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January 22, 2008

Wireless SuperCameras

Quick, what gadget won Best of Show awards at BOTH the Consumer Electronics Show and Macworld Expo this month? If you guessed some form of music player or high-def video equipment, you'd be forgiven, but the answer is Eye-Fi, a tiny little SD card that fits in most digital cameras and gives them wireless superpowers as well as 2GB of memory.

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With Eye-Fi, you can send photos directly to your Mac or PC, and to photo sharing sites like Flickr, Facebook, Photobucket, Webshots, Snapfish, Windows Live, TypePad and many more. There's no USB cable to remember or carry around. (How many times have you forgotten yours or had to buy a new one because you left it somewhere?) All you need is your camera and a Wi-Fi network, at your home, work or friends' house. You don't even need your laptop for uploading to the Web. Wi-Fi encryption passwords are supported, although not logins at places like Starbucks, where a Web browser would be needed to get online. At Macworld Expo Eye-Fi also announced support for direct iPhoto import.

Before Eye-Fi, there were a few cameras with built-in Wi-Fi, but with very limited features. For example, the Nikon CoolPix 550c lets you send pics from the camera to your PC without wires, but only supports Flickr and a special Nikon site for uploads. The Eye-Fi's ability to work with a wide variety of sites and any camera model that takes SD cards is liberating.

Even so, the Eye-Fi's success should push more camera vendors down the wireless route. Wireless photo transfer and uploading is just too good a feature to leave entirely to third parties. At CES, Sony was showing a camera with an entirely new wireless technology, dubbed TransferJet, that works simply by touching two TransferJet-enabled devices together. It runs at a peak speeds of 560Mbps and sustained throughput of 375Mbps, far faster than Wi-Fi, and comparable to USB 2.0 at 480Mbps or FireWire at 400Mbps. Sony envisions it being used in cameras, camcorders, cell phones and other portable devices, with data being transferred to your computer, media player or even TV for direct playback. Imagine touching your cell phone to your computer to download photos and video, or your camcorder to your TV to view your latest recording on the big screen. We can't wait.

January 31, 2008

Megapixels Aren't Everything

As I wander around this week's PMA show, the digital camera mecca put on by the Photo Marketing Association, two trends emerge right away. First, camera vendors are finally busting out of their collective my-megapixels-are-more-than-yours rut and promoting features that actually improve the quality of your picture-taking, not just the size of your files. And second, people must love blue, fuschia and pink-hued cameras -- the aluminum rainbows many new models come in remind me of my grandmother's juice glasses.

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Separated at birth? Fuji FinePix cameras on the left, Target Retro Aluminum Tumblers on the right.

So what new features should you be looking for in this year's digital camera crop? Canon, Panasonic and others were showing off cool facial-recognition technology that ensures your subjects will always be in focus and properly exposed, no matter what the surroundings. And motion detection and image stabilization (IS), formerly the province of high-end pro cameras and lenses, have gone mainstream. These can help compensate for the motion blur caused by shaky hands and squirmy kids. To see the difference image stabilization can make, check out this sample image from Canon:

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Other common new features include bigger and brighter LCDs for framing and reviewing photos, fast sequential shooting (great for shooting sports and children), and quicker response times. The absolute best thing you can do for your candid photography is buy a camera that takes the picture when you press the button, not 1 or 2 seconds later...

For beach and snow vacations, I also like Olympus' Stylus SW line of shockproof, freezeproof and waterproof cameras. Olympus has them in the booth frozen in ice, swimming in aquariums, and bouncing down a pegboard into a puddle. Tuck one of these babies in your shorts pocket and they'll go anywhere. And yes, they come in plenty of colors too!

I'm headed back to the show now to find more goodies. Next time, we'll discuss why 8 to 10 megapixels is enough!

February 7, 2008

Building a Better Tripod

I have a confession. At last week's big PMA camera show in Las Vegas, it wasn't all the colorful new digicams that really grabbed me, it was the tripods! I like to take longish exposures indoors to avoid using flash (natural light is always better), and also shoot outdoors in places where I'm not exactly going to carry around a full-size tripod. So three gadgets in particular caught my eye: the Gorillapod, QuickPod and StickyPod. All three will probably end up in my bag of tricks since they serve different purposes, and are small and portable.

