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Archive for April 2008

Have iPhone, will photograph: Celebrating the big impact of small pictures

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Chicago Skyline by Dominique James

BY DOMINIQUE JAMES

There used to be a time not too long ago when I kept wishing I brought my cameras with me all the time. The photographer that I am, I see so many “photographable” things along the way, and I just end up thinking and wishing and wanting to snap them all up for posterity. I thought it would be cool to be able to say, “Hey, I was at this place earlier today, and I saw this.” And then, show the picture. What kept me from doing it? The bulk and the weight of my DSLRs. The lenses and accessories. And how conspicuously “professional-looking” these cameras are. Lugging around the pro cameras was an idea that I never warmed up to. It just doesn’t seem to work with fun and quirky spur-of-the-moment street photography.

But then again, I just realized, I actually bring a camera with me all the time. My cellphone camera. I used to have 2 cellphones in Manila so I had two cameras. Unfortunately, both cellphone cameras were not good enough for the kind of “street” photography I wanted to do.

And then, about a couple of months back, I decided to get myself a really nice point-and-shoot pocket camera, and I thought, finally, I’d be able to snap up photos wherever I am and whenever I want. For a while, I brought the camera with me. I would put it in my jeans pocket. But somehow, I wasn’t inspired to take it out and snap pictures. About the only time I get to whip out my shiny and compact digital point-and-shoot camera was whenever someone would ask if anybody got a camera to take pictures of this or that. And then somehow, I keep forgetting to recharge it. After a while, I stopped bringing the compact camera.

And then, came the iPhone. I have to tell you, the Mac diehard that I am, I’ve always desired one the moment Steve Jobs unveiled it his MacWorld keynote address. Eventually, and finally, I did get my very own iPhone. I know, Apple says it’s a 3-in-1 device. It’s a revolutionary mobile phone, a sleek widescreen iPod, and a breakthrough Internet device. It’s a neat toy that does 3 things. And yes, I use it as a mobile phone, I use it as an iPod, and I use it to connect to the Internet. It’s the coolest thing. I’m crazy about it. I really love this toy.

And guess what? I’m loving the iPhone more and more because I am learning that I can do so many other things with it. In less than a week, it turned into the hub of my mobile digital lifestyle. This one device do so many wonderful things for me that I’m constantly fingering it. Any time I like, I can check the weather in New York, Manila, and Singapore. I’ve used it as my alarm clock on a couple of occasions when I had to wake up really early. I constantly review my appointments and update my calendar. I jot down quick thoughts and ideas. And I navigate the Interstate with it.

Now, I know it has a camera and all, but I didn’t use it until after a week and after I’ve just about explored all the features there is to be explored. Well, I was actually surprised at what iPhone’s camera can do. Not expecting it would be useful enough, I got a pleasant surprise. For a mobile phone camera, I found out that it can take really good pictures — good enough to serve as the anywhere-and-everywhere camera I’ve always really wanted.

The iPhone has a 2-megapixel, f2.8 camera. The image metadata shows that the camera’s make or brand is Apple and the model name is iPhone. It produces a 1600 by 1200 pixel size which is about a 22×16-inch image with a 72 ppi resolution. It has a 4:3 aspect ratio, a bit-depth of 8, and it occupies color space 1 with an sRGB IEC61966-2.1 color profile. And depending on the kind of pictures you take, the file size can vary from anywhere between approximately 200 to 500 kb per image. At 300 dpi, you can easily produce very good photo print the size of 4×5. You can even create a bigger 5×7 print without interpolation and without any noticeable degradation to the image quality. And what really amazed me is that, straight from the camera, it produces accurate color even in mixed lighting and in some instances of low-light indoor/night situations. And except for one’s ability to steadily hand-hold the iPhone to avoid or prevent camera shake that produces soft or blurry images in very low light, the image noise is actually very minimal and almost unnoticeable. In other words, the in-camera processing that the iPhone does, in it’s camera class, is pretty impressive.

For me, these technical specifications are good enough. After all, what I really wanted was just a simple point-and-shoot that can do it’s job. Although the iPhone camera has a lot of severe limitations when compared to a full-blown DSLR, the very lack of features and the way it simplifies everything is it’s own blessing. There’s nothing to tweak. It really is just very straightforward point-and-shoot affair. The lack of shutter speed, aperture, focus, zoom and other controls will force you to focus more on taking the shot rather than playing with it. And of course, you can see exactly what you are photographing from its gorgeous 3.5-inch (diagonal) widescreen multi-touch display that boasts of 480 by 320 pixel resolution at 163 ppi. And then, direct from the iPhone, you can go ahead and email it right away. The past few days, straight from the camera and without tweaking, I’ve been emailing my iPhone photos to my Tumblr mobile blog at http:/dominiquejames.tumblr.com/.

Of course, in this digital day and age, and with our uncanny affection for the magic of digital post-production, I wanted to see if the photos I took with my iPhone can withstand the rigors of image enhancements and editing using Apple’s Aperture and Photoshop CS3. Well, I was rather pleased with the results. Despite the fact that I was working with only the very limited RGB “in-camera post-processed” 255 colors, and despite the fact that the histogram immediately turns into a fine-tooth comb with wide ledges and open jogs from missing teeth the moment I started tweaking, the images were actually visually holding up. With careful and subtle image adjustments in both Aperture and Photoshop CS3 such as levels and curves, and with the use of layers, it is actually still very possible to further enhance, work on and be creative with the pictures snapped from the iPhone. Of course, we know that we are pushing it.

Since my Aperture software (Apple’s all-in-one post-production tool for photographers) is set to automatically open when a “camera” is connected, I would see the pictures I took with the iPhone instantaneously pop-up in my cinema display whenever I connect it via the USB dock to my MacBook Pro. Even when it is synching with iTunes and recharging, I just download all the shots, delete and free up the space in iPhone, and then do the other things I want to do such as fill it up with pictures from iPhoto, and also load it up with the new podcasts and music and movies that I want to check out on the go. And then, once properly ejected and undocked, go out again and shoot anything and everything. And I thought I was already trigger-happy with my DSLRs!

