Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How to Photograph Fireworks

By Brendan Keenan, Penn Camera Tysons Corner
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With the Fourth of July just around the corner, one of the best opportunities to start shooting low light photographs is almost upon us. Fireworks are an American tradition that capture a patriotic spirit, and delight people of all ages, young and old. With a little knowledge, and the right tools and equipment you can get fantastic photographs of fireworks displays.

- Use a tripod. This is the most important piece of equipment that you can have for any type of low light photography, including fireworks displays. Because you will be shooting at slow shutter speeds, a tripod is essential to reduce camera blur. Hand holding a camera simply will not work if you want truly excellent fireworks photos. There are some great inexpensive models available from Promaster and Slik, and if you are looking for a higher end product, check out the Manfrotto or Gitzo line for top quality tripods.

- Use an off camera shutter release. By using a wireless or a tethered cable to control your camera, you can further reduce the element of camera shake by simply taking your hands off of the camera when you shoot. Even minor vibrations can cause blurring at slow shutter speeds, so use a wireless remote, or a cable release to get the best shots. Some remotes, called timer remotes, will even allow you to set duration of shutter speed from the remote, without having to touch the camera.

- Composition is key. Use your surroundings to enhance your fireworks shots. If shooting at the beach, try to include the water, for good reflections. If you are shooting in the city, like locally in D.C., use the monuments and other historical buildings to bring that all-American feel to your fireworks photos. This brings us to our next tip.

- Scout out your location early. Find a good place that will allow you to incorporate those elements of the location around you into your photographs. Show up early, try different locations, then pick your spot. Composition is one of the hardest parts of shooting fireworks. Once properly set up, experiment with different focal lengths and exposures to get the proper composition and adjustment.

- Anticipate your shots. This is probably the hardest part of shooting a fireworks display. You don't want a shot of the firework shooting into the air, you want the colorful explosion that follows to really make the shot. One thing that will really help with anticipation and composition as well as timing the shots is using a wider focal length. You can always crop later on with an editing program; since trying for tight shots, while not impossible, is not an easy thing to do well. Go wide, crop later. This will allow you to capture a good deal of sky, allowing for some leeway later on when it comes time to edit, but still giving you the opportunity to capture multiple bursts in one exposure.

- Experiment with exposure. Find the right shutter speed that will give you those shots you want, the long trails, the brilliant explosions of color. It should be long, at least a couple seconds (depending on how well you can anticipate), which is far too long for a hand held shot. Did I mention you will need a tripod? In addition, experiment with different ISO values. This can be tricky, since too high an ISO will introduce noise, but too low an ISO could cause underexposure, which is just as bad. Both will detract from the quality of the picture. So experiment, and find a happy medium. Try for good exposures in-between that range for the best results. Typically an ISO of 100 or 200 will give you very clean shots. Again, shutter speed will play a factor here, as will aperture. Shutter speeds can vary somewhat but a good f-stop is around f8 or f16. For more info on using manual exposure controls, check out our Exposure Control blog.

- Always check the horizons. It should sound simple enough but making sure your camera is not tilted when you are framing the shot can make a big difference in your pictures, especially at wider focal lengths.

- Keep your eyes on the sky. This is the best way to anticipate and time your shots. Don’t shoot through a viewfinder only showing you a portion of the sky. Look up first, shoot second.

- Turn off the flash. The flash will make no difference in your pictures, except maybe to illuminate distracting foreground clutter. Turn it off.

- Check your results as you go. Good photography requires making changes on the fly. If you are not getting what you want, try adjusting your camera settings. Practice makes perfect.

These tips mostly apply to digital SLR cameras, or other interchangeable lens cameras like the Olympus or Panasonic Micro 4/3 cameras. Many point and shoots do offer a fireworks scene mode setting that will automatically set ideal exposure for that camera, but you will still need a tripod. Exposures will be long and hand held shots are almost always very blurry and unappealing.

So remember, concentrate on your exposure, your composition, and bring a tripod. Include elements in your surroundings to make it a truly memorable photograph. Go for the shot with the explosion reflected in the water. Get a great shot with a monument in the foreground. Now you’re ready to go shoot. Scout your location, setup in good spot with a wide view of the sky, arm yourself with a tripod and a shutter release, and have fun experimenting, anticipating and enjoying the fireworks display. Happy Fourth of July everybody, and keep shooting!

