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Top Ten Most Popular Tips & Tricks

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      » Photoshop CS4 Help Videos  Video
  1.  Digital Photo Basics (CNet Video Tip Special)  Video
  2.  Fixing Digital Photos (CNet Video Tip Special)  Video
  3.  Rename Digital Photos Automatically in Windows XP

  4.  Email your Cell Phone Photos
  5.  Maximize your iPods Battery Life
  6.  Optimize your Digital Camera's Color Settings
  7.  Leave the Red Eye at Home
  8.  Capturing Great Photos with Camera Phone
  9.  Windows XP Sohortcuts on your Keyboard (Also see: XP DOS Commands)
10.  Rename your Camera Phone's Default Photos Name

Digital Cameras and Information


1) Digital Photo Basics (CNet Video Tip Special)    ^Top
by Brian Cooley, CNET Editor

2) Fixing Digital Photos (CNet Video Tip Special)    ^Top
by Brian Cooley, CNET Editor

3) Rename your digital photos automatically in Windows XP     ^Top
Unless you really have a lot of time on your hands, I doubt you want to go through the massive folder that contains your European vacation photos and rename them Europe_1.jpg, Europe_2.jpg, and so on down the line. If you're running Windows XP on your computer, you don't have to do this. Simply apply this hack to quickly apply a meaningful label to every picture in the folder.

  • First, open the folder and select View > Thumbnails.
  • Click the last picture in the folder you want to rename, hold down the Shift key, and click the first picture; this will select them all.
  • Right-click the first photo, and select Rename from the drop-down menu.

Windows XP will highlight the filename for the first photo, enabling you to give it a descriptive name. After you type in the name, click the white space outside of the photo and watch as Windows applies the name with a sequential number to each picture in the folder.

4) Email your Cell Phone Photos     ^Top
While camera phones have arrived, sharing the digital photos from a phone isn't the smoothest process yet. Most carriers charge a monthly fee for photo-messaging services, and you can send pics only to someone who has the same carrier as you.

If paying for picture messaging isn't your cup of tea, there's always e-mail, either from your phone or your computer (as long as you have a data plan for sending e-mail). For sending pictures to friends who don't subscribe to your carrier, don't have cell phones capable of accepting images, or--the horror--don't have a cell phone, e-mail is your only option.

The details will vary from phone to phone, but the basic concept is the same. To e-mail directly from your cell phone:

  1. Go to the picture gallery and select a picture to send.
  2. Click options, then click Send.
  3. If you previously saved the contact information, select the address from the phone book. Be sure to select the e-mail address from the contact information, not the phone number. Otherwise, you'll need to enter the e-mail address manually.
  4. Insert a text message or an audio clip (optional).
  5. Click Send.

5) Maximize your iPods Battery Life    ^Top
Your iPod's battery is a lithium polymer that's rated for 500 or more charging cycles. (A charging cycle is a full discharge--that is, when you run the battery all the way down until it has no charge left and follow it with a full charge.) If you recharge your iPod's battery every other day, 500 charges should last you the best part of three years (though some claim you'll get only about 18 months). If you recharge your iPod's battery less frequently, there's a good chance the battery will outlast the hard drive. Here's how to get the longest life possible.

Don't let the battery die completely
To get the most life out of your battery, don't let it discharge fully--that is, don't run it until it's dead. However little you use your iPod, recharge it fully at least once every three weeks to prevent the battery from going flat. If you go on vacation for a month, you should take your iPod with you and recharge it during that time. (But you were going to take your iPod with you on vacation anyway, weren't you?)

Reduce demands on the battery

  • Play your music by album or by playlist, rather than hopping from one track to another. Remember that your iPod can cache an album or playlist to minimize the time the hard disk is spinning. But when you ask your iPod to produce another track it hasn't cached, it has to spin up the hard disk and access the song.

  • Use AAC or MP3 files rather than WAV or AIFF (Mac users only) files. Because WAVs and AIFFs are uncompressed and, therefore, much bigger than compressed files, they prevent your iPod from using its cache effectively, so the hard disk has to work much harder.

  • Minimize your use of the backlight or turn it off completely. To control the backlight, go to Settings > Backlight Timer. Here, you can designate the amount of time you want the backlight to remain on (2, 5, 10, or 20 seconds), set it to Always On (not recommended, obviously, for saving your battery), or for maximum conservation, just turn it off.

