Posts Published in December 2009

Search the Web with Photographs Using Google Goggles

Google announced a pretty awesome new product today called Google Goggles that has the potential to completely change the way we think about search. It’s basically an application that will tell you all sorts of information based on photographs you take with your camera phone.

Snap a photographs of the Golden Gate Bridge, and the application will provide you with search results for the Golden Gate Bridge. Want to learn what others are saying about a particular book in the store? Simply snap a photograph of the cover and Google Goggles will tell you.

The application is most useful in situations where you know know the name of what you’re trying to search for. For example, if you’re staring at a painting that you love but don’t know the name of, Google Goggles can quickly tell you all about it:

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This is a great glimpse into the exciting technologies that we’ll be enjoying in the coming years, and is definitely only the tip of the iceberg. There will probably come a day when this type of search is fast enough and powerful enough to be displayed instantly on the screen while using the video feature of camera phones. This concept is being pursued by numerous tech companies (likely Google as well), and is called augmented reality.

For Google’s explanation of Google Goggle’s, check out this video they have on the official page:

Epson’s PictureMate Show Needs Better Design

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On December 3rd, Epson announced the PictureMate Show, the “Ultimate Two-in-One Digital Frame and Compact Photo Printer”.

I’m not sure how the print quality stacks up against competitors, but Epson really needs to dream up a better design if the PictureMate Show wants to compete in the printer/frame hybrid game.

What’s the problem? It’s way too obvious that the PictureMate show is a printer, making it much less useful as a picture frame. To see what we mean, check out a couple of PictureMate’s competitors:

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On the left is the iMo Foto Frame Printer, and on the right is the Sony DPP-F700, which will be released in 2010. As you can see, both these products do a much better job at hiding the fact that the picture frame is also a printer, making it much more useful as a picture frame. Again, we’re not talking about print quality or pricing at all. If you’re very concerned about print quality, then these hybrids aren’t the product for you anyway, and the prices are roughly in the same range ($200-$300).

Now lets take a quick look at why the PictureMate Show doesn’t work very well as a frame. Here are two official product photographs from Epson promoting the PictureMate Show:

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Hey printer, I see you!

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I’m not sure about you, but I wouldn’t choose to display photographs in my kitchen or living room for the price of having a printer in the same location.

I really like the concept that concept that Epson is striving towards in its PictureMate show. It just needs to be designed in a more visually appealing way. After all, framing photographs is for the purpose of nice presentation.

What are your thoughts on the PictureMate Show?


Image credits: PictureMate Show photographs by Epson, iMo Foto Frame Printer by Mimo Monitors, DPP-F700 by Sony.

Orangutan Becoming Photography Sensation

n190010092116_7812Nonja, a 33-year-old orangutan in the Vienna Zoo, is quickly becoming one of the most popular photographers on the web. Her recently launched Facebook page is regularly updated with her most recent photographs, and has amassed tens of thousands of fans in the first week of being online.

Unlike other animal stunts seen on social networks such as Twitter, Nonja is in fact the photographer behind the photographs. Her camera of choice is a specially designed Samsung ST 1000 point-and-shoot camera that automatically uploads the photographs she makes.

In case you’re wondering, Nonja actually isn’t a genius ape that learned the art of photography. The trick behind the whole thing is that the camera is modified to dispense a raisin whenever the shutter is pressed.

However, after looking through Nonja’s photographs, I would go out on a limb and say that Nonja is probably the best non-human photographer in the world right now. Here’s a sampling of her recent work:

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I’m thinking this is a self-portrait? I’m loving the emotion captured in this one.

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This one must be titled “The Hitchhiker”.

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Nonja’s attempt at a macro photograph without a macro lens.

Anyhow, either Nonja enjoys adding a little motion blur to most of her photographs, or she needs to improve her technique a little. We’re definitely looking forward to seeing how this awesome experiment goes!

A quick thought: Do you think apes could be trained to understand the very basics of actually a camera? Hmmm…

Check out Nonja’s Facebook group! (via Neatorama)

Tennis Courts in Satellite Photographs

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If you’re a tennis player in the San Francisco bay area, check out ahathereitis. This interesting new web application (though it lacks a logo and design) aims to find things for you through satellite photographs and image recognition technology.

If you’re nerdy and so inclined, you can read about how the technology behind the application works. The image recognition isn’t done real time, so you won’t be able to use the service yet if you’re outside the Bay Area (try 94704 for Berkeley, CA).

I think this is an interesting example of how the way we make, manipulate, and consume photographs will become more and more advanced as technology improves. As evidenced by the domain name and the “More coming soon” option in the drop-down menu, this app won’t be limited to finding tennis courts.

The question is, what other interesting things could it eventually help us find in satellite photographs? Any ideas?

Check it out here: ahathereitis

4 Creative Projects that Bend the Reality of Street Scenes

Here is a quick look at some interesting photography projects that present a manipulated view of reality, along with thoughts on how they were done and how you can accomplish the same thing.

