Monthly Archives November 2009

…..a really gifted Dallas, Texas-based photographer, Austin Mann.

I met Austin in New York the day before the Photo Plus Expo, and besides being a really nice guy, he’ an incredible photographer (go check out his online portfolio right here).

I got a preview of his post for tomorrow, and he shares a few stories about seeing something you want to achieve, and going for it, and it’s a wonderful mix of inspirational and practical thinking, and it’s the perfect post to take us into the Thanksgiving Day holiday weekend, so make sure you check back tomorrow.

Programming Note: Thursday is Thanksgiving Day here in the USA (a day we take to give thanks for our blessings, which include eating loads of Turkey and watching American-style football. Our offices are closed for the rest of the week (and I took this whole week off anyway to hang out with the family), so I won’t be posting again until Friday for a weekend wrap-up. I’ve got lots to share then, so I hope you’ll join me back here.

In the meantime, even if you don’t celebrate a formal Thanksgiving Day in your country, why not take a few moments on Thursday to pause and be grateful for all the blessings we have. We’re all very blessed to share this common love of digital imaging, and I’m very grateful that you stop by here once in a while to see what’s up. Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s back baby—Photoshop User TV, the weekly show for Adobe Photoshop users kicks off our new season with more Photoshop tips, techniques and tutorials in less time than ever, with an all-new format, a new set, and a brand new look (and you can watch this week’s episode right here!).

COOL GIVEAWAY ALERT: We’re kicking off the new season by giving away a Westcott Spiderlite TD-5 Studio Lighting kit (courtesy of our friends at FJ Westcott). Just watch the show to see how to enter (there is no trivia question—just sign up to win at the Web address we give you on the show). Good luck!

Also, even though we’ve been on a construction hiatus, we’ve been posting special abbreviated “best of” and highlight shows (including our full-length “Live from Photoshop World” show), and you can watch those on the Photoshop User TV Web site (here’s the link).

NOTE: If you want to catch every episode for free, you can subscribe using Apple’s iTunes and watch it right there on your computer, or download it onto your iPod. Here’s the link.


That’s right folks, I thought I’d use this Holiday week as a kick-off for my releasing my Fourth Annual Gonzo Holiday Gear Guide (well, that and the fact that it’s the cover story on the current issue of Photoshop User magazine which most NAPP members already received in the mail).

Anyway, it’s here and this year I tried to include lots of affordable gear (which isn’t as easy task when it comes to gear), but don’t worry—I did keep a few items in there for the rich doctor or personal injury attorney on your Holiday Gift List.

NOTE: I named this Part 1, so I can add some extra Part Two stuff that we didn’t have room to fit in the printed magazine edition of the Gift Guide. Look for Part 2 next week.

I really wanted to make this year’s guide my most useful yet, so I came up with some rules for what would make it into the guide.

Rule #1: They have to be products that I use myself, and that I absolutely love, and now can’t live without (well, I could live without them but I just wouldn’t want to).

Rule #2: If a product makes the guide, it has to be one that I would recommend to a close friend without hesitation, especially if that friend was really loaded (kidding). And…

Rule #3: Although this is mostly camera gear (which isn’t a cheap hobby), I wanted to include a number of items that were under $100, and even some under $50 if I could find them (that’s a lot harder than it sounds).

OK everybody, here we go (Happy Shopping!)

Lastolite Hot Shoe EZYbox:

Lastolite Hot Shoe EZYboxIf you’re ready to have studio quality light from your flash, this is a great way to do it. It’s a small, collapsible softbox that does a very slick job, and everybody I know that has one, loves it. In fact, they say it’s gonzo (no, not really). The 24×24″ version sells for $190.00. There are also kits available containing various brackets and adapters that will cost you extra.

