Tripod Head Recommendations: Some of the Best of the Best

Two ball heads and two 3-way heads.

A good tripod head will save you lots of frustration. For still photography I recommend two types of tripod heads. If you do a little of everything you will want a quality ball head for the quick and easy aiming of the camera. If you only do landscape or architectural photography and you want precise separate controls in each axis of motion, you will want a 3-way head.

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The Best Closeup Photography Equipment

Forget-Me-Nots, Thorne-Swift Nature Preserve, Michigan

Forget-Me-Nots, Thorne-Swift Nature Preserve, Michigan

There are several ways to do closeup photography. Closeup filters, extension tubes, and macro lenses are the most commonly used options. The best gear for you depends on your preferences, how you want to work, the subjects you are after, how much stuff you want to carry, and how much you want to spend. I cover your best options.

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Get Sharper Images By Using The Best Lens Calibration Tools

Lens Calibration Tools

Lens Calibration Tools

A lot of photographers have discovered their almost sharp lens was actually a very sharp lens once they tweaked the micro-adjustment settings. You will get sharper images if you adjust the settings for your specific camera and lens combinations. You do this using the micro-adjustment settings in the camera menu along with a lens calibration tool which you can buy or make yourself.

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Inexpensive Gifts (Starting at $8) for Photographers

Flash adapter and umbrella for an shoe-mount electronic flash.

Flash adapter and umbrella for a shoe-mount electronic flash.

There are a lot of practical and inexpensive (more or less) gifts for photographers. Here is a nice list of items starting at $8. To make it easy to track them down, these items are individuality linked plus most of these items can be found in the Misc Goodies section of my photography store which has direct links to Prices are current as of the date of this post, but prices do fluctuate. Some items can be temporarily unavailable. These items are not listed in order of price.

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Camera Choices: Using Full Size Test Images from

Panasonic Lumix ZX20 (left) vs Canon SX260 HS (right)

I was comparing the Canon PowerShot SX280 HS with other cameras with similar features (shirt pocket size, 20x zoom range) like the Panasonic Lumix ZS30. There weren’t full reviews of either camera so I went back to reviews of the Canon SX260 HS and the Panasonic ZS20, assuming the current cameras would be somewhat better than the older models and that both would have the pedigree traits of their predecessors (which is often but not always the case for a camera’s family tree).

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Buy What You Can Afford!

My go everywhere camera kit, mid 1980s-1990s.

The first rule when choosing camera gear is to buy what you can afford. It is hard to enjoy taking pictures if you are worried about how to pay for the camera you are holding. So buy what you can afford now, and upgrade later. And the second rule? We will get to that later.

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How Long Will Your Photo Lab Prints Last Without Fading?

Estimated Print Life from Wilhelm Imaging Research

Would you rather have a high quality print that will last up to 50 years, or a print that will fade in 5 years? That’s not all. The print with a very short life expectancy might cost more than the better quality print. People buy short life span prints all the time. Why? Because they don’t have the right information, and they may have no idea that prints have such widely different life spans.

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How to Get the Best Results from the Best Online Photo Labs

The lab you choose and the kind of file you send to your lab can make a huge difference in the quality of prints you get back. How do you pick a good online photo lab? How do you get the best results from your lab? What color space should you use for your digital files and how do you convert your files to the right color space? How big a print can you make from your digital files?

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Buyer’s Guide: Recommendations For The Best Photography Equipment, Software, Books, Magazines, DVDs, Online Photo Labs, and More

Welcome to my online buying guide for photographers. With over 75 articles it is one of the most comprehensive photography buyer’s guides on the web.

I get lots of photo questions, especially at this time of year, and many of them begin with “What is the best . . . .” They usually come from photographers or someone who is shopping for a photographer.  If you are shopping for yourself, or for a photographer in your life, this series is for you.

My “best of the best” series recommends the best photo gear, accessories, software, books, DVDs, online photo labs, and a whole lot more. Thanks to the information in these articles I get emails from photographers thanking me for saving them time, frustration, and a lot of money.

This article is published annually in November with regular updates. Re-posted November 20, 2023. Most recent update: December 1, 2023.

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Adobe Bridge: Finding an Original Photo

Sunset, Lake Michigan

It started with a text message from my brother John that included this sunset photo. He found it somewhere on one of my websites. He was asking technical questions about the original photo that I could not answer without finding the original photo and checking the size in MB and dimensions in pixels. I knew at first glance that this is a sunset photo of Lake Michigan that was taken at Thorne Swift Nature Preserve which is not far from Harbor Springs Michigan. I was leading a photo workshop field trip when I created this image. It was taken several years ago but I had no idea what year or the specific date. But that was simple to figure out. Using Adobe Bridge it would take only a few seconds.

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Making Notes on a Volleyball Match

Brenna Crabtree (3) scores a point.

When I send photos to the local newspaper I like to make sure they are accurately captioned. By the time I download the photos after a volleyball match, with some rare exceptions, I can’t look at a photo and remember which actions resulted in a point and which didn’t. So I make notes on a 3×5 card. Right after I take a photo of an important moment in the match, I write down the photo number, what happened, and who did it. Take the above photo for example. You can see the ball crossing the net but you can’t tell from this still photo whether or not the other team returned the ball or not. That is where my notes come in.

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Trunk or Treat: Choosing The Best Event Photos

Trunk or Treat, 36 “Selects”. Click to see a larger version.

When I first started shooting for a small town newspaper, the first rule I learned for an event was “Shoot a lot of photos and pick the best.”  The best photos were sometimes called “selects”, because they were selected for publication. In the image above you can see my final selection of images in the order they were taken.

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36 Photos: Trunk or Treat, Lamoni Iowa

The “Incredible, Bodiless, Talking Head”, Trunk or Treat, Lamoni Iowa.

Every year in Lamomi Iowa, the ENACTUS program at Graceland University sponsors Trunk or Treat. Other community organizations help out. Trick-or-treaters play all kinds of fun and games to win free treats. (Everyone wins.)  For example, the “Incredible, Bodiless, Talking Head” tells jokes. Anyone who survives his jokes gets a treat.

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Camera Settings for Trunk or Treat

Trunk or Treat, sponsored by the Graceland University Enactus program, Lamoni Iowa.

If I am photographing an event and the light is constant, I shoot in manual mode for the most accurate exposure and the best color. But if the light is variable, there isn’t time during an active event to be constantly changing the exposure because you will miss too many photo ops. That means shooting in an automatic mode.

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Camera Gear for Trunk or Treat

Camera gear for Trunk or Treat.

This is the gear I will be taking to photograph Trunk or Treat, a big annual event in Lamoni Iowa. The camera with a 24-105mm lens will be hanging around my neck. The camera with the 70-300mm lens will be hanging from my right shoulder.  Two memory card wallets, one for each camera will be in my jacket pocket. The spare camera battery, which will fit either camera, will also be in my jacket pocket.

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