#1: empty L.A. by Matt Logue

This project, created over a four year period starting in 2005, gives an interesting glimpse at what Los Angeles would look like if people and their vehicles instantly disappeared off the face of their earth.

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There’s are a few ways you could accomplish this.

First, you can stack neutral density filters on your lens to enable extremely long exposure times. The long exposure would cause everything that moves (i.e. people and cars) to disappear from the scene.

However, it doesn’t look like Logue employed this technique, since the clouds in his photographs are clear and well defined. You would also expect trees in long exposure photographs to be soft and blurred, since the leaves are constantly moving.

A second option is to take a very large number of photographs, and then use an image editor to combine only the portions that don’t contain any people or cars. Doing this at a time when the road is least busy would obviously be easiest if editing by hand, though Logue has quite a few shots from busy hours of the day. Photo editors like Photoshop or Enfuse can also help you automatically stack images and filter out non-constants.

Visit the project page to see the rest of the photographs and/or to buy the book.

#2: Tokyo Nobody by Masataka Nakano

Japanese photographer Masataka Nakano spent 11 years shooting photographs of Tokyo devoid of people.

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This project is unlike the other three in that no clever image manipulation was done. Nakano visited ordinarily busy locations during times of low activity (i.e. major holidays), and patiently waited for just the right time to make each of his photographs.

You can also purchase his paperback book on Amazon.

#3: Babel Tales by Peter Funch

At first, many of Peter Funch’s New York City street scenes seem ordinary. Then, as you look closer, you begin to realize that in each one, there’s something eerily similar with everyone in the scene. Perhaps everyone is holding a manila envelope, or is smoking, or is running, or is looking in the same direction, or is yawning, or is homeless.

You get the idea.

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The amazing thing is, these photographs weren’t staged, but rather manipulated.

Funch took each of these photographs two weeks at a time, found people in the frames who had something in common, and stitched the photographs together using an image editor.

While the first two steps (shooting and selecting) are time consuming, the third step (stitching) is what’s difficult. The idea is similar to what we outlined in our “cloning yourself” tutorial, but rather than having a static background that you can easily mask over, stitching this type of photograph might require a pixel by pixel degree of care, since people are constantly walking around in the frame.

You can tell that this stitching is the technique used by Funch by observing that in some of the photographs, the lighting is different for various people in the frame.

It’s somewhat mind-boggling compared to the first two, but still doable.

Check out the rest of the photographs in the series in this gallery.

#4: Orderly Conduct by Bahbak Hashemi-Nezhad

Bahbak Hashemi-Nezhad shot his orderly conduct series of photographs in three locations: London, Amsterdam, and Toyko. The idea is identical to what Funch did in NYC.

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Most of Hashemi-Nezhad’s photographs are easier to accomplish than Funch’s for a couple of reasons.

First, many of them are taken indoors, where the lighting conditions don’t change. This makes it much harder to detect image editing, since there aren’t lighting difference between people in the indoor scenes.

The sparseness of many of the scenes also makes for easier editing. Many of Funch’s photographs were taken up close with people moving around in the frame and overlapping one another. Many of Hashemi-Nezhad’s photographs have minimal overlap between people, and constant backgrounds. This makes it much easier and less time consuming to stitch the photographs together.

For the rest of the Orderly Conduct photographs, you visit his website here.


Hopefully you saw something new in this post that you hadn’t seen before, and that it inspired you to experiment with some new ideas.

If you have any comments on this kind of project, please leave a comment! We’d also love to hear from you if you have links to other similar projects!

Canon Developing Touchscreen DSLR

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Keep your eyes peeled for a DSLR camera with a touchscreen interface by Canon sometime in the near future. Photography Bay is reporting that Canon filed a patent in April 2009 containing images that seem to clearly depict a touchscreen interface.

Rather than describe functionality general to touchscreen interfaces, the 13 page patent describes a method for preventing accidental touches on the screen. After registering which eye you use for the viewfinder, the camera will detect when your eye is at the viewfinder, and will disable one side of the touchscreen to prevent the contact from your face from being registered as touches.

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The patent also mentions that you can control aperture and shutter speed by sliding your finger vertically and horizontally, respectively. However, I’m not exactly sure how this is superior to current methods of adjusting these settings, since the physical dial seems to work just fine.

I couldn’t find the actual patent that Photography Bay cites (US Patent Application No. 12/422,695), but if anyone can post a link to the patent in the comments you’ll get kudos from us. We’ll update this post with a link. (Update: See link below)

What are your thoughts? Would you buy a touchscreen DSLR? Do you see any advantages or disadvantages?

(via Photography Bay)


Update: Eugene (@eugenephotoblog) spent two hours searching and finally found the patent. Mega kudos to Eugene!

You can check out the patent here.

