Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Annual Imaging Expo this Weekend!

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It's that time of year again - time for the Imaging Expo! Just a heads up on what's going on this weekend at Penn Tysons:

Annual Imaging Expo
Penn Camera Tysons Corner
Saturday and Sunday May 1st and 2nd

- Meet factory reps from over a TWO dozen major brands
- Tons of great prizes (more than $1000 worth!). This year we're also holding hourly drawing for some smaller, but still fun freebies
- Camera appraisals from our Collectible Camera Expert
- Free kids portraits (really great gift ideas for Mother's Day)
- Free hot dogs & soda from 12pm to 4pm both days

Aside from the big sales that are a big draw to this event, the mini-seminars are always a popular part of the day. Here's the schedule of what to expect:

Saturday May 1st
Tools, Techniques and Tips for Creating your Best Digital Images
Victor Ha from Nik Software
Accurate Digital Capture from Concept to Print
George Fennell from Xrite Photo
The Art of Composition
Bill Folsom of Meadowlark Gardens
Shooting Video with your Digital SLR
Tom Sullivan from Gravity Media Pro
Choosing the Right Support
Lydia Thomas from Manfrotto Distribution

Sunday May 2nd
Accurate Digital Capture from Concept to Print
George Fennell from Xrite Photo
Tools, Techniques and Tips for Creating your Best Digital Images
Victor Ha from Nik Software
HDR: Building Images with Incredible Range and Detail
Chris Alvanas from CDIA
10 Steps to Better Macro Photography
Wil Hershberger from Nature Images & Sounds
Shooting Video with your Digital SLR
Tom Sullivan from Gravity Media Pro

Hope to see you there! Get more details here >

Monday, April 26, 2010

Shooting RAW: The Basics

By Brendan Keenan, Penn Camera Tysons Corner

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If you are digital photographer with a very good camera, such as a digital SLR, or even a high end compact camera, you have probably heard of RAW. You may have seen it in the menu, but like a lot of other settings in the camera, you left it alone, because you weren't sure what it did. The default setting on a camera is for a JPG file, and many people never change it. But if you have RAW available and have not at least tried it, you could be missing out on a lot when it comes to improving your photography and gaining more control than ever over your images.

Differences Between JPG and RAW
To understand when and why a photographer would want to shoot in RAW, it is important to understand the differences between RAW files and JPG files. When you take a photograph as a JPG, the camera processes the image before it writes the data to the memory card. It takes the information from the image sensor, and applies all the camera settings, such as white balance and exposure information, as well as the image size and quality. (Quality in this case refers to the amount of compression in a JPG file.) This certainly has benefits for many casual shooters. More images will fit on a memory card, and the camera can be left on auto, making all the decisions for the photographer, and minimizing the need for post processing. But what if you want real control over your photographs? What if you don't want the camera making all the decisions, and compressing your files? This is where RAW comes in.

With RAW files, the information captured by the camera's image sensor is not compressed (or processed, if you will). Since no in-camera processing takes place, the result is the untouched file from the image sensor, an undeveloped "digital negative" that allows for much more flexibility when it comes to post processing. There is a downside to this, as well. RAW files take up a lot more space than JPG files on a memory card, and not every picture taken needs post processing. To get the most out of a RAW file, you need good editing software, a little bit of knowledge, and patience.

Why Shoot RAW?
So why shoot RAW? For the control it offers. RAW files will allow you to correct many mistakes, and salvage photographs that could have otherwise been made useless or unacceptable by things like inaccurate color or white balance. Need more sharpness, or contrast, or saturation? RAW files will allow you to manipulate all these things at will. This is not to say that when shooting a RAW file you cannot first make adjustments for color, or white balance and contrast in the camera. This information is simply stored along with the raw image data, and is used for display purposes, so that when you load the files into a program like Lightroom or Aperture, you can view, and begin to manipulate the RAW files.

Shooting in RAW does require more time working on the computer afterwards. The files have to be converted to a TIFF or a JPG file to be printed or simply viewed by many computers and programs. RAW is not for everyone. However if you are serious about your photography, and want to get even more out of your images, you might want to start shooting in RAW. Just like anything in photography, the more you practice, the more comfortable and natural it becomes. A RAW file is a powerful tool when it comes to digital photography, giving the photographer unparalleled control in image editing. This may be a bit too intimidating for a novice or enthusiast however. Luckily, many cameras give you the perfect solution. If your camera can shoot in RAW, chances are it offers a "RAW+JPG" setting. This allows photographers to now only worry about making the adjustments to the RAW files that need it, while making minor, if any, needed changes to the JPG files. This will of course take up more room on your memory card, but learning to use RAW can make a huge difference in your end results.