Looking at my growing collection of iPhone snapshots, I cannot help but marvel at the big impact that these small images have on me, and hopefully, on others as well. This is a big triumph of the little things.

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Written by dominiquejames

April 29, 2008 at 6:20 AM

How to develop a simple and street-savvy shooting style

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This is a photograph I took of my sneakers in contrat with the old wooden floor.BY DOMINIQUE JAMES

You can come up with great pictures any time and anywhere you may happen to be. All you need to do is to look around you. Anywhere you are, that’s where the picture is. Whatever the time of day, that’s the exact time for you to capture and create an image. It is the perfect time that will never ever happen again.

When doing “street shooting,” here are a few things to keep in mind:

• Do not wait until you are in a place other than exactly where you are before you decide to start shooting. Life is a journey, they say, so it is just but logical that you should also shoot along the way. The place where you are is the perfect place to start shooting. There are many things of interest all around that you can snap at right away with whatever camera you may happen to be using.

• Be aware of your environment. Keep looking everywhere for all sort of things. Look at the big things as well as the many small things. Look at things individually and as a group. When you keep your eyes open and by being more observant, it is impossible that you won’t be able to find anything interesting to photograph.

• Constantly frame and compose. Looking is one thing, composing is another. When you look around, frame the things you see in a picture, both horizontal and vertical, and yes, even a little bit tilted to the left or to the right. Compose it in your mind. Zoom into an object, or even just a part of it that makes you look into details, or, zoom out to see a grand panorama with the object you see as a focus of the image.

• Identify your main subject or subjects. For sure, there will be so many things all around you that everything will start vying for attention. Learn how to selectively focus your attention to specific objects of interest. When you do this, you are beginning to identify the main subject or subjects of a possible photographic image.

• Catch the moment. Develop a keen sense of anticipation. Try to know what’s going to happen moments before it actually happens. Guess the outcome of certain things, and see if your guess is correct. You can capture great images by anticipating when and how it will happen. Perfect timing is key. As I always say, once the moment is gone, it is gone forever.

• Look at things in a different way. Change your visual paradigm. See things from a different perspective. Play a game with yourself. Exercise your creativity by focusing on the play of colors, the play of shapes, the play of patterns, the play of textures, and the play of light. See relationships of objects and spaces.

• Travel light, shoot light. Most of the time, we end up not shooting because our gears are just too complicated, heavy and cumbersome. Instead of being able to shoot instantly, we waste time setting up. And we somehow lose our motivation. Get a camera that is lightweight, compact and inconspicuous. And bring a simple system that allows you to shoot almost without thinking.

• Be considerate of others. And be polite. Make sure you never get in the way of other people around you. If you are taking pictures of people, ask them if it’s alright to do so before snapping away. And, if they say no, respect their decision.

• Safety first. A lot of things can happen. And a lot of things can go wrong. Be mindful of your personal safety. While no one will stop you from going to some unheard-of exotic destination to capture the perfect pictures, make sure that you have taken all the necessary precautions and that you will be safe.

With these simple street shooting tips and hints, you’d be able to come up with really lots and lots of fantastic photographs that you can show to everyone. Photography is such a great hobby, and by developing your “any time and anywhere” street shooting skills, you can hone your skill and talent for capturing the special, wonderful and memorable moments of life as they happen all around you!

Written by dominiquejames

April 29, 2008 at 5:50 AM

Interview: Merlin Mann on time and project management for photographers

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This is a photograph of Merlin Mann taken by Jeremy Harris.BY DOMINIQUE JAMES

This week, we’ve been focusing our attention on how photographers can better manage their time and projects. In this exclusive interview with Merlin Mann of 43folders.com, I asked him to zoom in on some of the things that photographers can do to gain productivity by way of properly allocating time, managing projects well, and handling tasks more efficiently. In our conversation, Merlin also talked about the potential value of learning David Allen’s GTD (getting-things-done) methodology, how photographers might be able to effectively adopt it, and, defining the necessary personal traits as well as the psychology that may be needed in developing a well organized mind to actually make GTD work.

Last time, we also did an exclusive interview with Ethan Shoonover. Ethan used to be photographer before joining OmniGroup, and he talked about how photographers might choose to use an application such as OmniFocus to better frame the work and personal productivity needs of creative pros such as photographers. And now, in surveying the expansive landscape of time and project management while keeping the needs of photographers in mind, Merlin Mann points out to us the elegant beauty of implementing GTD.

Dominique James: What are the time management needs of photographers, and how does it differ with those of other creative professionals?

Merlin Mann: I have some friends who are photographers, and from what I can gather, they share a lot of the same problems that knowledge workers have, people like designers or programmers or artists. And that’s the problem of having a lot of projects that are in different kinds of states at the same time. So, you may have one person where you’re discussing bids, there’s another person where you’re trying to schedule the time to do a shoot, there’s another person where you’re doing reshoots, and another where you’re sending finished work. So, there’s all these different things that you’ve got to manage, and you need a system for capturing all that stuff in one place so you don’t have to think about it anymore than you need to. The challenge faced by many people today is having so many projects going that you can’t keep it all in your head.

Dominique James: By putting everything in one place, how should a photographer prioritize or sort though all the stuff and start getting things done?

Merlin Mann: I’m not sure that I would do it any differently if I were a photographer from one else. I guess, the one way in which photographers have challenges is, obviously if you’re an outdoor photographer, you’ve got to have a lot of flexibility about whether the weather is not going to be right or something like that, but the core problem is still a shared one, which is what I always say, putting all that stuff in one place. And then, I think one idea that’s great for anybody is an idea from David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done, which should be the idea of trying to always think about each of your projects in terms of what he calls the “next action.” The “next action” just means: “What is the next physical action that I have to do to get this project closer to being finished?” If you are managing a lot of different projects, that’s the way to make sure you always understand what you need to be doing across a range of different projects.