Elinchrom BXRi 500 Compact Monolight:

Elinchrom BXRi 500 Compact MonolightYou’ll love these new lower-priced strobes from Elinchrom because they have built-in wireless receivers, so all you need is the little match-boxed sized transmitter (that comes with their two-light kit) and you’re good to go. Plus, you can use the transmitter to control the power of the strobes from right at your camera position. Give this to someone on your holiday list, and he will love you so much you’ll probably have to get a restraining order. A single strobe will run you $624.95 and the two-strobe kit which also includes the transmitter, a couple of softboxes, lightstands, case, sync cords, and Monolight case is $1,

Wacom Intuos4 pen tablet:

Wacom Intuos4 pen tabletIf you can spend a little more, you can give him a gift that will impact what he does in Photoshop all year, and you’ll change the way he works forever. Ask anybody that has an Intuos tablet, and you’ll hear nothing but raves. Once he uses one, he’ll never want to use a mouse again, and he’ll thank you every time he picks up that wireless pen. The Medium tablet, which has a 5.5×8.8″ active area, sells for $

MPIX Gift Card:

MPIX Gift cardWant a gift that will have a double impact? Get the photographer on your list an MPIX Gift Card (well, it’s actually a gift code) to have a large-sized print made from a photo she uploads. She’ll be happy when you give it to her, but then you’ve got to convince her to upload a photo immediately. When she gets her big print back from MPIX, she’ll lose her mind and become an MPIX fanatic and you’ll always be the one that turned her on to MPIX (double impact). This one is a lock, and you’ll get the “love” twice!

Think Tank Photo’s Airport International V2.0 Rolling Camera Bag:

Think Tank Photo’s Airport International V2.0 Rolling Camera BagThese are, hands down, the best designed, rugged, and just clever camera bags on the market today (well, at least I certainly think so, but luckily I’m not alone—Think Tank Photo has a lot of pros that wouldn’t dream of using anything else). I have the Airport Security V2.0, and the slightly smaller Airport International, and now I can’t use anything else. They’re not cheap, but nothing this good ever is. You can buy the Airport International directly from Think Tank’s website for $

Ray Flash: The Ring Flash Adapter:

Ray Flash: The Ring Flash AdapterThe ring flash look is hot for fashion and portraits, and this adapter fits right over the Nikon SB800 and SB900 or Canon 580EX (I and II) flash units to give that ring flash look. My only gripe had been that it was about $100 too expensive. That was before they lowered the price by $100. Now, it went from being a little overpriced to being a bargain at $

Remote Cable Release (for Nikon & Canon):

Remote Cable Release (for Nikon & Canon)This is one of those gifts that everybody knows they need, but it’s also one of those things that most photographers don’t actually own, which makes it perhaps the best kind of gift (that thing you know you need but won’t buy). It just lets you fire your camera (on a tripod) without touching the camera itself, so it dramatically reduces camera shake, which gives you sharper photos. They have wireless ones and ones with wires, and they both work great. Prices range from between $10 and $100.

The Zumbrella:

The ZumbrellaFamous wedding photographer David Ziser convinced the folks at F.J. Westcott ( to create a shoot-thru umbrella using the same material Westcott uses for the front diffuser on their popular Halo softboxes, and the long and soft of it is, he’s created a small, lightweight collapsible umbrella (that literally can fit in a coat pocket) that has a more softbox-like punch than other umbrellas. Now it’s the only umbrella I use. It’s $34.95 direct from David. Worth every penny. Also, if you want to stay “lean and mean,” get a Cheeta Stand 8 auto pop-up light stand ($89.95 at, and a Westcott Cold Shoe Umbrella Mount swivel adapter ($35), and your photographer will have an entire setup for under $160.

Nik Software’s Viveza 2:

Nik Software’s Viveza 2Making selections in Photoshop, even with all the latest tools, for correcting specific areas of an image is still kind of a pain. When Nik introduced their groundbreaking Viveza Photoshop plug-in for correcting brightness, contrast, and color, the pain was gone. Now, with Viveza 2, it’s actually a pleasure. Just flat-out amazing technology that can correct a precise area of an image without creating selections or masks—a perfect gift for anyone who constantly makes selections for color correcting in Photoshop (which for readers of this magazine, is everyone!). Viveza retails for $249.95, but it was actually on sale for $149.95 as I was writing

Elinchrom White Minisoft 17″ Reflector (or Beauty Dish):

