Tag: apple

iPhone 8 Plus Initial Test Shots

Three years ago, I shot everything on full frame. Since moving to digital from 35mm and 4×5, it had been my “quest” to reach the same level of image quality as my 4×5. With the Nikon D800E, image quality was finally there and well surpassed that of 4×5, although I did not have access to the tilts and swings of the larger format, bellows camera.

Two years ago, after hefting my full frame D800E and lenses around the Galápagos Islands with 23 students, I decided a change was needed. That’s when I began exploring 1″ sensor “bridge” cameras: first the Panasonic Lumix FZ1000, followed by the Sony RX-10iii, which I have happily settled on. I’ve now travelled with it to Iceland twice and to England, not to mention numerous day hikes here in southern Ontario. I am very pleased with the IQ and can easily make fine photographic prints up to 13″ and 17″.

iPhone 8 Plus

Last week I (finally) entered the mobile phone era with an iPhone 8 Plus. (BTW – Check out Freedom Mobile: over the two year contract, I will only be charged $600 for my $1095 iPhone 8 Plus! Use the link here and you and I will earn a $10 credit!)

A small gallery of photos from Christmas Eve Day, down by the Speed River, Guelph.

Why the iPhone 8 Plus? Why, its camera, of course! It has a two-lens camera system: one is a nice wideangle (for smartphones) f/1.8 28mm lens; the other, a f/2.8 56mm lens. It’s portrait mode creates beautiful photographs, artificially blurring the background, and, with the right app (in my case, I’m using the ProCamera app) I can save the photo in RAW format, using Adobe’s DNG format. Imagine, raw from a phone. Is it any good, though? I’ll let you be the judge. You can learn more about the camera in this article in Popular Science.

These were shot over the last couple of days while we’ve had beautiful, but cold, wintry days here in southern Ontario. The stark lighting is a real test for any camera system as the dynamic range is extreme. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well the iPhone handled the contrast. From what I understand, the camera now always does exposure blending by taking three exposures almost simultaneously then automatically combining them into a single photograph, commonly called HDR.

The photo below was made along one of the many backroads we took driving down to Burlington on Christmas Day. The late afternoon sun was made hazy by the falling snow – a scene that was begging to be photographed. I took a number of different shots and settled on this one, slightly cropped from the full photograph. I saved it as a raw file, to ensure maximum latitude while processing. That being said, Apple’s new HEIF file format (PhoneArena review), which iOS 11 now uses instead of JPEGS ticks many of the boxes for advantages: up to 16-bit colour (jpeg is 8-bit) including animation and transparency, yet a smaller file size (about ½ compared to jpeg) and far superior compression with fewer artefacts.

Web version with border and white framing from Lightroom and LR/Mogrify
This is the initial raw file, cropped, but not processed. It appears dark as the emphasis was on retaining the highlights. The full-size image is linked for you to view pixel-level quality.
Here is the full-resolution (linked) processed version of the same file.
Lightroom Before/After comparison with processing values to the right.
Portrait mode, no flash

So far, I’m pleased with the results. Even the Portrait mode is well worth the additional cost of the “Plus” version of the iPhone 8. And the Slow-Synch flash, which doubles as a flashlight/torch, is a bonus which provides very pleasing fill light. Why not an iPhone 10? The additional cost pushed it over my budget. Besides, the iPhone 8 Plus is built on tried and tested technology.

I’ll be shooting more with it over the next few days, so if you have any questions or comments, fire away.

Will it replace my other photo gear? For walking around, yes, but for serious photography, not yet. Who knows, though, the iPhone 8 Plus might still have a few tricks up its sleeve.

Computer Angst…Solved!

I’ve been going through a fair amount of angst as of late…

Back in October, the week prior to my London Camera Club presentation, my MacBook Pro (2011) began to crap out on me. It was not starting up properly – on the start-up screen, everything that was supposed to be shades of grey became shades of red. At first, I thought, “Right – Product RED; or is this for Breast Cancer Awareness Month” as the shades of red were really shades of pink. Ha, ha – No!

THANK GOODNESS I REGULARLY BACK UP MY HARD DRIVE!!! Did I yell this loudly enough for you?!? I was able to use my school MacBook Air to access the back-up copy of my presentation on my Time Machine hard drive. Time Machine is Apple’s proprietary and wonderfully easy and useful back-up app built into the operating system. I copied the presentation to the MacBook Air and could then add the tweaks I wanted – and voilà, I could present. Whew! Dodged that bullet. Little did I know bullet #2 was headed my way.

In the meantime, I had a presentation at the Halton Camera Club. The MacBook Air performed flawlessly again and the presentation went off without a hitch.

