photo tips

photo tips & tricks

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Here you'll find an ever growing list of helpful hints and ideas specifically put together to help improve your photography and capture your memories as you remember them.

Building a sandcastle with your toddler. Your son jubilantly holding his little league trophy over his head. Your daughter smiling in her cap and gown, Celebrating a landmark occasion. All monumental events in a family’s lifetime.

When it comes to your family photos we’d like for you to consider Fotofast your Memory Preservation Experts.

Our state-of-the-art digital printing equipment gives you the highest quality digital prints whether shot with a traditional camera using film or a digital camera using a memory card. Because we make our prints on REAL archival photographic paper, your colors are brighter, whites sharper and your prints won’t fade or yellow.

You snap the photos and pick your favorites, and we’ll help you decide how to tell your family’s story: prints, collage posters, easy-to-create photo books or even a look back at the last year with a personalized photo calendar. Our beautiful canvas prints are ready to hang.

Need a perfect gift to share with family and friends? Have your favorite family photo printed on one of our many quality gift items – cookie tins, travel mugs, jigsaw puzzles and more. Can’t find that perfect card? Our uniquely designed photo greeting cards are ideal for birth announcements, thank you notes, invitations, and holidays or just to say hello.

Want to learn how to shoot like a pro?

Fotofast highly recomend Creative Photo Workshops

top 10 tips digital photography 101

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  • Explore the light. Learn to read where the light is coming from by looking at shadows - notice if the shadows are hard-edged or soft-edged. A general rule for beautiful images is to plan your photo shoot for early morning or late afternoon light because softer shadows equate to less contrast in your scene and more flattering light for your subject. If you must shoot images at high noon, move your subject under the shade of a tree or building.

  • Mix it up! Change your angle and distance from your subject when taking the photo. Viewing images taken from the same distance and angle becomes dull and boring. With children, get down on their level and don’t be afraid to zoom in close to capture every detail.

  • Use the rule of thirds and move your subject over to the side of the frame. Placing people right in the middle of the frame is great for the perfunctory passport and driver’s license photo, but unless other interesting compositional elements are present, it’s not an exciting image. Think of the scene in your viewfinder or on your LCD display as a tic-tac-toe board and mentally divide the image into thirds, and place something of interest at one or more of the intersections.

  • Keep it real. Don’t force a child to strike a pose or force a smile. A compelling photograph captures an authentic moment, a look, or a gesture that elicits a feeling from the viewer. Motivate kids to move around and photograph them from a variety of angles.Choose a location for your shoot, then encourage play, action, and activity. Be silly and have fun.

  • Mode Dial - Get creative and choose a customized Mode Dial setting! The Basic Zone Modes (icons) automatically choose the exposure settings for your selected scene. The Creative Zone Modes (P, TV, AV, M) can give you full or partial creative control over your exposure settings.

  • Daytime is a good time to use your on-camera flash. You can fill in dark shadows across faces created by harsh overhead sun, and illuminate your subject when they’re positioned in front of a bright background.

  • Get closer than normal by using the macro mode on your camera. The flower icon button activates the macro mode and enables you to focus closer to your subject and capture details in your images that were previously too small or out of focus. Just because macro mode is represented by a flower doesn’t mean that flowers are the only allowable subject. Get creative with a few of the following macro photo ideas:

  • Flowers and insects

  • The human eye

  • Baby’s fingers and toes

  • Textural detail in fabric, stone or wood

  • Coins and collectibles

  • Control the light. Create a more attractive image by bouncing or diffusing the available light. Bouncing light brightens up faces, gets rid of shadows and creates a catch-light in your subject’s eyes. Diffusing the light softens harsh light falling upon your subject. You can buy a reflector or diffuser at a camera store, but you can also use common household items. Aluminum foil wrapped around a baking sheet, a car dashboard reflector, or a white foam core board can be used to reflect light. Translucent fabric, sheer shower curtains, or plastic bags can be used to diffuse the light.

  • Give yourself ROOM to ZOOM. To eliminate distracting elements and provide a flattering perspective – stand back and give yourself room to zoom into your subject and fill the frame.

  • Think about using color to create a compelling image. From vibrant contrasts of primary colors to the Zen-like mood of harmonious blues and greens, color can determine the emotional content of a photograph.

avoid a digital disaster

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Far too many people are recording with their digital cameras and storing their pictures and video on a single hard drive in the family computer. Folks, this is dangerous! Hard drives fail. Its not a question of if but when. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Do store your digital files in more than one location. Maybe one backup at your office as a duplicate of what you have at home. Even the most robust storage system can be destroyed by fire or other disaster.

  • Use high quality storage devices, preferably with some built in redundancy. Some devices use two hard drives – if one drive should fail, an exact duplicate is available so no data is lost.

  • If you are going to store your images on CD, use a quality blank. All CD-Rs are not created equal. The stability of the recordable dye layer as well as the protective clear coat affect the longevity of CD-Rs. We recommend using Platinum, scratch resistant CD-Rs Almost none of the CD-Rs recovered from the flood waters in recent floods were readable. Again, storing all of your digital files in one location is a bad idea.

  • In general, CD-Rs have a greater expected lifespan than DVD-R. Obviously, DVD-s are necessary for preserving movies because of the large file sizes involved in recording video. Just like with CD-Rs, use a good blank.

  • Do make prints. Photographic prints have been around for over 100 years. The jury is still out on the JPEG! At FotoFast, we use the best materials available like Japanese DNP Centuria photographic papers and Ilford inkjet papers & photo canvas.

cropped photos

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The standard image from a digital camera does not fit onto some of our common print sizes without significant modifications.

  • “Why are the prints I ordered from my digital camera missing parts of my picture?” “Why are the heads cut off?” “The people on the left and right side of my original picture are missing.”

  • “When I get the entire digital camera image printed, I have blank white spaces along the print edges and have to trim the prints ... Why?”

  • “Why are my 4-by-6 or 8-by-10-inch prints cropped?”

When camera manufacturers moved from film to digital, they adopted a new standard image size. The dimensions of this new image size are in the ratio of 4:3 and do not fit evenly into many of the conventional size prints … the print areas are either a bit too wide on one side or too long on the other.

