A Cool Dance Website

Introduction

Dance Responsibly is a website sponsored by HI NRG (a new Vodka and Energy drink) that encourages using their energy drink to “dance responsibly”. The entire website is designed in flash and broadband is needed to have a decent navigation experience.

Form

With a variety of bright colours and aesthetic and appropriate graphics, Dance Responsibly has excellent design and is attractive to the intended audience of 18-30yo partygoers. Small detail has been well placed, such as the grey background pattern on black and the black silhouetted crowd at the bottom. Throughout the site, the “Dance Policewomen” (ie sexy looking female cops) feature with the logo and walk around in Flash animation waving their fingers in a “naughty naughty” gesture.

The entrance page contains a location and birthday selection in order to enter the site. This removes the responsibility of being of age onto the reader, but since there is no porn on the site, only information about behaviour, it is a good precaution and suitable for the purpose.

Design on the main part of the website is interesting and well thought out. The HI NRG and the Dance Party logos were excellent and a fine example of logo design. Since there were so many colours used to make this website exciting, having the logo coloured differently to the page design was not a problem. I particularly liked the red music bar down the bottom.

There was a fair bit of multimedia on the site which was also well executed in design, from pop up registration and download windows to a video player and music. All of this added to an entertaining web experience.

The loading graphic of the HI NRG drink is attractive and an ideal loading screen (using a small graphic) although at one point clicking between “Home” and “Videos” the black loading screen covered a bit more window than was needed. This was the only design issue discovered during the visit.

Function

The navigation for “Dance Responsibly” is simple and makes the most of promotion of competitions by having less pages and more links. All links from the home page worked and so did the video player, Flash animations and music. Too bad for dialup users.

The concept of “dancing responsibly” is a noble one and HI NRG have tried hard to sell the idea with an interesting and appealing website. While it is always going to be a bit contentious that an alcoholic beverage manufacturer is telling youngsters to “dance responsibly” it is preferable to do this than do nothing, especially as you can see HI NRG have put a lot more than a token effort in.

Using the concept of not dancing responsibly as being a “violation” of the law (further promoted by the Flash policewomen) is a grey area – while being a good idea it may or may not appeal to drinkers in this age group. However, the sex is selling this idea so it will probably work.

My other concern was the use of the policewomen in the site. As sex objects, the policewomen don’t do much generally for women who might want to visit the site. I am not sure if HI NRG know their intended audience to be males or bisexual females but to cover all bases, a sexy policeman might be needed to even up the gender issue.

Conclusion
“Dance Responsibly” is an interesting and efficiently executed website with outstanding design and good use of media. It was especially good to see fast loading times and less page code with well-thought out navigation and functionality. I expect HI NRG’s audience to be suitable impressed when visiting the website and that an awareness of dancing responsibly is promoted well by this website.

Comments From Reviewer 2:
danceresponsibly.com.au is a website well planned and executed. Thumbs up to the company that designs it – Kojo Interactive. There are a few subtle elements in it that is worth mentioning, the random policewomen moving in and out of screen, vibrating speakers, animating logo…etc. Though I would like to see more, I reminded myself that there might also be a danger of the website becoming too “dynamic”. The layout and concept of the site is obviously targeting at youngsters… perhaps youngsters don’t mind more movement?

Though I would love to see more content but Overall, I think the site deserves recognition in terms of design and concept. I love to know how many people actually revisited the site because I couldn’t find any good reason to other than the free competition and cool animation. Or, is it because of my age and preferences? Perhaps that next task would be how to retain its traffic and market the site?


Sitecritic.net award

www.danceresponsibly.com.au.1
fig 1. The cool “Dance Party” logo

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fig 2. One of the pop-up registration windows

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fig 3. One of the videos

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fig 4. A sexy policewoman

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fig 5. The loading screen

Quick Photoshop Sepia Tone Effect Tutorial

Sepia, seek pronounced, “see-pee-uh”, is originally a brown pigment obtained from the ink like secretion of various cuttlefish and was originally used as ink for writing. Later, a more concentrated form was produced for use in watercolor paintings. Photographs of the 1800’s where primarily printed on paper that was not acid free and as they aged, the photograph turned brown or “aged”.

