Images and the Unsharp Mask

 

 

Make a selection using the Lasso tool. Choose only the areas that need sharpening and leave the rest of the image untouched. In this example, only the bee’s wings, antennae, upper part of the body and the edge of the leaf were selected.

 Step 3:

 beesmartsharp Sharpening Images and the Unsharp Mask

Open the Unsharp Mask dialog box under Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask. The box shows a preview of a selected area, the three settings and the preview checkbox. If you check this, you will also get to see a preview of how your adjustments will affect the image in the main screen.

If it is your first time to use the settings, you can experiment first with how they work. Try dragging each slider one at a time to the opposite side of the bar and, although the effect will be exaggerated, you will have a good idea of how each one will affect the image.

Since the Radius setting is the most essential of the three, you can start with that and then adjust the Amount and then the Threshold. Once you are satisfied with the adjustments of the three settings, the outcome should be an image that is more defined than the original, yet with the appropriate areas kept smooth and unaffected. The result most likely will be subtle but still apparent, especially when compared to the original such as in this side by side comparison:

beeunsharp Sharpening Images and the Unsharp Mask

What happens if you go overboard with the Unsharp Mask? Unattractive and obvious effects begin to happen. If your radius value is set too high, halo artifacts begin to appear. These are very light and bright outlines near the edges of details. Jagged edges and pixelation might also occur along the edges. There is more visible noise and graininess which is most evident if you oversharpen sections with no edges. This is the reason why none-edged areas are too be avoided when sharpening. 

beeoversharp Sharpening Images and the Unsharp Mask


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More Tips on How to Turn Abstract Concepts to Effective Stock Images

In the world of stock photography, it is ideal for buyers to have access to commercial images that represent their need, whether that is an image of a bicycle or one that represents a concept. As stock photographers we would find it easy to take photos of actual objects because they are visible, tangible and therefore we can take an actual image of them. Yet how about abstract ideas and concepts that we know exist but not in the physical sense? To portray them in an image would take skill and preparation because your image needs to send a message across to the viewer. In a previous article we wrote about three abstract concepts and how they can be manifested in a photograph. Let us look at more abstract ideas and find out how they can visually appear as well as the cliche shots to stay away from.

concept4 More Tips on How to Turn Abstract Concepts to Effective Stock Images1. Joy/happiness – an effective exercise is to visualize the concept. What images enter your head when you think of the word ‘happiness’? People smiling, laughing and celebrating are common visuals. Try to think further to imagine what they are celebrating or smiling about. You can have a photo of a person smiling, which would be fine but generic, and you can also have a person smiling while looking at a child playing. The second image includes the reason for her expression and gives you even more concepts that you can include in your keywords such as 'child' and 'play'.

concept5 More Tips on How to Turn Abstract Concepts to Effective Stock Images2. Peace/serenity – sometimes an image does not have to show an actual scene or subject to convey a certain concept or emotion. Abstract images can be very effective to represent abstract ideas. When we think of peacefulness, a calm sea or landscape might come to mind. But an image that shows only shapes and colors such as shades of blue can evoke a strong sense of tranquility in us. These abstract photos would be ideal for PC wall papers, magazine background design for text boxes and even actual prints for display.

concept6 More Tips on How to Turn Abstract Concepts to Effective Stock Images3. Wealth – money is the first thing we picture out when we think of wealth. Images that show coins and bills are a dime a dozen in the stockpile. For your image to have a edge over the millions of other photos that also show money, your composition must be more unique and should send a message across to the viewer. For example, you can have a straightforward shot of a pile of bills. You can also be more creative and have a hand sticking out from the pile of bills as if someone is drowning in money. You can also have a shot of a dollar bill with one end burning up in flames. For more impact, make that a hundred dollar bill if you can spare it. To play it safe you can add flames to the bill in Photoshop or other similar photo editing program.

Whatever stock image you plan to shoot, make sure it sends a strong message of the abstract concept, that it has your creative touch and that it displays great composition and proper lighting.

