All posts by Matt Berkman

Vice President & Chief Operations Officer

Harrowing Halloween Photos

Halloween Super Hero

Guys and ghouls and getting ready for the scary season, which means an opportunity to have some fun with spooky photos! There’s playfulness with Halloween that allows us to create whimsical fantasies in photography. Let your kids of all ages enjoy posing and getting in character for the camera. It’s the perfect time to have some fun creating ghastly good images.

Here are some of our favorite tricky tips:

Snap a Few Photos Early:If you want to shoot indoors or want to experiment with such things as flash diffusion, it might bode well to take some practice shots the night before and note your settings or adjustments. While it’s always fun to experiment on the fly, you’ll have young kids all dressed up and anxious to hit the streets for free treats. By experimenting early, you’ll be ready to apply what you’ve learned on the big night.

Take Photos of the Transformation: We often take photos once the kids (and kids at heart) are already in costume, but this year, begin taking photographs as they prepare to transform themselves from mild mannered school children to mighty ninjas. Photos of them having their faces painted and putting on their masks and capes are a wonderful way to showcase the anticipation of the evening. You can also photograph their costumes laid out in advance or close ups of a particular item such as a sword, headdress or shield.

Get into Character!: Let your kids indulge their imaginations by getting into character. You can take a few standard posed photos in front of the house, but this is the perfect opportunity to let them feel free to pose and play. Have them leap through the air in superhero fashion or strike poses with siblings and friends. If you’ve got a pet pooch that’s attracted to all the action, let him join in the fun, too!

Spooky Night Loves Low Light: Halloween images are ideal for darker backgrounds and low light conditions because they enhance the mood of the holiday. If you can get your young models to stay still, use your tripod, slow your shutter speed and tighten the frame to create haunting close-ups of their faces. Play with different angles – try shooting a bit lower to the ground and looking up at your goblins to create a more menacing effect.

Make More Lighting: If you’re photographing jack-o-lanterns, you may want to add more than a single candle inside. These carved pumpkins can be tricky subjects, so boosting the light inside may yield more needed contrast. You can also try using a small flashlight angled inside or even outside and propped up to create drama.

Happy Halloween!

How Histograms Help Snowy Shots

Photographing in the Snow
Photographing in the Snow

A histogram is a graph of the exposure of each image and can help you determine if images are over or underexposed. The ‘true black’ is illustrated at the far left of the graph and ‘true white’ is found on the far right. A well-exposed image will generally show points close to both ends. Each histogram graph tells a story about the exposure of the image and can guide you in making adjustments so that images are properly exposed.

For winter shooting, a histogram can be very useful in showing if bright white snow is spiking your exposure and causing your image to appear ‘blown out’ or overexposed. If this happens while you’re shooting, you can trick your camera by adjusting your +/- compensation button to adjust for this situation. And, if you’re shooting in RAW format, you’ll have the ability to adjust your highlights and mid-tones in post-processing if necessary. That said, it’s a lot easier to get the shot the way you want it the first time as opposed to having to make corrections at a later time.

Winter Fun in the Snow!
Funtime in the Snow!

Smartphone Photo Tip: Watch that Flash!

Smartphones continue to vie for top position as the tool of choice when capturing favorite moments, and if you’ve purchased a smartphone in the last year or two, odds are that the built-in camera is one that works well in many everyday situations. With the improvement of today’s tech comes a reminder that the basics of composition and how to properly use settings remains key in capturing that stellar shot.

One of the most popular mistakes smartphone shooters make is using the flash when it isn’t needed. The flash will often wash out the subject and create hotspots in certain areas, so err on the side of caution and only use it when its truly needed. Also, the basics of composition, such as shooting using the Rule of Thirds, are every bit as applicable with a smartphone as it is with a DSLR. The fundamentals can transform your Instagram feed from frumpy to fabulous, so use all the tricks in your toolbox, regardless of which camera you have in your hand.

customized-iPhone-case

Did you know that you can create Custom iPhone, iPad and Samsung Galaxy cases on our website? Check them out here

Need a Gift for Your Grad? Try the Selfie Stick!

ProMaster’s popular compact camera boom is the perfect graduation gift because it encourages creativity by adding perspective and excitement to photos and video. Affectionately called the Selfie Stick, it’s perfect for taking selfies or group shots, getting above the action with video, or getting better sound when used as a microphone boom. The “Selfie Stick” makes it easy! Use it with any device with a standard tripod mount or attach your camera phone with the included phone mount. Your grad will see her Instagram ‘likes’ and comments go through the roof with this clever little accessory!
http://www.promaster.com/products.asp?product=6168

Promaster Selfie Stick

Our Fantastic Fathers Day Gift Guide

Dad is our rock, steady and reliable and available when we need him. This year, make Dad’s day by giving him some fantastic photo gear sure to show him how much you appreciate all he does!

