Getting started with Digital Photography: Part 2

Once you get “hooked” on digital photography, and have chosen the software you are going to use and have started using it – what might be the next step?

Traditionally you went to the newsagent and bought a magazine to tell you more about your camera, or the software you were using. By doing this you could follow developments in your hobby and pick up advice, hints and tips which were often very useful. However nowadays there is an alternative. You can use the plentiful resources made available on the Internet – often indeed from the magazines that you might have been considering purchasing.

Here’s a tip to make your browsing and reading more productive.

I think it’s a “good idea” to sign-up to either flipboard, or feedly – so that you can subscribe to RSS feeds and receive a regular stream of articles (blog posts) that you could find interesting. This is rather like getting a tailored magazine or newspaper delivered to your computer, tablet or phone every day. I tend to use feedly – it’s a bit easier to use and less like a magazine than flipboard – but if that’s the presentation you’d like, go for it.

Sign-up for a free account on either of these and then whenever you see the RSS icon on a website, you know that you can add that site to your feedly or flipboard account. Both sites work well if you have a Google (gmail) account as you can use that as your identity/userid for registration/login. Both have apps for smart devices and can be used from standard web browsers (Safari, Chrome, Firefox, etc).

I intend to write a post specifically about using feedly and flipboard shortly.

The feeds I read regularly include …

Digital Photography School, DIY Photography, Lightstalking and Petapixel.

I also follow feeds which are specific to the camera and the software I use. It’s also a good idea to view other people’s images to give you ideas. I referenced in my last post that I share my images my images on Google Photos, flickr, Instagram, flickr and 500px. I’d suggest however that you browse other people’s images on these sites for inspiration!

I then tend to save articles I’ve liked, or have just not had the time to read in Pocket. It’s a bit like bookmarking a webpage, only with the content as well so you can read the article offline as well. Once it’s there, you can then share the link with others, or even create your own Flipboard Magazine which is what I have done with the Photography magazine on this blog. This is a little more advanced than using Pocket however – so start there. Remember too, bookmarking works best if you add some tags to help you find the article in the future from the many hundred you’ll soon have bookmarked – a problem somewhat similar to the tagging/metadata that you’ll need to get into the habit of providing to identify your images in Adobe Lightroom, or alternatives.

I also use Evernote (but am thinking of moving to OneNote) as a piece of note-taking software to just record ideas, and other bits of information, when I’m out and about with my iPhone or camera. You can save links from your browser directly to both of these note-taking apps.

Finally, it’s worth considering finding out if you can attend a photo workshop to learn from a professional. I’ve been on a number of these and personally can recommend …

Ken Jenkins (Freespirit Images) and his associated blog.

Finally, I can’t resist of course plugging my own blog –  Just thoughts … where I post my personal thoughts on my approach to photography and digital photography in general. However, my photo blog – Moments like these … is my main platform where I show an image and the describe the story behind it, and this blog is associated with my portfolio / gallery site.

Alternatives to Google Search

At the last meeting of the Cardiff U3A Computer Group I rather fell flat on my face when comparing the returns provided by three different Search Engines – Google, Bing from Microsoft and DuckDuckGo (a new entrant which is open source) and which doesn’t track, or make available to others, what your browsing/searching history is. In other words it protects your privacy and the search results returned are unbiassed by your previous browsing/searching and it doesn’t return results biassed by what advertisers have paid Google to push themselves up the list!

I have tried using DuckDuckGo in its most basic form for a couple of weeks now with a Safari browser and found it to be reliable, fast and pleasant to use. A rather good article of a week’s trial of using DuckDuckGo in preference to (but alongside) Google can be found here, and I would recommend you read it. Another article which summarises the differences of this search engine to Google can be found here. This page might help you phrase efficient searches using DuckDuckGo. You do have to add it to the browser Chrome, unlike Safari or Firefox where it is provided as an alternative automatically from the Preferences Setting.

Bing is the main competitor to Google Search and is now the search engine used by Yahoo. Essentially, it’s very similar to Google and returns the same sort of results – you might find it useful useful to bookmark this page to help you phrase efficient searches.

So you’re not convinced? That’s OK. At least you ought to know how to construct a good Google search to get the best results. This page from The Guardian is as good as any in giving you sound advice. Essentially it makes the following points:

  1. Be specific, by putting your search term in parentheses “search term”;
  2. Exclude stuff you’re not going to be interested in using the – sign, eg -notthis;
  3. Use OR (|) and AND (+) in a search, and combine them with “search term” and -notthis, as desired to improve the search;
  4. Use qualifiers such as inurl:”search term”, intext:”search term”, or intitle:”searchterm” to search for “search term” in the uRL, the body of text of an article, or the title of an article; and finally
  5. Use * (the wildcard character) to extend searches, eg walk* would return walks, walker, walked, etc.

