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6 Low-Light Photography Ideas Every Shutterbug Should Try

December 9, 2014 2 comments

So far this season we’ve shared a few basic dark-friendly photo tips, but winter’s not over yet. Here’s a few more ways you can stay creative with the camera even when the nights are long and there’s never a lot of light.

1) Use Your Bokeh

The shallow depth-of-field (low f-stop numbers) turned city lights into a dreamy blur, while the candle stayed super sharp. Photo by Ana Pogačar.

Bokeh is the blurring of the out-of-focus areas you’ll see when you’re taking pictures with your lens opened all the way (low f-stop numbers). It’s a great way to draw the viewer’s eye to a part of the scene, since everything else fades into a creamy blur.

Bonus tip: Lights (like Christmas lights) usually appear as circles, but did you know that you could make them any shape you want?  Simply cut out a shape in dark paper and tape it over your lens like a lens cap, then take your picture through the hole at your lowest aperture value. Voila! Your background lights will automagically be hearts, stars, snowflakes, or whatever else you’ve cut into your 10-cent bokeh-maker.

2) Make Twinkling Stars

Bump your aperture to f/11 (or higher) and use a tripod to turn each individual light into a tiny star. Photo by Welling Photography.

Grab your tripods and make it a starry holiday night even if it’s snowing up a storm. The opposite of creamy bokeh, taking pictures with your lenses stopped all the way down (highest aperture values) will turn bright points of light into little stars. Since this means little light goes through your lens, you’ll need to set your camera on a tripod, set a timer, and let it go for a while. The coolest thing? Every lens creates its own signature star shape, so have fun experimenting with all the lenses in your kit to see which one you like best.

3) Use Creative (and Available) Light Sources

The fire pit and patio lights provided enough illumination to capture the subjects of this evening scene. Photo by Schmootography.

Don’t be limited to your strobe if you’re out with your friends and want to catch the mood! Sure it’s dark, but there’s tons of ways to snap your shot even if you don’t have your whole kit bag. Street lamps, strings of holiday lights, open doors, fire pits, and even the flashlight function on your cell phone are all  potential lighting sources for your next happy holiday shoot. Experiment with the kind of effect each one creates and think outside the box – maybe your best shot of the season is a simple silhouette?

4) Paint with Light

This dilapidated building would have been pitch black if a flashlight hadn’t been waved over the scene. Photo by Welling Photography.

Paint the town… with light! If you’d rather not move your friends over to the light source, bring it to them. Flashlights are all you need to stand your subjects where you want them most, and help them stand out in the dark. Be sure to set your camera on a tripod, set a longer exposure, and cover them with photons. It’s especially great if you’re outdoors and want to pair a sharp subject in the foreground and warm house lights (or even stars) behind them.

You may need to try a few times to get it right, and to be sure that you get everything covered before your shutter snaps closed.

5) Make Happy (Light) Trails

Heavy traffic in London is distilled into beautiful streaks with a tripod and a few seconds of your time. Photo by AMJ Visuals.

While you’ve already got your tripod out, why not play with moving subjects? Light trails are a cool way to capture things the eyes don’t see, and to get super creative in the dark. Moving bright objects – like cars and friends waving flashlights – turn into lines during a long exposure, so try photographing a busy street in your favorite snowy location. Or have a friend practice his Picasso techniques by drawing pictures in the air.

6) Bring a Friend

Photographers gather after dusk to capture the scene, trade tips, and admire each others’ gear. Photo by Schmootography.

If you’re afraid of the dark or just don’t want to learn alone, winter’s the perfect opportunity to warm up with a photowalk. You can experiment with all the techniques described above, or teach someone new who’s looking to learn. We’ve previously shared some tips about organizing social shoots from expert photowalk and community favorite, Scott Jarvie, so you can plan the best photowalk your town has ever seen… then pool them all in SmugMug so you can share the experience.

Stay warm, stay clicking, and stay creative!

A New and Improved Way to Add Prints to Your Cart

December 5, 2014 95 comments

Over the years we’ve gotten so much great feedback from you, our customers, about buying and what your fans have reported back about the buying experience. So today is big news for you: we’ve remodeled the Add to Cart step to make it cleaner, simpler, and smoother for all!

To check it out, navigate to any photo you have for sale on your site and click Buy Photos > This Photo.

Instead of this:

Shopping on Old SmugMug, AKA: “Where are my glasses?”

You’ll see this:

SmugMug’s new Add to Cart layout. Ah, much better!

What Changed?

