Sunday, August 27, 2006


Canon EOS 400D / Rebel XTi. Front View. Read the Canon White Paper.

Canon EOS 400D / Rebel XTi. Rear View.

I am not going to buy one, let's get that straight right from the start. But since it is much talked about nowadays, at the very least among Canon shooters, I cannot deny that it has aroused my curiousity as well. So here's what I think of the new EOS 400D / Rebel XTi.

It came as a surprise to me because I was expecting a 1Ds MKII replacement and I have heard rumors about a Canon EOS 3D. But, none about a 350D upgrade. It cannot be denied that the kind of technology that Canon has put into it is nothing short of impressive.

The anomaly here now is that the EOS 400D has a higher resolution than the higher spec and higher priced 8.2Mp EOS 30D. Other than a high speed shooting rate of 5 FPS vs 3 FPS, there really aren't much REALLY meaningful features which the 30D can offer over the 400D. The 30D has a more rugged magnesium alloy body, but to most users (especially those who treat their cameras like babies), to what extent is this an issue? The 30D has a slightly larger and brighter viewfinder but it also has a bigger and heavier body. The 400D with an effective dust removal system, a higher resolution, and a sub US$ 1,000 price tag, it may actually be a very compelling proposition over the 30D, especially if you don't shoot at 5 FPS.

It is, therefore, interesting to note that Canon has chosen to seriously improve the Rebel line in favor of the 2 years old 20D. (The 30D is really a 20D with a bigger LCD screen and a few minor updgrades.) I believe that marketing has a big part to do with such a move. I think Canon got caught up with the introduction of the Nikon D80 and the Sony Alpha A100 - both are 10Mp and both are compelling competitors. The 350D was simply outclassed.

Of course there's also the Nikon D200 for Canon to challenge BUT, Canon must have realized that the real commercial battlefield is at the lower end of the market, not the higher end. Add to the fact that the 1Ds MkII is now 2 years old or a full 4 years since the 1Ds was first introduced and the difficulty of competing in all markets becomes quite clear, even if you're the superpower of the DSLR industry.

It is, therefore, not likely that a 20D/30D replacement, not even a 3D, will be announced at this time. Perhaps in another 6 months or so. It has been observed that Canon seems to put new technology to their lower end cameras first, than implementing the things that work to their higher end and pro level cameras on their next generations. I think this will be the case with the new dust removal system and higher resolution sensor. Think about it, with the small photo sites and greater fill factor found in the 400D sensor, a full frame sensor with this technology would produce something between 22 - 24Mp. But the Digic II processor cannot support high enough frame rates at this data volume to meet the demand of professional users. (Which is why there's the 1D MkIIn for pro speed shooters). And so a Digic III has to be developed to solve that problem.

Oh dear . . . I hope this does not start a rumor of what the next 1Ds will be like.

With that said, a new 1D series body is also unlikely for another 6 months at least.



Photo source:

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Sensor Cleaning - No Guts No Glory

The technology of digital photography is advancing and manufacturers are developing systems to fight dust build-up in your camera's imaging sensor. Olympus introduced it first and now Sony's Alpha DSLR has one. But these two are still exceptions and until anti-dust feature becomes standard in the majority of DSLR's here's a small guide to cleaning your DSLR's imaging sensor.

Since the camera I have is a Canon EOS 20D, most of the descriptions I made here are based on that. But I suppose the principle of executing the job is universal.

1. Check for dust in your sensor. This is fairly easy to do. Switch your lens to manual focus and then focus to infinity. Set your aperture to f/22 (or f/32 if your lens has it) and shoot a light colored plain surface (or a perfectly clear blue sky). Now check the resulting image in your computer monitor (Never trust your camera's LCD screen.) and see how much dust you have.

2. Decide whether the dust problem is minimal or otherwise. If it's something that can be easily blurred out at wider apertures or something that can be easily cloned out in post processing then you're fine. Don't sweat on it. To clean or not to clean depends on your judgment, of course. If you decide to clean it . . .

3. Have your cleaning kit ready. There are sensor cleaning kits available in photographic supplies shops and each kit should include a cleaning solution and some swabs. Other inclusions will vary. Some may include a dust blower, some lint-free paper, brush, etc.

4. Clean the whole camera first. This will minimize the dust you have to clean out of your sensor. A dirty camera body increases the risk of more dust falling or flying into your sensor when you open the lens mount, the pelical mirror and the shutter. The sensor is the last one you should clean.