So I took my MacBook Pro into Datamatrix here in Guelph who attempted to fix it. They are a great group of guys who have saved hard drives and other computer woes in the past In fact, I thought they had fixed it until I sat down this morning to do some overdue printing. Same problem! Yikes!

So, I grab the MacBook Air again – which, at 5 years old, is no a spring chicken. It has only a 128GB SSD with only 8GB of RAM. Yet… it is blazingly faster than my MacBook Pro (w/ 16GB of RAM), primarily due to the SSD. I have 5 Chrome windows open with at least a dozen tabs in each, yet hiding it allows me to work with Lightroom as if nothing else is open. I plug in my external monitor – and it works flawlessly. I plug in my external hard drive with my Time Machine backup. It, too, works flawlessly. At this point, I’m thinking I have horseshoes up my a**!

But… what do I do about Lightroom? I have LR on the MacBook Air, but it’s set-up for the school yearbook photos I work on. Will the copy on my Time Machine back-up work? I try double-clicking on the LR catalogue icon – nope. I’m not permitted to write to the back-up. Frustrating, but a very thoughtful precaution! Well done, Apple.

But, what if I copy my catalogue file to the MacBookAir? Wow – the folder is huge at around 20GB with Previews and Smart Previews. Hmmm, all I really need is the catalogue, though, as LR will generate new previews for the few files I use. So, I copy the LR catalogue to the MacBook Air. I then open Lightroom, but not from the Dock as that would open my School LR catalogue. Instead, I double-click on the LR catalogue I’ve just copied to the Desktop and – voilà – it opens… but it can’t find my photos. There are question marks beside each and every folder of photos. Okay, that makes sense, actually. I did move the catalogue, so it broke the file connections, the “breadcrumbs” leading from LR to the photos. I need to “tell”  it where my photo library is. So, I select the top-most question-marked folder (named LRPhotoLibrary) and choose “Find Missing Folder”, then navigate to my LR Library on my backup HD and voilà, my photos blink on, one by one, in the Library view. Whew!

So I begin working on a print job – some “Fiery Sumac” ArtCards for a friend, plus a bunch of other ArtCards. Hmmm… no User Templates. I need to create a new “User Template” for the ArtCards using a copy of a previous one. Finally, all is ready.

When I go to print… Right – I need to install my printer on the MacBook Air. No go… it doesn’t have the drivers installed. So off to the Epson site I go to download the latest drivers for this version of Mac OS (El Capitan) and install them. Done.

But I still can’t print, as this laptop doesn’t have the paper profile needed for the ArtCards. I use MOAB Entrada Rag Natural “Entradalopes”, so I go to the MOAB site, download and install the needed drivers. Still no go. Lightroom doesn’t “see” the profiles. Ugh! I then try the old stand-by and restart Lightroom. Yes! The drivers are there.

Then, it’s just ensuring the printer is set up properly for Matte paper and Matte Black Ink with the Colour Management turned off at the printer. Three minutes later I have a near-perfect ArtCard printed, complete with the titling text I always use for the back of the cards (compliments of going back into the Time Machine hard drive and copying the Pages file I use to generate the text).

Woo-hoo! Success! OMG! This all started around 10am. It took about 90 minutes to set all this up (between answering a few emails and grabbing another coffee), but I’m in business.

It worked because I back-up, regularly. It also worked because I have a system for doing things. It may seem pedantic at times to someone watching me work, but it sure makes a difference when things don’t go as planned. So, to all my photographer friends… BACK-UP! BACK-UP! BACK-UP!!! Do it NOW!!! And, if you are not already doing so, use a repeatable system so that you can troubleshoot and repeat it when things go wrong. If you are not sure you can fix computer on your own, get some help from PC Revive.

Also, a quick shout-out to Apple. First of all, my MacBook Pro gets a lot of use. It has travelled with me everywhere and is on or asleep constantly and here it is 6 years later and only now in trouble. Same with the MacBook Air – still working brilliantly and fast after 5 years, with only 8GB of RAM. And, I have a the Benq HD monitor plugged in as well as my Time Machine back up HD and the printer and I can still flip back and forth between Chrome, Preview, Pages and LR without a hitch or delay.

Lastly – thanks Apple for making Time Machine. Back-ups are flawless and integrated into the OS. Lately, it seems, every time I turn on a computing device I have some kind of error, but it’s not with Apple. Usually its with some stupid website that is trying to do something it thinks I want it to do. So, fingers crossed, I haven’t jinxed anything!