In modern photography, dyes where used to dip the printed black and white photo and recreate that “aged” look. The age looked is still popular and much simpler and less messy to accomplish in digital photography using photo editing software such as Adobe Photoshop.

While there are several techniques and third party plug-ins you can use and purchase to accomplish the sepia toned look in a digital photograph, the technique I explain below is quick and simple and doesn’t require fussing with duotones or quadtones. I picked this technique up from a digital photo lab I use and this is basically how they convert their images to sepia tone.

My directions will be for Photoshop CS2, however, this will work in any Photoshop version on a PC or Mac. Additionally, other image editing software that has a color balance option will work as well.

Step 1

Open your color image in Photoshop. FILE>OPEN (see Image 1)

Step 2

You will need to convert your image to Black and White. I use image editing plug-ins to accomplish this, however, for simplicity, you can use Photoshops “Desaturate” option: IMAGE>ADJUST>DESATURATE . This will provide you with a grey scale version of your color image. See image 2:

Step 3

You’re now ready to create your sepia toned photo. From your Photoshop menu, select: IMAGE>ADJUST>COLOR BALANCE:
You now should see your dialog box at teh top of your dialog box, there are 3 small input boxes where you will input the following information (see image 3):
# First box, place the number 30
# Second box, leave it at “0?
# Third box, place a -20 (that’s minus) in the box

You will notice that the sliders below the input boxes will move toward the Red channel and the Yellow channel. You should now see that your image has transformed from a black and white photo to a sepia toned photo. You can experiment with the tone by adjusting the numbers or sliders, but the combination I have provided makes for a mild sepia toned image.

I have found that the best images to convert to sepia tone are those with good highlights in them and images that are not heavy in vegetation or have lots of dark areas. While any image can be converted, not every image will look good as a sepia toned image.

About The Author

Alyn Stafford is a communication artist specializing in marketing communications and is a Southern California wedding photographer based out of Riverside, California. His wedding photography can be viewed by visiting his photography website at www.alynstaffordphotography.com

59.1
Image 1 Color Image

59.2
Image 2 Black and White Photo

59.3
Image 3, Sepia Toned Photo

Photographing Inanimate Objects

Before I became a professional photographer, I never noticed in an average day how often we come across photographs of anything and everything. Photographs make up every magazine, billboard, clip art, product label and the list goes on and on.

Before I became a professional photographer, I never noticed in an average day how often we come across photographs of anything and everything. Photographs make up every magazine, billboard, clip art, product label and the list goes on and on.

Every time we see a photograph, it’s easy to overlook that there was a photographer, some type of studio setting, a shoot and various other details behind that image. Ironically, the industry of shooting inanimate objects can be just as interesting and lucrative as that of live subjects, if not more. There is no limit to the usefulness of inanimate object photography. Children and families get older and will inevitably require more photography, whereas an inanimate object can have a nearly limitless shelf life, if any at all. The most obvious venue for these shots are of course in advertising, product marketing and all types of commercial exposure. The most successful photographers can spend their lives shooting models in the latest high fashion, athletes in their tennishoes and the most modern of automobiles as they roll from the assembly line onto the showroom floor.

The portrait above is another example of inanimate photography. Still a type of marketing, this imagery uses emotion and symbolism to attract it’s admirers. Images like this use a combination of items and the way they are presented together to inspire some type of reaction from the world around it. These reactions depend on each viewer’s own personal experience, life and loves. Since the public is so diverse, this makes for a boundless target audience. These types of pieces are often used in an environment or on an item when hoping to achieve a certain atmosphere or idea. Imagine office walls, book covers and themed stationary. All of these created from photographs.

This portrait may conjure up memories of their favorite coffee shop. It may remind another of their writer’s block woes, all nighters in college or their grandmother’s old Royal. At the same time, these items can be moved around, one or two substituted with something else and an entirely different product is created, an entirely new emotion evoked.

About The Author

Umbrella

I shoot different things for different reasons. In the moment, while taking the photograph, it usually feels right. I’m not thinking, at all. But even if I know why, at the time, do I really?