Dominique James: So that is the essence of David Allen’s getting-things-done methodology, right?

Merlin Mann: That’s right. In its simplest, it is a system that can work for many different types of projects or jobs, regardless of what you do.

Dominique James: Is it therefore right to say that there isn’t much difference with the way a photographer should manage his time and projects, and in performing tasks, compared to others?

Merlin Mann: Well, I think there are areas in which being a photographer has special challenges. Most of the photographers that I know are actually very, very organized because they have to be. They’ve got everything moving in Lightroom or Aperture or in whatever it is that they may like to use, and they develop some kind of personal taxonomy (a systematic means of classification and arrangement) on how they organize their work.

Dominique James: In terms of the actual workflow, photographers do tend to follow an organized worklow that’s within the framework of the software they use, but in terms of working on the bigger picture, which is running the business, what can they do to get a grip on the end-to-end workflow?

Merlin Mann: One thing that I think is important, when I was a kid, I always heard the cliche that “there’s a place for everything, and everything in its place.” I think on a professional level it is important to have a system where you understand all the stuff that comes into your world, you should have some idea of where it goes. And I think whether you’re a photographer or whatever your job, it’s useful to have an idea in your head about whether that’s an email, or a phone call, or film strips, and then having an idea in your head where everything goes. So later on, when you need to find it, you don’t have to think about it for too long. It doesn’t cause you stress. You know where everything goes, there are no two places anything could be. So, I think that’s one way to reduce a lot of the stress.

Dominique James: Many photographers seem to have trouble managing the amount of time it takes to do things. Everything just seems to take forever. What can be done?

Merlin Mann: One thing I think is helpful is to set alarms. To be able to work with lots of projects at once, you need to have a lot of trust, that whatever system you have in place, will remind you when you need to do something, and so you can just forget about it and do other work without that anxiety and stress of worrying that something’s not getting done. So if there’s something where you want to add reminders for yourself, for example, to call somebody at a certain date, rather than trying to hold that in your head, I think that’s great. The other thing is, I’m not a big fan of using priorities, because priorities tend to be a way of making yourself feel bad about something you don’t want to do. Because if make something very, very high priority, well, why don’t you just do it? Do you know what I mean? — It’s a rhetorical question, but what stops you o me or anyone from doing that high priority thing, the real question is, in my head, “What’s blocking me from getting that finished?” So, instead of making something high priority, it’s better to spend that time and that brain power figuring out what would make it into something that can get done. Or, ask yourself, “Is this something that I really want to do?” Sometimes the best thing you can do is throw something away.

Dominique James: What is the best way, therefore, for a photographer to start implementing a GTD program?

Merlin Mann: GTD is a nice system, and it works. One’s you’ve read the Getting Things Done book, you have, at the start, to set aside some time because the idea in the book is to set aside some time to make sure you’ve gathered everything that’s on your mind. You never really will relax as long as stuff is on your mind. They call it capture — taking all that idea and putting it in one place like an inbox, and then one at a time, going through everything that’s on your mind, and figuring out what you’ve got to do about it, and it can take a day or two to go through that, or more, but it’s very empowering, to get all that stuff off your mind into some kind of an actionable format.

Dominique James: Are there instances when a photographer will gather and write all things that needs to be done, but once it’s all written out, the motivation fizzles when it comes to actually doing it?

Merlin Mann: It happens all the time, and part of the problem is that we skip the phase where we think about why we even want to do something. There is something in our mind that says, “Oh, you know, you should go do this thing,” and if you just write it down without actually thinking about it, then, you’re probably not gonna do it. Again, it’s just gonna cause stress. So, it’s really important, whenever you’re accepting a project, and you’re saying, “This is something that I’m gonna get done,” it really is important to understand what success looks like–to have an idea in your head why you are doing that, because if you skip that step, and just sit around collecting tasks all day, you’re not going be doing rewarding work. You’re only going be shovelling tasks from one place to another.

Dominique James: For a Mac-based photographer, what GTD software would you recommend?

Merlin Mann: I have a friend of mine who used to be a professional photographer, who wrote something for the Mac called Kinkless GTD, a guy named Ethan [Schoonover], and that guy, actually he got hired by a company called OmniGroup, and he and I both helped to work on a product called OmniFocus. I’m not trying to sell that, but it’s just that I mentioned it because he started out as a photographer, and part of it was he needed a way to put all these stuff into a system that works. But you know, the thing about GTD, the system itself is very personal. It’s a personal decision, nobody can really tell you how to do that. It really starts with getting your mind comfortable with the fact that something has to be done, and putting a stake on the ground that you’re going to do something with it. Some people could organize their whole life out of a notebook, and other people come up with these very complicated systems or web applications but my only advise would be try and adopt the simplest tool that you can tolerate, something very, very simple. Because you don’t want it to become something where you’re just playing with the tool all the time. You have work to do. You have photos to shoot. And so, whatever it is, find some way to capture stuff, and organize it in a system that’s sensible, but then make it all about actually accomplishing that work and getting it done, and that’s really the important part.

Dominique James: So, how was your experience developing OmniFocus?

Merlin Mann: It was really good. There are some people who say OmniFocus is too simple, and then some people who think it’s too complicated. They really developed it though around people like me, and the way that my mind works, and so if your mind works like mine, it’s really good (laughs). Like I say, there’s so many options out there right now, like iGTD and all. There’s a lot of web-based applications for people who are on more than one platform. David Allen himself, until a few years ago, just used paper. He had a binder that he did everything out of. Some people use Moleskine notebooks. Whatever it is that works for you, you just have to find the simplest tool that you can stand, and it will make your life a lot easier.

Dominique James: So, any other advise for the photographers?

Merlin Mann: Nothing more except that I’ll just say have fun and keep using the Mac.

[Note: Merlin Mann is the founding editor of 43folders.com, a family of websites about personal productivity, “life hacks,” and simple ways to make your life a little better. Photo of Merlin Mann by Jeremy Harris.]