Stay tuned for my next blog, which will go more in-depth on all aspects of low-light photography. Until then, enjoy the holiday!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Gallery at Laurel - Larry Jackson & Ruth Weston

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Gallery Opening for Photographers Larry Jackson & Ruth Weston
Penn Camera Laurel
Friday, July 2nd
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Lawrence Jackson, Jr., also known as Larry Jackson, is a Maryland-based photographer with over 20 years experience recording life’s moments on film and digital media. He has served as photo editor for the Southern Maryland Newspapers, providing editing and pre-press image processing and news coverage. He has worked as a staff photographer for Post Newsweek Media at the Gazette Newspapers in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. He has also served as photo editor and staff photographer at Prince George’s Sentinel, the Montgomery County Sentinel and the Washington Afro American newspapers.

As a freelance photographer, Larry has provided images to national and local trade associations, foundations, government agencies, and media entities such as Washingtonpost.com, The Baltimore Examiner, Insight on The News, Black Enterprise, The Voice (UK), Washington Post, the Prince George’s Journal, the Tribune Chronicle (OH), Washington Internationale, Potomac Tech Journal, Crisis magazine, District Cable TV, WRC, FM Radio 980, WTMW-TV 14, U.S. Customs Service, U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, and the March of Dimes foundation. Moving into another stage of his photo career, Larry is working on several book projects and serves as photo editor for Joshua's Journal a quarterly magazine.

Email info@larryjacksonphoto.us for more information.

Ruth Weston has been strongly influenced by traveling to some of the most beautiful national parks this country has to offer. She recalls one particular opportunity, she describes as “blissful”, to visit Bryce and Zion National Parks in Utah. “The scenery was truly spectacular, and set me on a course toward improving my photography as an art.”

With that one visit in July of 1999, Ruth became a lover of landscape and nature scenes. “I was bitten by the ‘love bug’ of traveling to National Parks,” she explains. “Shenandoah National Park, located in Luray, Virginia, is a favorite of mine.”

The first camera that Ruth experimented with was a Minolta film camera. She later transitioned to the Canon 5D and has since been happily creating her images in the digital medium.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Rise of the EVIL Camera

By Chip Lenkiewicz, Penn Camera Tysons Corner
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This sort of sounds like a bad Summer B movie; but this really is something that we in the photographic industry are struggling with as we see a new market developing for a class of camera that is not point and shoot (P&S) or Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR). For years the digital P&S camera has given us portability and good results. But the DSLR with it larger sensor size over it smaller siblings, gave better results and offers more lens options over the P&S. But it comes at a price of larger size and increased weight because of the size of the mirror chamber and prism housing needed to view what you are taking a picture of through a single lens.

So what happens when we remove the mirror chamber and prism housing and rely on the LCD screen or an electronic viewfinder? We end up with a smaller camera, while still having a larger sized sensor for better picture quality. That is what Panasonic, Olympus, Samsung, and Sony (in that order) did. Panasonic and Olympus calls theirs the Micro 4/3's (m4/3) system. Samsung calls theirs a hybrid camera. And Sony calls theirs a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera.

So what do we call this new class of camera? My teaser of a title for this blog post came from what some on the internet are calling this new class of camera. EVIL=Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens camera. Because of Olympus and Panasonic's big success in this new format, I have had customers coming in asking about the new Sony m4/3's camera or when Canon or Nikon will come out with a m4/3's camera. On the technical side of things, no other companies at this point are in the m4/3's camp other than Olympus and Panasonic. I’ll explain that in another post. The other choice is what Sony has gone to - the MILC=Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Compact camera.

I personally like the sound of that. Need to trademark "Got MILC?". Some photographic industry analysts are projecting that by 2016 that MILC sales will be about half of the interchangeable lens market. Whatever we end up calling this new breed of camera, I am excited by it. It offers the responsiveness of the DSLR, the lens options of a DSLR, but in a small, lightweight package.

Hoping that I won't bore you all as I bring folks up to speed on the MILC systems; in particular the m4/3's. Full disclosure is that I wear a couple of fanboy badges at work here in the Tyson's shop. The first is as Apple fanboy. I have an iPod, an iPhone 1, an iMac, MBP, and an iPad. And no I did not take 6/24 off to stand in line to get the iPhone 4. The other fanboy badge I wear is that as the #1 Olympus m4/3's fanboy. More on why later.