Bet on Binoculars: The summer means baseball games, traveling adventures, road trips and more. Our high quality ProMaster Infinity line of binoculars provide crisp, clear optical performance coupled with a compact design ideal for travel as they can be tucked into small bag, photographer’s vest or camera bag. These binoculars use extra low-dispersion ED glass and are 100% waterproof, dustproof and fog proof. We have several models, all perfectly-priced for gift-giving this Father’s Day. Check out our selection here

Stay Charged & Ready: Whether Dad has a weekend golf outing or a cross-country vacation planned, our ProMaster Universal Go! Charger will keep his favorite devices ready and fully charged. The Go! Charger can handle anything with a standard lithium ion battery and can also serve a power source for iPhones, iPads or any USB-powered device. It’s a must have this Father’s Day…and maybe you’ll need one for yourself, too! Check it out here

Dads Prefer Professional Tripods: This Father’s Day, show Dad how much he means to you by giving him a high-quality professional tripod. ProMaster’s Professional line of tripods is top-tier while remaining budget friendly. The full-featured tripods are light, versatile and easily adjusted. Trust us when we tell you that Dad will be thrilled with a ProMaster Professional tripod this year.
Find the perfect one here

Share Photos Wirelessly & Easily: The ProMaster Multifunction WiFi Card Reader is the ideal on-the-go solution for sharing images, music, and other files with your mobile and WiFi enabled devices (iPad, tablet, smart phone and more!). The Multifunction WiFi Card Reader reads Compact Flash, Secure Digital (SD, SDHC, SDXC, Micro), and Memory Stick flash memory cards as well as has a built-in USB hub, which supports USB memory sticks and USB hard drives. The built in 1500mah battery will give you more than four hours of continuous operation. It also works in wired mode, connected to your computer, as a full featured card reader and USB hub.
Click here to check it out

Recording your Road-Trip

On The Road

Road trips are a favorite American summer pastime – and with good reason. The idea of packing up the car for an impromptu weekend adventure or a two week traipse across the country is appealing and exciting, especially to those with a love of photography. The promise of new and spectacular scenery compels us to grab our gear and get going. Here are few tips to help you capture the magic as you take the trail:

Check Your Gear: Make sure everything is in order (you can use our travel checklist in this issue) before hitting the road. Adding an extra camera card and battery pack is also an excellent idea to make sure your gear is fully functional during the entire trip.

Stock Your Car: Comfort is key when hitting the road so remember to pack water bottles, snacks and a travel journal, along with sunscreen, a blanket or towels and your set of jumper cables.

Look for Landmarks: Photographing popular landmarks in your destination may be a common activity but your viewpoint will make the images unique. Play with perspective, play with poses and have some fun. It’s fine to start with a traditional group photo but branch out and get silly – you’ll love the end result and so will your Facebook friends!

Keep it Local: If you’re a foodie that loves to share dinner photos, make sure you choose a fun and local establishment to add authenticity. The waiters and staff will often gladly pose for photos and even take one or two for you. Local people and eateries make great road travel photography so keep your eyes open for the unfolding of what will surely be that perfect picture.

Picture a Photo Map: When the trip is over, have some fun with your photos by placing them a top of a map of your travels. Select a few of your favorite and superimpose them on top of the map, print it and display it as a reminder of your adventure. You can then bring the entire media card and we’ll create a photo book or other memento of your trip. Stop by and see what we can do!

Getting Great Easter Photos

Do bunnies really lay multicolored eggs?
Painting eggs is so much fun!

The Easter holiday is a special time for family and friends to come together for spiritual celebration, community connection and the much beloved Easter egg hunt! This season let the experiences take center stage with a few techniques sure to highlight the most memorable moments of the season:

Consider Candids for Kids: Who can expect our pint-sized pals to sit still when there’s so much candy up for grabs? In this situation, it may be best to photograph younger kids from a candid perspective, whether it’s while they’re sitting on the steps with their Easter basket or trying to spot which eggs they intend to nab when the race starts. Posed photographs are wonderful, but if the kids are less than cooperative, it’s better to capture them in their state of excitement rather than requiring a forced smile and pose. After all, authenticity in your photos will shine through so adapt to your surroundings for success.

Props Have a Place: If you have portraits planned and all is going well, remember to have just a prop or two on hand. It’s easy to go overboard but resist the urge. Too many props scattered in the shot can create a cluttered final result. A basket, a decorative egg or two or even a live bunny can all add to the festive mood but take a few moments to determine the proper mix. After all, the props are there to support the subject, not overshadow it.

