Category Archives: tutorial

Instagram effects with Picnik (Google+ and Picasa)

Do you like the retro/old-school filters like those used by Instagram?  You can use Photoshop actions to replicate similar effects to your photos.  If you’re like me and don’t want to spend the money on Photoshop, give Picnik a try.  There are other options to Instagram you might want to take a look at.

Several effects are available on Picnik.  I like to use the Vibrance effect when colors are flat and I’d like a bit more contrast.

Recall that Google acquired Picnik a little while ago and incorporated Picnik’s features into Picasa Web albums.  Now you can also use Picnik’s features in Google+.

I’ve always been a fan of Picasa.  I only wish that Google incorporates Picnik’s filters into Picasa’s desktop application.  Editing photos online can be a bit slow.  I doubt that Google will add Picnik effects to Picasa since they’re pushing to do everything in the cloud, but one can always hope.


Free Online Photography Class

Check out the article on Wired: Free Online Class Shakes Up Photo Education.  I really love how online education is growing, especially high quality free education.  I’ve always been a big fan of the Khan Academy.  I hope this trend continues.  The cost of education can’t continue to increase indefinitely (see chart below from Business Insider) – no one will be able to afford an education.  Hopefully, social media will change this.

Unshake Makes Blurry Photos Less Blurry

Unfortunately, I continue to take blurry photos.  The problem is that I can’t always see that the photos are blurry on the small screen on the back of my camera (even after zooming in).  However, thanks to Unshake software from M.D. Cahill (via Lifehacker), I am able to make my blurry photos less blurry.

I’m sure you could improve blurry pictures with Photoshop or some other commercial software package, but Unshake is free and available for all platforms.

Stuck in a Rut

I haven’t been very happy with my photography lately; my pictures have become boring. I keep taking photos of the same things (e.g. food) over and over and haven’t been able to find much inspiration of late. I came across Tom Bourdon’s helpful article, which provides a number of suggestions to get inspired (via Tiffinbox).

Fortunately for me, the de Young Fine Arts Museum in Golden Gate Park currently has the Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musee D’Orsay exhibit on display until September.  When we were in Paris last October, we didn’t have a chance to visit the Musee D’Orsay, so I was glad for the opportunity to see its artwork here in SF.  We bought tickets to the de Young exhibit at Costco at a discount ($18/person) with the audio tour included for free.

There are obvious similarities between art and photography: perspective, composition, contrast, lighting, etc.  To see how the impressionists used these elements to create their artwork was very enlightening.  I wasn’t allowed to take any photos of the artwork, but the de Young museum, inside and outside, was a great location for taking pictures.


A question that inevitably comes up once you’ve purchased a DSLR is whether to capture photographs in RAW or JPG. The majority of point-and-shoot cameras don’t give you the option, but you can hack your Canon point-and-shoot camera to record photos in RAW.

Digital Photography School has an in-depth article on RAW vs. JPG formats. It should answer the majority of questions regarding the subject. NeoCamera also has a nice article on RAW myths. I was under the impression that photographers switched from JPG to RAW as they developed their post-processing skills, but some have actually switched back to JPG.

I still shoot in JPG. I normally do some limited post-production processing (e.g. white balance, contrast, cropping, etc.) to my JPG photos. Picasa supports RAW photos, but Picnik and other photo editors do not. I’ve shot in RAW, and quite honestly, I don’t see much of a difference. I also have an old PC that’s not very fast, so editing RAW photos only slows me down. Besides, I have so many other things to do to improve my photography. Maybe when my photos are actually composed better and when I get a faster computer, I’ll switch to shooting in RAW.

Update: CNET has an interesting article in favor of using RAW if your camera can do so.

Happy Fourth of July!

I was very fortunate to be invited to a Pacific Symphony concert at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine for Independence Day. I was really excited about taking pictures of fireworks after the concert. A number of sites had tips on taking photos of fireworks, and despite not having a tripod with me, I hoped that resting my camera somewhere would provide enough stability. Unfortunately, I ended up taking a lot of pictures of smoke. I’m not sure if I was just too close to the fireworks, but I was really disappointed in the results.