5. This is important. HAVE PLENTY OF POWER SUPPLY FOR YOUR CAMERA. You should do your cleaning with the camera plugged in to an A/C adaptor or, at least, have your battery fully charged. That's the manufacturer's recommendation. I'm not sure how much power the camera consumes to hold that shutter up and open but you wouldn't want that shutter to suddenly close down when the power runs out and while your cleaning swab is inserted in there. That would simply cause a major, major damage to your shutter.

6. Don't worry about scratching the sensor. They're tougher than you think. I myself use a DIY swab - a couple of dental sticks (toothpick) taped together with a folded lint-free paper at both ends. But I'd rather recommend the commercially available ones. They're just not available here in Doha that is why I'm using DIY versions.

7. Now, put a couple of drops of the cleaning solution on the cleaning swab.

8. Sweep, don't wipe. Next, put the tip of the cleaning swab at the upper left side (we'll call this the starting side) of the sensor and gently sweep to the other side (this will be our ending side). Lift the swab and go back to the next line on the starting side and repeat the action. Do this until you've swept the sensor’s entire surface. Don't sweep back and forth. You're just sliding dust all over your sensors. THAT may cause some scratches. Then, sweep once from the top of the ending side to the bottom and you're almost done.

9. Remove excess solution. Using the dry tip/end of the swab repeat the actions described previously to clean the sensor dry.

10. Close the shutter. Just make sure that there are no obstructions there.

And you're done! Start from no. 1 again to see if there are any dusts left. You may need to repeat the entire process once or twice more. Yeah, I know, it's a tedious and repetitive process.

Time was when I would clean my camera's sensor on a weekly basis - regularly and without fail. Until I found it too troublesome so I learned to live with a few speckles on the image that can be easily cloned or blurred out.

I remember writing about the same topic in ('Can't find the link now. It must be buried down to the bottom of its long list of articles now.) And I remember receiving some objections to it. The system works for me. If you're dubious about it or just simply not up to it, then don't do it. It's your sensor not mine.

But if you feel that cleaning the sensor is something that you can do on your own, I hope you find this article helpful.


Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Myth of Protective Filters?

Since reading Rain Contreras's article in about how protective filters affects the results of your photos or your lens's performance, I have always thought of finding out for myself if there really is such an effect on mine. Later on he opened a discussion thread about the same topic in Flickers Photo Club group and various opinions were shared.
I'm no mythbuster nor am I a myth detector. I just want to share with everyone the exercise I went through and its results.

I have only three lenses in my gear bag, an EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM, an EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM, and an EF 50mm f/1.4. Each one is "permanently" fitted with a skylight filter. When I had my Minolta Dynax 500si film SLR (it's retired now) about a decade ago, I didn't knew much about gears and photography for that matter. It was simply the one I could afford back then but in all honesty, I think it's a very good beginner's SLR camera. Later, I bought a telephoto lens in Singapore and the merchant there advised me to fit it with a skylight filter to protect the front element of the lens. He said that skylight filters are colorless, used to cut down haze but does not affect the amount of light entering thru the lens. I was convinced and so I have been fitting every lens I purchase with a skylight filter.

Now, that article by Rain really intrigued me so I decided to find out for myself. I wanted to see if I could squeeze out just a little bit more of sharpness by shooting without the protective filters. I have not had any complaint on the images produced by the EF 50 so I exempted that from the test. For the other two lenses, there were times when they turn out rather fuzzy images, especially at their longest ends (85 and 300m respectively) so I did my tests shooting that way - the same scene and lighting condition, first with filter and then without. I used aperture priority because that's how I shoot most of the time.

And now, here are the results:

Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM, Aperture Priority at f/9, focal length used = 300mm:

Shot with skylight filter.

Shot without skylight filter.

The following two photos are 100% resolution crop from the above images.

Shot with skylight filter.

Shot without skylight filter.

I could not see any significant difference with the results although the one shot without the filter appear to be a little bit sharper. But that's hardly noticeable for practical uses.

Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 Aperture Priority at f/9, focal length used = 85mm:

Shot with skylight filter.

Shot without skylight filter.

The following two photos are 100% resolution crop from the above images.

Shot with skylight filter.

Shot without skylight filter.

I don't see a difference on the results with this lens. They look just the same to me.