Written by dominiquejames

April 18, 2008 at 8:30 AM

Time, task and project management ideas for photographers

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PRODUCT FEATURE & REVIEW OMNIFOCUS 1.0.1
BY DOMINIQUE JAMES

More and more photographers are realizing the need to better organize their time. In particular, freelance professional photographers feel that they can and they should develop a better system in conducting their day-to-day creative and professional photography. If previously the focus has been just on their pictorials and post-production workflow, a lot of them are now looking at how they can sort out and organize the multiple aspects of their work, profession, hobbies, and other interests.

For this reason, many are finding that the answer to their problem is the implementation of a “getting-things-done” system. Simply known to many as GTD, this is a methodology developed and codified by productivity guru David Allen in his seminal book entitled “Getting Things Done.” It is a system where a photographer, or anyone for that matter, can sensibly handle their time management, task management, and schedule management.

There are several ways to implement a GTD system. One preferred method is by using a software-based tool. And among those that are available, one software that stands out is OmniFocus.

OmniFocus is a personal productivity software and task management tool that anyone can use to implement the “getting things done” or GTD methodology developed by Allen as described in his book. It is one of the new and best-of-breed applications developed by The Omni Group that is designed to accommodate any individual, personal style, method or system of organization. OmniFocus is a flexible software that effectively and efficiently manages anyone’s to-do and task lists, as well as schedule, with the hope of gaining not only productivity but also better and higher level of work-life satisfaction.

Using OmniFocus, you can easily capture your thoughts and then allow you to quickly store, manage, and process them into actionable to-do items. Task can be assigned to projects and stored within contexts (for example, “home” or “work” or “garden” or “shopping”), with built-in visual cues that highlight the next action you need to do. OmniFocus helps you work smarter by giving you powerful tools for staying on track of al the things you need to do. OmniFocus includes the following features: a quick entry panel that is accessible via keybaord shortcut from any application, import for kGTD documents, iCal synchronization, extensive project and task filtering, file attachments, saved viewing perspectives, and more.

To understand what OmniFocus can do for you, and how it can improve your life’s workflow, we conducted an exclusive interview with Ethan Schoonover, the head of marketing at The OmniGroup.

• • • • • •

Dominique James: What is OmniFocus?

Ethan Schoonover: OmniFocus is our newest application and is designed to enable personal task management using a lightweight, easy to use yet powerful and flexible system. It was partially inspired by a popular task management methodology called “Getting Things Done” (GTD) developed by David Allen (davidco.com) and was evolved from a set of scripts I wrote for OmniOutliner called Kinkless GTD (kGTD).

For years we’ve seen the “project management” and “task management” applications on the market living at extreme ends of the complexity spectrum: Sophisticated project management applications provided highly structured and detailed project plans but were usually either unwieldy or too complex for lightweight personal tasks and projects, while “personal information managers” and basic task management applications often broke down quickly when pushed past a very basic level of use.

OmniFocus has been designed to provide more structure and control over all your projects and tasks in one application. You can keep all your personal and professional projects in one place and view only the set of tasks that are most important to you at any time.

DJ: Who are the intended or target users of OmniFocus?

ES: Anyone that feels they have a lot of personal and professional projects and would like to have a simple system to effectively organize and manage them. Right now it’s very much a “single user” system but we’re hard at work on ways to enable small teams and groups to use it together. We’re also adding in multiple Mac syncing as well as iPhone syncing.

DJ: What is the main objective of using OmniFocus?

ES: The main objective of OmniFocus is “transparent task management”. We want to eliminate as much “metawork” as possible, i.e. we want to remove the need to spend a lot of time managing your projects and tasks. At the same time, we didn’t want to sacrifice control, power or flexibility in how you can view, sort, filter and control which tasks and projects are available or “on deck” at any given moment.

One of the unique features of OmniFocus is that it allows you to view your tasks as “physical actions” (discreet physical activities) that are associated with a larger goal/project. You can organize these actions by project to get an overview of how close you are to achieving specific goals and plan out next steps, or you can re-organize the actions by the type of physical activity they are. We use the GTD term “context” for this. A context can be a place, a resource or thing, a person or an opportunity that is required to do a specific action. For example, many of my actions might require that I am shopping at the grocery store, while others require that I’m at the pro photo gear rental shop. In this case I can use “grocery store” and “pro rental” as contexts. I can plan out actions across various projects that will happen at these locations and then when I’m ready to hit the road and go to the pro shop, for example, I ask OmniFocus for a list of all the things I need to do while I’m there. It’s like having a personal assistant in your Mac.

DJ: As a former professional photographer yourself, in what do you see the advantages and benefits in using OmniFocus?

ES: I’m sure you’d agree with me when I say that being a successful pro photographer is as much about being a consistent, competent, on-time and on-budget service professional as it is about talent. Indeed, I’ve known a lot of talented photographers that couldn’t survive in the business simply because they were too disorganized or unreliable. Good photography requires skill and talent. Good professional photography requires a totally separate set of business and organizational skills.

For a lot of photographers, the organizational side of things ends up being an afterthought, which is really a terrible way to handle business. It’s a recipe for disaster, really. If you work with a good producer, art director, etc. and have a strong team either in house or from an agency or studio you are working with, then you may have a lot of the back office activities taken care of for you, but you still need to keep “your own house” in order.

I’m going to list out some of the things I used to have to handle when I was shooting full time. I didn’t use a full-time assistant or office staff, so being organized was critical. Here’s a random sampling of tasks and projects that were up on deck for me at any particular time (actually pulled from OmniFocus):

  • process last shoot
  • upload final selects to publication/printer
  • update website contact information
  • tag old shots for resale online
  • pick up pocketwizards from repair
  • buy new short seamless
  • order bigger think tank belt (or go on crash diet)
  • chase editorial for publication date
  • wrap up client’s annual report shoot
  • put together a go-bag for harbour shoot on next available clear night
  • more bobby pins
  • new 220v & 110v modeling lights
  • prepare for next photoshop training session
  • replenish studio fridge
  • retouch client’s final picks

Some of these are individual tasks (pick up pocketwizards) while some are bigger projects with individual sub-actions. I built Kinkless GTD out of desperation… I needed something to help me organize and manage all the things I was working on. Simple task management such as that in iCal (or Outlook, as I was a fresh convert to Mac when I first wrote Kinkless and had found Outlook equally limiting for task management) just didn’t scale well past a couple dozen items. I needed a way to see what was due, overdue, coming due, organized by project or by context.