I’m a Photojournalist, by trade, however I sketch ideas for photographs; structured ideas of things I’ve seen and things I’ve imagined, most of them requiring a studio. ‘Umbrella’ was something I had seen, which didn’t require a studio.

I was in New York, and it was midnight. I was alone, on my way to Port Authority, and I saw a woman. She was standing under a street lamp, at a crosswalk, holding an umbrella. The rain had stopped and the light had changed, but she didn’t move. She stood there, perfectly still. I remember the light being beautiful, and the scene strange, so I sketched it.

Five years later, I re-created the scene in Santa Barbara, California, where I was living. I grabbed a 4×5 camera, a friend, and set it up around midnight. To get the height needed, I stood on the camera’s case and put the tripod on a small slope.

With two sheets of film, I took a reading. Four Seconds at 5.6! Wow! On the second take, it was done. I overdeveloped the film and printed it on Charcoal paper. It worked. It felt like New York and it’s one of my favorites.

Search For Offices In London With Google Maps

Introduction

London Office Space is a website that offers a map-driven system to find serviced offices available to rent. By letting them do the work for you, and finding an ideal London location can be as easy as signing a short-term lease and moving in.

Form

The main page of the website is unique but is organised well. It consists of a main banner and paragraph and underneath are two columns, check the left column with a list of location names to click on and the right column containing a clickable map. At the bottom of the page are text links to “London Life”, sildenafil “Privacy Policy” etc. The maps on the website are triumphant feats of illustration (even if they are from Google) and are very helpful to the viewer and as an added bonus, they resize when the browser window does too. A minimap also helps to pinpoint the region. There is a key to go with the map showing offices, railways and so on, but since the key contains ticked circles instead of representative symbols I found it confusing.

Colours for the website are orange, grey, blue, black and green and are consistent with the logo. London Office Space’s logo is modern, simple and stylish, the only issue being the words “Office Space” which do not sit aesthetically under the word “London”. Possibly flattening a font like Arial Black as a tagline would work better. I thought the colours represented the type of business well and looked professional. The layout of the pages is neatly organised and pages are consistent with the two column design with contact details up the top. I liked the large phone number in orange at the top as it’s so obvious no customers can fail to use it if needed.

The colours in the top and bottom of the main page wrappers are an interesting idea too – thin multicoloured bars adding to the colour scheme. Images within the individual locations are sharp, bright and don’t look too doctored (which is normally the case with real estate). These pictures look realistic but well-taken. Each serviced office has a description, rating and buttons to schedule viewing, request price or add to shortlist.

Function

It is easy to navigate London Office Space, especially as there are two ways to navigate on many pages (text links and clickable map). Since the contact details are at the top and an arrowed destination list is shown, viewers can not get lost and should not have trouble finding what they are looking for. This is an example of a straight forward website.

If you live in central london, have a look at Central London Offices and if you live in outer london, have a look at Offices in Outer London. You can see that searching for offices is very easy by clicking on the balloons in the map. Coding is php using javascript and CSS as well. Loading times are a bit slow (even on an ADSL connection) – I believe this may be due to the map loading times. That are pros and cons of using Google Maps and loading time is one of the cons.

Conclusion

This website needs faster loading times, otherwise traffic might go elsewhere and regular customers might get frustrated. Maybe with caching or the advance of internet connection, loading time can be improved? Other than that, the site adequately meets customer needs and provides a huge range of offices to choose from in UK. With the same technology, it is likely that the company can extend their services to include other countries as well.

Londonofficespace.com is an example of a site that incorporates the latest open source technology into their services and is a role model for many other directory sites. The design in particular is efficient, simple and easy to navigate. Well done!

www.londonofficespace.com.1
fig 1. Logo & Thin Colour Bar

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fig 2. Each office has ratings etc

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fig 3. Key with ticked items

Something Fishy

Introduction

E-Aquarium is a website offering aquaria enthusiasts a unique assortment of online aquarium and fish tank related resources. It is an informational site with sales occurring through advertising for other e-stores.