For the photographers who want that extra level of control, there is no substitute for the raw image data, and how much it can be manipulated. If you have always shot JPG, but are looking to take your photography to the next level, then RAW is it. Try out the RAW+JPG setting, and try manipulating a few photographs. You will be amazed by the level of control, and the increased quality of your end result. Whether you are looking to take the next step forwards in digital photography, or just crave more control over your photographs from capture to print, RAW may be just what you are looking for.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Gallery at Penn Camera 18th Street - Antoinette Charles

Join us!
Gallery Opening for Photographer Antoinette Charles
Penn Camera 18th Street
Friday May 7th

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A native of trinidad and Tobago, Antoinette is quick to tell you she is an Island Girl at heart. Antoinette has called the Washington DC area home for over 30 years growing up inthe Columbia Heights neighborhood and attending high school at Wilson Senior High, College at UDC and University of Maryland University College, graduating with a Business Degree. After spending many years in the financial industry and realizing her creative side was stiffled, she explored the sales profession plunging head first in a variety of industries. One thing that she maintained throughout was her personality and winning smile. So when it came time to turn what was a hobby into a business venture, she had all the pieces ready to complete the puzzle.

A sampling of the images you will see at her gallery:

Photography has always been a part of her life as far back as she can remember. As a teenager and young adult she was a model and was always in front of a camera, but her fascination grew and when the time came she was able to purchase her first camera on her own and the rest is history. Her interest and passion for photography, like most things took a back seat to family and work, but in 2006, she purchased her second digital SLR for a trip to the World CUP held in Germany. "I wanted the best since it was my first trip to Europe" so she purchased her Canon Rebel X and is now an avid Canon user with a bag full of impressive Canon bodies and lenses.

Needless to say, Antoinette has used her business skills to make her hobby into a viable enterprise. She is actively seeking out photography opportunities every day, continuining to educate herself in the Art of Photography, and volunteering her skills whenever possible.

Antoinette has had the opportunity to cover some interesting events and her most cherished was that of a recent session photographing two surviving Tuskgee Airdmen, Lt. Col (RET) Jefferson and Holloman. They are living legends and it was an honor for her to be able to photograph them.

Antoinette's work has been featured on-line at Schnapp and has also been used in a cookbook. She can be contacted at, and more of her work can be found at

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Facebook Photo Contest Winners for March!

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This month's contest had almost 200 people enter and, for the second month in a row, received more than 400 entries! The contest theme was "Black & White", and our judges were extremely impressed by the breadth of content and exceptional craftsmanship your entries exhibited this time around. Congratulations to the winners, and our thanks to everyone who submitted their photographs!

1st Place
Winner of $100 Penn Camera Gift Card
Linda Sue

2nd Place
Winner of a $50 Penn Camera Gift Card
Parim Vir Bedi

3rd Place
Winner of a $25 Penn Camera Gift Card
Steven Martin

The next contest theme is "Spring" - a pretty open ended topic, so we can't wait to see what you come up with! Enter the April Facebook Photo Contest.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Lensbaby: A Fun and Affordable DSLR Accessory

By Brendan Keenan, Penn Camera Tysons Corner

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Many Digital SLR users have made the jump to SLR photography for the increased control, and to achieve ever sharper images with their selected lenses. But if this is the only way you use your DSLR, you’re missing out on some huge fun. The creativity offered by the Lensbaby line of selective focus lenses gives any DSLR user at any experience level the ability to get truly creative with their photography, to experiment, and to have more fun shooting photographs. And the best part is, the Lensbaby line offers a lens for every shooting style, all at very affordable prices.

So what do Lensbaby do that your typical lens won’t? The answer is in the design. Lensbaby are designed to allow you to tilt, or shift the lens to create desired effects. With the lenses being shifted and tilted, the sharpest area of focus, or the “sweet spot” can be moved freely around the image area, creating blurring or vignetting effects. Traditional tilt-shift lenses are designed to correct optical distortion, while Lensbabys are the exact opposite. They create selective focus areas, along with areas of increased blur and distortion, and can be used for some amazing effects.