We’ve completely revamped the first half of the shopping process, when you’re adding photos into your cart. Here’s what’s new:

  • You’ll see a larger, prettier preview of your photo on the left. You’ll know for sure which pic you’re viewing.
  • There’s now an easier-to-follow item selection pane on the right. All the same products and options are there, and it’s much easier to drill down to what you want.
  • You’ll now adjust cropping in that same window as soon as you choose your print size. With borders and boundaries bigger and easier to see, there’s less chance something vital will get cropped out in your print.
  • All of this automagically scales to fit smaller screen sizes, making shopping on-the-go as easy as just a few taps.

Crop and adjust without changing screens.

How Do I Get It?

You’ve already got it! The updated design is already sparkling up all accounts on New SmugMug. So add a photo to your cart to see it in action.

Tip: Be sure to try it on an updated browser. If you have Internet Explorer 9 or below, you’ll still see the old design.

Click through to choose your print. You can step back at any time.

Speedy shopper? Look below to add a previous print size, lickity-split.

Shoppers on Old SmugMug sites will also see the old shopping design, so Preview your site in New SmugMug to check it out and use it yourself. However, you’ll need to Publish your New SmugMug site to let your fans and customers use it, too.

More Help & Info

The checkout part hasn’t changed with this release, but we knew you’d ask. :) It’s in the works, and of course we’ll share as soon as we’ve got something ready to show you.

For more info about what’s changed and how the new process works, check out our updated help pages. And if you have any additional questions, reach out to our fabulous 24/7 Support Heroes. We always love to hear from you.

Link Roundup:

Release Notes: Uploads Made Even Easier, Subscription Receipts, Original Filenames, and more

December 3, 2014 6 comments

This time of the year most of us are pretty busy either with work, family, holiday prep, and all the other things that make this time of year so much fun. Here’s a few great new goodies we’ve released that you’ll love.

Drag Photos Directly Into Galleries

Adding new photos to your galleries is so easy, your camera can practically do it on its own.

You can still click the “Upload” button to fire up our in-browser uploader, but we’ve made it even easier than that: Simply log in, go to any gallery on your site, and drag photos off your desktop into the photos already there. The upload starts right away!

You can take a quick look at all the different ways you have to add photos and videos to your site… if this one doesn’t win you over.

Grab-Your-Own Receipts

Our Support Heroes get lots of requests from folks who need a simple subscription receipt for their records. Now you can do it all on your own, as many times as you want, with zero wait… even at 3:44 AM (supposedly the most common time to wake up in the middle of the night.)

Just look in your Account Settings > Me tab, and you’ll see a new section called “Receipts.”

Have fun accounting!

Zip Downloads Keep Your Filenames

Pros and label freaks, you’ll love this one: Now when you open your zipped gallery downloads, you’ll notice that the filenames are just as you left them (minus special characters.)

This has been a big request from a lot of photographers who offer gallery downloads of their photo shoots. So now clients can find exactly what they’re looking for, and they’ll correspond with the filename you gave it in your catalog.

Save-an-Email for Huge Zip Downloads

We’ve also given the email delivery gnomes a break by combining your zip download links into a one notification email. For galleries larger than 1.5 GB and/or 200 images, we typically split the download into multiple zip files. We’ll still do this, but send the links in a single email.

Pinch to Zoom on Your Phone

Need more detail when browsing photos on the go? Your mobile-friendly SmugMug site now allows you to zoom in and get peeping in on every pixel in your lightbox. (We’re talking browsing your site on Safari, not through our iOS and Android mobile apps which already let you zoom in.)

Miscellaneous improvements:

  • The Folder, Gallery & Pages Content Block now properly displays items in the same order as the Organizer when it’s set to display by “Organizer Position.”
  • Galleries in Journal viewing style no longer skip to the first image when the page is loaded and now display the content above the image. Links to specific photos in the gallery will also now jump to that image when you load the page.
  • When browsing a keyword gallery that has been limited in scope, buyers purchasing multiple photos are limited to only photos that fit within that scope.
  • Event details and settings should save properly again. Additionally, Favorites should save as expected when you clients click them.
  • The Flash uploader properly allows for replacing photos in Proof Delayed orders.

Enjoy the new stuff and keep snapping great memories this holiday season!

 Link roundup:

Introducing SmugMug’s API 2.0, Now in Open Beta

December 2, 2014 3 comments

Today we’re thrilled to announce that SmugMug’s API is ready for tinkerers to play with and explore. If you’re one of the lucky folks who have written apps for us, you already know that a new API was a long time in the works, and we can’t wait to share it with you.

