Friday, February 27, 2015

What to Consider When Buying Your First DSLR Camera

Let's say you grew up when the Brownie was the camera of choice, when the majority of people counted on professionals to take their 'good' pictures.  You joined on the Polaroid craze, and when that faded (along with the pictures) you went out and bought yourself a nice little 35 mm, something that had plenty, but no more than you needed.

You could say then that when it came to photography, you've always been one of those people who made sure to get pictures of the essential moments — baby's first steps,  birthdays, anniversaries, picnics and parties — but  never considered yourself a photographer. You didn't think about lighting or composition, you didn't presume the results would win any awards.  Your photos were simply copies of memories.

Then the digital age arrived and suddenly everyone was taking pictures of everything, because they could. There was no waste of film, no processing costs, and the often lightweight piece of technology was easy to carry around.  You notice now  that you actually like taking pictures and now with your phone camera too have become positively snap happy. Maybe the time has come to take this little hobby a bit more seriously and invest in a good DLSR.

With the decision made the next question then is probably which one is best for you. A little research online before heading out to buy will educate you and give you info on what to look for, prices, etc.  Here are just a few informative sites to help guide you:

Get the Best DSLR Camera for You

5 Things You Should Consider Before Getting a DSLR

Canon vs Nikon

Best SLR - Which Should you Buy

Which DSLR Camera Should I Buy

How to Choose a DSLR Camera

Best DSLR Cameras 2015

Thursday, February 26, 2015

10,000 Plus Beautiful Mountain Photos

I think my son was born with a western heart. A musician, who has seen most of Europe and plenty of North America,  it is when he sees the Canadian Rockies that you know body and soul have quieted.

He spoke in a journal once about stepping outside at a friend's home in Banff early one morning. This was his first tour and having arrived there late the previous night he hadn't really known what to expect or  been aware of the surroundings. In the dawning hours of a new day however, he realized that stepping out  the door brought him face to face with the majestic mountains. He was awed by their rugged beauty and despite having seen some pretty impressive counterparts across the ocean too,  his heart we've come to see belongs to his nation's range.

I've seen the Rockies once in my lifetime and found them of course to be breathtaking. They are a pretty powerful image, cold and omnipotent, a sharp contrast to the other mountains I've seen on the eastern side of the United States — the Appalachians, full of colour and foliage.  But no matter which, being near them, seeing them, is a humbling experience.

If the mountaintop is what you're looking for, here are some fantastic photo collections from around the world, of this natural wonder:

National Geographic Mountain Photos

FabulousNature Mountains

iCLIPART.com Mountains

Clipart.com Mountains

Acclaim Images Mountains

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Unravelling the Mystery of Photoshop's Layer Masks

Mystery. While we would probably prefer not to be involved in a serious one, people do tend to enjoy a little in  life. We read books or watch movies that titillate with questions to help find the climactic answer. There are games that focus on unravelling the clues to discover the real story at the end.  Colonel Mustard in the dining room with a candlestick, anyone?

Most would admit to a degree of fascination for the enigmatic,  the people who seem to keep at least a part of themselves hidden. Being mysterious ourselves can be fun too.  We have great fun in hiding behind masks or in costumes.  Say the word Halloween and watch the delight of not just children but grownups too as they plan the transformation that will disguise them to the world. Keeping one's identity a secret while trying to uncover that of others can be an entertaining diversion, our masks creating a level of anonymity.

The notion that there is more here than meets the eye works with image editing too. Just as the Halloween mask  hides certain facial features, the Layer Masks in Photoshop will do the same to an illustration or photo.  They allow you to reveal only what you want to see, without erasing or cropping, so that returning to the original image is as simple as removing a mask at midnight.

More on how they work can be found at these great sites:

Understanding Layer Masks in Photoshop

Photoshop's Masking Layers

Using Layer Masks With Photoshop

A Little Bit About Photoshop's Layer Masks

Remove Complex Backgrounds With Layer Masks

A Beginner's Guide to Masking in Photoshop

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tips for Baby's First Birthday Photos

In just a few months, when the sun is shining brighter, birds are trilling us awake in the morning and early spring blooms have started to, well, bloom, our family has two rather significant events to celebrate. This May,  two of our adorable grandchildren will be entering the second year of life and birthday extravaganzas are already in the making.

Our younger daughter, mom of a tiny celebrant, is big on themes. Every party must have one and after convincing her big sister of this when she was hosting a bridal shower a few years back, it has since been the norm for every occasion these two plan.  You are My Sunshine was the focus of our older granddaughter's first-birthday bash a couple of summers ago while her brother, a tow-headed, blue-eyed wonder born May 5, will be having — what else —  a Cinco de Mayo partido.

Their cousin, Sweet Adelaide will be the guest of honour a week later at an "Oh, the Places You'll Go" bash.

It's fun really. Everything from the colour scheme for decorations, to the cake and invitations, are created or chosen to match the theme. It all makes for great photos too.  Not everyone, though, has the budget to hire a professional for the day. Here then are some tips to help you get wonderful pictures of your favourite little one's first milestone:

Must Take Photos of Baby's First Birthday

How to Photograph a Cake Smash for Baby's First Birthday

Take Beautiful First Birthday Photos

How to Take First Birthday Portraits

Monday, February 23, 2015

Online Image Editors

When my daughter was creating an invitation for her sister's baby shower, she had no problem finding the perfect image to decorate it.

It was an illustration of a pretty little mother-to-be, who, with bright blue eyes and dimpled grin was a close to perfect caricature of the guest of honour. The only difference was the hair.  This, however, presented no problem for our daughter, who's a bit of an image editing whiz.

Most people these days know you can change images to suit your needs. What most don't have, however, is the software to do it.  For people starting in small business or for folks just working on a personal project, it's not economically feasible or even worthwhile to purchase expensive software.

Fortunately, however, there are many affordable online alternatives. The variety is good news too as what works for one might not be the ideal for another. Individual needs and capabilities are as variable and complex as the world-wide web itself. So some time ago, I went on a small quest to see what options I could uncover.  What came as no surprise was that I found one website that did most of the work for me:  mashable.com . This provided links to, an information about, a number of possibilities, including two of the most familiar to me.

For people in search of a manipulation program that works well for photo retouching and image creation gimp could be the perfect solution, while GetPaint is image and photo editing software for Windows computers.

Here is a précised version of what Graphics Toolbox had to say about the others:

ultimate paint is a speedy graphics program, also for Windows, with plenty of features.

Skencil is a vector drawing program with may features, such as gradient fills and bezier curves.

A vector graphics editor,  Inkscape is a good option for people interested in something akin to Adobe Illustrator or CorelDRAW.

SmoothDraw is a freehand drawing tool, which will also smooth lines drawn with a mouse.

For people who like to paint without the mess DogWaffle is a functional program developed for the PC.

A freeware paint and drawing program for Windows, Artweaver has a wide range of painting tools and comes in free and cost versions.

So what's it all mean? Finding the right program needn't mean a big outlay of cash or settling for something you don't find user-friendly. Do a little research and you might be surprised by the options that suit your needs. Remember all of the above were the result of a quick search. If nothing here appeals, don't be deterred.