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Adobe Announces Lightroom 3 Release and Availability

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By Diane Berkenfeld

After thorough Beta testing by the photographic community, Adobe today announced the release of Lightroom 3.

Lightroom 3, like the prior versions of the software, groups tools into five areas: Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print, and Web. The Library is where you organize your images. Develop is where the exposure changes are made, cropping is done, sharpening and noise reduction occurs, grain is added, etc. Slideshow, Print and Web are the areas that you’d work on Slideshows, Printing and Web sharing respectively.

This latest version of the image management/editing/RAW file processing software offers a brand new image processing engine, increased processing speeds and a host of improvements and new features.

Adobe rebuilt the engines that drive Lightroom from the ground up, to keep pace with the growing resolution and file size of today’s popular digital cameras, and the growth of photographers’ image libraries.

Because a new image processing engine is incorporated into Lightroom 3, when working on images that were originally processed in Lightroom 1 or 2, you’ll be given the option of using the previous version’s processing engine, or updating to the image processing engine in Lightroom 3. The choice is given to the user because slight changes can occur when updating from one version to the next, so now you don’t need to worry about the images you’ve worked on in the past and perfected.

Improvements include:

• Improved noise reduction and sharpening.

• Enhanced post crop vignetting.

• An improved import feature.

• Lens and perspective correction. Adobe also created a Lens Profile Creator that you can use to create profiles for the specific lenses you own.

• An expanded offering of custom print layouts.

• Addition of new Develop presets.

New features include:

• The ability to shoot tethered to a camera and import images directly into Lightroom. (26 Canon and Nikon models have been approved as being compatible with the launch of Lightroom 3. Additional models, as well as cameras from other manufacturers are expected to be added to that list as testing is completed. An updated list will be posted at Go.adobe.com/kb/ts_cpsid_84221_en-us.

• Cataloging of video files in addition to still images. Video files will show an icon of a video camera in the bottom left corner.

• The ability to add natural looking grain to images.

• The creation of slideshows synced to music that can be output as movie files compressed for the web, at HD quality and everywhere in between.

• Flexible watermarking.

• Direct access to image sharing websites and mobile devices. An included Flickr plug-in lets you upload directly to that website. Developers will be able to create such direct access for other websites and services.

Minimum system requirements for Lightroom 3 are: Mac – Intel-based Mac, OS X 10.5 or 10.6, 2 Gigs of RAM, 1 Gig of hard disk space, CD-ROM drive, and 1024 x 768 monitor resolution; Windows – Intel Pentium 4, OS Windows 7, Vista Home Premium, Business, Ultimate, or Enterprise (certified for 32-bit and 64-bit editions) or Microsoft XP with Service Pack 2, 2 Gigs RAM, 1 Gig available hard disk space, CD-ROM drive, and 1024 x 768 monitor resolution. Lightroom 3 is a 64-bit application by default for the Mac, and can be used as a 32-bit application if users so choose. For Windows, the 64-bit version will only be installed on Windows 7 or Vista 64-bit operating systems, all other operating systems will install the 32-bit version by default.

My 2 ¢

As a Lightroom user since version 1.0, the decision to upgrade to the latest version of Lightroom is a no brainer. Why stay in the past when you can improve your workflow and utilize the many new features of the software. And at a cost of only $99 to upgrade, its quite affordable to do so.

If you’re debating whether or not to add Lightoom to your workflow, the list of features alone should sway the decision. The full program MSRP is $299.

Lightroom is a powerful part of my workflow. When you’re shooting hundreds or thousands of images per job, you don’t want to be editing through images by opening each file individually. While Adobe Bridge offers the ability to perform some tasks, Lightroom 3 features not only image management but image editing tools as well.

Using Lightroom 3 in conjunction with Photoshop CS5 is my ideal workflow. I import all images I shoot into Lightroom, edit through them for the files I want to work with, make exposure changes, crop/straighten images, and export the files in the size(s) I need. (The export feature alone is worth the price of the software to me! Especially when I have to save multiple sizes of the same images.) Major retouching or compositing is then done in Photoshop.

Adobe is shipping Lightroom 3 starting today.

For more information, go to www.adobe.com.

♦ We’ve begun testing out Lightroom 3 and will be posting a full review within a week! —Ed.

