July 22, 2008

Candlelight Photography

Candlelight photography has never gone out of fashion, but it can be a little difficult to master. Digitally capturing the warm glow of the flickering flames on your subject's face can be challenging. But don't worry! If you follow the tips below, you will be well on your way to making the most of candlelight photography. Let's go!

Keep It Simple

A good rule to follow with candlelight photography is "keep it simple." By that, I mean shooting with minimal background and foreground distractions and keeping harsh shadows away from your subject. You could also try shooting with a white background. Those are the best ways to capture the natural essence of candlelight.

Go Slow

If you want to capture movement in a candlelight setting, go for a slower shutter speed. The slower you set it, the more movement you will be able to catch. The movement could be your subject, the candle flames or even your camera. However, if you're going with the slowest shutter speed (say, one fifteenth of a second), ensure everything in the frame, animate and inanimate, is still. One little movement by your subject could put the entire picture in disarray.

To Be or Not to Be

It sometimes works better to not include candles in the frame at all, so as not to distract the viewer from the subject. Other times, decorative candles could heighten the drama in a portrait photo. Therefore, I suggest you try shooting with and without candles in the frame. However, just one point to remember: don’t place the candles in such a manner that the viewer is drawn more toward them than the subject. That means, place your subject in a dominant position, with the candles somewhere in the background.

No Flash, Please

Candlelight photography is all about capturing the mood and ambience in a scene. Therefore, it’s best to avoid using flash. Artificial light not only chases away whatever ambient light is available, but it also takes away from the mood. If need be, use a tripod and tell your subject to remain still until your shot is taken. Also, to avoid any camera shaking, use the self-timer option.

The Candle's Role

Since much of candlelight photography is done without flash, one way of getting more light in the frame is to use more candles. That will also help you experiment with different shutter speeds, ISO levels and aperture settings. Another important tip to remember when using several candles is to spread them out evenly so that the light falling on the subject is uniform and not harsh. However, you can place more candles on one side of the subject to create a special effect of side lighting.

Go for White

The best way to illuminate your subject in candlelight is to make the most of white wherever you can find it. Whether it's white walls, white ceilings, a white tablecloth or even your white T-shirt, any small amount of reflection will greatly accentuate the effect of the photo.

Extra Light

If the low light situation still doesn’t improve with the use of candles and reflectors, go for extra lights. That could be a table lamp or even a torch. However, don’t let the light fall directly on your subject. Disperse it by either pointing it to the ceiling or draping some red or orange paper around it.

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Up Your ISO Level

Another way to get over the problem of low light conditions is to increase the ISO settings on your camera. However, keep it under 400 ISO to avoid graininess. Or, if you're not going to be blowing up your photos, you could experiment with much higher ISO levels.

Exposure Compensation

When you have candles in the frame, your camera could underexpose the shot, because it will see the candle as a bright spot. Therefore, try overexposing past what your camera recommends. Just be sure not to over do it, as it might spoil the picture for you.

Shoot in RAW

Candles emit a fine balance of warm light that looks great in photos. However, if you have set the white balance in the Auto mode, the camera takes away the warm effect and renders your photo lifeless. Therefore, try different settings to get the right level of warmth. Some photographers find the Indoor and Tungsten settings work for them. But most importantly, shoot in RAW format (not JPEG or TIFF). That way, you'll have the flexibility to process the picture in Photoshop and properly balance out the white in the image, without losing the original shot.

I hope these suggestions work for your candlelight photos!

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For the longest time, I've been looking for a free program that would allow me to safely encrypt certain files on my computer. I have tried many different freeware options, but none were as secure or as easy to use as the program I'm going to show you today. It's called AxCrypt and it's bursting with magnificent features. Let's check it out, shall we?!

1.) If you want to begin encrypting or password protecting your files, you’ll get some good use out of AxCrypt. Here's the download link.

2.) Follow the setup instructions and after it has completed, exit out of the setup wizard.

3.) If you already have a folder with all of the files you want to encrypt, that’s great! If not, create a folder and then continue to step 4.