OmniFocus takes this same idea and executes on it much better and in a top-quality piece of Mac engineering. The coders at Omni are, I swear, prodigies one and all. They’ve done some amazing work in OmniFocus 1.0 and the roadmap for future updates is clear and we’re on track to release some great new stuff this year.

Anyhow, back to OmniFocus for photographers …. the other big area I needed help in was managing client relationships. I did mostly editorial and corporate assignment. For both types of photography it’s important to develop and maintain a strong client relationship. You can’t just sit back and rest on the success of the last job. You need to keep some awareness and communication open at all times. It’s what a bigger business might call Customer Relationship Management.

Rather than use a dedicated CRM tool, I was able to use OmniFocus to easily manage each of my client relationships. I had a separate folder for each client and inside each folder I had specific OmniFocus projects for specific jobs/deliverables. However I also had a general “Relationship Management” project that was very similar for each client. If I hadn’t spoken to the client in a while, I could add an action to call them on the phone and touch base. Once I called them I’d take notes on the call right inside the notes field in OmniFocus. Then, after the call, I could create new actions based on any specifics the client mentioned (i.e. provide samples of work specific to a project proposal) and I’d also create a new task that was dated to stay off my radar for, say, two months. But in two months it would show up on my task list as “mail postcard to client”.

OmniFocus does a stellar job at not overwhelming you with things you can’t work on now, and it also fits nicely into a lightweight, “natural planning” workflow. You don’t need to plan out everything from now till the end of time. Just the next couple steps in any given project.

DJ: What do you suggest is the best way to transition from the old, less-than-perfect and not-so-efficient method of personal organization to the new GTD-based OmniFocus?

ES: Great question. The best way, in my opinion, is to “start fresh” with a brain dump into OmniFocus. Just start to capture everything, big and small, into the OmniFocus inbox. David Allen calls this a “mental sweep”. Then categorize this material into projects, tasks, and folders as necessary. You can go back and look at your old task management materials but this kind of “blank slate” start is a good way to really get the stuff that’s top of mind into your trusted system.

DJ: From a user’s point of view, and from a psychological framework, what are the difficult organizational, management, work and personal issues that OmniFocus has already solved or can solve?

A lot of the problems that OmniFocus solves are really the same things that David Allen’s GTD methodology is designed to address. For example, getting all the stuff that you’d like to do or that you are obligated to do literally “off your mind” is probably the top benefit. The reduction in stress that this effects is palpable. Everything starts with this. Once you trust that you have a system in place that captures and organizes everything, you can clear your mind of everything other than what you are working on at that moment. Focus. Clarity. Attention. All benefits of GTD with OmniFocus!

DJ: What is the easiest and fastest way of learning OmniFocus?

ES: Download the trial and play with it. Watch the quickstart video. We’re in the midst of revamping the website right now to include more video materials and training resources, so stay tuned for that!

DJ: OmniFocus is different from all other GTD software in what ways?

ES: Three things really differentiate it:

1. Top quality “under the hood” engineering – OmniFocus is more robust, stable and more frequently updated than any other GTD application that’s currently out there. We have a solid development roadmap and have already issued significant feature improvements and bug fixes since we shipped a couple months ago. Omni started off developing for the NeXT platform, the predecessor to what is today known and loved as Mac OS X, so they are some of the most experienced Mac developers around. They’ve worked very hard to make sure that your data is truly in a “trusted system” and that if you put something into it, it’s there and it’s safe.

2. Fast, powerful input tools – OmniFocus has a significant new feature that users of Quicksilver might be familiar with already. We’ve built in “Smart Match” functionality into OmniFocus that lets you match existing information in OmniFocus with just a few keystrokes. If I have a context called “Mac Office” for example, I can match it by hitting the key strokes “M” and “O”. If I have a project but only remember part of the name, I can assign a task to it by just entering a word or even just part of a word in it’s title. HUGE time saver. You can also use natural language dates such as “Today” or “Next month” when assigning task start and due dates.

3. Easy to start “light”, easy to use more advanced tools – You can get started by just entering a couple tasks or projects and working off them like a simple task management list, but OmniFocus also gives you easily accessible tools to sort, filter, and review your projects and actions. For example, say you want to see everything that is due this week? No problem. Just “group by date”. Flag a couple “hot” projects and then tell OmniFocus to show you only actions that are part of flagged projects and that you can do while at your computer. Done in a couple clicks.

DJ: What are the significant advantages and features that is in OmniFocus but not in others?

ES: There are three:

Filtering & Smart Match – Our filtering tools are really in a class by themselves and no other GTD apps have a true “Smart Match” function.

Interoperability – Additionally, we have great interoperability with the rest of OSX, so for instance we can sync your OmniFocus actions with iCal to-dos (and vice-versa, so it’s a “round trip” relationship). You can even do nifty stuff like email yourself a task (say when you are out and have your phone but no computer) and if you preface the subject line with a certain simple prefix it will be automatically pulled into the OmniFocus inbox as a new item.

Ongoing development and support – I’ll toss out one other reason to consider OmniFocus: Ongoing development and support. Omni has one of the biggest dedicated support teams of any mid sized Mac indie developer (over 30% of our staff are full time live customer support staff and we recently added a couple new full time OmniFocus support staff). We also are hard at work on significant new features for OmniFocus including a dedicated iPhone app and live syncing with multiple computers.

DJ: What will keep photographers from straying out of the GTD with OmniFocus?

