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Picture yourself a photo pro

May 15, 1997
Web posted at: 1:24 p.m. EDT (1724 GMT)

From CNN Interactive Writer Kristin Lemmerman

(CNN) -- Ah, sweet summer. Time to start planning for your idyllic getaway to faraway places ... your cousin's wedding ... your sister's graduation ... and sending your kids off to summer camp, so you can get a break. Far from being a tranquil time, summer is nearly guaranteed to be packed full of activities, most of which you're probably planning on committing to film. Whether you're less than satisfied with your past photo shoots and want some tips to get up to par, or if you're ready to enter your work in a Web-wide competition, there are sites sure to get your shutter finger itching.

No experience necessary

The Amateur Photography site, a wonder of good layout and easy navigation, is one of the few that has gone out on a limb and opted to maintain a forum in which you, the user, can actually post your photography questions. What's more, enough photographers appear to have found the site that your question stands a good chance of getting a useful answer.

Amateur photography

Not for rank amateurs only, this site gives pointers on choosing the best film, cameras (which implies that you have more than one, as many serious photographers do), flashes, and lenses for different occasions. Another section talks about good darkroom technique; yet another, the mistakes amateurs most often make and how to correct them.

And, if you visit the Northwest United States, the site's founder, who goes to school in Seattle, suggests several Kodak moment sites in Seattle, Washington State, and Oregon. The site's layout and content are remarkably well thought out for a student page; here's hoping that post-graduate school, its designer can find somebody who will reward him for his initiative and keep this page up and running.

Training for the pros

If you've escaped the travails of red-eyed subjects ... if the viewfinder is your friend and you no longer accidentally cut people's heads out of the picture ... if, in fact, you want a job in pictures ... the New York Institute of Photography may be the place for you.

New York Institute of Photography

This frequently updated site offers a catalogue of photo taking tips, ranging from focusing to good composition. The site just expanded its offerings in another area -- it now has not one but two lengthy analyses each month on shooting specific types of photographs. In April the subject was how to hit a home-run with baseball action pictures -- whether you're at a Major League game or in the stands for Little League. For May, the "action photography" piece looks at car racing, and the "lifestyle photography" entry is on photographing flowers.

You can also take inspiration from the site's gallery of photographs, which won prizes in the Institute's PhotoWorld student magazine. And if you think that you took a shot worth showing off, you can enter it in the Institute's photo contest -- you need not be an Institute student to enter. However, it would help to have some experience behind you if you really want to see your picture on the site, since you'll be competing against people who take camerawork very, very seriously.

The Institute prepares photographers for the professional world, so it makes sense that much of the discussion is for people packing serious camera heat. If your idea of taking a picture is "point-and-click," you don't even know what aperture is, and you couldn't wager a guess as to the difference between Kodak's 200 and 3200 speed films, the discussion in the topic of the month, and elsewhere on this site, may go over your head.

Making good use of technology

Needless to say, Kodak's page on the Web has a list of 10 tips to taking better photographs, and a list of more comprehensive fact sheets on topics ranging from choosing film to camera care. Those tips will come in especially handy if you're into the new e-mail postcard technology, and if you happen to have a digital scanner, since Kodak has also set itself up to handle Internet postcard exchanges.


If you don't have a picture you want to e-mail to a friend, that's OK too. Choose one of the dozens of patterns available in the PictureThis! area of the site. They're divided up into nine separate "themes" -- for example, if you're sending a postcard to one of your gardening buddies, you could send off a "Color in Bloom" picture (you'll pray for your flowers to be so photogenic). Or, if you're a hiking type, you could send off a "Natural Wonders" picture. Then, choose from one of six borders for the picture, also on the site, and type in your message. You can even send your message to multiple e-mail addresses simultaneously.

Now, about that scanner -- I'm not suggesting that you rush out and buy Kodak's digital camera or scanner. But if by the end of your summer vacation you have your own "Natural Wonders" picture that you'd rather e-mail to your friends, either of those tools will let you do it from this site. Recipients have to download the Picture Postcard viewing software, but they get it for free.

Wolf Camera's Online Photo Center also falls into the realm of "cool Web toy." Take your film to a Wolf Camera developing center (or mail it if you want -- they tell you how) and when you ask them to develop it, also ask them to put your photographs on the Web. Wolf will scan your pictures in as high-resolution images (each one takes up 4.5 megabytes -- yikes!) and in one to two days, you get an e-mail telling you your pictures are ready to be viewed online. From there you can e-mail selected pictures to your friends (up to four addresses simultaneously); enter them in Wolf Camera's monthly contest; use them in online classifieds through NetAds; and make postcards and greeting cards using your pictures, through an agreement with American Greetings.

The service isn't free or even especially cheap -- it costs up to $9 for a roll of over 25 pictures. But if you want to share vacation or reunion pictures with your whole family and everybody has Web access, it might be cheaper to point them to the Wolf site than to make reprints. And if you were planning on running a NetAd anyway, and wanted to include a picture to speed up the sale, it might also be worth it.

Good luck on all your summer pursuits, and may they come out picture-perfect.


Related sites:

Amateur Photography
New York Institute of Photography
Wolf Camera's Online Photo Center

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