Now – back to printing!

iPad for Photographers

A number of people keep asking me how I like Apple’s new iPad. Frankly, I love it and would have one except it’s not quite there, yet, for photographers. To make it truly useful as a content generator (as opposed to its current configuration as a content provider), I think it needs the following:

  • larger HD – 64 GB doesn’t cut it when I have 12GB of music alone,not to mention apps plus docs; photos and slideshows take space!
  • more efficient USB support for external HDs – I keep all my raw images on a portable HD; only my Lightroom catalogue is on the computer but even the data for it takes 8GB
  • multitasking – it appears to be here with iOS 4.0 – we’ll have to see how efficient it is
  • LR for iPad for ingesting images (2 USB ports needed – one for the camera, t’other for the portable HD), cataloguing; even some initial processing should be possible
  • a larger screen would be wonderful – preferably 16:9 ratio.

I know, I’m not asking for much. If you read this Steve, please take note!

Why Mac?

I have been using Microsoft-based computers since I first started desktop computing back in the late 1980s. I have also been using Macintosh computers regularly since 1990. Over the last 20 years I have seen all the iterations that Microsoft and Apple have brought to the desktop computer. So before you try to tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about and am simply a Mac fan-boy – I have used both systems continually over the last 20 years and have explored a great deal more in computing than the average user.

It’s funny that I don’t actually remember my early experiences with Microsoft except that it was a DOS environment filled with white type on a blue screen and myriad special codes needed to get anything to work. In contrast, I will never forget the first time I sat down at a Mac all those years ago. It was a Mac SE or  Classic and it was as much an epiphany as watching that first sheet of exposed photo paper go into the developer blank and gradually appear as a black and white photo. If you’re a photographer and you’ve never experienced a moment like this then  – well I’m not quite sure what to write because the days of experiencing a darkroom certainly seem to be numbered.

[Aside: A similar epiphany moment happened the first time I used Google, literally days after it was first “on air” in 1998. I clearly remember marking a student’s term paper – I got the feeling that some plagiarism was going on so I input a phrase that seemed too good for a (then) Grade 13 student into Lycos and found nothing. Then I tried AltaVista. Finding nothing still, I tried Google. It found that exact phrase, and subsequently much of the student’s paper, in milliseconds. I was sold on Google. Google is great because it works and it’s fun – same thing with Macs.]

I remember sitting down at the Mac Classic 20 years ago and discovering how, for the first time, I could actually see on-screen what my page looked like. In retrospect, it seems bizarre how we went backwards from a typewriter – the original wysiwyg device – to a blue screen with pixellated characters that didn’t look anything like the output, then back to true wysiwyg. What’s more bizarre is that the non-wysiwyg blue monster would go on to become the more popular of the two. It is truly amazing how one thing – price – can make all the difference in the world. I am sure glad that Apple has not succumbed to the inane notion that popularity equates to quality (as is all too often the case – tonight being a good example  with the Academy Awards!)

And this mouse-thing – what a concept! And fonts galore – cool fonts with Dingbats and things – all  without silly cartridges for the printer. I have to admit at being a bit of a font geek since my high school days and Letraset. Sure Macs were twice the price – but I never got tired of computing on a Mac. And now with gestures and trackpads and music and photos and productivity all at my fingertips and anytime. I don’t know how many Windows users still shut down every time they finish. They are amazed that I don’t shut down my Mac for weeks despite intensive computing sessions with 8 or 9 apps open and dragging and dropping and communicating between them. I just do the same thing with my Mac as I do with myself every night – I put it to sleep.

So, why Mac?
Simply – Macs work, Macs don’t get viruses and Macs are fun.

Macs work right out of the box. Macs work whenever I plug something into it. I had my wireless system at home set up in minutes with my $99 Airport Express my printer and two laptops. If,when I plug something in, the driver isn’t “on-board”, my Mac goes and finds it, downloads it  and, with my permission only, installs it. No .exe files that carry nasty little bits of code that ruin machines. In fact, Mac’s can’t get infected unless you allow it by entering your password.

Did I say fun? Did I say easy to use? Take this example. As a photographer I like to create slideshows of images. I have two options

  • Option 1: the absolutely free, intuitive and excellent slide shows from within iPhoto – complete with Kens burns Effects if I want them, or not;
  • Option 2: Open a Keynote template > go to iPhoto and select the photos you want to display > click and drag them to Keynote (Option-Tab will take you there or to any other app immediately) and drop them onto the Slides pane – Voilà – the photos are instantly put in as separate slides that keep all the attributes of the template.

Oh yeah – Voilà reminded me of that other great Mac feature – decidedly unimportant to the vast numbers of unilinguals (read monoculturals) – the easy way that Macs do accents.

A note about Apple Keynote (part of the iWork suite) – I do presentations in lots of different places as part of my photo courses & workshops, at schools, at churches, … and I am always asked what software I used to create them. Invariably those that ask recognize that my presentations aren’t made with Powerpoint, but are amazed when I tell them Keynote is part of a $79 suite of apps from Apple.