This is no different than watching an old movie on your widescreen TV!

You have the black bars at both ends of the widescreen TV when watching an old movie because the movie was formatted for a standard TV. In the normal version, the entire picture area is visible. If we zoom in to fill the entire screen, we lose some of the picture in the vertical direction.

A similar situation exists in photography, but we use different terms.

  • Normal (on TV) is called Crop to Fit in photography. This means that 100 percent of your image is on the print, but there may be white space that is not used because the image is a different shape.

  • Zoom (on TV) is called Crop to Fill in photography and means that your image has been enlarged to fill the entire print, so some of it may be off the edge of the print and not visible – just like zoom mode on TV.


  • When snapping a photo, make certain that important subject matter is not close to the bottom, top, or sides of your image.

  • Look for a print size that conforms exactly to your captured image size. Examples: 4” x 5 1/3”, 4.5” x 6”, or 6” x 8”.

  • Understand your camera and what print format best fits your camera’s output.

  • Check to see if your camera offers the capture of an image in a conventional print size format.

  • If seeing 100 percent of your image is crucial, make a larger Crop to Fit print and trim it to suit. Remember that the trimmed print will not fit a standard frame.

  • If you are in a retail store, ask to see a chart of the print sizes.

  • If you are submitting images for printing online please check your cropping when ordering

formats for taking pictures

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For lots of amateurs and family photographers, JPEG is just fine. Make sure the camera is set to the highest quality resolution setting and to save pictures with the least amount of compression. The camera manual will explain how to do this. A photo retailer can also help. JPEG is fine for snapshots, but you have limited ability to correct overexposed or underexposed areas. A professional wanting greater control will probably shoot in RAW.

RAW format allows a photographer to capture more detail than when shooting in JPEG format; it also provides more control over color correction and exposure adjustment in the digital darkroom. The ability to change the white balance on a RAW file or dig out some extra detail in highlight and shadow areas can make an immediate impact on the overall look of a photo. Since RAW files do capture lots of detail without applying processing or compression algorithms, they will take up more space on a memory card and hard drive.

Formats for Saving Pictures First of all, whether shooting in JPEG or RAW, remember to back up photos after moving them from the camera to the computer. Burn them to a DVD, or transfer them to a portable hard drive kept in another location – away from the computer. Better yet, seek the advice of a local photo retailer for archiving and storage options. RAW files create a problem because different camera manufacturers have different “flavors” of RAW. For example, Canon RAW files are known as .CRW, Nikon files are .NEF, Pentax files are .PEF, and Olympus uses .ORF. The DNG format (for “digital negative”) was recently created by Adobe in an effort to unify the slightly different RAW formats created by the various manufacturers. Many photographers fear these differences may potentially become problematic in the long term, as one manufacturer’s RAW files may not be future-proof in new software applications. Programs like Adobe® Lightroom® have an option to back up RAW files as .DNG files. To protect digital negatives (RAW files) for many years to come, converting them to DNG may be well worth the effort. The presumption is all new software will recognize DNG, while some RAW versions particular to a manufacturer may fall by the wayside and possibly be unreadable in the future.

Want to learn how to shoot like a pro?

Fotofast staff use and highly recomend Creative Photo Workshops

file requirements & ideal file sizes

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  • All files must be sRGB

  • Files should be saved as .jpg

Important information

Digital cameras take photos of a different length to height ratio compared to that of traditional film cameras. Traditional film cameras take photos that fit a 3:2 print ratio. Typically 6x4inch or 10x15cm. Digital cameras on the other hand, often take photos that fit a 4:3 ratio originally conceptualised from your computer monitor (640x480, 800x600). A 4:3 ratio does not fit most standard traditional film print sizes.

Refer to the below guide for print sizes, for photobooks photo collage posters and calendars.

seven tips for great wedding photos

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tip no. 1

Stay out of the way of the professional photographer.

Chances are the couple getting married has spent lots of money to hire a reputable professional. The photographer has a big job to do and a big responsibility to do it right and get all the important shots – in a limited time. So don’t get in the professional’s way and hamper his or her activities.

For example, if the photographer is taking posed portraits of the bride, the groom, or their family members, don’t try to also take a photo of each pose the photographer sets up. He or she is doing a job. You and your camera will certainly be in the way,even if you try to be unobtrusive. Also, the pro wants to sell a print of each pose to the couple. Chances are, with the equipment he or she is using, the results will be great, and the couple will still buy a photo from the pro even though you took the same shot. But if you offer the same shot free to the couple – based on the pose and lighting the pro set up – the pro could lose a sale. This isn’t fair. It’s his pose. It’s his lighting. It should be his print!

In addition, if you’re taking pictures off to one side of the pro, you’ll distract some members of the wedding party and slow down the whole process. So don’t interfere with the pro’s posed pictures. Don’t worry, there will be lots of other opportunities, many of which the pro probably won’t be able to take.

tip no. 2

If you want to take pictures in the church, sit in an aisle seat.

Most likely, you won’t take many pictures before the ceremony – after all, you’re a guest (or perhaps a member of the wedding party). So you’ll be plenty busy before the ceremony socializing, finding a seat, and waiting for the ceremony to get underway. Let’s assume, however, you have your camera and want to take some pictures during the ceremony. Then take an aisle seat.

Don’t start firing away until you know what is permitted and what is not permitted in that particular house of worship. Some ministers, priests, and rabbis don’t care about cameras and flashes. They expect the pro and the guests to blaze away during the ceremony. Others permit pictures but not flash. Some don’t allow any photos to be taken.

How to know? Watch the pro. The pro will know the rules of the house. If he or she is moving freely about the church and using a flash, then most likely you can take some flash pictures, too. If the pro takes pictures but doesn’t use a flash, you can probably do the same. If other guests start to take pictures as the bride goes down the aisle and the presiding cleric doesn’t say something at the start of the ceremony, then you may as well join in.

Assuming it’s appropriate to take pictures, take a seat along the center aisle. Obviously, if in the middle of a row, most of the pictures taken will show the backs of pews and heads, but not much of the bride and groom. Seated on the aisle, however, a nice tight frame of the couple is possible.

tip no. 3

Actually, this “tip” offers two tips concerning the important shots to take “at the church.” Obviously, these tips are relevant only if you are permitted to use a camera at the church.