Shoot on their Level: Photographing children often means trying to capture their experiences as they see them, so make sure not to tower over them (unless you’re creating a specific overhead shot). Try shooting at their level and even get down low to photograph the Easter egg hunt and other festivities. The result can create a more authentic and expressive image of your subject.

Prepare for Action: If possible, position yourself opposite the impending run of the Easter Egg hunt so you’re in the best shooting spot to capture the excitement as the kids dart from the starting line. Many people stand behind the crowds, but relocating to the opposite side to capture enthusiastic expressions will place you in prime position for top photos.

Don’t Forget the Prints: Uploads and emails are great methods of sharing photographs but when it comes to holidays and special events, make sure to order a set of prints to send to loved ones. While all of today’s digital technology is fun and easy, getting gorgeous printed photographs in the mail is more special than ever. You can upload your print order here: Wholesale Photo Cafe

Singing (and Shooting) in the Rain

Don't I look cute in these Red boots?
Look at my Rainbow Umbrella Mom!

While April showers bring May flowers, they also bring something special – the ability to catch nature in times both turbulent and tame. For those photographers who enjoy exploring the outdoors when they are less predictable, a good rain sprinkle or even thunderstorm can provide inspiration unmatched in calmer climates. For example, imagine the images you can capture of children playing in the rain or how your favorite pond or park is transformed under the influence of a storm. These images are sure to be a standout in your picture library.

Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your water wonderland:

Get the Right Gear: Preparation is particularly important when combining photography and the elements, especially rain. A few items to keep in your gear bag or even the trunk of your car include: an umbrella, a rain jacket, towel, plastic bag and a rain cover for your camera. Yes, your camera needs a rain jacket! You’ll want to protect your delicate electronics from moisture. Fortunately, the ProMaster Rain Jacket is versatile for many camera styles and is budget friendly to boot: http://www.promaster.com

Find Your Shelter Shooting Spot: If the weather is particularly unpredictable, you may be relegated to photographing from a gazebo or even while sitting in your car. You’ll want to make sure your gear is protected so find a safe haven to call home base. Being positioned from a confined space may be a positive thing because it requires the ability to think ‘in the box.’ How can you explore the environment from your particular vantage point? How many viewpoints can you unearth from your perch?

Remember Movement: Rain, in addition to being a force of nature, is a force of movement. The ability to capture rain in mysterious motion means that special attention should be paid to shutter speed. If you want to stop motion and freeze the drops in sharp focus, you’ll need a higher shutter speed. If you’d prefer to show rain in motion and blurred, select a slower shutter speed. Adjusting your settings to analyze different effects can be fun and informative – learning how various shutter speeds impacts your photography is an important skill that will serve you well in any weather condition.

Combine Rain and Light: If your rain shower takes place while the sun is still in play, consider shooting the rain from a backlit position. This technique may require you to venture out in the weather, so make sure you and your gear are protected first. That said, shooting from a backlit position can open a plethora of new effects and the lighting source can be a streetlight, the sun breaking through the clouds or any light source that can provide contrast to the falling raindrops.

While some may shy away from photographing in the rain, others realize that getting out in the elements can be a good thing!

The PRO Business Corner: Nailing Your Niche

Do you dream of earning a living leveraging your photography skills? As many pro shooters will tell you, it’s a tough time to make a living behind the lens but there are also many benefits–artistic freedom, flexibility to experiment and using your creativity to earn a living.

One decision to make early on is how to differentiate your skills in a crowded and competitive marketplace. Many times people start to offer their services as a second (or third) shooter at weddings, doing portraits for friends or presenting themselves as a ‘jack of all trades’ photographer. While it’s wise to try different arenas to figure which areas offer the most potential, you may also wish to consider concentrating on a certain niche.

Take a look at the professional photographers in your area. A simple online search will likely bring several photographers’ sites offering their services. What do they claim as their specialties? Do see an area that isn’t strongly covered? In that gap you might find an opportunity to fill a void that others have yet to recognize.

Corporations often need executive headshots and supporting images to be used in company brochures, financial reports and for their online presence. If you have a passion for furnishings and interiors, there are opportunities in architectural photography. Each niche requires specialized skills and those will only come through practice, but all acclaimed photographers had to start somewhere. Sports event photography for youth leagues, as an example, is competitive but quite profitable for those who establish themselves in a particular territory.

Once you find a niche, consider finding a mentor. Get involved in a regional or national professional organization such as the PPA (Professional Photographers of America) so that you can surround yourselves with experts who are willing to share their expertise. These conferences include seminars and presentations by working professional photographers. Strong professional support can be invaluable to someone who is just getting started in the industry.