That’s about it. I could go into using Advanced Search (Google) but I think that’s beyond the scope of this post. For me, if I do some of these things I’m sure the quality of my searches will improve.


Getting started with digital photography: Part 1

A new venture for Thought grazing …

This article starts from the assumption that you already have a digital camera, or smartphone, and doesn’t pretend to give advice on how to proceed to purchase one except to say that I would strongly recommend buying from a camera shop for the after-sales service you would get. In buying a digital camera you’re buying into a system – Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji, Panasonic etc. – it can be a painful (and expensive) decision to change later, so it’s worth talking to someone who can talk about their experiences, or who can match your needs to what is available.

So therefore this article focusses on the software and in later posts – the processing of images using software.

Photography is a hobby that cries out to share its results (images) with other people and so therefore it’s best to work back from answering the question – what are you going to do with the images? By answering that question, the rest of the toolkit and the workflow you adopt is easier to answer. Typical workflows might be …

I just want to take a photo and print it.
I want to take a photo and possibly share it on Facebook, Instagram.
I want to take photos and make them into photobooks.
I want to take photos and post them to a website.

… of course it could be all of the above. One thing tends to unite them however, you need a place in the cloud to store your photos, from which you can then share them. If at all possible you should adopt a platform t

hat provides the maximum flexibility to allow you to do all of the above, and more, so that you don’t need to keep changing your systems as you develop your hobby. I’ve written about my workflow here.

So apart from the local USB disk-storage I use (with its backups, of course) to store and post-process my images, I use Google Photos as my main way of sharing photos in albums eg Orchids from Changi Airport, linked to the free storage (as long as you don’t store images at high resolution) you get on Google Drive. I do have other cloud storage/sharing platforms, but this is the one I use for photographs. I do also have a flickr account to share images – and I use it occasionally, as I do Instagram. As you develop your interest in photography, you may wish to have a more professional platform (I have used 500px), or the sharing platform that may be provided by your preferred software supplier (eg Adobe).

If you’re starting-out (or don’t want to spend any money) then you can use the editing software available within Google Photos, or if on a phone, or tablet, use Google’s Snapseed apps. You can still get Picasa for Windows 

and the Mac, which is software Google bought and supported for a while, but it is probably better to bite the bullet and use their Photos app in a browser, as it integrates well with Drive and Google+.

Then of course you might (like me) be an Apple user, and could of course use their Photos app and iCloud, but at the moment the editing facilities offered in the app are not (in my humble opinion) as good as Google’s. You can sync your smartphone “camera roll” to Google Photos automatically which is nice.

Other free photo-editing options are available. I will however after reviewing the other possibilities, only mention and discuss Google Photos on this blog.

If you’re a bit more sure that you want to invest in digital photography then there’s no better (imho) software than Adobe Lightroom. I’m not going into a whole set of reasons why you should invest in Lightroom rather than Photoshop Elements, or Apple’s Photo app, Paintshop, or even full-blown Photoshop. However for me these are the main benefits …

  • It doesn’t matter where your images are stored; you don’t have to import them into a database, but you can choose to import new images into a single location of your choice which is unconnected to the software.
  • It employs a catalogue which references where the images are stored. You can have multiple catalogues referencing the same set of images.
  • All changes (edits) to the images are stored in the catalogue. 
  • The original images are left untouched. This is called non-destructive editing.
  • You can go backwards and forwards through your edits, and can even create multiple virtual copies that allow you multiple versions of the same image, but only one actual (original) image.
  • You can store your images in Collections which equate to virtual albums unconnected to the actual folders the actual images are stored in.
  • You are supplied with a huge range of Plugins to allow you easy publishing to social media sites (eg flickr, Instagram, Dropbox), in addition to publishing to photobook websites (eg Blurb) and print sites (eg Smugmug).
  • You can apply presets to your images at import, developing or export so that the same look and feel can be achieved.
  • It integrates well with a whole range of other software such as WordPress (for blogging).

… I just feel that (for me at least) Lightroom is the best at the moment and it integrates with Adobe’s other software. It also now has a mobile version that allows editing on your iPad (or iPhone) if you subscribe to their Photography Creative Cloud Plan. This costs c.£9 a month and gives me both Lightroom and Photoshop, storage space in the cloud, and more besides, plus all the upgrades.

If you decide to go down the Lightroom route then here are a couple of resources you might wish to reference …

Laura Shoe’s Lightroom –

Lightroom Killer Tips –
Adobe Training – and

… and for Lightroom tuition, you’ll do well to beat  …

Scott Kelby’s Lightroom books for digital photographers, New Riders