Should you try to photograph during the cherished moments of the ceremony, such as the “I do’s,” the exchanging of the rings, the first kiss, the blessing, or (at Jewish weddings) the breaking of the glass? This really depends upon how close you are to the action. A good picture should pretty much fill the frame with the action. If you’re seated way back and not using a telephoto lens, it is likely the bride and groom will be mere specks in the picture. If this is the case, either forego taking any shots during the ceremony (no law says you can’t just sit back and enjoy the moment) or take a shot or two “for memory.” If, on the other hand, it’s a small wedding and you can get close to the action to fill the frame, by all means take the shots!

While you may photograph them coming down the aisle before the ceremony, the best shots will be when the couple comes back up the aisle after the ceremony. Here’s why: First, the bride and the groom traditionally come down the aisle separately before the ceremony. While there’s nothing wrong with taking pictures of them individually as they enter, remember the back of the church will be the background. Second, don’t bother to take pictures after they pass you. You want to capture the expressions on their faces, not the backs of their heads. You definitely want to capture the couple coming up the aisle after the ceremony. You’ll capture their happy expressions. You’ll have the altar as a background. And the “Happy Couple” will undoubtedly look less nervous and more radiant.

tip no. 4

Many of the best pictures taken at weddings are portraits.

In fast-paced society today, there are only a few events causing families to gather together – mainly weddings and funerals. Without discussing funerals, it is safe to assume most weddings are joyous occasions and offer lots of opportunities to take pictures of distant family and friends.

People make the wedding and the party that follows. And when it comes to “people pictures,” there are great opportunities. Earlier it was stated you’d be able to take great photos at the event that the pro won’t; among these opportunities are portraits of friends and family. After all, you know them, you know who's near-and-dear to you, and the pro doesn’t. So here’s your chance to shine. They’re all dressed up and having a good time, and nearly unlimited photo opportunities are available.

Most of these opportunities occur at the reception after the wedding. A few words of advice:

First, if you want to photograph a couple dancing, have them stop and pose for a second.

Second, when photographing a person or small group, give them a moment to get composed.

Third, if photographing a group at a table (more on this below), wait until they finish chewing and take the glasses and cutlery out of their hands; watch out for clutter in the foreground, and use your flash.

Fourth, whenever you photograph two or more people together, try to show a relationship between them. Get them close together. If taking a picture of a parent and child, have one put an arm around the other. Have family members show affection for each other.

Fifth, whenever taking a portrait of a person or group, get up close and fill the frame with your subjects.

tip no. 5

Set up “table shots” the way the pros do.

Our resident wedding photography expert, New York Institute of Photography Dean Chuck DeLaney, author of the comprehensive consumer guide to wedding photography, “Wedding Photography and Video: The Bride and Groom’s Guide” (Allworth Press), points out professional “table shots” – the shots of each tableful of guests seated at the reception meal – are rarely purchased by the “Happy Couple.” In fact, most pros don’t even bother taking those pictures unless the couple specifically requests them.

Here’s another opportunity for you and your camera. Chances are you know some or all of the people with whom you’re seated. So why not take a picture of them? Here’s how to handle it like a pro: Ask about half of the guests seated at the table to leave their seats and stand behind the other half of the guests. In other words, clear one side of the table and have the people from that side stand behind the people on other side, who remain seated. If there are elderly guests at the table, allow them to remain seated and move the younger guests behind them.

By moving half of the people out of their seats, you’ll be able to fill your horizontal frame with two rows of people. But be careful here. Avoid showing the entire table in the foreground – it’s probably a mess! Instead, concentrate on filling the frame of the photo with people, and eliminate the clutter on the table by not showing the tablecloth, dirty dishes, smudged napkins, etc.

tip no. 6

Don’t be bashful. Use the disposable camera at your table.

The past decade ushered in the era of the “disposable camera” – the type of camera that can be purchased at supermarkets and drugstores. Last year, about 170 million of them were sold in the United States alone! Digital camera sales haven’t affected the popularity of these cameras.

It has become commonplace to put a disposable (one-time-use) camera, usually the type including a built-in flash unit, on each table at the reception; the hope is the guests at that table will use the 27 frames of film to take photos in and around their table, and the bride and groom will develop the film and have these spontaneous photos to enjoy and possibly augment their wedding album.

The problem at many weddings is no one gets the ball rolling, or the guest who uses the camera doesn’t know how to take good pictures with it. Since you know what to do, take command. Show the other interested people at the table how to charge the flash and advance the film; take a few pictures yourself, and then pass the camera to someone else.

Encourage the other users to get close and fill the frame with the subject. Warn them, however, the disposable cameras probably can’t focus closer than 4 feet and the flash is only good to about 12 feet; alert them to stay in that range when using the camera. You’ll be doing the bride and groom a real service, and they’ll be grateful – even if they never know the effort you made.

tip no. 7

While you may want to capture the “scripted” moments, such as the toasts, the cake cutting, and the bouquet toss, you may be better off turning away from the action and capturing “reaction” shots on the faces of guests.

A wedding reception is a party. There’s lots of food, music, and dancing. Most of the action is hard to photograph, so we have suggested you concentrate on portraits. What about those “scripted” moments like the best man’s toast, the cake cutting, or the bride’s bouquet toss? At these moments, you have two choices: You can, if you like, try to capture them with your camera. But your pictures are likely to be duplicates of what the pro captures. A better idea might be to concentrate on the faces of family members and friends during these important moments. Aim to capture “reaction shots” – that is, candid portrait photos of people feeling strong emotion as they watch their loved ones at this important moment. Again, the pro is not going to get these pictures. He or she is concentrating on the action. Here’s a perfect opportunity for you to capture some great shots the pro can’t get!

If you follow these seven tips, you’ll get great results at the weddings you attend. So bring along your camera ... and enjoy. Prepared by the New York Institute of Photography. For more tips, visit

editors note

This article is intended to provide some tips on how to take better pictures at a wedding you might attend as a guest. It is not intended as a complete lesson on wedding photography for the professional wedding photographer.

holiday photo tips

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Prepare before you go and while you are away to make sensational photo books on your return, saving time and making a much more interesting photo book

Part of the fun of any holiday is browsing through your photos. It's a great way of prolonging the feel good factor, especially when your photos reflect what a brilliant time you had. So here are a few helpful hints.

