Holiday Photo Tips



Here are a few of my photo tips for the Thanksgiving weekend.

  • Charge those batteries. Remember to take you charger to the holiday party especially if you only have one battery.
  • Make sure your flash cards are clear and you’ve moved your photos onto the computer.
  • Take lots of holiday photographs. Edit, edit, edit during the long weekend. No one wants to look at bad photos.
  • Remember to shoot preparation photos making the food or setting up the Christmas tree or outdoor lights.
  • Most important: Get that family group photo taken this weekend so you can send out holiday cards. Include yourself in the photographs not just your kids or pets.
  • You have a nice group photo, take three or four shots. It’s always tough to capture good expressions of multiple people in a photo.
  • Most people think you’re a great photographer if you capture nice expressions. It’s much tougher than it looks. Shoot plenty of pictures, edit later before posting to a service like Picassa.
  • After the edit, post your photos quickly so family members can enjoy them.
  • Remember these photographs can be turned into Christmas presents. Have some prints made and frame them. This is so easy, but it does take time. Get it done the first week of December and you’ll be ahead of the crowd.
  • Most important: Give someone else the camera and get in some photographs!

A Few Miscellaneous Notes


Question: Name ?a place I’m not going to be on Black Friday. If you guessed the Apple Store, you were correct. I don’t plan to be at any mall or the Apple Store during this special one-day event. Knowing Apple, ?it’s not going to be a barn burner.? No $500 laptops, $800 iMacs or Final Cut 1passwordiphonePro at a reasonable price. I’m predicting sort of the same old 10 percent off on a few things I don’t really need…

For those fans of ?1Password software, the real deal is their? iPhone application?offered this Thanksgiving week. They are giving it away for free. It usually sells for $7.99. You get it at a bargain and don’t need to leave the comforts of home…

Where Was the Sun This Morning?

I must have gotten up a little earlier this morning because the early morning clouds where shielding the sun and the blue skies. A striking contrast from yesterday.

Chase Jarvis Day on Photo and Mac

When is an iPhone better than a DSLR?

By Heather Kelly

Chase Jarvis has a lot of very expensive camera equipment, his own photo studio, and years of experience as a professional advertising photographer. His current camera of choice? An iPhone.

Before this shot was taken, Chase and his wife Kate were enjoying a glass of wine on the deck of a beachside cabin, watching the sunset. When she stood up he saw her reflection in the window and instinctively reached for his iPhone.

?My iPhone just happens to be sitting in my lap, so I hold up the camera, say ?hang on a second hon,? and snap this picture. It?s her profile, the sunset, the trees, and how you can sort of see inside the cabin in this weird mystical way?if you look you can even see the 70s lampshades and wood paneling.? READ MORE…

Remember: Panoramas Can be Vertical Photographs

beachpano xmaspano1a

By Robert Lachman
Don?t forget that panoramas can be vertical photographs. Everyone one expects them to be horizontal vistas, but with photography, all rules are made to be broken. I had a little fun at the beach and mall yesterday experimenting will tall skinny shaped photos. All of the pics were taken with my iPhone and were a combination of four photos.

I used the AutoStitch iPhone app from Cloudburst Research for the beach photo and Photoshop on the Christmas pic to make the panoramas.

Have a nice weekend!

Is it Worth More than a Cup of Coffee?


By Robert Lachman
It must be Friday so it is time for, ?Is it Worth More Than a Cup Coffee?? Or, with a slight change today, it?s going to be, ?Is it Worth More Than a Slurpee??

This week I found a Sony WM-FX467 TV/FM/AM Walkman tucked away in one of our garage cabinets. Talk about a drop in value, even though it?s got some great features including a cassette tape player, I think the Slurpee is worth more.

I decided I needed to take a break from writing on Fridays. I need some exercise, so I have started, ?Is it worth more than a cup-of-coffee, Fridays??