7 Amazing Videos of the Impossible

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Aside from having a good eye and using correct technique, another way to make it more likely you’ll capture the perfect photograph is by shooting a lot. When acclaimed street photographer Gary Winogrand died in 1984, he left thousands of undeveloped rolls of film and unprinted negatives. This isn’t uncommon among both the historical greats of photography, and the best photographers today.

Ask around, and photographers will tell you that an outing during which hundreds of frames were shot might only result in one quality image, and that a lifetime of shooting might only produce a handful of masterpieces. For every jaw-dropping photograph that you see, there are almost certainly countless frames from the same shoot that were omitted.

The benefits of consistent and repetitive shooting can be difficult to demonstrate visually, but is much easier with video. Thus, we’ve compiled a list of mind-boggling videos demonstrating how the impossible can and is achieved through dedication and repetition. Hopefully you can apply the same dedication to your photography!

#1: Dude Perfect – World’s Longest Basketball Shot

These videos have millions of views already, and show a basketball shot made from the 3rd deck of the Texas A&M football stadium. I wonder how many attempts (and trips carrying basketballs up to the 3rd deck) it took.

#2: Dude Perfect – Summer Camp Edition

Another video by the same guys at Texas A&M. This is a compilation of crazy basketball trick shots that must have taken an eternity to produce. For more of their videos, search for Dude Perfect on YouTube.

#3: Derren Brown – The System – Coin Toss

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Video embedding is disabled for this video, so you’ll have to watch it on YouTube. In it, Derren Brown flips a normal coin 10 times, and the coin somehow lands on “heads” every single time.

What’s the trick? Derren simply filmed himself flipping a coin over, and over, and over until he finally had real footage of himself flipping ten heads in a row. He ended up flipping the coin for over nine hours before he finally hit ten heads in a row. Now that’s dedication.

Here’s another similar video in which 7 coins are dropped into a can and they all land heads.

#4: Amazing Basketball Shots: The Legendary Shots

Some of these shots are even more mind-boggling than the Dude Perfect ones.

#5: Trickshot: Artistic Pool Trick Shots

It’s interesting how this repetition technique can make it appear as if you typed a cheat code into life.

#6: A Normal Day

You might want to watch the next video first (it’s the sequel to this one), since it’s a little cooler and more polished. This video is a good example of the crazy things you can seemingly accomplish simply through persistence and repetition.

#7: A Normal Day 2

Like the previous video, except… double?


Hopefully these videos, though a little unrelated to photography in themselves, inspired you to shoot more. Amazing photography comes about through persistence, repetition, and a measure of good ol’ chance.

If at first you don’t succeed,
Try, try, try again.

William Edward Hickson

Digital Photography School Sells 3,000+ eBooks in One Week

eBookAccording to an email sent out to affiliates, Digital Photography School has sold over 3,000 copies of their first ebook, The Essential Guide to Portrait Photography, in the first week of sales.

Darren Rowse, founder of Digital Photography School, blogger behind ProBlogger, and co-founder of the b5media blog network, has proved once again that he knows the ins and outs of the online publishing business.

One of the things Darren did in promoting this book was to reach out to photography-related blogs (ourselves included) and offer them affiliate partnerships. Affiliates link to the book using a special link, and are paid a 40% commission for every sale made through the link. With the special $14.95 opening week price, this translates to $5.98 for each sale made.

PetaPixel’s affiliate link has generated 4 sales so far, earning a commission of $23.92. However, we didn’t write a review of the book, which was recommended for maximizing sales, but simply included the link in a giveaway we ran. This affiliate program is the big reason you’ve likely seen numerous reviews of this ebook on photo-related blogs around the web in past few days.

What I wanted to point out was how profitable ebooks can be. There are virtually no printing or distribution costs, and even if each of the 3,000 first week sales were made through affiliates, Digital Photography School earned at least $26,910 from first week sales. Wow.

You might think that this success is due to the 350K+ RSS subscribers and millions of monthly readers that Digital Photography School boasts. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

photocriticbookHaje Jan Kamps, blogger behind popular photography blog Photocritic.org, tells us that his latest book on concert photography, Put another dime in the jukebox, has already sold 50 copies in less than a week of sales.

Consider the fact that Photocritic has a much smaller audience than DPS, and the fact that Kamps’ books cost at least twice as much as Rowse’s ($31.43), and it quickly becomes clear that this too is another online publishing success.

These recent successes in online publishing tell me that ebooks and print-on-demand books are much more promising than I had previously thought.

If you’re a photographer well versed a particular area of photography, and have an audience through blogging or twitter, you might want to look into publishing your own book or ebook. It might just provide you with enough pocket change to fund some new gear!


Update: Since publishing this post, we’ve more than doubled the number of affiliate sales. I found that somewhat interesting, since I didn’t expect this post to generate any. Also, Darren posted some specifics today over at ProBlogger. $72,000 in the first week through 4,800 sales.