Get up to date

Be honest, how old is your camera? Digital cameras have come on leaps and bounds in the last few years. If yours is a little ancient it could be what's holding you back. Today's models have superb picture quality and easy to use features to give your images the edge. You could even cash in at the airport if going overseas by claiming the GST on any camera bought within a month of departure.

Camera Settings

Make sure that the file size is set to approx 1.5- 2mb per image or second highest quality and set your time and date. Make sure that you synchronize your cameras time/date with anyone else in your family or group, so when loading a photo book into our photo kiosks they will be in order, this saves a lot of time!

Plenty of pictures

Any photographer will tell you, to get great results it helps to take lots of pictures. Packing a spare camera battery and your charger will ensure you've plenty of power. With memory cards it's a case of the more the better. These are now great value so there's no excuse for not having enough.

Share the camera

Give the camera to your spouse or kids. Let them take a few pictures, and allow them to share in your enthusiasm. More often than not, the photographer in the family is the person who seems to not have gone on the trip. Let the others take shots of you, and have some fun posing.

Get inspired

Take a look at local postcards to give you an idea of where you can find the most interesting photo opportunities and note how professionals have captured local highlights. You don't have to copy what they've done but it will certainly inspire you. The most important thing is to make sure that you or your family or friends are in as many photos as possible, this is what will make your photo book your own unique photobook. You can always buy postcards or printed books if it is just about the view, building, animals etc. Take one of those small travel tripods (available at Fotofast) with your camera self timer you too can be in the photo.

Tell a story

Think about detail shots. When you're out enjoying dinner, in addition to typical shots across the table, get a photo of the outside of the restaurant so you can recall its name. Try and remember to photograph the food - before you tuck in! Perhaps there's a great view, or some musicians playing that would make a memorable photograph. Collections of themed photos like this really sum up the atmosphere and are perfect for photo books and collages and calendars

Early start

Get up early on holiday! Don't worry, you don't have to do this everyday, but catching the flattering early morning light will be a great asset to your images. Starting early also means there are fewer people to cause distractions. If you have to work in harsh daylight try putting your subject in the shade, or using fill-in flash to disguise unflattering shadows.

Think before you click

Think about the overall balance of your pictures. You don't want to end up with endless images of the same stretch of beach. Try waiting for a bright blue sky, interesting cloud formation, or breathtaking sunset. Also consider other areas of interest to give a sense of scale, such as your kids in the foreground making sandcastles, or colourful boats along the shore.

Check these web sites for lots of great ideas

learning colour

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Practical color photography wasn’t available until 1907. Until then, we lived in a black and white photographic world. The use of color in photography changed everything, and while many photographers study composition, posing, gear, and lighting, not enough study color.

Color can accomplish many things in a photograph. It can set a mood, draw attention to a subject, and even convey a story. Knowing that color works in these ways can help photographers plan their shots more effectively.

Start by looking at the natural color palette of the scene. What are the dominant colors? What are the supporting colors? One way to do this is to shut your eyes and squint at the scene so details are minimized and the colors show through.

In your mind’s eye, separate the colors that are dominant. Then think of colors in the scene that may complement the dominant color. Ask yourself what mood you want to set using these colors. For instance, warm colors are often used to convey sensitivity or safety. Cool colors are more “in your face” and more businesslike. Ask yourself which message you want to send, and compose your image with the colors that express the relationships, mood, and impact you want the viewer to see.

There are all sorts of subordinate color relationships to explore. Some examples are monochromatic, analogous, and complementary. So while you may think of color as something that just “happens” in a photo, it can be much more. It can be a strong compositional element in your image.

Back in 1810, a man named Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published a book called “Theory of Colours.” In this book, he assigns a value to each color. Those assignments are Yellow = 9, Orange = 8, Red = 6, Green = 6, Blue = 4, and Violet = 3. According to his theory, picking colors in accordance to their intensity (yellow being most intense at 9) helps you create harmony. A color that has 50 percent more intensity than another should be subordinate to the less intense color.

Does this leave you scratching your head? It did me. I have read all the material on this I can. Start at Wikipedia – and I suggest you dig deeper if interested. Whether you agree with it or not or even understand it is less important than my real goal. I want you to see there is so much more to color than it just being there. Use it.

composition means taking better photos

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One way to improve your photography is through better “composition,” which only means thoughtfully “composing” the image in the viewfinder for the greatest impact.

One way to improve your photography is through better “composition,” which only means thoughtfully “composing” the image in the viewfinder for the greatest impact. After learning a few basic rules, it is easy to do because these rules focus your attention on the subject and its surroundings in the viewfinder. Digital photographers have a distinct advantage of seeing the picture just taken on the LCD monitor of the camera. You can immediately reshoot an improved version of the previous image.

This is not complicated, but it means paying attention to what you are doing. If you read a book on composition, one of the first things covered is the “Rule of Thirds.” This rule suggests the viewfinder image should be divided equally into three imaginary horizontal sections and three imaginary vertical sections. In scenic photos, never have the horizon or the subject directly in the middle of the photo. Rather, two-thirds of the photograph should show the sky (hopefully with some interesting looking clouds) or two-thirds should show the landscape, seascape, or cityscape with one-third (or less) as sky.

Why? Because most scenic pictures with the horizon in the middle are boring. The same rule applies to subject placement in the photo. For example, if you are taking a seascape and place the lighthouse in the middle of the picture, the image is very static and uninteresting. However, if the lighthouse is moved to one of one-third or two-thirds location on the imaginary grid, the overall image becomes more dynamic with greater appeal. The viewer’s eyes will travel back and forth between the open expanse of sea and the lighthouse on one side of the photo. To prove this to yourself, take a look at a book illustrating the works of realistic fine-art painters or a photo annual displaying the work of professional photographers, both of whom regularly employ the Rule of Thirds.