Virtual Trade Shows: Education, Networking & More At Your Own Computer

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By Diane Berkenfeld

Last week I went to a trade show. And I didn’t even bother to get out of my pajamas. Ok… I did get dressed, but I could have stayed in my P.J.s with bed head and no makeup, and no one would have been the wiser.

How you ask? I attended the Focus on Wedding and Portrait Photography virtual trade show organized by PDN magazine (www.pdnonline.com; www.photoplusexpo.com). The tradeshow was “live” May 24 and 25, but will be archived for the next two months.

On the left is a screengrab of one of the three exhibit halls, on the right is a screengrab of the lobby of the PDN Virtual Trade Show.

Just like normal trade shows in the physical world, this virtual show had a lobby, three exhibit halls and an auditorium where seminars were given. Just like actual trade shows, you could have your badge swiped to receive additional information. You could even put digital information (PDFs) in your exhibit bag, and download them later.

The Focus on Wedding and Portrait Photography virtual trade show focused on weddings and portraits. The range of seminars included those dedicated to posing and lighting, business and marketing, and Photoshop techniques.

I love the idea of a virtual trade show. While I enjoy attending actual trade shows because of the face-to-face networking and true interactivity of presentations, there is definitely a place for virtual events. Especially when you can’t get away from work or afford travel expenses. For a virtual event, just fill out the registration form and attend. What’s great about virtual events is that the seminars begin for each attendee when they enter the auditorium. For example, enter most of the seminars late at a virtual event, and you aren’t conspicuously searching for a seat and missing part of the presentation. When these virtual events are archived (this show is being archived for two months) you can take in all of the presentations at your leisure.

After many of the seminars at the Focus on Wedding and Portrait Photography event, there were live chats with the presenters. Just type your questions and the presenter types his/her response.

How popular are virtual events? They are being attended in increasing numbers and gaining in popularity, according to Champion Exposition Services. Seven out of 10 respondents in their ‘survey on the use and adoption of digital tools by the association market’ are actively producing or considering a future virtual event. And these associations aren’t replacing actual shows with virtual events but adding them into their marketing mix.

I found the more interactive booths where video launched automatically, were the more interesting ones over those that only had PDF files that you’d download and read later.

On the left is a screengrab of Doug Gordon's exhibitor booth, on the right is a screengrab of the video that automatically launches when you visit the booth. This was one of the more interactive booths of the virtual trade show.

You could even connect with fellow attendees, via email or chat.

For the most part, the attendees, exhibitors and presenters I spoke with came away a positive experience from PDN‘s virtual trade show. One benefit for exhibitors: a virtual event replaces hours or even days of booth set up and tear down with mere minutes of work. Exhibitors noted they were able to connect with new customers, presenters enjoyed the experience, and attendees liked the concept and experience.

Pet photographer Margaret Bryant (www.bryantdogphotography.com) attended this event as well as a previous PDN virtual trade show. Although she didn’t use the chat feature, she did like that attendees were given the opportunity to chat with presenters and exhibitors. “I think [a virtual show] is probably more valuable for those who can’t attend a physical trade show. To me, it is in addition to a physical trade show, not a substitution. I’m a tactile person so I like to touch merchandise at the trade show. I also like the face-to-face contact. But I do think there is a place for virtual trade shows,” Bryant says.

This virtual show was the first attended by photographer Stephanie Natale, (www.natalephotography.com). Natale ‘walked the trade show’ and even signed up with one of the exhibitors. “I think it is a great idea,” she says, adding, “I’d attend another one for sure.”

Darla Achey, marketing communications specialist, Mitsubishi Digital Electronics, (www.mitsubishi-imaging.com) said this was her first virtual trade show. Mitsubishi was an exhibitor and seminar sponsor. “I love the concept,” she says. In addition to new leads, Achey explains, “This was a great opportunity, that was cost effective, and helped us build brand recognition for our photo products.” She adds, “It’s a great way to reach people who might not otherwise be able to get away for a trade show.”

The PDN virtual event was also the first such experience for photographer and presenter Judy Host (www.judyhost.com). She feels the concept has worldwide appeal. “I would love to participate again. There is something to be said about having your program pre-recorded and being able to respond to questions via email afterwards. I don’t think it will ever replace a “real experience” but it sure does give access to those who wouldn’t normally have it.” Host sees virtual events as a great educational tool. “There are so many people out there that want the education that we provide and just can’t afford to travel and/or give up their time. This brings the training into their homes and makes it convenient for them to learn. As an educator, it just doesn’t get any better than that,” she adds.

