A De-Tutorial guide to starting out in Photography

This isn’t a How To guide on photography, more of a how to get ready for the How To guides. In my line of work, I use photography a lot. Mostly production shots that I either took with a High-End Point and Shoot, or supplied to me by the client. Lately,  I’ve moved onto other types of photography that a simple point-and-shoot, just can’t handle.

Doing what most of us would do, I read reviews, and tried out tutorials. However, I never really learned what the camera is and how to really use it. Until I met a man named Alan Kaplan, a seasoned photographer from around the area.

He taught me, it’s not really the camera that does the work. It’s you, it’s the lens and the subject you’re taking the picture of. The camera is just a tool, a tool you really need to understand and be familiar with, in order to get the best out of it.

1. The Body

People (Like me) seem to get distracted about the camera, brand, features, and never about what’s connected to the camera. You can buy a beautiful $3,000.00 Leica, the best of the best, but do you understand the interface easily enough? Are you willing to take that camera out everywhere you go? For thousands of dollars, taking this on a hiking trip, or a busy shop  for an on site photography gig could be an issue. It could get smashed or stolen. While a cheaper (But still effective) Olympus Pen camera would do the same thing, without you being distracted by what could happen to it.


2. Lenses

One of the most important things about a camera is the lens. Thanks in large part to a the standardization of Micro 4/3 lenses and adapters for DSLRs, it’s easy to fit any lens on almost any camera. The key here is to buy a lens that works for you. I would recommend at least three lenses; the Kit lens that comes with your camera, a Zoom lens, and a Prime lens. Each one does something different and gives you a myriad of options.

Go to a site like 500px, flickr or even google image search, and look for lenses. See a lens you’re interested in? Type the specific lens into Google image search and you’re bound to find multiple shots from that lens.

3. Use

The last thing is, use the camera, use the lenses. Each week take only one lens. Use it until you understand what it can and can’t do. It’ll give you a better understanding on what type of picture you like, or what kind of lens calls for a certain capture. Find a photographer, someone that understands these cameras, someone that can teach you more than the sales person or a bullet point on the side of the box can.

Go to town using every feature on the camera. Take a picture of every meal you cook, every project you do, or just outside, but use the features of the camera. Only by trial and error will you learn how to use it. This is the greatest thing Alan has taught me, and hopefully this post will help you learn as well.

You can check out his site and work here: http://www.alankaplanphotography.com/


Protect your images on Instagram: The how to

So by now you’ve heard Instagram has changed their policy on photos so they can use them for advertising. You won’t see any of the money they make on your photos, and they can use any picture uploaded to the site. This may not seem like a big thing for some, but keep this in mind, pictures of your children, your house,  your car, any moment you have uploaded on instragram, is there for the taking.

If you’re a photographer and post your professional shots on the site, you’re giving away your work for free.  You’ll never see a dime, you’ll never get the credit, you’ll never see any of the benefits. You have until January to either delete your account, or accept the no way to opt out terms of service changes. However, you do have another option.

A while ago, I made a post on how to add a watermark to your photos via Photoforge 2 (another iOS app), but here’s another quick tutorial on how to get your photos ready for Instagram (the square style crop) before you edit in Photoforge. This can be done easily and quickly via the iOS built-in photo editing tools.  If you have a watermark, Instagram has 2 options.
1. Not use your photo because your logo is over it.
2. Use it, and you’ll be able to get the credit, at the very least.
I’m guessing they’ll go with #1.

 1. When you select the photo, click on the Edit button.


2. Touch the crop icon & you’ll get the cropping overlay. Touch the Constrain button. 


 3. Touch the Square button


4. You can now enlarge, pan shrink your image inside the constraints 


5. Hit save, and your image is now ready to add the watermark. (Tutorial here)

Keep in mind, you’ll have to delete all your photos and re-upload them. If this seems to much of an issue for you, please read the last sentence of the first paragraph again. Done? Good. Now do this and keep your work, your work.

Stamp your pictures via iOS only

I was on Instagram, when a friend had a picture taken and used on a tumblr blog. He wanted credit or a link back to the original site (Instagram), but couldn’t get a hold of the tumblr blogger.