6) Optimize your Digital Camera's Color Settings     ^Top
Automatic settings may be easy, but leaving your camera's white balance to its own devices can turn skin tones into Wicked Witch green, cast a sickly yellow on backgrounds, and change pure white snow into cool blue ice.

All you have to do is make sure that you match the camera's white balance to the current lighting conditions.

  • Presets. Even if you use your flash to shine some daylight onto the scene, onboard flashes usually don't have enough punch to provide full coverage, so some of your image is going to be off-color. If you choose the white balance preset that matches the lighting conditions, the colors will better match the true colors of the scene. Just don't forget to change the white balance setting when lighting conditions change.

  • Manual white balance. You may not want to carry a white (or gray) sheet of paper around with you wherever you go, but this is one of the best ways to make sure that your photos' whites are clean and bright. If your camera has a manual white balance setting, just fill the frame with the sheet of paper and register the white balance.

  • Shoot in the raw. Shooting RAW format is an excellent option for getting the right white balance. The file is unprocessed, so you can use software such as Adobe Photoshop CS2's Camera Raw to apply the appropriate white balance.

  • Quick fixes. There are many different ways to adjust color in image-editing software. While most automatic adjustments are quick, they're generally inaccurate. But if you don't want to fuss too much, you can try several quick fixes. If you're using Adobe Photoshop CS2, for example, look at the options that Photoshop presents in Variations (Image > Adjustments > Variations). You can also use one of Photoshop's Cooling Photo Filters to make a warm (yellow) image cooler (bluer) or warm up a blue image with one of the Warming filters (Image > Adjustments > Photo Filters).

7) Leave the Red Eye at Home     ^Top
Built-in camera flashes are convenient, but they can produce deadly results--from red-eye to a nuclear-looking, unnatural glow--when used to take pictures of people in low-light situations, such as evening parties. The easiest way to low-light shooting success is to get an external flash, but that's not always practical. So we'll explore some of the common settings on digicams, then talk about advanced techniques with an external flash.

  • Red-eye reduction mode
    Avoid using this setting. In theory, using red-eye reduction mode makes sense: shine a bright light in the subject's eyes before exposure to constrict the iris, thereby reducing the chance of reflected red-eye. But it doesn't work out that way. Flashes are annoying anyway, and torturing your subject with additional flash before taking the shot tends to kill spontaneity. Plus, even after you do that, you'll often still get red-eye. It's just not worth it.

  • Nighttime flash mode
    Use this setting for artistic shots. The thinking here is that the camera slows down the shutter speed, allowing you to capture background scenery beyond the flash range, yet the flash still goes off, illuminating subjects within 10 feet. It usually works quite well, but things get crazy if you don't hold the camera really steady or if there's a lot of movement in the scene. So you'll get some absolutely great shots with artistic flair, and you'll get some failures. But it's definitely worth experimenting with. This control is also referred to as slow synchro flash mode.

  • Flash exposure compensation
    Use this setting when the flash is too hot--meaning, your subjects are consistently overexposed (too bright). You can usually find this setting in the menu of options, and it allows you to adjust the intensity of the flash. I recommend you start with a setting of -1 and go from there.

  • Increase ISO speed
    You can use this setting, but remember to return to the default when you're done. By increasing your ISO speed from 100 to 200, 400, or more, you're essentially increasing the sensitivity of your image sensor. The results usually include more background information (so that you don't end up with a pitch-black backdrop) and an extended flash range (from 8 feet to 15 feet or more). Keep in mind that you will get a little more image noise in the higher ISO settings. This isn't much of an issue for 4x6 prints, but it might be noticeable in enlargements, especially in the shadow areas. Also, remember to reset your ISO back to 100 at the end of the party.

  • Shutter-priority mode
    If you're lucky enough to have this setting, try it. This is one of my favorite tricks. Essentially, it allows you to set any shutter speed you want, and the camera then adjusts the aperture and the flash output to match. The default shutter speed in flash mode for most cameras is 1/60 second. If you switch to shutter-priority mode, you can slow down the shutter speed to 1/30 or 1/15 second, and you'll notice a big difference in your shots. Those speeds are long enough to capture much more background information--such as twinkling lights, candles, and such--but not so slow that you get excessive blurring and camera shake. If you combine this technique with increasing your ISO to 200, you'll get some great results. This is a winner for party pictures.

Advanced techniques
For cameras with hotshoes that accept dedicated external flashes, more options are available. The two most important ones are bounce flash and flash on a bracket.