So the next time an invitation to a virtual trade show lands in your e-mail inbox, why not attend. You won’t have to travel further than your own computer—and you just might learn something new!

Mamiya Announces RZ33 Digital Camera Kit

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Mamiya announced the addition of a new medium format digital camera kit to its line, with the introduction of the 33MP Mamiya RZ33. The RZ33 offers cable-free operation, because it was designed with integrated electronics, for direct, cable free communication with the digital back. Also, it features a CompactFlash card slot, so you aren’t tied to a computer while shooting. However, should you want to shoot tethered, you can, connecting the camera to a computer via a FireWire 800 cable, and using either Capture One and Leaf Capture software.

The RZ33 has an ISO range of 50-800, with a 12 f/stop dynamic range. The camera produces a .mos RAW file, with 16 bits/channel. It is an HDR-type Mosaic RAW file, with uncompressed or lossless compression. The largest file that the RZ33 is capable of producing is a 190 megabyte 16 bit TIFF.

Other features of the camera include flash sync at all speeds from 8 seconds to 1/400 of a second (plus T-setting for up to 32 seconds) through the use of leaf-shutters built into the RZ system lenses; precise rack and pinion bellows focusing on all RZ lenses without mounting adapters; and a 6x7cm LCD touchscreen interface. And because the RZ offers vertical-horizontal rotation, you don’t need to turn the camera while shooting.

You can view images remotely on an Apple iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad (in tethered mode, Wi-Fi required).

The RZ33 kit is ideal for photographers who already own RZ system cameras; it is compatible with all 19 RZ system lenses and most accessories. Optional accessories include: film backs, interchangeable viewfinders, (the waist-level finder is included); interchangeable focusing screens, (the Matte Focusing Screen is standard); the Power Winder 2, which cocks the shutter and resets the mirror automatically, for exposures at about one frame per second. It can also be remote controlled with radio or IR transmitters; extension tubes; and more. You can also use RZ67 system accessories with the new RZ33.

“The new RZ33 brings all the ease-of-use advantages of the tried and true RZ camera system to large-sensor digital photography while making tremendous use of the existing line of world-renowned Mamiya RZ optics and accessories,” says Mamiya Product Marketing Manager Mike Edwards.

The new Mamiya RZ33 digital camera kit, including the RZIID camera body, 33MP focusing screen, Mamiya cable-free digital integration plate, Mamiya DM33 digital back and battery, battery charger, FW800 cable, Capture One and Leaf Capture software, will be available in the U.S. for $17,990 and will begin shipping in July 2010.

Go to www.mamiya.com for more information.

— Diane Berkenfeld

Product Review: Digital Anarchy’s Beauty Box Photo Plug-in

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By Diane Berkenfeld

Digital Anarchy today released a new skin retouching program for still images, Beauty Box Photo. A Photoshop plug-in, Beauty Box Photo is compatible with Photoshop CS5 and earlier versions. The software is a follow-up to the company’s popular video retouching tool for After Effects CS5.

Beauty Box Photo skin retouching software automatically identifies skin tones and creates an intelligent mask that limits the smoothing effect to skin areas while keeping facial details sharp. You can use the software for batch processing too, which really helps speed up your workflow.

In Use Review

I had the opportunity to review a beta version of Digital Anarchy’s Beauty Box Photo, using it with Photoshop CS4, and love the software. It has the power of high priced programs, yet the GUI or graphic user interface is simple to navigate and easy to use.

One of the great features of Beauty Box Photo is that it provides subtle yet visible retouching. Whether you use the automatic retouching or manually tweak the settings, the skin smoothing is subtle, so your portrait subjects look normal—skin does not look plastic or over-retouched. Pore structures and wrinkles are visible but softened.

(l. to r.) Screenshot showing 100% view before, and after. Photo ⓒ Diane Berkenfeld.

I found that the automatic mask did a wonderful job of masking the skin tone, not just on a face, but shoulders, arms—all visible skin in a photograph. You can very easily tweak the mask too, if necessary. Once you have the mask, you can fine tune the skin smoothing to your liking.

(l. to r.) Final portrait, and screenshot of the Beauty Box Photo mask. Photo ⓒ Diane Berkenfeld.

