Last Minute Details

With Faith’s wedding just 3 weeks away, it’s time for me to get the last of the wedding photography prep work done. The main thing I need to do still is a timeline/checklist for photos. Of course, with the wedding at 11am and the reception following immediately after, I have no idea when I’m supposed to do the family portraits. I doubt that everyone will be photo ready before the ceremony, and it doesn’t look like there will be much time between the ceremony and reception.

I’ve already checked out the ceremony location, as it’s the same church Matt & I were married at last year. There’s a little chapel with beautiful stained glass windows that I’m hoping I’ll be able to use; I’m not really sure what kind of light to expect in the middle of the day, though. I’ve not checked out the reception hall yet, and I’m not sure I’ll have the chance to before the wedding. Hopefully there are photos on their website, so I can get a rough idea of the layout, and possibly the lighting situation.

As far as camera gear goes, I’m thinking I’ll want to get an external flash before the wedding. My main issue is deciding if I want the Speedlite 430EX ($235) or the 580EX ($390). The 430EX is probably all I need at this point; the 580EX has more features and such, but I can’t justify spending that much more on a flash right now. Where lenses are concerned, I’m hoping my 50mm prime should suffice for most of the shots. Of course, if I get the flash then I should be able to use my 18mm-55mm indoors as well. I’ll probably need another memory card; I’ve got a 1gig CF and a 4gig CF, but since I plan to shoot in RAW I’ll need all the space I can get.

Overall, things seem to be shaping up well. I’d like to finish tagging and editing my backlog of photos before the wedding, so that I can have a clean slate when I get the influx of photos from the wedding. I’m up to March of 2008, so I should be able to finish tagging the photos, at least. Hopefully when I’m done editing and tagging all the photos, I can start uploading them to the gallery again; for various reasons I think I’ll be sticking with Gallery2 rather than Zenphoto, but that is for another post.

Review: How to Photograph Absolutely Everything

In preparation for Faith’s June wedding, and in a general attempt to improve my photographic skill, I decided to start borrowing books on photography from the library. With a title like How to Photograph Absolutely Everything, I figured Tom Ang’s book was a decent place to start.

For a new photographer, this book is extremely helpful. It gives tips on a broad variety of photographic subjects; pointers for weddings, portraits, children, vacation photos, and more. At the beginning of each section, Ang also gives some suggestions for camera settings to capture a given subject type. What’s more, the book is filled with large, full color photos to reinforce the tips.

However, if you’re anything other than a new photographer, this book might not be as helpful. It becomes clear rather quickly that this book is geared towards users with little experience, as the suggested camera settings at the beginning of each new section are often as simple as “use landscape mode on your camera.” As far as content goes, it gives a few pointers for each topic, but due to the broad nature of the book, lacks depth on any given subject. And while the book seems aimed at the newer, less experienced photographer, it doesn’t really cover the basics of photography.

What I would have loved to have seen was something a bit more informative as far as settings go. Perhaps including the EXIF data on sample pictures, so the reader has a better starting point. Or ignore the “camera mode” and stick to suggestions for aperture, shutter, focal length and sensitivity.

Overall, I think this book would make a lovely coffee table book, as the photos are quite lovely, and make up the bulk of the book. I might recommend it to a new digital photographer, or a film photographer just making the switch to digital. If you’re looking for a general reference book that is more inspiration than reference, this is probably the book for you. However, if you want more in depth information on any given subject matter, I’d keep looking.

Gallery2 vs. Zenphoto

While I’ve been tagging and organizing my backlog of photos, I’ve been thinking about what to do with them when I’m finally ready to start displaying them. Currently the photo gallery is powered by Gallery2, which is ok, but probably does a bit more than I need. My plan is to eventually move everything over to denherder.net, including this blog, the (potential) “family” blog and the photo gallery. Since I’ll be setting up a new gallery, I’ll have a clean slate and so I’ve been investigating options to find the software that best matches what I want and need. At the moment, the main contenders are the old standby, Gallery2, and a relatively newer solution, Zenphoto.

The biggest criteria to start with is IPTC metadata support. I use Lightroom to tag and organize my photos, including such information as location, title, names of people, photo description and more, all of which is stored in the IPTC headers of each image. I don’t want to have to replicate all that data, so photo software that can parse and display IPTC headers is essential. Both Gallery2 and Zenphoto manage IPTC data with no problem; Zenphoto actually appears to parse out the location information as well as title, description and tags, while Gallery2 only parses out title, description and tags.

I’d love to have software that can manage dynamic or relational albums, so that one image can appear in multiple albums. Unfortunately, Flickr is the only solution I’ve seen that will keep the original photo in multiple locations, with all the comments. Gallery2’s best solution is to make a copy of the image and place a copy in each album, which is less than ideal. Zenphoto has a solution I’m still investigating, which is “saved searchs;” a search can be saved, and will appear as a gallery that can be browsed. Not exactly what I was hoping for, but a definite step in the right direction and the closest I’ve seen any other gallery option come to Flickr.

Zenphoto, for all it’s good points, is not without bugs. The first issue I came across is the inability to create empty galleries. Not a huge issue – you can make albums via FTP, and upload images that way. But using the admin interface, I couldn’t create an album without putting at least one image in it. A little frustrating if you want to create a top level album to hold sub-albums. Another issue is the inability to move photos or albums; apparently there is not yet a way to move things while retaining the comments and such. There are also a few features I’d like to see implemented in future versions of Zenphoto – the ability to re-upload a photo (to replace a photo with a touched up version, while preserving the comments), and the ability to choose what portion of the photo is used for the thumbnail.

Between the two gallery options, it’s a tough choice. Gallery does almost everything I want, plus a lot more that I don’t really want or need. It’s a bit larger, and more difficult for me to maintain on my own. On the other hand, Zenphoto does the basics, without some of the extras. It doesn’t do as much as Gallery, but I prefer the way it does some things. Zenphoto was easy to install, and looks to be easier to maintain. In the end, I’ll probably go with Zenphoto – it doesn’t do everything I want, but it does everything I NEED, and it’s prettier.