Tech

PDN on Flickr

The Photo District News site has a feature discussing users of Flickr who have had their work discovered leading to assignments and sales of images. It details yet more examples of the giant photo-sharing site proving to be a boon to emerging photographers and their work.


NY Times on the Future of Corbis

If you have a NY Times password, this article details some of their plans for the future including the following plans from Gary Shenk, president and incoming chief executive at Corbis:

In that vein, Mr. Shenk said Corbis would make its service as easy to use as the iTunes store of Apple and hinted that Corbis would also be following the crowdsourcing model.

“More interesting and innovative things are happening on the pages of Flickr these days than on Corbis and Getty,” said Mr. Shenk, referring to the photo-sharing site owned by Yahoo. “If we can use this type of opportunity to find the next great group of Corbis photographers, that also makes it a great opportunity for us.”

Here’s another example of the line blurring between professional and amateur. My only hope is that the photographers that end up being a part of these arrangements get a fair deal (and that they are licensing their photos for more than a dollar a pop.


Flickr User Becomes Pro for Microsoft

Flickr user Hamad Darwish is one of a small group of flickr users who were approached by Microsoft for either use of their photos or commissioned to to create new images for the desktop backgrounds that are included in the new Windows Vista operating system. Read an interview with him here.

This is an interesting example of the line blurring between professional photographers and amateurs/enthusiasts. Hamad, whose photos are indeed lovely, is not a pro nor does he intend to become one. Photo sharing sites like flickr make visible the photographs of amateurs in an unprecedented way. It is no longer only professionals whose work is exposed to photo buyers.

I count myself among flickr’s users, (but my modest photostream cries out that I neglect it), and I too have been approached through flickr for the use of one of my photos. This client didn’t have a photo budget for this project and was hoping to get the image for free, so I had to decline this time, but there may be a point in the future (when they actually have a proper photo budget) where we work together.

Too bad it wasn’t Microsoft that came knocking! While I don’t know what Microsoft paid the amateurs that they commissioned, I gather from Hamad’s interview that it was a fair fee. It’s good to know that they didn’t take advantage of enthusiast’s zeal to merely be published with low or no pay.

EDIT: It has come to my attention (see the comments) that the photographer may have shot the images on a work-for-hire basis and surrendered all the rights to Microsoft. In no way do I support this practice and if that’s true, then it’s a shame that Microsoft has taken advantage of an eager amateur while also devaluing the work of professionals in general.

Sorry if I mislead anyone into believing that I support that kind of practice.

EDIT #2: It’s looking less likely that the images were bought on a work-for-hire basis. Long Zheng, the author of the interview has been kind enough to post and it seems that Hamad got a fair deal.

Hopefully I don’t need to edit again!


Photoshop CS3 Beta Available

Download the beta here!


Photoshop CS3 Preview

The National Association of Photoshop Professionals has a good, first look at some of the new features that will be in Photoshop CS3. Among the highlights are the improved functionality of Camera RAW and a big upgrade to the Bridge application.

There appears to be a lot of other potentially-useful functionality appearing in CS3, so hurry up and have a look!


Photoshop CS3 Public Beta Available this Friday

AppleInsider is reporting that Adobe will be releasing a public beta of PhotoShop CS3 this Friday:

“The Photoshop CS3 beta, which will be posted to the Adobe Labs website on friday, will include Adobe Bridge and Device Central components, and be available simultaneously for both the Mac and Windows operating systems.”

In addition to the feature additions that will be available, this release should get a lot of people excited for the fact that it will be a Universal Binary release meaning that it will be natively supported on Apple’s Intel-based computers. Unfortunately, for owners of those machines, they will have to wait a little longer to try out the UB PhotoShop CS3:

“People familiar with the Macintosh version of the editor confirm it to be a Universal Binary which ‘simply screams’ on Apple Computer’s new Intel-based hardware. However, they tell AppleInsider that this week’s beta will include only the standard version of Photoshop CS3.”

For this Friday’s release, it’s only PhotoShop CS3 that will make its debut. Other Creative Suite applications will stay under wraps a little longer:

“…the San Jose, Calif.-based software developer does not plan to release or discuss details of other Creative Suite 3.0 applications, such as Illustrator, Dreamweaver and InDesign.”