Elinchrom White Minisoft 17If the photographer on your list shoots portraits, chances are he has a softbox or two, but he prob-ably doesn’t have a Beauty Dish, which is why you should get him one. It provides a little edgier light (without being harsh), and works great for everything from fashion photography to portraits of men. It just attaches to the front of a strobe. The one I use is the white 17″ model from Elinchrom that sells for $162.45. I also use a 17″ diffuser ($21.95) made by Elinchrom specifically for the Beauty

onOne Software’s FocalPoint 2:

onOne Software’s FocalPoint 2The idea of being able to add realistic-looking depth-of-field effects via a filter or plug-in isn’t all that new, but how this puppy works is, because all the other ones make you do the work—this one doesn’t. The technology is just so cool, and so easy to use, that suddenly the photographer on your list will look like she shot everything with an f/1.4 lens. In short, she’ll love this. FocalPoint 2 retails for $

MPS Sticky Fill Flash Filters:

MPS Sticky Fill Flash FiltersIf the photographer on your list has a flash, this gift is a no-brainer, because it not only gives her the gels she needs to adjust for different lighting situations, the clever design makes it so easy to use she’ll actually use them. The price is right, too! For $49.95 you can get two complete sets of their standard size filters directly from their

Lastolite 30″ TriGrip One-Stop Diffuser:

Lastolite 30 TriGrip One-Stop DiffuserEvery photographer should have one of these TriGrips because they do an amazing job of letting you shoot in direct, harsh, ugly sunlight, and turn it into soft, wrapping, wonderful light. The handle lets you easily hold it over your subject (while your right hand holds the camera), and you can even use it as a reflector. When you’re done with it, it collapses down to a small disc. Just brilliantly designed—trust me, he’ll love it. The 30″ model sells for $

Nikon’s AF-S VR Zoom-NIKKOR 70–300mm f/4.5–5.6G IF-ED lens:

Nikon’s AF-S VR Zoom-NIKKOR 70–300mmThis lens has been called “Nikon’s Best-Kept Secret” because it covers such a wide range, yet it’s incredibly lightweight and, perhaps even more shocking, it is amazingly sharp at it’s inexpensive price ($589.95—remember, we’re talking about lenses here). This lens just rocks, and if you buy this one as a gift, you’ll be a

ColorMunki Photo:

ColorMunki PhotoGetting what comes out of your printer to match what you saw on your screen is still (unfortunately) a big challenge for most of us, but ColorMunki does such a nice job of it, it’s really starting to steal the color-calibration show by finally giving photographers that dream of having the screen and printer match up. At $360 from B&H, it’s not cheap, but once you see those two finally match, you’ll wish you had bought it years ago (except, of course, it didn’t exist back then)

Canon EF-S 18–200mm f/3.5–5.6 IS lens:

Canon EF-S 18–200mmThere’s something about always having the right lens on you, and an 18–200mm (which gives you wide angle, portrait length, a nice telephoto, and everything in-between), makes sure you have that right lens almost all the time—without ever changing lenses. Everybody I know with an 18–200mm swears by it; especially as their one “go-to” lens for travel photography, where they want to stay lightweight and not have to change lenses in the street. Buy this for the photographer you love (because you probably don’t have any friends that you like enough to spend $595 on for a holiday gift)

Photojojo! Insanely Great Photo Projects and DIY Ideas by Amit Gupta with Kelly Jensen:

Photojojo!This is a very clever book for the DIY freak on your holiday list. There are just so many great projects in this book that the person you give it to will be so busy trying all this new stuff that he’ll probably forget to thank you (that’s okay, as long as he doesn’t forget to give you your gift, which should be either a studio strobe, Wacom tablet, or a lens, right?). This book is published by Potter Craft and retails for $21.99.

Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision by David DuChemin:

Within the FrameThis critically acclaimed book isn’t so much about which button does what, but more about the process of taking great
photos. David’s photography in the book is just wonderful (and great photography books have great photography), but there’s more here than just pretty pictures. It’s a learning guide about how to see, and people love it. This is perfect holiday gift at a just $

Manfrotto 244 Variable Friction Magic Arm with Camera Bracket and Manfrotto 035 Super Clamps:

Manfrotto 244This is another one of those things that every photographer wants, but only the pros buy (but it’s not because of the cost—it’s just one of those, “Yeah-I-really-should-get-one-of-those” type of gifts that gets you big props for giving). These arms attach to just about anything, they hold anything, and they’re almost like having a photo assistant on the shoot with you (of course, even real live photo assistants swear by them because they feel like they have their own assistant on the shoot). The Magic Arm will run you $109.95 and the Super Clamps go for $24.90 each.