  • Bounce flash
    If you're good at playing billiards, you'll understand how to use bounce flash. You'll need an external flash with a head that rotates up and down. Instead of pointing the flash directly at the subject, you point it upward and bounce light off the ceiling so that it rains downward, more like natural sunlight. The light is diffused (softer) and renders much more pleasing skin tones, without the ugly hot spots produced by direct flash.

  • Flash on a bracket
    This trick has been used by wedding photographers for years. You'll need an external flash, a dedicated flash extension cord, and a bracket that holds both the camera and the flash. The thinking here is that you raise the flash above the camera by 6 to 8 inches. By doing so, you completely eliminate red-eye, and you move the shadows produced by flash-illuminated subjects downward and out of the frame. The setup is bulkier than carrying around a pocket digicam, but the results are consistent and professional-looking.

8) Capturing Great Photos with Camera Phone    ^Top
One of the reasons people leave their pictures imprisoned in their camera phones is that they're disappointed with the shots they've taken. The images are too blurry or too washed out, or the perspective is distorted. In detecting details, film cameras and digital cameras are more limited than the human eye, and camera phones, in turn, are more limited than both film and digital cameras. For that reason, you not only need to apply basic photographic principles to get the best-looking pictures possible, you need to be aware of and know how to compensate for your camera phone's deficiencies.

Framing your shot
The camera phone is a great way to capture a spontaneous or otherwise unexpected moment. With that in mind, many people attempt to snap a picture without thinking about the composition of the shot. That's the wrong approach if you actually want to display your pictures in some fashion.

  • Use the entire frame
Any photographer will tell you that one of the most basic techniques is to use the whole frame. Many people tend to focus their attention on only the center of the frame or the main subject of the picture, while ignoring the rest of the scene. When you take the whole frame into account, you pay close attention to objects in the background or on the periphery of the image.

  • Place subjects off-center
Another classic rule is to avoid placing the main subject in the center of the frame. Placing the subject slightly off-center gives a more interesting sense of space, as you can see in the difference between the two images below.

Slightly off-center subjects makes this shot more appealing.

Adjusting for lighting conditions
It would be nice if the lighting conditions for taking photographs were always optimal, but that's not the case. Many of those buttons and dials you find on traditional cameras deal specifically with this problem. Unlike 35mm-film cameras or digital cameras with manual settings, however, camera phones don't offer a wealth of user controls for manipulating the lens to adjust for lighting conditions. With that in mind, you'll have to do your own compensating for less than ideal lighting conditions.

  • Avoid low light
Because they automatically make adjustments to the shutter speed based on the amount of light available, camera phones have difficulty capturing details in low-light environments. Taking pictures in bright environments provides a faster shutter speed and more depth of field. Therefore, the more light in your environment, the sharper the image. Even a unit with a built-in flash will provide minimal support since the range is only about 2 or 3 feet, compared with the 10- to 15-foot range you get with a midlevel digital camera.

  • Adjust the brightness level
If the image on your display seems too dark or too light, try adjusting the brightness level before taking the picture. You'll be able to see the difference on the screen as you make the adjustment, especially when taking pictures of subjects that have light-colored elements.

  • Adjust the white balance
In some cases, it's not so much a matter of having enough light as it is what kind of light you're dealing with. In these instances, adjustments to the white balance can improve your pictures. Experienced photographers use blank white or gray cards to help judge the white balance. Not everyone will have the time or the inclination to go through this procedure to take a quick snapshot. If that's the case, you can simply keep the white balance set at Auto. But if this setting doesn't properly compensate for lighting conditions and if you have a couple of minutes to spare, you can use the same technique the professionals use:
  1. Place a white card or sheet of paper in front of you.
  2. Go to picture-taking mode.
  3. Look at the white card through the screen.
  4. If the card appears off-color (too yellow or red, for example), go to your camera phone's white-balance settings and toggle through the selections until the card appears as close to white as possible.
  • Avoid backlighting
Before snapping a picture, think about where your light source is coming from. When the light source is behind your subject, it will appear too dark, almost like a silhouette. Cameras with fill-flash options can compensate for this, but camera phones, even those with built-in flashes, have no such feature. Unless you want your subject to appear as a silhouette, it's best to stand with the light behind you, not your subject.

  • Keep your subject close
Camera phones use fixed-focal-length lenses, and the focal length--the distance between the optical center of the lens and the place where it focuses the image--is very short. The LG VX6000's focal length, for example, is 3.3mm; for a 35mm-camera lens, 50mm is considered a normal focal length. That means the lens can capture details in a wide area but not a deep one. If your subject is too far away, it will appear very small. It's best if you keep your subject within 3 or 4 feet of the camera.