First up is the Joby Gorillapod. This genius tripod has legs made up of fully-articulating ball-and-socket joints, so you can bend and twist and wrap it to "firmly secure your camera to just about anything." Rubbery rings and feet prevent slippage.

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Wrap it around a table leg, pole or tree branch, steady it on a rock, or just set it on your desktop. The Gorillapod can handle it all. It even comes in three sizes and several colors, so you can make your fashion statement. The bigger sizes support heavier DSLR cameras and camcorders.

Next on my wish list is the Fromm Works Quick Pod. This hand-held monopod is specially designed for getting yourself into the picture (always a good thing), and has a small mirror that makes it easy frame your self-portrait. Two sizes are available, a smaller one for point-and-shoot cameras, and a bigger one for DSLRs. The smaller one also works with optional tripod legs, magnet and suction cup attachments, while the bigger one has a long enough telescoping arm that you can use it as a monopod resting on the ground. Both collapse down to fit in most any camera bag.

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Finally, the My Sticky Pod is an oldie but goodie. This little suction-cup tripod can be stuck to the outside of moving cars and motorcycles going up to 40mph! Or faster if you keep it out of the wind. It even works underwater -- stick it to the side of your boat with a waterproof camera. A special Dash Cam model mounts to both your dashboard and windshield. An optional 12-inch extension bar lets you position the camera at pretty much any angle. Models for all sizes of cameras and camcorders are available.

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February 18, 2008

Checking Out Windows Live

Some of the best reasons to upgrade to Windows Vista are the free Windows Live tools, which include Spaces, Photo Gallery and Writer. While I've been using Vista for a while now, I hadn't tried these features out yet, so I decided to download Windows Live and see what all the fuss is about. In particular, I was looking for free and easy ways to share and store all the many photos and video files I produce with Roxio's PhotoSuite and VideoWave, such as on a personal blog or Web page.

When you go to Get.Live.com , you have a choice of which Windows Live components you want to install. I opted for Photo Gallery and Writer, since along with Spaces, they allow you to create media-rich photo sharing sites and blogs. Downloading any of the components gives you access to Spaces, which is a personal Web sharing area. (Several other Windows Live products are also available, such as Hotmail, Messenger and OneCare, which you may already be familiar with.)

After installing Photo Gallery and Writer, they appear in your Program menu, and you can open them at any time to create a new slide show or blog posting. I opened Writer to see what was involved in making a blog page. A blank page with a title area invited me to write something, and a handy side panel had tools for inserting photos, videos, hyperlinks and more. I typed a title and some text, inserted a picture with the tool, pressed the Publish button and voila! I had a blog page within my Spaces account without reading a single line of documentation (results below). You can also add tags and categories for your posts, and edit the visual theme of your page. Then send a link to your friends and watch the comments come in!

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Photo Gallery is just as simple to use. When you first open it, it will automatically gather and present all the files in your Pictures and Videos folders. You can view by folder, date taken, or tags. Tags are a great organizing tool. For a picture of your kids taken at Christmas, you could add tags saying "kids," "Christmas." "Holidays" and "Grandma," for example, making it easy to search across those tags in the future.

Now you can start sharing the photos in the Gallery. To email a pic or group of pics, just select it and choose the E-mail button from the toolbar. Similarly, you can publish photos to your Spaces account for Web sharing, order prints, and more. When you publish photos to Spaces, it will ask you if you want to create a new album, or add them to an existing album. I selected five pics to upload to a Travel album, which then appeared in my Spaces account as below:

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Once you've created a Spaces photo album, you can send a link, order prints, share it on Facebook, or use the pics in your blog. You can also create permissions for albums. I liked that I could limit access to my album to my Messenger contacts, Spaces friends or specific contacts I selected. Albums can also be completely public, of course.