But tickles me pink to share that on July 1st Penn Camera and Olympus are having a photo contest for July. And the prize will be the new Olympus E-PL1 m4/3's camera! (More info on this is coming soon!)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Gallery at Springfield - Frank Greenwell

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Gallery Opening for Photographer Frank Greenwell
Penn Camera Springfield
Monday, July 12th

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Frank Greenwell has been observing and photographing wildlife and landscapes in the United States and around the world for the past 50 years. As a very young boy, he had a keen interest and appreciation of all the wonder that nature has to offer.

Although many people take an interest in wildflowers, birds, and mammals, few have ever observed them from the vantage point of Frank’s close-up lenses. His work underscores his belief that the first step toward saving our environment lies in understanding nature and inter-relationships among different forms of life. By using close-up lenses, sometimes even attaching a portable microscopic lens to his camera, he reveals to the viewer seldom observed and little known details of nature. “The camera is a way of seeing things in a more dynamic perspective,” Frank says. “It is not just a tool but an instrument whereby one can extend their visual images.”

Much of Frank’s work has been exhibited in local galleries and in the rotunda of the National Museum of Natural History, part of the Smithsonian Institution, as well other areas of the United States. His photographs have appeared in books and journals, nationally and internationally.

A sampling of the images you will see at Frank's gallery:

Frank recently retired from the Smithsonian Institution where he served as Chief Taxidermist/Conservator. At the beginning of his career at the Smithsonian, he was part of the team that mounted the African elephant still on exhibit in the Rotunda of the Natural History Building. In 1981 he completely restored that elephant and the World’s record Bengal Tiger in 1985. Over the years, Frank has conducted many scientific expeditions in select remote areas around the world for the Smithsonian and refurbished many animals that President Theodore Roosevelt collected in the early 1900s. In the 1980s he traveled extensively for the Smithsonian National Associates giving lecture/slide presentations.

After nearly 50 years, Frank recently returned to Leonardtown, MD where he was born and raised. He now resides with his wife Pat, in Singletree.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Get Up-Close: Macro Photography Basics

By Brendan Keenan, Penn Camera Tysons Corner
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In photography, there are always some photographs that capture our imagination, that unleash our creative instinct and make us want to create works of art ourselves. The greatest thing about macro photography is that for a close-up photographer, everything around them is full of hidden detail, intricate angles, and fascinating features that go mostly unobserved by the naked eye. The test of the close-up photographer is to bring out the details in these small things; because whether it is leaves or flowers, antiques or insects, macro photography will bring out the tiny elements and wonder in the world around you.


There are actually quite a few options available for people who want to get into close up photography, but don't know where to start, or what equipment they will need. This guide will focus on rules that apply mainly for SLR photography, but it should be noted that quite a few models of compact point-and-shoot cameras offer outstanding close focusing. Check our product reviews on current cameras like the Nikon Coolpix S8000 or the Canon Powershot SD1400IS for info on two models with great macro modes. For the best results however, you will want an SLR camera. This will allow you to use specialized macro lenses, or even try alternative methods of close focusing using existing lenses.

The least expensive option is to use close-up filters (also called close-up lenses or diopters) that will allow for closer than normal focusing. The benefits of these are their size and ease of use - just thread onto any lens you currently own and it will let you focus slightly closer. Usually sold in sets, these will offer different levels of magnification, and can even be stacked to further increase close focus. The downside is that these are typically lower quality, and adding too much extra glass can cause problems in the photo like glare or distortion. On the upside, you don't lose any light by added them to your lens.

Another option is using extension tubes. These are usually fairly inexpensive since they have no glass inside them. By increasing the distance between the lens and camera, extension tubes allow for closer focusing. This can be especially useful if you have a fixed lens like a 50mm that takes great photos, but isn’t a macro lens. By proper use of extension tubes, you can achieve macro focusing, making your tiny subjects life size, or a 1:1 ratio. Basically what that means is that your small subject, when filling your frame, is represented life size, or in other words, the same size on your image sensor. It is possible to get even closer magnification, to make your subject appear “larger than life”, though it is usually easier just to make an enlargement of the photo. Even a 5x7 size print of a tiny object taken at “life size” or 1:1, can make the smallest detail jump out, and create quite an effect. The best way to do this though is to use a true macro lens, and maybe even some off camera lighting. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that you will experience light loss by one or two stops depending on how long the extension tubes are.