One thing I did notice with both lenses is, with the skylight filter fitted, the shutter speed slows down by 1 to 1-1/2 stop which means that my filters do cut down the amount of light passing trough the lens. As far as blurry images, haze cut down, or unwanted reflections. I did not experienced them in this test.

Maybe I conducted my test in the wrong way or maybe I should have done the test in a different situation. But I did this test to find out how the filters really affect my preferences for shooting. This may or may not be of any relevance to you. When I discover a new finding, I will update this topic. But for now, I think I'll start shooting without the filters just to gain that extra shutter speed.



Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Six Months with Flickr: Retrospection

“Flickr” sounds like an unusual word to me when I think of photosharing. Some neat words like “Photonline,” “Photobase,” or “Pixibit” sound more likely palatable to the ear. July marks my 6th month in, after 1200 photos and roughly the same amount of photos I have commented on. And I have already formed my strong opinions about things related to Photography.

How I came to know about Flickr
About two years ago, some fellow members of our company’s photo club, of which I am a member of, invited me to share photos at However, I felt a year of digital photography wasn’t enough experience for me to have been able to capture great photos. So, I excused myself saying that I wouldn’t want my photos “stolen” by digital thieves. Several months later, I joined the first photo contest in our company and won 3rd prize. Practically, that was the first “return on invesment” I was able to earn. It wasn’t big a price but it made me start thinking maybe it could just happen to me too that I’d be making money from the things I love doing best.

Not too long fter that first win, I did my first photo job and to my delight, the client loved my output! Thus, I gained confidence and shot several more engagements followed. Because of such engagements, I thought that I should also think of a brand for my photos, one that catches the ear but not cheesy. I eventually came up with “rarerimages,” to represent my photos which are capture intuitively and creatively composed. It has also my initials, R.E.R.

Late last year, a fellow company club member mentioned about two National Geographic photo contests, I joined both and one of my creative photos became a top 20 finalist, which was my goal as my objective was to field my photos to see how it would fair against those of others. Top 20 represents a quantum leap of and achievement for me.

My experience creating account, choosing buddy icon, and posting first photo
With these I thought I am already ready to share my photos. Again, fellow company club members—Stan and John Edward (JE)--approached me and told me to share my photos for exposure, and to try I created my account and named my photo domain (what else, but) “rarerimages by shutterbugrer.” Next comes the hard part of choosing a buddy icon. To be different, I choose one that represents light in Photography, and that also is composed of primary colors (the basis for all other colors). I found my sunset photo of Fort Bonifacio which has a light arrow coming out of a dark cloud obscuring the sun. It has all the characteristics I wanted. It has been my buddy icon ever since, never changing it even for a brief period. It was however, several days before I uploaded photos since I first checked what kind of photos are seen in Flickr, and also it was not easy to choose what to upload from my stock photos.

My feelings when my photos are being faved and commented on
What was the very first photo I uploaded? Now, that I don’t recall since it was a batch of photos I sent the first time and already have deleted several earlier ones when my account wasn’t yet “pro” and was limited to 200 photos for viewing. But my first comments and faves came, naturally from Stan and JE. Those comments were really encouraging, although brief most of the times. They gave fuel to my “flickring” and eventually to my Photography, as I already began to think of capturing better photos for co-flickristas’ viewing and commenting (as well as dissing) pleasure. I was taught to be always grateful for favors received and so, to show my appreciation I reciprocated most comments. (By May 11 this year, I made it a personal rule to always reciprocate on comments as soon as possible.)

Eventually my lunch break became shorter and my noon nap after lunch disappeared, replaced by uploading and commenting and exploring and posting on discussion threads. Slowly my contacts built up. At first, I tag people from discussion threads my contacts; some reciprocate, some don’t. Later on, I found that with my limited time on the internet, I can’t keep up looking at fresh photos of my contacts so I slowed the contact build up by being selective of whom to make as my contacts.

The effects of on me as:
Everything that one comes in contact with regularly in the course of his daily routine must have profound impact on someone.

- a Photographer
Flickr has elevated my skills as a photographer to higher levels. I am more conscious about about how I to compose my captures, although I have not departed from my flair of catching subjects with a different point of view. On the contrary, now that I am conscious of how photos may be very similar when shot at same angles, I would think of ways how my angles would be different from others, without sacrificing content. That reads easier than done, especially when the general norm appears to be “go with the mainstream,” not venturing into the unknown for fear that it will be unpleasant. It’s a risk I took because I understand that to be “rarer” necessarily means to be different, even radically different.