Overall, I was really impressed with the simplicity of both photo sharing and blogging, the fact that I didn't need to read any instructions to get up and running, and the powerful features that remain to be explored. If you've been wanting to create a blog or Web slideshow, and want complete, yet flexible control over who sees them, Spaces, Writer and Photo Gallery are powerful tools. And best of all, they're free!

March 12, 2008

Digital Photo Frames: Art or Science?

Being a tech geek, I guess you could say I'm a numbers person, and so this statistic really rattled my cage last week: in 2008, more than 20 million digital photo frames will be sold worldwide, or about one for every 15 people in the U.S. And that's up from a good-sized 12 million in 2007. (For those who just walked in the door, a digital photo frame is a small LCD panel with a memory card slot that displays your digital pictures.)

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Just who is buying all those photo frames? It's not me. I'm normally on the bleeding edge, but thus far, this is one tech trend I've managed to avoid (another being online multiplayer games like Second Life and World of Warcraft -- I like my tech to save me time, not eat it up...). It's not that I wasn't aware of them. I've been writing about them in computer publications for years, and even testing them out.

But somehow, as a photography nut, the idea of substituting a relatively low-quality LCD display for a brilliantly-colored glossy color print enlargement on my nightstand or side table just never appealed to me. I look at my photos as art, and rotating digital snapshots seem more like ephemeral newspaper headlines than eternal displays of beauty.

And that's when it finally sank in. That people don't buy these frames as art, but as means of communication. They buy them to give to relatives, and load them up with all the latest photos of their kids. Or use them to display photos of last month's vacation or holiday celebration. They have become substitutes for printed photo albums. (Although photo books are also becoming extremely popular, a topic we'll cover another time.)

As for myself, I'm finally considering buying a digital photo frame for two main reasons: to hold some of the vast numbers of old family photos I don't have room to display elsewhere, and to keep up with the latest pics of my far-flung quintet of nephews, all of whom are too cute for words.

I haven't yet picked out a winning frame, but I'll be looking for these features:

* Wi-Fi for receiving photos over a network and the Internet.
* The ability to automatically download new pics from a service like Flickr or Picasa.
* USB port for flash drives or computer connection.
* Remote control and memory card slot.
* At least 5x7, probably larger, depending on my budget.
* Resolution that matches typical digital camera aspect ratios, so that edges won't be cut off or letterboxing needed.
* Slideshow capability with music background.
* The ability to play back short videos, too.
* A clean frame design that blends in with most decor.
* A bright and colorful LCD with excellent picture quality from all angles, not just straight on.

What I don't need: built-in printer, RSS newsfeeder, weather and traffic reports, alarm clock, Internet radio, or Bluetooth for beaming over cell phone photos. All nice features that will appeal to some, but my laptop and clock radio already serve them better than any photo frame could, so I'd rather not pay for them. David Pogue reviewed a bunch recently in The New York Times; none fit all my criteria, but some come close. I'm betting I'll have a winner soon, and will report back on what I choose.

In the meantime, let us know about your experiences with digital photo frames. Have you taken the plunge? When and why? Which frame did you choose? Are you happy with it?

April 29, 2008

Pimp My Photos - Introducing PhotoShow!

Acquiring a company whose primary application will provide me with hours of entertainment just spells trouble. That is, if I’m still supposed to be working around here. ;)

All kidding aside, I have to say the PhotoShow platform is one of the coolest I’ve ever laid my hands on. I know Mac users get all kinds of cool stuff on the Mac, but for us PC folk, PhotoShow is our chance to create zany slideshows with animated graphics and music! I was able to create (or I should say recreate) my 36th birthday adventure out at Sea Ranch, using the nifty built-ins this app offers. I changed my appearance (often), added silly thoughts complete with bubbles over my head – even gave my bf a top-hat and revolving bow tie. Now that’s good clean fun!

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So I’m still learning a ton about the many things I can do with PhotoShow, and I’ll probably look back at this first foray (in a week) and think I was such a novice….but for now I just know that making animals talk and disco balls appear in place of ordinary light fixtures is my idea of fabulous. (Note: I am easily entertained).