There are some great options available out there if you are ready for a true macro lens. Lenses like the Nikon 105mm f2.8 Micro or the Canon 100mm f2.8L Macro are the perfect compliment to any body, like the Nikon D700 or the Canon 5D Mark II. If you use a crop size sensor camera like the Nikon D90 or a Canon Rebel, a better choice might be a lens like the Tamron 60mm f2.8 or the Tamron 90mm f2.8. If you want the very best quality close up shots, this is the way to go. These lenses will allow you to get close, but still keep some distance from your subject. Now you just need to use the proper camera settings.

  1. Your best friends will be manual controls. Be sure to choose a camera that allows you to control the aperture and shutter speed.
  2. Make sure to use an appropriate depth of field to bring out the proper amount of detail.
  3. Manually focusing will also usually be your best bet, since auto-focus often struggles at close distances. Of course, if you have a flower or object that is blowing in the wind, continous auto-focus could be a big helpful if the camera can be set to fire only when in focus.
  4. Using an off-camera lighting source, like a supplemental flash, and a reflector can allow you to control the light, eliminating shadows and casting a pleasant, even light. For more information on using flashes for better macro photographs check out our Off-Camera Flash blog.
  5. Use dark cardboard or background material to eliminate distractions if you like close up photographs of flowers. Oh and don’t forget the spray bottle, just a couple sprays of water can give you that early morning dew effect at anytime during the day.
  6. As with most types of photography, a tripod can be your best friend. To eliminate camera shake, and help you get those low angles, a tripod is a must.  
With the right equipment, a little bit of knowledge, and a willingness to just experiment and have fun, anyone can learn to take great macro photographs. If you want to learn more, visit the classes sections on our website for information and dates on classes and mini-seminars. Have fun, learn, and keep shooting!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Digital Camera Buyer's Guide: Part 2

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We left off a few weeks ago from Part 1 of our Digital Camera Guide discussing the different format cameras to choose from. Next area you should look at are the key features to ask about.

The first thing most people check is the number of mega-pixels a camera has. Mega just means million, and a pixel is a picture element, basically a small dot of detail in a photo. The more mega-pixels, the more detailed the photo. Ten megapixels may be enough for many photographers, but a higher resolution camera will allow you to enlarge your photos to poster size, or crop your pictures and not wind up with a fuzzy picture. Choose a higher mega-pixel camera if you can foresee wanting to print big. You should be aware though that the additional picture clarity means you are capturing more ‘data’ or picture elements, so you will need more memory per picture.

Optical Zoom
Optical zoom refers to the length of travel of the zoom; 18-270mm is a 15x optical zoom (270 divided by 18 equals 15). Same idea, if you have a 25-75mm zoom it is a 3x optical zoom (75/25=3). Where this gets a bit tricky is figuring out the magnification - a 3x zoom doesn't necessarily mean 3x magnification. You need to use 50mm (35mm format) as a baseline - 50mm is what you would normally see with your own eye. If you go from a 50mm lens to a 100mm lens, you would increase the magnification of your subject 100%. So if that's true, let's look at the 25-75mm example we mentioned before. Going from a baseline of 50mm, to 75mm, you would only be increasing your magnification 50% (50 to 100 is 100%, so 50 to 75 is 50%). So even though the 25-75mm zoom has a 3x optical zoom, the magnification is only 50%.

You really don't need to get into all the nitty gritty about magnification to choose the right optical zoom camera though. All you need to ask yourself is, how far away from my subjects do I plan to be? Should you want to take pictures of subjects further away than about 10 yards, you definitely need some zoom. This is a feature for which you can get a lot more capability for a relatively small investment, and more is better.

Wide Angle Lens
Some point and shoots come with a wide angle lens. This is a great feature if you want to take pictures of a large group of family and friends; (you can get more people in the picture!) or a broad landscape. Many cameras now come with this excellent feature, we highly recommend you consider getting it.