Someone said that if I don’t take up Photoshop, “I’ll just be sorry.” I just laughed at it and secretly pitied the individual who said it. Although I am not against Photoshop and similar image-enhancing/altering software, I just don’t have the time right now. I’ve done some Photoshop editing just to see the features. Having done so, I agree that such a very powerful tool has extreme potentials--to either bring out the best in a photo or take away the skills of the photographer. In the future, if I would need it, I know I can master it and be very good at it too. How I would do that without compromising my Photography skills would be the real challenge.

One could attend seminars and workshops by some photographers. I believe that such process represents a “transfer of knowledge,” and by comparison, it rings of mere “copy, paste,” the perfect path to the mainstream, from which only a few manage to wrestle out of to spouse their own personal style. And don’t expert resource persons in such workshops have their “trade secrets?” Do you expect them, by grace, to share their most guarded ones to many? Often, striving Photographers uncover those secrets by their own.

By not joining the mainstream, I know I could be foregoing “tickets” to popularity. That I do recognize and always keep in mind. But I also know that something popular is not the same as that which endures. I prefer the latter. I have pledged that I will not copy someone else’s style and therefore I am relying on myself to learn by my own mistakes and advance my personal style according to my pace and artistic disposition.

- an Office Worker
Anyone who loves Photography wants freedom, to roam and to find subjects in the real world—be that they may be the real life scattered about in the streets and the damp dungeons of poverty, or beauty in the studios or nature. He wants also the freedom to interpret these through the images he captures. And most importantly, he wants the freedom to share this to all who respects life and wonders at the beauty and variety of divine creation.

The shackles of the four walls enclosing a Photographer are frequently bound to be loosened, and the walls themselves dissolved, sooner or later. Figuratively, he has to die doing what he loves best, or he will die humiliated, the cause of which is the lack of freedom.

- a Social Person
Socially speaking, I have gained more “friends” and have come in contact with fellow shutterbugs who share the same passion as mine. And the Club I have joined—the Flickers Photo Club (FPC)—appears to be a very good venue at honing my skills at various Photographic themes. “Experience is the best teacher” and I have promised myself that I will be good at outdoor and indoor photography. Thus, I do not loosely pass on the opportunity to practice my shooting, with the Club or just on my own.

Although sharing the same passion, each Photographer has his own identity and therefore has unique preferences. This universal truth one must acknowledge to become part of a community, a constructive contributor and not as an intolerant divider. I have accepted that truth long before I have taken the camera into my hand, and have strived to always strike a balance between mingling with people and controlling myself to be always positive and open-minded. Everything has bounds, and have recognized that too and therefore, there are just some people, places and events that I will not allow to erode from my integrity.

- a Family Man
In Photography, like any other endeavors in life, perhaps, the very first people one has to commune with must be his family. I have made it clear to my wife and relatives that no matter what, in reasonableness, I will not give up on something that has become a dear part of my life. I have made them come to terms with the fact that this art brings me joy, a joy comparable to those experienced when a marriage gets tied, a baby is born, or a long-gone loved one comes back home. And reasonableness has no room for dictatorship. Sometimes, a family event will prevent you from attending a shoot. That’s ok, you get the same joy. A family member gets sick, but that’s ok, because by cooperating to help the sick get well, you get the same joy. In fact, didn’t Jesus say we get more happiness from giving that receiving? (Acts 2:35) And by being reasonable, the principle of reciprocity will work to one’s good, as it does to mine, because you get “tickets” to go out and shoot! It’s a win-win situation.

What have I learned during the past 6 months?

- About
Flickr definitely is the best place to stay if you care to share your photographs and socialize with fellow shutterbugs. I’ve explored not much of the whole of its universe, but with the time I have in my hands for it, I have seen and read enough to know that it serves almost all my needs for ‘storing, searching, sorting, and sharing’ photos. I’ve read in Time magazine how Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake founded Flickr from a simple idea taken from a workmate. What this couple did later proveds to be a big favor for all Photo enthusiasts—pro and amateur alike. And what works the present owners have yet in progress are surely laudable.

Thus, whatever they earn out of doing this, they deserve. It’s only unfortunate that like all systems, it is not hack- and spamproof. It also has defects that affected and dismayed some of my Flickr friends—Pat Hocchuan, being the latest—because it’s apparent that some defects is related to the prime factors why users chose Flickr. But besides these inevitable downsides, Flickr is the photo site I would endorse.