This lead me on a trip to the app store to see what kind of watermarking apps were available. While I found some options, they all just did watermarking.  I didn’t want to take a photo, edit it on another app, and bring it into another app again, to just add a watermark. That’s when I found PhotoForge2. It’s a great one-stop app that lets you take a photo, has powerful editing software, and lets you upload to different sites.

If you’re like me, you’ll have a logo, or an icon that you’ll want to use instead of just text, and PhotoForge2 works great for just that occasion.  Below I created a tutorial on how to use the app as a watermarking tool, but please explore the rest of the apps great features.

PhotoForge2 for iOS Download

1. When you open up PhotoForge2 you’re welcomed to a blank page.  Hit the + button to bring up your photo album.

2. Once you pick your photo, it will live on the once blank start screen.

3. Once you touch the photo, you’ll enter the work space. Touch the layer icon on the bottom to add the watermark.

4. Touch the “New Layer” button and tap the image with the photo to pull up your icon/logo.

5. Touch the layer button to turn on transparencies. This will help you place the icon over the image.

6. Pinch to zoom and move into place.

7.  Hit the Check button and you’ll go back to the edit/layer screen. Tap on the logo/icon layer to bring up the transparency screen and tap that.

8. Use the slider on the bottom to lower the transparency.

9. Finally, hit the CHECK again and touch Flatten.

10. Once you’re finished, PhotoForge2 gives you a myriad of options to save your image. Just hit the cloud button on the far right, and save.

And the final result…

7 highly designed dish racks

My dish rack is rather old and boring. So I went onto the old Amazon.com to see what I could get. What I found was a surprisingly large community of people making and buying highly designed and creative dish racks.

One of my favorite sites Design Milk did a post a while ago on the subject, and of course, this lead me down a hole that I needed to share.

What I found that Design Milk didn’t talk about was, usability. If you have a large family or lots of guests, most of these will be useless. If you’re like me however, (living alone with the occasional girlfriend visit) you’ll want to get one of these. So let’s go down this unique (surprisingly expensive) hole.

7  HDS 2 Tier Plastic Dish Drainer 

This $25.00 two tier drier has a beautiful compact design. Plastic mixed with metal wires, looking sharp, easy to clean, and while you can’t say much more, at $25.00 it’s the cheapest on this list. The key here is simplicity and functionality. If you have a small apartment, I’m pretty sure it would fit in any space.

6  Simplehuman Bamboo Dishrack w/ Bamboo Knife block

While one of the most expensive at $80.00, it is one of the most useful and feature-rich. Adjustable sliders for cups, a drain “slide” for excess water to go into the sink, adjustable racks for drying larger items like pots and pans, and a dedicated knife drainer. It’s a simple, clean design as well. Though I can see the white and clear plastic getting dirty and dingy pretty fast, it’s extremely useful. In fact, almost every review I read about this thing was just pure praise.

Polder compact steel dish rack

What can you say when the first “Product Feature” listed calls out; energy-efficient dish drying? At $28.00 it’s not as cheap as the 2 tier HDS model, nor does it actually hold cups.. it does however have an extremely compact design. So much that that most reviewers love the fact that it fits inside your sink. You can’t deny the simplicity, minimalistic way this thing looks.

4  InterDesign forma lupe dish drainer

Some of these on my list have more form than function, and the Forma Lupe by InterDesign is the poster child of that. I love this one, mainly for the retro style and unique color scheme. Customers hate it because, the water doesn’t actually drain and it’s too small for a family. That being said; for $27.00 (and 3¢) a little “lite” hacking can actually make this useful and a uniquely designed dish rack to your kitchen.

3 Black+Blum High&Dry Dish Drainer

Almost looking like an architectural item rather than a dish rack, this is another form over function item. At $50.00 you’ll be able to dry items, but as reviewers put it, not many and not too heavy. Like most of these listed above, if you live alone or in a small place, this is a perfect item.

2 Better Housewares DrainFOREST Bamboo rack

A beautiful minimalist bamboo design that builds function into the design. The slanted groved bamboo gives it a great design but also lets the water drain into the sink. While again not very large, reviewers have pointed out this is a rather cheaply made rack. With the laquer coming off and the wood chipping, you can’t deny the simplicity of the design. Though at $37.00, you may want to put that towards something that will hold up better.