I know, I know – by publishing this I’m going to piss-off a number of users who don’t agree and  I’m opening myself up to all the users out there who have wonderful things to say about Windoze. But lets face it folks, while Windows does a few things better than a Mac, Macs do a pile of things better than Windows including all the populist things like games and all the highly specialized things like linking hundreds of machines together for super-computing.

But it’s the everyday things that are made easier and more fun like writing an email, word processing and browsing the net. My Mac easily talks to and exchanges photos, music and other files with my wife’s Mac over our home network. I must admit that Windows has caught up to Mac in many ways and they are cheaper. My sister claims that she can buy three Windows laptops for the price of a Mac (not! unless they are three little netbooks) but the next time you want to do a cost comparison, ask yourself how much your time is worth – finding drivers, downloading incessant updates and security fixes, protecting your computer from viruses and restoring data after a blue screen affair or after a virus has wiped access to your hard drive.

Oh and cheaper? I think not. compare the price of OS upgrades even before Snow Leopard ($29). Mac Mail is Free. iChat is Free. iDVD is Free. iLife with iPhoto, iMovie, iWeb and GarageBand is Free. And, unlike most freebies, these things actually work! But what about Office, you say? 90% of what 90% of us use in Office is in iWork – just $79 for Pages, Keynote and Numbers together – and I can vouch for them all being wonderfully easy and fun to use – even for power users like myself.

[Still not convinced, check out the objective reports on productivity differences between the average office worker using Mac vs Windows. Macs are quicker to learn and quicker to be productive with and, because they are fun, people want to use them so they are more productive. IT people certainly don’t want to switch to Macs because it’s been shown that fewer IT people are needed to support the same number of Macs because they have fewer problems. So, the ones making the decisions are perhaps not the most objective. Lastly, looking at total cost of ownership, Macs still come out on top for year-over-year costs.]

Apple iPad – for photographers?

Apple iPadI’ve been away for a week up in “God’s country” – the Haliburton Highlands of Ontario – so I missed the hoopla surrounding the release of the Apple iPad. Some would call it a boring over-dramatization, even gaudy melodrama. I, for one, usually enjoy Steve Jobs delivery of new, revolutionary products. This time, he is showing his age with unnecessary repetition and  occasional silted delivery. However, this blog isn’t about Steve Jobs or the launch, it’s about the iPad itself.

The iPad truly is Apple’s

most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price.

During the launch, I would have thought they would use the Beatle’s Revolution, but I guess things aren’t yet patched up between Apple and Apple Records. That being said, I am greatly excited by the potential of the iPad.

Fifteeen years ago when I was teaching high school Geography, I conceived of a “notebook” somewhat akin to the iPad. Except mine had a stylus and was more productivity oriented than the iPad’s entertainment orientation. I like the iPad and it could certainly find a place in my life for these reasons (without having actually played with one). At the same time, I feel that I will pass on this first iteration, because, for me, it’s not quite there. For photographers as well, I feel it’s not quite there yet. Here we go:

  • the screen is gorgeous – the best on the market. Although I am not a fan of glossy screen for doing photo work, this one appears to be a keeper. And the 1024×768 size is decent, however
    • I want real estate. I would much prefer to cart around an extra pound of weight if it meant having a 15″ screen. When I move from my MacBook to something else, I don’t want to scrimp. You see, I’m looking at iPad as a way to shed weight and bulk and things. I want it to do what my MacBook does (well, almost) without having to carry my MacBook.
  • the interconnectivity is excellent – WiFi on all, 3GS if you want it (although no phone capability – so I still need to carry a phone although Skype might have something to say about that – very soon). Cameras can also be connected via the Camera Connection Kit (thanks, Dennis for pointing that out!). This makes the iPad a good replacement for the Epson Picture Viewer – but not an ideal due to the small hard drive of the iPad – 64GB maximum.
    • Productivity for me is the key. As I mention above, the iPad must be able to stand on its own so I don’t need my laptop with me as well. I live by my email, calendar and address book, so I’m pleased to see them implemented so well on the iPad. As well, iWork is an incredibly easy, intuitive and friendly set of apps that I use everyday. Keynote, alone is worth ditching PowerPoint which looks positively archaic next to Keynote. Pages kicks Word’s butt. Numbers is still maturing but still far more useful to me than clunky old Excel. I know Office is the industry standard on “every” computer (and, when needed I can export as Word, PowerPoint and Excel), but I don’t get rave reviews of PowerPoints like I do of Keynotes, and for me, as a photographer, it’s the presentation that counts. For me as a user, it is also the interface that counts and iWork has Office beat to death. However,
      • I need to come back to screen size. Sorry to harp on it, but, other than the lack of a USB, it’s the deal-killer for me. No doubt, Microsoft will come out with an Office version for iPad and there will be a whole slew of further offerings, but they will need to be workable on the 10″ screen. Maybe I need to get an iPad in my hands to see how well I can work on a small screen, but from first look, I’m skeptical.
    • the battery power is phenomenal. At 10 hours – even they overestimate by 20% – the iPad can work through a full day of use – nicely done, Apple!
    • the Apps have huge potential. I can easily see Adobe putting out a Photoshop for iPad. Being able to edit and manipulate photos on a touch screen would mean a Wacom Tablet at $200 is no longer needed. But again, the small screen size is getting in the way of real productivity