- About other users
Most of Flickr users I know are friendly, and are amiable in both their critiques and opinions. At least that’s what I can tell from their comments and posts. Generally, people strive for higher ideals, but seldom such efforts are seen and given recognition. Therefore, I take my hats of to Flickristas who always believe in the good and always see positive things in photos! Unfortunately, there are those who dwell on the other side of the fence.

Probably the most important lesson I learned about being a Photographer using Flickr is that a Photographer’s character matters more than his Photography. Loud, aggressive, and inconsiderate people taught me this. Reading their comments and opinions on discussion threads vexes my spirit and I’m sure that of others, too. Thus, I avoid them, rarely giving a glance even on their buddy icons, or their photos for that matter. Call that bias, but how could anyone ever have something to do with anything that affects one negatively? Because one has advance to professional levels does not give one the license to throw weight around as if everyone and every other photo is inferior to them and their photos.

- About my skills as a Photographer
As for myself, I am always of the recognition that much about photography will remain out of my reach. My skills I will consider always “amateur.” Someone said in a discussion in the Philippines group: “Amateur for life.” I believe that was Geproks. Well put, and amateur for life I will be—always learning, always reaching for a higher level, but never attaining a “top,” a peak of expertise. I always experiment—I love doing it—to find, not a “Holy Grail,” but a tool for self-expression and be “differently pleasant.”

I guess the most important “law” one has to live by in Flickr is: “Photography is fun.” I found that this has helped me cope with failures, disappointments and disenchanments. Believing thus, insofaras as it depends on me, I make every photo event fun. Therefore, while striving to shoot differently, thinking “fun” keeps me away from the pitfall of missing some great moments because one is engrossed too much on the details of another subject, which to most eyes, is mundane (there are only so much “professionals” to notice it anyway).

“Fun” also helps me maintain a healthy outlook by not taking things seriously. For example, by not giving “Interestingness” too much credit, neither do I push myself to tag so many people as contacts (who could possibly fave-tag and comment on my photos) nor join so many groups to where I would post my photos. Thus, I save myself from the snare of spending unreasonable amounts of time on Flickr reading comments, reciprocate (as a rule, I reciprocate comments “one-to-one,” but frequently I do a “two-to-one”), and keeping track of comments I made, beyond what my circumstances allow.

If I could fire or fuel the interest of several who visit my photos, that is great because that is what I wanted. If I could keep even just 20 contacts coming back to my photostream, that is a tremendous feat for me, because I don’t expect to affect that much people. If I could make two or three write a testimonial for me, I’d say I have already achieved a monumental accomplishment.

I like to keep things personal, which does favors to my friends and me.

What is my resolved after my 6 months with
After six months of using Flickr, my resolve is to keep things in and around my Flickr space fun, strive to be pleasantly different, and keep things interesting. I also resolve to not allow so much influence on my Photography so as to lose my own style. Moreover, as my time in Flickr would permit, I will be discreet in adding contacts and joining groups.

I recognize that self-imposed rules are the hardest to keep and the easiest to break. Self-discipline has to have control if I want to keep at level with my personal Flickr rules that took effect last May 11. I know that self-respect suffers if I violate one of these rules, and lack of self-respect drives people to various shenanigans and insanities. Therefore, I resolved to continue guarding myself from violating the rules, in recognition of their importance to keeping personal and fair dealings with my contacts, a balanced use of this excellent site, and my own sanity. These are my rules, previously 5 but I have collapse previous rules 2 and 3 into just rule 2, and updated rule 4 (formerly rule 5) to include viewing of Contact-Friends’ latest photos:

1 – Reciprocity. Comment on my pic, I'll do the same with yours, a.s.a.p.
2 – Honesty and Integrity. I will not lie about my work and I will make not make patronizing or flattering comments.
3 - Respectful Treatment. I will not deliberately put down others.
4 - Contribute Constructively. I will view the latest (at least, first page) photos of, at least, three of my Contacts and two of my Contact-Friends and comment on good ones, weekly.

Let’s Flickr!

Flickr Dilemma

I am using as a tool to be able to share my work and photos and to be able to learn more about photography through the critiques and comments of other Flickr members.

I started using simply because I have seen flickr's good security system features and options on its photo. We have a CHOICE to put our photo to FRIENDS ONLY, FAMILY ONLY, FRIENDS AND FAMILY ONLY and PUBLIC.