1 Simplehuman Steel Frame Dishrack w/Wine glass holder

I’m beginning to like Simplehuman. With a great design, function and modular style, $80.oo (again) seems like it’d be worth it. Reviewers praise this item, as with the other version, this one has an added feature of a Wine Rack add-on. As a person that loves his wine, this is on my Amazon wish list. Large adjustable racks, with space and room for a family, and a great design for any design nerd. I’d say save your money, never tell anyone how much you spent for this, and blindly hit that add to cart button.


Well, if you’re reading this, then you’ve hit that dark lonely path with me, into designer dish racks. Let me apologize for getting you into this as well, but if you read the reviews, pick the one you like, you’ll never buy another rack again, and your friends will secretly want one too.

Your iPhone is a one stop, job finding machine

 In today’s world it’s hard to find a job. You increasingly have to travel, companies are letting people go, not hiring, and looking at online posts, newspapers and going business-to-business is confusing and a pain. However, today we have a tool that can do all this in the palm of your hand.  

The iPhone wasn’t designed to help find jobs. As Steve Jobs said when he first showed off the iPhone, people wanted a phone, touch screen iPod and internet tablet. He combined all three to make the iPhone. With updates and the app store, it’s become much, much more than that. Set aside the texting, the facebooking and the Angry Birding (You kids still do that?) and let’s find a job.

STEP 1: Let’s build a resume with Pages

I think the best App to help build your resume is Apple’s own Pages app for iOS. You can build a resume, cover letter or anything else you’d need. The best thing about this app is you can export in multiple formats. While I think PDF is always the way to go, some sites would like a plain text or MS Word doc.


Pages for iOS | 9.99


STEP 2: Looking for jobs 

While you can download apps, the best thing to do is go on Safari and start looking and saving job sites to a bookmark folder for easy access. This way you can open jobs in new tabs, email and view multiple sites easily, rather then switching between apps. Most websites cater to mobile browsers when searching like simplyhired.com. However some places like Craigslist don’t have mobile view and makes reading a pain on small screens. Thanks to iOS5, you just hit the reader button and everything becomes formatted for mobile.

Reader really does help make any site easy to read on a smaller screen.

If you’re looking for some freelance work or anything really, apps like Foursquare, Yelp or even Maps is a great way to see what’s around you instead of wasting gas driving around.  Say if you’re a great photographer, you can find small businesses and sell your services, or find small photo studios to seek full time employment.


Foursquare | Free


Yelp | Free


STEP 3: Sending out your info


Now that you have a resume and a job you want to send it to, the mail app is your next stop. You could copy and paste your cover letter and attach your Resume. You could make a signature, link your blog or portfolio as well. Either way,  you just gave yourself a better chance at finding a job for under $10.00


If you have to mail your resume or print it out for any reason, you don’t really need a computer anymore for that either. I have a Wi-Fi enabled Epson printer and along with the Epson iPrint app, you can print directly from your iPhone.


Epson iPrint | Free


Other helpful apps:

Linkedin – Great way to build, share and socialize with other industries, clients and people in the field you’re looking for.

Twitter – A way to advertise yourself and your services. Finding local companies or people on twitter that you’d want to communicate with.

WordPress – If you’re a writer or blogger, it’s a great way to keep up with your posts on the go and build up a writing portfolio.

Flickr – Great for artists or photographers to upload and create a portfolio.

Contacts –  Great for saving potential clients or past employers to refer to.

Calendar – When you need to set up an appointment or remind yourself not to miss an interview, this’ll be a great asset and reminder when the time comes.

It’s true you can do all this with a computer, but as jobs are moving farther and farther away from us, and locations services become more and more popular, the iPhone is an essential resource for finding jobs. If you’re in a whole new town looking for work you instantly have every location, every business, and everything needed to get that job at thumbs reach.

From Digital to Physical: Spot Colors

In past months it’s come to my attention that a lot of designers don’t understand the printing processes. It’s true a lot of promotional pieces, ads and information are moving online, but we still live in a world where people need things printed on a poster, brochure or package.