The software lets you take up to three snapshots of different amounts of smoothing, and you can toggle between each of them to choose which looks the best, and then apply that one. I personally would have liked to see a before/after button instead—although to the software’s credit, it lets you see up to three different settings which is more than a simple before/after or split screen would provide.

When it comes to retouching, sometimes less is better, meaning that Beauty Box does what it says it does—providing powerful skin smoothing without going overboard. And it is not overwhelming to use, like some software programs can be. This is great for the non-techie photographer or beginner digital imager.

The software is also very intuitive. I tested it out with a portrait of a 6 month old, a 4 year old and a 30-something. Each time the automatic settings provided a pretty good starting point. Less smoothing for the kids and more for the 30-something. Although I did tweak the settings, most folks would probably be happy with the program completely running on auto.

(l. to r.) Close-up view of the original non-retouched image (file open in Photoshop), and after (image in Beauty Box Photo's dialog window), using the automatic settings of Beauty Box Photo. Note the smoothing of the baby's blotchy red skin on his cheek. Photo ⓒ Diane Berkenfeld.

I definitely see Beauty Box as an addition to my retouching workflow. It makes it really easy to smooth skin for a pleasing look while leaving the skin looking realistic.

The photographs of the baby and child were for an actual job I was working on. I originally used a Photoshop action on the portraits, which while smoothing the skin also added a soft-focus glow that really was overboard for these images. The Beauty Box Photo skin smoothing was perfect—just enough to smooth out blotchy skin without overkill.

Beauty Box Photo works in Photoshop versions 7.0–CS5 and Photoshop Elements versions 6–9; on the Macintosh, running on OS 10.4, 10.5 and 10.6; and on Windows, the software supports Windows XP Home, Windows XP Pro, Vista 32-bit, Vista 64-bit and Windows 7. In the next few months, Digital Anarchy will have a version compatible with Apple Aperture, and in the future (date tbd) with Adobe Lightroom.

Beauty Box is regularly priced at USD $99. The product is on sale for $79 through June 21, 2010.

For more information, to try out demo filters and view samples, go to www.digitalanarchy.com.

Toronto School of Photography to put on Photoshop CS5 Workshop June 17 & 18

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Updated workshop information!

The Toronto School of Photography will be hosting a 2-day workshop taught by Award-winning photographer and instructor Gary Small on June 17 & 18.

The School of Photography in Toronto, Canada will be offering a two-day workshop in June, to educate photographers – both beginner and advanced – with the new features and functions of Photoshop CS5. The workshop will be led by professional photographer and educator, and Picture-soup.com‘s own Photoshopman a.k.a. Gary Small.

Attendees will be able to bring their laptops and work on images using Photoshop CS5 during the workshop for a hands-on experience.

Topics to be Covered include:

→ Mini Bridge

→ Bridge Improvements

→ Content-Aware Fill

→ Content-Aware Healing Brush

→ Puppet Warp

→ Mixer Brush

→ Painting Features

→ Customizable Bristle Tips

→ New Refine Edge Command

→ Crop Tool Improvements

→ Photoshop CS 5 Extended: Repousse 3-D feature

→ Improvements in Camera Raw (ACR 6.0)

→ New Lens correction with lens profiles for most cameras

→ HDR Pro

→ Layers Improvements

→ Working with a Wacom Tablet

Visit the website at www.schoolofphotography.ca/school/Seminar/semin.html for more information and to register.

— Diane Berkenfeld

Product Review: Foto Fashionista’s My Foto Vest for Ladies

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By Diane Berkenfeld

I am a woman with a camera—a professional photographer.

When shooting personal projects or working on location, I don’t always want to carry a camera bag, nor do I always want to have a gear belt full of pouches that resembles Batman or Robin’s utility belts. Thanks to fellow photographer Marla Holden, I won’t have to do that anymore. That’s because Marla decided to design a photo vest for women.

The vests fit a woman’s shape, unlike the baggy, oversized photojournalist’s vests that have been available for men for years. Marla’s company, Foto Fashionista, offers female photographers a more fashionable choice for carrying necessities while shooting, the My Foto Vest, in four styles: Nantucket Stripe, Casual Friday Khaki, Saturday Blue Jeans, and Midnight Denim. The vests are made of comfortable cotton materials, and are machine washable. They’re available in small, medium, large and x-large.