Check this out and you’ll see what I mean:

So? What did you think? Cool, huh?

The best part is that I used PhotoSuite (built into Creator 10) first to clean up the photos. PhotoShow has an autofix built in to its toolset, but I love the fact that PhotoSuite lets me adjust coloring, change the aspect ratio, layer, etc.

All by way of saying, when I import into PhotoShow I’m ready to take on the fun stuff: pick my theme (and there are many), add fun transitions, adjust the speed at which I want the photos to come in, pick my background music (there are so many cool genres and options here). It’s a cornucopia of daring and provocative digital delights.

I mean, why wouldn’t EVERYONE want to kick up their photo slideshows a notch? Don’t you know your family and friends are T-I-R-E-D of the same old compositions? It’s true! I’m channeling their feelings for them!

Make your kid’s birthday slideshow different from the next guy’s and add a monkey swinging in the branches behind them. Or, have a bird poop right on their cake! Yes, it’s in there too!

The best part is that unlike most free versions, this one actually feels robust. You don’t feel gypped or like you’re cheaping out with the freebie. Don’t get me wrong – the $39 app has far more content and music – but start with the free account on PhotoShow.com and just get your feet wet. Guaranteed you’ll be diving in stat.

May 1, 2008

Taking Stock of Your Life

Don't worry, this article is not about justifying your existence! By "taking stock of your life," I quite literally mean making an inventory of your worldly goods, something I've been meaning to do for years for insurance purposes.

Living just two blocks from the Hayward Fault in Berkeley, and being subjected to ever-more strident headlines about how we are due for the next "big one" any moment now, insurance and earthquake preparedness are hot topics among my neighbors.

One has only to look at Hurricane Katrina, umpteen California brush fires (including the big Oakland Hills fire less than two miles from me), and various other floods, tornados and tsunamis to recognize the importance of a good home inventory and disaster plan. If a fire wiped out your home today, would you be able to remember everything in it and document ownership with receipts? Even if you have great insurance, it will be worthless without being able to prove your losses.

So how to get started? Creating an inventory for an entire house is a daunting task, especially if you have been living in it for many years. That's the main reason it's been on my To-Do list for nearly 10 years now. Searching the Web for inspiration, I found a great site created by the Insurance Information Institute that not only tells you exactly what to do, but provides the free software to do it, for both PCs and Macs.

Here's how it works: First, you set up the outline your home by naming all the rooms, including the basement, garage and attic. Then you go room by room adding items to the inventory. The software has spaces for importing pictures and receipts for each item, or you can store these separately.

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The Institute also recommends taking a video inventory. By simply going around each room opening drawers and cabinets and zooming in on each object, you can create an quick inventory without having to itemize a thing. While you'll still need to document purchase prices and values in the event of a loss, the video will at least remind you of what was there, and provide some proof that you owned it.

I plan to do the video inventory first, and then tackle the digital photos and software-based inventory room by room. VideoWave and PhotoSuite are perfect for editing the video and organizing the photos for this task, and once completed, I will store the inventory, video and photos on a DVD in my safe deposit box.

There, I feel better just having a plan! What's yours?

May 14, 2008

Piece of Me

Now eager to learn as much as I can about PhotoShow, I’ve created another very cool show of my recent trip to Chicago. I learned a few interesting things along the way too…

1. I can import my own MP3 into my production! I chose an instrumental version of Britney Spears's “Piece of Me.” I still love Britney, I confess.

2. I can change the pace of the entire show or of just one photo within the show – customizing the look of it and giving some images with lengthier captions extra time.

3. I can output the show as a video file and then import it into Videowave for further editing (in my case, adding narration!).

So, my pics from this trip were odd at best. My digi cam broke the moment we landed and we hastily purchased two throwaways (which took surprisingly decent photos!).

Note: if this happens to you it’s not the end of the world because you can have your developer put the photos on disc and then get them on your computer just as you would from your digital camera or mobile device.