I first started studying design in 1998 and at the time, the web was a new place for advertising still coming into its own, and we still designed mostly for print. Terms like, Camera-ready art, setting up proofs on card stock, and Pantone books were still in effect.

While I can write a whole book on the differences between web and physical designing, I just want to cover the main issues i’ve come across. I have a full-time job as a Pre-Press Operator, and I deal a lot with physical printing. Today, I wanted to explain to you the differences and terms of  Spot Color and CMYK.

 Spot Color

A spot color is a term mostly used in offset printing. It’s an ink defined by a Pantone number. It consists of four colors; Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, also called CMYK. Every spot color is it’s own plate, when printing. Think of a plate as a layer for color. If you have 5 colors, you have five plates.

 Here’s a small tutorial on how to find and use a spot color.

Open up Illustrator and start a new project.

Make some boxes and fill with any color you wish.



Go to Window > Color  

This will open up the color palette and show you exactly what the break-down is. It’s safe to say it will either read CMYK or RGB. To make sure it’s on CMYK go to the Drop down box on the far right and select CMYK. If you look at the sliders you can see that the Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and black can create any color you desire.

Alone this formula doesn’t help me figure out what color you want. No two screens are alike and you can’t match colors in this way. When a designer sends me work to print and they say, “I want that red, I have it separated for you in CMYK.” That means to me, they didn’t pick a color from a Pantone Swatch Book. This also means I’m guessing in the dark what color you really want.

A Pantone Book is a series of swatches, each with a number that correlates with a Spot Color. It’s kind of the missing link from physical to digital. When starting a new project, it’s best to start looking at a Pantone Book. This is the best way to keep that color consistent throughout the entire project.

Say you see a red in the Pantone Book, and it’s a 484. You want to use it in your artwork instead of the CMYK separated red. It’s a fairly easy process to execute.

To open up the color palette go to Window > Swatch Libraries > Color Book 


Instead of going into the different styles, coatings and books we’ll just stick with the PANTONE Solid Coated (Make sure you use the exact option in illustrator as the book you’re using. Otherwise your colors won’t match). You’ll see a window open up with a bunch of thumbnails.

To search a color go to the drop down box and select show find field (If it’s not already present).

Start typing in the 484 and Illustrator will select it for you. Selecting or dragging the color will make that box the 484. Even if it doesn’t look like the color on the swatch book, it’s still always going to be that color from the book. Remember, screens lie to you. Unless you do an exact color calibration and even then, never trust a computer screen. Even a print out for that matter. You’ll never get an exact match. Leave it to the professionals.

 If you want to manage and easily see your Spot Color selection go to

Windows > Swatches


A quick and easy way to get rid of any color not in use, (Or to see a color that shouldn’t be there) go to the drop down menu and select all unused. This will highlight any color not in use. Just drag them down to the trash and you should only be left with the 484. This can come in handy when you deal with multiple Spot Colors or need to quickly change or select an entire color.

I hope this helps a little bit when setting up your artwork. I’ve seen it happen when a designer will create a beautiful work of art in CMYK and miss deadlines because I have to explain what a Spot Color is, and they go back essentially recreating the entire job.

If this was at all helpful or interesting, I’d love to hear about it. Anything that is wrong? Please let me know. If it was helpful, I do plan on making more posts like this explaining the differences in printing and anything that goes with setting up files to make it easier, quicker, and less frustrating when communicating with your own printer.

Top 5 “Hidden” Inspiration Websites

Recently I did a post on the Top 5 Inspiration apps for iOS. Today I wanted to do a post on my top five Inspiration-finding websites.

There are a lot of websites just dedicated to find Inspiration with multiple pages of designs, artists and blogs. They’re all great resources. You don’t have to limit yourself with just these sites, however. There are countless blogs that, while not inspiration sites, do exactly that.

 5. Appshopper

What’s the biggest thing still? iOS apps. I don’t know about you, but I just fall for any app that has a great-looking design, even if it doesn’t actually do anything useful (Awesome looking flip clock apps). However, it’s a great site to look at new apps from various categories, and check out their designs, function, and style.