One of the great features of My Foto Vest is that the back is made of a stretchable lace, so it breathes. A zipper lets you wear the vest closed or open. On the inside of the vest, you’ll find pockets that are made of a stretchy neoprene-like material. The right side features five pockets, one for a pen, and four more to hold accessories. The left side has two pockets for accessories, with three smaller pockets to hold media cards higher up near your shoulder.

Pockets are stretchable. The My Foto Vest is comfortable to wear even when you've got the pockets full and the vest zippered closed.

Photo accessories, such as a light meter, flash, lens caps, filters, white balance devices (i.e. Spydercube), extra batteries, and more will easily fit in the pockets. So will a cellphone, keys, ID and money, or a small wallet. I like that when wearing a Foto Fashionista vest, I don’t have to stuff everything in my pant’s pockets. This is important, because, except for denim jeans, not all pants have pockets that are large enough, or shaped correctly to safely hold much of anything. I would like to be able to fit a lens in the vest, and wasn’t able to with the lenses than I own. The material that makes up the pockets is stretchy, but I couldn’t get the lenses to pass through the seams at the top of the pockets—which also speaks to the durability of the vests’ construction.

I like the ability to keep my full media cards on me. I don’t normally put shot cards in my gear bag in the event that it disappears on a shoot. My camera gear is replaceable, but the photographs I’ve taken aren’t.

Overall, I found the vest could replace a small purse, which I would find helpful on its own. If I was going out shooting with only one lens, I would definitely wear the vest instead of carrying a small camera bag. Being able to easily and comfortably carry accessories I use all the time is great. Because I shoot events, I would definitely like to see a more formal looking vest in black. Marla has said she’s working on a formal design for photographers to wear while shooting events, and I can’t wait to try it out.

MSRP of the My Foto Vest is $139.99. For more information, go to www.fotofashionista.com.

Product Review: Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG OS Lens

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Article & Images By Diane Berkenfeld

The Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG OS telephoto zoom lens is the second lens from Sigma that I’ve tested out, and have to say it is a nice piece of glass. The lens, which incorporates an Optical Stabilizer, is compatible with Nikon, Canon, Sony/Minolta, and Pentax mount bodies.

Minimum focusing distance is 59.1-inches, and the lens uses a 62mm filter. The lens offers a 34.3 degree angle of view at the wide 70mm end and 8.2 degrees of view zoomed in at 300mm. Aperture range is f/4-5.6 through f/22. For a lens with such a wide zoom range, it’s not extremely heavy, weighing in at only 610 grams. The lens has a nine blade diaphragm, and although it isn’t an f/2.8 lens, it does offer a nice out of focus blur at f/4.

Designed for use with DSLRs that incorporate full frame image sensors, the lens can also be used with camera bodies that use the smaller APS-C sized sensors. When used on a camera with an APS-C sensor, the lens effectively becomes a 100-450mm lens.

According to Sigma, for the Sony and Pentax mount lenses, you can use the optical stabilizer even if the camera body has a built-in anti-shake function.

The 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG OS lens uses Special Low Dispersion glass elements. The Super Multi-Layer Coating reduces flare and ghosting, providing high contrast throughout the entire focal range.

While shooting an outdoor concert by the band Finally Balanced, I zoomed in to 300mm, on the drummers gear.

Bringing the image into Adobe Lightroom, and zooming in, you can clearly make out the lettering on the medallion on the drum.

I’ve been using the lens on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II body, and found it to be quick to focus, producing sharp images. Canon’s 5D Mark II has a full frame image sensor, so the lens was accurate at the 70-300mm zoom range. The images from this lens were as sharp as I’ve seen with Canon brand lenses.

As I mentioned in the review of the Sigma 10-20mm wide-angle zoom, posted on Picture-soup.com last summer, there are folks who don’t think third-party lenses are as good as those made by the camera maker. From my experience using Sigma lenses I think they’re definitely worth the money. The money you save by buying a Sigma lens doesn’t come with degradation in quality.

Singer/guitarist Dave Christian, of the band Finally Balanced. At its widest aperture of f/4, the lens provides a nice blur to the background.

These images were taken during a family portrait shoot. They were converted to B&W in Lightroom, and saved as a four-up for printing.

MSRP of the lens is $599.00. For more information, check out the website at www.sigmaphoto.com.

To read the Picture-soup.com review of the Sigma 10-20mm f/3-5 EX DC HSM lens, click here.