Because I had a smattering of moments caught on camera (from first meeting our pet goldfish in our hotel room, on down to finding specific pieces of cool art at the Chicago art fair) I thought I could add narration to help guide viewers through the experience. I’m basically saving you from having to hear me say “oh, I guess you had to be there for that.” Now it’s like you WERE there!

So take a look at what I’ve done here:

You’ll notice that I’ve not only added text to bring clarity to certain situations, but captions (some even animated), graphics (like the fireworks around the puppet show and Garfield burping in the cab), and cool transitions so that each picture doesn’t enter and exit in the same dull way.

Tip: people lose interest fast when they’re looking at anyone’s photos but their own. Do as much as you can to keep them engaged. Even if you feel you’re selling out by glamming it up, it’s worth it to retain viewership I always say! ;)

Speaking of viewership, and I will digress for a sec, I have been totally uninspired to enter any contests as of late. I guess it’s a combo of not seeing anything particularly challenging out there, along with a mild funk I believe I may be in. But that’ll be another article altogether.

Back to business. Take a pass at creating a PhotoShow and seriously don’t stress about the boring nature of the photos you want to upload. You can make them interesting in this application – I swear it. Conversely, if your photos rock and you take amazing pictures of unrivaled beauty then you don’t have to go and muck up your photos the way that you may think I have…you can instead create a gentle, flowing PhotoShow chock full of care and thoughtfulness that only the author of said photos can impart.

Publish your show privately on the personal web page that you get when you buy the program, or post it publicly as I’ve done so the whole world can see just how non-linear your thinking can be!

Most of all, just have fun. I did!

May 23, 2008

Getting a Handle on Information Overload

As a high-tech journalist, I get literally dozens of press releases every day, and have to keep up with umpteen news sources, from The New York Times to Engadget. While getting news via the Web and email is relatively fast and efficient compared to dealing with the baskets full of snail mail I used to get (not to mention better for the forests of the world), the volume and pace of information arrival is ever increasing, taking bigger and bigger bites out of my workday. When you add in the constant pings from people who want to chat on Skype or MSN, it's easy to spend entire days immersed in the Web without doing any actual work (like writing this blog entry...).

So I'm constantly looking for better ways to manage the information flow, and decided to try out the new MediaTicker 3 from Roxio Labs. This completely free utility is basically a graphical photo and RSS news reader that docks itself to the side, top or bottom of your Windows desktop, and presents a scrolling display of headlines and photos.

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This display is great since it alerts you passively to hot new stories -- you don't have to stop what you are doing to check your feeds every hour to see what's new. You can just click on ticker items when you have a moment to read them, and ignore items that don't interest you. Clicking on a ticker item enlarges it (for photo and video feeds) or opens the appropriate Web page.

When you first open MediaTicker, you'll be directed to create an account on Roxio.com, where a master list of your feeds is kept, from Flickr to Wired News. You can choose from a list of popular feeds, or add your own by dropping in the URL. Even better, if you have MediaTicker installed on multiple machines, you can customize which feeds are displayed on each computer, using the same Roxio.com account. At home you could receive your photo and video feeds, plus ESPN and Gizmodo for example, while at work you get CNN and stock tickers. If you are at a remote computer without MediaTicker, you can also check your feeds directly on Roxio.com. You can even check them from a browser-enabled mobile phone!

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But Media Ticker doesn't stop there. You can also just click to email any feed item to a friend, including photos and videos. Another great way to use it is to keep family and friends updated with your latest photos right on their desktop. Just have them install MediaTicker and add your Flickr or other online photo feed to their list. They'll get all your new photos as soon as you upload them, and can save them to their hard drive!

I've got MediaTicker running all the time now. I've still got information overload, but it's a bit more manageable, and a whole lot more fun to deal with.

June 2, 2008

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words...on eBay!

If you've bought or sold on eBay (and odds are you have, with well over 200 million users worldwide), you know the importance of good pictures to making a sale and getting the best price. If you're a buyer, you want to see lots of good photos of what you're getting, and the sellers who provide them have a big edge over those who don't.

While eBay has its own image hosting service, the pictures are limited in size and have to fit in a certain area. They are often frustratingly small.