ES: We actually have built OmniFocus so that you can use it in a non-GTD manner if you want to, but it’s also designed to fully support a “strict” GTD use case. We’ve of course made it super easy to view your tasks in context lists as well as in project mode, but we’ve also built in some unique features in OmniFocus that enable you to do GTD reviews of your projects based on the last time you reviewed them. This is also a unique feature of OmniFocus in the GTD application market as far as I know.

Any system ultimately relies on the commitment from the user to make it work, of course. We make it easy to do the “right thing” however.

DJ: Will OmniFocus be available through iPhone?

ES: Absolutely. OmniFocus for iPhone is being actively developed as we speak.

DJ: Will OmniFocus develop it’s own built-in calendar module in future versions that may be independent from iCal?

ES: Like many of the best OS X applications, we are staying focused on doing “one thing well” and then “playing well with others”. For example, OS X doesn’t try to mimic the “one app to rule them all” approach of Outlook. Instead it breaks these PIM functions out into dedicated, purpose-built applications including iCal for calendaring and Mail.app for email. The brilliance of doing this is that it allows the user to pick the app that works best for them (i.e. a different mail client) while still using, for example, iCal. We felt that there was a lack of strong task management support in the built-in OS X personal information management tools so we developed OmniFocus to both work well with iCal and Mail. It’s kind of the “missing piece” of the OS X PIM puzzle.

So that’s by way of explaining the development philosophy of OmniFocus and its relation to iCal. We do support start and due dates and may continue to develop the options for viewing dated tasks in new and unique ways, but iCal will always be the best place for “hard landscape” events and appointments.

DJ: Will OmniFocus also be able to integrate and tap on information resources existing in one’s computer such as Mail, iCal, Address Book, etc?

ES: Yes. I’ve mentioned a bit about our existing integration with Mail but will say a little more about that. Currently we have the ability to email yourself a task and have OmniFocus (via an automatically installed Mail rule that OmniFocus can create for you) pull in that task as a new action in the OmniFocus inbox. Additionally we integrated with almost all the other apps on OS X in that you can instantly capture information from any place using either our Quick Entry panel or the OmniFocus clipping service. For example, when I’m reading a web page I can select some text, images or even a full webpage and then hit a simple key-combination to instantly capture the entire page to my OmniFocus inbox or even directly creating a new task with the web page content as a note inside an existing or new project. I can do the same instant capture with part of an email message or the entire message.

Even better: when OmniFocus captures this information in the note of a new task, it also adds a link back to the original source. So you’ll get a link that opens up the original email, the original web page, or even a file on your file system.

DJ: If a user’s ongoing iCal and Address Book data is in a laptop, and the OmniFocus software/data is in a desktop, what do you suggest is the most efficient way to integrate and make both current?

ES: While we are working on mac-to-mac sync functionality for a future update, currently OmniFocus will work best on a single machine. OmniFocus does support iCal sync, so you can have your OmniFocus actions show up as iCal todos and can even add new todos from iCal back into OmniFocus. If you sync your iCal between multiple machines then this is one way of accessing and capturing at least some of your data from one machine onto your “main” OmniFocus machine. Also, we have a neat Mail capture rule/script that lets you automatically capture specially written mails that you send yourself and have them show up in your OmniFocus inbox or even right in a project.

DJ: Will project management become an integral part of OmniFocus?

ES: Yes. OmniFocus is all about personal project and task management. While OmniFocus itself will never do things like Gantt charting (nor would we want it to since that’s way too complex for most “natural planning”) we are looking at ways we can allow teams of OmniFocus users to work together easily and how we might allow our Gantt chart and project management application OmniPlan work with OmniFocus. These are ideas for the future but are certainly top of mind for us.

DJ: Where will the next development be for OmniFocus? Where is the software headed?

We’ve already release a couple major fixes and point releases and have another point release for general bux fixes coming up soon. The iPhone app is already in progress and we’ve got mac syncing also being developed right now, so those features you should see within, say, sometime this year (though we don’t know when Apple will start distributing iPhone apps via the recently announced App store).

Our ongoing, active development is a key part of what sets Omni apps apart from the crowd. It’s like buying a car: you have to factor in service and support. With Omni, you get live, human support and outstanding ongoing engineering resources. It’s an outstanding value.

• • • • • •

Based on my initial evaluation of OmniFocus, I give it a 4 out of 5 rating. And since I easily learned how to use the software, and because it gave me the opportunity to quickly note down to-dos, project and work ideas, became somewhat more organized and was able to handle priorities better, planned everything more efficiently and in the process ended up being somewhat more productive, my buying advise is: go buy it now! There’s no point in procrastinating. The time to get better organized is now. This is the right time, task and project management not only for photographers but for everyone.

To quickly learn OmniFocus, you can watch the excellent introductory high-definition or standard-definition video, or, download the PDF-formatted OmniFocus map and manual.

OmniFocus is $79.95 for a single license. You can also buy a family pack at $119.95. Upgrading from single to family license is $40.00 only. The good news is, if you already are an OmniOutliner 3 Professional or an OmniOutler 3 Family Pack owner, you can avail of their promotional 25% discount. Quantity discounts and educational pricing are also available.

OmniFocus, a 6.7 MB download, provides universal support for both the Intel and PowerPC-based Macintoshes. For more about this GTD software that runs on any Mac, visit the official OmniFocus website. A free trial of OmniFocus is available for download at their site, and you can also download abd try out future builds that’s currently in development.

About The Omni Group – The Omni Group is an elite team of special forces who develop productivity applications exclusively for the Mac, such as: OmniWeb, a web browser offering far more than standard browsing features which won a 2004 Macworld Editor’s Choice Award; OmniOutliner, an outlining and organizational tool which was awarded an Editor’s Choice Award in December 2005; and OmniGraffle, a highly regarded diagramming application that received a 4.5 mouse product rating out of a possible 5 mice in the February 2006 Macworld magazine. Other products developed by the Omni Group are: OmniPlan, OmniFocus, OmniDazzle, OmniDiskSweeper, OmniObjectMeter, and OmniDictionary. The company is located in beautiful Seattle, Washington. In 1989, the founders of The Omni Group began working with some of the technologies that form the basis of Mac OS X. Their early consulting projects included creating a custom application for the William Morris Agency, and designing a database and security architecture for AT&T Wireless. The Omni Group was founded in 1993, and has since successfuly transitioned from a consulting/game porting business to the application developers today.

