Digital Innovations
Fear Of Flying
Or The Doctor Is Really In

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Where do you stash your CompactFlash cards or other digital media while shooting? Lately, I've been using Lightware's Digital Wallet, keeping it attached to my camera bag strap with 2GB of cards inside. Need more stuff? Get a Lightware Digital Notebook. It's bigger, but it holds lots more digital media.
Photos © 2003, Joe Farace, All Rights Reserved

Lucy Van Pelt: "If you have Aviophobia, you're afraid of flying." Charlie Brown: "That's it!"

The following is a true story. Some names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Last year, I found myself in a large metropolitan airport with a friend; let's call him "Steve." As befits the editor of a fine arts publication, he was traveling with a battle-scarred Leica M3 and a few rolls of film. Me? I had my trusty Minolta DiMAGE Xt. Steve's troubles began when he handed a clear plastic bag full of 35mm film, some exposed, some not, to a representative of that government agency that's supposed to protect us from "bad things happening." I blew through security without a hiccup or even dropping my laptop on the floor, which I am prone to do. (I can never figure out why x-rays can't see through a fabric case.) But Steve was not so lucky. The government representative removed each film can from its plastic container (Steve's first mistake, I think in hindsight) and ran them through several chemical swab tests--twice. Both times they failed.

At this point, the attractive lady with colorful fingernails was replaced by a bureaucrat, let's call him Frank Burns, who informed Steve that because the film tested "positive for explosives" he'd have to wait until "the dogs" sniffed the film. Sensing a cool photo op as well as an illustration for this column, I asked, "Can I take pictures?" and Frank gave me a look that would shatter marble. As we quietly waited for the sniffers, the animal lover in me wondered, what kind of doggie it would be? Could it be a beagle, like Snoopy? Then I asked Frank, "If the dogs say the film is positive will you just keep the film or detain my friend?" At that point he looked at Steve, not me, and said, "Tell your friend if he doesn't stop talking, I'll have him arrested." And then in imitation of another celebrity dog, it was time for me to "Exit, stage right."

I've written about 3D-Album before but 3D-Album Commercial Suite takes the art and craft of creating presentations and screen savers to a whole new level. Not inexpensive, but well worth it as a promotional tool or a service that pros can offer their clients.

Epilogue: As I was boarding the flight, I saw Steve running down the hall with his carryon bag. The pooches never arrived, so he appealed to Frank and his supervisor, Henry Blake, to let him head back to colorful Colorado and they finally agreed. Is this far-fetched? Well, I watched it happen, and my wife and other photogs around the country have reported similar experiences no matter what federal regulations say about hand inspection of film. The airport is unfortunately a place where geopolitics and imaging collide and the winners will be those photographers who don't mind missing a flight or two or those "shooting digital." I'm not saying his experience was right or wrong, but while Steve did make the flight, he could have been detained simply for the crime of using film.

Where Do You Keep Your Memory Cards?
I have tried all kinds of devices to store my CompactFlash cards: Hard-shelled cases, soft-fabric cases, my socks, you name it, but the most elegant solution I've found yet is the Digital Wallet from Lightware (www.lightwareinc.com). The Digital Wallet is an exquisitely assembled zip-open pouch that slips through your belt or touch fastens around your camera strap and has two sets of CompactFlash card pockets. One set is black mesh; the other is white so you can color code the "shot" cards from the "not shot" ones. I use many different brands of cards so it's usually easy for me to tell them apart, but some people are more organized and might prefer a color code system. Best of all, the Digital Wallet costs $23.95. Need more storage space than just four cards? Try Lightware's Digital Notebook, a bigger container that holds scads of media and costs just $6 more.

One of the most painless ways to sell your prints on the Internet is to have a Smugmug.com professional account. They take the order, pay credit card processing fees, drop-ship the prints to your customer, and provide customer support and real-time sales reporting.

Request Line: Playing The Hits
One of the questions I get a lot is, "What's the best way to sell photographs on the Internet?" Geez, there are lots of ways. Some photographers I've spoken with are making $1000 a month or more selling fine art 8x10s on eBay, while others prefer to sell prints on their own websites. Since creating an e-commerce website is not that simple or inexpensive and negotiating eBay can be intimidating for the newcomer, various websites have sprung up that help sell images, mostly for events such as weddings.

Smugmug (www.smugmug.com) introduced a new service for professional photographers that lets them create custom photographic galleries and individually price and sell their images online. For event coverage, Smugmug's ShareGroups lets you create private galleries and control which clients have access to them. A Private search feature enables clients to search their portfolios, including hidden keywords that you can add to the images. A professional lab with a color-managed workflow makes the prints while Smugmug takes the order, pays the credit card processing fee, drop-ships the prints to your customer, and provides customer support and real-time sales reporting. They mail checks to account holders once a month when sales are over $500, or once a quarter for amounts under $500.

Another question I get asked is about making on-screen slide shows and what tools I prefer. The biggest number of products is only available for Microsoft Windows, so despite my best efforts to toss my 2.2GHz XP machine into the trash, it's still here. It's been resurrected, in part, due to the recent purchase and aggressive use of Norton's SystemWorks (www.symantec.com) that has breathed life into the beast.

One of the coolest, least expensive ways to produce slide shows you can transfer to CD or DVD is with Magix's PhotoStory on CD & DVD. For less than $40 it's a great package that is, alas Mac OS users, only available for Microsoft Windows.

3D-Album Commercial Suite (www.3d-album.com) is an impressive digital imaging solution for distributing DVDs, albums, catalogs, screen savers, and even your own customized browsers or portfolios. You can even design your own games. You can specify a particular area of an image to be engaged to take an action, such as playing sound or video, displaying information, opening another document, or linking to your website.

3D-Album Commercial Suite includes more than 100 templates for weddings, graduations, yearbooks, reunions, new babies, parties, and other occasions and new styles are constantly being added for free download. The capabilities of this product are truly stunning, but so is its $299 price tag.

If you have less grand ambitions, a smaller budget, and are happy with a more traditional approach to slide shows, Magix's PhotoStory on CD & DVD (www.magix.com) looks like just what you need. Yes, it is yet another Windows-only product that looks very promising and uses an interface that users of Apple Computer's iMovie might find familiar but delivers the functionality of their iDVD. While lacking the ease of use of iMovie, PhotoStory also lacks the somewhat overwhelming feature-laden interface of 3D-Album Commercial Suite, albeit with much fewer capabilities.

Using PhotoStory, I was able to drag and drop images from a folder on my hard drive and grab some of the few built-in generic library tunes that are bundled with software. You can add special effect transitions, and while they may be rudimentary when judged by state of the art desktop presentation software, keep in mind that this is just a $39.95 program. It supports DVD or CD burners and lets you create an on-screen menu that looks as good as any similar program I've tested. PhotoStory is fun to use and, indeed, is almost as addictive as a game. In fact, it's better than most computer games, and much more useful.

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