Any outside submissions would be greatly appreciated. I just need two photographs (cell phone quality is perfect. That?s what I use). Take a close up of your old technology and any drink: wine, soda, tea or coffee. It couldn?t be any easier. The email address in the left sidebar. Have a nice weekend!

A Simple Lighting Setup


Photograph by Kevin Lachman @2009


By Robert Lachman
Recently I was working with my son who is taking a college black & white photography class at our local college. It?s really back to basics when you?re shooting Tri-X-400 film and then waiting a couple days to see the film developed.

The wait seems endless when you are used to looking down at the back of your camera and seeing every shot pop up on the back of the camera on a beautiful color screen. It hard for me to believe I used to shoot and process film every day.

For this assmeetthebeatles1ignment we just used me as the subject and a light we found in the garage. It couldn?t have been any easier.

It reminds me of those portraits on the ?Meet the Beatles!? album cover. That was a long time ago, but don?t say you don?t know what I?m talking about.

After attending the Joe McNally lighting workshop, where he used as many as ten small $500 Nikon strobes to light his subject, our method seemed so archaic.

I mean is it possible to shoot a nice portrait with a 100-watt bulb and a bent-up dusty reflector? I will let you decide.

Around the Internet

Ricoh GXR camera system swaps
out the sensor along with the lens

By Paul Miller

Ricoh’s been getting some love on its spendy GR series of late, but this new direction for what’s apparently slated to debut as a new “GXR” system is a wild one indeed. Basically, the camera comes in two parts, a body with an LCD, storage and accessory shoe (which works with an electronic viewfinder), and different lens / sensor combos which can be slotted into the body. READ MORE…

OneOn Software
The Plug-In Suite 5 is now being offered at $399 which is $200 off on Pre-Orders until November 10, 2009. It includes two of my favorite Photoshop plug-ins FocalPoint and PhotoFrame 4.5 Professional Edition.

Need a Car Wash

?Need a Car Wash? – – Photograph by Robert Lachman ? 1989
Meadowlark Airport, Huntington Beach, CA

I?m going old-school today with a? photograph taken with Kodak Tri-X 400 black-and-white film. -RL

Around the Internet

Meet the Beatles’ USB drive; EMI files suit against BlueBeat for selling Beatles downloads

By Todd Marten
While the Beatles may not yet be on iTunes, they’re still embracing new models of distribution. After making their music available in a video game in September, the Beatles will soon be releasing a limited edition custom-made apple-shaped USB drive containing all audio and video found in the recent re-mastered stereo box set. But it will cost you: The USB drive will be selling for $279. READ MORE…
Apple and EMI To Release Limited Edition USB

Following the September 9 (9-9-09) debut of The Beatles? digitally re-mastered catalogue on CD, Apple Corps Ltd. and EMI Music are pleased to announce the worldwide release of a limited edition of only 30,000 Beatles Stereo USB apples on December 7 (December 8 in North America).

My Very Own Curves Tutorial

I thought I would never figure out Photoshop curves, but with the help of A.J. Woods, I?m on the right track, Check out the tutorial below. -RL

From A.J. Woods, ?This goes out to @photoandmac who asked me once why he should bother to learn Curves when he’s already comfortable with Levels. Well, even Photoshop creatures of habit can benefit from new skills.?

Is it Worth More Than a Cup of Coffee?

stylus4packcoffeeBy Robert Lachman
It must be Friday so it?s time for, ?Is it Worth More Than a Cup Coffee??

This week I found a Belkin Stylus 4-Pack tucked away in one of our drawers. I can remember how important these were when I was an avid Palm Pilot user. I seemed to lose those things at an amazing clip. Now, this opened Stylus 4-Pack, minus one, can?t be worth too much so I?m going with the cup of coffee today.

I decided I needed to take a break from writing on Fridays. I need some exercise, so I have started, ?Is it worth more than a cup-of-coffee, Fridays??