Video Modes
All point and shoot and many detachable lens cameras come with video capability. This is another feature that you can get at a very reasonable price, and the ability to capture a short video clip without carrying a separate camcorder makes this an obvious feature to require in your next camera. Many cameras now have HD video mode available. Whether to insist on HD, well here the answer depends on the user. If you are sure you are uploading your video only to YouTube or Facebook, the HD capability is of no use since these websites do not accommodate HD formats. However, if you are taking video to share using a TV with a high definition screen, the detail you can get is breathtaking and well worth the extra cost. Be forewarned though, you will need A LOT of memory and a high transfer speed in your memory cards to take advantage of HD video.

Battery Type
Some point and shoots still take disposable batteries, usually AA. These are great if you are worried about your rechargeable running out at a key moment. However, the extended cost in batteries, impact to environment, and slow shutter response(you will wait up to 3 seconds between shots with a AA battery camera) inherent in disposable battery cameras are all distinct negatives to consider. Many people get frustrated having to wait for AA cameras to be ready to take the next picture, you can miss a lot of great shots this way.

Touch Screen
Many people like the ease of use presented by a touch screen, and quite a few point and shoots come with this feature for a few extra bucks. If you like using touch screens, definitely buy a camera with this feature. You will use and enjoy your camera more.

Software Enhancements
Most cameras available today have software enhancements which enable you to get even better pictures with little to no effort required on your part. Red-eye reduction, automatic smile detection, and quick retouch are all examples of these. If you are looking at a very low end camera, however, these may not be present.

Making a decision
The basic decision is over your preference for smaller size and generally lower expense, in which case you are in the market for a point and shoot camera, or the desire to take better pictures combined with a willingness to carry a larger camera and spend some extra dough, making you a candidate for a detachable lens camera. Choose a long zoom if you are likely to take pictures from a distance and want the smaller size and cost of a P&S. Consider a micro four thirds DL camera if you want better pictures or the improved control over your pictures that DSLR’s provide, but want a smaller size. Choose a full frame DSLR if you are a pro on an advanced amateur photographer.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Gallery Penn Pikesville - Robert & Linda King

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Gallery Opening for Robert & Linda King
Penn Camera Pikesville
Friday, June 18th
5pm to 8pm

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The Gallery at Penn Camera is an ongoing exhibition of photographs by artists who seek to explore and cultivate their visual expression.

Robert and Linda White King were married in June 1974. This exhibition celebrates 36 years of marriage as well as 36 years of artistic collaboration and mutual inspiration. As a married couple, each is very different from the other in personality and interests. And, while their works are also very different in content and technique, each has mutually benefitted from the other’s artistic style, point-of-view, and technical expertise. It is fitting that this conjunction of photographs and digital Photoshop illustrations should come to be exhibited together on the 36th anniversary of their wedding. As Merriam-Webster online states that “conjunction” refers to “a configuration in which two celestial bodies have their least apparent separation,” it is amusing, that in artistic and photographic expression, each of these two individuals have also found their own personal point of “least apparent separation.”

A sampling of the images you will see Linda & Robert's gallery:

Robert King is currently a salesman with Penn Camera Pikesville. Robert’s love for photography was a natural outgrowth of his love of trains and model railroading. As he sought to capture the beauty and romance of trains, he also desired to make an accurate and detailed photographic record of the magnificent machines, their stations, outbuildings, equipment, and surroundings, so that he could accurately create life-like models, layouts and dioramas. His love for photography gradually took on a life of its own, and he broadened his subject matter to include much more than just trains. While trains and train stations are still a favorite subject with Robert, he is not above capturing the haunting beauty of a nearby skeletal warehouse, a captivating sunset, a fleeting heron, or a wildflower.

Linda White King, originally from the Washington, DC area, moved to Baltimore to attend Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), where she earned her BFA in 1974. She fell in love with Baltimore and with Robert, and after their wedding, settled in Baltimore City where they raised two children. Linda has always enjoyed drawing and oil painting, but the demands of life required that she earn a living by using the computer. While completely intimidated at first, she has grown to consider Photoshop, in particular, her favorite artistic tool. Originally, Linda used photography as a means of recording her artworks done in other media and also as a way to capture fleeting images which could be used later in studio paintings. Soon, the line between art and photography became happily blurred. Now, she creates her art directly in Photoshop, where she occasionally incorporates typographical design and her own original poetry. She sometimes uses photographs in the same way that a painter would use a “still life model,” and sometimes she manipulates the photographic images themselves. For ten years, Linda has owned her own art and photography business - Linda M. King Studio. She also serves as Senior Graphic Designer for CAM Publishing Group, Inc.— publisher of Science Weekly, a national award-winning elementary school publication, for which she does layout production and digital illustrations. Visit her web site at: www.LindaMKingStudio.com.