There are three Lensbabys in the current line, each offering different levels of control, and suited for certain styles of photography. The least expensive lens in the line is the Muse. It allows photographers to shoot fast and loose, as control over focus is gained by using one hand to both position and focus the lens. The lens can be positioned by simply bending it, and focusing is achieved by squeezing the lens. This allows for quick changes to focus area and sharpness, great for the photographer who shoots a lot of photographs and wants to experiment.

On the other end of the line is the Control Freak, a lens that instead gives precise control by allowing the photographer to lock the lens into place using three rods around the lens. For close up work, and increased control over focus, this is the Lensbaby that gives the meticulous photographer total control over their images, even allowing for fine tuning after the lens has been locked into place. Last but not least is the lens that offers the best of both worlds, and is at the heart of the current line of Lensbabys, the Composer.

The Composer can be shifted into place to select the “sweet spot”, then after focusing the photographer can remove their hand from the lens, and the Composer will retain it’s position, unlike the Muse. Using the Composer becomes easier the more you get used to its peculiar design. By first shifting the lens into place to compose your image, the photographer then moves the front part of the lens independently to set the focus point, or the “sweet spot”. The composer is packaged with a set of removable aperture rings and a magnetic tool used for changing them. This too requires some practice to master, but offers photographers a great range from f2 to f22. All the Lensbabies have a 50mm equivalent with the close focus on the Composer at 18 inches (and all can be used on full frame as well as APS-C size sensors), so while there is no zoom effect, the creative effects are almost endless. Especially when you begin to explore all the specially designed optics you can use with the three Lensbabies models.

The optics kit allows for interchangeable optics to be switched in and out of the three Lensbaby “housings”. The main optics are the single glass, the double glass, and the plastic optic. The multi-coated double glass optic offers the sharpest images, with better contrast and the “sweet spot” of focus being the sharpest. The single glass optic has more distortion, and is noticeably softer. The plastic lens is obviously the least sharp, creating the most distinct blur and distortion of the three. On top of these choices, Lensbabies offer users special effects optics; everything from standard wide-angle and telephoto adapters, to even more creative sets of optics. There is a pinhole and zone plate combination that offers very different effects. The zone plate gives a very soft, hazy, almost dreamy effect, complete with haloing around highlights. The pinhole on the other hand gives a completely soft image. These looks can create the effect of older, plastic cameras (nostalgia alert!), while still giving photographers all the control of their DSLR. Add the new fisheye optic, and you can only imagine the creative possibilities. The beauty is, the only limit with Lensbabies is your imagination.

So who is the Lensbaby system for? The answer is any photographer who likes to get creative, experiment, and try new things. These lenses offer an inexpensive, and simple way to take your everyday photography to a new creative level. Instead of always aiming for the sharpest, clearest shot of everything, try a different approach. You might be surprised what happens when you take chances in your photography. The Lensbabies offer just that, chances. For the photographer who loves photography, and wants to try new things without spending a small fortune, your prayers have been answered. So go ahead, take a chance, and get creative.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Make the Jump to the World of SLR photography

Nikon D3000 has Bang for your Buck

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If you're looking to make the jump from simple point and shoot to the world of SLR photography, the Nikon D3000 might be just the camera for you. The D3000 is an affordable package that includes just about all you will need to start taking artistic and professional looking pictures. (You will need a memory card to operate any camera sold these days!) With a built in flash and a nifty lens, this is a great package for the entry-level hobbyist.

Many people are not aware that DSLR cameras can be used in exactly the same way as a point and shoot unit. You can simply set the camera to automatic mode, and not have to worry about the more complicated settings. The advantages of stepping up to a DSLR is a larger, more sophisticated sensor (that’s the key device which captures the image) and a better quality lens that together will guarantee that you will get better pictures than the typical point and shoot is capable of taking. Another key advantage is that these cameras are built to enable you to take pictures much faster than most point and shoots; this reduction in ‘shutter lag’ enables you to take 3 pictures per second, give you a much better chance of catching just the one you want. Lastly, as you get to love using your DSLR, you can add zoom lenses to ensure that you catch the action from a much greater distance (up to 300MM, or the equivalent of a 15X optical zoom) or a macro lens, enabling you to take art quality pictures of flowers or other subjects that you want to capture.

In case you are new to the world of DSLR cameras, this camera includes a feature called "Advanced Easy." In this mode, the camera will actually explain what all the different settings on your new camera do and tells you how changing them will affect your pictures. So if you're not familiar with things like shutter speed or aperture priority, the on screen menu will give you a brief overview of what the various settings do. This makes the D3000 perfect for people that want to experiment with their camera settings to get the exact shot they're looking for. This model also offers both auto and manual focus, though some replacement lenses you can get for the D3000 aren't compatible with the auto-focus feature.