4.) Right click on the folder and scroll down to AxCrypt. Next, select Encrypt and a box will prompt you to enter and confirm a password.

Do that and then click OK.

5.) Now, open your folder and you'll notice that the icons have changed. Double click on one of the files and once again, you'll be asked for your password. The file will only open if the password is entered.

6.) While using a password to secure your files is a good idea, a key-file is even more secure. A key-file is a special text file containing a random string of characters, which is your key. The file is placed on a USB drive, which means the encrypted folder can only be opened if the USB drive is plugged in and AxCrypt is pointed to the correct key-file. If that sounds a little too complicated, don’t worry! It will all make sense once you're finished.

7.) So, go ahead and plug in your USB drive (flash drive) if you have one. You can also use a floppy disk if you'd like. Right click on your encrypted folder, click AxCrypt, then Make Key-File.

8.) Find the directory for your USB drive and click Save. Open the Encrypt dialogue box again and enter your password twice. Also, where it says Key-File, choose the one you just saved on your USB drive and click OK.

9.) Now, when you try to open a file in the encrypted folder, you will be prompted to select the key-file. Someone who doesn’t have access to your USB drive will not be able to open the files, even if they do know your password.

10.) You feel safer already, don’t you?! It’s good to know that all of your private documents can only be accessed if the USB drive is present. It’s very important for you to never accidentally delete the key-file. It’s actually a good idea to make a copy of it and keep it on another disk somewhere safe.

11.) Finally, I have one last feature to show you! Have you ever felt a little leery about deleting files with sensitive information? You wouldn’t want that information to reach the wrong hands, now would you? Luckily, AxCrypt contains propecia alternative a shredding feature that overwrites the deleted files with random information.

12.) If you want to “shred” a file, right click on it, choose AxCrypt and then select Shred and Delete. That's it!

I hope you enjoy AxCrypt. Stay safe!


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July 19, 2008

ZoneAlarm & Windows Update further…

Is there a fix yet for the ZoneAlarm problem you talked about in Friday's newsletter? If so, please tell us what we can do. Thanks for all your help!

I knew this question would be popping up all over the place throughout the weekend and I was right! My e-mail Inbox is just filled with queries about the ZoneAlarm issue. First, just to get everyone up to speed, if you missed the article in Friday's newsletter (July 11, 2008), you can read it here. Basically, there was a complication between the July 2008 Windows Updates and the ZoneAlarm firewall program. After many users installed the Updates, they were left without an Internet connection, because ZoneAlarm was unable to recognize the changes. You can read all about it in the tip above, but for now, let's get down to business!

ZoneAlarm has released a few fixes for the Windows Updates problem. There are three different things you can do to get your computer back to normal. I'll go over all three of them and you can then decide which one will work the best for you. They're all legit and fairly easy to do, so just pick the one you think will benefit your computer the most. Okay, here we go!

1.) You can download and install all of the latest versions of ZoneAlarm, including ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite, ZoneAlarm Pro, ZoneAlarm Antivirus, ZoneAlarm Anti-Spyware and ZoneAlarm Basic Firewall. You can click on those links to download each separate program. With all of those utilities working together, you will be able to get your Internet connection back and your computer will run the same as it did before. If you don't want to install all of those programs (which is understandable), you can try one of the other methods below.

2.) The second option is moving your ZoneAlarm Internet Zone slider to the Medium setting. To do that, propecia allergy go to the ZoneAlarm Firewall window and click on the Firewall tab. From there, simply move the Internet Zone slider to Medium. Yours is probably set on High, so you just need to take it down a couple notches.

3.) The third option is actually uninstalling the Windows Updates hotfix that caused the trouble in the first place. To do that, go to Start, Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs. At the top of the Add/Remove Programs window, you should see a Show Updates checkbox. Check that box and then scroll down until you see an entry that says "Security update for Windows (KB951748)." (It should be one of the last items in your list). Once you've found it, click on the Remove button and the hotfix will uninstall.

