I recently wrote a post about how I'm learning to take insanely great pictures. This is the first follow-up community post on that topic, with more to come as I learn the ropes.
First things first: I'm already taking better pictures than I ever have before. So even with just a bit of motivation, the right camera, and some patience, you can definitely take pictures that are orders of magnitude better than before.
I'm not yet taking world-class pictures -- I know that will take years of practice -- but as an example, here are a few of the pictures I took this past weekend at a friend's wedding:
Here's my setup so far, as well as tips on what I've learned:
2) After I've shot a couple hundred shots, I take the SD card out of the camera and pop it into my laptop, and I import the pictures into Adobe Lightroom. Lightroom is the same software most professional photographers use for cataloging their pictures. It can be a bit daunting, so you have to decide if you want to commit to learning it. But I'd say that taking great photos is equal parts photographer skill + the right camera + post-processing in an environment like Lightroom. Or to put it another way, if you're not importing your photos into Lightroom and tweaking them, you won't get the kinds of photos you see above. Also, I shoot in the RAW file format vs. JPG, which gives me the ability to tweak the photos much more in Lightroom (but also produces much larger image sizes). If you want me to write a more in-depth post about how I use Lightroom, please let me know in the comments below.
3) I created an account on SmugMug to showcase the photos I want to export from Lightroom. Lightroom integrates with SmugMug directly from the app and will sync changes to your albums that you make to photos in Lightroom.
4) Sometimes, I take a 5 shot burst of varying exposures for importing into Photomatix Pro. This produces the deep HDR photos, like of this desert landscape in my SmugMug Landscapes album.
I still have to get through the entire online manual for the camera; I have a lot to learn about aperture, shutter speeds, framing the shot and lots more. I also ordered two faster SD cards to test (to write pictures to the camera faster, and without a delay); I'll write a post up with the results of that test next week.
Lastly, here's a little pro tip for the Lumix GX1: The lens cover is small and easy to lose. So I did a little ghetto velcro work to secure the lens cap when I'm using the camera:
photonatrix is definitely the best HDR program I have found. I'm personally not crazy about Lightroom/SmugMug but happy to talk more about that in person.
Let's do that Photoshoot w/your family soon (alterior motive alert: I get to hold her again!)
Will write more about LR & SmugMug soon for all to see...
Lisa, I'd LOVE LOVE LOVE to get your comments about LR + SmugMug over here: http://lifewetravel.com/hacking-smugmug-adobe-lightroom -- and especially to hear on that thread about whatever workflow you use.
Looking forward to reading more about your experience with this camera. I've got the same one and have already been taking better photos. I'm still not 100% sold on it though, coming from a Canon background the UI of the Lumix is bit intimidating. I'd still like to toy around with the Sony NEX lines to see how their UI's feel.
I've had several people ask me what hardware I use to capture content. First, here are a few examples of the content I've captured:
Pew Research's "9 Tribes of the Internet" presentation
Mobile presentation at the Finnish Embassy
Here's what's in my bag of tricks (total cost $230.83):
Kodak Zi-6 HD Camcorder ($129.99 or get it refurbished for $99.99). This is a great little device and it captures video in HD. I prefer it over the very popular Flip camera for a few reasons: 1) It accepts external SD cards. This is a huge deal, as it gives you expandable storage (the camera uses about 1 gig every 15 mins, so you should get at least an 8 gig card for $20.51). 2) It uses regular AA batteries that can be swapped out when you need to, instead of having to recharge via USB connection.
I've had several people ask me what hardware I use to capture content. First, here are a few examples of the content I've captured: Pew Research's "9 Tribes of the Internet" presentation Mobile presentation at the Finnish Embassy Here's what's in my bag of tricks (total cost $230.83): Kodak Zi-6 HD Camcorder ($129.99 or get it refurbished for $99.99). This is a great little device and it captures video in HD. I prefer it over the very popular Flip camera for a few reasons: 1) It accepts external SD cards. This is a huge deal, as it gives you expandable storage (the camera uses about 1 gig every 15 mins, so you should get at least an 8 gig card for $20.51). 2) It uses regular AA batteries that can be swapped out when you need to, instead of having to recharge via USB connection. Vimeo Plus membership ($50/year), which allows me to upload HD video (YouTube allows this now too; I like the Vimeo interface better but you might not want to pay $50/year) USB Digital Voice Recorder (here's a good one from Amazon for $49.97). Make sure you get the type that just plugs into your computer using a USB connection - no cables required. Omnidirectional tabletop microphone ($22.99, plugs into the digital voice recorder). Great for capturing panelists by just putting it on the table; turns the surface area of the table into a microphone. A regular sized tripod, and the T-Pod tabletop tripod or the QuickPod ($17.37 on Amazon). These are critical to setting the Kodak Zi-6 camera up in places that aren't expecting you to be capturing content! Eneloop rechargable batteries (Costco & Sam's Club sell these for less than Amazon, about $20 for a set) You'll go through batteries quickly - about every 30 to 45 minutes on the Kodak camera, so always have replacements. The Kodak takes two AA batteries and my Olympus recorder takes one AAA (not sure about the RCA but probably similar). Some Additional Tips: I always put the voice recorder up by the speaker or panelists even if I'm videotaping using the Kodak HD camera. This way I get a clean audio source. If necessary, I can always splice them together using an editing program like iMovie, however I always try VERY hard to ensure there is no editing involved (i.e., get the Kodak HD video camera close enough to the speakers to be able to use its audio). Once you start editing, the content uploading process easily can take 10x as long. Do your best to never edit video, even if it looks less professional. Better to have it up & accessible than sitting on your to-do list because you haven't gotten around to doing the edits yet. By the way, an issue with getting the Kodak HD camera close will be that you can't get everyone in your shot if its a panel, etc. Here's a great blog post on a hardware hack to put a wide angle lens on a Flip camera. I haven't tried it on the Kodak yet, but it should work just as well. I have a contractor who transcribes my audio for between 50 cents to 1 dollar per minute of audio captured. This is another reason I use the digital voice recorder and the Kodak HD video camera. It's much easier to upload the audio and send it to her, than to wait until the video is uploaded. Let me know if you'd like her contact information. Also, by recording the audio separately, I can use AudioAcrobat to turn the audio into an iTunes Podcast. Also, Vimeo (and all the upload sites such as YouTube, Viddler, etc) has a limit of 1 gig per video, so I often have to upload the videos in segments (1 of 7, etc.) to upload the entire event.
Want to see more photos I've taken? Visit my photo gallery.
UPDATE 12/13: The Lumix GX7 is the successor to the Lumix GX1 that I review (and love) below. It's pricey ($828 on Amazon or $998 with lens) because it's new, and you can now get a screaming deal on the GX1 (as low as $227). The two big advantages of the GX7 are 25% less noise in pics + wifi capabilities (including app remote control). I haven't made the switch yet, but I did do a more in-depth comparison on the two cameras here. If you do, let me know what you think in the comments below!
My wife and I are on a quest to learn how to take insanely great pictures. We are just starting this journey and I invite you to share it with us if photography is a passion of yours. The picture above is one of our first attempts at taking the kinds of photos that have a "wow" factor that transcends a regular photo. The photo was taken by my wife; that's my friend Keoni on the left and me on the right.