Please join us on the evening of Friday, June 18, 2010 for the opening of “con•junc•tion,” with Robert and Linda King.

Portrait Basics: Tips and Techniques

By Brendan Keenan, Penn Camera Tysons Corner

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There is a reason that people are by far the number one subject of photographs. Whether it is parents taking photos of their children, or party snapshots, or even fashion photography, pictures of people are being taken by millions of photographers both professional and amateur, daily. There are just a few things to focus on when trying to get the most out of your portraits. With a little understanding of the essentials, and the right equipment, anyone can take a great portrait.

First, it is important to know what makes a good portrait, and it isn't all technical. The best thing to remember, and the basis of good portrait photography, is that you must "capture" your subject. We've all heard this term, and we know it when we see it. This is the first rule of good portrait photography. The character of the subject should be evident in the photograph, and the photograph should set a mood. This can be as easy as capturing a child's smile or laughter. It can also be more difficult. Some of the best portraits can be very serious, and capturing a solemn moment of thought makes for a powerful photograph. In the beginning just try to include one aspect of your subject's personality in the photo. With practice you will learn to capture and enhance what makes your subjects special, and any unique traits or features, even quirky mannerisms and attitudes can make the difference between a photo of a person, and a true portrait. A portrait is a representation of someone's likeness, and we all know that there is more to everyone than what we see on the surface. Look below the surface and photograph that. It sounds tricky, and it can be, but it is the foundation of any really good portrait. Of course, it isn't as simple as that. You will need to get the hang of the technical end of things as well.

The second thing to focus on when you start to shoot portraits is obviously using the right camera settings. This is important to achieve proper exposure, and control depth of field. Traditionally, a portrait should only focus on the subject, removing any distracting background clutter. This can be accomplished by always using a wide aperture, like f2.8 of f4 to achieve a shallow depth of field and emphasize your subject. The next important exposure element to remember in portrait photography is your ISO setting. It is always good practice to use as low an ISO as possible to achieve the best picture quality. Experiment with some different settings, but try to adhere to these rules for the best results when starting out. For more information on exposure, check out our blog post on Exposure Control. Of that is also where controlling light comes into play, so let’s move on to lighting.

Lighting in portrait photography can actually be done a scale from very simple, to very complex. For total control, professional photographer's use studios, but don't worry, you can still get great portraits with some more basic setups to start out. One simple setup requires no real special equipment, and can be accomplished using only available light. Find a place indoors with a window that is letting a good amount of light into the room. With your subject placed off to the side of the window (so that the light is shining on your subject, have them face you. Now, use something to reflect the light from the other side of your subject, just out of the frame. Obviously a reflector would be the best option, but I said no special equipment and I meant it. You can achieve a reflective result with something as basic as white cardboard or poster board, even aluminum foil can be used as a reflective surface. This basic setup will achieve flattering lighting for your subject. That being said, the use of light modifiers like umbrellas and reflectors can be an inexpensive way of controlling light and obtaining more precise results. The better your tools, the less work you have to do. To obtain even better results, simply using off-camera flashes can give you the right amount of light, where you need it and when you need it. Check out our blog on Off-Camera Flash to learn more about the basics of off-camera lighting.

Last but not least digital photographers have the powerful tool of editing. With even some of the more inexpensive image editing software programs you can out the finishing touches on your photograph. By adjusting color, contrast and saturation levels, and cropping or straightening your photograph, you can quickly iron out any “wrinkles” you may have had in your original photograph. Even a small thing like slightly overexposing a portrait can have beneficial effects. Overexposing will reduce the appearance of blemishes, and make for a more uniform appearance in skin tones(this is one of the very few times I would recommend overexposure). Most programs make it easy to quickly fix things like red-eye, or crop out distracting elements that draw attention from the subject. It is after all, about the subject. To learn more about some of the better programs out there check out our blog Image Editing on a Budget, which discusses a few good options for people getting more serious about their digital photography.