But there's a better way to display your eBay photos, with Roxio PhotoShow. Using PhotoShow, you can create an instant slideshow of any number of photos you like, and then automatically generate a snippet of HTML code you can embed in your eBay ad. The first slide in your show will then be displayed in the ad, and readers can click to view the whole thing. Shows can be up to 466x375 pixels, and can include all kinds of special effects, even music and voice narration.

To try out the process, my multi-talented colleague Carrie Scott created an ad for a pair of jeans she wanted to sell, following these steps:
1. Create a PhotoShow (in either the desktop or Web-based versions)
2. Upload the show to PhotoShow.com:


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3. “Share” the show and choose “Publish” from the drop-down menu:


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4. Copy the html code that you’re provided
5. Drop the html code into your eBay listing, within the “description” field
6. and Voila!


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Some tips for creating great eBay slideshows:

> Create and save a "template" slideshow that you can use as the base for new ads. Tweak things like the frame, transitions and any background music.
> Keep things simple, and zoom in close on the subject of your photos. Use the PhotoShow editing tools to fix and crop photos as needed.

Also note that while this article focuses on using PhotoShow for eBay ads, the same process works for embedding slideshows in any Web page or blog entry. PhotoShow even has handy presets for publishing to MySpace, FaceBook, Blogger, TypePad, LiveJournal, and many other sites.

June 12, 2008

Personalized Gift for my Hand-Picked Pop

Okay, not like the general public needs to know this, but when I was dating my ex (for eight years) I fell madly in love…with his parents. Then, my ex (hello, the ex from the start of this story should have tipped you off) became my ex and I still wanted his parents all to myself. Well, someone must have been looking over me, because here’s what happened. My ex moved to Korea (yes, Korea) for a job and I got to adopt his folks! Can you imagine my good fortune? I’m not joking. No, we didn’t sign adoption papers, but I do spend every Mother’s and Father’s Day with them and surely that means more than paper documents??!!! Right?

On to the real crux of this story. My dad (my ex’s dad but from here on out he’s mine) is very special to me. I think of all the ways I can impress and wow him on Father’s Day and somehow Hallmark falls a bit short. I consider making my own card but that’s so second grade. Jump ten minutes (and believe me you don’t need ten more minutes of my blathering on) and we come to my decision. I want to give my dad a “cool gift” but I also want it to be personal. Like Hallmark meets Blade Runner. Ya know? So here’s what I came up with! I would buy a hip digital picture frame (since that seems to be the peripheral of choice after an “i”-anything) and then put my very own PhotoShow on there for his personal entertainment. Best yet, he has a cat (yes, he has a cat but he’s had dogs over the years too so he’s not that lame) that he loves and I just happen to have a few very cute pics of that cat. How great would it be to make the cat the apple of this Dad’s day gift and wow him with a very syrupy show??! Well, you need not answer because I’m already there. Yes, yes, yes!

Albert (his beloved ragdoll) is featured in this Father’s Day collage of well-meaning and love. With trite captions, amusing graphics and enough attitude to silence Mariah Carey, I accomplished this in less than five minutes. I’m not joking. Here’s what I did.

1. Went to PhotoShow and uploaded the photos I wanted to use (ten seconds)
2. Added witty captions to each priceless shot (1 minute max)
3. Added sublimely appropriate animated graphics and stickers wherever I could (1 and a half minutes max)
4. Chose the perfect tune (30 seconds)
5. Admired my work (the remainder of the time – don’t make me do the math)

THEN, I literally outputted the show as a video file, transferred it to a jump drive (if you don’t have one they give them out at tradeshows ALL THE TIME or you can buy one for $5) then transferred the file onto the digital frame. It’s THAT easy. Seriously. I’m no techie and I could do it. You can too. (Alternatively, you can go into your PhotoShow account, click "Podcast your channel on iTunes" and then you'll find your PhotoShow(s) in your iTunes account where you can literally drag and drop into your digital picture frame!)