 

 


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Using Facebook to Market Your Photo Business, Part 2

In order to have a steady stream of customers, you need to find way to market your services as a photographer. Get in with the times by promoting your photo business online in probably the most popular social networking site in the world, Facebook. We have written previously about how to use the features of Facebook for just that purpose and here are several more tips to get you going:

fb2 Using Facebook to Market Your Photo Business, Part 2Upload videos to share your ‘behind the scenes’ process – photos of how you set up your images are great but video footage of them are even better! Take advantage of the video option to share how you do your photo shoots, how you compose and light up your subjects. Video sessions are extremely popular and highly informative since clients can get to see exactly how your creative process works, from the preparations to the final result. For fans who want to learn more from you, you can also use video tutorials. There are some instructions that are easier understood when shown through a video tutorial rather than by reading them.

Build a solid client base – the strength of Facebook is in relationship marketing and less so at direct selling. Build connections and relationships with your clients and potential clients through regular interactions. You will have more success in getting sales this way plus a lot of regular and satisfied clients.

Invite people to your event by creating an event page – in case you are organizing or hosting an event for your photography business, use the Facebook event option to invite prospective and current clients. Having an event page allows you to spread the word to a large audience without much effort. It also allows others to RSVP so you know who are going and who cannot make it. This is not a substitute for formal (as opposed to virtual) invitations but it is a convenient way to make people aware of your event. The events page includes the details of the event such as date, time and location. You can also place a profile picture such as an image of the event poster. Another feature is that one can leave public comments which can be read by others and if these testimonials are positive and complimentary, then they certainly add to the appeal. You have the option to show the guest list so that others can know who else is planning to attend.

Try using the Facebook advertisement feature– with this option, you can create advertisements that appear on the pages of your target audience. This is another effective way to promote your business as well as increase awareness of your presence in the industry. Facebook does a great job of guiding you in setting up your ad campaign, and you have control over how much you want to spend to keep it running. You can set a limit to the ad budget and Facebook will stop showing your ads once you reach that limit. If it is your first time to use this feature, it would be wise to set up one advertising campaign at a time while you are learning the ropes so you can fully concentrate on it.


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More Fantastic Family Portraiture Tips

Shooting group portraits, especially those of your family, can be challenging since you are dealing not just with a single model, but several of them. Each member would be different in height, looks and personality and not only will you be focusing on how to create the shot but also how to successfully direct the family to pose. We previously explained some tried and tested family portraiture tips, and here are some effective suggestions you can use as to how to take great family portraits:

presto44 P1050391BW More Fantastic Family Portraiture Tips1. Vary the eye levels of your subjects – visually pleasing group shots usually have the subjects at different heights. Have some people sit while others stand. This will lessen the sense of monotony in the shot.

2. Make subjects interact – have the subjects in your family photographs get closer together. Minimizing the gaps between the subjects provides a sense of closeness. A family setting should connote a sense of intimacy and love. Ideally have each member hug, hold hands, or touch the person closest to them. Body language links people together and this is the perfect example to relay feelings or emotional impact when looking at the photograph. When your subjects are lined up for a photograph, position them at slight angles to each other and make sure that their shoulders overlap so that they will not look awkward. When dealing with large groups in a single shot, break them down into smaller groups to make it easier for you to coordinate the shot. You can arrange them in a diamond, zigzag or triangular formation.

family6 More Fantastic Family Portraiture Tips3. Make sure your subjects do not blink during the shot – when shooting group photographs, the hardest part is not having at least one of them blink. It is easy to reshoot for small groups but for larger groups, it is next to impossible. It does not help to shoot in continuous mode because one is bound to blink. Do a countdown to make sure that everyone is aware that you will be clicking the shutter button any moment so that they will be conscious and will not blink. A really useful tip is to tell all your subjects to close their eyes at the same time and do a countdown, then open their eyes all at once. This will surely guarantee that they will all have their eyes open at the same time without needing to blink.