Head to AppleInsider for more details.


Dear Digg, Reddit and del.icio.us

Thanks for all the traffic! It’s encouraging to have so many people check out the photoshop tutorial I posted yesterday. Thanks also to all the other sites that have linked the article – there’s too many to name here, but I do appreciate it. I’ll have to see about putting together more articles for you.

A few commenters here and on other sites suggested that the technique I posted had alternatives and they are right. Sometimes, it may be possible to use a small aperture and/or a neutral density filter to bring about a lengthy exposure time. The result will be that the people in your photo will be relatively invisible if they are moving – there won’t be enough hitting them in the same place at the same time for the sensor/film plane to pick up their shape.

The difficulty with this technique is that there is a high potential for streaks to appear in your images from where the people were moving. Especially if there is a group of people, you are likely to get a smear where the group moved through your image. And if anyone stops, there will probably be a blurred, ghostly figure showing up in your picture.

Another popular alternative on various sites was to physically eliminate tourists using, baseball bats, guns, or whatever weapon happened to be handy. As frustrating as it can sometime be to wait for people to leave your shot, I can’t endorse this technique. Especially considering the stories I’ve heard about some foreign prisons!

There are also the people decry the removal of tourists from photos altogether. Sure, some people want them in there, but some don’t. I wrote the tutorial for the latter. I shoot both scene with and without tourists. When I want a scene without tour groups in it, it’s nice to have this technique in my bag of tricks.

Lastly, on a non-photo note, I want to say a big thank you to my hosts, Hostrocket for successfully managing a colossal amount of traffic. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my site remained available while getting so flooded with hits.


How to Remove Tourists from Your Photos

Every notable landmark seems to have one thing in common: visitors, and lots of them. But if you want that postcard shot or that image that shows how the location may have once appeared, you have a challenge ahead of you. This digital photography and PhotoShop tutorial will provide a means to remove the tourist throngs from your vacation images.

Taking the Photos

The technique I will describe here applies to photos you have yet to take. Unfortunately, there is no single easy way to get rid of people in the shots you already have. But instead of agonizing over long clone-stamping sessions, you can take shots that will yield vacant sites with only minimal PhotoShop work.

To start, you’ll want to be taking your photos with a tripod. A remote release or timer will also help (it will minimize the possibility that you may inadvertently move your camera between shots). You will also want to shoot using manual settings. As the scene changes, your camera meter may change your exposure values and that will make your PhotoShop work more difficult.

At busy sites, once you have composed your shot, you will find there is no end of tourist flow through your frame. You may find yourself quickly giving up on an image because you know that as soon as one group of visitors starts leaving, another will soon take its place. You might get lucky and everyone will flee the scene, but if you are short on time and/or patience, you may not be able to hold out forever.

The trick is, with your tripod-mounted camera, you can take your shot with people in it. Then, once people have moved a bit, you can take a second photo.

As an example, look at this photo I took at the ruins of Ta Prohm in Cambodia near Angkor Wat:

A lot of tourists loitering in the scene don’t make for such a great photo of a place that evokes imagery of explorers discovering a long-lost ruin. But with a little patience, I was able to get another shot of the scene with fewer people:

What’s important to note in this scene is where the tourists are and where they are not:

Make a mental note of the parts of the scene that were occupied by people. Then, as those parts of the scene empty, take a shot. The rest of the scene doesn’t need to be vacant, just the parts that were previously full:

Now, while still thinking of our mental note of what areas need to be vacated, we can still see one man occupying part of the photo. When he moves, we can take our final shot.

Putting it Together in PhotoShop

Once you have your sequence of shots you will want to open all of them up in Photoshop then copy and paste all of them into a single document as separate layers with your first shot as the bottom layer in the document. If you are shooting in RAW format, make sure that if you change settings for one of the images, you make the same changes to all of the images so that their exposures, white balance and other settings match.

