Have a question about digital photography? Send it to me. I reply to as many as I can--though given the quantity of e-mails that I get, I can't promise a personal reply to each one. I round up the most interesting questions about once a month here in Digital Focus. For more frequently asked questions, read my newsletters from May, June, and July.
Some Love for Android Smartphone Camera Apps
I liked your recent article about apps for the iPhone, but like many folks, I have an Android phone. Do you have a similar article for people who like me take photos with our Android smartphones?--Jeff Kurtz, Eugene, Oregon
Jeff, you're in luck. I recently wrote "11 Tips to Ensure Great Smartphone Photography." I included a slew of techniques you can try to get the most out of today's crop of modern camera phones. And since I am admittedly not much of an Android guy, my editor included a link to "9 Apps to Transform Your Android Phone Into a High-End Camera," which should be chock full of enough Android goodness to satisfy your craving for photo apps.
Backing Up Photos on a Trip
Is there a way to transfer photo files from my digital camera's memory card directly to a flash drive without a computer? I would like to do this as a backup while on vacation. The thought of losing all the photos of a two-week cruise of the Mediterranean got me to thinking about this.--Bill McCall, Miami, Florida
Backing up your photos on an extended trip definitely gives you peace of mind. Recently, I wrote about how I back up my photos while on a trip. In short, I transfer my photos to a laptop, and then copy them to the cloud (such as Windows Live SkyDrive).
If you don't bring a laptop with you, then you need to back up the photos to a different destination. The $29 Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit lets you use your iPad or iPhone as a storage device for your photos. Don't have an iPhone or iPad? You could invest in a standalone photo storage device, like the Epson P-6000. It's an 80GB hard drive with a 4-inch screen; you can easily transfer photos from your camera to the P-6000 and use it as a backup and to review your photography on a larger display than the back of your camera.
Hi Dave, thanks for your great advice on taking pictures of fireworks. What about some advice on how to take great shots of rainbows?--Eric Levin, Cape Town, South Africa
Great timing, Eric! I recently wrote a primer on taking photos of rainbows. The real trick is actually finding one. Although you can make one yourself with a garden hose on a sunny day, you're generally at the mercy of the weather. When you do find a rainbow, underexpose the scene a little to enhance the colors, and compose the shot so the rainbow is framed in an interesting way. I was lucky enough to encounter my own rainbow recently while on vacation in Maui, as you see here.
Resizing Photos for the Hot Pic Contest
I use the highest quality setting on my camera so my prints have the most pixels possible. How do I convert my photos so they only have 800 by 600 pixels for your Hot Pic contest?--Alyn McConnaha, San Diego, California
You can do this in almost any photo editor, Alyn. In Adobe Photoshop Elements, for example, you would choose Image, Resize, Image Size from the menu and then specify the pixel size that you want to shrink the photo to. (If you don't see the resize to pixels option, select the box "Resample image [bicubic]" at the bottom of the Resize dialog box. That lights up the ability to resize by pixel.)
If you don't have any photo editing software, then you can let Windows do the job for you: Open the folder in which the photo is located and right-click on the file. Select Send to, Mail Recipient, and then choose the pixel size you want in the Attach Files dialog box. Windows will automatically resize the photo and insert it in an empty email message.
Making Panoramas for Free
I am looking for free software to help me stitch a panorama I took of Omaha and Utah beaches.--Lori Brown, Redmond, Washington
I've written a few articles about stitching photos together into panoramas; the easiest way to find them is to search for "digital focus panorama" in the search box at the top of PCWorld's website. You might want to start with "8 Tips for Photographing Panoramas." That said, I strongly recommend using Windows Live Photo Gallery to make panoramas--it's free, easy to use, and makes outstanding panoramas.
Hot Pic of the Week
Get published, get famous! Each week, we select our favorite reader-submitted photo based on creativity, originality, and technique.
Here's how to enter: Send us your photograph in JPEG format, at a resolution no higher than 800 by 600 pixels. Entries at higher resolutions will be immediately disqualified. If necessary, use an image editing program to reduce the file size of your image before e-mailing it to us. Include the title of your photo along with a short description and how you photographed it. Don't forget to send your name, e-mail address, and postal address. Before entering, please read the full description of the contest rules and regulations.
This week's Hot Pic: "Night Flight," by Michael Maluk, Milford, Pennsylvania
Michael writes: "This is a long exposure of a radio-controlled airplane. I used a Kodak Z981 to get this shot, which was actually something of an accident. I had left the light on underneath my canopy and it showed up in the background of another photo. I really liked the glow it gave off. All that was left was to fly the plane underneath the canopy to give it that surreal effect."
This week's runner-up: "Up Close and Personal," by Dwayne Alan Taylor, Salem, Massachusetts
Dwayne writes: "It is butterfly season in my garden. This photo is a 'head shot' of an Eastern Black Swallowtail, taken with my Canon EOS Digital Rebel and a 100mm macro lens. The butterfly is on my lantana, a beautifully colored flower."