4. Choose a lens that has the right focal length – the most eye-catching portrait images are created using lenses without zoom, known as prime lenses. Some zoom lenses can also give you great close-up shots. Wide-angle lenses can make subjects wider than they actually are while telephoto lenses have the reverse effect and can make your subjects appear flat. Beautiful portrait images can be captured using lenses with focal range of 50mm-100mm. Having a shallow depth of field blurs the background and brings the focus to the subject. 

family2 More Fantastic Family Portraiture Tips5. Get your subjects’ attention – when you are dealing with grown-ups and teenagers, getting their attention for a few seconds will not be as difficult compared to when you are dealing with babies, toddlers and older children. You will need to capture the attention of younger subjects to get a good shot. You may have to try hard to make them laugh, to the point of being silly. You can ask a whole group of children to do something fun together. This will give you a candid as well as a fun image. Best of all, this can make the children comfortable for the next shot. 

On a final note, remember to include yourself in your shots because you are also a part of the family. Use your tripod, a cable release or a camera with a shutter timer. While composing the group position, leave a space for you to fit in before the timer starts counting down. 



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How Pictures are Combined

Combining two or more pictures in a single frame enables digital photographers to come up with great artistic images that cannot be otherwise done with a single photograph of an image. This type of manipulation can be considered a distinct art form all on its own. By combining pictures, you can use your older images you have stored in your computer to create unimaginable artistic pictures and use it as your creative medium.

combine1 How Pictures are Combined

This type of manipulation will take a lot of creativity and imagination on your part because it requires more than the usual tidying up of an image. This can be used  for more than artistic interpretation but to create an actual believable image.

combine2 How Pictures are CombinedPlacing several shots in a single image is not at all difficult. You can take multiple exposure shots to replace a sky in a landscape to give your photograph a more dramatic impact.  For example, if you were to use a portrait, it would be useful to combine two frames from one shoot. If you photograph two models at the same time, it is difficult to make them look at their best at the same time. By combining pictures, you can merge a facial expression from one shot into another to get a perfect pose.

A technique used in photomerging is isolating each element using layers to be able to do small corrections in each piece of the jigsaw puzzle without affecting the image as a whole. Each piece may need its own distinct adjustments, effects and distortions. Layers are then arranged in groups or folders. The layers work within a folder enabling adjustments to not affect other elements. The folder will then act as a master layer that interacts with each other by using various blending modes, masks and opacities.

Layered Montages are separate images that have isolated elements in its own folder full of layers. This will allow you to remove each element in turn with respective adjustments.

Advanced blending such as in Photoshop will enable you to control the exact densities at which the blend will become visible. This further allows you to specify what areas you want the blend to affect whether it be light tones or dark tones within an image. This is also known as auto-masking. This can create effects that are impossible under natural circumstances.

 

 

 


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Importance of Digital Post Processing

In the good old days of only film, most people who took photographs usually went to a photo store to have the negatives developed and the pictures printed. After clicking the shutter release button, they had no way of previewing the image, or further improving it in post processing.  Darkrooms were accessed usually by photography class students, professional photographers and serious hobbyists who had space in their house to maintain one.  Darkroom equipment was also expensive, which was another reason why photo editing was not very widespread among regular folks who just wanted to see what their photos looked like.

With the arrival of digital photography came the boom of digital post processing. Suddenly, the ‘darkroom’ could be accessed with the use of a computer and a photo editing software. With digital, one could now preview the image right after taking the shot and edit it in the convenience of a personal computer. The easy access to the digital darkroom and its cost effective effects on images spawned a massive wave of interest in post processing and people who used to get their prints in the camera shop could now dabble in photo editing and even printing. 

Digital post processing has given us the capability and the opportunity to take control of our images and how they can look from the time the shutter button is pressed to the final printed hard copy. If you like taking photos but haven’t tried your hand at digital post processing yet, here are some very valid reasons why you would want to:

editcomp Importance of Digital Post Processing

1. You can remove photographic imperfections – scratches, sensor dust, little dark spots and other blemishes can be eliminated in a few short minutes. You can straighten your image’s horizon, fix its exposure, and remove background clutter.