    The other potential deal-breakers for photographers and others – besides the lack of a USB – are:

    • the size of the hard drive. At only 64GB (the largest HD and most expensive iPad) is potentially 1/4 of what it needs to be. Heck, I have 12GB of music alone. And, I don’t want to just show photos – I want to upload the RAW images from my camera and at least start the file management process and perhaps some initial editing. Not impossible with only 64GB, but definitely limiting. You see, my laptop is my office – it has all the files I need to be productive anywhere. I don’t have time for the level of entertainment offered by the iPad – great if you are stuck on a commuter train for an hour everyday. But at only 64GB, I would be spending too much time swapping files rather than working on them. Let’s see, what files do I need today to be productive on the road…oops I forgot that file on my laptop…
    • the lack of multi-tasking. Why has Apple taken a step back from its leadership in multi-tasking. I am shocked by this, actually. I don’t want to close an app (like a photo, Keynote or Pages doc) just to search for another song or check my calendar or my emails

    The bottom line question for me is, can I get away from carrying around my laptop by using an iPad? Almost. The killers are:

    • screen size – it’s too small to be truly productive;
    • small hard drive – too small for RAW and manipulation;
    • lack of multi-tasking – who doesn’t multi-task these days!; and
    • lack of USB to upload photos.

    If I have some downtime after a shoot on the road, I want to go beyond just looking at my photos. And if I can’t be truly productive then I need to carry my laptop. If I need to carry my laptop then I don’t need an iPad. I would gladly pay $1000 for an iPad that had even a 14″ screen, 250GB hard drive and USB connectivity – something that would be more productive than entertaining. There’s my wish-list, Steve!

    Making Photo Books with iPhoto

    I have had a wonderful experience as of late publishing two books using Apple’s free iPhoto application. It hasn’t been without a learning curve, but what I’ve found is that even simple books are very straightforward. Being the nit-picker I am, though, I’ve complicated my life by wanting details and customization that stretched iPhoto. But I have been very pleased at how iPhoto responded by stretching and accommodating the finessing I wanted. In fact, when I took one of my books to a local printer for a quote, they were astounded with the quality before I even told them how I made it and what it cost to make.

    What I like about iPhoto…

    Tanzania - a book of fine art photographs by Terry A. McDonald
    Tanzania (Dec 2009)

    Now, before I go too far, I should warn Windows users that iPhoto is only available to Mac users. It’s a shame, really, because I have yet to see a free photo library/catalogue app for Windows that even comes close to the capability of iPhoto. In fact, I have yet to see an inexpensive app (less than $75) that does what iPhoto can do. Furthermore, building on the success of iTunes, Apple could easily offer “iPhoto Windows” as a $10 or $15 app for download only. Anyway – back to the main event…

    Lake Superior Provincial Park iPhoto book

    I wrote an earlier blog about the usefulness of iPhoto here, but in summary I find iPhoto great:

    • for easily and quickly finding photos;
    • for cataloguing photos using events, albums and keywords;
    • as a repository of high-quality, high-resolution jpegs of all my fine art and family photos;
    • for creating engaging slideshows directly through iPhoto or seamlessly integrated with Apple’s Keynote;
    • for creating photo galleries uploaded to my MobileMe site (which you may already have for your iPhone)
    • for creating photo pages usingApple’s free iWeb app then uploaded to my website;
    • for emailing photos or uploading to Flickr, PicasaWeb, Panoramio, JAlbum, etc.
    • because I can have multiple Libraries for different uses and world locations.

    There’s a whole lot more, but this is a good summary for now.

    "Modern Lines" theme from my iPhoto book Tanzania

    Now – about iPhoto Books…

    The advantage of iPhoto books versus online books is that you can work on them without being online: waiting for files to be uploaded, waiting for pages to load, etc. Some online photo book sites have mini apps you download to help prevent this, but I have yet to find them as smooth, seamless, versatile and customizable as iPhoto. With iPhoto, I am not limited to pre-determined fonts and sizes – I can use any font and most sizes up to about 72pt for titles and even 36pt for text. I can also have hard cover books with custom dust jackets – very professional looking! And all of this comes at a very reasonable price: USD 29.99 plus 6.99 shipping (for the first book of  multi-book order) for an 8.5×11 20-page, hard cover book with a custom dust jacket (front back and both flaps).

