Last night I gave this presentation to an amazing group of Pittsburgh photographers at the Pittsburgh Pictage User Group (PUG). I am a huge geek and found a great niche for myself and my business – combining photography with engineering and becoming a cross between a photographer and a mad scientist. I build things because I can, because it is interesting and because some of what I build is actually useful to my clients. And because in my spare time I am Batman. Don’t tell anyone:)
Category / Tutorials
Remotely controlling your camera
Saving corrupted video
Check out this handsome guy! His name is Jonathan and a few days ago Jenny and I photographed his Bar Mitzvah. When we got to the party, Jonathan`s mom asked me if I could shoot a short video clip of their grand entrance. Normally I don`t shoot event video; I`m not a videographer and the only time I actually do anything with video is during engagement sessions or when I am doing work for my corporate clients. However, since the family only wanted a few minutes of video, I put my second camera on a tripod, put an LED panel in the hot shoe, pointed the whole setup at the ballroom`s entrance and hit “RECORD”. Now, my primary job (really, the only job) was to take still photos and that was what I concentrated on. I did not really pay much attention to what was going on with the video rig behind me. When the family`s grand entrance and speeches were over, I grabbed the tripod with the video setup and moved it off the dance floor. As I was dragging it to the corner where my spare gear was stored, I noticed that the camera was off. At a closer look I saw that the battery door was open. I closed the battery door, turned on the camera and hit the “PLAY” button. To my horror I realized that the video that the family wanted so badly was corrupted. I don`t know if somebody accidentally bumped the tripod or opened the battery door with malicious intent, but the result was the same – I had 1.35GB of corrupted video. When I got home I stayed up half the night trying to find remedies for fixing this problem. I found a piece of software for Mac OS called Treasured – it analyzes corrupted video files, sends information about scanned video files to a http://aeroquartet.com (movie repair service) and they (movie repair service) give you a quote for restoring the damaged file. In my case, the quote came out to $119.00. After more searching, I found two open-source scripts (one written in Perl and one in Python) that claimed to be able to fix corrupted MOV files. Neither script worked out of the box; luckily I know both of these programming languages and after about 3 hours of tweaking I was able to get the Perl script to work. Unfortunately, that script only managed to extract the video stream from the corrupted file – the audio was still missing. Finally, I came across two software packages – Grau GbR and Pro Maintenance Tool by Digital Rebellion (actually, Jenny found the later for me). Pro Maintenance Tools managed to recover video, but not audio, and did a much better job of it than my hacked Perl script. Grau GbR managed to recover everything! The only caveat was that the free version of this software only recovered half of the video file. To do a full recovery, I had to buy the full version (good for recovering up to 5 video files) for 29 Euros (approximately $40). They have an unlimited version available for 100 Euros. So, if you ever find yourself in a situation where your camera shuts off while recording, you have a few options: Grau GbR Pro Maintenance Tools iSquint (supposedly works for smaller videos) Python script (did not work for me) Perl script (worked, but did not recover audio) Treasured Good luck:)
Crazy Camera Setup
It’s a Friday night and I’m getting my equipment ready for next day’s wedding. I’m reformatting my memory cards, cleaning lenses and packing batteries when I get a call from the bride. Apparently, the minister who was supposed to perform the ceremony got sick and the replacement minister told them that he finds photographers distracting. He told my couple that the only way he would allow a photographer in the church is if the photographer stays all the way in the back corner behind the last pew. I photographed at that church before and I knew that staying all the way in the back would mean that I would not really be able to get any usable photos. The church is very large and a 200 mm lens (my longest lens) is not nearly long enough to get any type of decent close-up. If I had known in advance, I would have rented a 300 mm or a 400mm lens. Moreover, because of columns on either side of the isle all the photos would be from the same angle – essentially throughout the entire ceremony I would be photographing the bride’s and groom’s back. The bride was understandably upset and I had a few hours to come up with a solution. My first idea was to place a camera in on the other side of the altar and fire it remotely. The only problem was that I could not find a motor cable for my PocketWizard trigger. So I had to get creative. I made a quick run to my office and borrowed a Dell laptop. The next stop was a BestBuy store where I picked up a wireless router. When I got home I set up a wireless network between the Dell laptop and my MacBook Pro. Once the network was set up, I download and installed Canon EOS Utilities on the Dell laptop and Microsoft Remote Desktop Client (http://www.microsoft.com/mac/remote-desktop-client) on my Mac. Once everything was setup and configured, I used a 15-foot USB cable (I normally use it for on-location tethered shooting) to connect my Canon 7D to the Dell laptop. Then I launched Remote Desktop Client on my Mac and was able to control Dell laptop’s screen, EOS Utilities and subsequently my Canon 7D remotely. With this setup I was not only able to trigger the camera remotely, but I could also see what the camera saw and was also able to control settings and focusing points. On the wedding day I got to the church an hour early, set up the camera on a tripod behind the altar, hid the Dell laptop under the pulpit and ran the USB cable under the rugs. Everything worked like a charm. Even though I was stuck in the back of the church and my view was blocked, I still managed to get more than a few great shots.