Another composition “rule” is the use of the “S” curve, such as a serpentine road, river, railroad tracks, etc., winding out of the photo into the distance. If available, this visual device will give the photo “depth.” There are other visual devices that create depth. Some visual element (even out of focus) near the camera, along with a sharply focused middle ground and background image, also provides the illusion of depth. For example, in a photo of the Grand Canyon, tree branches in the corner or a silhouette of a hiker standing near the rim make a more interesting photo than the Grand Canyon alone. The branches provide a reference point for the distant scene, and the hiker helps relate the viewer to the size and expanse of the panorama. Remember to keep the Rule of Thirds in mind when it comes to the horizon and placement of the secondary subjects.

Perspective is another composition tool. For example, a line of trees, a line of telephone poles, or a narrowing roadway receding into the distance also indicates depth. If the main subject is in the foreground, be sure there is something in the distance to which the viewer can relate, such as a smaller or less important secondary subject. If the foreground subject is a person, try to include a meaningful object, building, monument, mountain, etc., in the scene to provide additional interest and depth to the image through perspective.

Rules are made to be broken, so don’t worry if you don’t slavishly follow them all the time. But it is important to remember the rules and be very aware of what you are composing in the viewfinder. Too many snapshot shooters pay little attention to what they see or don’t see in the camera viewfinder. For example, if photographing one or more people, make sure tree limbs or traffic signs aren’t growing out of the top of their heads. Usually, the camera can be moved to avoid disturbing background elements. It just takes a moment to notice what you are doing and move your camera position for a better shot.

Outdoors, the same thing can be said about lighting. If a group of people are squinting because of bright overhead sunlight, move them into the shade for a more pleasant portrait. Or ask them to turn around, and place the sun behind them. Then select the “fill flash” or “force flash” setting on the camera for a close-up flash portrait of the group. The flash with sunlight will fill in any shadows on their faces and produce a very nice portrait. (When it comes to composition, I can’t figure out why so many snapshot shooters tend to take full-length pictures of their friends and family. Are their subjects’ shoes that interesting? It’s much better to fill the viewfinder up with just faces. I really think many people are just too shy to get up close to their subjects – and that’s a mistake.)

Concerning portraits, it is probably one place the Rule of Thirds doesn’t necessarily apply all the time. Here, the portrait subject is the center of interest. There are really two kinds of portraits – formal and environmental. Formal portraits are mainly in a controlled situation, frequently with muted or out-of-focus backgrounds, so the subject is the only point of interest. Usually a head-and-shoulders view, the formal portrait is designed to provide an attractive depiction of the subject that can be enjoyed for years to come; therefore, the portrait subject is usually centered in the photograph.

An environmental portrait is one made in an “environment” that usually has some connection to the portrait subject. Examples include: a carpenter working in his woodshop, a homemaker in the kitchen, a sailing buff with his boat, a cyber whiz at a computer, or a hunter and his dog in the field. Here, the challenge is to capture the subject in an environment depicting work, a hobby, or an avocation through the backdrop of his or her surroundings. The rules of composition can still apply since the photo combines several elements in addition to the portrait subject.

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photographing kids

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Taking great photos of children – from newborns to teenagers – is easy if you remember a few tricks and keep the subject’s age uppermost in your mind.

In a sense, babies are easy to photograph. They’re too young to be aware of what a photograph is, so they can’t react to the idea of being photographed. Being “camera-shy” comes later. It’s a good idea to avoid using the flash when taking pictures of newborns, since it’s not known how much the bright light might disturb them. Work by available light. Indoors, during the day, have a parent hold the infant near a window without placing the child in direct sunlight, which will be too harsh. Take photos up close of just the cradled infant, and also take some pictures from a greater distance showing the child and the proud parent.

Be very careful with infants. Don’t prop them up or leave them unattended on a table while trying to take a photograph – even for a second. The safety of the young child must always be paramount. Also, be aware a person holding a camera in front of his or her face can frighten a small child. Put the camera down every 30 seconds or so, and talk to the subject to offer reassurance.

When children get a little older and have seen photographs of themselves and others, they start to be a little more self-conscious. Some will become shy of the camera, while others will ham it up and play to the camera. Both reactions make it difficult to get a true portrait of the subject. This is the age when getting good photographs becomes tougher, and for most subjects, that challenge will last through the teenage years when self-consciousness often peaks.

Try to take candid photos of kids when they’re immersed in some activity, so they’re unaware of your presence. Use a fast shutter speed to freeze action, and don’t ask them to pose. It’s possible to interrupt an activity and say, “Look at me for a second,” or “Hey, look this way,” when the child is in the midst of an activity, but don’t ask them, or expect them, to hold a pose.

Another thing to remember about children in the 3- to 10-year-old range is they are curious. Take advantage of that. When taking a photo of a group of three or more, the best way to make them all look at the camera is not by asking them to do so, but rather by asking them a question. After the photographer gets the family, soccer team, or birthday party attendees posed, just ask, “Can you guess what’s in here?” A paper bag with half a dozen hard candies (beans, coins, or pasta bits) will make a nice rattle when it comes from behind the photographer’s back and is given a few shakes adjacent to the camera lens. Even the most determined youngster will have to take a look. If you use hard candies, distribute them after the photo is taken as a reward for the cooperative bunch you’ve assembled.

Perhaps the single most common mistake family photographers make when taking pictures of kids is taking the photo from too high an angle. Get down low for the most effective camera angle. Taking the photograph from a high elevation means we’re looking down at the child. From a low angle, the child looks more imposing in the scene, and that’s always a good thing. For a toddler’s first steps, the lower the camera is, the more exciting the photograph will be.

As with all photographs, try to get in close to the subject, avoid distracting backgrounds, and watch out for clutter anywhere in the photograph. With a little work and a digital camera that allows you to take lots of pictures, you’ll be able to capture great pictures of kids of all ages, suitable for display or gifts for proud parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

photo classes

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Creative Photo Workshops

Learn the secrets of the best pro photographers. Click the button below for more details of our workshops.

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outdoor portrait light control

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Technology, homemade light modifiers, photographer ingenuity, store-bought products, or a combination of any of these can provide a solution to the harsh light problem of outdoor portraiture.