Written by dominiquejames

April 15, 2008 at 7:28 AM

Press Release: FotoMagico 2.0 – Your PDEE (Personal Digital Export Expert)

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Munich, Germany — Your PDA is good at knowing when you need to do things, FotoMagico 2.2’s new Sharing Assistant is good at knowing how to do things. So, you do not have to be an expert to, for example, create a web page with your FotoMagico show embedded. Other cool new things included support for the iChat Theater so that you can review your show with your client via iChat and the QuickLook plugin for Mac OS X Leopard.

About FotoMagico

FotoMagico, winner of the Apple Design Award 2006 – Best Mac OS X User Experience Runner-up, is a presentation tool for photographers. It is easy to use and produces phantastic slideshows that makes the audience want for more. As Derrick Story, host of ‘The Digital Story’ puts it: “FotoMagico makes the kind of slideshows that make Ken Burns envious.”

Your Personal Digital Expert aka Sharing Assistant

The new Sharing Assistant makes it super easy to create the files you want for making a DVD, putting them on your iPod, iPhone or Apple TV, or playing in full quality on another Mac. Just choose whatever you want to create and the assistant will adjust all the settings for you. The Sharing Assistant is based on Plug-ins, expect to see additional ways of sharing your slideshows over the coming months.

Easily Create Websites

“Putting a FotoMagico show on the web has never been easier”, says Oliver Breidenbach, Co-Founder of Boinx Software. “FotoMagico 2.2 includes a number of very nicely made web page templates. Just select one of these templates and FotoMagico will not only create the proper movie file, but also all the HTML code needed to embed the file in a web page. It will then also upload all the required files to your FTP files that tend to collect on the desktop.

Availability and Pricing

FotoMagico 2.2 is available immediately from http://boinx.com/download. A built-in assistant will guide users through the process of aquiring the proper license. The update to FotoMagico 2.2 is free of charge to current FotoMagico 2 license owners at their current license levels. FotoMagico 2.2 Express is available for $49, FotoMagico 2.2 Pro is available for $129 via Kagi. For all purchase options see http://boinx.com/fotomagico/buy. Commercial Multi-User license discounts are available upon request.

About Boinx Software

Boinx Software Ltd. is based in Puchheim, near Munich, Germany. Boinx Software develops and publishes fun and easy to use applications for the creative user. Boinx iStopMotion is the leading solution for stop motion animation and time lapse capture for your digital hub and won the O’Reilly Mac OS X Innovators Award in 2003. Boinx iVeZeen turns your webcam into a digital camcorder. Boinx Mouseposé is the essential mouse pointer highlighting tool for everyone doing presentations, trainings or demos and those individuals with huge and high resolution displays. Information about Boinx Software and its services can be obtained from its website http://boinx.com.

Written by dominiquejames

April 14, 2008 at 3:08 AM

iRizer and Folding Keyboard from Matias

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BY DOMINIQUE JAMES

It is the little things that makes a big difference to photographers, particularly when shooting on location, and in unpredictable circumstances. Photographers tend to go to great lengths when it comes to selecting the most ergonomically-designed of accessories, cases, bags and straps, among others. Professionals and hobbyists alike will take the time to check out product reviews, analyze item specifications, and solicit feedback from fellow photographers. The right accessory can make a huge difference in terms of ease, comfort, and speed, which, in turn, can lead to being able to do a better job and produce higher quality output.

From experience and based on feedback, one of the companies consistently producing outstanding products, not only for photographers, but also for professionals and hobbyists in diverse fields and interests, is the Canadian company popularly known by its name, Matias. Matias is best known for its innovative and stylish products such as protective cases, bags, and accessories.

iRizer: Portable Ergonomic Laptop Stand

This is an illustration of an iRizer Portable Ergonomic Laptop Stand from Matias.Recently, Matias introduced a new accessory that got a lot of laptop users really excited. It’s called the iRizer. iRizer is a portable ergonomic stand for the laptop. While there are a number of laptop stands that’s already out in the market, none of the existing products provide the elegant simplicity and practical solution that is embodied in the iRizer. The idea behind this new product is to help save laptop users from wrist and neck pain simply by raising the laptop’s keyboard and screen to a more comfortable level. The iRizer is designed to provide 4 heights, depending on the user’s preference. So, whether a person is tall or petite, and whether the desk is too high or too low, the iRizer’s sleek interlocking design can be adjusted to the most comfortable height – 20˚, 30˚, 40˚, or 50˚.

The iRizer is perfect for home and office use. But it is particularly helpful and useful when traveling. It folds flat and is compact enough to be easily carried. When stacked together, the iRizer’s two slim acrylic plates are thin enough to easily fit into any notebook bag. And when needed, it can quickly be assembled for instant use. And for maximum comfort, it is best that the iRizer be used together with a separate keyboard and mouse that turns the laptop into a more comfortable desktop computer. Matias recommends their new Folding Keyboard as the perfect pair for the iRizer.

Other than the ergonomic benefits of using the iRizer as recommended by leading ergonomists, it allows air to circulate freely under the laptop which makes it run cooler and quieter. The laptop’s battery will last longer and may even extend the computer’s lifespan.

And here’s the thing, when you buy an iRizer, you’ll get a special bonus – a MiniRizer. Every iRizer includes a free bonus MiniRizer. This is a credit-card sized version of the iRizer that can be used as a sleek stand for the iPod, iPhone, cellphone, and even business cards. This is an awesome additional accessory!

The Matias iRizer Portable Ergonomic Laptop Stand costs $39.95 only. We give it a 4.0 out of 5.0 rating. And our buying advise? Don’t wait till your neck and wrist hurt. Order one right now.

Matias USB Folding Keyboard

This is a photo illustration of the Folding Keyboard from Matias.