Form

When first landing on the e-Aquarium home page, I thought the design looked lopsided. This is because the website uses a left aligned layout and has a large image in the centre left of the page with a very minimal heading at the top. The logo is in a blue webfont with a swimming fish animated gif. Perhaps creating a better logo, adding an aquarium style background to match the fish and generally filling in the heading area, would help this. While the white space helps convey spaciousness, the simplicity of the colour scheme doesn’t seem to appeal for an aquarium website and the design didn’t look that attractive.

1) The blue menu on the right side is all in capitals. This would impair speedy reading of the menu for the audience. It has been scientifically proven that lowercase letters are easier to read.

2) The electric blue web font is one of the most commonly used colours on the internet. Make your colours unique by using other shades of blue. Why not try a turquoise, an aqua or a slate?

3) As an aquarium site, there is the opportunity to do something really exciting with the background. How about using some different colours to jazz up the site a bit? Or the background image of an aquarium (complete with plants and fish)? Otherwise, the main image may need to be glorious in order to grab viewer’s attention.

4) The ads by Google on the other pages are commonly found on the internet and could be a bit of a turn off – could these be moved to a more subtle area – like at the bottom of the page?

5) There are some issues with text placement – for an example, see the bottom of the “Air Stones” page.

The advertisment on the right side gives an idea of an aquaria sort of design. Left-aligned layout is acceptable, although many sites are turning to centre-aligned layouts as they are more popular and look more balanced to viewers. The font size is adequate and can be read by people of all ages. Content is spaced out, easy to read and simple. It was good to see that the webmaster kept the home page text user friendly and short.

Just a quick note on the spelling – the menu looks like it should read “Snails” not Snail and there are a number of other singular items that could be plurals.

Function

Write about the usability and functionality of the site. Content is king. Do you get understand what the website is trying to say? Is there anything that hinders its functionality? You can also talk about the coding standards and loading time. We encourage our reviewers use image illustrations (see the image [link] below).Navigation is good – clicking on the right menu links goes straight to the page intended with no fuss, and the right menu is consistent on all the pages. At the bottom is text links for additional items, but I’m not sure if these should be in the right menu as not everyone is going to notice the other items down the bottom?

Coding is html with some CSS. It was good to see the meta name and description for each page was different, to attract appropriate traffic (eg, the snails page had a description of “a guide to the most popular snails…”) Loading times are fast, as code is basic and images are generally small sizes. Thumbs up for that.

The “Aquarium filter” page has a lot of information on it with some images of different systems to use and the “Cheap Fish Tank” page also offered helpful information about fish tanks. The content on E-Aquarium is useful and the more information is added, the more the site will become a useful online reference.

Conclusion

E-Aquarium has a noble ambition – free information on the web is ALWAYS handy for readers – however the design is very basic and could be better. Navigation is good and advertising needs to be more subtle. Competition for informational aquarium sites is minimal, mostly because other aquarium websites have basic design also. Good luck with making this website more exciting to visit.

www.e-aquarium.com.au.1
fig 1. Right menu in capitals

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fig 2. Boring heading area

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fig 3. Google advertising

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fig 4. Filtration page graphics and information

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fig 5. Videos – from the bottom links

Chic Logo, Barbie Functional E-Store

Introduction

The Barbie Girl Studio website is a Vintage Charm Bracelet Store that sells handmade bracelet and uniquely jewelry, medicine necklaces and earrings. With a great logo and some thought put into the website design, rx only some small changes are needed to make this a memorable e-store experience.

Form

The home page of The Barbie Girl Studio uses a standard three column e-store layout with the shopping basket placed in the left column. A Search box and Login details are in the top right, and which is a good place to put them. The logo is very cute, with a suitable mix of chic imagery and a girly font that give the right impression for the store. The colours used are complementary to the logo, in pinks, blacks and greys and the overall design is acceptable but the only outstanding part is the logo.

Ways to improve the design to make it more unique would include:

*** Making the blue text and blue links another, more complementary colour to the logo and colour scheme, such as garnet or deep purple.

*** Putting the products on a white background when photographing, so that the bracelet colours stand out more and also making sure all the product image background colours consistent.