2. You can enhance your images to make them more appealing – photo editing programs have loads of tools and filters to help you make your shot more attractive. Some programs such as Photoshop can even imitate the effects of expensive lenses and filters. You can brighten colors, add creative blur, sharpen edges, and do countless of other editing adjustments.

3. You can crop your photos – cropping allows you to play with the position of your subject in the frame. It also gives you an effective way to cut out unwanted sections at the sides of the frame. Do keep in mind to compose the shot as you would want it in-camera so that there is less need to crop off unnecessary elements. Cropping can be good for your image but it will also cut image pixels, thus making its size smaller with less room to work with when editing.

4. You can resize photos for faster online upload – sharing your images with loved ones and the rest of the world has significantly become easier with digital photography. Since the digital image size can be quite large with the higher megapixels your camera has, uploading to your email or a website can be a slow process. Not only that, if you send an image at full resolution, someone can copy it and then use it for their own gain without your permission. In Photoshop, you can resize your photo to a much smaller size such as 75kb, while maintaining good visual quality. The results are faster uploading and downloading in the internet. The smaller file size will also make photo thieves want it less since they will not be able to do much w a photo that has been resized to a much smaller scale. Whether you use digital post processing for basic and minor corrections, or you use it to make wonderful works of creative goodness, the choice is up to you.       


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How to Use the Dodge and Burn Editing Tools to Enhance Your Photos

There are several ways to edit a shot in Photoshop and two of the most underrated yet highly effective tools are the dodge and burn tools. These are found at the toolbar on the left. The default icon is the dodge tool and if you click on the little arrow, a dropdown list will appear showing the burn tool and also the—-.The dodge and burn tools are the digital equivalent of the methods used in the actual darkroom, where to 'dodge' meant to obstruct the light hitting a section of the photo paper from the —- with the use of an object. While to burn meant to allow more light to hit a specific section of the photo paper. Since one cannot really see the results until the image has been fixed with chemicals, the procedure would usually be trial and error with a lot of test prints involved. Now, digital technology has made it so much easier to achieve the visual results we want.

Let us try out the dodge and burn method with a sample image. Open an image in Photoshop and make a duplicate layer.

dodge1 How to Use the Dodge and Burn Editing Tools to Enhance Your Photos

Pinpoint the areas that would need to be darkened and/or lightened. Let us start with the dark area. In this image, the bottom part of the snail's shell and the lower left corner are too much in shadow and it would be a good idea for a little more light to show more details. Click on the dodge tool and keep the hardness set to 0% so that the edge of your brush is soft. Set the diameter to a manageable size so you have better control of your strokes. As for exposure, choose a percentage that gives a subtle yet visible result. A high exposure value would mean a more drastic dodge effect. Use the dodge tool like a brush and swipe the dark areas until they are light enough.

dodge2 How to Use the Dodge and Burn Editing Tools to Enhance Your Photos

dodge3 How to Use the Dodge and Burn Editing Tools to Enhance Your PhotosNext, choose the areas you want to darken such as the upper right corner. Burning would make that area more balanced in terms of tonal value. Click on the arrow on the dodge tool icon to show the burn tool option. Again, adjust the settings and swipe over the light areas until you are satisfied with the results.

The burn and dodge tools are great for spot adjustments and using them can enhance the light and shadows in your photo by making the light areas appear even lighter and the shadows darker. They can also lessen the degree of light and shadow detail to make the lighting appear more even.


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How to Break the Photo Rules for Creative Effect

Photography is a craft that makes use of various ‘rules’, which are actually simply guidelines to help provide a pleasing composition. It can also be an art form, and as ‘art’ is not meant to be controlled and restrained. The following are various photo ‘rules’ which every photographer understand before they are attempted to be broken:

break1 How to Break the Photo Rules for Creative Effect1. Always use The Rule of Thirds – this states that the subject should be placed on one third of the frame, either vertically or horizontally, to create a sense of balance and visual appeal. If you were to place the subject smack dab in the center of a rectangular crop, or if you place it at the very edge of the frame, you are breaking this rule and your image stands the chance of being unbalanced or off-putting. Yet, you can break this rule and still have an interesting image. More visual tension occurs and you can take advantage of this in your shot.