    Ordering is a snap using my Apple Account (the same one I have for iTunes music downloads). Shipping is via FedEx. I thought this would be a problem for me here in Canada with merchandise crossing the border, but there are no extra shipping, brokerage or duty charges (SSSHHHHHH – don’t tell the government, but they aren’t even collecting PST and GST!!). And get this – books I upload on a Sunday afternoon arrived at my door here in southern Ontario on Thursday around noon – talk about FAST! I can also track the books online from their origin in the Memphis, Tennessee area. Amazing, truly amazing!!

    Making a Book

    Books can be made as easily as:

    • selecting the photos in iPhoto;
    • clicking on the “Book” icon at the bottom of the iPhoto window;
    • selecting the size and style you want;
    • clicking on Autoflow for iPhoto to assemble the photos automatically;
    • adding a title and captions;
    • clicking on “Buy Book” and inputing your details.
    "Formal" theme - from my Lake Superior book

    While all of this can be accomplished in as few as 10 minutes, you will need to spend a while longer to truly take advantage of all the custom features. This list will give you an idea of the work flow I use in creating a book:

    1. Select a few photos and click “Book” at the bottom of the iPhoto window;
    2. Add more photos by selecting and dragging them from the iPhoto window to the icon of your book in the left panel;
    3. Click on the book icon in the left panel. Place each photo into the book by dragging them one-by-one from the top “filmstrip” view and dropping each onto an image placeholder(s) on each page.
      • Be sure to put the photos into a chronology or in an order that tells a story;
    4. Choose individual page layouts and a cover layout;
    5. Choose page background colour or  full photo background which can be left as it or lightened to go behind text;
    6. Edit & crop photos as needed (by double-clicking or selecting “Adjust” at the bottom of the window);
      • I tend to edit (colour balance, enhance, drop etc.) all my raw files in Adobe Camera Raw then convert them to full-resolution, highest quality jpegs for import into iPhoto, so they already tend to be optimized.
      • If you are shooting jpegs, be sure to shot at maximum size and resolution (minimum compression) so that they may be used as full-sized images in a photo book or calendar.
    7. Tweak the size and/or view of photos using the pop-up window or by Ctrl-clicking (“Fit photo to frame size” or not);
    8. Write and format descriptive text for the captions, dust jacket, title page and/or  chapter pages;
    9. Select the font style and sizes for the titles, subtitles and various text elements:
      1. Click on “Settings” and a whole host of global options is provided; or
      2. Use Command-T to bring up the font palette – this extremely powerful for setting title and sub-title fonts, font colour and drop shadows (BTW this is a feature not given in iPhoto, but built into the Mac OS yet available for iPhoto);
    10. Tweaking the descriptive captions;
    11. Proofread;
    12. Proofread again (preferable by someone else and/or from back to front);
    13. Proofread and check for the last time (seriously – any errors are forever!).

    If this isn’t enough customization, you can even switch themes if the one you’ve chosen is not working for you. Before you do so, though, I would suggest duplicating your current book (select the book in the left column of iPhoto > Control-click to get the pop-up menu > choose “Duplicate”). That way if layouts or type are messed up in the change (due to differences in layout from theme to theme) you won’t lose the hard work you’ve put into the book thus far.

    The trick with iPhoto is to spend some time playing so that you get to know all the possible features. In fact, I would suggest choosing 20 or so photos at random and creating a “Practise Book” first. Make all your mistakes there while learning the skills to produce a truly beautiful book. Good luck and have fun! The results will be truly rewarding.

    iPhoto – How useful is it?

    I use Apple’s iPhoto everyday. I don’t know where I’d be without it. It’s the easiest visual library I have seen and used and, in typical Mac fashion, it is intuitive. Is it perfect? – no, not for all my photography, but it is FREE and fills the library/catalogue niche quite well. I have used Picasa and am teaching non-Mac users about it, but it is a far cry from the elegance and simplicity of iPhoto.

    For those you who are Windows users – iPhoto is part of Apple’s iLife suite of applications which come free with every Mac:

    • iPhoto for digital photography
    • iWeb for creating web sites
    • iMovie for digital video
    • Garage Band for digital music making

    iTunes and iDVD (for creating DVDs) are also free apps that come with every Mac, but they are not part of the iLife suite. Not to confuse you, but there is also iWork – Pages, Numbers and Keynote – which are for intuitive and elegant word processing/page layout, spreadsheets and presentations, similar to Office, but only $79 (USD)

    So, how do I use iPhoto and why is it not perfect for me? iPhoto is the ideal app for keeping track of digital photos. It may seem excessive, but I have different iPhoto Libraries based on where I’ve lived and visited – Canada, UK, Europe, Tanzania, South Africa, USA – plus some odds and ends Libraries for clip art and classroom photos. This is how I stay organized – it may not be your routine.