Any outside submissions would be greatly appreciated. I just need two photographs (cell phone quality is perfect. That?s what I use). Take a close up of your old technology and any drink: wine, soda, tea or coffee. It couldn?t be any easier. The email address in the left sidebar. Have a nice weekend!

Checking Out the Camera Bag iPhone App


Original iPhone Version

By Robert Lachman
I always find it necessary to try out all the fancy applications which are supposed to improve photographs. I really never know if it adds or subtracts to the final process. The Camera Bag application from Nevercenter Ltd. Co. for the iPhone which costs 99-cents is a perfect example. The iPhone software really has some cool-looking effects. Check out a few of the options below. The photo above of Disney Hall in Los Angeles is the original version. Let me know what you think, improvement or distraction.



It’s Time to Start Thinking About Holiday Photos

pumpkins1PumpkindecorateBy Robert Lachman
It?s time to start thinking about those holiday photos. I always try and take the holiday family photo on Thanksgiving Day. It just gives me time to have our Christmas card made at Costco and in the mailbox on time. Actually, it?s my wife that gets them in the mailbox on time. It?s really never too early to get started on this project. So, my number one holiday tip is: start thinking about taking the family holiday photo now. Be the first one done and surprise your family and friends. This year, be the first to get those cards out.

My Random Thoughts: No Magic

magicmouseBy Robert Lachman
I?m trying to figure out what the new Magic Mouse looks like. Any thoughts or suggestions? It sure is streamlined and at the $69 price point it sure is tempting…

I didn?t feel the magic yesterday at Best Buy when I tried out Apple?s new smooth, sleek, touch-top Magic Mouse. It just felt and looked flat. I guess I need a little more substance with my mouse and a scroll wheel. I?m still waiting for a scroll wheel Apple, not a tiny scroll ball like the last mouse, or a flat top-like the new one….

Apple score one point for their computers and Microsoft scores one point for their variety of mice.

I haven?t tried Windows 7 yet…

Just when I was all set to buy the Kindle ebook reader for my wife for Christmas, Barnes & Noble introduced Nook, their entry into the field. Kindle or Nook? I hate making decisions….

Back to work for me after being sick for four days and having my regular days off. Have a nice week…

Review: ColcaSac Laptop Sleeve

macsleeveBy Robert Lachman

This week I am going to review the MacBook sleeve protector made by Colcasac which works with the MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and a smaller version for the iPhone.

The distinctive sleeve which uses a simple velcro closure to secure the laptop, includes a small pocket on the exterior to hold the charger or a couple of CDs or DVDs.

This case has an old-school feel. It?s almost seems like you might find an old photo of a young Steve Jobs or Woz back in the day using a sleeve case like this if they had just invented the MacBook laptops a few years earlier.

The exterior of the sleeve (in top photo) is made from a basket weave canvas materials. The interior of the sleeve is lined with a very warm and fuzzy polyester sherpa fleece. It certainly will keep your MacBook Pro or MacBook protected with it?s woolly feel.

macsleeve2The Colcasac sleeve doesn?t have any handles or shoulder straps so it?s best designed for added protection in your brief case, shoulder bag or backpack. It wouldn?t be great for carrying any long distances by itself.

Ok, Why do I need a case like this? It?s perfect for those who are looking for something different than the typical Neoprene form-fitting style case or translucent hardshell case. Remember there?s only room for your computer and the power adapter but, not much else.

The Colcasac sleeve is definitely a niche style product. So if you?re looking for a softer, more friendly looking sleeve style protector for your laptop, be sure to take a look at it on their website: The ColcaSac sleeve I tried sells for $33.

My Dad’s Kodachrome Images (#19)


Check out the photo of Bob Hope taken with 35mm Kodak Kodachrome film by my Dad in 1962 as he take a break to play golf during one of the Christmas trips entertaining the troops.