The Matias Folding Keyboard is a full-size USB keyboard that folds in half for travel. Small enough to fit in a laptop bag, it can be considered as the ultimate keyboard for the laptop users.

The really good thing about this keyboard, despite the fact that it folds into a compact size, it is constructed to fit in high-quality dome switches that gives the keyboard a responsive, tactile feel, with enough resistance to hold the weight of your hands, and fingers. Consequently, this can reduce long-term fatigue and makes it a lot more comfortable to use. To the number crunchers, this keyboard features a tab on the number pad that allows for one-handed number entry into forms and spreadsheets, leaving the other hand free to hold or flip through documents and papers with information being entered.

In addition, this laptop takes the Fn key and injected some brains into it. The Matias Fn key allows quick and easy access to keys that normally require a long reach such as arrow keys, page up, page down, elete, and others. These can now be typed right from the home row, without moving the hand. Of course, you can still type those keys the normal way, but using Fn can be faster, which works both on the main keybaord and the number pad.

As an added feature, you can turn up or down, and also mute, the volume. It also includes function keys, page navigation keys, and cursor keys.

The Matias USB Folding Keyboard costs $69.95. It works with both the Mac and PC. We give this keyboard a 4.0 out of 5.0 rating. Our buying advise? A comfortable complete and full-size keyboard that folds in a compact way and can be easily stashed gets the “must buy.”

Complete Product Line

The current and highly rated complete line-up of Matias products are categorized by: Keyboards & Accesories, Laptop Armor Hard Cases & Bags, and, iPod Cases & Accessories.

Keyboards & Accessories – Matias Folding Keyboard, iFold, iRizer, USB 2.0 Keyboard, Optimizer Keyboard, Tactile Pro 2.0, TactilePro, OS X Keyboard, Key Maestro, HalfKeyboard, 508Keyboard, Half-Querty Keyboard, and, PS/2 to USB Keyboard or Mouse Adaptor.

Laptop Armor Hard Cases & Bags – Laptop Armor, Laptop Armor Stretch Bag, Laptop Armor Expandable Bag, and, Comfort Strap.

iPod Cases & Accessories – Matias Armor for iPod (5th generation iPod Video and 6th generation iPod Classic), Matias Armor for iPod nano (3rd generation), Matias Armor for iPod nano (1st and 2nd generation), Clear Matias Armor (2nd generation), Matias Armor for iPhone, Matias Armor for iPod touch, Slim USB Power Adapter, Matias Armor for iPod (iPod Video and all previous full-size iPods), Matias Armor for iPod mini, and, Armor Clip.

For detailed product information, visit the comprehensive Matias Products Page. All products are available from their Online Store and through their Reseller Partners worldwide.

Written by dominiquejames

April 14, 2008 at 2:20 AM

onOne Software announces Plug-In Suite 4 for Adobe Photoshop

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Updated award-winning software suite features six essential tools at one low price, conveniently offering photographers the products they need to improve their busy workflow.

Available in early May, onOne Software’s Plug-In Suite 4 combines full versions of six essential software tools — Genuine Fractals 5 Print Pro, PhotoTools 1.0 Professional Edition, PhotoFrame 3.1 Professional Edition, Mask Pro 4.1, PhotoTune 2.2 and FocalPoint 1.0 — an affordable combination that includes everything a photographer needs to make their images look their best.

The onOne Software Plug-In Suite 4 for Photoshop CS2 and CS3 is the latest upgrade to the award winning Plug-In Suite product line that combines several of onOne Software’s individual Photoshop plug-ins into a highly affordable package.

“We are pleased to be able to offer this affordable full suite of onOne Software products to the photographic and graphic arts communities,” said Craig Keudell, president of onOne Software. “Plug-in Suite 4 contains all the tools needed to quickly and easily improve workflow and overall image quality at a tremendous savings.”

Plug-In Suite 4 includes full versions of the following onOne Software products:

Genuine Fractals 5 Print Pro can resize digital images over 1,000% with no loss of detail or sharpness. It allows poster-sized prints to be made from almost any image.

PhotoTools 1.0 Professional Edition is a flexible yet powerful Photoshop plug-in that utilizes the power of Photoshop Actions to provide a complete library of effects created by Kevin Kubota and Jack Davis. These effects may be previewed, stacked and blended together just like filters over a camera lens to improve creativity. Its built-in batch processing engine improves photographers productivity.

PhotoFrame 3.1 Professional Edition can be used to create stunning border and edge effects right out of the darkroom. Select from thousands of edges, including authentic film and artistic mediums.

Mask Pro 4.1 can easily create high-quality masks and selections even from tough subjects like hair and glass, making it easy to place a subject in a new background.

PhotoTune 2.2 is a plug-in that provides professional quality color correction in an easy to use plug-in.

FocalPoint 1.0 is a new plug-in that simulates selective focus or tilt-shift lenses, helping photographers selectively blur and/or vignette an image to focus the viewers attention.

The new Plug-In Suite 4 will be available in early May to new users for $499.95 — a savings of $799.75 if purchased separately. Existing users of Plug-in Suite version 1, 2 or 3 can upgrade to Plug-In Suite 4 for only $199.95. Customers who own any one or more of the products in Plug-In Suite 4 will be able to upgrade as well. For more information on the Plug-In Suite 4, please visit the website of onOne Software.

About onOne Software – onOne Software develops time-saving software solutions for professional and advanced amateur photographers in the digital photography and graphic design industries. onOne Software solutions have been created to help photographers spend more of their time behind the camera taking pictures instead of the computer workstation. Such solutions include a wide range of easy-to-use plug-in enhancements for Adobe® Photoshop®, Photoshop® Elements and QuarkXPress®. onOne Software delivers the highest quality software products to users by working with industry leaders and continuing to develop core technologies for professional photo and desktop publishing solutions on both Macintosh and Windows operating systems. Founded in 2005, onOne Software is a privately held company located in Portland, Oregon. For additional information, visit onOnesoftware.com or call 1-888-968-1468.

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