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When I give him this Father’s Day gift he’s gonna think I put sooooooooooo much thought into this and not to discredit my great intentions but it seriously was a no-brainer and something I knew would score me major adopted-daughter points.

All by way of saying, check out how cute this is!!! And, it’s not too late to make one yourself!!!!

August 8, 2008

Making Digital Connections

When I first joined Sonic it was easy to stay connected to my peers. We were a small, centrally located team, with a very narrow business focus. Key discussions were made face to face, in meeting rooms, hallways, and even the break room.

Over a decade later, the company has changed a great deal -- moving beyond our focus in pro-level audio tools, to create products ranging from professional authoring systems to consumer software and services.

We also now have a far larger team with staff working on multiple continents. This makes it infinitely more difficult to stay connected. As with many organizations, Sonic uses technology to shorten the distance and encourage collaboration. Systems like instant messaging, video conferencing, intranets, and wikis have now replaced a good number of the face-to-face discussions that used to happen.

Of course, as Sonic is well aware, using technology to stay connected is not confined to the office. Technology is now playing a far greater role within our own personal network of friends and family. Often crunched for time and separated by miles, it has become increasingly difficult to stay up-to-date on the major events and happenings in the lives of the people we care about most. Emailing a short message and a few digital pictures may help reinforce the bonds and shorten the miles of separation, but it’s not all that compelling and certainly can’t convey a complete story.

While we may not have totally solved the issue, we believe that the launch of Roxio Online with its PhotoShow capabilities is a solid step in the right direction. Easy and quick to create, PhotoShows are able to convey far more than a few static photos and lines of text. Within minutes PhotoShow lets you turn your personal digital photos and videos into a highly entertaining digital “story” that is sure to delight your community of friends and family.

As we neared completion of the Roxio Online service, I created a PhotoShow for myself and then challenged my executive staff senior team to do the same (a great way to test the whole creative ease theory!). I asked the team to make a show that would reveal something about them that other staff might be surprised to discover (like a hobby or dream profession).

The results, which were really quite impressive, not only proved the theory that we’ve made digital storytelling easy for anyone to master, but also that PhotoShows can really help reinforce a sense of community – even within a group as large as Sonic.

Here are a couple of staff favorites from the challenge, as well as my own; I hope you enjoy them.


Created by Chris Loeper, VP of Worldwide Sales, Roxio:


Created by Pete Bouton, VP of Engineering, Sonic:


Created by Dave Habiger, President & CEO, Sonic:

August 29, 2008

Creating Winning Panoramas

In last month's Roxio email newsletter,* Creator user Rod Sellers answered our call for stories about how you are using Roxio products in your digital life, and won an iPod Nano for his efforts! Here’s what he had to say:

“I’ve used Creator to make slideshows of trips to China, Russia and Europe, complete with local music. But what I enjoy most is being able to create panoramic shots of interesting sites with PhotoSuite’s stitching feature. In June, we took a family trip to Germany for my father-in-law’s 80th birthday. My wife and I took over 1,700 pictures, and our two sons took a couple hundred more!”

Many of these were panoramas. Rod says he and his wife staged several scenes so that the family appears multiple times: once in each picture that forms part of the panorama, as in the below scene from Trier.

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You can see his group at the left, middle and right of the picture. Imagine the fun your kids could have with this idea, putting themselves in various locations in a panorama of Disneyland's Main Street, for example, or hanging out every window of your house at the same time.

Below are a couple more of Rod's panoramas from the trip, all stitched together using PhotoSuite:

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Want to make your own travel or landscape photos more exciting? Or simply provide more compelling pictures of your house for sale? Here's how to create perfect panoramas:

• Use a tripod to keep the horizontal planes level, and to make it easy to turn the camera on one spot. Or find a handy rock or table to rest it on. For pro results, a special panorama head can eliminate parallax.
• Start taking pictures at one side of the scene, and gradually turn the camera so that each picture overlaps about 30 to 50 percent with the previous one. The more overlap, the better.
• Make sure you are not positioned too close to any large object that would fill the frame as you turn toward it. Also keep the main subject off-center, so it doesn’t focus your eye on the middle.
• You can stop whenever you want, anywhere up to 360 degrees, although circular panoramas work best with special viewing software.
Panoguide.com has more great tips, and examples of great panoramas.