Topaz Detail Software Review

Topaz Detail interior strong detail preset with a little added saturation

By Robert Lachman,
Topaz Labs always seems to be working hard to keep new Photoshop plug-ins at a reasonable price. One of my main complaints about most plug-ins is the high price, but Topaz seems to make them at a more modest cost.

Topaz Detail bold detail preset

So what can Topaz Detail, the latest offering from Topaz Labs, do for you? Let?s say you just have a photograph that looks flat, maybe low on contrast or you need the subject to pop off the page. Maybe you want that new-school, HDR, specially-lit composition. You know it, the Dave Hill or the Lucis Arts look.

Topaz Detail interior strong detail preset They?re the portraits that have the grunge look that just flies off the page or landscapes or interiors that are 3D masterpieces.

According to the developer, ?Topaz Detail is uniquely designed to give the user full creative control over all aspects of detail enhancement without creating edge artifacts. It internally separates the image into three detail sizes – small, medium, and large details – and offers exceptional control over the precise manipulation of each detail type.?

Ok, let?s try and break it down into what this means. Topaz Detail lets you add sharpness and contrast without adding the noise usually associated with the process. While the Detail software is similar to Topaz Adjust it does a much better job of creating the enhanced effect without the increasing edge artifacts or over-sharpening.

Topaz Detail uses the normal Topaz Labs software interface with presets down the left side with examples, a large window for the preview of your photograph and sliders at the bottom to make adjustments.

I usually click on one of the presets and then make minor adjustments from there. Presets include: creative detail accent, micro-contrast enhancement, edge softener, soft looking, deep-blue sky, black-and-white contrasted, bold detail, and interior strong detail.

Topaz Detail softlook preset
Topaz Detail softlook preset

With the Topaz Detail software, you do have a choice of making the images more contrasty, softer or even changing to black-and-white, so plan on spending some time working with your photographs. This is one of those software programs that gets addictive, once you get started, it?s hard to stop.

Topaz Detail works on Intel-based Mac OS with either 10.4 or 10.5, older PowerPC processors are not supported. It works with Photoshop CS3 and CS4 and Elements 6 and 7. They do support Aperture 2 by Apple but not Lightroom.

Topaz Detail bold detail preset

They do offer a free 30-day full function trial on their website or you can buy it for $39.99. They are offering the newsletter subscriber price at $19.99 until August 31st with the coupon code “SODETAILED” so check the Topaz Labs website to see if it is still available.

I think Topaz Lab has really come up with a fine piece of software at a great price. The software is comparable to others that cost over ten times as much. I won?t mention any other names. Topaz Detail is a little slow when working with large files. I tried it with a 41M Photoshop file and it took Detail about 2 minutes to load on my older model G5 Intel iMac. But, once it?s loaded, it works very quickly when you click from preset to preset or make adjustments.

It does look like Topaz Labs has a winner with Detail at an affordable price. Also available on their site is a bundle price for a limited time which includes, Adjust, DeNoise, Simplify, Detail, Clean and DeJPEG for $149. (It works with Windows and Mac OSX)

Topaz Detail interior Strong detail preset
Topaz Detail interior Strong detail preset

All photographs by Robert Lachman ? 2009 taken with the Canon G10 camera

OnOne’s FocalPoint Software Review

By Robert Lachman
Focal Point from OnOne software is a photoshop plug-in for adding selective focus to your photographs, emphasizing the subject and eliminating or softening distracting backgrounds.

It?s a way of limiting your depth-of-field without purchasing very expensive lenses with f/stops of 1.4 or 1.8, or maybe even a tilt-shift lens. This software lets you add this style of effect after the fact, with control of how much and where you want the focus at a much cheaper price. The software also makes it very simple to add a dark or light vignette to your work.

Now, it?s possible to create the effects without the plug-in using Photoshop or Photoshop Elements by themselves, but it?s a complicated and time-consuming process.Focalpoint
When I first check out software, I usually go to the company?s website to see how much instruction is available. The OnOne FocalPoint tutorials are first-rate and very high quality, explaining how the software works.