What’s new in Version 2.0?

SmugMug’s API 2.0 is a major rewrite of our original API, and fully supports the new SmugMug platform that we launched at the end of July 2013. This version is the basis on which we built some of SmugMug’s most-loved and best-used new features, like our mobile app, the site-wide Organizer, our official Lightroom plugin, and our in-gallery Photo Tools. Millions of people use these features every day, verifying the new API’s performance and stability.

This version is in open beta and, as with all beta software, we may need to make some changes to it. But you can use it now and we really hope you’ll like what you see.

You’ll find all the info and documentation on API 2.0 right here.

What about the old versions?

You’ll still have access to API versions 1.3.0 and 1.2.2, but we’ll only update them for essential, critical fixes. To fully take advantage of SmugMug’s new features (like our 7-layers-deep folder structure), you’ll need to update your apps to API 2.0.

We’ll keep you updated on when 2.0 is out of beta, as well as a timeline for phasing out and shutting down APIs 1.3.0 and 1.2.2. We’ll be sure the timeline gives you plenty of time for you to migrate your apps.

I’m not a geek. Why should I care?

Even if you’re not a developer, APIs are great for you. They’re what bring great third-party programs like Star Explorer, Smugglr, and tons of others to the SmugMug table! With the new version, you can expect to see updates to existing apps that you use, and brand-new apps that work with today’s SmugMug and all its great features.

I AM a geek. How do I get started?

We can’t wait to see what you build, so here’s what you need to do next:

  • New API users: Just fill out this form to tell us about yourself and read over our Terms of Service. You’ll then be able to start working with the API.

Questions? Find us over at api@smugmug.com and in the API forum at Digital Grin. Since it’s in beta, we’d love to hear your feedback and suggestions on version 2.0.

Thanks so much to all of our developers for being such an important part of our SmugMug team!

 

Things We’re Thankful For: Having Holiday Deals to Share from Our Friends

November 26, 2014 3 comments

While we have a deal going this week for new SmugMug fans, we didn’t want to leave our existing Smug friends out in the cold. Our photo friends at KelbyOne, MacPhun, and Clickin Moms have some super deals you’ll want to grab if you’re hungry to learn and want to amp up your photo cred.

KelbyOne: Photoshop, Lightroom, and Photography Education


Photographers and designers: KelbyOne hosts a massive party over Cyber Weekend with tons of disounts on education bundles, gift cards, and more.  Check out their holiday deals before they’re all gone!

Join the conversation on Twitter with #KelbyOneCyber.

MacPhun: Inspiring Photo Software for Mac


The most inspiring Black Friday ever!  Get four Macphun apps worth $210 for only $129.99, a 40% savings, plus a free $25 iTunes or Amazon Gift Card with every purchase. Offer good from November 25 – December 1, 2014. Check it out at their Black Friday deals page.

Clickin Moms: Click, The Magazine for Modern Photographers


Looking for a very special gift for a photographer? Send our Holiday Bundle! The Bundle includes a physical copy of the Nov/Dec 2014 Holiday issue delivered before Christmas, plus a one-year subscription (that’s 7 issues total), a silver camera key chain & $10 gift certificate to the CM Store! A $42 value for just $25. Grab your Holiday Bundle here.

SnapKnot: Professional Wedding Photographer Directory

Are you looking to connect with more brides and grow your wedding photography business? Don’t miss this opportunity to save 73% on a SnapKnot Pro Annual subscription! Discount valid through December 2, 2014, 11:59 PST. Redeem Here.

From all of us at SmugMug, have a safe, happy, and a very photogenic week!

This Week: 40% Off Your New SmugMug Site

November 24, 2014 26 comments

Whether or not you love to shop during the holidays, finding a great deal always makes the heart skip a beat. It’s that time for photo lovers everywhere, because we’re taking 40% off all new SmugMug accounts for the next 5 days.

40% Off? Sign Me Up!

Simply visit our promo page and get started with your very own brand-new SmugMug site. We’ll ask you to choose a design (you can always change it later) upload some photos, and then you can play all you want with your beautiful, brand-new site. Sign up before November 29, 2014, and the 40% off discount will automagically apply at checkout.

This deal is good on new accounts only, so tell your friends, your sister, your in-laws, your mailperson, and your dogwalker. Anyone who loves photos will love having their very own SmugMug galleries to make the stunning pictures they take look even more stunning. You’ll find easy-to-share links and helpful FAQ on our promo site.

Happy holidays!

PS. Already with SmugMug? You can earn subscription credit by referring your friends to SmugMug. Details here!

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