*** Adding to the theme of the logo with similar looking graphics and advertisements.Adding subtle textured wallpapers or more colouring to the page (eg, a complementary but subtle colour like light pink, grey or pale blue in the left and right columns and/or at the top).

*** Keeping the fonts and colours consistent with the rest of the site in the detailed Product Information pages.

The bottom of the page has a nice gradiated pink colour bar matching the top with “About Us”, “Privacy Policy” and the useful “Contact Us” links. The colour bars look really nice the way they are, but by adding a bit of lace or some extra depth (ie a silhouetted image) to the bars, this would assist the uniqueness of the website.

I didn’t see ANY advertising on the site apart from the “Featured Product” which was a huge plus, but I felt an excitingly designed ad in the theme of the logo would only assist the website design if the owners wanted to promote a particular product apart from the featured one.

Function

With clear, easy to follow links that work, it’s impossible to get lost in this e-store and the product summaries (images and descriptions) are refreshingly packed close together to take advantage of “web estate” on the page. Customers are able to see a lot more products but they can still refer to the “Featured Product” and “Popular Products” listed in the right column if needed. This layout really appealed to me and I found it better to surf than if featured products took up a lot of extra space on the page. I had some reservations about the spelling and punctuation in the main links – “Earings” should be “Earrings” and “Tarot card” should be “Tarot Card”. Loading times are average, due to the multitude of graphics and code than inevitably goes into an e-store. Coding is php for the e-commerce and html for page design which works well together. The shopping cart appears functional and easy to use.

The Product Information pages are especially helpful as they have large pics of the products so the fine beads and charms can be seen – well done to the web designer who thought people might like to have a closer look at the items to buy. The “Information” box on the left menu was also helpful, displaying how many products, how many categories and the currency used for each section. However, this box didn’t update as I expect it should, so some tinkering may be needed to get it working properly.

Conclusion
The Barbie Girl Studio logo is what makes the website look interesting and eye-catching and this theme needs to continue more throughout the website to hold the customer’s attention (as well as the actual products of course). While functional and user-friendly, a few changes and some more creativity could make this e-store much more glamourous and would attract more repeat customers.

www.barbiegirlsstudio.com.1
fig 1. The Chic & Glamourous Logo

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fig 2. Interesting Products List

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fig 3. Featured Product Box

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fig 4. Products need consistent backgrounds

UK Mobile Phones E-Store

Introduction

Mobiles.co.uk was the UK’s first retail mobile phone website in 1995 and is now the largest web-only mobile phones store in the UK, processing thousands of orders every month.

Form

This website instantly comes across as professional and looks the way an e-store should. The logo is simple, yet unique and the logo colours (purple and black) are carried throughout the website (with some orange, pink, red, cyan and violet used for brands and grey used for title bars). With lots of text, images and attention to small detail (such as the graphic bullet points) the design looks very busy yet very capable. I thought customers might get confused or lost, however, upon closer inspection the headings like “Latest Mobile Phones” and “Our Best Network Deals” have helped to make the featured items in the main section much easier to negotiate. The design looks “loud” and “in your face” but the site is actually well organised and the busyness seems to appeal to lots of mobile phone users, who enjoy new gadgets and exciting communication. With stiff competition, this site needs to be “loud” and the design has served this purpose well.

Using a traditional three column layout, Mobiles.co.uk has the usual elements in the correct places, for example, a left navigational menu, left menu search button and basket on the right etc. The items in the left and right columns look familiar but not boring – an effort has been made to improve on these standard elements, by using graphics, headings, brands and lists to good effect. I especially liked the layout of the testimonials in the top right.

Function

There is a complex maze of navigation on Mobiles.co.uk, however the efficient menus and organised groups of information make it far easier for the customer to navigate. Links appear to work well. The main left navigational menu has handy bolded main categories, plain text subcategories and arrows indicating lists of links. The arrows are subtle (in grey) and helpful which is good as sometimes the arrows stand out too much and impair navigational scanning. However, when clicking on pages from the left menu, there is no indication in the left menu of where the customer currently is, and in such a large sea of data, the customer probably would like to know where they are in order to know where they could look next. Underneath the main bar at the top is an arrowed destination in plain purple text but it is a bit subtle and I didn’t notice it until after I had surfed for awhile.