Image Alignment

If there are small differences between the alignment of your images, select the Move Tool and use the arrow keys to nudge the layers into alignment. A handy trick for this is to change the blending mode of the top layer to “Difference,” then nudge the layer using the arrow keys. The closer the resulting image is to black, the better the alignment. Once you have finished the alignment, change the blending mode of the top layer back to “Normal.”

Masking

For now, we will make the top layer invisible (click the eye icon next to the Photo 3 layer). Next with the Photo 2 layer selected, create an empty mask for that layer, by clicking the mask icon while holding down OPTION on the Mac and ALT on the PC. Your mask should now be black and the entire layer is hidden.

Now it’s time to get rid of the people in your photo. Select the brush tool and use a brush with a feathered edge. Make sure the foreground colour is white, then Start painting into the mask of the Photo 2 layer in the places occupied by tourists. You will see the people magically disappear from the image!

Once you have removed as many people as you can by painting on the Photo 2 layer, make the Photo 3 layer visible, create an empty mask for it and paint out the remaining person. If you have to take more than three photos, keep repeating the process to erase any remaining stragglers.

You now have a landmark free of people!

Click here to see a larger version. And check here for more of my photos from Ta Prohm and Cambodia.

Notes

While shooting, if you waiting for any appreciable period of time between shots, the light in the scene may have changed. Once you have completed your masking and removed the people, you may be able to discern differences in lighting in the areas where the people were and where they now are not.

If the difference isn’t too off, you can correct this by making active the layer where the people are not present. Then, you can either any of PhotoShop’s tools in the “Image > Adjustments” menu to correct the change in light between the shots.


The Art of Photo-Manipulation

CBS News has an article about the current state of image alteration citing a number of famous photo manipulations that have made the news in recent years.

It includes this quote:

“‘The analogy I always like to draw is, imagine a pile of sand [...] And when does it go from a couple of grains of sand to a pile? And surely, taking one grain of sand on and off doesn’t fundamentally change the pile of sand. But at some point, it’s no longer a mound of sand, and it’s just a couple grains. But where did that transition happen?’”


Google's Writely

Google has publically launched Writely, a free online word processing application. It writes PDFs, will publish directly to your blog, has collaboration tools including subscribing to an RSS feed of a document), automatic off-site backups and more.

It is, of course, an impressive application, but I’m not sure if it will usurp Word as the de facto word processor. It seems everyone already has a copy of Microsoft’s offering. Writely may not take off, but perhaps it will have the positive effect of inspiring some improvements in the software we already have. I mean, it’s not like Microsoft doesn’t like to update their products. This may just mean that there are actually some relevant additions to the next release.

Though I did, in fact, use Writely to create this post and it worked fairly well. It didn’t include the title of the document, but it warms you that this feature may not be supported. It also used breaks instead of the paragraph tag for the html, so that was a bit unusual. Since I typically use paragraphs, I edited the post’s HTML after the fact, but I suspect most people won’t notice or care. Not to mention this just came out – a few improvements are probably already on the way.

I didn’t expect to be switching over to a new method of posting to this site, but it was worth a test. Now that I have made that test, I know for certain that I will be sticking to my trusty WordPress administration panel.


Photography Links for June 27th, 2006

Creativebits has a brief look at PhotoShop 1.0 that will undoubtedly spawn some sighs of relief that the product has come so far from its early days. Though, one screenshot does reveal that even in 1990, PhotoShop had support for 32-bit colour!

If you’re a Mac user and Software update hasn’t told you so yet, OS X version 10.4.7 is available.

Microsoft has announced the acquisition of iView media whose Media Pro software is an invaluable tool for photographers seeking to organize large collections of images. The iView line will continue develop under Microsoft and will likely serve as part of a larger Microsoft foray into digital imaging.

Lastly, DIY Photography, in this article, shares some musings on the art of photography.


Guide to DSLR Lenses

DSLRBlog.com has a guide to DSLR lenses that’s worth a look for anyone in the market for some new glass.

If you are going to be shopping, before making your purchase, I would recommend making a stop at Fred Miranda’s review section where you can get multiple reviews on each product (lenses and camera bodies) from users who have already made the purchase.