2. The scene must be adequately lit – under or overexposure can mess up a shot and turn a good composition into something you want to discard. However, careful use of lighting can make very dark or bright images striking to look at. Also known as low key and high key, these techniques make use of a lot of shadows or highlights in creating an artistic effect.

break2 How to Break the Photo Rules for Creative Effect3. Remove noise – apparent image noise or grain in a shot are often fixed as soon as they are discovered. We strive to keep our images clear and fine, with no trace of digital noise that can mar our shot. Yet, we can make use of noise to enhance certain images. When used effectively, digital noise can dramatically add to the mood of the shot and evoke an emotional response. For instance, a grainy image of a row of street lamps at night could benefit from some noise.

4. Keep it simple – uncluttered and clean looking images are usually best in presenting the subject to avoid any unnecessary distractions. Breaking this would mean adding a lot of extra elements that could potentially break the shot. Again, control is the key here when setting up the scene. Although it may look busy at first glance, each element can actually support the main subject and the message the photographer is trying to convey.

break3 How to Break the Photo Rules for Creative Effect5. Keep the subject sharp – the general rule is that subjects should remain sharp in the image so they can be easily recognized and appreciated. And yet, images that are completely out of focus can be quite interesting especially if you are trying to invoke a certain mood or design. As long as the out of focus or blur is obviously intentional and positively impact the shot, out of focus images can be a resounding success. However, do not pass off blurry snapshots as being artistic and attractive. Most viewers are discerning and know whether the out of focus is intentional or by accident.

6. Make the subject clearly visible – when taking images, the subject is usually in a prominent place in the frame and is obviously the center of attention. You can also create interesting and provoking photos by placing the subject in a more subtle position, thus creating a need in the viewer to see more of it. For instance, partial portraits are quite popular although you cannot see the entire subject. 


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The iPad and the Photographer

Now that the iPad has a firm foothold in the market, many of you might be seriously interested in getting one. But like all fancy gadgets, it can take time to decide whether it is worth spending around $499. Of course, it all depends on what you will want it for. As an entertainment device, it packs quite a punch. And if you are a photographer, you might find the iPad useful in various ways.

One of its major uses would be as a portfolio. When you are looking to be hired for photo services, potential clients would want to look at samples of your work. It is quite common to show your sample images using a laptop, albums or prints. By using an iPad, you can display your photos in one gorgeous medium. After all, presentation really does count. It is more striking and sleeker than a regular photo album and more intimate than a netbook or a laptop. At 9.7 inches on its widest side and at 1024 x 768 pixel resolution, the screen is large enough for viewers to fully appreciate the images. Also, it utilizes in-plane switching (IPS) technology which allows people who are obliquely viewing the screen to still get a clear view. This is perfect for when a crowd of eager people want to see the picture you took of them all at the same time.

Another asset of the iPad is that you can upload images to it right after you take your pictures. With the use of the iPad Camera Connection Kit, you have the option to import image files using a USB cable or straight from an SD card. It supports both JPEG files and RAW formats. Right after uploading, you can even send the images by 3G (you have to sign up for this extra service) or Wi-Fi to a client who might be waiting for them. A drawback is that photo editing is limited with the iPad. It will not be the best tool to do heavy post processing since iPad photo apps do not have the extensive editing features of Photoshop and other similar software.

Although the iPad is a fantastic device, it does have its weaknesses. It does not support Flash so if your online portfolio is flash based, you will not be able to access it. It also has little storage space (64GB max) compared to netbooks or laptops, and it does not have the capacity to multi-task so you can’t receive instant messages while you are previewing your photos or fixing your slideshow. Keep in mind that this is version 1.0 and that over time there will surely be improved and more feature packed versions that might address these issues.

The iPad might not replace a netbook or a laptop in terms of productivity or functionality but if your purpose in having one is to pamper yourself with the latest gadget that will give you tons of fun, and at the same time allow you to have a stunning portable portfolio that can show off your pictures in vivid detail, then this might just be the ideal gift you can give yourself.

 

 

 


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