Coding is aspx (Active Server Pages) using html, javascript and extensive CSS. Loading time is average but varied during the pages on my visit there…e-store loading times are usually an average (not fast, not slow) speed.

The Nokia N95 looked particularly nice due to layout and being able to incorporate the full specs in a subtle, tasteful and efficient manner. The advertising on this page was very helpful as it had items related to the carrier with special offers, instructions, features and deals. Since the customer would be looking at different carriers, the advertising is the most useful I have seen on a website and sets an excellent standard in successful placement of advertisments on websites. I highly recommend other businesses take a look at this style of ad placement.

Another interesting page is the Mobile Phone Deals. With the branding colours for each carrier and the specially designed bullets and headings, this page looks very exciting. The flashing black banner adds to this and overall the impression is of excitement and “can’t wait to buy”. The gradient in the heading text is a neat idea, adding a bit of shine and swish and while the page is busy, I’m sure the customer will love looking at it. “Choose from any of our amazing free gifts” is at the bottom of the page, which was a bit of an odd spot for it. However, having just bought my carrier contract, I sure would like to check out those free gifts!

Conclusion

Mobiles.co.uk is a fantastic e-store which has built on the traditional template to make it exciting, colourful, efficient and relevant to its web audience. I am convinced that it will attract and hold a lot of customers easily (and the deals are good too). Well done on an e-store others will envy!

www.mobiles.co.uk.1
fig 1. Detailed bullets & gradiated headings

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fig 2. Making the standard elements stand out

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fig 3. Free gifts at bottom of page & advertising

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fig 4. Testimonial in top right

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fig 5. Colour co-ordinated carriers

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fig 6. Professional logo

Take Better Photographs With Fill In Flash

The first time that I heard a comment about my pictures and my use of fill in flash, ampoule I had no idea what my photographer friend was talking about. So I just smiled and acted like I knew what he was talking about. Not being one to be left in the dark, though, I decided to do my homework. What I discovered has been an asset to my photographs and particularly to my wedding photography work.

Fill in flash is used when photographing subjects in bright sunlight. Using your flash in the bright light??? Yes! Bright sunlight can lead to harsh shadows, particularly on the face. By using fill in flash, you can supply extra light evenly across the face, while having little to no effect on the already bright areas of your photo. The light boosts your shadows and gives a much more pleasing result.

Fill in flash is also appropriate when your subject is backlit. It allows you to keep the details of the background while avoiding a silhouette of your subject. Your flash illuminates the front half of the subject, while the backlighting usually gives a very appealing highlight to the subject. The third use of your fill in flash is in shady areas. Using your flash while the subject is shaded keeps any harsh sunlight off of them, while allowing you to control the light that falls on the front of them.

Three pieces of advice, though… First, don’t stand too close to your subject or you will wash out the front details. I would suggest standing no less than 5-6 feet away from your subject. If you need to get in closer, use your zoom. Secondly, experiment with your camera’s flash settings. I used to rely solely on letting my camera decide if the flash needed to trigger or not. Now instead, I turn the flash off “automatic” and chose the “force flash” option. This means that my camera flash will go off regardless of the light meter reading if the flash is open. If I think then that turning the flash off would be appropriate, I just close the flash hood. Lastly, if you think that your camera’s flash is too bright on your subjects, an inexpensive fix is to rubberband a coffee filter to it. It’s cheaper than a flash diffusion hood, and you can simply throw it away if you don’t like it!

Play with these ideas! See what you think! Some photographers shoot with no flash at all, while others rely on what the camera tells them. Knowing when to take advantage of what your camera’s flash can do, though, can help prepare you the next time a new lighting situation arises.

Extras:
If you are in need of a new camera or a handheld camcorder then come to a great price comparison site where you can compare prices on all kinds of things including mp3 players and televisions plus many more electronic toys.

58.1
Direct Sunlight: with and without flash

58.2
Backlighting: with and without Flash

58.3
Shade Example: with and without flash