Topaz Adjust:

Topaz AdjustThe high-contrast, desaturated look is really huge these days, and a lot of people are getting that look using this surprisingly inexpensive Photoshop plug-in that keeps getting better and better. If the photographer on your list hasn’t heard of Topaz Adjust yet—don’t worry—she will. It’s getting lots of attention, and by giving this very cool plug-in as a holiday gift, you will, too. And it’s only $49.99 direct from the Topaz Labs website.

That’s It! Have a Great Holiday


Hey gang—the huge success of last week’s deal really paid off, and we’ve been in contact with a number of companies who are willing to give you guys a “This Weekend Only” special discount.

This week, the fine folks over at OnOne Software are offering readers of my blog $200 off their new “Plug-In Suite 5” which includes the most recent versions of their award-winning Photoshop Plug-ins:

  1. Genuine Fractals for resizing
  2. Mask Pro for removing unwanted backgrounds
  3. PhotoTune for color correction
  4. FocalPoint for selective focus
  5. PhotoTools and PhotoFrame for amazing photographic effects

The suite is regularly $599.95, but until this Sunday (Nov. 22nd) at midnight EST you can take $200.00 off using the following Coupon Code:


Thanks to Mike Wong and everybody at OnOne for making this smoking “This Weekend Only” Deal available to my readers!


Howdy folks. First a quick thanks to photographer Bruce DeBoer for his inspiring Guest Blog post yesterday here on the blog. Very cool stuff! Now, onto the news!

Nikon releases FREE “Learn & Explore” iPhone App
This one slipped by me, but luckily John “The Snake” Barrett dropped me a line to let me know that Nikon has released a FREE iPhone App called “Learn & Explore,” which not only has tips for using your Nikon camera, but it also has access to back issues of “Nikon World Magazine” (John let me know that the issue I’m in is there as well—in the Winter of 2009 Issue—click on Roadmaster—so if you didn’t get to catch it in the magazine itself, now you can not only read it on your iPhone, it even lets you listen to my audio slideshow as well). Also, John pointed out that, although he’s a Canon shooter, he liked the App because many of the photography tips applied to his Canon gear as well. You can download it free direct from your iPhone, or by clicking here. (Thanks John for the heads up).

Catch Lesa Snider’s New “Elements 8 for Digital Photographers” Online Class
Photoshop World instructor, and author of “Photoshop: The Missing ManualLesa Snider has just released an online class at Kelby Training Online on the newly released Adobe Photoshop Elements 8. Lesa is a terrific teacher (which is why we have her training at Photoshop World), and her classes are always top-rated, so if you’re into Elements, make sure you take her new online class. Here’s the link.

NAPP Member’s work featured in the Smithsonian Museum
Larry Becker turned me on to the news that NAPP member and Nature Photographer John Reiter has the incredible honor of having two of his images hanging in the Smithsonian Museum (two 4’ x 6’ images). His nature photography is just awesome (which is why it’s hanging in the Smithsonian, right?), and if you’ve got a moment to see some really great work, drop over to his Web site and take a quick look at some of his images (here’s the link). A big congratulations to John!!!

It Finally Happened—We taped Photoshop User TV Yesterday!
It’s a Holiday miracle—we taped the first show of our totally revamped, new set, new everything, new season of Photoshop User TV, and it’s set to air next Tuesday! I’ll be posting the entire show here—-so you can watch it right here on my blog (it’s much shorter than before, but with WAY more content than ever), and we’re pretty excited about the new look and feel. Hope you guys like it, too!

Don’t Miss RC and Dave Cross in San Diego Tomorrow
They’ll be there doing our Adobe-sponsored “Adobe CS4 Creative Suite Unleashed Tour” and if you can get there—you don’t want to miss it. Here’s the link.

Following Up the MPIX Discount Deal Tomorrow!
Last weekend’s “This weekend only” discount deal was such a huge hit, that I’m working on putting together a different discount (from a different vendor) for this weekend for you guys. Hope to have details tomorrow (I’m keeping my fingers crossed—could be a good one!).

That’s it for today, folks
Have a great day everybody, and I hope to see you here tomorrow. :)