So focus on the big three rules I’ve laid out for basic portrait photography. Always try to “capture” your subject, and inject that mood, or that characteristic into the photograph. Second, make sure to use proper camera settings, like a wide aperture and low ISO. Third, remember that image editing is your friend. It gives you that final degree of control you need between the time the shutter snaps, and the time the print dries. Start with the basics, and you’ll be a pro in no time.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

CORRECTION - Friday Canon Demo at Penn Rockville

For those of you who are loyal email newsletter subscribers, please note - the Canon Demo Day on this Friday (tomorrow) is at Penn ROCKVILLE, not Penn Fair Lakes as stated. We apologize for any confusion - we hope to see you there!

Be the first to learn about new gear

By Chip Lenkiewicz, Penn Camera Tysons Corner

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In the age of the internet, rumors abound. I am a Mac geek here. And to be honest I know more about what Apple has up their sleeves (as most of us Apple/Mac geeks do with web sites like macrumors.com). For the Apple geeks out there - no, there been any employee that left the next Nikon D400 or Canon 60D on a bar stool.

Sure there are rumor websites out there that post threads that tantalize us with what might be coming out in terms of new cameras or lenses. Some come true, but many are false hopes.

The truth is that we at Penn Camera only learn about new cameras the same day that you do when looking at any number of digital camera websites. For myself, each day as I check my emails and the latest news before heading off to work, I also look at sites like DPReview to see if there is anything new before I get to work.

But I will share a little "secret" with you - just promise not to share it. :)

There are two times a year that new product is generally announced.
That is in the Spring and the beginning of Fall. There is a reason that CES and PMA are held around February, and why Photokina is held in September - this is perfect timing for announcing new products.

In the end, you probably know as much as we do on new models. But, given what I just shared with you, you should keep an ear to the ground toward the beginning of Fall for new gear announcements!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Digital Camera Buyer's Guide: Part 1

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In the world of digital photography, there are a huge number of choices. For someone new to digital photography, or coming from film, they can seem overwhelming. However with a little knowledge of the basics of digital photography, and the choices available, you can be comfortable in your ability to select the right digital camera. So whether you have shot film for years, are completely new to digital, or are just looking for your next upgrade, this guide will cover the basics of all the options available, and help anyone to determine what type of camera they need.

The first choice you have to make is on the size and capability that you want. There are now several formats to consider:
1. Point and Shoot, Compacts
• Regular Zoom
• Long Zoom
2. Detachable Lens
• DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex)
• Micro Four Thirds DL

Point & Shoot
Point and Shoot, Regular Zoom
If you are on a limited budget, require a compact camera, or just want something inexpensive and easy to use, buying a point and shoot model is definitely the way to go. The good news is you can get excellent pictures, even take HD videos in many models. There are several major brands to choose from, and any combination of picture resolution (megapixels), optical zoom, video formats, and cool software features at price points from $89-$499 available. Note that a micro four thirds detachable lens model gives you most of the quality available in an entry level DSLR camera, at only a small sacrifice in added size (more about this below). Point & Shoot Regular Zoom Cameras .

Point and Shoot, Long Zoom
If you need to get a picture from a distance, such as catching a kid from across the playing field, or say, getting a good view of the far side of the Grand Canyon, you should consider a long zoom camera, (more than 7x optical zoom). If your budget can swing it, and you can see yourself using the feature at any time, the longer zoom is definitely worth the modest additional investment. If you are thinking of using one of these cameras to take a lot of action or sports photos, choose one with a high frames per second capability or step up to a detachable lens (DL) camera with fast shutter response to make sure you get every picture. Point & Shoot Long Zoom Cameras.

Detachable Lens (DL)
There are now more choices available for the customer wanting a major step up in quality from a P&S camera. And make no mistake, whatever your abilities as a photographer you will take better pictures with a detachable lens camera. This is because of the larger size of the sensor used vs. P&S (the sensor is the key piece of technology which captures the image), and the improved size and quality of the lenses that come with these cameras. DL cameras also generally allow you to take more pictures per second. This give you higher odds of catching that one, unique picture if your subject is moving. With the recent introduction of the four thirds and micro four thirds format DL cameras, the selection process gets a little more complicated, but also makes the world of better pictures attractive to a wider range of customers, for reasons we will explore below.