Again, any of those three methods will reinstate your Internet access and you'll be able to do everything as usual again. You should also know that this issue only affects Windows 2000 and XP computers. Windows Vista is not affected. One more thing: if you're still having trouble after you go through this tip, you can contact ZoneAlarm's technical support here. After today, I hope you're all back up and running like you should be!

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ZoneAlarm & Windows Update

I installed the Windows Updates for July yesterday like you told us to and now I'm having trouble getting connected to the Internet. It seems as if the Updates changed something on my computer and I can't get it to work right. Do you know anything about this? If you do, please help!

I was going to talk about this today anyway, so I'm glad you asked! And from the looks of all the e-mails I've received, you're definitely not the only one having trouble. As you all know, in yesterday's newsletter, I told you about the Windows Updates for July 2008. Like I always do, I urged you to install them as soon as possible, because they're a guaranteed way to keep your computer safe. Well, due to the content of some of the changes this month, a few issues came up, but don't worry, we're going to take care of them today. Let's go!

First of all, I'm willing to bet that if you had trouble with the Windows Updates, you're also using the ZoneAlarm firewall program. Am I right? Soon after the Updates were released, it was found that they caused a conflict with ZoneAlarm. It caused so much propecia age havoc that many users were unable to connect to the Internet. What a nightmare!

One of the Updates included changing the way your computer handles DNS requests. After your computer adjusted to the update, ZoneAlarm was left out in the dark, because it couldn't recognize the change. Therefore, the only thing ZoneAlarm knew to do was block traffic. And that obviously caused all kinds of problems for many people. It seems as if Microsoft didn't notify firewall manufacturers about the DNS update, so they didn't have time to prepare for it. Yes, it's unfortunate, but there are a couple things you can do in the meantime.

To begin, you should never disable your firewall completely. So, even if you're having trouble with ZoneAlarm, do not turn it off. Instead, it's a good idea to change your Internet Zone Security setting from High to Medium. Doing that should allow you to get back on the Internet for the time being. Then once Microsoft and ZoneAlarm come up with a patch, you can change the setting back to High.

If you simply want to wait until a patch is released, you can disable ZoneAlarm, but make sure you have another firewall to use in its place. You can either download a new one, get one from another vendor (such as Norton or McAffee) or you can use the Windows Firewall by going to Start, Control Panel, Security Center, Windows Firewall. Just make sure you have some type of firewall set up on your computer. Otherwise, you're putting yourself at risk for even more trouble.

That's pretty much all the information I have for you right now, but it does sound like both Microsoft and ZoneAlarm are working on a fix for this issue. I will continue to keep you updated as any more news comes through. Hang in there, my friends. Everything will be back to normal soon!

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Ignore the Custom Dictionary

Do you add a lot of content specific words to your MS Word custom dictionary? (You do it every time you click on the Add button during a spell check).

If you're like me, there are quite a few terms that apply only when you're working on a document for work. If I'm doing something else, let's say writing an MS Office tip, having one of the algebra terms I use for work inadvertently show up via a typo would be a problem, especially since Word would approve the term based on my custom dictionary.

So, is there a way to get Word to temporarily ignore the words in your custom dictionary?

The answer is yes! I mean, why else would I ask?

Basically, what you need to know is that in Word's Options, there's a place where you can tell it to only spell check with the main dictionary (the one the program started with).

Obviously, different versions have the Word Options in different places, so let's begin with Word 2007.

  • You need to go to the Office button and click on the Word Options button in the bottom right hand corner.

  • Once you're there, you need to navigate to the Proofing section.

  • Under the "When correcting spelling in Microsoft Office programs" section, select the "Suggest from main dictionary only" option.

  • Click OK.

For other versions of Word, let's see what you need to do.

  • First, go to the Tools menu, Options choice.

  • Now, go to the Spelling and Grammar tab.

  • You'll need to select the "Suggest From Main Dictionary Only" option.

  • Click OK.

Voila! Your custom dictionary words are ignored for the time being. propecia affiliate (Note: Don't forget to undo this when you want to include the extra words in your spell checks). Enjoy!

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