Want to win your own iPod? Tell us how your family uses Roxio software. Just email your story to userstory@roxio.com by midnight, Sept. 15, 2008. Include a picture or video clip from your production as an attachment or Web link. Click here for official rules and entry guidelines. No purchase necessary to win.

* In case you're not yet receiving the newsletter, which contains all sorts of handy tips and articles on getting more out of your Roxio software, just sign in to your account, then click the link at the bottom of the page to edit your email subscription preferences.

November 14, 2008

Make a Holiday Party Invite with PhotoShow

Our family gives a holiday open house most years (except when we travel to Grandma's house!). In the past that has meant painstakingly addressing and mailing 50-75 printed invitations--an expensive and time-eating task!

Since we now have email addresses for pretty much everyone on our list, we thought we'd go the email route this year, which also makes RSVPs quick and easy. But we still wanted the invitation to be special and convey the spirit of the party--not just a plain message.

So we decided to make a fun PhotoShow using pictures from past parties, complete with captions and music. Roxio Online PhotoShows are free and easy to make, and you can email them directly to your recipients. We made and mailed this year's holiday party invite in less than 40 minutes! (And started getting RSVPs and compliments immediately!)

Here's how to do it:

First, choose a few pictures from past parties or other seasonal photos, then go to PhotoShow.com and log in (if you don't already have an account, creating one is easy). Next, click the "Make a PhotoShow" at the top of the screen. You'll be asked to upload your photos. When you're done, the fun begins!

The next screen is where you arrange your photos in the order you want them to appear, and choose a style, music, captions, titles, and more. We chose the Christmas style for our show, and Jingle Bells for the background music. Then we added captions to each photo. That was it! PhotoShow did the rest automatically. We could have customized it a lot further, but we were happy with the results.

XmasPhotoShow1.jpg

When you're finished tweaking your invitation, save the PhotoShow and click the Done button. You'll now be presented with various sharing options, such as posting to your blog or Web site, and burning a DVD. Here, you'll be choosing the email option.

XmasPhotoShow2.jpg

Now you simply enter the email addresses of your recipients, add a message if desired (we included driving directions and RSVP information in our message so that they could be printed out easily), and click the Send button!

Here's our finished PhotoShow. What will yours look like? Please invite us!

January 15, 2009

The Best Photo Sites You Haven't Seen

Most digital photographers have probably checked out the excellent DPReview and Steve's Digicams sites when deciding what new camera to buy. Both offer exhaustive reviews and up-to-the-minute recommendations.

But there are plenty more great photo sites with tips, tricks and sage advice to help you get the most out of your digital camera. Here are some of my favorites:

100 Photography Tips in 100 Days: Everything you ever wanted to know about digital photography, and more. Camera retailer Adorama has done an amazing job of collecting tips and tricks on virtually every aspect of photography in this series, now in its third round (300 days total). The articles are authoritative and easy to follow.

LookGoodinPics.jpg

Look Good In Pictures: If you've got camera-shy friends or family members, this site from Nikon will show you how to draw them out and shoot them in the best possible light. Carson Kressley dispenses advice on everything from party and wedding pics to "Bravery in Bathing Suits." Your subjects will thank you.

The Big Picture: Ever wished you could blow up the tiny pictures that accompany most Web articles? If you want to see current news photos in all their full-size glory, this site from The Boston Globe will mesmerize you. It has everything from NASA shots to the latest from Iraq, in stunning high-definition detail. The Wall Street Journal has a similar blog here. Put them in your RSS feeds, and learn from the best photojournalists in the business.

DxOMark: If you're a digital SLR junkie or shoot in RAW format, this site is for you. You'll find in-depth image-quality rankings and sample photos from all the top cameras.

What are your favorite photo sites? Tell us in the comments.

About Photo

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to MyMoments in the Photo category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Mobile is the previous category.

Video is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.