Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ta-Da! Happiness has arrived

Another one of my photography resolution for this year is to start printing my photos, canvas or photobook or facebook post or whatever as long as it's out of my computer. Almost all of my photos ended up in my computer or HDD and seen by no-one, not even Un. I'm on the right track to change that now.

I've printed 2 photobooks for Europe trip and India trip.  And I've also printed our wedding photobook. Yes, for the last 2 years since wedding, our wedding pic stayed on that DVD Lawrence gave us and never made it to any print or even picasa album. Now I'll have a photo book.

I've made 3 photobooks in less than a month and I'm on the roll.  They are burning my pocket too. THey are from MyPublisher because MyPublisher is always having big coupons and after comparing with Blurb and Costco, I save more. Still, they are pricey. But it's so worth it to see my photos out of my laptop. And it's fun to see other people looking at it.

Photobook prices
Pages  8.5x11 12x12 12x15
MyPublisher 20 $36+0.99 N/A $70+1.99   
Blurb 20 $32 $54 (or 13x11)
Costco 30 $25+0.78 $40+1.38 N/A

Since I've been seeing Walgreen prints and photobooks, I'm impressed with MyPublisher results. Europe and Inida  books cost $30 for 70 pages of 8.5x11 photocover book. That was like 65% off or something. Shipping is another ~$12, so ~$40/book.

Our wedding book is $107 for two copies of 12x15 photocover book, including shipping.

But I hate MyPublisher software. Hate it hate it hate it.  It crushed everytime I tried to swap pages. As soon as I dragged a page, it crashed. Every single time. The interface is a lot worse than Walgreens online tool. I never had any problem with Walgreens' tool, more capable and easier/faster to use. More flexible too.

I got so fed up on making my first book that I even want to just ignore that saving since the time it took due to crashes is totally not worth it.  I learned. For my second book forward, I made a spreadsheet mental layout plan of which pics I want at each place.  Very detail.  I have to do that or I will end up spending more time in just restarting the software every 2 min for like 100 times for a single book.
It works. Having a solid plan definitely helps. It's way easier to swap pages and change plans in my s/s than in their software.

Blurb is now integrated into Lightroom. How nice would it be to use Lightroom once and for all. Not only to send to Blurb, but also to keep a digital ebook, nicely arranged. Now if I want an ebook, I'd have to repeat the same layout in Lightroom. Still, I can't get myself to pay more for Blurb, knowing MyPublisher is a better value. So much so for going cheap.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Portraits 8/52 Babies

KettlePop dude with a cool look at Farmers' market for this week.

Today I learned how difficult it is to take baby pictures.  I had studio-style baby pictures in mind, but it's difficult to get with the baby schedule and baby clothing. How do you tell the parents to take the clothes off the baby?  Such a failure that I'm ashamed of my baby photos.  Xiao and Robert tried to help, but I should have spoken up in guiding them for posing. I gotta try again.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Portraits 7/52

I didn't know Sunnyvale downtown is this busy and full of people at Farmer's market every weekend. It's alive!  Now I have a destination and a goal for Saturday mornings now. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Portraits 6/52

I was surprised how empty Castro street was before the sun down. As soon as the sun sets, people were everywhere. 

The girl here, Lydia, said she and her friends like her picture I took. How sweet. Thank you. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Water drops

Another good tutorial on Water drops with nice setup shots.

I should try it again. Compared to the drops in the tutorial, my previous water drops 2 years ago were so random and not interesting shapes like those.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Softbox testing

It's been really long since I stopped playing around with my speedlite, a year at least. Now I just bought a soft box and it's time to pick it up again.  I realized I've forgotten many things already; for example, my rule of thumb of how much power I would need to start with.
Top-lit toys. Softbox with grid overhead ~1ft away. 1/200, f/5.6, 1/8 (or 1/16?) power 

I didn't order any light stand, thinking I might be able to use my extra tripod. Well, it can't hold the softbox stand, so I laid it on the table and adjust the subject and camera angle in relation to the light instead. So the opposite. haha.

This 2x2' is a good soft box.  But that's it. It doesn't amazed me more than my make-shift light box made out of cardboard with white paper taped around. See the example below of overhead-lit toys. Looks just like putting them in my cardboard box.

With grid. 1/8 Power, ~2ft away. f/5.6, 1/200

Without grid. 1/8 Power, ~2ft away. f/5.6, 1/200

The grid works, but not as well as I expected.  When I tried the long rectangular softbox in Google studio, it was amazing. This grid doesn't limit very well, but 2x2' box itself has a horn-shape, probably spreading the light with bigger angle already. I should have ordered a rectangular soft box instead. I was looking for rectangular box a while ago, but I forgot how I changed my mind to square box. Probably the price. Maybe this will be better for portraits.

I gotta try some more with other objects and daylight balance another time.

For portraits, I think it looks softer and more pleasing now though. Definitely not beauty dish smooth, but not bad.

1/4 power, f/5.6, 1/200,  ISO Auto, ~2ft away from softbox with grid right next to camera

This time I tried to see if I can use ETTL. It kept over-exposing even after I decreased flash exposure compensation by one stop. Without that and light meter, I should recalibrate my rule-of-thumb light meter scales (Power v.s distance v.s f/stop) so I can guesitmate quicker.

Focusing was hard in a very dimly lit room. 1/200 and f/5.6 kills the ambient enough that I didn't have to turn everything off. Other than that, manual metering with auto focus worked well for this self-portrait test. Way easier than back button focus in this strobe setup for self-portraits.

Now that I got a soft box, I need a light stand and a backdrop. Look at all the cluttered background. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Portraits 5/52 Oh....Old memories

What a funny shot today with this Korean couple I asked at Fisherman's wharf -- the guy was excited for the shoot but the girl was shy and unsure. Afterward, YMT said they were probably not going out. Then it hit me. Of course, why would they look so awkward and shy when I tried to pose them? They didn't come hand in hand; they stand far apart even when I told them to get closer. They were all giggles during the shot though.  I can't stop laughing at myself now when I think of the couple poses I made them do, never realizing once that they were probably not going out yet. Shame on me. Seemed like I stirred up some butterflies in them today that they will go out sooner.

They reminded me of Un and me 8 years ago, and the day we went to San Francisco on what he called "a date". We were not holding hands, and were not so sure about taking picture next to each other together at Eugene's wedding.