Researchers Develop Anti-Photo Technology

In an effort to deter photography of sensitive subjects and copyrighted material, researchers at Georgia tech have begun the development of a device that will cripple the use of digital video and still cameras. The system works by scanning the area using infrared beams for the reflection produced by digital camera sensors then beaming light into the camera to blind it. The light is out of the visible spectrum and also said to be harmless to human beings.

Notably, however, this system is incapable of disabling DSLR cameras. The mirror on DSLRs blocks the scan from seeing the sensor, so the more professional cameras are safe from this device.

In addition to its limitations with DLSRs, the system seems as though it would be easy to circumvent. A one-way mirror, an infrared filter or perhaps even a polarizing filter would conceivably block the sensor from being detected.

One of the main purposes of the camera blocker is to help prevent movie piracy by disabling video cameras in movie theatres. It has a host of other potential applications such as defending high-security areas and keeping trades secrets safe at trade shows.

My hope is that this does not become an over-used or abused technology. Would the world have ever known about Abu Ghraib had such devices been installed there? And if it had been mounted to the police car of the officers who beat Rodney King?

If this technology comes to fruition, I can only hope its use is strictly regulated.


222-Megapixel Photo of Machu Picchu

Yes, the 111-megapixel sensor I mentioned yesterday has been bested, but not by a single image. Instead Andre Gunther has created this 222-Megapixel photo of Machu Picchu the slightly-more-old-fashined way: by piecing together multiple photos in photo-stitching software. The fantastic detail is well worth a look as is the tutorial on creating ultra-high-resolution images.

Due to all the traffic Gunther’s image has received, the original site may be unavailable. If so, try this mirror.


111 Megapixel Camera

Though consumers can’t expect to see this kind of resolution in their cameras anytime soon, the new 111 megapixel sensor developed by DALSA Semiconductor lets the imagination run wild for photo enthusiasts. It’s the first digital photo sensor to break the 100 million pixel barrier and will ultimately be used for mapping the motions and locations of celestial objects.

The sensor is approximately four inches by four inches, so no amount of cramming will get it into today’s DSLRs. Besides, the power of the computer you would need to process the images is well beyond most people’s means. I think my powerbook might choke to death if I tried to manipulate a 10,560 x 10,560 pixel image in PhotoShop.


Photography Links for June 17th

If you have a free afternoon and you’re looking to practice both your portraiture and your people skills, you may consider having a look at photojojo’s guide to impromptu street photos. Just grab some poster board and a handful of small rewards for your subjects and you are on your way to meeting new people and getting some fun shots.

With the summer season upon us, you may be lucky enough to have an air show appearing somewhere in your region in the near future. Digitaldarell.com has a detailed guide to shooting air shows that will help you to capture all the action. The only thing I would add is that you shouldn’t forget to point your camera at the events on the ground from time to time. You may find yourself able to get some interesting shots of the planes or their pilots when you take a break from craning your neck upwards.

The gravity-defying MonsterPod looks like it would not only be a fun toy but also a practical addition to the camera bag of anyone looking to support their compact camera or external flash in a bizarre location. This small, red camera support has a strange, morphing underside that allows it to stick to most surfaces and hold a 10 ounce camera or flash. Weird, but potentially-useful stuff. For $30, it might be worth it just to see how the thing works.

Lastly, iView has updated its MediaPro photo management software to version 3.1.1.


The World’s Largest Camera

Six photographers in California are poised to set two new world records: the world’s largest photograph and the world’s largest camera. Constructed using an air hangar, this gargantuan pinhole camera will be used to produce a panoramic image of the landscape on the outside of the hangar.

The photographers are using a nearly 31-by-111 foot piece of white fabric covered in 20 gallons of light-sensitive emulsion as the “negative.”

I’m genuinely curious to see how the photo will look when completed. It will take ten days for the exposure to be completed, so the results will surely be unique for more than just their size.


Picasa Web Albums Review

To follow up on the previous post, computers.net has one of the many early reviews of Google’s Picasa Web Albums that are bound to pop up in the coming days. Check out their review complete with screenshots here.

And because I forgot to mention it before, Mac users have a little less to get excited about with Google’s recent news – the Picasa application is still only available for Windows. Google has stated that a Mac release is an option in the future, but they have not given any firm release dates.


