9th Annual Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest

What are the hallmarks of a winning image in Smithsonian magazine’s photo contest? Technical quality, clarity and composition, but also a flair for the unexpected and the ability to capture a picture-perfect moment.

Enter photographs in any of our five categories—Altered Images, Americana, the Natural World, People and Travel—and compete to win cash prizes as well as the opportunity to have your work printed in Smithsonian magazine and exhibited in the Smithsonian Institution. After reviewing the contest rules and list of frequently asked questions, you will be fully prepared to enter the contest.

The contest is open until December 1, 2011 at 2:00 PM EST. On a weekly basis beginning April 4, Smithsonian judges will post the best of the incoming entries in the Editors’ Picks portion of our web site. Finalists will be announced on March 1, 2012. Good luck to everyone!

Fifty finalists will be selected, ten for each of the five categories.

Smithsonian will notify the 50 finalists by February 28, 2012. From these 50 finalists, five category winners and a grand prize winner will be selected. The entries of all finalists will be published on the magazine’s Web site on March 1, 2012. At that time, readers can vote online for one readers’ choice winner. The winning entries will be published in the print edition of Smithsonian magazine during summer 2012.


The grand prize winner will receive a Smithsonian Journeys trip to Yosemite National Park, or the wholesale cash equivalent (approx. $3,000).

Category winners will be awarded $500.

Readers’ choice winner will be awarded $500.


Photojournalism Behind The Scenes

Photojournalism Behind the Scenes [ITA-ENG subs] from Ruben Salvadori on Vimeo.

Presentation of Photojournalism Behind the Scenes, an auto-critical photo essay showing the paradoxes of conflict-image production and considering the role of the photographer in the events.

This project was awarded the Photodreaming Contest organized by Forma Foundation in which I was then selected by Denis Curti, the director of Contrasto (the major photo-agency in Italy, which represents Magnum’s work in the country and for which the top Italian photographers work) to shoot an assignment for the prestigious agency.

Digital Photography Terminology

Digital Photography Terminology — What Do All Those Strange Words Mean? This sction on digital photography terminology brings us to the last lesson in our mini-course — the language and terminology of digital photography.

Digital photography includes many terms not used in traditional photography. If you’ve been wondering what some of them mean, here’s a short glossary that could help you better understand advertisements and reviews of digital cameras:

Digital Camera Terminology — What Do All Those Words Mean?

Aperture — An adjustable diaphragm of overlapping
blades that adjust the size
of the lens opening.

Automatic Mode — A setting that sets the focus, exposure and white-balance automatically.

Burst Mode or Continuous Capture Mode — a series of pictures taken one after another at quickly timed intervals with one press of the shutter button. It’s perfect for action shots because it eliminates lag time for a series of pictures.

CCD — A light sensitive chip that converts light into
electrical charges.

CMOS — Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductors (pronounced Seemoss). Refers to a standard manufacturing process of making chips for computer microprocessors and memory. This process is also used in digital cameras.

Compression — The process of compacting digital data, images and text by deleting selected information.

Digital Zoom — Cropping and magnifying the center part of an image.

Dynamic Range — The ratio between the brightest and darkest parts of an image or scene.

JPEG — The predominant format used for image compression in digital cameras that compresses digital picture information to its lowest common value. It produces relatively small files from large amounts of image data by discarding certain information (lossy).

Lag Time — The pause between the time the shutter button is pressed and when the camera actually captures the image(exposes the shot). Lag time varies according to camera model.

LCD — (Liquid-Crystal Display) is a small screen on a digital camera (like a miniature computer monitor) for viewing images. Once the image leaves the CCD sensor, it can be viewed on the LCD to check for accurate composition and exposure.

Lens — A circular and transparent glass or plastic piece that has the function of collecting light and focusing it on the sensor to capture the image.

Megabyte (MB) Measures 1024 Kilobytes, and refers to the amount of information in a file, or how much information can be contained on a Memory Card, Hard Drive or Disk.

Menu — A listing of camera functions usually displayed on the LCD screen.

Metering — The autoexposure mechanism that “measures” the light in the scene and determines the optimum exposure for the image, which allows compensation for difficult lighting situations.