The camera itself isn't as large as other DSLRs on the market and fits well in the hand. Even though the camera is very light, I find it still has a reassuring sturdiness to it The light weight does make it very easy to move around with the camera in hand and get into position for that perfect shot.

At 10.2 megapixels, the image quality is very good. The camera takes sharp pictures with accurate colors in normal light and even handles lowlight well. The built in flash is great for use by beginners, but you can purchase a more advanced flash unit if you find the need. The D3000 also has a long list of compatible lens, so as your needs as a photographer grow, you will be able to find to correct lens for the job.

Overall, the Nikon D3000 is a very affordable and accessible DSLR. It's cost, size and ease of use make it perfect for anyone looking to taking higher quality picture or are interested in getting into photography as a hobby. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to upgrade from point and shoot cameras.

Other models to consider:
Nikon D5000 and Canon T1i and T2i, all add high definition video.
Canon XS has similar prices and features.
Olympus PEN E-PL1 has a different format and is smaller but offers the same advantages in a more compact package

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Gallery at Penn Camera 18th Street - Julius S. Kassovic

Join us!
Gallery Opening for Photographer Julius S. Kassovic
Penn Camera 18th Street
Thursday April 15th
3pm to 6pm

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Julius Kassovic’s day-job is with the Peace Corps, which has taken him to exotic locales around the world and given him wonderful opportunities for photography. But over the past four years, and in all seasons, he has been concentrating on finding and photographing ephemeral beauty in the little urban stream that runs near his house in Takoma Park and Silver Spring. His series, Reflected Glories, are photos of the reflections of trees in the waters of Sligo Creek – not as simple mirrors or distortions, but as explorations of the interplay of light and the movement of water. These photos are three dimensional, showing the reflections of trees and leaves and sky on moving or frozen water, the action of moving waters themselves, of leaves moving through the water, and of the creek bottom. Complementing this is his series Footloose, which can best be described as micro-landscapes of the leaves reflected in and floating in and about the creek. As all photographers know, our art is all about light. These photos are all about finding nature’s own ephemeral light shows.

A sampling of the images you will see at his gallery this Thursday:

Would you like to host your own Gallery at Penn? Highlight and exhibit your, or your student's finest artwork with a Gallery at a Penn Camera store. High School students, College students, Amateurs & Professionals welcomed. Email us for information.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Gallery Opening at Penn Camera Pikesville

Join us!
Gallery Opening for Photographer Barbara Oremland
Penn Camera Pikesville
April 9th
5pm to 8pm

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The Gallery at Penn Camera is an ongoing exhibition of photographs by artists who cultivate their visual expression. A photograph is a captured and shared memory. Barbara Oremland, a physical therapist and veteran of freelance writing, surrendered at a youthful age to the fate of an avid historian. Barbara is a Civil War lecturer and member of the Friends of Gettysburg. She is passionate about the legacy of Gettysburg through education and preservation.

Barbara has lovingly captured over four hundred images of Gettysburg. The painstaking process of selecting only twenty of her “children” proved extremely exhausting. The battle of Gettysburg gave birth to a multitude of profound moments, and Barbara is in awe of the complete human and natural experience that is Gettysburg. For anyone who has walked it’s hallow ground Gettysburg, possesses an immeasurable peace. Barbara shared with me, “It is a profoundly spiritual place.” Whether it occurs with her presence on the battlefield or when engaging in historical discussion Gettysburg, commands the ability to overcome Barbara in a gasping manner. The landscape of Gettysburg is likened to the canvas of a great painter. This landscape is a vivid canvas of life and death. Barbara is never surprised about the continual emotional pull she experiences to the landscape and to those who inhabited it even if only for a limited amount of heartbeats.

Each time she releases her camera’s shutter at Gettysburg two simple but powerful words are at the forefront of her thoughts. “Thank you” may be inaudible to others but is as loud as cannon fire within her head. Barbara has said, “Courage and the human spirit reached extraordinary levels. Compassion and suffering were at immeasurable levels. “Those who make the pilgrimage keep the spirit alive of those who fought here.”

Please join us on the evening of Friday, April 9, 2010 for the opening of “Visions of Gettysburg.”

Would you like to host your own Gallery at Penn? Highlight and exhibit your, or your student's finest artwork with a Gallery at a Penn Camera store. High School students, College students, Amateurs & Professionals welcomed. Email us for information.