    From any iPhoto Library, I can:

    • create “Events” – sets of photos from a particular day/trip/occasion;
    • create Albums of images from different events;
    • find photos using keywords I have assigned. It doesn’t get much easier!
    • create slideshows synched to music;
    • easily and seamlessly email photos;
    • create photo pages in iWeb
    • create online galleries for my MobileMe account
    • post photos to Flickr or PicasaWeb
    • print photos to my printer;
    • create stunning slide shows, and
    • create very professional photo books.

    That’s all from within iPhoto. If I am sending files to WordPress or Panoramio it’s as easy as File > Export. If I want to send images to JAlbum, I just run iPhoto to JAlbum Exporter. I’m sure there is a Facebook export option, too, but I don’t use Facebook. When I want enlargements bigger than my printer can make, I simply export the photo(s) and upload them to FotoSource and pick them up at my local photo shop.

    Some background… like many of you, I lead a dual photo life of fine art and travel photography mixed with family photography.

    I do all my fine art & travel photography using a dSLR (Olympus E-30) and always, always, always shoot in RAW format (read why here). I process my RAW images through  Adobe Camera Raw 5.x. With ACR it’s like being back in the darkroom except I can process photos sitting in my Poang in the family room. I happen to use Photoshop CS4 and Bridge, but ACR and Bridge come with Photoshop Elements which is much more affordable. ACR also comes with Lightroom. (Aside: If I didn’t get Photoshop with my job, I would probably buy Lightroom or Apples’s Aperture, but still use iPhoto).

    My family shots are made with a point-and-shoot. These I upload directly to iPhoto where I make any tweaks and cropping that might be needed. I’ve decided to completely by-pass the software that came with the camera. To learn the ins and outs of yet another application is not time well spent. Besides, iPhoto will work with any camera attached, whether it is mine or a friend’s.

    So if I don’t process RAW photos using iPhoto – why bother with it? Simple – iPhoto is my digital library where my family shots and my fine art photographs are together in one place and easy to find. I convert the best of my RAW images to full resolution, high quality  jpegs which I upload to iPhoto. Now I can easily find them for all the uses listed above. RAW files are large and having everyone of the variations of each photograph takes up a huge amount of disk space. So I keep the processed RAW images stored on an external hard drives and on DVDs and, from time to time I go to them and re-process them as needed. But for the majority of my uses, having a high quality jpeg on my laptop is all I need. All my images are at my fingertips, easy to locate and easy to use – which is the whole point of going digital in the first place – it’s supposed to make life easier and iPhoto does just that. Thanks Apple!

    Are their limitations to iPhoto? Of course there are – you can’t expect everything for free! I find ACR better for raw images and iPhoto doesn’t keep track of where the original files are (i.e. on which DVD like some digital asset management (DAM) applications do). But all my images have unique and useful filenames (YYYYMMDD-##-TitleLocation), they are kept in folders with unique and useful nemas (YYYYMMDD-Location) and all my DVDs are labelled. But even with a DAM app, I would need to do all this. So, again, iPhoto fills the niche .

    iWeb Update

    I have been doing some researching on iWeb and how well iWeb pages can be seen by search engines. Basically they are invisible without some added work like adding a sitemap and adding your site to Google Webmaster Tools. This research has led to further work on my site turning images into text as much as possible. Specifically:

    • every time text is given a shadow, iWeb turns it into an image which makes the text invisible to search engines – turn off shadows;
    • to check which elements on your page are text or images, go to iWeb > Preferences and check the box for “Show text imaging indicator” – this is essential for doing a thorough job;
    • whenever an image is added inline to text, the whole thing is turned into an image. – remove images from inline;
    • lastly, when a text box is hyperlinked, it turns into an image – hyperlink the actual text by selecting it.

    More and more search engines are basing their rankings on actual page content rather than meta tags in the header. This means an app like iWeb SEO Tools is becoming less and less helpful. What really matters is what’s on the page. So, make sure you have a s much text as possible by turning off shadows except where they are really needed – especially for things like navigation bars and links since they often carry important keywords.

    Register your site with Google WEbmaster Tools and  a basic sitemap by following the instructions at iWebfaq.org.

    iWeb for creating great websites

    I have been working hard over the last month updating my website: luxBorealis.com. Have a look if you haven’t done so lately. Many people have asked how I created such an interactive website with lots of photos. They wonder how I could ever have time to do all that.