Noise — The visible effects of electronic interference in the final image from a digital camera appearing as random spots, dots, or flecks of dust.

Optical Zoom — The magnification difference between minimum and maximum focal lengths in the lens system.

Pixels — Tiny units of color that make up digital pictures. Pixels also measure digital resolution. One million pixelsadds up to one megapixel.

RAM — Random Access Memory, the volatile memory used to temporarily store information for processing.

RAW —A lossless image format that captures raw data as it comes directly off the CCD, without in-camera processing, resulting in smaller files than TIFF. (Lossless means pixels are not discarded.) RAW files require a plugin to open.

RGB — Refers to Red, Green, Blue colors used on computers to create all other colors.

Resolution — Camera resolution describes the number of pixels used to create the image, which determines the amount of detail a camera can capture. The more pixels a camera has, the
more detail it can register and the larger the picture can be printed. Monitor and printer resolution are different from camera resolution.

Scene Modes — Preset exposure/shutter speed combinations which include white balance and exposure compensation.

Storage Card — The removable storage device which holds images taken with the camera, comparable to film, but much smaller.
Also called a digital camera memory card.

Thumbnail Index — A page that displays 9 or more miniature digital pictures in a grid. It can be compared to “contact sheets” of traditional photography.

TIFF — Tagged Image File Format (TIFF), an industry standard raster file format consisting of the image and header information. It is a “lossless” image format that doesn’t throw away information in the compression process.

Viewfinder — The optical “window” to look through to compose the scene. It can be optical, electrical, or TT.

White Balance — White balancing adjusts the camera to compensate for the type of light (daylight, fluorescent, incandescent, etc.,) or lighting conditions in the scene so it will look normal to the human eye.

You’ll find these terms and many more discussed in much greater depth in “Master Your Digital Camera in Four Easy Steps:” http://hop.clickbank.net/?photograph/dazzlepics

Here’s what Leanne Carson-Boyd, Art Institute Online teacher says about this highly informative ebook:

“I’m blown away with the incredible work of this book! It hasa flow to it that is a perfect blend of the technical with the conversational.

It’s definitely going to fill a gap for many! It’s written in such candid, “earthly” language. I really don’t see a lot out there that addresses this quickly changing technology. ”

And here’s what guitarist Robby LeBlanc, (RobbyLeBlanc.com)

“I was completely confused about what I needed in a digital camera before I came across your book, ‘Master Your Digital Camera In Four Easy Steps.’

I couldn’t tear myself away from it. I was blown away by all the valuable info you crammed into it… I had NO idea!

After reading your chapter on how to buy a digital camera, I realized I was about to make a big purchasing mistake.Instead, I went out and got exactly what I needed for a lot less!

Thanks for helping out the complete digital photography newbie!”

Marketing consultant Ken Giddens appreciates the help it gave him in creating product shots:

“Taking product shots has been a constant challenge and frustration for myself and my clients. This is the first book I have found that gives solid how-to advice and tips on taking great digital camera product shots for ecommerce websites without having to hire an expensive photographer. ”

Written by Rufina James

Digital Photography Techniques: Dazzling or Bloopers?

Digital Photography Techniques – The Secrets That Make The
Difference Between Dazzling Photos… or Boring Bloopers

So far we’ve talked about cameras and accessories. But there’s another very important element to taking pictures that can’t be ignored — the person behind the camera.

Digital photography technique may seem like a daunting term, but it’s really about the basics of digital photography.

No matter how good the camera is, the critical decisions about the picture are always in the hands of the photographer. That’s why today we’re going to talk about the art of taking good pictures…

How Can I Improve My Digital Photography Techniques And Make Sure I Take Good Pictures?

There is only one chance to capture each magic moment. It’s impossible to re-play the scene if you’re disappointed with your picture. That’s why it pays to be prepared and ready. Here are several tips to help you make sure your digital pictures turn out memorable:

Get The Lighting And White Balance Right:
Lighting is much more important to digital cameras than to film cameras. If your digital camera has settings for different lighting conditions, such as daylight, cloudy, fluorescent, incandescent, make sure you use them-it can make or break your pictures. Never aim a digital camera at a light source (unless it’s a sunset or candles). Make sure that bright lamps, sunshine, glare, etc. are out of the frame.