The world is chock-full of items that don’t go well together. The quintessential science example is oil and water. How about a cell phone and a swimming pool? Not a good pairing. In the world of photography, how about harsh sunlight and portraiture? While there may be no hope for the first two examples, there are options for the last. These options include technology, homemade light modifiers, photographer ingenuity, store-bought products, or a combination of any of the above that provides a solution to the harsh light problem.

example no.1

Before and After: These two images were made with a digital point-and-shoot camera. I intentionally included these before and after pictures to prove one doesn’t need to spend thousands of dollars on sophisticated lighting equipment to net a pleasing image. This is a photo of a participant on my nature photo tour to Hunt’s Mesa and Capitol Reef National Park. When I saw how the fall foliage and the red vest blended, I knew there was a photo opportunity, but the light falling on the subject was awful.

Out from my pocket came my little point-and-shoot. I knew I had to use fill flash to counteract the high-contrast light falling on the subject. I set the flash mode to “Forced On” as it otherwise would not fire due to the intensity of the ambient light. I made the image, but the result was still less than ideal. I showed the photo to the “nature-walk class,” and the realization was the flash on the point-and-shoot was not powerful enough to overcome the harsh sun. I then asked for two volunteers to stand to the subject’s right side to cast their shadows across her. This softened the light to the point the flash on my trusty point-and-shoot worked just fine, as evidenced by the result in the “After” photo. Moral: A combination of flash technology along with a bit of ingenuity and two volunteers worked together to provide a nice souvenir portrait, even with a point-and-shoot camera.

example no.2

Overhead Sun and A Large Hat – Two Major Obstacles: When the sun hovers directly above, deep shadows appear in the eyes, under the nose, and under the chin. To make matters worse, the lit portions of the face tend to be washed out. Add to the mix a hat that creates its own havoc-filled shadows, and the photographic nightmare begins. Thankfully, the fix is as basic as the pop-up flash on a DSLR, providing the photographer is close enough to the subject. As an instructor for the Panasonic Digital Photo Academy, I went to New York City for an orientation. During this orientation, one session included a photo shoot in Central Park with live models. I positioned one of them by an iron fence, as the setting matched her outfit.

As you might imagine, the light was horrendous because the hat created a strong shadow directly across her right eyebrow and left eye. I set the focal length of the lens on my Panasonic L1 DSLR to 50mm and moved in close so the pop-up flash would be strong enough to offset the harsh ambient light. I had to set the aperture to f9 because of the strong ambient light, but in checking the depth of field, this was not a problem in that the background was far enough away to throw it out of focus. I set the compensation on the flash to +2/3 so it would act more as a main light rather than a fill, which was necessary to overcome the shadow cast by the hat. Look closely at the image to see how the shadow line of the hat crosses just above the eyes but even the light is a result of using the flash and moving in close to overpower what would have otherwise been a poorly lit photograph.

example no.3

White Reflector: In the portrait of the girl in the red blouse, I used a reflector to bounce light back onto her face. The weather conditions included cumulus clouds in the sky. I took the photo when the sun just started to be obscured by one of the clouds. This provided directional, yet soft, light. The reflector kicked back just enough light onto the subject’s face to make it the brightest part of the image. Without the reflected light, she wouldn’t stand out as prominently, and soft shadows would have appeared in her deep eye sockets and under her nose.

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top 10 tips for better holiday photos this christmas

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The holidays make for fantastic photo opportunities. Even the least photographically inclined reach for a camera to do the annual group portrait. Use these tips to make great photos of Christmas. This year, you'll come away from the holidays with the absolute best photographs you have ever created.

Compose Creatively and Move in Close

Whether you are photographing the symbolic subjects of the holidays or your friends and family, getting creative with your composition certainly cannot hurt. This means paying special attention to how you organize the various elements in each photo.

There are two main concepts to keep in mind when composing the scene artistically:

Off-center your main subject. Instead of placing your main subject in the center of the scene - with a lot of dead space around it - move your camera until this subject is off to the side. This works especially well if you can balance your main subject with something in the background, on the other side of the picture.

For example, if you are photographing a beautiful candle, try placing it on the right with the Christmas tree (or an equivalent supporting element) blurred softly in the background on the left. This will result in a photo that both records the candle in all its beauty and does so in an artistic, creative way.

Move in close. Especially when you center your subject but even when you off-center it, moving in close is the one thing that will make the biggest difference in the success of your picture-taking. The simple fact is the audiences are always more impressed when the subject is huge and impossible to miss. Therefore, you want your subject to fill the frame. Say you are photographing the candle mentioned above, but don't have a Christmas tree (or its equivalent supporting element) in the background. In this case, you might want to instead move in as close as you can. Causing the entire frame to be filled with your subject will inevitably result in a photo that has true impact on your viewer.

For Better Family and Group Portraits

The most important thing to keep in mind when photographing groups and families is this: you absolutely must take a lot of photos.

There is often a great deal of pressure when photographing groups. People generally complain about having their picture taken and want the experience to be over quickly. They have been trained by bad portrait photographers in the past to hate both the process and the results.

So it is your job to overcome these hurdles. You need to work quickly in order to get the job done within their limits of patience. And you need to keep the experience as fun and friendly as possible, so they remember it in a positive light.

Above both of these tasks, though, you need to get the absolute best photos you can. And more than anything else this means taking a large number of photos. Since there is always someone blinking or looking off to the side or facing another member of the group, having a large number of photos will give you the best chances.

Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

Especially if your subject is a child opening a gift - or playing with a gift for the first time - you know that, within a split second, the scene can change. There is often just a few brief moments when that "magic spark" appears.

That's why it is so important to be fully prepared to capture that moment when it happens. Of course this means having your camera on hand and the batteries fully charged... After all, you can't capture the moment if you don't have your camera on you and ready to go.

However, even more than having your camera on hand, this equates to being assertive with your picture-taking. Be ready to press that shutter button at a moment's notice, anticipating when the magic spark will surface. If you have a digital camera that suffers from a bit of a delay when taking the picture, then you will have to become even more intuitive and skilled at anticipating the moment.

Either way, shoot quickly and shoot often. Don't be shy - getting a great photo of the right moment is rewarding and well worth the extra effort.