  • Avoid zooming
Camera phone makers, like manufacturers of digital cameras, love to tout their products' digital zoom capabilities. Digital cameras at least have some optical zoom capabilities, which actually uses the optics of the lens to bring the subject closer, but camera phones are stuck with digital zoom options, if they have any at all. Given the limited focal range of camera phones, you may be tempted to use this feature to capture faraway objects. Not only will this degrade the image quality, but you may be able to use it only when the camera is set to take pictures in a lower-resolution setting, which will result in a smaller image.

9) Windows XP Sohortcuts on your Keyboard (Also see: XP DOS Commands)    ^Top
Keyboard shortcuts are a great way to keep things moving when you're using your computer, and they let you perform tasks without lifting your hands from the keyboard. These are some of the basics that you should know--at least if you want to cut down on the number of times you reach for the mouse every day.

  1. Ctrl Alt Del is the mother of all keyboard shortcuts, affectionately known as the "three-fingered salute," since it's so useful when your Windows box locks up. Pressing the combo once (simultaneously) opens the Windows Task Manager. (From within the Task Manager, you can force-quit a crashed program, see a list of processes or applications running on your machine, check performance parameters such as how hard your CPU is working, or track your network usage.) Is your machine totally locked up? Reach over, grab the mouse and click Shut Down.

  2. Ctrl S saves the file you're working on. Ever lost your homework, a spreadsheet at work, or some video you've been editing? Hit Ctrl S (simultaneously) to save. Hit it early and often! (Want to open a file from within the program you're running? Ctrl O universally opens the File/Open window.)

  3. Ctrl C copies text, files, or icons that you've highlighted, Ctrl V pastes them where you point your mouse (hey, you can't completely eliminate using it), and Ctrl X cuts whatever you've highlighted out of the document (or folder, photo, movie clip, or whatever it is you're working on). Ctrl A highlights the entire file you're working on or everything in a folder or on your desktop.

  4. Alt Tab lets you switch on the fly between all of your open windows. Press the combination once to switch to your last open window or multiple times to switch to any other open window. Holding down Alt Tab will bring up a system window that shows you what apps are running and which one you're switching to.

  5. Ever wonder why almost every Windows program has the F in File underlined, not to mention the E in Edit, and so on so forth across the top of the Window? Hit Alt that letter to open that particular menu; you can either use the arrow keys to move around within that window, or keep your eyes peeled for more underlined letters to use more Alt key combinations.

  6. The Windows key (the one that looks like the Windows logo, or a flag) R opens the Run dialog. From here, you can launch a command-line window by typing cmd, but you can do a lot more. You can, for example, paste in a folder path, such as C:\Documents and Settings\[username]\My Documents\Expenses, and Windows will open it automatically. You can also use the Run dialog to open Microsoft applications such as Word, Excel, or Notepad. Just type winword to launch Word, type excel to launch Excel, and notepad to launch Notepad.

  7. Windows E launches Windows Explorer, defaulting to My Computer.

  8. F2 renames a selected file or folder. (This is so much easier than right-clicking!)

  9. F3 launches Search if you're on the desktop or in a folder.

  10. Windows M minimizes all open windows, and Windows D shows your desktop. (These results look similar, but they're slightly different; Windows M minimizes all windows that support the command, while Windows D actually raises the desktop to the top.) This is a great one for when the boss pops up in your cubicle. Once the boss gone, hit Shift Windows M to bring up your minimized windows, or Windows D to drop your desktop back down again.

10) Rename your Camera Phone's default Photos Name   ^Top
Along with better images, megapixel phones offer more memory. You can store up to 200 high-resolution images on the Nokia 7610, which means you'll have plenty of room for all the pictures you took on a weekend trip, for example. But when it comes time to move those images to your PC, you'll find yourself staring at unruly filenames, such as pic150704_2.jpg. Yes, you can rename your files in Windows, but this can be tedious if you're transferring dozens or even hundreds of pictures at a time.

Instead, change the default image name that the camera phone uses to store pictures. If you're going on a trip to New York and you know you'll be taking lots of pictures, you can change the camera's default image name to New York. Subsequent pictures will contain the filename New York 001, New York 002, and so forth. The following steps apply to the Nokia 7610, but the process is similar among other camera phones that offer this option:

  1. In camera mode, click Options, then Settings.
  2. Select Default Image Name.
  3. Enter a new name, then click OK.


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