How to Use Photographic Flash
- Canon EOS Utility for tethered shooting
- Breeze Systems DSLR Remote Pro – for tethered shooting, supposedly they have versions for Canon and Nikon
- Long USB cable for tethering from TigerDirect.
- Eye-fi – SD card with built-in wi-fi – great for wireless image transfer
- Pro lab for film processing
- Camera Bags
- Strobist Website – great resource for learning off-camera lighting
- AlienBees – studio flashes and wireless radio triggers
- PocketWizards – wireless radio triggers for flashes, studio lights and cameras
If I missed anything, please feel free to shoot me an email and ask. Don`t forget Val`s Intro to Adobe Photoshop class on April 10th and Advanced Photoshop + Lightroom on April 17th.
iMovie Crash Course
Quite a few of my clients have asked me how I put together their wedding slideshows, how to combine video and still images and video clips from different cameras. For production work I use Adobe Premiere, but for quick and dirty stuff I use iMovie. This tutorial will give you a crash-course introduction to combining video and still images in iMovie. If you want to learn more about iMovie, iMovie `11 & iDVD: The Missing Manual is an excellent book that will pretty much teach you everything you ever wanted to know about iMovie. Have fun.
Flash Photography Secrets
In about a month I am teaching a photography workshop at the Carnegie Library; the subject of my workshop is flash photography. If you are interested in flash photography, this video is definitely worth watching. I thought I knew a lot about flash, shutter synchronization and all the other fun stuff that goes with flash photography. This video really took me to school.
Digital Photography Workshop Series – Help! My Photos Are Blurry!
Last Saturday we held the first photography workshop (in a series of seven) at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. The workshop covered the subject of blurry photographs and was appropriately titled “Help! My Photos Are Blurry!”. Jen McKen did an amazing job teaching. She covered pretty much all the reasons why photos are (or may seem to be) blurry. Jen went over proper camera holding techniques, which shutter speeds to use when, selective focus and a bunch of other incredibly useful techniques. You can find more info on Jen’s workshop on her blog. Jen and I have been Facebook buddies for about a year but have never actually met in person. This workshop was a great opportunity for us to hang out, talk business and gossip. I also met Jen’s wonderful husband Greg and even introduced him to the wonderful world of Uncle Sam’s Subs in Oakland. There will be six more workshops in the series: I Bought a Digital SLR – What Do I Do Now? Sunday, February 13, 2011, 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM Taught by John Craig http://www.carnegielibrary.org/events/details.cfm?event_id=58519 Composition Sunday, February 27, 2011, 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM Taught by John Craig http://www.carnegielibrary.org/events/details.cfm?event_id=58521 Portrait Photography Sunday, March 13, 2011, 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM Taught by Leeann Marie Golish http://www.carnegielibrary.org/events/details.cfm?event_id=58523 How to Use Photographic Flash and Avoid the “Deer-in-Headlights” Look Sunday, March 27, 2011, 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM Taught by Dmitriy Babichenko http://www.carnegielibrary.org/events/details.cfm?event_id=58525 From Camera to Computer – Introduction to Photo Editing Sunday, April 10, 2011, 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM Taught by Valerie Head http://www.carnegielibrary.org/events/details.cfm?event_id=58527 Advanced Photo Editing Sunday, April 17, 2011, 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM Taught by Dmitriy Babichenko and Valerie Head http://www.carnegielibrary.org/events/details.cfm?event_id=58528
Using online resources to drive your business
A few days ago PDN (Photo District News) magazine published an article titled “The Five Biggest Photographers on the Internet“. In this article, they interviewed 5 iconic photographers about how they use online resources such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr to drive their business. One of the photographers, Christopher Becker (http://www.beckersblog.com) is my personal icon when it comes to wedding photography and self-promotion. He is an incredibly talented photographer who managed to build an amazingly profitable wedding photography business and is generally considered one of the highest-paid wedding photographers in the world. I decided to learn from TheBecker and from the others and expanded my online presence to Facebook and Flickr. From now on, I`ll be posting my photographs not only on this side and on WideOpenLens.com like I`ve been doing so far – my photographs will also appear in my Facebook album and in my Flickr photostream.
Choosing a wedding photographer
As a professional wedding/event photographer I meet with quite a few brides. While many of my potential clients come armed with a list of questions, some seem to be at a loss as to what they should look for in a wedding photographer. Last night I found an article written by Grant Perry, a wedding photographer from Virginia Beach that every bride should read. Choosing Your Wedding Photographer by Grant Perry