Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Digital Days Phoenix 21 and 22 February 2009

I attended both the Saturday 21 February and Sunday 22 February Digital Days event at the Hyatt Hotel in downtown Phoenix. For both sessions there were probably in excess of eighty people of various skill levels. I talked to a few folks who had just bought their first digital camera and were afraid they’d be in over their heads. Having attended (and hosted) a prior Digital Days back in 2004 at Paradise Valley Community College with Phil Mistry I told them all to soak in day one, which was designed for beginners (but also a nice reminder for the more seasoned photographers like myself) and I’d ask them afterwards if it was worth it. The people I talked to at the end of Saturday all agreed it had been worth it.

I have a number of photography websites. The one that has many of my photos is at Shutterfly. Go there to take a look if you want, but these are my "warts and all" photos. And you can sign up for a free account. Since I brought up outside sites for photographers, one I really like is Zenfolio. I have started to create what I think is a nice professional page on Zenfolio displaying some of my favorite photographs. Yet another site I like is PhotoWorkshop. One of the nice things they have are tons of educational pages.

OK, back to Digital Days. On day one, the instructor was Leslie Fisher. She was every bit as engaging and knowledgeable as Phil Mistry. Day two, for more advanced photographers, had Leslie and brought in photographer John Omvik, who spent most of the time showing and discussing Adobe Lightroom. And, we had a live shoot with models. That was a lot of fun. Actually going in and taking photographs trying out the settings we had learned about earlier. For those that wanted, they could get critiques of their work afterwards in a non-threatening way.

What did I learn? First off, even for a guy like me who has taken photographs for a few years, it was good to get out and talk to other people and review the basics. Sometimes I admit I get lazy and use the automatic settings. But there is so much more to photography once you get out of those zones and take control of your camera. Now, I teach digital photography for PVCC (along with other business and i.t. courses) and never really thought much about Lightroom from Adobe. I had done some reviews so I was not unfamiliar with it. But John Omvik really showed it in action. OK, what is Lightroom? Lightroom is a program that does some editing but is mostly used to control workflow. Put another way, lets say you do a shoot of hundreds or thousands of photographs. And you want to find one from the morning of the third day or some other specific quality. You can “tag” photos in lightroom to make it easier to find them again quickly. You can also batch process certain things you like such as cropped for 8 x 10 or some lighting condition. Lightroom does NOT replace Photoshop, Photoshop Elements (I use PSE for Mac, by the way), or Paint Shop Pro. Lightroom competes with Apple Aperture as a workflow program and works in tandem with a Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. After John’s demonstration, I went home an ordered the academic discounted version from Academic SuperStore. If you are in education as a student or faculty member, you can also qualify for the nice discount.

My recommendation. Sony Digital Days, Popular Photography, and Tempe Camera (the local sponsor) did this right. If you are a beginner, you need the first day for sure. And you know what, go the second day too to learn about shooting models! Yes, and bring your camera. Then after the workshops, go out and read your camera manual and go to a place like Amazon and find a good book dedicated to your camera model and read about all the functions. Digital Days even published a series of great instructional videos I urge you to take a look at. Even if you are an experienced photographer, there is something here for you too. Now go out and shoot some photographs!