This is the main reason why I used and subscribed to them. I want to be able to control my photos and my photos to be viewed only by those who are supposed to be able to view it.

Recently I found out that all my photos were not searchable in Whether it be through tags or thru the groups. In short my account was NIPSA’d (Not In Public Site Areas). I felt so bad upon finding out.

I emailed management regarding

my problem and demanded an explanation since I was a paying subscriber (PRO Account). They sent me a reply and confirmed that my account was marked as NIPSA, they asked me to privatize or delete any photo that may have a potential to offend other users and then they will re-review my account.

Flickr Email

I have been completely very responsible with all my photos since I started using flickr. Maybe this is why I’m disappointed with the incident.

I was disappointed and lost interest with I stopped uploading my photos for awhile, feeling that my photos don’t have a chance to be seen in the interestingness explore pages. But for some reason I still kept on checking every minute and every hour. (Addicted to

So I started asking myself. Why I am making such a big deal out of this? So what if my photos will not have the chance to go to the interestingness explore pages? So what if my photos are not searchable thru tags and for people who don’t have a flickr account and is not logged in?

And I started to realize that I am using to have fun and to share my photos. is about sharing your photos and the moments you have captured through your viewfinder to everyone you know, Friends and Family.

Being NIPSA’d doesn’t limit you from doing what is all about. All your contacts can still see your photos, groups members will be able to see your photos when you share it to the group.

As of today. I have received an email from the management informing me that they have reviewed my account already and they change the status of my account to public again. (yehey) But I still have no confirmation and idea what the real reason why my account was marked NIPSA in the first place. The only possible reason that I could think of is maybe because I have photos in my photostream of the Nude Workshops that I have attended. Note: All photos were set to FRIENDS ONLY.

Are you NIPSA’d? If you are. I say don’t make a big deal out of it. Forget about it. Continue to upload and share your photos and enjoy yourself. The important thing here is your enjoying what you love to do. Photography.

But if you do mind your account being NIPSA’d kindly read the faq below:

Why aren't my photos showing up?

When you sign up for Flickr, your new account is marked as 'pending', until Flickr administrators have reviewed it to make sure you aren't posting offensive images, or junk downloaded from the web. You have to have uploaded a few public photos before your account enters the queue, so if your photos aren't showing up, upload some more!

When your account is 'pending' your photos won't show up in public photo lists, like
Everyone's Photos, or pages that show all photos tagged with a certain tag (e.g.).

Flickr is a website for you to use to share your photos. If the images you're uploading either (i) aren't photos, or (ii) are images you've found on the web, stock photos, celebrity photos, stuff that appears to be copyrighted by someone else, screenshots, content that's inappropriate for public areas or full frontal nudity, it's safe to assume that we will probably have marked you as Not In Public Site Areas (NIPSA); otherwise, your account is in the review queue, and will be attended to shortly.

The other reason your photos might not show up for people could be privacy. If you've marked a photo, say, visible to friends, then only people you count as friends will be able to see it.

You might like to read our
Community Guidelines for more information.

PS: Hey if this doesn’t help at all, by all means email management and ask them to re-review your account. :)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Protecting Your Photos from Theft Over The Internet

*Disclaimer. The contents of this article are personal opinions and techniques I have learned from experience. I take no responsibility for any circumstance this may cause the reader.

There is an ongoing discussion in the Philippines Group of flickr started by Stitch regarding how his photographs were taken by somebody else and used them as his own. With the internet widely accessible to virtually everyone, such event is common and there will always be people who will try to take what rightfully belongs to you. Personally, I don't mind if it's for his personal appreciation or used for non-commercial purposes as long as the picture is linked back to me or at least I get credited - you know, a small print that says something like, "Photo by alexdpx." Or maybe just drop me a line to inform me that he has been using my photo as his desktop wallpaper.

Sharing your photos does not mean giving them away. By sharing, you are simply allowing others (family, friends, fans, or strangers) to view your picture, whether to show a happy moment, a sad moment or simply because you think you have something beautiful and worth sharing. Depending on how you license your photos, your viewers may or may not keep copies of such and use them but no one should ever take ownership of what is rightfully yours. Unless, of course, you transfer the rights and ownership of the picture(s) to somebody else, then naturally you can no longer consider yourself its (their) owner. There will always be thieves and you can only apply some precautions to prevent them from stealing your pictures. Instead of creative commons, I prefer to fully copyright my photos by reserving all rights. Instead of would be downloaders simply making copies of my photos without my knowledge, a fully copyrighted work demands interested parties to get in touch with me and let me know of their plans to use my photos. That gives me the option on making decisions on a case to case basis instead of predeciding how I allow a photo to be used.