As you practice and hone your skills, you’ll need to make sure your website, Facebook profile and other social media tools include searchable phrases and tags that point to your specialty. This will take a bit of time but consistency and persistence can yield substantial results and put you on the path to success.

Cast your net wide in the beginning while keeping one eye open for those niche opportunities. You may find yourself one day as a professional offering counsel to someone just getting started.

To learn more about starting your Photography Career, Wholesale Photo Academy offers many classes to help get you closer to your goal. Remember, knowledge is everything.
Know stuff!

Shooting the Ultimate Jack-o’-lantern Don’t be spooked by exposure and setup—it’s simple to put your carved creations in their best light.

The kids are settled into their school routine, the leaves are falling, and the nights are getting cooler—time to start setting up the Halloween décor! After you’ve scooped out the seeds, put your pumpkin under the knife, and strategically set up a lantern or candle inside its hollowed-out shell, what’s the best way to photograph your eerie orange orb?

The two major challenges to getting any good picture (not just spooky shots in October) are getting the right shutter speed and a balanced exposure. You also need to make sure you’re using the right equipment to get the shutter speed you desire. For this Halloween pictorial, I photographed a jack-o’-lantern with the Tamron SP 17-50mm F/2.8 Di II VC fast standard zoom. This lens is ideal for shooting a candlelit jack-o’-lantern due to its fast F/2.8 aperture and Tamron’s Vibration Compensation (VC) stabilization technology.

A Lens Choice That Won’t Come Back to Haunt You
Many zoom lenses have great focal ranges but they’re not fast lenses (“fast” indicating the widest aperture the lens has available). Lenses with aperture settings of F/2.8 or wider have a larger opening to let more light in. The result: a faster shutter speed that can help reduce blur. This is especially helpful when the light is low, such as when photographing a candlelit pumpkin in the chilly evening hours.

The other feature that’s helpful in this type of shooting situation is Tamron’s VC technology. The stabilizer built into the 17-50mm lens allows you to hand-hold images at slower shutter speeds. By compensating for any slight movements that you might make, the VC technology helps you achieve sharper images of your pumpkin props. When you use a tripod for long exposures, you’ll actually want to turn the VC off; however, for the majority of your shooting, you’ll definitely want to leave the VC on to get the most out of your lens.

Don’t Go Batty Getting the Exposure Right
The second challenge when shooting lit jack-o’-lanterns is getting the correct exposure. This is partially contingent on what mode you have your camera in. If you have your camera in the “Green Box” or “Full Auto” mode, you’ve relinquished all control: As soon as the light gets low, the camera’s going to add flash whether you want it or not. If, however, you turn your camera to the “A” or “AV” mode (“aperture priority” mode), you’ll be able to choose the aperture yourself. By choosing F/2.8 in this case, you’ll get the fastest shutter speed available.

In the first image (1) I shot, the sun had gone down, but there was still plenty of light in the sky relative to the amount of light emanating from the candle. The result is that you’re able to see the light in the pumpkin and the actual pumpkin. In the second image (2), I switched my camera to “Manual” mode and waited for the light to change. You can see how the candle becomes the dominant source of light, creating a more dramatic image, but the background is almost entirely gone. In the third image (3), I increased the shutter speed by 1-1/2 stops to get some more of the background in there; this also added more exposure to the pumpkin.

For the last shot (4), I did a 30-second exposure. I needed to use a tripod for this image. To balance the starry sky and the light from the jack-o’-lantern, I had to reduce the amount of light from the candle. To do this, I simply blew out the candle a few seconds into the long exposure. If I hadn’t done so, the result would have been an overexposed pumpkin (see image 5). Remember: Our cameras capture whatever’s in front of them for as long as the shutter is open— so if you’re able to control the amount of light entering your camera, you’ll be able to control the exposure.

Setting Up Your Shots Can Be a Scream
Compose your shots carefully to give your pumpkin pal some context. For my final images, I purposely chose a low angle to give ’ol Jack a little more presence in the image and so his top would be above the tree line, which helped to separate him from the background. I also placed the pumpkin on the side of the frame and left plenty of room for the tree line and sky, which makes the jack-o’-lantern appear as if he’s popping into the frame with a boisterous “Boo!” All images were taken at the 17mm wide-angle end of the lens (with the exception of the first image, which was shot at 50mm). The wide angle view helped incorporate the background into the images, creating a perfectly ominous environment from which the pumpkin can emerge.

Tamron 6-Year USA warranty and $70 rebate thru 12/31/10 when purchased from Wholesale Photo Cafe & Digital Imaging Center.