Don't Use Flash Indoors

The flip side to Tip #5 is to turn off your flash indoors, whenever you can possibly get away with it.The flash can be a real lifesaver, no doubt about it. This burst of artificial light can mean the difference between a decent photo and a totally blurry, unusable image.

However, the light from flash units - especially from the tiny on-camera flash units found on most every camera - tend to produce harsh, flat, and cold light. This is rarely a complimentary way to illuminate your subject.

If you are shooting indoors during the day, make your portraits with your subjects standing near a window or door instead of relying on the flash. Get between your subject and the window - in other words, don't include the window in your composition, as this will throw off your exposure meter.

If you are shooting indoors at night, try to flood the room where you are photographing with as much light as you can - turn on whatever lamps you have at hand. This will help reduce those harsh, flashed-out subjects, as well as other problems like red-eye.

Use Flash Outdoors

Most people think that using flash is synonymous with photographing indoors at night - at a Christmas party for example.

However, flash need not be relegated to indoor, night photography. Flash can be a big help when it comes to shooting outdoors during the day. Even in bright sunlight, forcing your flash to fire can often mean the difference between a so-so snapshot and an eye-grabbing masterpiece.

The reason is that this kind of bright day flash will fill in the shadows and even out harsh contrasts.Try it out... next time you are photographing friends or children outdoors, turn your flash on and see if it works for you.

You can also look for interesting shadows and other graphic elements. Or you can include out of focus Christmas lights, to give your photo an evocative, unique background.

Blur, Swirl, and Zoom Those Christmas Lights

Tired of the same old Christmas tree photos? If you want to try something new, set your camera to a slower shutter speed - anywhere from 1/2 second to 2 or 4 full seconds. Then purposefully move the camera while taking the picture. The idea here is to intentionally blur the colorful Christmas lights... and in order to blur a stationary subject; you need a slow shutter speed and controlled camera movement.

If you use an SLR camera with a zoom lens, you will have a little more freedom and speed with your zoom. Thus, you will not need as slow of a shutter speed as those using compact zoom digicams. All the same, you can create this effect with either kind of camera.

For the zooming effect to look clean, you will want to mount your camera securely on a tripod to keep it from moving while you zoom in or out during the exposure.

If you want to get even more creative, you can simple move the camera around while the shutter is open. For this technique, you can leave your tripod at home. That's right... this is one of the few times you to not use a tripod.

Give the Gift of a Photograph

It’s the present that is so unique “that money can’t buy” Whether you are a last minute shopper or not, we have the perfect gift idea for you: a family photo. Parents and grandparents in particular love photos of the family and children as a holiday present.

This is such a cherished present; we will be offering a few of the most helpful pointers for getting great portraits in the upcoming tips. In the meantime, pick out a nice frame. if you shoot digital, and get ready to give a gift that, if done properly, can bring tears of joy to their eyes. Best of all it can be so much more than just a single print, apart from framing your photos there are so many other ways to share and enjoy your precious moments and memories click here

Plan Ahead: Charge Batteries and Clear Cards or Buy Film

The last thing you want to have happen is to get all set up for the family portrait or holiday photo to realize you forgot to charge the battery or even bought your charger with you!

In addition to making sure your batteries are charged (or you have replacements on hand), you will also want to make sure you have a place for your potential images to be recorded.

If you shoot digital, offload and archive your images so you can free up space on your flash memory card. If you use a conventional, film-based camera, be sure you have an extra roll or three of film on hand.

Here's a bonus tip for you generous gift-givers out there: before wrapping up digital camera and film camera gifts, charge up the batteries and insert the memory card or film. This will make it all the more fun for the recipient to enjoy your nice gift - right out of the box!

Either way, being prepared will make those once-in-a-lifetime moments that much easier to capture.

Make your own photo booth

Set up your camera on a tripod, with a few chairs against a coloured background, red is nice and says “Christmas”. Set the self-timer and then get groups or singles during the day to shoot them selves. At the end of the day view them on your TV or computer for some special fun moments.

Finally “Its not a real photo until you print it”

How many times have you heard, we lost those photos, they were on my camera or computer and now they have gone. When you make an actual photo, it will be around for many generations to share and cherish. If your parents hadn’t taken photos when you were young what would you have to show who you are and where you came from? Print it or lose it, there are so many ways today to preserve your family memories.

Acknowledgement DPS - Digital Photography School

the truth about video tape

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Most people don’t realize that VHS Tapes Degrade After Only 8 Years, humidity in Queensland can be a killer!

Fotofast can preserve your VHS tapes by converting them to DVD.

The VHS tapes of your wedding, your child’s first steps, and Mom and Dad’s 50th anniversary party are starting to deteriorate. What???

Yes, it is true, and sadly few people realize that even under optimum conditions, the life span of a VHS tape is short. Extreme temperatures cause tapes to warp. Humidity rusts the magnetic tape. Furthermore, magnetic storage media (your VHS tape) degrades after each use. Basically, you are watching your memories vanish before your very own eyes. What’s worse, demagnetized tapes cannot be repaired or recovered—ever.

To the rescue: Fotofast , your “Memory Preservation Experts.” Bring us that box of VHS tapes you have stashed by your TV and we’ll transfer them to mp4 files before it is too late.

Because really, do you want to rely on your actual memory to preserve your memories?

more than VHS

Fotofast can assist with more than just VHS

Home movies, old photographs, vacation slides… those precious memories that won’t be forgotten. At Fotofast we can create a video compilation of those moments for you to treasure. Perfect for anniversary, wedding, graduation or just to get organized.

Our state-of-the-art professional video lab has the latest in video equipment technology to archive and preserve your film, movie and video memories.

travel hints

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If something goes wrong on your holiday, technology can come to the rescue

What's the worst-case scenario when you're travelling abroad? You lose everything -not just those silky smooth Batman boxer shorts but your passport, tickets and money. Suddenly you're a nonentity, an interloper in a foreign land with little proof you're supposed to be there and even less evidence you belong in Australia.

But don't worry, because while the chance to escape from technology's relentless assault can be one of travel's most appealing lures, that same technology can help protect you from disaster. All it takes is some technically minded foresight.