The following items are the steps I take to protecting my precious images:

1. Add a watermark to your photos. I prefer to do mine with a discreet 'alexdpx' watermark. A big, obvious watermark, especially the type smacked right in the middle obstructs the beauty of the photo and defeats the purpose of sharing it for appreciation. Most watermarks can be cropped off or cloned out anyway so I just use a small, semi-transparent one. What it does basically is provide immediate information that I claim ownership of such photos.

Figure 1. A screenshot showing the File Info dialogue box of Adobe Photoshop (Click FileYou have to view this large to see the details. This is where you can find your photo's EXIF data (Camera Data) but more importantly, this facility allows you to put a copyright notice to your photos.

2. Copyright your photos. (See Figure 1 above.) Don't be lazy and take a few minutes to do this with Photoshop. Click on the 'File' pull down menu, then 'File Info' (somewhere at the bottom) and fill up the boxes as you deem appropriate. Then click on the 'Copyright Status' and select 'Copyrighted'. You may afterwards fill up the 'Copyright Notice' and 'Copyright URL' as you like. Lastly, click OK. Notice that a copyright logo has now been added to your photo file. This applies to RAW, JPEG and other imaging file types. That logo will not appear when simply viewing with any photo viewer softwares (ACDSee, Windows, etc.) but will appear when it is opened with a photo editing software like Photoshop. I suppose it indicates that viewing it is okay but editing it is not. But it can still be edited. The copyright notice, therefore does not prevent alteration but, at least, gives a warning that you may be violating a copyright law by attempting to edit the photo. Like the CD's we rip and copy, there's always a copyright warning but it can be copied anyway.

3. Never post full-resolution copies. The biggest I have posted is 1152 x 768. This is big enough to facilitate large viewing. As one flickr member has pointed out, despite flickr's built-in security measures, there are still people who are skilled enough to download your full-resolution photos if they are posted in the internet. So, keep the full 8 (6 or 10 or larger) Mp copies out of the internet - in safe storage.

Figure 2. Screenshot of Adobe Bridge showing a RAW file's camera date. You have to view this large to see the details. You Notice that it includes my name and the camera's serial number.

Figure 3. Screenshot of Adobe Bridge showing a JPEG file's (as shot and straight out of the camera) camera date. You have to view this large to see the details. This time the owner and camera's identity is not included.

4. Your Camera's Identity. (See Figures 2 & 3 above.) Each digital camera sold comes bundled with softwares and installation CD. Many users don't bother with this and I can understand why. I myself don't use the the bundled software and I upload my pictures using a card reader so it appears to be pointless. But what the installation CD provides is interface between your camera and your computer. After you have installed your camera with the installation CD, it gives you options to customize your camera set-ups and asks you to "give your camera a name" so that it may be instantly recognized. It's different for every camera model, I guess, so this is something that you have to explore by yourself. Some cameras may not have this option but it's worth finding out. So how does this benefit you? The name you gave your camera will be included in the EXIF Data of the picture you shoot. In my case, with a Canon EOS 20D, this works only if I shoot in RAW format but not with JPEG. Which is one reason why I encourage people to . . .

5. Shoot in RAW format. There are many valid reasons to shoot in JPEG mode but flexibility and best image quality is the main reason why I shoot RAW. Security is also a good one. With RAW you get the benefit of complete, unaltered image data including your camera's serial number and unique identity. I believe, that alone provides proof of your ownership beyond reasonable doubt should you come to a point of having to go after the one who stole your photo. Of course, this option is valid only to cameras with RAW mode.
6. Or you may want to buy one of these (I'm not selling). That is, if you find it practical enough (or not) and if you have a Canon EOS camera. Supported by Canon EOS 20D and 1D-series bodies. I'm not sure if support includes the 350D and the new 30D.

These may not be foolproof. Surely someone will always try to crack "the code" but until a better theft deterrent system is developed, these will at least give hackers a-hell-of-a-time.

Some of you may find the above methods impractical or not useful to you. I'm sure there are other protection methods available out there that I do not know of and that you may prefer. Either way, we would be interested to know so please share them here.