    It’s easy… I use iWeb. “What’s iWeb?” is the next question. And I tell them about this great app that comes free with every Apple Macintosh computer as part of their iLife suite. then sounding somewhat chagrined, they say “Oh, your a Mac user.” “Is there anything like that for Windows?” Not that I know of…

    Listen, iWeb isn’t perfect. It is easy to make webpages and do all kinds of cool things, but it’s not great on maintenance and it’s lousy for blogs (at least, I found it clunky although I know others who swear by it, but then they work directly through MobileMe; I don’t). “What’s all this MobileMe stuff?” you ask. Let me back up…

    The things I love about iWeb are:

    • I can make a very cool webpage in minutes – colours, boxes, fonts – it’s free-form design without the constrictions of typical web authoring software. It’s as easy as word processing – well Mac word processing which is so much more fun and creative than Office word processing. You see, Macs have fun and creativity built into every application they create. You can always tell a Windows/Office document from a Mac doc (whether it’s word processing, a presentation or a webpage). Mac creations are, well, creative, because Mac has made adding graphics and shadows and colours so easy. So it shows up in the work Mac people do.
    • I can add photos directly from iPhoto (another Mac app that comes free with every Mac – very powerful photo library software with very good editing capabilities – more on iPhoto another time because it’s not the be all and end all, but then again, it’s free!!). When I add photos, they are already formatted for viewing as thumbnails, or in a slideshow – all with the click of a mouse. Actually, come to think of it, I can drag and drop images from almost anywhere onto a photo page and have iWeb give them structure. It really is a great app for photo galleries!
    • I can add Google maps and Google Adsense links with only a few clicks.
    • I can easily create my own page design. iWeb comes with dozens of great templates, but I’m a bit of a maverick when it comes to design. I like to tweak things which I can do with iWeb. At times, the pages try to revert (e.g. whenever I create a new textbook it defaults to the template’s text) but a few copy and pastes or style copy and pastes and I’m back to where I want to be. iWeb is actually far more flexible than most people realize – just take a look at my pages. Sure there are constraints, but remember – it’s a free app!!
    • I have complete access to my font library – any size, colour or font I want. If I want shadows, I just click the checkbox for shadows then adjust them however I want. Fonts that don’t display properly on other computers are, for the most part, converted to graphics.
    • It’s free. I have I told you yet? It’s free with every Mac. Sure Macs cost more to begin with so yo would expect some freebies, but the again, when you buy a Mac you don’t usually need to upgrade anything else because it comes with enough ram and a large enough hard drive and a decent video card and all the connectivity your need including wireless right out of the box. You see, Macs are cutting edge – they lead the industry in most aspects.

    Things I don’t like about iWeb. Hey it’s not perfect, but it is free!

    • As I mentioned above, iWeb is slow for maintenance and updating web pages. Because of the file structure, every time I create a change, I need to up more files then necessary and that takes time. If I make one small graphical change on a number of pages on a site (like I’e been doing recently) I really need to upload the whole shebang to avoid missing content.
    • iWeb is the pits with search engine optimization (SEO). You cannot put in custom titles or metadata such as descriptions or keywords. I do this through Rage iWebSEO. It’s a great little app and it’s free. Why Apple doesn’t build this into iWeb is a mystery.
    • iWeb is too tied to the MobileMe service – at least iWeb ’08 is which is what I’m using. Apparently, iWeb ’09 has an FTP client that allows more web freedom. That being said, I’m a MobileMe subscriber and love the ease of use, but uploading can be a bit slow sometimes. Also, some services with iWeb such as counters and comments are also only available if you upload directly to MobileMe – which is something I don’t do because I want to optimize my pages using iWEbSEO. So, I need to publish to a folder first, the run iWebSEO, the upload. Not the smoothest, but definitely worth it in the end.
    • iWeb pages seem a bit bloated. They are big bits of code and it uses png file format for graphics (larger than jpgs), but I don’t have a workaround yet. Thank goodness most people are on broadband now.
    • iWeb pages do not always zoom well. I can’t do much about this, either.

    So I’m using iWeb and can’t really see an alternative in my future. I’ve tried Rapidweaver but it’s not wysiwyg enough for a visual guy like me. I’ve tried Shutterbug, but it seems too clunky for me. For years I made all my websites with Adobe GoLive. It has since been replaced with Dreamweaver which I really should learn but it seems overly complicated for what I want to to. I invested many, many hours into learning html and web authoring only to have that knowledge become obsolete. Rather than reinvesting that time, I’ve decided to use iWeb and get great-looking pages right out of the box.

    Is this an advert for Macs? Well, yes and no. I’m not paid to say this. But I believe the more people know about a product, the better they can come to their own conclusions. This is what works for me; if it doesn’t work for you, well, that’s okay too.