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  • Plans

    • 8 out of 10
    • Death Cab for Cutie
    • With the introduction of Plans, Death Cab for Cutie became a new addition to many user's Artist list after the single "Soul Meets Body" became a hit on iTunes. Offering a fresh alternativ

  • De Nova

    • 10 out of 10
    • The Redwalls
    • Wow! Perhaps my 5-star rating is simply because the Redwalls are not only new and fresh (none of them older than 22!), or perhaps its because -- despite their ages -- they are able to totally capture
  • Rock Spectacle

    • 8 out of 10
    • Barenaked Ladies
    • These guys know how to put on a live show, and whomever recorded this knows how to capture one. Rock Spectacle is one of the warmest-sounding recordings I've ever heard, and totally fills a room at a
  • Pressure Chief

    • 6 out of 10
    • Cake
    • Pressure Chief, Cake's latest album, didn't immediately grab me. In fact, it took perhaps half a dozen listens before I started truly enjoying it. Any

  • Stadium Arcadium

    • 8 out of 10
    • Red Hot Chili Peppers
    • What? Only four stars, you stingy bastard? I'm asking myself the same question, so let me explain myself to myself... If I compare the new

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Free on iTunes

Photography Specials

As some of you may know, I am a photographer. I’m not an especially good photographer; you won’t find my work gracing the pages of famous magazines, or tastefully compiled in a book that occupies the corners of millions of coffee tables. However, if you know the right people you may find some of my photos sprucing up otherwise bland home walls or office desktops.

I enjoy art photography, but I didn’t know that’s what I enjoyed until someone pointed it out to me. Before that I just enjoyed taking pictures of stuff. Turns out the stuff I like to shoot is also the stuff some people like to hang of their walls.

Go figure.

My photographic career started with a Yashica rangefinder a friend sold me some 25 years ago. Back then in the world of photography, post-processing meant spending hours in a darkroom, dealing with foul smelling chemicals, and testing the limits of your patience as you took the film that came out of your camera and produced a useable print.

Today post-processing takes place in your computer and whereas it once took hours, sometimes days, to see the results of a 200-shot photo shoot it now take minutes.

Computers have altered the landscape of photography forever and opened the field to anyone with even a little talent. I’m a good example. While I believe I could have sold a few of my film based shots as art, the selection would have been severely limited and somewhat dicey.

I was OK in the darkroom, so the prints I produced were also only OK. Today I can offer hundreds of high quality photos to anyone willing to pay good money for them (I’ll even take bad money). I can reproduce my photos in any size and print them on a wide variety of media including scarves, books, and coffee mugs. (FYI: I don’t do mugs and I’m still considering the scarves.)

Even with all of this technological goodness it is still what the photographer sees that can make a good photo, and, as it was with darkrooms and print dryers, it is still the techniques the photographer uses in post-processing that makes what was taken with the camera look like what the photographer saw in the first place.

Don’t think that just because post-processing has moved to computers that anyone can shoot an art photo.

Well... actually, anyone can, but anyone could have shot one back in the chemicals and darkroom days, too. What sets professional photographer apart from the folks who take snapshots of the kids or pets is the post-processing skills they develop.

My digital post-processing skills are still developing as I learn more about the new tools of my trade, such as Photoshop and the many digital-only features offered in new cameras. My recent upgrade to an Intel iMac means that I now have Aperture to learn as well.

While many concepts of "analog" photo post-processing carry over well into the digital world, the actual execution of those concepts are obviously different. Dodging and burning a print, for instance, to suppress highlights or bring out details can be accomplished in a darkroom or on a computer, and good techniques can be taught and practiced in both environments -- but the computer trumps the darkroom because you can undo mistakes as easily as clicking a mouse button.

Even so, learning how to make a photo look its best in your digital darkroom is not as easy as it might seem. There are a dizzying array of tools, add-ons, and plug-ins available to the modern photographer, and learning to use just one tool through trial and error is time consuming and a bit frustrating. Getting help is the best answer, and luckily help is just a few clicks away in the iTunes Store. Best of all, it’s free!

If you are into photography with any seriousness at all then you have got to understand Photoshop. Yes, there are other post-processing applications, but none are as comprehensive as Photoshop. Even if you decide to use another application to process your photos chances are the techniques used in that app have counterparts in Photoshop.

There are many, many podcasts available that talk about the ins and outs, ups and downs of using Photoshop, but one of the best podcasts I’ve found is Photoshop for Digital Photographers.

The name of the podcast may seem strange to you at first until you realize that Photoshop can work its magic on any digitized source, be it a scanned in pencil drawing or a hi-rez raw photo.

I like Photoshop for Digital Photographers because it takes you from setting up a good workflow (the backbone of any photographers post-processing environment) to using some of the more obscure Photoshop features, like creating High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos.

I use this podcast as a reference because, as I mentioned earlier, Photoshop covers a lot of ground and there are some features and techniques I just don’t use on a daily basis.

There are over 70 episodes of Photoshop for Digital Photographers available, some are well over 20 minutes long. Host Michael Rather takes his time to explain everything about a particular feature in clear language so even I can understand it.

This is really a good podcast and I recommend it to anyone with more than a passing interest in photography.

While I throughly enjoy Photoshop for Digital Photographers, there are times when I need to forgo the explanations and get to the meat of a technique. That’s where Photoshop Killer Tips comes in.

Photoshop Killer Tips is a podcast created by the National Associated of Photoshop Professionals and is hosted by Matt Kloskowski.

No preamble, Photoshop Killer Tips jumps right into it and shows you how to do something useful.

This is a fairly new series and there are only five episode available, but more are on the way.

Again, this is good stuff if time is of the essence, so just subscribe to Photoshop Killer Tips so you can get the new episodes as they are available.

While it is true the Photoshop is king of the digital post-processing mountain there are other tools available that are just as useful and can be integrated into your workflow to help you save time on the many repetitive tasks that are unique to digital photography.

One such tool that is available to Mac users only is Aperture 2, Apple’s cataloging and editing software.

Now here’s a tool that truly rocks. Those of you familiar with iPhoto, Apple’s consumer level photo cataloging tool, will recognized many of the features Aperture offers. In fact, many think of Aperture as iPhoto on steroids, and they wouldn’t be far off the mark.

iPhoto offers limited photo editing, Aperture offers a lot more, so much more in fact that for many of your standard photo tweaks you may not need to use Photoshop at all. Still, while Aperture offer tons of features it falls short Photoshop’s feature set and in no way supplants Adobe’s flagship app. Instead, when you need to use Photoshop, or any other more feature intense application, Aperture lets you easily open the external app. After all Aperture, at its core, is a cataloging tool.

Aperture has a gazillion of its own features so it stands to reason that getting help to make the most of them is a good idea. Enter Aperture 2: Quick Tip.

Like Photoshop Killer Tips, Aperture 2: Quick Tip gets right to the meat of the feature at hand and shows you what you need to do to get the most out of it. each episode, and there are more than 15 of them, are available in HD, and host, Richard Harrington, does a great job in explaining what’s going on and why.

I use Aperture 2 as my photo cataloger and this podcast has come in handy more than once.

So, if you’ve got a Mac, and you’ve got Aperture, get Aperture 2: Quick Tips.

Good stuff.

OK, that’s another wrap.

Since I will likely be so full of turkey or recovering from injuries sustaned while shopping next Friday, I won’t be posting a Free on iTunes next week. I will be back in the saddle on December 5th. So, I’ll see you then and have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

More free stuff at the iTunes Store (with direct links):

Vern Seward is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He’s been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

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