Before you begin your trip, scan your passport's opening page, your tickets and any visas. Haven't got a scanner? Then photograph your important documents with a digital camera. The pictures won't serve as substitutes for the originals, so these need not be high-resolution images that show off the power of the 10-megapixel camera you got for Christmas. Simply ensure the images are large enough to read details such as your passport number and flight times. For each document, a 100KB image saved in a JPEG format is ample.

Send copies of these low-resolution images to an email account you'll be able to access overseas. Even if you're visiting a remote location without email access - and, sadly, fewer of those exist with each passing day - remember that in an emergency you'll be contacting your consulate or embassy, which will most certainly have internet access. And don't be shy about sharing. Even if your passport photo looks as hideous as your driver's licence, send images of your key documents to a friend or relative for safekeeping. After all, it might not just be your luggage that vanishes - you might go temporarily missing as well.

On their own, these few pictures won't overload most email accounts, but make sure you've got an account you can access while you're away and it offers adequate storage capacity. Free Hotmail accounts, for example, offer 250 megabytes of space, Yahoo accounts offer one gigabyte and Google's GMail accounts provide 2.7 gigabytes. Before you go away, populate the address book on the email account you'll use so you can still contact friends, relatives and (if you must) colleagues even if you can't find that quaint paper version with all its crossed-out entries for your itinerant contacts.

Whether you'll be trekking the Himalayas in Nepal or tugging Mickey Mouse's tail at Disneyland, send a separate email just to yourself to record financial details you might need in an emergency. Include the numbers on traveller's cheques as well as the phone number to report any loss. Ditto for credit cards or ATM cards you might take along. For good measure, include the contact details for your travel insurance and even your travel agent, so you can keep abreast of any late changes to your itinerary. (If you're feeling particularly diligent, record the serial numbers off any electronic items you're taking on your trip, such as cameras and digital music players.)

For trips lasting more than a couple weeks, you may need to pay off your credit card to avoid incurring interest charges. You can do this online, of course, but keep a few precautions in mind.

First, make certain you're at the correct website, not a crook's version from a dodgy email. Second, try to confirm that the computer you're using has up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. Third, when you sign in, check that the address on the top of the web browser begins "https" rather than "http" and that a padlock appears at the bottom of your web browser. Both of these identify it as a secure site, although even these are not an absolute guarantee of protection.

If you'll be away long enough to forget how to sign in to your bank's online site, include reminders of your user name and password in one of the emails to yourself. Never write down your password.

Instead, write a clue that will remind you of the password. After you finish any online banking or checking those emails with personal data, don't merely sign out. This leaves you potentially vulnerable if the next person clicks the back button. Instead, close the web browser.

If all this sounds likely to inspire paranoia, take comfort in knowing such calamities strike relatively few travellers. Besides, what thief would dare take you on now that you're so organised?


  • Scan and share

  • Passports

  • Visas

  • Tickets

  • Record for yourself

  • Traveller's cheques

  • Insurance details

  • Online banking log-on

  • Loss/theft phone numbers

  • Key serial numbers

water damaged photos

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recovery steps that can help

Most photos, negatives and color slides can be cleaned and air-dried using the following steps:

  • Try to dry the photos inside if possible, as sun and wind will cause photos to curl more quickly. If you don't have time right away to dry your damaged photos, just rinse them to remove any mud and debris. Carefully stack the wet photos between sheets of wax paper and seal them in a Ziploc type plastic bag. If possible, freeze the photos to inhibit damage. This way photos can be defrosted, separated and air-dried later when you have the time to do it properly.

    The childhood photo shown is owned by a family friend from Graceville Brisbane, retrieved on Saturday 15th January 2011. Below is the fully restored photo done by Fotofast.

  • If they are stuck together, place them in warm water for 5 minutes and carefilly lift apart. Gently rinse both sides of the photo in a bucket or sink of clear, cold water. Don't rub the photos and be sure to change the water frequently. If you have time and space right away, lay each wet photo face up on paper towel. Don't use newspapers or printed paper towels, as the ink may transfer to your wet photos. Change the paper towel every hour or two until the photos dry.

  • Carefully lift the photos from the mud and dirty water. Remove photos from water-logged albums and separate any that are stacked together, being careful not to rub or touch the wet emulsion of the photo surface.

  • Film including cine film and slide (if wet) cleaning, wash the film in clean warm water, next rinse off in clean water and drop into a bath of 5% acetic acid mixed with water to harden the emulsion for a few minutes. Final step, useing a few drops of Kodak Photo-Flo or similar in water, drop in and squeegee off any excess water. You can carefully use your fingers for this is you don't have a proper film squeegee.

  • Slides, even if they are not actually water damaged they may be affected by mold & fungus after being exposed to such high humidity, having them scanned is a good solution.

More Tips for Handling Water Damaged Photographs & Memory Cards

  • Try to get to flood-damaged photos within two days or they will begin to mold or stick together, making saving them much more unlikely.

  • Begin with photographs for which there are no negatives, or for which the negatives are also water damaged.

  • Photos in frames need to be saved when they are still soaking wet, otherwise the photo surface will stick to the glass as it dries and you will not be able to separate them without damaging the photo emulsion. To remove a wet photo from a picture frame, keep the glass and photo together. Holding both, rinse with clear flowing water, using the water stream to gently separate the photo from the glass. If this can't be done clean and dry it can always be scanned later.

  • It is important to note that some historical photographs are very sensitive to water damage and may not be recoverable. Anything before mid 1970's may be on the older type paper, today's photos are on "plastic" based material and are more likely to be able to be saved. Older photographs should probably not be frozen. You may also want to send any damaged heirloom photos to a professional photo restorer after drying, we can assist with this. CD/DVD/Camera cards/Hard drives are much harder to repair if at all.

  • With electronics, including memory cards, put in to ziploc bags of fresh dry rice, allow it to draw out the water for a few days. Gun shops can be a good source of silica gel blocks with an electric dryer in to redry quickly. We will attempt to recover the data off the memory card above after trying the fix.

    All the above recommendations are guidelines only. If you require anymore help please call our friendly team on 07 3229 5083 we are open 7 days a week and here to help

    Phil Gresham - Fotofast 17th January 2011 following the Brisbane Floods

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