Use a flash for indoor shots and dim outdoor lighting. If the flash is too bright, lower the intensity a couple of f-stops, or use a homemade diffuser by placing a one-ply tissue over the flash.

Be Sure To Get Close Enough:
One of the biggest reasons digital pictures look bad is
because they were taken from too far away. Avoid vast expanses of boring “dead” space (like the walls, ceiling, grass, pavement). Move in and get close to your subject. Fill the frame with the scene, the people, or the faces you want and leave the background out.

Reduce Red-Eye:
It’s almost impossible to completely eliminate red eye with a pocket or compact digital camera. But it can be reduced by using the “Portrait” setting, turning up the house lights, and having the subject face the light while turning slightly away from the flash. If all else fails, use image-editing software to remove red-eye.

Compose Your Pictures:
Before pressing the shutter, take a quick, objective look at the composition and background. If there’s clutter, distraction or a confusing subject, make changes before taking the picture.

Steady The Camera:
Prevent “camera shake,” by using a wall, table or tripod to hold the camera steady, especially at night. And be sure to wait until the camera completes the shot before you put the camera down can take 5 seconds or longer if the light is low.

Be Prepared For Shutter Lag:
Digital cameras are really small computers-they require time to capture the scene. Plan ahead when shooting people and especially children or your two-year-old’s smile could be a scowl by the time the shutter snaps. Anticipate the perfect moment and press the shutter just before it happens. It’s tough to do, but with practice, you get better at it.

Use High Resolution:
High resolution and low compression produce smoother and more detailed images. For best results, get 3.2 MP or higher and use the highest resolution for important pictures you plan to print.

Have Battery Backups And Extra Storage On Hand:
Running out of batteries or room on your storage card puts a quick end to your photo fun. Be prepared with spare batteries and another memory card so nothing puts a damper on your memories.

Learn more digital photography techniques in “Master Your Digital Camera in Four Easy Steps:”

Do all the strange terms in digital photography sometimes seem to be another language? Can’t tell the difference between compression and dynamic range? Or a megabyte from a megapixel?

Written by Rufina James


Digital Camera Batteries are something you simply can’t do without if you have a digital camera.

Because a digital camera is essentially a mini computer, it must have a constant source of power to run on. While power can come from a power cord, most of the time, batteries are the most convenience source. Digital cameras can use one or more of the following batteries:

– AA cells
– non-rechargeable alkaline
– rechargeable nickel metal hydride (NiMH) or Nickel-cadmium (NiCd)
– high-capacity disposable CRV3s
– proprietary rechargeable batteries

The internal electronics of digital cameras can really suck up power. Many digital cameras can drain a set of AA cells in 30 to 40 minutes. More demanding cameras can’t run from alkalines at all because they draw so much current. These cameras post a warning in the manual that the use of alkaline batteries is not recommended. They can cause your camera to shut down unexpectedly. Lithium AA cells can last two to three times longer than alkalines but cost three times as much.

Nickel-cadmium (NiCd) and nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) rechargeables hold their charge even less time than alkalines and lithiums. However, they handle high output currents much better than primary cells. And since you can use them over and over again, they are also much cheaper in the long run. Recharging takes a few hours so it’s advisable to have more than one set of charged batteries on hand if you’ll be taking pictures for several hours.

The type of battery you choose may depend on the manufacturer’s recommendation coupled with your needs and lifestyle. Some people prefer a camera that accepts standard- sized batteries. That way they can always find replacements anywhere they travel. Others prefer proprietary rechargeables because they can be recharged repeatedly and are recommended for their camera.

The main thing to remember is that rechargeables save money in the long run.

Once you have a camera, batteries and a memory card, you’re going to have images to print! In the next lesson we’ll talk about the 3 steps to digital picture printing. One of them is the question I’m asked most (next to which camera to buy), and that’s how to change the size of the picture.

Written by Rufina James