The topics include:

  • Launching FocalPoint
  • Understanding the User Interface
  • Using the FocusBug
  • Working with Layer Masks
  • Tilting the Plane of Focus
  • Using the Vignette Controls
  • Batch Processing
  • Real World FocalPoint Examples

Once you take a look at the tutorials you?ll really have an appreciation of the software, and how easy, and how much time it will save you. I tried the OnOne FocalPoint software plug-in with Photoshop Elements 6 on my iMac and it worked without a hitch.

First up, was adding a little selective focus to a portrait. I opened a photo in Elements, then selected FocalPoint from the menu. The image opened in a new window with setting for Aperture Shape of the FocusBug which includes controls for feather and opacity. Changing the blur is next with amount and motion. Following down the list is Vignette with lightness and midpoint. The last control is Film Grain amount.

Next, I selected the round shape and clicked on the photo which gave me the FocusBug with all it?s controls. Even though the shape says round you can change the size and shape with handles which extend from the bug. Other handles give you control of blur, feather, opacity and blur blend. Also, you can see the actual layer mask by selecting Show Mask from the menu. While this isn?t necessary, it?s very informative about the process.

For a finishing touch, I added a little vignette to the photograph and it sealed the deal for me. The software really passed the most important test. It?s fun and easy to use.

For my next photograph, I tried the Planar shape. This effect simulates using a tilt-shift lens with rectangular shaped FocusBug extending through the entire image from top-to-bottom or side-to-side. This gives you softness or blur on each side of your subject. If you use option-click you can add it to only one side.

Portraits and sports photography with distracting backgrounds is where I think consumers would use this software. Most people can only afford zoom lenses which don?t really produce photographs with much limited depth-of-field.

The full version of OnOne Focal point is $159 which may seem expensive, especially if you?re using it with the much cheaper Photoshop Elements 6 instead of CS4. The price is competitive with most plug-ins on the market today and it?s a quality product which I would recommend.

Snap Art 2 Software Review


By Robert Lachman
Snap Art 2 by Alien Skin software is a Photoshop plug-in which changes your photographs into art work. If you need to turn a beautiful landscape image into an oil painting or a senior portrait into a water color it?s a perfect fit.

snapart2I tried it out with Adobe Photoshop 4, but it will work with Photoshop CS3, Element 4.0 or later for Mac and Photoshop Elements or later for Windows.

According to the developer, “Snap Art 2 expertly applies thousands of brush strokes. You simply show where you want more detail. This improved level of control makes it easy to render stunning portraits.”

The software is very easy to use. It’s simple: just open up your photo in Photoshop, click on the filter menu, roll down to Snap Art 2, and pick out the expressive style you’re looking for which include: color pencil, comics, impasto, pastel, pen and ink, pencil sketch, pointillism, stylize, and watercolor.

First, I clicked on color pen, it added some white snow to my photograph. It’s really a different looking effect. It looks like it’s snowing in the photograph, but it?s artistic. Next, I tried medium pencil, low saturation.

Since I have no idea from the title and there are no examples. I found there was a lot of clicking and trying stuff out. If you have time to experiment, it’s great but if you’re in a hurry it may be a problem.

snapart3Next on the my list was Comic. It made an interesting effect with large dots. This isn’t something I would probably have a specific use for, but maybe if you’re a graphic designer, it would be a cool way to jazz up your work and give it an imaginative style.

Pen and ink was next on my list. This turned the photograph into a black-and-white drawing look. Next up was Oil Paint and this really transformed my photo into a painting. I’m truly an artist now.

?To turn your photo into a beautiful work of art with a single click,? like the Alien skin software sites says, it will cost you $199. You can download a fully functional demo for 30-day tryout from their website.

Alien Skin?s Snap Art 2 does deliver artistic looking photos. Again, like I usually say about a lot of plug-ins, it seems a little pricey, but then, it?s a lot of work for the developer.