Picasa Web Albums Launched

Google has announced the launch of their Picasa Web Albums service. Google’s photo sharing site is currently only available by invite. The launch of this test version of the site coincides with the new version of the Picasa photo software.

Another front on which the search engine wars are being waged, the Picasa service will serve as Google’s weapon in the battle against Yahoo’s popular Flickr photo sharing site. With a firmly-established community of Flickr users, Picasa has an uphill battle. If nothing else, a little competition will serve the users of both sites well.


Adobe Lightroom Beta 3 for OS X

Adobe has just released Adobe Lightroom Beta 3, their RAW image processing solution currently only for Mac OS X. Download and try this public beta release at the above link.

For extensive coverage of the functions in this release, read photoshopnews.com’s article on Lightroom Beta 3.

Edit: I just had a quick look at the program and I personally find that it’s still far too slow for my purposes. I’m running a 1.5 GHz Powerbook with 1.5 GB RAM, so I am above the system requirements, but operations that happen quickly in Adobe Camera RAW just take too long with Lightroom. I hope that the program speeds up in future releases because a number of the features are attractive and it could be a good addition to my workflow.


Keeping Your Digital Camera Sensor Clean

A lot of new buyers of Digital SLRs are surprised to learn that the sensor on their camera can become the home to irritating dust particles that will pollute images.

If moving from a film SLR to digital, people sometimes wonder why they never had to clean their film camera with such regularity. The simple reason is because with each new photo, you are working with a new ‘sensor’ as the film advances. Combine this with the fact that there is no static electricity roaming around the film plane and you generally don’t have to worry about dust showing up in photos.

Owners of compact digital cameras may be similarly irked by the dust problem inherent to DSLRs. But what these potentially-perplexed new DSLR owners forget is that there is little chance for dust to enter the compact, sealed up digital cameras. With the ability to switch lenses comes the potential for the sensor to be exposed to the dusty outside world.

Happily, there are ways of managing your sensor’s exposure to dust and methods of cleaning it when you do have the problem. Michelle Jones’s article on dust management will help you shoot spotless images.


The Future of Digital Cameras

The International Herald Tribune has an optimistic article at the future of digital cameras. They take a look at the rapid development that has occurred during the rise of the digital camera and examine what’s possible if a similar rate of development continues.

I agree with the article that much development is yet to come with digital camera technology, but perhaps the optimism in the piece might be a little too enthusiastic. While I do believe that megapixels will continue to multiply inside cameras, I suspect sensor developers will shift their focus away from higher megapixel numbers. After all, the smaller photo sites required for additional pixels have the tendency to reduce image quality. Though I do believe we will continue to see the numbers rise, I just wouldn’t put too much faith in them rises as quickly as the author suggests.

Instead, I believe camera manufacturers will shift more of their focus to improving the quality of the images. The article does discuss this as well, but I do think this is where the immediate future in camera development lies. Professional photographers now seem relatively content with the size of their images – they now strive for ever greater quality. Higher dynamic range and better high ISO performance are a couple of the refinements that are at the top of photographers’ wish lists.

As for me, I think one of the refinements they should work on is cutting the prices of this new technology. I want to play with these fun toys too!


Camera Raw Default Settings

The Luminous Landscape has a brief, but good article about taking control of the auto settings in Adobe Camera Raw.

I use this trick myself. While I sometimes use the automatic settings as a starting point for processing my images, I find it helpful to begin the process with the image as it appeared in the camera. Once you have changed your defaults so that no adjustments are initially made, it is a quick press of Command/Control + U and you can see the automatic conversion. Going the other way involves a few more button presses.

And like Michael Reichmann notes in the article, it is often the case that the automatic adjustments flatten bracketed exposures into separate images that all look the same. It’s much simpler to view these images initially in their original state than it is to have to uncheck all the boxes that have been adjusted by the auto processing.


Beach Photography Tips

The Digital Photography School has posted yet another article full of tips, this time, they cover taking photos at the beach. It’s a good set of pointers for a photographic situation that can be difficult for some photographers.

And if you decide to follow these tips and take your camera to the beach, you may also want to read how to maintain your camera at the beach.