Digital SLR Cameras (DSLR)
Most DL cameras in use and available today are DSLR’s, and they come in a wide range of costs and capabilities. The entry level cameras produce pictures superior to point and shoots, with the same potential for ease of use (when in auto mode). On top of the improved quality of pictures the DSLR produces, the user has the flexibility of adding lenses (for longer zoom, specialty effects, portraits, etc.) and improved flashes, or learning how to use the manual modes, to shoot like a pro. Among DSLR’s, there are APS-C and full frame cameras. The lower priced cameras are APS-C format models, with a somewhat smaller sensor than the full frame models. All Digital SLRS's.

APS-C DLSR Cameras
The APS-C format DSLR’s are attractively priced and offer the user virtually all of the capabilities and flexibility of use that the more expensive, pro-level full frame models have. Even the entry level models can take fantastic pictures, in full automatic mode (for those who aren’t interested in mastering the manual modes) or the ability to tailor the shot to one’s exact tastes using the manual settings. Many models come with HD video capability and live view (older DSLR’s required a viewfinder). Users tend to step up to a pro level camera when they want the added optical quality, durability, and lightning fast shutter releases those cameras have. All of these are great, but come at a price, and are not the best option for everyone.

Full Frame DSLR cameras
These are the kinds of cameras that you see on the sidelines at pro sporting events, or being used by your local school photographers. They offer superior durability, better quality sensors and components, fast shutter speeds, all of which allow the pro to take even higher quality images and capture just the one they want. There is no reason for the enthusiast not to covet the results available to them from these cameras, and many choose to buy them so they have all the technology available to them that the true pros use. If that appeals to you, take a look at these technological marvels.

Micro Four Thirds DL Cameras
Olympus and Panasonic have recently introduced a series of cameras called micro four-thirds cameras. The name refers to the size of the image sensor, which, while smaller than full frame or two thirds sensor SLR’s they are larger than that of a point and shoot. The size of the image sensor is directly related to how fine the detail is in the photo, how accurate exposure and color are, and how well the camera performs in low light. The micro four thirds system offers a great combination of compact size, and lens selection. The bodies of the cameras are much smaller than DSLR bodies, and some lenses are so small that the size and weight is less than that of the larger superzooms. This is accomplished by removing the mirror and prism (such is used in a DSLR). The micro four thirds cameras offer a great compromise between the versatility of the SLR cameras, and the smaller size of the compacts and superzooms. With the right lens adapters, they also offer many options and combinations of optics to give you exactly the range you need, in a smaller package than a traditional SLR. Micro 4/3 cameras.

All this really just scratches the surface, but its a good starting point for anyone looking for a new camera. Next week, we'll delve into some of the key features to ask about and explain more about what each of them means.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Gallery at 18th Street - Tony Gallo

Join us!
Gallery Opening for Photographer Tony Gallo
Penn Camera 18th Street
Saturday, June 19th

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Tony began his photography instruction with teacher Bea Card Kettlewood, who primarily taught her students “how to see”. Tony was encouraged to pay attention to and appreciate the color, form, and composition of everything in nature, even the most mundane object. His philosophy is that photographs are like paintings on canvas that have been created using a camera. "The object of photographs is to capture color, shape and form," says Tony.

A sampling of the images you will see at Tony's gallery:

You can see more of Tony's work at www.tonygalloimages.com.

Would you like to host your own Gallery at Penn Camera? 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. For more information, email us.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Battery Charger Solutions - Carry Less Gear when You Travel

By Chip L., Penn Camera Tysons Corner

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We are so tied to our digital cameras and other stuff like our cell phones, iPods, BT headsets, and the such. So many of the devices today charge via a USB connection for things like the iPod or cell phones. Then you have some of us that travel with our digital SLR's that might use different batteries. And so many "charger bricks" for those items that charge from a USB type of connection.

I found a solution with the ProMaster battery chargers. Right now I am shooting with both Nikon and Olympus DSLR-type cameras. With three different battery types. Which would require me to carry three different battery chargers. But with the ProMaster DSLR battery charger I only have to carry one charger in my travels. For point and shoot users we also have the same chargers available for your camera as well (call us for availability).

Yet with any of these battery chargers - there are added bonuses that I like. First of which is that any device that charges via a USB cord can be be charged with these chargers. The other bonus is that that ProMaster offers a travel kit. This is great place to store the charger and extra batteries. But also included a car charger adapter as well.

Not sure about you, but I am so over needing to carry so many charging "bricks" with me. And as I fly less these days (another post maybe
LOL) keeping my batteries and other devices charged is a good thing in my car as I drive to my next stop.