 4. io9

While a blog about futurism, it’s also a great source for finding new and cutting-edge designs. They post a lot of concept art, and feature new and prominent artists. It’s actually a great site to see where design may be going in the near future.

 3. Retro To Go

It’s a great site to look at products from the past and retro remix products of today. I find the most inspiration in the patterns or style of a product.  A wallpaper I created a while ago of the iMac family was from a pattern of a dress being sold, that Retro To Go blogged about.

 2. Mashable

While dealing mostly with the Social network side of news, they also feature stories about different designs and artists. I especially love their “Top 10 posts”  ranging from icons to app design. They also heavily feature infographics (such as my own), and can be a great resource for inspiration.

 1. Wikipedia


Now this may be an odd one, but I can’t tell you the number of times I just did random searches on Wikipedia and came up with an idea to feature said search. My Periodic Table of Controllers, was a random search on Nintendo and the D-pad. 300,000 clicks later, it’s one of my most popular designs on flickr.

As I said before, Inspiration comes from everywhere. Just because a site has “inspiration” in it’s title or tag, doesn’t mean it’s the only site to check out. When working on a new design, keep in mind the sites you read and how they can maybe help guide you to think differently.

Top 5 Inspiration iOS apps

Inspiration is a key stage for any designer. You can see it everywhere, from a book, a movie or even walking outside to your car. Before any design, I look for inspiration. I’ll see something and either take a picture, draw it, or jot it down. With the iphone and iOS, it’s even simpler now to do it.

Today, I want to show you my top five apps to help me find, remember and share these inspirations. The apps aren’t really made just for this specific subject, instead I find them extremely useful for what I want to do and not necessarily made for that idea.

 5. FAB 

Fab is a great little app that shows deals on shirts, appliances; pretty much whatever you’re looking for. While the app is designed nicely, it’s also a great way to look for ideas and inspiration. If you’re a product designer or even a print/web designer, this is a great app to see what’s trending and different styles on multiple forms of media.

4. Voice Memo 

I don’t carry around a notebook all the time ( I should ) and the keyboard on an iPhone isn’t the most ideal way to jot something down. The voice memo app fixes all that. There have been times when I’m out walking around and an idea randomly pops in my head. Since everything I remember lasts about 5 min, this app is priceless to me.

3. Flipboard

A stylish, easy-to-use, RSS reader. It’s also a great place to look at designs, photos or anything, in large vibrant images.  It’s extremely customizable and has a beautiful easy-to-use interface. In can also link up to all your other sites like flickr or twitter.

2. Twitter 

We all use twitter for different reasons. I’ve set up all my accounts, flickr, tumblr ios photos to go to twitter. That way, when I post something it gets shared with the world ( Or whoever is following me at the time) can see it. You can follow designers, blogs, stores. This is one of the best ways to share or find inspiration.

1. Camera App

The iPhone camera is my favorite app. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been in a store, antique shop or just walking around and saw something I want to remember. Take a snapshot, email it, share it or just save it for later. It’s always important to take a camera with you, and iOS gives you a great way to capture an image and do so much more with it at that moment instead of snapping a shot and forgetting about it.

Don’t just bind yourself to apps with a title inspiration or a tag. Think about what you do to capture or remember these moments and use the tools you already have in your hand. They maybe better then you think.

If you have any other apps you use that aren’t the norm, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Every story has a beginning

I’ve always loved drawing. When I was a kid, I would draw anything and everything. I loved Ninja turtles, watched Voltron and always drew. It wasn’t until Elementary school did I find out, I was actually alright at it.

It happened when the art teacher told us to draw our own shoes. I had LA Gear pumps from an old department store called Jamesway and I drew them perfectly. I shaded them, colored them and even put the wear and tear on it. Everyone thought it looked awesome.

I never joined a sport, a club or activity really in school. Instead I went home and watched cartoons, played outside and constantly drew. My mom would always get me crayons and those huge roseart art sets and I would kill them within a week. I made famous movie characters out of play doh, I started to draw all the cartoon characters I loved watching, and creating works of art with Legos.

I see now, I was copying things that I liked. It wasn’t until the Legos that I started to design characters, vehicles and objects on my own. The first signs of me designing were a Lego truck I built that needed to look cool, but also function as an ATV.